Ágnes Heller, Hungarian philosopher and patriot is dead at 90

I met Heller about five years ago in Budapest. This tiny woman was probably the most effective international campaigner against Orbanism. In conversation she was sharp and domineering and to my surprise she said that she knew who I was because she had read some of my pieces at Galamus, a now defunct portal edited by the excellent Zsófia Mihancsik. (According to my wife Heller was just polite.)

Heller in the 1960s

By any measure, Heller was an extraordinary woman. She was the canary in the coalmine, one of the first intellectuals who warned about the corrosive nature of Orbán regime. Heller used every opportunity to denounce Orbán’s policies, the mix of rampant corruption and über-nationalist propaganda peppered with a high dose of anti-Semitism.

She knew what she was talking about. Her father was murdered by the Hungarian fascists in 1944 because of his Jewish ancestry. Miraculously, she survived.

Heller vigorously criticized the anti-Semitic tendencies of the Orbán Government at ultraorthodox Chabad events.

After World War II she became a Marxist and was part of a group led by renowned philosopher György Lukács. Soon her own Hungarian Communist party rejected her, not once, but twice. After she was blacklisted in 1977 she left for Australia and later taught at the New School in New York City.

After the collapse of Communism she returned to Hungary and became the target of the Orbán regime. She was attacked mercilessly in newspaper articles and was accused even with corruption. Fidesz trolls attacked her verbally at her public appearances. Just recently in a tweet Mr. Zoltán Kovács, Orbán’s Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy called her a Communist bigot.

Tweet from Mr. Zoltán Kovács, Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy calling Heller a Communist bigot.

I consider her a great Hungarian patriot. Heller was rejected by practically every government in Hungary, she was treated terribly by her own country, yet, she stayed. She had opportunities to leave and live the life of a celebrated philosopher in exile. Heller returned because she loved the country, the Hungarian people, Lake Balaton and believed that a free democratic Hungary is still possible.

Heller received the Willy Brandt award in Berlin in 2015

On July 19 Heller went for a short swim at Lake Balaton, she never returned.

György Lázár

5 Comments

  1. One can agree or disagree with the philosophical or political views of Ágnes Heller. But there are two things one cannot deny her in the Trump/Orbán fantasy world we’re living in. She was an extremely important representative of Hungary’s intellectual genius, and she loved her country.

    The Orbán fanatics often wanted her to go back to where she came from – to Israel – even though she was a native born Hungarian, like those four dark skinned young woman in America, who are now the targets of the white-supremacist Christian alt-right in America. The common chant of Orbán’s followers in Hungary – and I know, because I have been on the receiving end of it often – is the same. Those who criticize Orbán, hate their country. Nothing could be further from the truth in the case of Ágnes Heller. Unlike Trump or Orbán, all that Heller wanted was to free Hungary from racism, bigotry, and the affinity-fraud artists from both sides of the political spectrum, who specialize in obliterating the boundary between illusion and reality in order to hide the reality of their self-serving and socially destructive behavior.

    May she rest in peace.

    • Marxists do not love their country and author did call her a Marxist (If I would have called her that, I would have likely been censored by fearless editor). It is impossible for Marxists to do so, because they are globalists in terms of ideology. They want to dismantle all countries, together with private property,as well as the family structure and install global government to rule over us all. Try reading some Marx before you associate any Marxist with love of country!

      • Don Kichote says:

        „Marxists do not love their country“ is that a wisdom of how stupid can you be?

        Maybe we should form a sentence with unqualified commentators can not love anything. Because they do not know what it is.

        Or not understand, commentators who understand nothing love their country. How do we want to call the fools?

        Fools do not love their country and Don says Joe is a fool. Please read on first sentence.

    • Just as Andras noted, one may not share many of AH’s views, but her commitment to the post 1989 democracy in Hu and her efforts to keep it developing were undeniable.
      These were the torn in the side of the budding dictator, not her Marxist ideas of yore ( after all Orbàn “had no problem with the (communist) system” as he confessed),
      nor any ambitions of hers for power or wealth, since she had none.
      This didn’t prevent the Orbàn minions slandering her with the absurd accusations of corruption (while the Orbàn front men were piling up their loot to the top places on the rich list), which is also a proof that no absurdity or brazen lie is beyond the insatiably greedy fascist regime here.

  2. “Joe” do you still have live on a troll’s salary? Sad.

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