Marx comes to Patna
A global meet to deliberate Marxism in Patna is an essential intervention to re-think the philosophies that make–or break–today’s world.
The broadest-ever international conference in India on Karl Marx – ''Karl Marx–Life, Ideas and Influence: A Critical Examination on the Bicentenary (June 16-20, 2018)" under the aegis of the Asian Development Research Institute will take place in Patna, the capital of one of India's most economically backward states. Its significance lies in the state's heritage, built by several historically famous peasant struggles. Bihar was once the citadel of the Communist Party of India, later that of CPI (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation group.
The raison d'être of the jamboree, crisply put by ADRI is that "Marxism is not as alive today as it was during the two preceding centuries. But, even now, ideas of Karl Marx continue to engage intellect, imagination and conscience of human minds across the world from perspectives that are understandably very diverse…it is certainly an apt moment not just to remember him, but to rethink and interrogate all that is sourced to him, both academically and in terms of political practice".
The world turned upside down with the collapse of USSR in 1991 but the frenzied pleasure in the imperialist camp was ephemeral. The financial tsunami generated by the sub-prime crisis of 2008 made Marx romp home. Elongating queues before large bookshops for 'Capital - Critique of Political Economy' resuscitated the relevance of Marxian economics. A new cohort of Marx scholars – hyphenated from 'official Marxists' -- committed to the 'historical-critical' examination of published and hitherto-unpublished texts (including notes, manuscripts, and correspondences) of Marx and Engels took up the scalpel. Hence, the series of bicentennial conferences on Marx the world over.
The statement of objectives concurs with this Cartesian motto – 'De omnibus dubitandum' (Doubt everything) – that Moore adhered to unflinchingly throughout his life. The 20th Century socialism witnessed "the worst forms of dictatorship", but the influence of Marxism "has not been limited to the communist countries alone," ADRI stated candidly: The idea of 'social democracy' that many countries try to build "as the most desired form of governance can be easily traced to the Marxian critique of a capitalist order, at least the way it functioned in the nineteenth century Europe". Thus the world in the 21st century "is not as unfair today as it would have been in the absence of Marx".
An examination of the Marxian praxis presupposes an open-ended milieu to ensure creative debates and deliberations. "The political experience of erstwhile communist countries provides us with enough material to critically examine the Marxian thoughts," the ADRI states. This imperative is in sync with the fundamentals of the 'incompleteness' of Marx, who wanted to rewrite every major work, including Das Kapital, with several drafts in German and French – at least three of Vol I, seven of Vol II and 13 of Vol III. After the Paris Commune, he even desired to rewrite the 'Communist Manifesto'.
Samuel Hollander, emeritus professor of economics, University of Toronto, is assigned to deliver the Marx memorial oration (On Karl Marx's Revolutionary Credentials and the Marx-John Stuart Mill Intellectual Relationship) and Craig Brandist, director, Bakhtin Centre, University of Sheffield, will deliver the Engels Memorial lecture on 'The Origins of Marxist Oriental Studies in the USSR and its Stalinist Distortion'. Senegalese Marxian economist Samir Amin is to deliver the Lenin Memorial lecture – 'The Communist Manifesto-1848: 170 years later'. Shapan Adnan, visiting scholar on economics and sociology at the Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford will render the Leon Trotsky memorial speech on 'Marx's Innovative Notion of Primitive Accumulation and its Contemporary Relevance. Giulietto Chiesa, ex-county council chief of CP of Italy, now a top official at the European Parliament, has chosen the topic of 'Which kind of elite, if one, is necessary for the Masters of the Universe?' in his Antonio Gramsci memorial speech.
The theme of Georgy Lukacs oration by Kohei Saito, Associate Professor of Political Economy at Osaka City University, and author of Karl Marx's Ecosocialism is 'Marx and Engels, the Intellectual Relationship Revisited from an Ecological Perspective'. Marcello Musto, Associate Professor of Political Theory at York University, Canada, and author of several path-breaking treatises on Marx, will deliver the Rosa Luxemburg memorial lecture on 'The Late Marx on Non-European Societies: Communal Property, Anthropology, Colonialism and Socialist Revolution'. The Jean Paul Sartre memorial speech will be made by eminent theorist on literature and linguistics, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (How Can We Use Marxism Today?), Memorial lectures on Pablo Neruda ('Che Guevara and Marx'), D D Kosambi ('The History of Black Marxism in the USA'), Michael Kalecki ('Marx's 'Capital' as Future-oriented Science for Practical Purposes) and Frantz Fanon (King, Marx and the Revolution of Worldwide Value) by Roberto Massari, biographer of Che Guevara, Kipton Jensen, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Morehouse College, Michael Brie, researcher at the Institute for Social Analysis of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and Andrew J Douglas, Professor of Political Theory and author of 'In the Spirit of Critique: Thinking Politically in the Dialectical Tradition', respectively. There will be lectures as a tribute to Adam Smith and David Ricardo and Martin Luther King, Jr, as also Rajani Palme Dutt, MN Roy, Shapurji Saklatvala, SA Dange, PC Joshi and EMS Namboodiripad.
However, the conference will miss two outstanding Marx scholars, Paresh Chattopadhyay, author of 'Associated Mode of Production - A Critique of Marxism, and Pradip Baksi, translator of Marx's Mathematical Manuscripts into English and Bengali, for health reasons. ADRI and its team of coordinators with its member-secretary Dr Shaibal Gupta, an authority on societal dynamics of Bihar, at the helm deserve praise for choosing the conference chair to Lord Desai in sync with Marx's stress on individual freedom and libertarian psyche.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)