Encounter With A Ghost

Marx in Old Dhaka

Abhinu Kibria Islam

I met Marx yesterday at Sadarghat. Marx has turned a little black in this summer's sun. Eye-catching frame glasses. He wore a jeans shirt, jeans pant,a black belt around his waist, a small leather bag on his shoulder. He's probably looking for a location on Google Maps in a low-cost tab. Nobody recognised him. Who would believe that Marx's ghost will be seen in Dhaka on his 205th birthday?

Without taking his face off the screen of his tab, he said, "Is it May 5?"

I said, "Yes. Are you here?

– Shouldn't I be here?

– No, you're all over the world. But I didn't think it would be seen that way.

Marx looked at the map and started walking. I followed. He said softly,
– I'm not getting used so easily.

– That's fine, but are you here?

– Listen, is it the Fourth Industrial Revolution or, as you say now, living in that era? Artificial Intelligence can make me talk to Jesus on the last supper if I can. And what does it mean for you to come to Dhaka in this day and age? But in my time, I have tried to learn so much about India and Bengal. There was no internet back then. Knowing what I got from government documents, I note that I intended to do more work. You guys get a chance to abuse me as Eurocentric because I can't finish it because there's so much work to be done.

– The enemies will say that.

– It's a bad habit of yours to dismiss what your enemies are saying. Remember that one's strengths and weaknesses can be known from the criticism of the enemy. I'm not everything; could I see for you what was going on here? So I came on my own to clear my mind.

– Wasn't it difficult to come?

– If so, what? You didn't take my job well anymore. A group of people rejected my euro-centric books, my thinking fits for Europe; I don't go with the development of your economic conditions here. Another group used to worship what I said 150 years ago like the Vedas. None of you made me like you.

– I admit, we haven't been able to properly validate your thoughts.

– Don't say these folklorisations, lower class Han Tan in front of me. You intellectuals have a lot of fun playing with big terms. How many theories have been given by so many people in the world after me, how many terminologies have come, how many revolutions have happened, there has been a counter-revolution, capitalism has changed itself, it has kept itself alive by creating a society that creates equal opportunities for the development of all people? Who still creates surplus value, who takes it? Does the fruits of your labour go to your store? What's the point of having so many theories if the main thing doesn't change? I always acknowledge the importance of the theory. I don't see the important aspects of other people's thoughts. But if these theories don't really work for people, if they don't actually change human society, what's the point? You have to look at the world well, deeply, first.

– You're right.

– My friend Engels writes a book looking at the working class situation in England, Lenin writes very nicely about the development of capitalism in Russia at that time. Where is the basic work on your part that your workers are subjected to double exploitation by the foreign bourgeoisie and their ally the domestic capitalists, your cheap labour is added to the GDP of western countries and the capital is increased by the big companies, and they are looking for new blood-sucking fields again? I don't see any change in the basics of your time with 150 years ago.

"But there is no revolution.

– How about this? Could class in itself be class for itself? Can you put me in a lungi-towel and go down to the farm? You all can't even take the fact that I used to walk around in jeans shirt pant. Don't make me a revisionist! You don't know me; you don't know the people of your country.

– I'll tell you your point to others who really want to make a change.

– What else can you say? Of course, you will announce on Facebook that you have a conversation with Marx. Lately, intellectuals use themselves to prove themselves to be elite. He is busy proving himself a scholar by listening to a few quotations from the capital. Talking to people like you is a waste of time.

– Don't be angry. Where do you go?

– I'm looking for a way to get to Bangabazar. From there, I'll go to your public library.

– There is no market.

– You mean no?

"It's burned!

"Is the whole market burned down?"

– Yes, it's all over in a few hours of fire.

Marx was silent for a few moments. With a sigh, he asked me, "Well, tell me, why Bangabazar is burnt to ashes?" Why don't the goods made by the same factory, the same workers, burn the foreign showrooms that go to them?

As he spoke, Marx crossed the street in the crowd. I couldn't find Marx as I pushed the bus rickshaw congested jam and came to the other side of the road. He was lost in the crowd of people.

[Translated from original Bengali by Samudra Dutta and Suchetana Chattopadhyay]

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Vol 55, No. 49, Jun 4 - 10, 2023