By Krishna Kirti Das
Krishna Kirti Das is a researcher and essayist, whose work can be found at Hare Krishna Cultural Journal (http://siddhanta.com). He has been a missionary and active member of ISCKON for the past 22 years, and he has been an Information Technology professional in the area of software development for the past 10 years
The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union was a victory for Western liberalism and a defeat for Communism. Although this made America the victor of the Cold War, the victory did not discredit Communism’s underlying philosophy. “The Soviet failure represents a triumph for Marxism,” said one academic apologist in the wake of the Soviet collapse. “A Soviet success might have embarrassed key propositions of historical materialism, which is the Marxist theory of history.” The Cold War turned out to have been just a battle in the larger cultural war within Western civilization. America won that battle but not the war itself.
Despite the Soviet failure and a consistent record of installing bloody, despotic regimes around the world, Marxism today still inspires communist political movements and armed revolutions. Three of India’s state governments, for example, are controlled by communists. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently declared India’s armed maoist insurgency to be “India’s gravest internal security threat.” And Nepal, after its own successful ten-year maoist insurgency, is well on its way to becoming a sovereign maoist state. Like a disease that has become resistant to miracle drugs that once worked against it, Communism has shown a remarkable ability to resist discrediting.
What is in Communism’s philosophical “DNA,” Marxism, that makes it so difficult to eradicate? Marxism is a genetic descendent of Western thought and culture. Because marxist philosophy draws its force from the Western philosophical tradition, other Western systems of thought like Liberalism, which have much in common with it, have been unable to defeat it. Discrediting Marxism once and for all would mean discrediting much if not most of the Western philosophical tradition itself. Thus a defeat from within the tradition would be the philosophical equivalent of realizing the Cold War’s MAD doctrine-Mutually Assured Destruction in a nuclear exchange. Rarely if ever do philosophers try to discredit other philosophies by discrediting their own.
Since all attempts to discredit Marxism from within the Western tradition have failed, the only kind of system of thought that can discredit it must come from outside that tradition. Such systems of thought can be found within the Hindu civilization’s philosophical tradition. Within that tradition are a multitude of philosophical and theistic schools that still carry on lively debates with one another. “In contrast to Ancient Greece and Rome, whose classical literatures and traditions have been the major inspiration of the Western humanities but whose modern successor nations have little in common with them,” says Klaus Klaustermaier in his book A Survey of Hinduism, “India is a modern country in which much of the classical tradition is still alive” (3). Perhaps more so than in any other non-Western tradition, the potential to finally discredit Communism-the 20th century’s bloodiest ideology-exists within the living classical tradition of Hindu civilization.
But for Hindu civilization’s potential to defeat Marxism to be realized, Hinduism’s leading philosophers, theologians, and pundits must directly confront Marxism. They must make a concerted effort to carefully understand it and critique it. Without such critiques, it will be impossible to create within the ranks of marxists doubts about their own beliefs. And the ability to create such doubts along with offering them a philosophy and way of life that is superior to what is on offer from Marxism and its genetic descendents are prerequisites for discrediting Communism for all time.
But producing such critiques can come only by directly confronting Marxism. For quite some time now, Hindu civilization’s most brilliant scholars have kept their brilliance to themselves, preferring to debate amongst themselves the familiar instead of the unfamiliar. In the face of Marxism, their brilliance has been something like a lamp covered by a basket. But once their brilliance is turned outward to debate the Western philosophies, whose dominance over Indian political life has for some time been nearly absolute, the defeat of Marxism and with it global communism becomes a real possibility. From the effort to defeat Marxism, we could once again see new works of philosophical and theological genius on the level of those of Shankara, Ramanuja, and Madhva.
But it remains to be seen if Hinduism’s brightest intellectuals will rise to challenge Marxism. In the name of Marxism, people have been dying by the thousands and millions. And people unfortunate enough to live in communist countries are typically poor and miserable. Is the suffering and death of people at the hands of communists in Hinduism’s homeland not a good enough reason for the pundits to challenge Marxism? Are not the millions who have died at the hands of communists the world over not a good enough reason to try to defeat Marxism? They are excellent reasons. Thus our task at this point is to make sure that those reasons are well understood.
Krishna Kirti Das is President of the Samprajña Institute, a public policy research center that focuses on areas where dharma and public policy meet. The Samprajña Institute’s website can be found at http://samprajna.org.