The other evening at Hirenda's place, I was most impressed by your grasp of Marxist
theory. Being myself, in a way, an admirer of Lenin, you touched a chord in me. I say in a
way, because I am unable to see eye to eye with most of either Marxism or Leninism.
Nevertheless, Lenin was the first person in human history who drove home the point that
the poor are important. He aroused the world's conscience sufficiently to induce Europe
and America to do more for their working classes than perhaps even the communist countries
eventually succeeded in doing.
You have done well to grasp Marxism. For, if one overlooks its viewpoint, one can
appreciate neither economics nor politics. Nor can the knowledge of history be complete
without its materialistic interpretation. Having said that, I must insist that you are
missing the wood for a tree. You must not allow any one theory to dominate yourlife
especially when you have decades of a career ahead of you.
In any case, what is the point of worshipping at the altar of a god who
died in 1991 ? For Arthur Koestler communism had failed 40 years ago but lived on until
the Soviet Union collapsed. I have deliberately used a religious metaphor. Nothing brings
out the paradox of Marxism better. By denying god, Karl Marx made a mistake whose message
took only about 150 years to come home to roost. It was a signal that he was not
interested in understanding human nature. It never occurred to him that most human beings
cannot really work without the hope of an incentive, without the carrot of a gain. How
many personsfulfil their duty without the fear of punishment, without the stick of losing
The result was that Marxist sociology was devoid of psychology.
Asociology that analyses social forces without remembering that they also reflect the
psyche of the people is faulty. In order to focus on the scientific, Marx dismissed god.
It did not occur to him that where science ends, faith in the divine takes over. For the
average person, science does not go very far and therefore God dominates his life. I have
not used the word religion because, whether Marxists agree or not, Marx ended up by
founding a religion. I know he did not intend todo any such thing. Nevertheless, the
greatness of his mind created not merely a theory but also a faith, a cult as well as a
religion. Perhaps never before in human history had faithlessness inspired so much faith.
Marxism was the high water mark of the western or the Judaic
preoccupation with equality. God made men equal but society makes them unequal. This
Christian conscience makes many of its followers dedicate all their lives to the service
of the poor, to teach them free of charge and to nurse them when sick. A prominent streak
of equality also dominates the brotherhood of Islam. Zakaat, the annual donation of
say two and a half per cent of one's wealth for charity was one way of narrowing the gulf
between the rich and the poor. From each according to his ability, to each according to
his need was the core of communism.This leads me to believe that Marxism was the last in
the Semitic series of religions that started with Judaism. Jesus was the son of God
whereas Moses, Mohammad and Marx were prophets.
To clarify my contention, let us contrast this preoccupation with
equality with the presumption of liberty that is at the core of the Hindu faith. Each jeevatma
or individual soul is free to perform its karma. The better the karma, the
greater the bhagya, or, the better the deed, the greater the destiny. There is no
ceiling on how well a person could do and therefore how highly he should be rewarded.
Whereas if one wants to work towards equality, one has to help the bottom upwards and keep
the top down. In this sense, liberty and equality are opposite. One cannot have the latter
without curbing the former. Do you not think that this contrast between the Judaic ethos
and the Hindu faith could be at the root of communism's failure to strike deep roots
I have called Marx a prophet. I have said that equality was at the core of his belief.
Equal reward regardless of the effort of responsibility was the promise to the individual.
The collective promise was the withering away of the state which, in the ultimate
analysis, was an instrument in the hands of the rich for exploiting the poor. The
proletariat and the peasants of the world were the momins whereas the bourgeoisie
and the landlords were the kafirs. The apostles were many. Lenin and Mao were the
greatest; their bodies were embalmed and are still exhibited for darshan. On the
otherhand, Leon Trotsky, perhaps the finest communist mind, was hounded out and axed as a
heretic by Joseph Stalin.
No matter what his denomination, every communist sang the Internationale with joy and
devotion. The communist governments, whether in the USSR, eastern Europe, China or North
Korea, have been theocracies carried to their logical conclusion. The state and the party
were virtually one.The head of the party was the de facto head of government, whether
Chairman Mao or General Secretary Stalin. The party apparatchik or its clergy had more
power than the bureaucrat. The ideology was superior to policy.Could you think of another
state or government in the history of our time that was dominated so much by a religious
Yet, not all my arguments will suffice to explain why Marxism was so
short lived. I submit that Marxist theory was essentially an anti-thesis and not the
synthesis Marx had set out to offer. It was a reaction against the exploitation of workers
by the entrepreneurs of the 18th and 19th centuries. Those early factories were often
sweat shops, dingy, unhygienic, polluting holes where many workers were made to work for
upto sixteen hours a day. The heart of anyone decent would go out to the poor abused
In the case of Marx, not only his heart but also his head went out to
them. The outcome was Das Kapital, the bible of communism. The entrepreneur was to be
exiled or exterminated. His capital was not essential, for the money could flow from the
state. That would be state capitalism and not communism. But the prophet of the poor was
too agitated to worry about the difference. What about management? In his obsession with
capital and labour he overlooked the importance of management. He forgot that the
entrepreneur was also a manager, not merely an investor. His understanding of industry was
a reaction against the exploitation of one class by another class of people.
All in all, Marxism was a reaction to exploitation and not a solution.
Certainly, it was not a viable replacement for capitalism. Little wonder that if failed.