Dialectical Spiritualism: Karl Marx, Part 4

BY: SUN STAFF - 7.8 2017

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

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Syamasundara dasa: Marx felt that it was the mode of production that determined our beliefs and ideas. He wrote: "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness."

Srila Prabhupada: That is a question of training. The next question is, What is the center of that training? What is the motto?

Syamasundara dasa: The motto is: "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."

Srila Prabhupada: The contributions of different living entities are different. A scientific man contributes one thing, a philosopher another, and a worker something else. Trees are also contributing, as well as birds and beasts. The cow contributes milk, and the dog contributes its service as a watchdog. Everyone is contributing, giving, and taking. This arrangement is already there by nature. But what is Marx's idea of a classless society?

Syamasundara dasa: He felt that the means of production should be owned in common so that there would be no exploitation of workers.

Srila Prabhupada: What is the question of exploitation? I am a religious preacher, and my contribution is spiritual knowledge. Where is the exploitation? As far as a classless society is concerned, I have been to Moscow and have seen women sweeping the streets while the big bosses sit in their cars and watch. So where is this classless society? As long as you maintain a society, you have to make some distinction between upper and lower. However, if the central point is one, it doesn't matter on what level we work. Our bodies have different parts, which are all working to contribute to the whole.

Syamasundara dasa: They claim to look on it the same way. The scientist or manager is in a top position, but the worker is considered to occupy as glorious a position.

Srila Prabhupada: But we have seen in Moscow that not everyone is satisfied. One boy came to us and lamented that he was not allowed to leave the country. The point is that you will never be able to make everyone happy. Nor will there ever be a classless society because the mentalities of people differ. How can you say that your mentality is the same as mine?

Syamasundara dasa: Marx believed that it was possible to have a uniformity of ideas and purpose if the means of production are controlled. The problem is that the capitalists, who own the means of production, control people's ideas.

Srila Prabhupada: It is not possible for everyone to think uniformly, but it is possible to find a central interest. For instance, in our Society for Krsna Consciousness, our central interest is Krsna. People are working in different ways, but everyone is convinced that he is working to render service to Krsna.

Syamasundara dasa: For Marx, the center is the state, which in time will wither away. Then a classless society will emerge.

Srila Prabhupada: But if you make the state the center, there is no question of a classless society. In the state, there is always a leader, a president or prime minister. Khruschev was the head, and when people were dissatisfied, they drove him from office. This means that the head was not perfect and that people were dissatisfied with him. This is going on even in noncommunist countries. So what is the difference between Marx's theory and others? What is taking place inside Russia is also taking place outside. First of all, the person in the center must be perfect; then his dictations can be considered perfect. If you put a lot of imperfect men in office, what is the point in changing governments? The same corruption will go on.

Syamasundara dasa: Presumably, the perfect leader would be one who follows Marx's philosophy perfectly.

Srila Prabhupada: But his philosophy is not perfect. He proposes a classless society, but that will never emerge. When you run a government, there must be administrators, and also people to sweep the streets. So how will a classless society come about? When will the street sweeper be satisfied to see someone enjoying an administrative position? Now, in this Krsna consciousness society, I sit on a vyasasana, and you offer me garlands. Why is this? You do this willingly because you see that there is a perfect man you can follow. Unless you are convinced that the leader is perfect, there is no question of bowing down and working hard like menial servants.

Syamasundara dasa: For Communists, Lenin was a perfect man.

Srila Prabhupada: But who is following Lenin? Lenin's perfection was in overthrowing the royal family. What other perfection has he given? People are not happy simply reading books. You cannot make people happy artificially, by force. Unless there is a perfect ideal man in the center, there cannot be a classless society. It is not possible. We have seen in Russia that people do not feel that there is perfection in the center.