How Marxism lost its invite to 21st century dinner parties

India in the post-Marxist era is now free to rediscover its own cultural ethos that the world has long honoured.

 |  4-minute read |   24-06-2015
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Recent events relative to the study of history in India reflect global paradigm shifts at cultural levels throughout the world.Indian academia has had a strong influence, if not domination, by Marxist scholarship for decades. This was not surprising some years ago when Marxism ruled the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and China, and Marxist academics were prominent in Europe.When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, the domination of Marxist scholarship in Soviet Bloc countries came to an end.

Today, Russian scholarship is not Marxist but traditional and nationalistic, with Putin praising the Tsars and the Russian Orthodox Church.

Marxist thought was thrown out of the countries of Eastern Europe, which returned to their pre-Marxist cultures, like Catholicism in Poland. The old Soviet Central Asia has long given up Marxism as well, with Islam resurgent in several countries of the region. Though China did not formally end communist rule, Chinese historical thought today is promoting Confucianism and traditional Chinese culture.

Marxism in India suffered a major political decline in recent years with repeated electoral defeats. This decline of Marxism is part of the decline of socialism in general. The end of socialist policies born of Marxist thinking has helped India develop economically, just as it has for many other countries. That Marxist views at an intellectual level may be questioned is part of this greater process.

Clearly, we are in the post-Marxist era and Marxism does not command the respect or power it once did, either politically or intellectually.

Indian historical bodies such as ICHR have long been dominated by Marxists, which is now coming to an end. Marxism is no longer favoured by world cultural currents. Marxism seems out of place in the twenty first century, where global, ecological and spiritual perspectives are developing and traditional India's knowledge based approach to life has again become relevant.

Marxism is a type of materialistic-political thought that arose as a critique of the industrial era in Europe, and developed an anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist view. It promoted violence, class warfare and revolution that divided societies and caused much cultural damage and destruction. No Marxist state was ever successful or brought any country out of poverty, corruption or inequality. That is why Marxist states have almost ceased to exist anywhere in the world.

Marxist scholarship was often suspect. It frequently placed politics above truth and Marxist accounts of history were tainted by propaganda, as was well known in the Soviet Union and Maoist China.

Recent Marxism has tried to reinvent itself as something progressive, but the basic materialistic and anti-spiritual views of Marxism remain intact. While India is famous worldwide for yoga and dharma - as the recent Yoga Day event at a global level reflects - Indian Marxism finds little affinity with this broader culture of the region.

Marxism does not provide the appropriate perspective that can uncover the greater civilisational secrets, depth of thought and creativity that has characterized the millennial old civilisation of India, which is what a study of history should provide.

Marxist thought is not the right tool to understand the Vedas, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Buddhism, Jainism, or India's Sufi traditions. Marxism lacks the understanding of the world of nature and of higher states of consciousness necessary to appreciate India's subtle philosophies of enlightenment and its science of yoga.

This is not to say that Marxists should have no place in academia or that Marxism has made no positive contributions to world or to Indian thought. But these contributions are likely to remain peripheral to the primary flow of India's culture.

When Marxists in Indian academia cry foul if they are replaced, let us remember that we are now in the "post-Marxist era". There is no other country in the world where the old Marxist intelligentsia remains dominant, especially former communist countries where they had achieved their greatest power.

India in the post-Marxist era is now free to rediscover its own cultural ethos that the world has long honored as the land of Yoga. India needs a new yogic school of thought, which now has the space to arise in the post-Marxist era. India's great gurus such as Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda provided the foundation for that long ago before the Marxists came to power in the country. It is time to bring back their influence and appreciation. 


David Frawley David Frawley @davidfrawleyved

The writer is the director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies and the author of more than 30 books on yoga and vedic traditions.

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