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Karl Heinrich Marx (1818-2018),The new millennium: rise and fall of Marxism and the new world order

Shekhar Dutta

Part-I

The year Y2K (2000 AD) , code-named so, fearing massive computer disorder, had duly slipped into posterity as quietly as it had come with no computer marred by miscalculation or damaged configuration. As the humanity embarked on a new voyage across time and space the lingering memories of the most violent and eventful twentieth century continue to haunt us . What rises from the deeper recesses of memory is the phoenix-like rise of a new political ideology based on a materialist philosophy of life at the commencement of the twentieth century and its abrupt and shattering fall at the end of it.

Karl Heinrich Marx and his alter ego , Friedrick Engels, had projected a new dream to the world’s working class or proletariat by launching their ‘Communist Manifesto’ in 1848. ‘A spectre is haunting Europe-the spectre of communism’ said the sensational opening line of the ‘Manifesto’,predicting a massive socio-political change and balance of social power in contemporary Europe , marked by developing capitalism and a steady growth in republicanism and representative form of government. What startled many was the implicit Marxian prognosis that natural resources of the world belong equally to all but in the class divided society the Bourgeoise capitalists and, before that, slave owners and feudal chiefs had usurped the resources and common wealth by means of exploitation and force. The ‘Manifesto’ had been preceded and followed by Marx’s monumental works such as ‘A critique on political economy’ , ‘Contributions to the critique of Hegel’s philosophy of law’, ‘The German ideology ‘, ‘The peasant war in Germany’ , ‘Anti Duhring’ and the earth-shattering ‘Das Capital’ in three volumes and other minor works and pamphlets.

Based on the fundamental principles of natural science Marx had presented the socio-economic evolution of human history from a purely materialist prism centred on ‘modes of production’. From ‘primitive communism’, to ‘slave society’, ‘from feudalism’ to ‘capitalism and imperialism’-this is how Marx had analysed the socio-political and economic progress. For him the final point of history-or the end of it,end of ideological evolution-would be a borderless global communist utopia. He had,however, made the cardinal error of evaluating the core of human nature characterized by perennial quest for personal advancement, avarice , self promotion and ,according to Francis Fukyama, the ‘thymos’ or self-esteem or recognition of being, far above the concept of collective welfare enforced by ideology or philosophy . Alongside his portrayal of the sociological and economic evolution of human societies , Marx had presented a comprehensive philosophical approach to many subjects including religion while prescribing a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ as the end product of an armed revolution. However, in all fairness Marx had never advocated a forcible takeover of power a la the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 in Russia : Vladimir Lenin had borrowed the idea from the anarchist Prince Bakunin. His concepts of state-controlled economy and all national resources to ensure fair and equitable sharing of income among the people, monocratic rule of the communist party and, quite controversially, human labour as the only commodity inherently endowed with ‘surplus’ value formed his original contribution to the world of ideas and philosophy in its materialist manifestation. The theme is too vast and too profound to bear recapitulation within the short space of an article but, suffice it to say, that a pan Euro-American gallup poll held in the year 2000 had identified Karl Heinrich Marx as the ‘greatest thinker’ of the second millennium (999-1999 AD) alongside Albert Einstein as the ‘greatest scientist’, Adolf Hitler as the ‘greatest evil’ and anti-biotic as the ‘greatest invention’ . However, in all fairness Marx had never considered his philosophical ideas as sacrosanct and inalterable. According to his celebrated biographer Franz Mehring , Marx had always looked upon his ideas as catalyst for further research to arrive at the truth unlike his ostensible followers who still try to preach and practise Marxian ideas more as inalterable religious orthodoxy than as political ideology which is relative and adaptable with the passage of time and age.

