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Posted at: Jan 13, 2018, 12:46 AM; last updated: Jan 13, 2018, 12:46 AM (IST)

Needed: Indianisation of Marxism

Sawraj Singh
Indianisation of Marxism can be achieved by fusing Sikhism and Marxism. A fusion between a religious philosophy and Marxism has been achieved in Latin America where it has led to the evolution of Liberation Theology.
Needed: Indianisation of Marxism
Sawraj Singh
Chairman, Washington State Network for Human Rights

MANY scholars, writers and other distinguished personalities met at the World Thinking Day conference in Bhasha Bhawan, Patiala, on January 5. The topic for discussion was 'Indianisation of Marxism: a New Model of Development.' A broad consensus was that the Indianisation of Marxism was needed.                                                         

Many Indian intellectuals have been impressed and influenced by Marxism. Yet it could not take deep roots in India. Compared to this, in China, south-east Asia and Nepal, Marxism has played a significant role. A study of the causes of this phenomenon shows that Indian Marxists have not deeply studied Indian philosophy; they have not analysed Indian concrete conditions thoroughly and have tried to mechanically apply a basically Eurocentric philosophy to India. Moreover, they have not fully grasped peculiarities of the Indian society, such as its multicultural, multi-religious and multinational character, bound together by the concept of 'unity in diversity'. They do not seem to have a clear understanding of another peculiarity of Indian society: casteism.   

Many Indian Marxists have not tried to understand the real meaning of Dharma. They usually translate a saying of Marx that "religion is the opium of the people," as Dharma being the opium of the people. Indians have a deep respect for Dharma. Therefore, they have alienated themselves from many people. No western language has an equivalent word for Dharma. Dharma has many dimensions, such as ethics, spirituality, discipline, duty, truthful living. In the Mahabharata, 10 different aspects of Dharma have been described. Sri Guru Granth Sahib defines pure actions (nirmal karam) as the essence of Dharma. Thus, ethics and spirituality are the main aspects of Dharma. Ethics are an essential component of any philosophy. Therefore, Marxism has its own ethics. It will not be wrong to say that Marxism is also a Dharma. Dharma makes a person a better person. Marxism also aims to build a society a better society, which can only be built by better people.      

Many Indian Marxists have not fully understood that Relativism and Pluralism of Indian philosophy are higher concepts than western Absolutism. Globalisation and its concept of Uniformity are the end products of western Absolutism; whereas a multi-polar world is a concept based on the eastern concepts of Relativism and Pluralism. These represent a higher level of philosophy. Many Indian Marxists have failed to appreciate that many people all over the world are turning against the western Absolutist globalisation and this is responsible for Brexit and the rise of anti-globalisation sentiment in Europe and America.

India is the seat of Eastern philosophy and Indian philosophy can be called the climax of the Eastern philosophy. However, Marxism could not incorporate this experience. Therefore, it can be said that Marxism, so far, has been deprived of the vast and rich experience of the East. The three major components of Marxism are all European: German philosophy, British economy and French socialism. The problem with Marxism, like other western philosophies, is that a Eurocentric experience has been passed on as a universal experience. If we want to make Marxism universal, then we have to incorporate eastern experience in it.

Many Marxists in Punjab have not accepted Baba Banda Singh Bahadur's Revolution even though this can be called the first successful peasant revolution in the world. Some Punjabi Marxists were instrumental in alienating their comrades from their Sikh heritage. In the case of the Jat Sikh community, this phenomenon proved harmful because unlike other communities, the Jat Sikh community does not have an alternate culture and value system besides its Sikh heritage. A Jat Sikh who is alienated from his Sikh heritage lands almost in a stage of cultural and ethical vacuum. As this community is the leading community among Punjabis, this phenomenon pushes Punjab and Punjabis to Ujjadwaad (anti-intellectualism).

Another common misconception among Marxists is that India has to first develop as a capitalist country before it can develop as a socialist country. As the result of this misconception, they have followed the policies of parties like the Congress party rather than develop their independent policies. This wrong notion also made them admirers of western capitalist countries. They have settled their children in those countries. It is very common in Punjab. This attitude has also made them supporters of the Green Revolution in Punjab even though it has done tremendous damage to Punjab. Marxists have not been able to fully appreciate the extent of damage done by consumerism to Punjab. Punjab has become an epicenter of consumerism.

Chronologically, the Sikh religion is the last major philosophy to evolve in India. Therefore, it can be considered the climax of Indian philosophy and spirituality. There are big similarities between Sikh principles and Marxist principles. There are three basic principles of Sikhism: Kirat karo (engaging in honest and productive work), Naam japo (spiritual enlightenment), and Wand chhako (sharing). Marxism has only two of these basic principles: Kirat karo and Wand chhako.

However, without spiritual enlightenment, a person is unlikely to engage in honest and productive work and share his possessions. He is more likely to exploit other people. In a way, Sikhism and Marxism are complementary to each other, rather than antagonist to each other. Sikhism can provide the missing element to Marxism, and Marxism can provide its historical experience and understanding of capitalism. Indianisation of Marxism can be achieved by fusing Sikhism and Marxism. A fusion between a religious philosophy and Marxism has already been achieved in Latin America where this fusion led to evolution of Liberation Theology. This experience has proved very successful. Indianisation of Marxism can prove very useful by fusing the best elements of the East and the West.

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