Dialectical Spiritualism: Karl Marx

BY: SUN STAFF - 3.8 2017

Conversations wtih HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, excerpted from  Dialectical Spiritualism: A Vedic View of Western Philosophy.

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Hayagriva dasa: Marx was a descendent of rabbis on both sides of his family, but Marx's father was converted to Christianity, and Marx received a Christian education. In any case, Marx himself opposed both Christianity and Judaism. At the age of twenty-three, after having studied some philosophy in his university classes, Marx became an avowed atheist. It was Hegel who wrote: "Because the accidental is not, God or the Absolute is." On this, Marx commented: "Obviously the reverse can also be said." That is, because God is not, the accidental is.

Srila Prabhupada: How can any sensible man accept the view that everything is accidental? Is a child taking birth accidental? There must have been unity between a father and a mother. Marx, for instance, may not have wanted to die, but he was forced to. How can this take place accidentally? There must be some superior force. We may not wish to have an accident, but accidents happen nonetheless. This is a question of common sense. In nature, we see that there are many planets in the sky, and they are not accidentally colliding, but are remaining in their positions. The sun rises according to precise calculations. Since universal functions are going on very systematically, there must be some brain behind them, and we call this supreme brain God. How can you deny this?

Hayagriva dasa: Marx felt that true philosophy would say: "In simple truth, I bear hate for any and every God." He saw this as philosophy's "own avowal, its own judgement against all heavenly and earthly gods who do not acknowledge human self-consciousness as the supreme divinity. There must be no other on a level with it."

Srila Prabhupada: How can human intelligence be perfect unless it comes to the point of understanding the Absolute Truth, the original cause of everything? Our consciousness must progress, and progress means moving toward the ultimate goal. If a human being is ignorant of the ultimate cause and the ultimate goal, of what value is his intelligence?

Hayagriva dasa: Marx considered religion to be the pastime of degraded men who attempt to escape reality. He writes: "Religion is the sigh of the distressed creature, the soul of a heartless world, as it is also the spirit of a spiritless condition. It is the opium of the people." Being an illusion, religion cannot solve any of man's problems, but can only complicate them. "The more man puts into God," Marx wrote, "the less he retains in himself."

Srila Prabhupada: We can actually see that the Communists are not being so greatly favored without God. Now the Chinese and Russians are disagreeing. Differences of opinion will still be there, whether people deny God or not. So how have they improved matters? Both Communists and capitalists need to understand the nature of God. We have seen that denying God and acting independently have not brought peace.

Syamasundara dasa: Marx believed that everything is produced from economic struggle, and that religion is a technique invented by the bourgeoisie or the capitalists to dissuade the masses from revolution by promising them a better existence after death.

Srila Prabhupada: He himself has created a philosophy that is presently being enforced by coercion and killing. As we have often explained, religion is that part of our nature which is permanent, which we cannot give up. No one can give up his religion. And what is that religion? Service. Marx desires to serve humanity by putting forward his philosophy; therefore that is his religion. Everyone is trying to render some service. The father is trying to serve his family, the statesman is trying to serve his country, and the philanthropist is trying to serve all humanity. Whether you are Karl Marx, or Stalin, or Gandhi, a Hindu, a Muslim, or a Christian, you must serve. Because we are presently rendering service to so many people and concepts, we are becoming confused. Therefore Krsna advises us to give up all other service and serve Him alone.

Hayagriva dasa: Like Comte, Marx hoped that the worker would eventually eliminate religion. He wrote: "The political emancipation of the Jew, the Christian, the religious man in general, is the emancipation of the state from Judaism, from Christianity, from religion generally." Thus the worker would become the savior of mankind by freeing man from a religion that worships a supernatural being.

Srila Prabhupada: Has that actually happened? Marx is dead and gone, yet his Communist theory is being exhibited in practice, and still we see that they have not liberated anyone. Now the Russians are not relating congenially with the Chinese. Why is this? They have abolished God, and the working class is there. Why, then, is there dissension and desire?

Hayagriva dasa: Marx felt that religion was blocking man's path to happiness. He wrote: "The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. The demand to abandon the illusions about their condition is the demand to give up a condition that requires illusion. Hence criticism of religion is...criticism of this vale of tears whose halo is religion."

Srila Prabhupada: A religious system deteriorates when there is no understanding of its philosophical basis. People are apt to reject such sentimental religions. We must understand in fact that God is at the top of all cosmic manifestations and activities. Laws given by the supreme head of the cosmic manifestation constitute what we call religion. If we create our own religious systems on the basis of sentiments, we create only troubles and will be misunderstood. We must understand that there is a brain behind all the cosmic manifestations, and if we know the nature of this brain and how it is working, we attain real scientific understanding.

Hayagriva dasa: Marx encouraged labor not for the construction of temples but for the benefit of man himself. He writes: "The alien being, to whom labor and the produce of labor belong, and in whose service labor is done and for whose benefit the produce of labor is provided, can only be man himself."

Srila Prabhupada: We must come to the understanding that it is beneficial for man to abide by the orders of God. If there is any organization at all, there is a director, even in Communist countries. Leaders are necessary, and the supreme leader is called God. It is not that the Communists can do without leaders. Even Karl Marx provided leadership. Now it is up to people to decide whether to work under the leadership of God, or under Marx and Lenin. We cannot avoid leadership; so now the question remains, "Whose leadership is perfect?" That we must decide.

Hayagriva dasa: Like Comte, Marx believed that atheism was unnecessary because it was negative denial, whereas socialism is positive assertion. Marx writes: "Socialism is man's positive self-consciousness, no longer mediated through the annulment of religion, just as real life is man's positive reality through Communism."

Srila Prabhupada: We have made our point that real religion is not sentiment and that leadership has to be accepted, be it Communist, theist, or atheist. When leadership is selected, and directions are given by the leader, we can call it some "ism," but in any case, religion means accepting the leadership of God and His directions. I don't think that even the Communists can basically change this concept. They also have a leader— Marx, Lenin, or Stalin — and they are giving directions for the people to follow. Similarly, Krsna is there, and we are following His instructions. So factually what is the difference? In either case, there is authority. We have to select the best leader, and we also have to select a criterion for establishing him.