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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 30 New Delhi July 14, 2018

Still Marx

Sunday 15 July 2018

by Jayanta Kumar Ghosal

The toiling and oppressed people all over the world are observing the bicentenary of Karl Marx, following the prediction of ‘End of History’. As days are passing the struggles for emancipation from capitalist exploitation are gaining momentum everywhere. In two Theses On Feuerbach Marx wrote—‘The philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world. The point is to change it.’ That remains the guiding principle of the labour and socialist as well as anti-capitalist movements of the world for centuries. When the people all over the world were observing the sesquicentenary of Karl Marx in 1968 and the fiftieth anniversary of the Great October Socialist revolution in 1967 one-third of the then world population was under the stewardship of the socialist system guided by the Marxist doctrine and it was thought that the future of mankind lies in socialism and that is the destiny of the world. Even the non-Marxists began to believe it.

The situation has changed abruptly in these fifty years and the West has turned its back on communism. The free market economy and the system related to it have reached their extreme causing limitless misery to the common masses. All these are the outcome of capitalism which is in deep crisis and completely unable to overcome it. Marx with his teachings will endure as he foresaw it.

Of course, the Soviet model of socialism has collapsed and various doubts are being raised on the relevance of Marx’s teachings in this 21st century. Side by side the evidence of ‘capitalism in convulsion’ is becoming increasingly prominent. Global capitalism is undergoing its greatest disruption and crisis since the early thirties of the last century and it is almost impossible for it to exit from this crisis. But it is also to be noted that capitalism always tried to overcome its difficulties in various ways, and also recovered, at least temporarily but the old Soviet socialist system could not.

During the period of more than six decades since 1917, the people all over the world were certain about the future of socialism and took the doctrine as the emancipator of the toiling people, and the downtrodden and oppressed looked up to Soviet socialism as a better form of social system than the capitalist one. Even it was thought that the capitalist economy will be replaced by the socialist economy in future. And there were enough reasons behind it.

In short, it may be said the ‘socialism’ based on the principles of Marxism was the central discussion-point in the 20th century. But the situation began to change in the nineties with the upheaval of the global economy. The socialist bloc collapsed. And there appeared the question about the relevance of Marx in the 21st century.

In this period the Soviet socialist model does not exist. But there is an enormous and speedy growth of globalisation leading to the sheer wealth generating capacity. The market-based idea and economy have become most prominent resulting in extreme economic inequality everywhere and dehumanising the society. And it has been proved that the existing systems cannot solve the problems due to this. Marx could foresee the crisis of capitalism and analysed the situation.

The growth of speculative international finance capital in the last three decades has become a major concern for the working class movements around the globe questioning the role of the nation-state in the globalised imperialist system and causing an erosion of the sovereignty of nation states. So today the class struggle will be in the terrain of the nation-state not negating the ideas of internationalism. As the loss of sovereignty of the nation means the loss of sovereignty of the people in all forms, the working class of each country will have to fight it as Marx pointed out in the Communist Manifesto nearly 170 years ago.

While searching for the relevance of Marx today it must be remembered that Marx of the 21st century is very different from 20th century’s Marx. Now the communist regimes and mass- based Communist Parties are not there with the fall of the old socialist model and the Marxists today are working in a most adverse situation.

In a letter written to the German sociologist Werner Sombart, Engles clearly stated that what he and Marx had preached is a ‘methodology’. Later the Marxists all over the globe took the teachings as ‘a guide to action’ not ‘ a dogma’. In the current situation of turmoil Marx’s teaching will guide the people in a way suitable for the day.

During the period of the Russian Revolution and even later the Marxists were able to halt and even bring about the collapse of the 19th century capitalism and 19th century bourgeois society. Crisis-ridden capital then applied a new policy being armed with the modern scientific and technological revolution. The recovery was not in the old form. So the necessity of applying Marxist teaching in a different way. The models practised today in various countries are not the carbon copy of the Soviet model. The role of the old model Communist Parties has to be changed. The Marxists all over the world till date have mainly followed the official line of capturing state power through revolution as preached by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and others. Great Marxist thinkers and revolutionaries like Gramsci, Luxemburg, Luckas have been neglected so far. Now the time has come to study and follow their thoughts and interpretations of Marxism which may help to build a Communist Party of a new type capable of facing the present-day situation. The deepening of economic crisis created by the MNCs and TNCs has brought acute miseries to the oppressed and downtrodden. Attacks upon democratic institutions have sharpened. But the struggle of the people is an ongoing phenomenon. That is precisely why we are sure that Marx will be our guide for this century too.

The author is a social activist associated with the literacy movement.

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