By Sankar Ray
Many participants among 200-plus at the very recently held international conference on innovation in the social sciences and humanity, hosted by Ton DucThang University, Ho-chi Minh City were epistemologically surprised to learn that Karl Marx deeply studied the concept of ‘nothingness’ of Gautama Buddha in a paper and in another that contemporary transnational capital aims at full spectrum which covers a vast panorama including multilateral agencies mediating global and local governance. Further, the investment of charity capital in the contemporary business of social work is as wide as dominance over the entire political economy of our planet as envisaged by Marx but couldn’t reach out to them in his life time. Both the papers were authored by Kolkata-based Marx scholar and polymath Pradip Baksi.
The 73-year-old Baksi as a Marx scholar is very little known in India – except that he published in 1994 the English and Bengali translation of Marx’s ‘Mathematical Manuscripts’ – the earlier English version, brought out from Britain, is shorter than Baksi’s. His latest book is Karl Marx and Mathematics’ (Aakar Books, 2019) whose non-SAARC edition has been published by Routledge in Europe.
Bob Joseph, distinguished professor of Sociology at Lancaster University in his paper (‘Every beginning is difficult, holds in all sciences’: Marx on the economic cell form of Capital and the analysis of capitalist social formations’) at the first international colloquium on Marx’s Capital at 150 years in York University, Toronto, in May-end 2017 put in the very first note “PradipBaksi sent me relevant historical material as I was preparing this article.’. John Bellamy Foster in a paper, Marx’s Open-Ended Critique, in the 200th birth anniversary issue of Karl Marx in the Monthly Review ( May 2018) referred to a paper by Baksi, ‘Towards Measurement of Gender Inequality’ while noting Marx ‘s entire historical project beyond the critique of political economy. This symbolized his massive chronology of world history, extending over 1,500 pages’ that include ‘more than two hundred major notebooks of excerpts from other authors, which reveal the extent of his researches, encompassing social science, history, anthropology, natural sciences, and mathematics’
Baksi’s latest essay is ‘Studying Rammohun Roy and Karl Marx together and today/ where he wrote whatever connects him (Rammohun Roy) with Karl Marx, for instance, a critical approach to the legacy of the last European Enlightenment in the least. Rammohun Roy, let us remember, was one of the makers of that Victorian England (Zastoupil 2010), in which Karl Marx lived and worked” The pathfinder of Bengal Renaissance was a contemporary of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel whom Marx used to adore until his last breath as ‘my master’.
Braving serious and chronic ailments, Baksi’s original thinking on Marx and his works – although refusing to be called as a Marxist, is recorded by several Marx scholars who are associated with and abreast of Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe or MEGA -a 114 volume on-going project for publishing complete works, letters, notes etc. of Marx and Engels, under the Amsterdam-headquartered Internationale Marx-Engels-Stiftung (International Marx-Engels Foundation or IMES) – 59 published so far.
The erudite and self-groomed scholar albeit out of academia did his honours in philosophy from the Maulana Azad College under the University of Calcutta, masters from the Viwa-Bharati University. Thereafter, he did his masters in Russian language and literature from the Central Institute (now University) of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad, Telangana., He went to the Moscow for higher studies in Russian language at the Pushkin Institute. In fine, his academic build-up is around modern European philosophies, ancient Indian ‘darshan’s, and in Russian language and literature.
Baksi’s s area of interest and studying is very widespread, somewhat panoramic, and one gets it in his published work. “MEGA IV/31: Natural Science Notes of Marx and Engels, 1877-1883”(2001) and “A Short Note on Catalog of the Partially Reconstructed Personal Libraries of Marx and Engels” (2002) in Nature, Society, and . Further “Karl Marx Majuri Shrom O Bina Majurir Paribarik Shromer Hisab Nikash” (Karl Marx, wage labour, and measurement of familial labour without wages),was published in a Bengali periodical Chetana in 2019. In a very simple language so that common readers could understand.
He was perhaps the first to draw attention to an essay in Calcutta Review in 1882 by Jogendra Chandra Ghosh who wrote of Marx in 1882 , a year before the death of Marx
The scholar in seclusion was first politically involved during the high-voltage years of Naxalism in West Bengal but the heat cooled down in course of time, thanks to his epistemological quest. He joined the Communist Party of India where his talent was used in party education. In fact, he was a visiting teacher at the central party school of CPI at Ajoy Bhavan, Delhi. The CPI theoretical journal, Marxist Miscellany, carried in 1976 his paper, ‘’Popper and Dialectics’.
However, he quit the party and active politics . Alike most of MEGA scholars who hyphenate Marx and Marxian studies from Marxism and Marxism-Leninism he refused to be addressed as a Marxist. Marx himself told Paul Lafargue and Jules Guesde, two top French socialist leaders in 1881 in chaste French – “Cequ’il y a de certain c’estquemoi, je ne suis pas Marxiste.” (If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist). When Marx’s supporters in the International Workmen’s Association (First International) were branded as ‘Marxists’, Marx felt irritated, due to silent endorsement of the prefix ‘Marxist’” by the two. (IPA Service)