Book Reviews

A Review of Antitézis. Válogatott tanulmányok 2001–2020 [Antithesis: Selected Writings]


Mark Losoncz

Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade, Serbia


G.M. Tamás’s Antitézis [Antithesis], published originally in Hungarian, mostly comprises translations of articles published previously in English. This review first contextualises Tamás’s Marxism within today’s Hungarian left, before moving to the title of the book, that is, the philosophical meaning of ‘antithesis’. Special attention is paid to the question of whether Tamás’s historical materialism should be characterised as aligned with Western Marxism, given that his theoretical preferences are eclectic and too complex for simple categorisation. The book’s contradictory statements with regard to essential questions such as class relations or revolutionary change can be explained by Tamás’s theoretical development over the last two decades. The article provides detailed analysis of the distinction between Rousseauian and Marxian socialism. Tamás’s other valuable contribution to contemporary Marxism is his analysis of Eastern European ‘real socialism’; however, his analysis of Soviet-type systems as state capitalisms should be criticised carefully. Finally, the review focuses on the implications of Tamás’s historical materialism with regard to contemporary anti-capitalist movements, and concludes that Tamás’s near-apocalyptic statements are counterbalanced by a militant, engaged attitude, producing a Janus-faced Marxism.


antithesis – class – Rousseau – Marx – state capitalism – anti-capitalist movement

Gáspár Miklós Tamás, (2021) Antitézis. Válogatott tanulmányok 2001–2020 [Antithesis: Selected Writings], translated and edited by Balázs Sipos, Budapest: Pesti Kalligram.

Antitézis [Antithesis] is a selection of G.M. Tamás’s writings published this century.This paper was realised with the support of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia, according to the Agreement on the realisation and financing of scientific research. The paper draws partially on my article written in Hungarian: ‘Tagadás. Kitörés?’, Élet és Irodalom, 65 (10), <>. With some exceptions, the book contains mostly articles written originally in English.Tamás n.d. (a), Tamás n.d. (b), Tamás n.d. (c), Tamás n.d. (d), Tamás 2011, Tamás 2012, Tamás 2015a, Tamás 2015b, Tamás 2018, Tamás 2019a. Given that it has gone through three editions, there is little doubt that the book has proved a great success in Hungary.

The book is a historical-materialist product through and through. Coincidentally, Antitézis was published on the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the most important Hungarian Marxist, Georg Lukács. Indeed, Lukács is one of Tamás’s most important discussion partners throughout the course of the book. It is worth mentioning that today there are no (former) members of the Lukács or Budapest School faithful to historical materialism. Nevertheless, Tamás does not stand entirely alone as a Marxist in Hungary. There are journals that are explicitly Marxist or open to publishing articles of historical-materialist inspiration (Eszmélet,Fordulat), and there are also websites whose profile is close to Tamás’s heretical Marxism (such as, or What is more, a few exceptionally important Marxist books have been published in Hungary in the last two decades, including Tamás Krausz’s Deutscher Prize winnerReconstructing Lenin: An Intellectual Biography and István Mészáros’sBeyond Capital: Toward a Theory of Transition. Nevertheless, Marxism is a quite marginal intellectual current in Hungary. Tamás himself has published prolifically in Hungarian (he announced his withdrawal from political journalism at the end of 2020), that is, in the public sphere he is known as an opposition intellectual who relentlessly criticises the various authoritarian regimes. Paradoxically, Tamás’s ‘exoteric’ political criticism has triggered more resistance than his ‘esoteric’ Marxism, which seeks to understand (what he calls) the ‘occult character’ of the capitalist system. His more radical ideas have been mostly neglected – until now. Still, it is indisputable that even Tamás’s historical-materialist writings have proved heavily influential upon his – generally – young readers, thus making him the most important Marxist in Hungary.

