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Totally off the Marx

The Left leaders can't regard themselves as revolutionaries in the Marxian sense. Sankar Ray writes.

india Updated: Apr 11, 2012 21:13 IST
Sankar Ray
Sankar Ray
Hindustan Times

The commies — official communist party leaders — were hyper-reactive when they heard on the grapevine that West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee planned to scrap Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels from history textbooks, without caring to note that the school-leaving (madhyamik) and higher secondary syllabi are yet to include them. The former Lok Sabha Speaker and former CPI(M) central committee member Somnath Chatterjee even termed the decision as "undesirable, unnecessary and unfortunate".

However, the heat subsided with the CM's statement that Marx and Engels are not "untouchables". She saluted "the nationalist movement and the Left movement in India". But what would have happened if the Trinamool Congress government had clamped a ban on the inclusion of a small chapter on the two founding fathers of ‘Marxism' in the curriculum? Would it have prevented hundreds of students from reading the classics of Marx and Engels? Their magnetism and writings would have remained irreducible. The collapse of Wall Street compelled its apologists among economists to read Marx's Das Kapital, not John Keynes' The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money to understand the causation of the crisis.

But has the CPI(M) — or anyone of its split-away derivatives — ever identified with Marxist or Marxist-Leninist ideologies? Or have the Maoists been serious about rescuing Marxism from the distorters? It's time to pull the commies up. At the recently-concluded 20th party conference of the party, the CPI(M) adopted a 25,000-plus word document called 'Resolution on Some Ideological Issues', ignoring the contempt of Marx and Engels who looked down upon ideologues for serving the interests of the dominant classes - kings or merchants. They wrote in The German Ideology, "The human beings and their relations appear to stand on their head, as in a camera obscura." "Viewing through the camera obscura conceals the realities of class conflict that define social relationships," Engels observed in a letter to Franz Mehring in 1893. The Marxist theory offers an unbiased vision of history, thanks to its immunity from ideological distortion.

An ideologue confines himself to defending the party's existing hierarchical order with convenient political terminology to keep the functionaries intact. Incredible as it may appear, the pollutant — 'ideology' — was injected by Lenin through an article captioned 'The Ideological Struggle in the Working-Class Movement' in 1914. It was one of several brazen revisionisms of Marxist philosophy.

But the CPI(M) 'ideologues' like Prakash Karat or even the erstwhile general secretary AB Bardhan and his successor Sitaram Yechury can't escape their responsibilities for deviating from the basic tenets of Marx's writings referring to Lenin. These men are mysteriously silent on the international efforts to publishing the complete works of Marx & Engels — The Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe or Mega — in 114 volumes from the Amsterdam-headquartered Internationale Marx-Engels-Stiftung (International Marx-Engels Foundation or IMES). To date, 59 volumes have been published. The IMES thrives on an international network of archival research in association with the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, the Karl Marx-Haus of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Trier, the Russian State Archive for Social/Political History and the Russian Independent Institute for the Study of Social and National Problems.

Professor Paresh Chattopadhyay, unquestionably the most erudite scholar on Marx, presently a staff member of political economy at the Faculty of Human Sciences at the University of Quebec in Montreal and associated with Mega gave a brief talk on Mega in February. No 'ideologue' representing the commies either evinced any interest in him or made a courtesy call to him. In a short piece in Frontier Autumn issue ( 2005) on Mega, he wrote that the IMES is "an association free of partisan politics".

So do the commies, too afraid to confront revelations in Mega, have the moral right to term themselves as revolutionaries in the Marxian sense?

Sankar Ray is a Kolkata-based writer. The views expressed by the author are personal.

First Published: Apr 11, 2012 21:08 IST