Changing Asia Series Lecture on “The Relevance of Marxism in India and Asia” by Shri Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary, CPI (M) at IHC on May 10, 2018

Society for Policy Studies in association with India Habitat Centre held a lecture in the “The Relevance of Marxism in India and Asia”

By Shri Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary, CPI (M)

Chair: C Uday Bhaskar, Director, Society for Policy Studies.

Programme Details
Date: May 10, 2018
Time: 7:00 PM
Venue: Gulmohar Hall, India Habitat Centre


Marxism, most potent weapon to combat the assault on reason: Yechury

“Marxism is essentially a battle of ideas,” said Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary, CPI(M) in his opening remarks to an august audience gathered to hear on the ‘Relevance of Marxism in India and Asia” at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. The intriguing comment came in the backdrop of renewed attention to the ideas propounded by Karl Marx with the world commemorating his 200th birth anniversary.

Quoting Chinese Premier Xi Jinping who termed China, a ‘cast-iron’ proof success of Marxism, Yechury said, Marxism is unique in the sense that it can be transcended only when its agenda is realized. “Marxism can never be rendered superfluous unless capitalism itself is rendered superfluous. Marxism is not a dogma, it is a creative science. As conditions change, analysis change. Adapting to changing conditions is the success of China today,” he added.

Elaborating further, he said, “Far from being a closed theoretical system, Marxism is a continuous theoretical engagement.” He cited the example of technological advancement becoming a force leading to the development of human civilization to explain the conceptual soundness of Marxism.

Observing that it is exactly a decade since the economic depression, he said neo-liberalism has created an economy where there are no barriers to profit expansion. “Capitalism was bailed out by the governments. Corporate insolvencies were converted to sovereign insolvencies. The governments are imploding now because of their own debts,” he opined.

He pointed out that the ways to manage these debts like the imposition of austerity measures have mounted the woes of working class population. In a reading that is seldom seen in the popular discourse, he brought to light the fact that permanent workers are being replaced by casual or contractual workers all over the world. He further stated that though banks are sitting on wealth greater than what it was when the economy imploded, they are unable to release that money as purchasing power of the people have sunk even further. He opined that one way of getting out of the global economic crisis was to intensify the inequalities. He quoted the 2017 Oxfam report which stated that 1 per cent of world’s population control, 82 per cent of wealth generated to give credence to his argument.

Dwelling on the topic of the political rightward shift, Yechury said, “Political right is an answer to fight popular discontent without any progressive steps being taken. This is leading to a lot more rupture situations in the world like the US walking out of the Iran deal. In this political battle, the relevance of Marxism is gaining importance.” He added that the answer is not within the system anymore, but it lies in the alternative which is Marxism.

The next issue that he discussed was the “hegemonic drive of the only super power in the world”. Pointing to the US-Israel axis, the control of oil in West Asia and with all the countries being drawn into the conflict in Indian Ocean, he rued that American intervention remains a big concern. He then pointed to the rise of fundamentalism which attacks the unification of social order as another reason why the world is still in need of Marxism.

Shifting his focus to India, he said economic exploitation where profit maximization has moved to the corporates, communal polarization that is rupturing the unity of social fabric, continuous attacks on democratic and parliamentary institutions, undermining of the judiciary, crumbling of the republican social order and corporate control of the media are reasons why Marxism is important in the country. Calling the present political condition, an “undeclared emergency”, he lamented that there is a “breakdown of social order”.

Looking at the possibility of a US-India-Israel axis, he said, it will have tremendous impact on millions of Indians working in Islamic countries. He also spoke about the moral policing within the country by the private armies and the Dalit-Left unity that is coming up due to the atrocities committed to underline the relevance of Marxism in the present times.

In an interesting observation, Yechury said, “The entire control of research institutions has got a purpose – to replace the study of Indian history with Hindu mythology.” He went on to add that the Indian philosophy which is a cradle of civilizational advances globally is being truncated to Hindu theology. He gave the example of an advanced civilization like Germany internalizing fascism and Hitler to prove how an assault on reason can triumph irrationality over rationality.

“The only way to explain the dehumanization seen in the Kathua case is by the tremendous assault on rationality. To reestablish the supremacy of rationality and reason, Marxism becomes relevant. The assault on reason has to be combated and Marxism is the most potent weapon to bring back rationality – which is why Marxism is a battle of ideas,” he said.

C Uday Bhaskar, Director, Society for Policy Studies said there is a need to recall Marxism for what it was. Pointing to how politics today is moving towards, unequal and differential citizenship, he stressed on the need for voices in the country to raise this issue. He further opined that Marxism is influencing the security domain and we might be moving towards a world where the relevance of Marxism will be in the internal security.

The talk was organized by the Society for Policy Studies, a think-tank based in New Delhi in association with India Habitat Centre as part of the ‘Changing Asia Series Lecture’.