The book’s title already demands an effort of interpretation. The term ‘antithesis’ refers to the negation of positivity, conceived in a Hegelian manner. Put simply, positivity can be equated with the constraints of objectivity (Sachzwang) that deprive subjectivity of its autonomy. While Hegel described the despotism and repressive character of Christian religion in this way, Tamás characterises capitalism as positivity – as a system that is naturalised and fetishist, seemingly unchangeable, etc. More precisely, Tamás suggests that despite its tendency to be ‘creatively destructive’ (Joseph Schumpeter, Werner Sombart – and their source, Mikhail Bakunin), capitalism has proved to be a system that separates the subject from its practice, thus, ultimately, it also has become a positivity. The same is true for ‘real socialism’ (which, for Tamás, is state-capitalist), namely, it was also a positivity since it remained faithful to institutional authority, tradition, abstract moralism, unquestioned revolutionary mythology, bureaucratic ideology, etc. According toAntitézis, the task of the left is to historicise what is naturalised, to make subjective what is alienated, in the spirit of ‘active negativity’, under the banner of Faust. At some point, Tamás accuses contemporary movements of being ‘projectless, anti-utopian revolt, pure negation’ (p. 225). This kind of criticism somewhat contradicts Tamás’s ‘pure negativism’. According to him, ‘utopia … does not play any role in Marxism’ (p. 330), and he refuses to draft formulations even about the general framework of a postcapitalist future. However, while it is true that Marx refused to provide recipes, it is possible to reconstruct his suggestions with regard to postcapitalism in some detail,Hudis 2012. and it is also possible to have meaningful contemporary debates about the coordinates of a postcapitalist society.For example (from a vast literature): McNally 1993; Schweickart 2002; Lebowitz 2010. If statements about the postcapitalist future were not prohibited, Tamás’s book could perhaps also offer a thesis (in addition to the antithesis), and his criticism with regard to purely negative contemporary movements would be more meaningful.

The originally English-language articles were translated by Balázs Sipos, who is an established Hungarian translator (among other things, he was the co-translator of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest). His subtle editorial footnotes and his insightful introduction are invaluable. There seems to be only one point where Sipos’s suggestion is highly disputable. In the introduction, he claims that ‘the book is – according to our conviction – the most important Hungarian contribution to the tradition of “Western Marxism” since the belated domestic publication ofHistory and Class Consciousness’ (p. 10). In addition, Sipos claims that ‘Western Marxism appeared during the decade of world revolution (1917–1927)’, and that ‘it is written … outside of institutional frames, independently from academic discourse’ (ibid.). This is somewhat surprising given that, according to Perry Anderson, the classic monographer of Western Marxism, ‘in the rest of Europe [excepting the USSR], … the great revolutionary wave … [that] lasted until 1920, was defeated’.Anderson 1976, p. 15. Western Marxism originates precisely in the experience of defeat, and this generation was more and more torn away from the proletariat, that is, theory’s ‘formal site [moved] from party assemblies to academic departments’.Anderson 1976, p. 50. According to the Andersonian approach, the growing distance between theory and practice explains why the Marxian critique of political economy was sublimated into hermetic philosophy, why the ‘question of organisation’ was neglected, etc.; instead, the new generation’s focus was on ideology and culture. Needless to say, Western Marxism is a very complex concept, with uncertain contours, and the Andersonian approach is not the only possible conceptual strategy (witness the rich and diverse history of the term, from Karl Korsch to Domenico Losurdo). However, it is somewhat anachronistic in 2021 to characterise Tamás’s late historical materialism as being Western-Marxist. Western Marxism’s intellectual efforts, such as self-positioning against Soviet-type orthodoxy and the Second International, are obviously not decisive for Tamás’s perspective. What is more, his writings are always embedded in a rigorous political-economic conceptual framework, that is, he cannot be accused of focusing solely on ideology or culture instead of on a deeper structural analysis. In sum, Western Marxism existed in a specific historical constellation, while Tamás’s background is essentially different. He does not seem to identify with Western Marxism, rather describing it coldly (p. 50), or even accepting the Andersonian critical analysis (p. 134).

