Socialism did not begin with Marx. It was born while man was still homeless, and lived through the times when people helped each other in building their homes, or farmers helped each other in ploughing their fields. The previous century witnessed the rise and the apparent fall of the political and revolutionary aspect of socialism, or communism.
On 21st January 1793, Louis XVI was put to death. This was not the first time a king was overthrown and killed. In-fact, the ancient history all across the world is filled with such incidents. However, the French revolution marked the first instance when the king was killed – not in person – but in principle. The divine right of a king to rule was questioned. In 1789, for the first time in history – subjects believed that the throne could remain empty forever. The intellectual discourse and philosophical works of the previous centuries were brought into reality. Theocracy was attacked in principle in 1789 and killed in person in 1793. About the same time, right across the English Channel, England was witnessing Industrial Revolution, another event which marked the beginning of modern era – which led to huge number of landless labourers – whose working conditions were growing pathetic by the day. Soon Industrial Revolution consumed the whole of Europe. Had not for these two revolutions, Marx and Engels wouldn’t have happened to the world.
Two centuries later, the Soviet bloc collapsed, forced to knees by it’s internal problems, the arms race, and the rise of right wing politics in Britain with Thatcher’s rise to power and a dim witted B grade ex-actor with primitive right-wing opinions taking charge of the white house. It was was believed, that communism – once and for all – is dead.
Well, the good news is – communism is not dead. For one thing, USSR was to communism only in the sense what child marriage is to hinduism. Communist ideas have stubbornly outlived its political practice. It is true and evident that communism has taken a backseat in its political aspirations. But the need of communism has only increased over the past two and a half decades. Just like we do not dismiss feminism, because patriarchy has not been dislodged. In-fact, it calls for more reason to embrace it.
Also, similar to its association with dictatorship, communism has been strongly misrepresented with labour and hard-work. The aim of communism is not labour, but leisure – in a world driven primarily by technology, and people having to work only for 2-3 hours a day. Well, the technology is in place, but the dreams are obscured with competition taking over collaboration in the modern way of life.
Unlike popular belief, the system communism opposes has not eased up. The system has become far more powerful – because it now involves larger corporations, and is out there exploiting ‘newer markets’. Rise of ‘islamic fundamentalism’ is a symptom of this, as well as an outcome of the political left’s failure to battle rising capatalism. If left had been allowed to continue its fight against global deprivations, the world trade center would have been still intact, and most of middle-east (which had nothing to do with 9/11, unlike what most americans ‘think’) would still be in peace. Communism, in its true form, being brought back to political discourse, is the answer to both capitalism and religion driven terror.
Communism is a living ideology, and hence cannot be killed. Unlike capitalism, which takes shelter behind pseudo-nationalism and globalization, communism is – by its very nature – a global phenomenon. Asking for unity among the workers of the world, the problem communism faces today is division within its intellectual community. Fighting and arguing over terms, definitions and jargons, communism for most is an ‘academic subject’ and not a way of life. While, marxism is a scientific theory of human societies and of the practice of transforming them, it is also about the struggles of men and women to free themselves from exploitation and oppression – and there is nothing academic about those struggles. The day academicians and intellectuals stop fighting over what communism is, and start fighting for what communism has to deliver, the ideology will triumph. And capitalism – for that matter – is too puny an enemy.
With all due respect to the original slogan, it is high time we believers of the world unite. Everything else will take care of itself.
Additional watch, Marx in Soho, a play by Howard Zinn –