Vol. XLII No. 21 May 27, 2018

#Marx at 200: The Moscow Event

Nilotpal Basu

 #MARX at 200 has triggered major efforts by several Communist Parties, progressives, social scientists, academia and those simply looking for alternatives to the contemporary neoliberal dead end. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Russian Federation along with its State Duma wing had organised an event in Moscow on May 11-12, as part of #Marx at 200 celebration; an international scientific-academic conference on 'Capital and its impact  on World development'.

On May 5, 2018 when the bi-centenary celebrations began, twitter.com informed the world that #Marx200 was trending right at the top. This was neither unexpected nor abrupt. Earlier, a poll by BBC for its radio listeners had discovered Marx as the most influential thinker of the millennia. British historian and Marxist Eric Hobsbawm in his How to change the world: Tales of Marx and Marxism recounts a conversation with the topmost capital market player George Soros. Soros had asked Prof Hobsbawm his views on Marx. Knowing Soros, Hobsbawm wanting to avoid an argument, was evasive. But Soros was insistent “That man discovered something about capitalism 150 years ago that we must take notice of”. This interest assumed fever pitch in the wake of the global financial meltdown in September, 2008. But in October, 2008 when the London Financial Times published its headline ‘Capitalism in Convulsion’, it became obvious that Marx was back with a vengeance in mainstream public discourse.

The programme started with laying the wreath and flowers before the Marx statue and later the Monument of the Unknown Soldiers, at the Red Square. These programmes were led by the CPRF general secretary, Gennady Zyuganov. The conference proper had attracted wide and diverse participation with not just representatives of Communist Parties, but scientists, academia, and so on. The conference had attendance of representatives from 31 countries. 51 presentations were made including those from India. From India, CPI(M) was represented by Polit Bureau member Nilotpal Basu and the CPI by its Central Secretariat member D Raja.

It became obvious from the presentations that all over, particularly, in developed economies there is increasing despondency over the palpable slowdown; the search for an alternative is inevitable and the spotlight on Marx and Capital is natural.


CPI(M) presentation started with delineating the setting in which this renewal of interest in Marx is evident. That Marx would be read, reread and assimilated by those classes, whose liberation from stranglehold of wage slavery he championed was natural; but revival of interest from captains of contemporary international finance capital may appear to be puzzling. Powered by collapse of Soviet Union and Socialist governments of Eastern Europe,  contemporary capitalism had unleashed the animal instincts of global finance to realise the objective of profit maximisation, allowing ‘free market’ to reach its extreme limits in the aftermath of a catastrophic retreat from regulation and the consequent growth of unsustainable levels of inequality, unemployment and shrinking of real incomes and importantly, climate change which threatens the very existence of our planet and human life. Capital, though encyclopedic in its scope is incomplete, to be developed by later generations using his dialectical method ‘in the concrete situations’ as they unfold.

The captains of finance cannot turn a blind eye to the unfolding reality! Howsoever paradoxical it may sound; the focus is on Marx and particularly, Capital, for an insight of inner dynamics of capitalism with its self devouring propensities. Therefore, this bicentenary provides impetus for reexamining assertions of Capital. Marx’s analysis of capitalism in Capital looks at capitalism unconnected with its interactions with the coexistent pre-capitalist modes of production, despite their obvious importance and despite his simultaneous extensive study of British colonial impact on India.

Marx’s fundamental insight into the nature of exploitation under capitalism and the fact that the system reproduces its exploitative nature and the contradictions arising from it, through its own operation, was integrated into his insight into a basic characteristic of the system, that it is a spontaneous system. This results in tendencies that characterise the system towards centralisation of capital, towards pervasive commoditisation, towards an expanded reproduction of the reserve army of labour, towards expropriation of petty producers, towards production of wealth at one pole and poverty at another; and so on.

When capitalism is seen in its totality, incorporating imperialism, the prospects and possibilities of revolution become immensely greater; we anticipate not only of a proletarian revolution in developed capitalist countries but also of  democratic revolutions based on worker-peasant alliance even in countries where capitalism is less developed, these later revolutions proceed in stages towards socialism. Lenin had conceptualised prospects of a worker-peasant alliance from capitalism’s incapacity to carry forward the anti-feudal tasks in countries where it arrived late.

The paper also examined the specificities of contemporary globalisation with its gigantic levels of accumulation and global mobility of capital further enhanced by collapse of Soviet Union and East European socialist countries into the orbit of capitalism. This led to enhanced accumulation and centralisation of capital. The current phase of globalisation, within the stage of imperialism, is leading to further higher levels of capital accumulation led by international finance capital.  This international finance capital is, today, enmeshed with industrial and other forms of capital in its pursuit of profit maximisation as foreseen by Marx that capital would “nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere”.

Such reordering of the world for profit maximisation under the dictates of international finance capital, defines neo-liberalism. It operates, firstly, through policies that remove restrictions on the movement of goods and capital across borders. Trade liberalisation displaces domestic producers engendering domestic deindustrialisation, particularly in developing countries. This also happens in the developed countries due to relocation of production and business operations outside their countries. So also liberalisation of capital flows allows multinational corporations to acquire domestic productive assets abroad (like India’s public sector), vastly enlarging capital accumulation. Rolling back of the State sector in providing social services globally, more pronounced in developing countries, which increasingly become privatised and the opening up of public utilities for profit maximisation, Intellectual property rights and other forms of monopoly control over knowledge generate massive profits through the control over production and reproduction of knowledge. Thus, a new feature of contemporary imperialism is the coercive prising open of hitherto non-existent avenues for profit maximisation.

This predatory capitalist character for constant profit maximisation is sharply widening economic inequalities globally and domestically, while, simultaneously, imposing greater miseries on the vast majority.  Every effort to emerge from the current systemic crisis is, naturally, leading to a newer phase of a deeper crisis because of the very nature of the laws of capitalist development that Capital envisaged.  Currently, nearly a decade after the global financial meltdown, neo-liberalism itself is in a crisis. 

Since the 2008 global financial meltdown, global capitalism has plunged from one crisis into another.  No amount of reforms within capitalism can liberate humanity from the clutches of such exploitation. Could Marx and Capital be more prophetic!


Therefore, capitalism never collapses automatically regardless of the intensity of crisis. Unless a political alternative develops to challenge capitalism, capitalism invariably survives by intensifying human exploitation.  Hence, strength of the socialist political alternative has to vastly grow.  While there are growing struggles all across the globe against the current predatory expression of capitalist plunder and accompanied imperialist hegemonic aggressiveness, these popular mobilisations continue to remain largely defensive; in the sense that people are engaged in struggles to defend their existing democratic rights and livelihood conditions. It is such struggles that must accumulate to reach the levels of mounting the class assault against rule of capital.

It is in pursuit of such an objective we have resolved in the 22nd Party Congress “In our own experience in India, we communists as well as many others have sought to creatively use Marx’s thoughts and ideas in understanding our own society. While our achievements on the scale of achievement of communists elsewhere may be modest, we have nevertheless strived to enrich the understanding of Indian society and empowering the working masses with the revolutionary spirit and content of Marx's thought.

As part of the bicentenary celebration of Karl Marx, the 22nd Congress of the CPI(M) has called upon all Party units and sympathizers to organize multifarious activities. The Moscow event demonstrated that many other Communist Parties and progressive forces are working with a similar objective.