Marx and Durga in West Bengal

At the moment, India is alit with festivities..... Ramadan, Navrati and the Durga Puja, to name a few. And for Hindus, it is a time to invoke the gods and goddesses for their blessings and protection.

But do you imagine Marx fitting into this picture? Because in Calcutta, he does. According to this Reuters article, communists are trying to spread the message amongst the throngs of devotees at the Durga Puja:

Communists worldwide may eschew religion, but in West Bengal where leftists run durga.jpgthe world's longest serving elected government, tenets of Marxism mix well with pantheons of Hindu gods and goddesses.

As the teeming streets of Kolkata brighten up with dazzling lights and people dress up for the Durga Puja festival, communist party officials are using the religious occasion to propagate their http://www.mulon.de/goetter/goetter_marx/marx-2.jpgpolitical philosophy.

In recent years, communist workers have quietly set up their own stalls at the pandals, selling books and other literature. These do not sing praises of the mother goddess but highlight the lives and works of Lenin, Engels, Marx and Stalin.

"Religion does not hold any meaning for us but the festival does provide an opportunity to reach out to people through social interaction," Ashok Bhattacharya, a veteran communist minister, told Reuters.

Piggybacking on the crowds which throng Durga Puja venues, the leftists also sell books on pet themes such as U.S. "imperialism".

"Books on the India-U.S.A. nuclear deal or the ones on West Bengal's recent economic success are selling a lot," said Shyamal Chakraborty, a senior communist peasant leader, referring to a landmark atomic pact the leftists have opposed.

The communists are also organising street plays on Marxism and exhibitions on the lives of communist leaders near pandals.

And as Marx said that religion is the opium of the masses,

West Bengal's communists, who came to power in 1977 and have won six straight elections since then, have traditionally shunned religious functions and public prayers.

But analysts say the communists have realised they cannot ignore religion in a state of 80 million where many people are deeply religious and pray regularly.

In the near future, will we see "Marx Bhagwan" in the pantheons of Hindu gods and goddess? :)

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Comments

I find it amusing that the

I find it amusing that the participation in Durga Puja festivities by the CPM is brandied about in the press so much. The CPM had a kara wearing, turban clad Gen Sec for over a decade, and communists in the Punjab visit Gurudwaras, there was even a Nihang Sikh who was a CPI supporter even during the terrorism years in the late 1980s.

This excerpted text from the

This excerpted text from the Reuters article is infuriating! Who are these "lefists" that they're talking about? CPI(m) party workers? ordinary people with communist ideas? communist booksellers? It would be nice to know, given that in some places, "communism" is more than just a foil to write about some quirky cultural phenomenon.

The CPM had a kara wearing,

The CPM had a kara wearing, turban clad Gen Sec for over a decade, and communists in the Punjab visit Gurudwaras

Really? I didn't know about that!

Do communists still visit gurdwaras, or is this a thing of the past?

I find it amusing that the participation in Durga Puja festivities by the CPM is brandied about in the press so much.

Maybe because:

given that in some places, “communism” is more than just a foil to write about some quirky cultural phenomenon.

'Leftist' is a funny term. I

'Leftist' is a funny term. I keep getting an image of someone hobbling around on their left foot! Perhaps it's Indian Capitalist who keeps droning on and on about leftists - and because i'm bengali this appears to be double proof to him that i'm a Communist Comrade. :-)

In any case what i find interesting is the way we comparmentalize our beliefs and give them names like 'religion' or 'political ideology' etc. Some political ideologies have sought to 'replace' religion - effectively it becomes a religion for some. At any rate, beliefs are beliefs at the end of the day, doesn't matter what name we call it or try and pretend we haven't got any.

Sonia: In any case what i

Sonia:

In any case what i find interesting is the way we comparmentalize our beliefs and give them names like ‘religion’ or ‘political ideology’ etc. Some political ideologies have sought to ‘replace’ religion - effectively it becomes a religion for some. At any rate, beliefs are beliefs at the end of the day, doesn’t matter what name we call it or try and pretend we haven’t got any.

Alas, someone who thinks like I do! I totally agree with you; lables such as "leftist," "right wing," and "progressive" tell us very little about beliefs, people, and people's political stands (but I admit, I brand people as "right wingers" from time to time; my bad :). We seem to think that "progressives" think this way, "right wingers" think that way and so on. But idealogies are rarely consistent, coherent, and one way. Beliefs are just too much and unruly. Furthermore, I've noticed that once a person says "I'm a socialist," or "I'm a Republican" for example, people stop listening to what you are really saying because they think "Oh, she's a socialist, that is why she's critiquing capitalism, and socialists by default criticize capitalism."

There are other reasons why I think these labels are ineffective. I've described in the past what I think about the usage of these lables.

‘Leftist’ is a funny

‘Leftist’ is a funny term.

There are other reasons why I think these labels are ineffective. I’ve described in the past what I think about the usage of these lables.

I agree in general with what you've come up with here, but I think sometimes it's very context-dependent. Sometimes it might help for the purpose of communicating or describing to have adjectives. It can also provoke discussion. For example, I like to describe certain groups as "pro-immigration" vs. "pro-immigrant" to indicate that they support a pro-business immigration platform and this is distinctly different from one that focuses on immigrants first.

I think the key thing is to understand that these labels are very ambiguous, and span a variety of beliefs (or purported beliefs...people aren't always honesty with themselves and others in how they self-identity), but at the same time they also have some content (relative or in current usage in sociology or political philosophy). "liberal" can mean something in contemporary American political context when contrasted with, say, "socialist" or "progressive" or "communist" or "Christian conservative." In fact--the breadth or narrowness of a particular label is part of its meaning--"socialist" or "progressive" probably serving a different purpose than "anarchist" or "liberal."

And of course the same words can also mean something more fixed in other context (e.g. in terms of western political philosophy, "leftist" probably means, today, something like "someone who derives their political ideas from Marx or Bakhunin or Emma Goldman or some such figure that has radical opposition to the basic structures of capitalism"--it could also just mean "marxist"). Anyway, point being, it's easier to have disputes about the meaning here than in the context described above.

Okay, I don't know if that makes any sense to anyone except myself. Ironically, I'm failing at articulating myself well on the topic of how to articulate yourself :)

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