In fact, if we read the book with sufficient care, we can identify the intellectual streams to which Tamás feels himself the closest. He mentions a ‘more secret’, ‘heretic’ and ‘underground’ tradition to which he belongs. This is the tradition of anarchism and council communism, but also the early Frankfurt School and of heterodox streams of the criticism of value-form (pp. 70, 266, 307). In an interview with Imre Széman, Tamás summarised his preferences in the following way:

I am an avid reader of operaismo and of pre-Empire Negri, and also on the opposite end, theWertkritik school, in my view the best heirs to Critical Theory (Hans-Georg Backhaus, Helmut Reichelt, Michael Heinrich, but also the unruly genius, Robert Kurz, and the ‘cult’ periodicals of this tendency,Krisis, Streifzüge, Exit!) as well as authors like Robert Brenner, Ellen Meiksins Wood, David Harvey, Michael Lebowitz, and various Marxists working in England too numerous to mention. The greatest impact came, however, from Moishe Postone’s magnum opus. These choices may seem eclectic, but I don’t belong to any of these currents. I am working on my own stuff and I am learning from all of them.Széman 2010.

One is tempted to say that these ‘seemingly eclectic’ choices sometimes truly result in theoretical theses full of tensions. The easiest way to illustrate this is to point to the book’s treatment of class analysis and the question of revolutionary change. In spite of the fact that the early articles present the thesis that, in the 1970s, the revolutionary proletariat was defeated (p. 49), Tamás still affirmatively quotes Guy Debord, according to whom ‘the proletariat has not been eliminated. It remains irreducibly present within the intensified alienation of modern capitalism’.Debord 2014, pp. 60–1. The proletariat is still described as ‘the bearer of revolution’ (p. 49), and Tamás claims that ‘socialism is proletarian socialism, there is no other’ (p. 108). According to the early articles, ‘the first step for an East European Left should be to awaken to the memory and reality of class which means a step towards the recognition of working-class autonomy and subjecthood’ (p. 112). Despite acknowledging that the working class does not currently exist as a political movement, Tamás invests his hope in a future revolutionary proletariat. In an earlier phase, class appeared as a basic problem of late modernity, more precisely, the result of the structural-abstract processes of a capitalism that differs essentially from earlier, immediate forms of domination. However, in his later articles, there is a shift from a focus on work as the organic part of capital (‘as a thing’) to a more radical thesis, namely, that class has disappeared not only as a political or cultural entity (which can be described as the biggest triumph of capitalism), but is also disappearing as an economic entity. It is not only that ‘class as an orientation point is politico-cultural atavism’ (p. 228), but ‘there are still only two legitimate sources of income in modernity: capital and labour. Both are becoming more and more marginal, minority phenomena’ (p. 383). According to Tamás, structural unemployment has become the conditio humana, there are more and more people who will never produce value during the course of their lifetime. He even claims that ‘the non-productive strata, taken together, are the majority’ (p. 388), and that ‘exploitation is becoming increasingly relative’ (p. 389). In a paradoxical way, both the contempt against the new idlers and the enthusiastic appraisal of ‘work-based society’ (as in the case of Viktor Orbán in Hungary) are important by-products of the decline of labour. Those who are still exploited tend to be privileged people whose political position is more and more based on a biopolitical ressentiment towards subaltern, non-productive classes (this is one of the main characteristics of contemporary post-fascism). According toAntitézis, today’s biopolitical and ethnicist turn implies a regressive worldview that is characterised by the struggle for the remaining state resources for survival. Labour is much more one organic part of a trinity (with capital and the state) than the revolutionary side of the allegedly gigantic conflict between ‘Capitalists’ and ‘Workers’.

A question that immediately presents itself is, what kind of political project derives from these conclusions? Tamás comes close to the post-Marxist Jacques Camatte’s position, according to which a revolutionary movement would consist of a struggle between humanity and capital itself, rather than between classes. According to Antitézis, the system ‘is now truly the cause of humanity’ (p. 193). Or, also in a reductive manner, without class categories: ‘no contemporary institutions (or even any at all) will be allowed to exist. No permanence, hence no tradition. Only people.’ (p. 293.) Taken altogether, the impression one is left with is that these tensions in Tamás’s book stem from a deeper reason. His theoretical positions have changed significantly over the years, and it seems that the most essential transformation has had to do with the shift from political Marxism’s emphasis on class relations to a different approach, one which focuses on capitalism’s abstract mechanisms and capital’s self-valorisation, treating the revolutionary approach to class relations as an outdated residue ofArbeiterbewegungsmarxismus. For readers who do not take into consideration the significance of the chronological order of the articles, Tamás’s book may seem to be somewhat Centaur-like; however, the inner tensions can be explained by changes in the author’s theoretical positions.

