Will Marxism Ever Make A Come Back In India?

The term Marxism derives its name from Karl Marx, who is the chief exponent of this theory. He was a famous German economist and social philosopher of the 19th century. Marxism comprises a set of ideas and practices about man and society that originated in the writings of Marx and Engels and later firmly developed by Lenin and Mao. But it is interesting to recall that this term “Marxism” was unknown in Marx’s lifetime. Another interesting fact is that four of Marx’s writings were written in collaboration with his comrade friend Friedrich Engels. After Marx’s death, Engels edited and published some of his works as Marx’s discipline and worldview.

Meanwhile, we must also know that they developed a theory of the society, explaining how the present social order had come out, and how it would be transformed into a better one in the course of history. They attempted to discover laws of historical changes, where they showed that social development was inevitably moving in the direction of social revolution which would ultimately lead to the establishment of a communist society.

Marxism after Karl Marx

Communism, as stated by Karl Marx, was founded to assume power in Russia by the Bolshevik Party. In 1916, V I Lenin, who was the firm follower of Karl Marx and his ideas, wrote a book titled “Imperialism, the final stage of Capitalism”, and started the Bolshevik Revolution, best known as Russian Revolution in 1917. But very soon it turned autocratic.  The political situation in Russia influenced by Lenin to modify the inadequacies of the Marxian ideology to cope up with the changing circumstances without effecting any change in his fundamental philosophy.  Lenin had also stated that Marxian cannons are more theoretical and less practical. But as a disciple of Marx, he was successful in overthrowing the Czarist regime from power in Russia. Later on, inspired by the Russian revolution, Mao-Tse-Tung created a Chinese or Asiatic form of Marxism. Mao was also convinced that unless the Marxian philosophy was interpreted to suit the conditions, the revolution could not be brought out in China. Again, an Italian political thinker Antonio Gramsci, who was devoted to Neo-Marxist ideas occupies a unique space in the realm of political thought. He gave a new interpretation of Marxist ideas. According to Gramsci, the dominant classes used their ideological superiority to subordinate groups and continue domination over other classes. There were several political thinkers who advocated the Marxist ideology from time to time. Ralph Miliband, Nicolous Powantaz, N. Bobbio to name a few.

After the Soviet Union’s collapse in the early 1990s dealt a major blow to the credibility of the Marxist theory, it went out of fashion on university campuses and in mainstream left-wing political parties that aspired to gain power in the West, such as the Labor Party. After the breakdown of Soviet Union, the critics mostly pointed out that Marxism as a political theory had lost its significance. By celebrating the victory of liberalization and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Francis Fukuyama wrote in “The End of the History and the Last Man” (1992) that there is no alternative to liberal democracy.

Marxism underwent something of a revival in the wake of the 2008 global financial crash. However, some saw it as a classic example of capitalism in crisis just as Marx had predicted. After the breakdown of Soviet Russia, the world ended up with one hegemon – the USA. To compete with the US hegemony and liberal economic inequality, a revolution is much needed. Therefore, Marxism is still relevant as an alternative ideology to capitalism- liberalism. It is also important to see that the revolutionary potential of Marxism continues to inspire the people.

Marxism and India

Marxism as a political ideology made its way to India when we were struggling for independence. Many political parties believe in Marxism and Communism but they aren’t as popular as the Bharatiya Janata Party or the Indian National Congress.  Marxism as a social phenomenon or economic postulation is also not very popular. But, Marxism is still relevant not only in India but most of the underdeveloped nations around the world.

In the Indian context, there are large numbers of people who still live in conditions of extreme poverty, poor health and sanitation, illiteracy, caste oppression and economic exploitation. There’s a huge economic disparity between the rich and the poor. Hence, economic, social and political exploitation still exists.

Briefly put, Marxism will always be relevant and will keep returning as a popular movement as long as there is poverty, inequality, and exploitation. Not only in India, but in the rest of the world too. If we consider India, only a handful [CPI, CPI (M), CPI (ML)] of political parties follow different strains of the Marxist ideology. These parties haven’t been performing very well in the elections. The communist parties’ influence in South India and North East India is very less, except for Kerala and Tripura. Now, all they have is Kerala, Tripura and West Bengal and their role in other states is minimal.

According to me, the core reasons for the decline of the Communist parties’ decline in India are the following:

  • They did not change with changing circumstances.
  • They did not invite/appoint new leadership.
  • Lack of unity between these parties.
  • They have few popular political influencers who have the ability to connect with a large number of people.
  • The parties have failed to raise the issues associated with its people on a larger scale.
  • The above points don’t indicate a bright future of Marxism in India. They should first focus on solving the problems at hand and envision a better tomorrow.

A few years ago, the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) broom came into action during the Delhi elections. It was bigger than what was expected of an infant party. The AAP has somewhat changed the style of political processes in India. This is also a good sign for democracy as well as Marxism in India. A large section of AAP’s voter base are citizens from the working class. So, we may say that the uprising of AAP in Indian politics brings a new ray of hope for the Indian Left parties. But they will have to improve themselves and adapt to the current political scenario.

Conclusion

Marx was a revolutionary and a socialist, but above all, he was a humanist who believed in genuine emancipation and liberation of human beings. He registered protest against all kinds of domination. Therefore, in this article, a non-Marxist person is showing the gratitude to Karl Marx and his visionary ideas or thoughts. Francis Fukuyama wrote on his work, “The End of the History and the Last Man” (1992) that there is no alternative to liberal democracy, but reality reveals that Marxism continues to inspire millions who feel that capitalistic enterprises and its ethos cheat them.

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The image has been used for representation only.
Image credit: Vipul Mishra
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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