Skip to main content

The history of the world changed due to Marx and he must not be judged by what followed in his name

By Mohan Guruswamy*
The world just celebrated the 200th birth anniversary of Karl Marx. Marx defies description or labeling. He was a philosopher, economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, journalist and a revolutionary socialist. Being great in any one discipline or vocation is in itself a great achievement. Clearly Marx was a man of many achievements. The history of the world changed due to Marx and he must not be judged by what followed in his name.
Fifty years ago, when the burden of the world's problems were heavy on my shoulders, I visited Karl Marx's grave at Highgate cemetery at Hampstead in London and laid a rose. As the Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan wrote: "Oh! I was so much older then, I am younger than that now!" Like to many others, Marxism was a pre-analytic cognitive vision. However that vision, like many others, did not stand the test of time and the rigors of objective analysis.
The Highgate monument was unveiled in 1956, almost 73 years after he died. The monument is located on a slope and when viewed in profile it appears he is looking forward. It is a larger than life bronze lion like head that stares ahead with a mane of hair and a bushy beard that it looks like a face peering out of hair. The figure is cut off just below the shoulders by a ten-foot plinth of polished granite. At the top of the plinth, in gold lettering, is the inscription, “Workers of All Lands Unite”; below that is the with the famous quotation from Marx’s reflections on the philosopher Feuerbach - “Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” And change it he did.
Sitting in distant London, and immersed in study at the British Museum, Karl Marx analyzed the condition of India, totally under the jackboot of British colonialism:
"The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lies unveiled before our eyes, turning from its home, where it assumes respectable forms, to the colonies, where it goes naked. They are the defenders of property, but did any revolutionary party ever originate agrarian revolutions like those in Bengal, in Madras, and in Bombay? Did they not, in India, to borrow an expression of that great robber, Lord Clive himself, resort to atrocious extortion, when simple corruption could not keep pace with their rapacity? While they prated in Europe about the inviolable sanctity of the national debt, did they not confiscate in India the dividends of the rajahs, 171 who had invested their private savings in the Company’s own funds? While they combatted the French revolution under the pretext of defending “our holy religion,” did they not forbid, at the same time, Christianity to be propagated in India, and did they not, in order to make money out of the pilgrims streaming to the temples of Orissa and Bengal, take up the trade in the murder and prostitution perpetrated in the temple of juggernaut? These are the men of “Property, Order, Family, and Religion.”
Has India changed very much since then?
Marx is famous for his major life's work—“Das Kapital and the Theories of Surplus Value”, which discussed the theoreticians of political economy such as Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and David Ricardo. Marx was able to write and publish only the first volume; his friend and associate, Freidrich Engels, completed the trilogy from his copious notes. There is an irony in this great partnership for without Engels there may not have been a “Das Kapital”? Engels was the son of a wealthy German cotton textile mill owner and that capital stood the pair in good stead. There is a certain denseness about these three volumes that makes one wonder if very many self-professed Marxists have even read them, let alone understood them? Maybe Prakash Karat did and does?
Not very long ago, speaking at a gathering to mark 40th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's historic slew of economic reforms in China, I made a rather presumptive and trite comment that Marxism was dead as a dodo. I was wrong. It is Leninism and Maoism that are near dead. Marxism is still very much relevant for the interpretation of the world around us. The egalitarian concerns of Marxism and its innate humanism are still very valid. It is a prism through which we can even now clearly see and understand the world's condition.
What has failed is Leninism, and its distortion of Marxism, and the arrogation of power by a supremely conceited and power hungry elite who could justify any means and any cruelty to serve their narrow ends. The derivation of Leninism as Maoism is even a greater distortion of Marxism and Leninism.
Marx saw the distortions and inequity in society and wondered why? He came up with explanations. His prescriptions were limited by the knowledge and evidence available to him then. The world has moved on and moved very far since then. Technology and the structure of modern society have changed far too much for even Marx to contemplate. He lived in a simpler time when farmers tilled with animal drawn ploughs and even electricity was not even a glimmer. But the analytical discipline he has bequeathed to us is still relevant. But it is the prescriptions of our friends Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov alias Lenin and Mao Zedong that we need to forget.
---
Source: Author’s Facebook timeline. Contact: mohanguru@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

Union Budget 'moves away' from Right to Education, 1.3 lakh schools closed down

By Dr Aparajita Sharma*
It was a shocking reply by the Union human resource development minister to a question raised in Parliament on closure of schools in a country where lakhs of children are still out of school. On December 2, the minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, told Lok Sabha that the NITI Aayog’s education project, Sath-E, has led to 35,996 schools of different levels being merged in Madhya Pradesh, 4,312 in Jharkhand and 1,803 in Odisha. NITI Aayog is the Central Government’s policy think-tank.

CAA-NPR-NRC will 'target' 99% homeless, who are without birth certificates: NCU

Counterview Desk
Claiming to base on a survey in five states (Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu), which finds that over 99% of the homeless people do not have birth certificates, a civil rights organization which networks activists, researchers, urban practioners, lawyers, informal sector workers, has claimed that the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), as also the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR), are likely to adversely impact this section the most.

Modi 'warned': Will not remain silent when women are labelled terrorists and traitors

Counterview Desk
As many as 13 women's rights organizations and 162 individuals have issued an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that in the light of hate speeches during Delhi elections, especially directed against women, it is his "Constitutional duty to protect all citizens" and tell his partymen "to fight the elections in a manner that upholds the Constitution, not one that increases the fear and insecurity among women."

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

Anti-CAA: Mallika Sarabhai joins students, faculty to protest dy CM's 'divisive' talk

By Our Representative
Taking strong exception to deputy chief minister Nitin Patel’s statement against those protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), well-known danseuse Mallika Sarabhai has joined tens of activists and students and faculty of Gujarat University, CEPT University, Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, Gujarat Vidyapeeth and Nirma University to say that they are seeking “azadi” from the fascist and communal forces of the country.

Tata Mundra's possible closure? Power ministry's 'pressure tactic' on consumer states

By Bharat Patel*
Tata power has announced to the Union Ministry of Power that Tata Power may be forced to stop operating  its imported coal-based Mundra Ultra-Mega Power Project (UMPP) after February, 2020. It is not only unfortunate but also criminal that irreversible damage has been caused to the fragile ecosystem of Mundra coast for a project that will have a running life of only seven years.