Marxian ideas on revolution and social change had materialized first in the economically backward huge land mass of Russia, propelled substantially by war and resultant crisis and leadership of a whole host of professional revolutionaries in 1917 following Russian debacle in the first world war (1914-1918). Fairly long before that the reverses suffered by Czarist Russia in war with tiny Japan in 1905 had set in motion a major chain of events signalled by the incomplete revolution of that year. There was a long gap till the latter part of the colossally destructive second world war (1939-1945) when the Red army of the communist Soviet Union had overrun eastern Europe to capture part of Germany, installing by military force communist regimes in Poland, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia,Yugoslavia , Romania, Hungary and Albania. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin opened his last European outpost in Soviet occupied part of Germany, renamed East Germany by installing a titular regime and walling the satellite country off its umbilical part which the allied forces of second world war renamed as West Germany.

Within a few years more changes followed as predominantly agrarian and appallingly backward China defied conventional Marxist wisdom to emerge as a communist country in 1949 under the innovative leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong. Stalwarts like Mao and Hochi Minh had also successfully converted anti-imperialist struggle in their respective countries into a movement for communist political set-up and administration. Despite variations in the socio-political context tiny Cuba and then, currently monastic north Korea had embraced socialist or communist political form-the latter, aided by a fairly prolonged war . How Cambodia (briefly Kampuchea) had espoused and then discarded communism of the genocidal Pol Pot variety is too tragic a tale to be referred to even in passing.

But the psychological revolt against the totalitarian and repressive communist regimes had commenced even in the early days of Soviet Russia as prolonged civil war worsened by chronic economic crisis , shortages and the untold suffering entailed by Stalin’s forced collectivization in agriculture in the late twenties had a crippling effect on the efficacy of socialism as a means to achieve a better future for the masses or even for the working class. True , Stalin had upgraded Soviet Russia from a backward economy to the status of a super-power but the human cost behind the achievement was colossal. Soviet secret police services with changing nomenclature-Cheka, NKVD, GPU and then KGB-had made life unbearable over and above the perennial shortages. Life had become easier post-Stalin but this was not enough to revive the spirit of citizenry as the very legitimacy of the party’s autocratic and repressive rule was in question. A measure of the crisis can be gauged from the fact that since the early seventies Soviet Russia had started importing food grains from agriculturally rich countries as its subsidy-based shortage economy started collapsing. The end looked near but the process was accelerated by the disastrous Afghan adventure which hit the last nail on the Soviet shortage economy. Post-Mao Chinese leadership showed pragmatism to ward off a crisis by ushering in massive reform measures since 1978 with near total compromises on ideological positions of the regime. As a result China is now a economic super-power, next to the USA and the group of G-5 but the authoritarian and illegitimate political set up is intact. Today’s China is a full-fledged capitalist economy. But the full horrors of the repressive communist rule in the name of Marxism can be partially gleaned through a study of CPSU general secretary Nikita Khrushchev’s celebrated speech in the 20th Congress in 1956 before the onset of the process of destalinisation and now from declassified KGB documents.

But the Soviet Russia and its satellite regimes in East Europe collapsed like a house of cards once Mikhail Gorbachev had introduced ‘Glasnost’and ‘Perestroika’. As the economy became too weak to support the illegitimate and dictatorial political system, the party apparatchiks running the Soviet Union and the satellites in East Europe collapsed flat on the ground by the end of 1991-Romanian dictator Ceaucescu died by gun-shots after abortive bid to flee the country in the wake of a mass uprising. The other cosmetic socialist regimes in Vietnam and Cuba continue to survive on the strength of comprehensive economic reforms though reports on largescale deaths in famine continue to pour out of rogue north Korea.

The assassinated Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto in her perceptive book titled ‘Reconciliation : Islam, Democracy and the West’ had quoted former Czeck president , playwright and communist leader Vaclav Havel as having said “ communism or socialism collapsed all over the world because of collective human revolt against confinement in a uniform system”. Nothing can be more true as the ‘Uniform System’ created permanent bondage, seized rights , repressed people beyond endurance and stifled thinking. It was not ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ but ‘over the proletariat’ who had emerged as the illusory legitimizing force for socialist totalitarian regimes.