The highlight of the book is definitely ‘Truth and Class Revisited’. In it, Tamás suggests we make a distinction between two types of socialist traditions (even though they are often mixed up in practice): the first is marked by Rousseau, the other by Marx. According to the former, civilisation has ruined morality, those naturally given human qualities, and we should return to the virtues of the egalitarian plebs, to ‘puritanical’ simplicity. In claiming that suffering is unnatural, the Rousseauian paradigm offers an anti-theodicy. This tradition is ‘angelic’, in so far as it suggests that the struggles of the servants are morally superior, thus, it is sufficient to pursue our natural efforts for liberty in order to restore the true identity of the people. By contrast, the Faustian-demonic Marxian paradigm claims that the proletariat is an organic component of capital, and it can have a revolutionary significance only because, due to its alienation, it can deny class society – including itself as a class. Self-negation of the proletariat is opposed to the self-affirmation of the people; historicisation and the various forms of appearance of ‘man’ are opposed to the return to an alleged ontological essence. According toAntitézis, the problems of socialism often stemmed from the retreat into the Rousseauian paradigm – it is nothing other than a struggle for egalitarisation instead of emancipation, étatistic redistribution instead of the destruction of the frames of capitalism. Such is the ‘wrong path’ taken by Saint-Simon and Lassalle; however, according to Tamás, even Western Marxism can be accused of being uncritical in this respect – in this regard, his argumentation is very close to that in Ellen Meiksins Wood’sThe Retreat from Class.Wood 1998. While Tamás acknowledges that attachment to the Rousseauian paradigm could be justified in certain historical moments (for instance, when resisting fascism, which perhaps makes it current once again given today’s biopolitical anti-egalitarianism), the Rousseauian paradigm is ultimately a step backward.

It is important to emphasise that the main protagonist of the egalitarian paradigm is not necessarily Rousseau himself. In fact, Rousseau did not think that people are unspoiled and naturally good: both virtues and vices arise from social connections.I owe this insight to Zsolt Kapelner. Tamás is careful to point out that the Rousseauian paradigm is based mostly on the misunderstanding of Rousseau (p. 61). However, one might ask whether the Rousseauian paradigm in general is more polyphonic than Tamás suggests. For instance, one of the typical versions of this paradigm, namely, Marshall D. Sahlins’s anthropology, suggests that hunter-gatherers enjoyed their affluent societies without promoting any kind of puritanical moralism. Tamás is on the one hand a single step away from the critique of civilisation: ‘communists should be – and in fact are – barbarians’ (p. 293), and ‘we communists are barbarians, … we are enemies of civilisation’ (p. 271, cf. p. 312). What is more, ‘it was not an illusion when Nazis/fascists claimed that they defend civilisation from the communists’ (p. 317). And there is indeed an important tradition of critique of civilisation with historical-materialist overtones, leading Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer to declare that ‘the “process of civilization” has been fetishized’.Adorno and Horkheimer 2010, p. 33. In principle, it is possible to elaborate a historical-materialist critique of civilisation that would be more nuanced than Zerzan- or Perlman-like anarchoprimitivism. For instance, James C. Scott’s Against the Grain: The Deep History of the Earliest StatesScott 2017. offers a more subtle approach to civilisations (and also to barbarians), and it convincingly argues that state-based civilisations are less complex than earlier or alternative societies. Contrary to Tamás’s Antitézis, civilisation should not be equated with ‘systems of great complexity’ (p. 115), and the rigid binarity of the ‘primitive’ and the ‘complex’ and ‘organised’ (pp. 365, 366) also needs to be deconstructed. And even though our present problems definitely take a specific form within capitalism, it may be true that some reasons for our present suffering are millennial, such as the state, illegitimate authority, patriarchy, ecocide, etc.; thus, critical analysis does not have to be reduced to what is specific to capitalism. It is as ifAntitézis has historicised capitalism without historicising the wider frames – except for the past of castes and estates. Those who could be of help (Polányi, Mauss, Bataille) are all categorised as being part of the misguided Rousseauian paradigm. It would be interesting to see how Tamás would elaborate his critique of civilisation in detail. One can only speculate that in this instance Tamás’s anarchist dimension would be more explicit (let us not forget that in the 1980s he was a committed anarchist, withThe Eye and the Hand as the intellectual highlight of this period).This work was translated into French: Tamás 1985. Many important places in this text point to a strongly anti-authoritarian and anti-state position, and Tamás even encourages us to accept that ‘the communist world movement has … ultimately an anti-institutional and, if you like, anti-civilisational dynamic’ (p. 312).

