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l June 2003 l

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

l Vol 2, No 2 l

L A S T  W O R D

Marxism Should be Indianized  

Swaraj Singh

Marxism arose as a counter philosophy to the dominant capitalist philosophy in the West. The traditional capitalism was “cut and dry,” based on profit alone. There were no other considerations such as social, humanitarian, or cultural. So long profit is being generated, the system can keep running. But in practice, the economic system is bound to affect the other aspects of life. The newly emerged capitalism created social and humanitarian crises in the European society. Marxism emerged as a counter-philosophy to the dehumanizing capitalist philosophy. Marxism’s inner core consisted of concepts such as social awareness, equality, justice, and liberation. But when the inner core moved towards the outer shell, things got changed. Marxism lost most of its humanitarian and revolutionary essence and became mostly confined to economism. Finally, Marxism collapsed in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.

The Chinese communists did not mechanically adopt the euro-centric Marxism. They modified Marxism to the concrete conditions in China. In the final analysis, the Chinese communists were more nationalistic than traditional communists. Mao Tse-Tung critically analyzed four thousand years of Chinese history and sorted out what was healthy and relevant in it and discarded what was decadent and irrelevant. The Chinese communists not only struggled to uplift the quality of life of the vast majority of people but also worked hard to undo the wrongs done by the western powers to China and restore China’s due place in the community of nations.        

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The Indian Marxists were mostly influenced by Western liberalism and pseudo-secularism. I am using the word “pseudo-secularism” to clearly define the western concept of secularism which in theory is based on the separation of the church and the state. But in practice, it meant completely negating the spiritual aspect of life because it did not differentiate between religion and spirituality. Therefore, it tried to suppress both. But religion and spirituality are two separate entities. The goal of spirituality is self-enlightenment. Self-realization can be called realization of God. Even if some do not want to use the words “spirituality” or “God,” self-enlightenment, self-realization, and becoming a better person are universally acceptable goals. Religion, on the other hand, is a path to achieve this goal, it is the means and not the end. The problem that arises with religions is that they lose the sight between the path and the goal and between the means and the end. They become so focused on the path that they start seeing that as the only path and people who are not following that particular path are perceived as misled, unbelievers, and heathens.

The Indian Marxists were so much influenced by western liberalism and pseudo-secularism that they failed to understand the basic differences between the eastern and western concepts of spirituality. As opposed to the western Judeo-Semitic concepts of spirituality, the eastern concept of spirituality accepts the principles of pluralism and diversity. Sikhism, chronologically the last major eastern religion, is a strong advocate of those principles. Guru Nanak did not negate other religions. His emphasis was mostly on the spiritual aspect of the individual, in other words, making a person a better human being.

The Indian Marxists never took a completely objective approach towards the history of evolution of Indian thought. They have mostly adopted a euro-centric approach to analyze this evolution just as Nehru discovered India through a western outlook. They have not accepted that the Vedic thought is the foundation of the Indian thought. They have tried to portray this evolution as a result of the struggle between the idealist Vedic thought and the materialistic thoughts such as Charwak and Lokyat. While this is true that Charwak and Lokyat were different schools which existed but it is not true that they were at anytime the dominant thoughts or posed a serious challenge to the dominant thought by emerging as a counter or alternative philosophy. At the most, they can be considered as evidence of a pluralistic and diverse society.

This euro-centric attitude of many Marxists has led to an attitude of belittling the contribution of the Indian subcontinent in the field of spirituality. Just as many Indians in their slavish mentality looked down on the indigenous products as “Desi,” many Marxists looked down on the Indian thought. If anyone starts talking about the contributions of the Indian thought, eastern spirituality, national cultures, or Indian civilization, then he runs the risk of his Marxist and progressive credentials being questioned.

The Indian Marxists have not approached the national and caste questions correctly because again they have mostly adopted a western attitude towards these issues. The evolution of Indian nations is historically different than the European nations. The European nations evolved after the development of capitalism. The Indian nations, on the other hand, existed as cultural entities before the Industrial Revolution in Europe .The caste system arose as an efficient division of labor but later on degenerated into an oppressive and exploitative system because of selfishness and monopoly of some elements.

I recently attended a lecture on spirituality given by a woman who is originally from Russia. She has spent a lot of time in India and China learning techniques of Yoga and Chigong. After the lecture, I held a dialogue with her. I was surprised by some of her statements. She said that she found people in Communist countries (Russia and China) more spiritual than in the United States. She said in America most of the people like three things, “Bigger, better, and more.” While in a strange way, the communists, by suppressing religions, have made people more spiritual. She said that in Russia, in the seventies already there was a strong wave of spiritual revival. There were so many spiritual awareness groups in Moscow at that time. She was recently in China and she was amazed to see so many people practicing Chigong and Taichi in the parks. In one park, she saw over thirty-thousand people of all ages practicing there. She said that she was overwhelmed by this sight.

Contrary to what many people feel, the traditional capitalism is in its last stage. Even though Marxism collapsed in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, yet with the failure of globalization, the highest evolved form of the traditional capitalism, Marxism is on the verge of resurgence. The Indian Marxists should enrich Marxism with the rich Indian spiritual heritage and overall experience in human development just as the Chinese communists have helped to easternize the euro-centric Marxist philosophy. The Indian Marxists should not discard the rich and most valuable experience of the people of the Indian subcontinent. They should adopt and apply Marxism to the concrete Indian conditions. Otherwise, they run the risk of becoming apologists for globalization, a synonym for western imperialism.



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