PART-II



Monumental failure of Marxism as political philosophy and methodology of state administration triggered a flurry of valuable literature based on leakage of declassified secret service documents and information emanating from fallen communist regimes. But long before that in the thirties of the last century Alexander Kojeve, erudite Franco-Russian philosopher and scholar who was arguably the greatest interpreter of GWF Hegel in the twentieth century, had in a series of highly influential seminars in elite European universities , attended by continental super-intellectuals, had taught that Hegel , in fact , had been more right in his critique of the ideological evolution of human history. In the core of Kojeve’s erudite teaching was the startling assertion that ideological evolution of human history had ended with the battle of Jena in 1806 as that had facilitated the formation of nation states in Europe , proclaiming the final triumph of liberal democracy and market driven economy. To Hegel the formation of state was the ‘march of God on earth’ and Kojeve interpreted Hegelian prognosis as envisaging the emergence of totalitarian states based on principles propounded by Marx and other ideologies and interests as ‘mere provincial realignments’. Marx had adopted Hegelian dialectics to form his own analysis of socio-political evolution of history and evolution of ideologies but turned this on its head by inalienably attaching thereto his theory of class struggle.To Hegel, dialectics was a methodology for analyzing socio-economic and political evolution but to Marx, dialectics became synonymous with classes and class struggle. This was totally repudiated by Kojeve and philosophers of his ilk who got reconciled to the Marxian theory of classes and class-based conduct and distinctions but rejected the idea of class struggle as the driving force of history.

Apart from the conflict of philosophical ideas and theories , the fundamental fallacies of Marxism lies in its basic ideas and formulations. To begin with, the application of the principles of natural science to human societies and their evolution is questionable in that humans are not static, lifeless matters open to alterations in form and character engineered by external forces. Man also does not live by bread alone : ordinary emotions, sentiments, entrenched beliefs , tradition and often superstitions play key role in shaping and guiding human behaviour. Besides, man is born unequal in many respects and the idea of enforcing equality in a human society is anything but workable ; what may be possible is prevention of monopoly and unfairness in distribution of national income but inequality persisted even in socialist-communist regimes as party apparatchiks holding high positions in the party-centric government were more equal than lay members and ordinary citizenry , as so poignantly shown by former Yugoslav communist leader and author Milovan Djilas in his brilliant work ‘The new class’.

Moreover, Marx had always identified the Bourgeoise state as an ‘instrument of oppression’ on the working class or the industrial proletariat, the vanguard of revolution but , inspired by his philosophy, Marx’s followers had set up overwhelming states whose very survival depended on totalitarianism, repression, terror, thought-control and regimentation. This contradiction was never resolved to restore peoples pristine rights. Marxian theory had postulated that full growth of capitalism with parliamentary democracy that gives an illusion of power would usher in the era of egalitarian socialism but no where in the world a full-grown capitalism with a parliamentary set-up in place has fallen to socialist attempt at usurpation of power through violence . At the time of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 Russia did have a capitalism in a nascent state as amply clarified by Lenin’s famous work ‘Growth of Capitalism in Russia’. But Leo Trotsky had been more prophetic in his prognosis that the ‘immature capitalism’ in Russia would never be able to withstand a revolutionary upsurge , as penned in his refreshingly original analysis ‘Results and Prospects’ authored in the wake of the failed 1905 revolution.

As it happened, in the wake of the October-November revolution of 1917 in Russia the capitalism in the developed world of Europe and Americas devised it’s self-sustaining mechanism and safeguards , aided by rapid advancement in technology, much better life and well-being of the working class, security of service and relative social stability. The capitalist economies in the bourgeoise developed world had started spreading a sturdy social security net to include all sections of people including the working class, peasants and struggling middle class. This has proved to be an impenetrable bulwark against any revolutionary misadventure witnessed in the twentieth century. But socialism or communism continue to rot away in the realm of contrived glory and ‘fossilised purity’. Former British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill in a remarkable speech in the house of lords in 1947 had described socialism and capitalism in the following aphorism : ‘capitalism means unequal sharing of bliss but socialism means equal sharing of misery’. Experiences of socialist societies across the world in the twentieth century bear testimony to this.

