At 150 the deep imprint of Das Kapital on Kerala
It has a major impact on the land reforms in the State, besides on the cultural literary fronts
On September 14, 1867 around 1000 copies of a voluminous book authored by a German Philosopher journalist were released in Hamburg, Germany. Half a century later, the political ideology put forward by the book and its later volumes inspired a people’s revolution in Tsarist Russia, leaving a major impact on a tiny southern Indian State, thousands of miles away.
As the 150th anniversary of the first volume Karl Marx’s Das Kapital , which his comrade Friendrich Engels described as the Bible of the working class, is commemorated now, Kerala is one of the few places where a democratically elected government is led by a Marxist party.
The influence of Marxism on the Malayali psyche is a now a century old. “The emergence of Kerala as a progressive society owes a lot to Das Kapital”, points out K.T.Kunhikkannan, director, Keluettan Study and Research Centre, Kozhikode.
It was Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna Pillai who first wrote about Marx in 1912, he said Pillai biography of Marx, Karl Marxineppatti, came out in 1916. The social reformer C.Krishnan too wrote in his paper Mithavadi in 1917 that Marxist theories were put into practice in Russis to end human exploitation.
“The Marxist philosophy of emancipation of people who are at the mercy of feudalism and later industrial capitalism influenced the nationalists here who were part of the freedom struggle,’ he said By the 1930s, Das Kapital and other works of Marx were brought out in English by the Workers University and Progress Publishers USSR. The emergence of the socialist wing within the Indian National Congress, which later transformed as the Communist Party that came into power in Kerala in 1957, was inspired by the, The original Malayalam translation of the time which came out only on May 5 1968 to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Marx.
“The major achievements of Kerala’s first Communist government, such as land reforms, had a Marxist imprint on them. It had a major impact on the cultural and literary fronts too as rational approach challenging the status quo developed in he minds of the people, “ Mr.Kunhikkannan said.
Echoing similar sentiments, Communist Party of India leader and former Minister Binoy Viswam says, “His theory on exploiting the nature for profits is an relevant as ever. Capitalism always stands for unbridled profit making. As communists, our role is to offer a political alternative focussing on health, education and social benefits,” he points out.
Among other things, Mr. Viswam says, a relook at the land reforms policy in Kerala and distribution of land among Dalits and tribes could be part of that alternative. Plantations were excluded from the ambit of the land reforms becuase they employed a large number of people and sustained an economy. Now, landowners are using thousands of acres for other purposes or are selling it after changing the land distribution pattern,” he added.