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Missing the opium for the masses

india Updated: Jan 01, 2008 21:00 IST

One of the chief weapons used against India’s communists is that they harbour double standards when it comes to religion. Regardless of our position on material dialectics and the dictatorship of the proletariat, we must come to the defence of Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan. The communist patriarch allegedly became the first Marxist leader to visit the Sabarimala temple on Monday. Non-communist eyebrows have been raised — not to mention sarcastic remarks made (“Oh, but aren’t they a godless lot?”). Here, of course, the critics are being blissfully ignorant about communism and its relationship with religion.

There will be those capitalism bhakts, who wore chappals and quoted Tony Benn in their salad days, who will quickly quote Marx’s line, “Religion is the opium of the masses,” to counter any argument that the basic tenets of Marxism are not incompatible with partaking in religious ceremonies and observations. It would serve well to read the complete quotation from Marx’s Contribution to Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” In other words, it is real for the masses.

If that doesn’t answer those making fun of Mr Achuthanandan’s visit to Sabarimala, then let the example of Subhash Chakraborty, Marxist West Bengal Transport Minister, suffice. His visit to a temple in 2006 caused a furore, to which the man shot back that he was a Bengali, Hindu, Brahmin and Communist in that order. Ma Durga Zindabad to that!