Leaving this aside, two more crucial factors contributed to the momentous fall of socialism : unresolved question of nationalities and religion. As an internationalist Marx had sought to bind the working class across the world by their class and common experience of exploitation but the finer points of nationality, culture and language et al never found much favour in his theoretical prognostications. It was Joseph Stalin who in a thesis authored in 1912 had dealt with the question of nationalities and their struggle but Stalin himself had acted against his own theory by grabbing his native land Georgia by force in the wake of 1917 revolution-of course much against the stated wishes of Lenin. Everywhere the advent of state power, propelled by Marxist ideas , had sounded the death knell of nationalist aspirations in the face of brute force , as exemplified by the suppression of Baltic republics and East Europe by Soviet Russia and small republics in China like Tibet. Central Asian republics under the erstwhile Soviet Union had never been exceptions as they had succumbed to the guns of Red Army as they had surrendered earlier to the Czarist forces and gained independence at the first opportunity. This nationalist question and thwarted aspirations of nationalities also greatly contributed to the discrediting of Marxist ideas.

But the crucial factor was religion : Marx’s views on religion, mainly based on his experience of decadent Christianity of 19th century Europe remain scattered in a section of his writings but the most quotable of quotes of Marx on religion are available in his celebrated essay ‘contributions to the critique of Hegel’s philosophy of law’. Quotes such as ‘man makes religion ,religion does not make man’ or ‘the struggle against religion is therefore indirectly a fight against the world of which religion is the spiritual aroma’ or ‘religion is the sigh of the oppressed creatures , the heart of a heartless world ,just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions’; It is the opium of the people’ sound musical but convey a hollowness of ideas while exposing the superficial nature of Marxist views on religion which he considered a ‘false consciousness’. Rishi Arabindo had defined Marx’s views on religion as ‘brilliant superficialities ‘ as they lack a deeper analysis of human faith in religion , a higher world and life after death. It is a measure of the colossal failure of Marxist ideas that since the fall of his socialist or communist ideas towards the end of the twentieth century the humanity has been rocked and continue to be torn asunder by religious conflict and aggression. The materialist par excellence embodied in Marx had formed his ideas in Europe but had completely underestimated the oriental fascination for religion and its role as expansionist ideology like Islam. Many socialist republics basking in Godless societies and ideas now wallow in an excess of menacing religiosity.

An alternative but fundamentally flawed vision provided by Marx had, of course, given a temporary respite from two long millennia of religious conflict and bloodshed across the world but the grain of primordial human nature reasserted itself to reclaim the lost space and the blood-letting in the name of religious ideology , triggering off what Samuel Huntington termed as now clichéd ‘clash of civilisation’ since the early nineties. As the clash continues to gain momentum , the consequences are too obvious and foreseeable to escape attention. ‘A great philosopher and intellectual who turned out to be the greatest proponent of emancipation of toiling masses ended up by spawning the emergence of such ogre-like mass murderers in human history as Jospeh Stalin, Mao Zedong , Pol Pot , Erich Honecker, Wilbricht et al in the name of his ideology’-may be a fitting epitaph on Marx’s grave in London’s Highgate Cemetery.












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21/07/2018 13:07:31Tasmita Ghosh123agartala@gmail.comAfter reading this article, we learned a lot about German philosopher and revolutionary socialist Karl Mar.Thanks for share with us.....
22/07/2018 04:54:01Sushmitasushmitachanda93@gmail.comNice Sir,keep writing..
22/07/2018 12:14:25Sumitra Dassumitradas.sagar@gmail.comThis article gives us knowledge about "Karl Heinrich Marx". He was a German philosopher and revolutionary socialist. Keep writing sir...........
25/07/2018 09:06:51Ramlal sarkarramlalsarkarscout@gmail.comActually from a capitalist and even marxian point of view it is possible to justify the huge salaries of some major sports figure, and even for some aspects of entertainment figures. Great Article sir thanks to share karl Marx related theory.
25/07/2018 09:08:40Akhil Biswasakhi1452@gmail.comI agree with the article's points. God Article

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