The moral point of view as such and moral indignation often appear opposed to historical materialism (pp. 61, 114), as if they belonged entirely to the Rousseauian paradigm. Certainly, the Marxian concept of exploitation is not an intrinsically moral category – the phenomenon of evil is certainly not the explanation for the appropriation of surplus value. However, why could we not make use of moral insights with regard to the consequences of the capitalist system? – for instance, by taking into consideration the satisfaction of our basic needs, which is the prerequisite of our happiness, or our self-realisation, in the spirit of eudaimonism or ethical perfectionism?For a strongly ethical interpretation of Marx, see for instance: Geras 1984; Henning 2008, 2010; Fischer 2015. It should be stressed that Tamás sometimes contradicts himself in this regard, as he suggests that ‘the moral motive for such a self-abolition is the intolerable, abject condition of the proletariat’ (p. 128, cf. p. 266). What is more, in some of his texts Tamás claims that, notwithstanding the fact that Marx’s Grundrisse andCapital are purely negative with regard to normative-deontological statements, nevertheless ‘“socialism” does have normative criteria’.Tamás 2008. We can only speculate that Tamás might one day take a different path that would imply a more coherent ethical position, mediating more carefully between Kant’s and Hegel’s heritage.

One of Tamás’s main objectives is to offer a comprehensive account of Eastern Europe, with special attention paid to the historical period of ‘real socialism’, aiming to describe Soviet-type systems in their ambiguity. Tamás states clearly that these systems were bureaucratic-dictatorial state capitalisms that were making use of pseudo-Marxist terminology and revolutionary folklore (that is, they had a false self-consciousness about being Marxist), without truly attempting to create a social system that would begin to approach communism. Simply put, Eastern European ‘real socialism’ followed the path of the Rousseauian (etatist and redistributive) paradigm, as it ruthlessly destroyed what remained of premodern estates, inequalities, etc., instead of following the more radical Marxian trails that would have led to a truly postcapitalist system. In other words, these Bolshevik revolutions (Tamás mostly uses the plural) accomplished what the far-too-weak bourgeoisie was unable to do. This explains Tamás’s nuanced and ambiguous approach to ‘real socialism’: it managed to get rid of the premodern (mostly feudal) past, and created the first social systems in which the self-assertion and value preferences of the lower, subaltern classes became of central importance (for instance, previously underestimated and often even despised physical work was recognised for the first time in the history of civilisation); however, from a functional point of view, ‘real socialism’ suppressed the working-class movement, enforced a catch-up hypermodernisation (urbanisation, secularisation, the elimination of the aristocracy and the powerful clergy etc.). In the long run, it prepared the terrain for today’s pure capitalism. In a paradoxical way, it is precisely the postsocialist Eastern Europe of today where capitalism is to be found in its most distilled form – it is no coincidence that resistance is weakest in this region. Thus, Tamás describes Eastern Europe’s ‘real socialism’ as having a ‘tragic greatness’. It is worth mentioning that Antitézis moves significantly away from mainstream liberal/conservative approaches, as it does not focus merely on repressive measures (intelligence services, censorship) but draws our attention to the Party and planned economy. On the other hand, Tamás extensively criticises the dominant contemporary relation towards the ‘real socialist’ past. Thus, today’s routinely practised anti-communism, by attacking the egalitarian and etatist past, is in fact bringing into question even the values of the bourgeois left and tends to resist every kind of emancipatory effort. What is more, ‘the various (first of all, liberal and fascist) … anti-communisms … have a common direction that is anti-egalitarian and hierarchy-friendly’ (p. 337). ‘Anti-communism is the uncritical self-reflection of the bourgeois society’ (p. 344), that is, in struggling with itself, bourgeois society misses the target, almost always misrepresenting communism in its anti-communist ideology. What is more, it manages to compromise even the remnants of bourgeois liberal humanism, and, thus, it is heir to fascism without being aware of it.

