Patna: From Bruckenstrasse in Trier, Germany, where he was born, to Highgate in London’s Islington, where he was finally consigned, isn’t terribly far – a hop across Belgium, a leap across the Channel and there you are. The journey now being charted is such a long one in comparison.
Across oceans and continents and across two hundred years of time, a journey quite epic of proportion. Who by? And Where to?
There’s an easy answer to this question, and a tough one. Which one would you rather?
Here goes: What could be common to Frantz Fanon, MN Roy, Nikolay Bukharin, Che Guevara, Herbert Marcuse, Antonio Gramsci, PC Joshi,
Georgi Plekhanov, Rajani Palme Dutt, Jean Paul Sartre and Maurice Dobb?
Elementary: Karl Marx.
Now the tough one: What else could be common to them? Patna.
Beginning this weekend in town is a millennial conference on a bicentennial – a smorgasbord feast over a most influential, interventionist and disputed modern thinker.
Organised and hosted by the Asian Development Research Institute (Adri), probably Bihar’s only live-wire think tank, it promises to be a rendezvous over a dead revolution like no other. For, as Adri’s chief busybody, Shaibal Gupta, says, “Marx and communism may have folded up from most parts of the world, but Marx’s thought and philosophy, his theory and prescribed action, continue to engage intellectual imagination. In such a way that today even the study or understanding of political theories and ideologies opposed to Marxism is not possible without an understanding of Marx.”
Until not too long ago, the Marxist creed ruled one-third of the globe, it was entrenched in at least three pockets of India. No longer. In Bihar itself, Marxists of all hues put together count for no more than three percent of the vote. As a tool of power it is withered, as an ideological canopy, it has shrunk. It mostly survives as fig leaf. But Marxist thought and prescription isn’t the sum of its active practice or political power; it’s a way or understanding and interpreting the world and its processes.
It is this insistent relevance of Marx and Marxism that the Adri conference hopes to discuss and debate at length during its four-day course beginning June 16. For a station like Patna, the hosts have managed to seduce a stunning, even spectacular, gathering of eminences from across the globe, from Latin America, to North America, to Europe and Africa and Australasia. Names such as Gayatri Spivak, Samuel Hollander, Shapan Adnan, Elvira Concheiro, Samir Amin, Cynthia Hewitt, Kipton Jensen. Spread over many lectures and discussion panels, they will expound and exchange on why and how Marx and his formidable legacy of thought continue to influence affairs even though communism has become much of a political outlier in today’s world.
And for Patna to be the stage of it, rather than better known addresses of Marxist calling such as Calcutta or Thiruvananthapuram, makes it more of an occasion than the elaborate conference paperwork would suggest. Don’t expect “Lal Salaam!” to be raining on Patna this weekend; do expect a fair shower of Marxism. It can be fairly said that this is not the workers of the world uniting, but philosophers, and they have nothing to lose but their brains.
Courtesy: The Telegraph