The following is an interview with PRADIP BAKSI, an independent Marx scholar based in Kolkata. He has translated and edited some of the notes and manuscripts of Karl Marx on mathematics and on the history of land relations in India. He has also written on Marx’s study of some of the natural sciences and technologies of his time. The interview was conducted by SANKAR RAY, a senior journalist based in Kolkata.
Sankar Ray [SR]: What are your views on the relevance of Marx for India today, in the context of the financial crisis continuing since 2008, a certain renewal of interest in Marx’s Capital and, of late in Piketty’s Capital for the 21st Century?
Pradip Baksi [PB]: Despite the echo of the title of Marx’s famous book in the title of Piketty’s bestseller, the latter is an exercise within one of the currently fashionable strands of Marx-innocent political economy. In contrast Marx’s Capital is a part of an unfinished and incomplete program of critique of political economy, proposing a continuous reconstruction of it as a science.
While marshalling a very large and interesting dataset on growing inequality within contemporary capitalism, Piketty proposes to make that inequality bearable through taxation within future capitalism, and thereby holds a brief for that very capitalism. Marx, it is true, left his critique of political economy incomplete and unfinished, but he never held any brief for capitalism.
The ongoing financial crisis has triggered some interest in these two books in some quarters. This financial crisis and this interest may or may not last long. I do not wish to speculate about that. The questions of relevance or otherwise of Marx for India, and for the rest of the world, however, are questions of a different order. Continue reading An Interview on the Continuing Relevance of Marx→
In sharp contrast to the scenario of the unprecedented debt-driven crisis of neo-liberal world economic order, a new era of radiant expectations seems to open up for Marx-followers and Marxists around the international project, Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe or complete works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (MEGA) and it’s hitherto ‘unexplored Marx’. MEGA , a collation of original texts is ‘the historical-critical edition of works of Marx and Engels’, an imperative ignored during the 20th century by official Marxists. Fifty-nine out of 114 volumes , have already been published. The MEGA editorial board, following prolonged debate decided to put together the whole of 164 volumes of original manuscripts in 114 volumes.
A critical approach to history is essential for scholarly inquiry. Yet scholarship alone isn’t enough where an enterprise such as this is for it also requires unbiased collation and editing. The development of Marxist studies had been throttled due to widespread vulgarisation which had dominated Marx studies from the 1890s to the end of the 20th Century. Early Marxists like Franz Mehring and Vera Zasulich – and Rosa Luxemburg – adopted a more critical approach which is a essential for the ‘Marxist temper’. Marx’s prescription, de omnibus dubitandum (doubt everything), wasn’t meant to be just a quotation. Unfortunately, Lenin and his followers often deified Marx. Lenin’s words – “Marxism is omnipotent, because it is true” – is one such instance as if Marxism represents the end of philosophy. Continue reading MEGA, the recovery of Marx and Marxian path: Sankar Ray→
[As the CPIM)’s 20th Congress began in Kozhikhode today, we bring two pieces marking the occasion. AN]
Unbelievable though it may seem even to the staunchest critic of CPI(M), ‘class struggle’ is totally missing in the 20950-plus word Draft Political Resolution (DPR) of the CPI(M), circulated and debated inside the party for over two months, that will be finalized with amendments, deletions and additions, at the 20th party Congress at Kozhikode between 4 and 9 April. The finalized political resolution is to be party’s tactical line until the 21st Congress four years later. The omission of ‘class struggle’ in the DPR, a basic document for committed struggle is stupefying as communists the world over frequently quote Marx that the history of mankind is “the history of class struggles”.
It’s not new as class struggle was omitted in the Political Resolution adopted at the 19th Congress ( Coimbatore, 29 March- 3 April 2008). But unlike at Coimbatore, the latest draft document talks of ‘people’s democracy’, CPI(M)’s main ideology, enshrined in the Updated Party Programme ( adopted at a special party conference in October 2000 at Thiruvananthapuram). But the pledge for moving forward to “a new, alternative path – towards people’s democracy and socialism” is vague.
Narahari Kaviraj, eminent Marxist historian and an ideoligue of CPI, breathed his last in the wee hours of Wednesday, the 28th of December 2011. He was born on 17 February 1917 and was the last disciple of Bhupendranath Dutta,the youngest brother of Swami Vivekananda, whom Lenin had once requested, in reply to an article (draft), to devote himself to studying and writing on agrarian issues in India. As a scholar, Narahari Kaviraj was also a favourite of Puran Chand Joshi, general secretary of CPI (1935–47). The anecdote goes that when PCJ first heard that Kaviraj’s son, Sudipta ( now a scholar of international repute as a political theorist and department chair of the Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies department at Columbia University) , joined JNU, he asked, ” Is he more brilliant than his father Narahari ?”
The CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat and the Left Front chairman Biman Bose deserve thanks for referring to the WikiLeaks revelation about the US enthusiasm in seeing a change of guard at the Writers’ Buildings, the seat of the Government of West Bengal.
Quoting the cable no 230353 10/20/2009, Mr Karat conveyed the gist of it as follows: “Since the May 2009 parliamentary elections elevated West Bengal’s regional party, All India Trinamool Congress, from obscurity to the second largest constituent party in the United Progressive Alliance, its leader, Mamata Banerjee, has conscientiously sought to re-brand herself as West Bengal’s Chief Minister-in-Waiting. She is using the considerable administrative resources at her disposal as Railway’s Minister, political resources as leader of the state opposition party, and personal resources to initiate this transformation. Supporters and critics acknowledge the new image, but question whether it is indeed a new product, or simply new packaging. Backed by a large parliamentary constituency and allied with the ruling Congress party, Banerjee’s Trinamool is well placed to win the 2011 state assembly elections if she can continue along her current path of self-restraint and avoid making any mistakes along the way.” For details, the reader has to visit http://pragoti.org, even though it’s unabashedly pro-CPI(M).
The CPI(M) supremo observed that the AITC brass “is very much within private outreach. I’m in no position unfortunately to investigate and tell you what they are doing to fulfill this general direction they’ve given in the cable”.
Prasenjit Bose, chief of research cell, central committee of CPI(M) deserves kudos for his article Corruption and Forbearance under Neoliberalism, published in the journal of The Centre for Policy Analysis, and reproduced in pragoti.org. However, corruption is not an exclusive phenomenon under the capitalist system. Socialist countries – I mean the social orders encouraged by the Third International – were also afflicted by corruption, not to speak of People’s Republic of China (both in Mao and post-Mao years). Even the CPI(M)-led governments in Kerala and West Bengal never waged a principled war against corruption. Hence Bose’s inference that “the state under the neoliberal regime has increasingly become a vehicle for capital accumulation and also a site for primitive accumulation, by the established corporate players as well as new entrants to the big business club” – is only half the truth. Continue reading Corruption, CPI(M) and Neoliberalism: Sankar Ray→