By Dipankar Bhattacharya
Building the future and fixing everything forever is none of our business… (what) we have to do in the present (is) a ruthless criticism of everything that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results to which It comes as in the feeling of having a little fear of conflict with the powers that be. This slightly paraphrased sentence is quoted from a letter that a 25-year-old wrote to a friend in 1843. The young man had lived another forty years and lived precisely by this maxim, applying it not only to the external world around him, but also to his own ideas when he set out to analyze the world and change it.
History continues to remember the young man as Karl Marx, the ruthless critic of capitalism and brilliant visionary of an egalitarian and libertarian social future commonly described as communist or socialist. Because of his views and activities, he actually incurred the ire of several European states of his time and, although London gave him refuge for the second half of his life, he was never granted British citizenship because of his revolutionary trajectory. of the. Born German, he died stateless.
Marx had made the library of the British Museum in London his laboratory for his historical research on capital. Britain was then the most advanced capitalist country, the home of the industrial revolution, and also the greatest colonial power. Capital could not have grown without colonial plunder. In the words of Marx, “If money, according to [Marie] Augier, ‘comes into the world with a congenital bloodstain on one cheek’, capital comes dripping from head to toe, through every pore, with blood and dirt”. Not surprisingly, Marx’s battle against capital was intertwined with the growing world battle for liberation from colonialism.
The Communist Manifesto written in early 1848 throbbed with the hope of an immediate revolution in Europe. But that did not happen, and capital consolidated its rule by crushing the revolution of 1848. Marx focused on the study of capital and on establishing the bonds of unity between the incipient waves of working class struggle on the one hand and the anti-colonial upheavals on the other. the other. In the 1850s, Marx used to write for the American magazine New York Herald Tribune as a European correspondent in London. The hypocrisy and barbaric plunder and torture of British colonialism in India used to feature prominently in his dispatches.
In the summer of 1853, before the Adivasi revolts broke out in India, Marx laid out the agenda for the Indian people to throw off the yoke of British colonialism. Following the outbreak of the great revolt of 1857, when European discourse revolved around the alleged anti-English “racist barbarism” of Indian soldiers, Marx and Engels hailed the revolt as an emerging platform of united anti-colonial resistance of the Indian people. In 1858, in a letter to Engels, Marx described India as “our best ally” (in the battle against the twin enemy of British capitalism and colonialism). It was not easy for Marx and Engels to collect real-time information from India in those days, but readers will clearly see that their sympathies were entirely with the Indian fighters. The mischief and malice with which the RSS ideologues and propagandists lump Marx with Macaulay to present him as an apologist for British rule in India must be fully exposed and condemned.
Marx began his journey with the communist dream, and his analysis of history gave him confidence that this was an achievable dream. But beyond this innate confidence in the progress of history and the power of the people to write their own history, Marx was not concerned with predicting, much less designing, a perfect future. For him, the battle must always be fought here and now, and therefore one could only rely on the historically given situation and the available materials. The dream of the 1848 revolution, for which he undertook and wrote the Communist Manifesto, was never fulfilled. The event that most powerfully revived that dream in Marx’s lifetime was the Paris Commune of 1871. But it too collapsed after seventy-one days. The Soviet Union, which emerged as the first definitive socialist model in the early 20th century, also collapsed and disappeared after seven decades.
If 20th century socialism has not kept its promises, how is capitalism faring today? In Marx’s time, capital had a close relationship with the production and circulation of goods and services that was a prerequisite for the realization of profit. the search for profit had to proceed through production. The accumulation of capital, however plundering and primitive it was, had to ensure the social reproduction of work, if only at the level of mere subsistence.
Today, capital threatens to become more and more disassociated from any commitment to production and, fueled as they are by the growing application of automation and artificial intelligence, production processes threaten to turn large sections of the people superfluous or dispensable. And authoritarianism threatens to dislodge democracy from being the standard political form of capitalism. The gentleman who cheered the ‘end of history’ after the collapse of the Soviet Union complains about the ‘end of the end of history’ after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In short, capitalism today is in its deepest crisis rooted in an unsustainable present and beginning in an uncertain future in a chaotic world ravaged by Covid and threatened by climate. Instead of being demoralized by the ‘crisis of socialism’, can socialists fight harder to overcome the initial problems of socialism to build a humane alternative to the sufferings inflicted by the capitalist giant? Socialism in the 21st century must mean a higher democracy and a more comprehensive denial of capitalism and a more engaged conversation with nature as Marx suggested. That is the challenge that must drive the current generation of Marxists. (IPA Service)
The writer is the general secretary of CPI(ML) Liberation.
The publication Remembering Karl Marx and his teachings on his 204th birth anniversary first appeared on IPA Newspack.