Tamás’s analysis of ‘real socialism’ is embedded in a wider theory concerning state capitalism. Soviet-type systems included wage-labour, a commodity economy, etc., the surplus-value was appropriated by the state, and the proletariat was not a ‘collective owner’. Antitézis deploys a subtle conceptual apparatus in order to explain the specificities of the system: it offers a periodisation of the different historical phases, and pays special attention to the nuances of ‘controlled rivalry’ and ‘simulated markets’. At one point, Tamás suggests that the concept/term state capitalism was ‘elaborated by the International Socialist Tendency led by Tony Cliff, now represented by the SWP in Britain and groups affiliated with it elsewhere’ (p. 280). However, the history of the concept/term is much more complicated. For instance, it was already used by Wilhelm Liebknecht,Liebknecht 1896. and even the Bolsheviks themselves (through the Left Opposition) made early use of the term. What is more, the concept was very much present in Marxist debates of the 1930s. The theory of state capitalism had not only its devotees (Myasnikov, Adler, Wagner, Worrall, Pollock, etc.), but also its serious opponents. Cliff’s theory is in fact a late development (from around 1947), and even in the second wave of the theory of state capitalism, there were significant followers (Grandizo/Péret, James/Dunayevskaya etc.). As suggested by Marcel van der Linden in his book about the relationship of Western Marxism towards Soviet-type systems,Linden 2007, pp. 257–320. the concept of state capitalism collapsed in the 1980s under the weight of criticism, that is, it exhausted its possibilities. To give a conceptual illustrative example, according to Tamás, the mere presence of wage-labour within Soviet-type systems was already proof of its capitalist character. However, within contemporary historical materialism, the precise role of wage-labour is a highly debated issue. For instance, Jairus Banaji claims that ‘capitalism is characterized by the drive to accumulate capital regardless of the specific form in which labour is dominated and surplus-labour extracted. To the individual capitalist, it makes no difference whether the worker is free or unfree, works at home or in a factory, and so on’.Banaji n.d.; cf. Banaji 2003. Regrettably, Tamás characterises ‘real socialism’ as capitalism without paying much attention to the nuances of contemporary debates,For instance, Brass and Linden (eds.) 1998. to be found either in Marxist or otherwise-heterodox criticism of the theory of state capitalism. For an institutionalist criticism, see for example Hodgson 2015, pp. 257–9. Some of the alleged properties of ‘real socialism’ obviously do not belong to the very essence of capitalism (the law of property as in Roman law, hierarchy, etc.), while the role of other properties (wage-labour, rent, etc.) is highly debatable. In other words, contemporary debates and dilemmas regarding state capitalism and capitalism are treated with insufficient nuance in Tamás. Moreover, it seems that he too deconstructs the concept of state capitalism, stating that society was nationalised (étatised – államosították) and the state was socialised, that is, there was no traditional – bourgeois – state: its main function was production (p. 336). In short, both terms in the expression ‘state capitalism’ are disputable.

