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

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

August 22 to be observed as Apostasy Day: International coalition of ex-Muslim groups

By Our Representative
In a unique move, an international coalition of ex-Muslim organisations has decided to observe August 22, 2020 as the Apostasy Day. To be observed for “the abandonment or renunciation of religion”, the coalition, calling upon people to join the call, said, the decision to observe the Apostasy Day has been taken because of apostasy is “punishable by death in Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, UAE, and Yemen.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.