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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 21, New Delhi, May 9, 2020

Karl Marx versus official Marxists

Saturday 9 May 2020

by Sankar Ray

Two years elapsed since the 200th birth centenary of Karl Heinrich Marx (5 May 2018) but the official Marxist parties (OM) of India – CPI(M), CPI and variants of CPI(ML)- quietly ignored the co-founder of Scientific Socialism (with Friedrich Engels). Their mouthpieces, mass fronts etc did not bring out any special number on Marx, leave alone organising academic seminar, symposium and conference.

In contrast, Patna-based Asian Development Research Institute deserves praise for not only having a six-day conference in mid-June 2018 - Karl Marx – Life, Ideas, Influence: A Critical Examination on the Bicentenary. Palgrave Macmillan (New York) brought out a collection of papers in 2019, ‘Karl Marx – Life, Ideas, Influence: A Critical Examination on the Bicentenary’ (ed Shaibal Gupta, Babak Amini and Marcello Musto).

In early November 2016, I wrote a piece in Asian Age, about An international conference in commemoration of 150th anniversary of publication of Das Kapital (September 18, 1867) at the York University, Toronto (25- 26, 2017. I apprehended that OMs in India might ignore the 150th anniversary. I thought I would prove wrong but it didn’t happen. I wrote: “Unfortunately, official Marxist (Leninist) parties like the Communist Party of India (Marxist) are apathetic to celebration of the 150th anniversary. On the contrary, they are preparing for centenary of Bolshevik Revolution or the Great October Socialist Revolution (GOSR), which has lost much of its sheen after the fall of Soviet Union and subsequent demise of the Communist Party of Soviet Union.”.
( . But Kolkata-based Calcutta Research Group organised a two-day conference to commemorate the 150th it, focusing on the Capital in the East.

But the OMs alone should not be blamed for all this. Economic and Political Weekly too did not carry any special issue on Das Kapital in 2017 or thereafter. It decided to bring a special issue on Marx in May 2019 and got papers it commissioned from eminent Marx scholars. The scheme is yet to be implemented.

After the demise of Soviet Union and collapse of the Communist Party of Soviet Union in December 1991, Prof Randhir Singh, a doyen among Indian political theorists, wrote a paper,serialised in Mainstream, stating that ‘official Marxism’ (OM) might have fallen, but not Marxism. Dr Singh’s assertion is vouched by the positive gradients of sale curves of Das Kapital and Manifesto of Communist Party . A new group scholars who insulate themselves from party-dominated study of Marx or Marxism has evinced renewed interests in original texts, notes, drafts and correspondence of Marx and Engels, thanks to the de Marx-EngelsGesamtausgabe (MEGA) or Complete Works of Marx and Engels, including various manuscripts in original (MEGA-II, the first series ; MEGA-I, under the editorship of Soviet theoretician David Borisovich Riazanov, unquestionably the greatest Marx scholar of the 20th Century, in the 1920s and 1930s) . The relevance of Marxology and Marxologists, was stressed by . Nie Jinfang, a philosophy professor at Peking University in his paper “History, Present and Future of Marxology” at an international a symposium, at the Beijing Normal University on 7 June 2014. Chinese scholars evinced research interests in Marxol¬ogy in the early 1980s, he revealed . “Marxology is an academic approach,” he said, and the motto of Marxology is to investigate, verify and compile classic writers’ original literature and documents.

The founder of Marxology Riazanov, He was born on 10March 1870.His 150th birth anniversary too remains neglected..Next to him was Maximilien Rubel, whose erudition and scholarship among new generation of scholars on Marx and Engels. “Marxol¬ogy”, according to Rubel, comprises the study of Marx and his works, coalesced into a systematic research and is a distinct school. Lenin, who shunned factionalism in RSDLP(B) , picked up Riazanov in 1920 to head the new Marx-Engels Institute (rechristened as the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute in 1931), despite his fundamental differences with him. Riazanov proved Lenin’s sagacity y discovering texts like German Ideology, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Grundrisse, Mathematical Manuscripts and Critique of Political Economy. Immediately after taking up his assignment he sent emissaries out to purchase whatever copies of Marx/Engels works and letters they could find. But he was executed by Josef Stalin on false charges. Riazanov was “ destituted of his function” , based on “ false testimony by another great Marx scholar, Isaac Illich Rubin, arrested and condemned as ‘a conspirator’ by the Stalinist show trial and executed”, wrote Paresh Chattopadhyay, the most well-known Indian Marx scholar. In a brief 1973 introduction to Riazanov Dirk Struik wrote : “By 1930, [the Institute] possessed hundreds of original documents, 55,000 pages of photostats, 32,000 pamphlets, and a library of 450,000 books and bound periodicals. Apart from the administrative offices, the archive, and the library, it had working rooms, a museum, and a publishing department.”. Incredible as it may seem, between 1927 and 1941, 12 volumes of MEGA (first edition) were published, entirely due to that great scholar. The Communist International , described him in its official mouthpiece Inprecor on 19 March 1930 as “ the most renowned and the most important of the Marxist scholars of our time", but he was kept in oblivion during the Stalin period. . Rubel discovered him in the early 1950s in the twilight years of the dictator.

Marxologists hyphenate themselves ‘ideology-fetishism’ of OMs and most of them do not like to be called as Marxists . Marx blasted ‘ideology’ and ‘ideologues” in GE. “In all ideology, the human beings and their relations”. Marx too wrote to Paul Lafargue in chaste French, “Ce qu’il y a de certain c’est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste.” (If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist). . He felt irritated with the prefix ‘Marxist’.

Marx was under attack in 1917, immediately after the GOSR. None other than Antonio Gramsci wrote in Avanti, organ of the Italian Socialist Party, on 24 December 1917: “It’s a revolution against Karl Marx’s Capital. In Russia, Marx’s Capital was the book of the bourgeoisie, more than of the proletariat. It was the crucial proof needed to show that, in Russia, there had to be a bourgeoisie, there had to be a capitalist era, there had to be a Western-style of progression, before the proletariat could even think about making a comeback, about their class demands, about revolution. Events overcame ideology. Events have blown out of the water all critical notions which stated Russia would have to develop according to the laws of historical materialism. The Bolsheviks renounce Karl Marx and they assert, through their clear statement of action, through what they have achieved, that the laws of historical materialism are not as set in stone, as one may think, or one may have thought previously.” (The Revolution against ‘Capital’- There was no rejoinder from RSDLP (B) leaders.

The Revolution against ‘Capital’ - Marxists Internet Archive
The Bolshevik revolution has become a definitive part of the more widespread revolution of the Russian people. The Maximalists, up until two months ago, had been the force necessary to stop the cause grinding to a halt, to stop the road to the future coming to a dead end, to give rise to a final settlement – that would have been a bourgeois settlement.

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