Lukacs sees populism as the greatest threat to civilization. By his own description, Lukacs considers himself to be a reactionary. In Lukacs's view, the essence of both National Socialism and Socialism was populism. Lukacs does not believe in generic fascism, in his opinion the differences between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were far greater than the similarities.
Lukacs has argued that the best form of government is that of an enlightened elite, preferably a Catholic elite. A major theme of Lukacs's writing has concerned an assertion by the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville in the 19th century that all states, whether monarchies or republics, had been dominated by aristocratic elites, and the age of aristocratic elites was drawing to a close and the age of democratic elites reflecting the interests and concerns of the masses was dawning. Much of Lukacs's writings are concerned with what he regards as this transition from aristocratic to democratic elites and its consequences, especially towards historiography. In his 1999 book, At the End of an Age, Lukacs argued that the modern age of history in the West that started with the Renaissance was coming to an end. The subject of the rise of populism and the decline of elitism is also the theme of Lukacs's only novel, A Thread of Years (1998), which contains a set of vignettes set in each year of the 20th century from 1900 to 1998, which traces what Lukacs regards as the collapse of the traditional American values of gentlemanly conduct and politeness to the vulgarity and profanity of modern American culture. Lukacs sees himself as the defender of the traditional values of Western civilization against what he regards as the debasing leveling effects of modern mass civilization.
By his own admission an intense Anglophile, Lukacs’s favorite historical figure is Winston Churchill, whom Lukacs considers the greatest statesman of the 20th century and the savior of not only Great Britain, but also of Western civilization. A recurring theme in Lukacs’s writing is one he regards as the great duel between Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler for mastery of the world. The great struggle between the contrasting personalities of Churchill and Hitler, whom Lukacs sees as the archetypical reactionary and the archetypical revolutionary is the major theme of The Last European War (1976), The Duel (1991), Five Days in London (1999) and Lukacs’s latest book, 2008's Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat, a book about Churchill’s first major speech as Prime Minister. Through Lukacs argues that Great Britain by itself could not defeat Germany and the primary responsibility rests with the United States and the Soviet Union, Lukacs has contended that in the decisive year of 1940 that Churchill ensured that Germany could not win the war, and hence laid the groundwork for the ultimate Allied victory.
Lukacs holds strong neo-isolationist beliefs, and perhaps unusually for an anti-Communist Hungarian émigré, was strongly opposed to the Cold War. Lukacs often argued his belief that the Soviet Union was a feeble power on the verge of collapse, and contended that the Cold War was an unnecessary waste of American treasure and life. Likewise, Lukacs is strongly critical of the administration of George W. Bush and has condemned the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
In his 1997 book, George F. Kennan and the Origins of Containment, 1944-1946, a collection of letters between Lukacs and his close friend George F. Kennan exchanged in 1994-1995; both Lukacs and Kennan criticized the New Left interpretation of the Cold War being caused by the United States. Lukacs argued that though Joseph Stalin was largely responsible for the beginning of the Cold War, it was the administration of Dwight Eisenhower which missed the chance for ending the Cold War in 1953 after Stalin's death, and thus unnecessarily allowed the Cold War to go on for decades more.
In part, Lukacs’s 1997 book, The Hitler of History, a prosopography of the historians who have written biographies of Adolf Hitler contains a substantial critique of Irving’s work. Irving in his turn has engaged in what many consider to be anti-Semitic and racist attacks against Lukacs. Lukacs is quite proud of his Catholic faith, but because of his Jewish mother, Irving has disparagingly referred to Lukacs as "a Jewish historian." Irving has often threatened Lukacs with a libel lawsuit, which has yet to materialise.
In The Hitler of History, Lukacs examines the state of Hitler scholarship inspired by the example of Pieter Geyl's book, Napoleon For and Against, while at the same time offering his own observations about Hitler. In addition, The Hitler of History was intended to serve as the beginning of the "historicization" of Hitler as called for by Martin Broszat in an 1986 essay.
In Lukacs’s view, Hitler was a racist, nationalist, revolutionary, populist who drew his strongest support from the middle classes and above all the working class. Lukacs has often criticized Marxist and Liberal historians who have claimed that the majority of the German working class were strongly anti-Nazi. According to Lukacs, the exact opposite was true. Each chapter of The Hitler of History is devoted to a particular topic such as whether Hitler was a reactionary or revolutionary; a nationalist or a racist; and examining what he considers the real roots of Hitler’s ideology. Lukacs has concluded that Hitler’s claim in Mein Kampf that he developed his belief in racial purity ideology while living in Vienna under the Hapsburgs is false. Instead, Lukacs has dated Hitler’s turn to anti-Semitism to 1919 Munich, in particular to the events surrounding the Bavarian Soviet Republic and its defeat by the right-wing Freikorps. Much influenced by Rainer Zitelmann's work, Lukacs has described Hitler as self-conscious modernizing revolutionary. Citing the critique of National Socialism developed by such German conservative historians such as Hans Rothfels and Gerhard Ritter after 1945, Lukacs has described the Nazi movement as the culmination of all the dark forces lurking within modern civilization.
In Lukacs’s view, Operation Barbarossa was not inspired by anti-Communism or any long-term plans on the part of Hitler for the conquest of the Soviet Union as suggested by such historians as Andreas Hillgruber who claimed Hitler had a stufenplan (stage-by-stage plan), but was rather an ad hoc reaction forced on Hitler in 1940-41 by Britain’s refusal to surrender. Lukacs has argued that the reason that Hitler offered for the invasion of Russia was indeed the real one. Hitler claimed that Britain would not surrender because Churchill held out the hope that the Soviet Union might enter the war on the Allied side, which left Germany with no other choice than to eliminate that hope; many historians have argued that this reason was just a pretext. At the same time, Lukacs has been one of the leading critics of Viktor Suvorov, and has often attacked the latter's view that Barbarossa was a "preventative war" forced on Germany by an aggressive Joseph Stalin who Suvorov claims was planning to attack Germany later in the summer of 1941.
In his 2005 book, Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred, Lukacs writes about the current state of American democracy. He warns that the populism he perceives as ascendant in the U.S. renders it vulnerable to demagoguery. He considers that this devolution from liberal democracy to populism is evident in such things as popular sentiment being the new substitute for what was once public opinion - and propaganda and infotainment over knowledge and history. In the same book, Lukacs criticized legalized abortion, pornography, cloning, and sexual permissiveness as marking one he sees as the basic decadence, depravity, corruption and amorality of modern American society.
More recently, Lukacs has written Hitler and Stalin (2006), a study of the two leaders with a focus on the events leading up to Operation Barbarossa. In 2007, Lukacs published George Kennan: A Study of Character a biography of his good friend George F. Kennan based on privileged access to Kennan's private papers. His latest book Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat (2008) is a continuation of a series of books Lukacs has written on what he regards as the greatness of Winston Churchill.
Recalling an `unimaginable' slaughter ; Sixty years after liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, survivor Julia Skalina of Portland looks back.
Jan 27, 2005; JOSHUA L. WEINSTEIN Staff Writer Portland Press Herald (Maine) 01-27-2005 Recalling an `unimaginable' slaughter ; Sixty years...