Let us return to the question of the relevance of Tamás’s theory to contemporary movements. In this regard, his analyses are ruthless. He argues that ‘today there is nothing outside’ (p. 193), and ‘there are no remaining non-capitalist pockets’ (p. 376). In a disillusioned manner, Tamás states that we live under a pristine ultracapitalism whose counter-society, socialism, has entirely disappeared. He is as critical towards the mistakes of liberal/conservative folklore and the redistributive-egalitarian, welfare statist, that is, Rousseauian illusions, as with the false nostalgia towards the classic workers’ movement. Tamás tries to cut off misguided lines of flight. He is relentless both towards ‘“vicarious revolutionary” dupes’ (p. 180) and the étatisme by proxy (p. 148) of those who despise state apparatuses, but still expect the state to help overcome poverty. Utopia is also rejected in its various forms. Is it possible that, according to Tamás, the system is so overdetermined by the form of value that nothing will ever escape its logic? In other words, it would seem that, being locked up in immanence, there remains nothing more fundamental we could hope to undermine. With regard to practice, we might be overwhelmed by agency panic. It is noteworthy that Tamás’s diagnosis of our age is increasingly pessimistic. As he explained in one of his latest interviews, ‘I don’t believe in this whole leftism thing. … [T]he world has come to its end, and it doesn’t make me happy’,Techet and Varsányi 2020. or, more ambivalently: ‘socialism is a historical phenomenon with a finished temporality …, however, nothing has become better with its decline. … Today’s ebb is final. We have all the more reason to continue with our critical, subversive, relentlessly illusionless practice, as long as we have the impulse’.Simon 2021. It may be possible that, just as in Sun Tzu’s Art of War, if a group of desperate people is completely surrounded and pressed too hard, they will break out wildly and violently, with the courage born of despair. In other words, the possibility of transcendence might derive precisely from pure immanence. In fact, some of Tamás’s recent articles are more militant and engaging. For instance, in ‘What Should Have Been Done?’ he suggests the following:

the true Hungarian Left … should state as clearly as possible that it is Marxist, libertarian, feminist, internationalist and anti-racist, that it is opposed to the two temptations of bourgeois ideology (liberalism and nationalism), that it is against labour, capital and the state, that it is opposed to all kinds of power, domination and hierarchy, … that it is anti-militarist and anti-authoritarian – to put it simply: it is not social democratic, it is not Bolshevik, and it is not philistine. It tends to be critical, especially with regard to the left.Tamás 2019a.

It is indisputable that Tamás’s Marxism fulfils these criteria, critical as it is, especially of the left. Our task is to think through what to do with that challenge.





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Tamás, Gáspár Miklós n.d. (d), ‘Counter-Revolution against a Counter-Revolution’, Grundrisse: Zeitschrift für linke theorie & debatte, available at: <>.

Techet, Péter and Bence Varsányi 2020, ‘A Tőke közérthetőbb, mint az én cikkeim? Ne vicceljünk már! Tamás Gáspár Miklós az Azonnalinak’, Azonnali, 25 December, available at: <>.

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[1]This paper was realised with the support of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia, according to the Agreement on the realisation and financing of scientific research. The paper draws partially on my article written in Hungarian: ‘Tagadás. Kitörés?’, Élet és Irodalom, 65 (10), <>.

[2] Tamás n.d. (a), Tamás n.d. (b), Tamás n.d. (c), Tamás n.d. (d), Tamás 2011, Tamás 2012, Tamás 2015a, Tamás 2015b, Tamás 2018, Tamás 2019a.

[3] Hudis 2012.

[4] For example (from a vast literature): McNally 1993; Schweickart 2002; Lebowitz 2010.

[5] Anderson 1976, p. 15.

[6] Anderson 1976, p. 50.

[7] Széman 2010.

[8] Debord 2014, pp. 60–1.

[9] Wood 1998.

[10] I owe this insight to Zsolt Kapelner.

[11] Adorno and Horkheimer 2010, p. 33.

[12] Scott 2017.

[13] This work was translated into French: Tamás 1985.

[14] For a strongly ethical interpretation of Marx, see for instance: Geras 1984; Henning 2008, 2010; Fischer 2015.

[15] Tamás 2008.

[16] Liebknecht 1896.

[17] Linden 2007, pp. 257–320.

[18] Banaji n.d.; cf. Banaji 2003.

[19] For instance, Brass and Linden (eds.) 1998.

[20] For an institutionalist criticism, see for example Hodgson 2015, pp. 257–9.

[21] Techet and Varsányi 2020.

[22] Simon 2021.

[23] Tamás 2019a.