Can Communism take the greed out of human nature? Karl Marx said “yes,” but Srila Prabhupada explains that avarice will continue until people are spiritually satisfied.
The people are not happy simply reading Lenin’s books. His Divine Grace said in last month’s Back to Godhead. “Real happiness come from spiritual understanding.” Concluding his critique of communism, Srila Prabhupada discusses the profit motive, human nature, and the Marxist misunderstanding of religion.
Syamasundara: Marx’s definition of communism is “The common or public ownership of the means of production, and the abolition of private property.” In our International Society for Krishna Consciousness, don’t we have the same idea? We also say, “Nothing is mine.” We have also abolished private property.
Prabhupada: While the communist says, “Nothing is mine,” he thinks everything belongs to the state. The state, however, is simply an extended “mine.” For example, if I am the head of a family, I might say, “I do not want anything for myself, but I want many things for my children.” Mahatma Gandhi, who was sacrificing so much to drive the English out of India, was at the same time thinking, “I am a very good man; I am doing national work.” Therefore, this so-called nationalism or so-called communism is simply extended selfishness. The quality remains the same. The real change occurs when we say, “Nothing belongs to me, everything belongs to God, Krishna, and therefore I should use everything in His service.” That is factual.
Syamasundara: Marx says that the capitalists are parasites living at the cost of the workers.
Prabhupada: But the communists are also living at the cost of the workers: the managers are drawing big salaries, and the common workers are dissatisfied. Indeed, their godless society is becoming more and more troublesome. Unless everyone accepts God as the only enjoyer and himself simply as His servant, there will always be conflict. In the broad sense, there is no difference between the communists and the capitalists because God is not accepted as the supreme enjoyer and proprietor in either system. Actually, no property belongs to either the communists or the capitalists. Everything belongs to God.
Syamasundara: Marx condemns the capitalists for making a profit. He says that profit-making is exploitation and that the capitalists are unnecessary for the production of commodities.
Prabhupada: Profit-making may be wrong, but that exploitative tendency is always there, whether it is a communist or a capitalist system. In Bengal it is said that during the winter season the bugs cannot come out because of the severe cold. So they become dried up, being unable to suck any blood. But as soon as the summer season comes the bugs get the opportunity to come out, so they immediately bite someone and suck his blood to their full satisfaction. Our mentality in this material world is the same: to exploit others and become wealthy. Whether you are a communist in the winter season or a capitalist in the summer season, your tendency is to exploit others. Unless there is a change of heart, this exploitation will go on.
I once knew a mill worker who acquired some money. Then he became the proprietor of the mill and took advantage of his good fortune to become a capitalist. Henry Ford is another example. He was an errand boy, but he got the opportunity to become a capitalist. There are many such instances. So, to a greater or lesser degree, the propensity is always there in human nature to exploit others and become wealthy. Unless this mentality is changed, there is no point in changing from a capitalist to a communist society. Material life means that everyone is seeking some profit, some adoration, and some position. By threats the state can force people to curb this tendency, but for how long? Can they change everyone’s mind by force? No, it is impossible. Therefore, Marx’s proposition is nonsense.
Syamasundara: Marx thinks the minds of people can be changed by forced conditioning.
Prabhupada: That is not possible. Even a child cannot be convinced by force, what to speak of a mature, educated man. We have the real process for changing people’s minds: chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. Ceto-darpana-marjanam: this process cleanses the heart of material desires. We have seen that people in Moscow are not happy. They are simply waiting for another revolution. We talked to one working-class boy who was very unhappy. When a pot of rice is boiling, you can take one grain and press it between your fingers, and if it is hot you can understand all the rice is boiling. Thus we can understand the position of the Russian people from the sample of that boy. We could also get further ideas by talking with Professor Kotofsky from the Indian Department of Moscow University. How foolish he was! He said that after death everything is finished. If this is his knowledge, and if that young boy is a sample of the citizenry, then the situation in Russia is very bleak. They may theorize about so many things, but we could not even purchase sufficient groceries in Moscow. There were no vegetables, fruits, or rice, and the milk was of poor quality. If that Madrasi gentleman had not contributed some dahl and rice, then practically speaking we would have starved. The Russians’ diet seemed to consist of only meat and liquor.
Syamasundara: The communists play upon this universal profit motive. The worker who produces the most units at his factory is glorified by the state or receives a small bonus.
Prabhupada: Why should he get a bonus?
Syamasundara: To give him some incentive to work hard.
Prabhupada: Just to satisfy his tendency to lord it over others and make a profit, his superiors bribe him. This Russian communist idea is very good, provided the citizens do not want any profit. But that is impossible because everyone wants profit. The state cannot destroy this tendency either by law or by force.
Syamasundara: The communists try to centralize everything—money, communications, and transport—in the hands of the state.
Prabhupada: But what benefit will there be in that? As soon as all the wealth is centralized, the members of the central government will appropriate it, just as Khrushchev did. These are all useless ideas as long as the tendency for exploitation is not reformed. The Russians have organized their country according to Marx’s theories, yet all their leaders have turned out to be cheaters. Where is their program for reforming this cheating propensity?
Syamasundara: Their program is to first change the social condition and then, they believe, the corrupt mentality will change automatically.
Prabhupada: Impossible. Such repression will simply cause a reaction in the form of another revolution.
Syamasundara: Are you implying that the people’s mentality must first be changed, and then a change in the social structure will naturally follow?
Prabhupada: Yes. But the leaders will never be able to train all the people to think that everything belongs to the state. This idea is simply utopian nonsense.
Syamasundara: Marx has another slogan: “Human nature has no reality.” He says that man’s nature changes through history according to material conditions.
Prabhupada: He does not know the real human nature. It is certainly true that everything in this cosmic creation, or jagat, is changing. Your body changes daily. Everything is changing, just like waves in the ocean. This is not a very advanced philosophy. Marx’s theory is also being changed; it cannot last. But man does have a fundamental nature that never changes: his spiritual nature. We are teaching people to come to the standard of acting according to their spiritual nature, which will never change. Acting spiritually means serving Krishna. If we try to serve Krishna now, we will continue to serve Krishna when we go to Vaikuntha, the spiritual world. Therefore, loving service to Lord Krishna is called nitya, or eternal. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, nitya-yukta upasate: “My pure devotees perpetually worship Me with devotion.”
The communists give up Krishna and replace Him with the state. Then they expect to get the people to think, “Nothing in my favor; everything in favor of the state.” But people will never accept this idea. It is impossible; let the rascals try it! All they can do is simply force the people to work, as Stalin did. As soon as he found someone opposed to him, he immediately cut his throat. The same disease is still there today, so how will their program be successful?
Syamasundara: Their idea is that human nature has no reality of its own. It is simply a product of the material environment. Thus, by putting a man in the factory and making him identify with the state and something like scientific achievement, they think they can transform him into a selfless person.
Prabhupada: But because he has the basic disease, envy, he will remain selfish. When he sees that he is working so hard, but the profit is not coming to him, his enthusiasm will immediately slacken. In Bengal there is a proverb: “As a proprietor I can turn sand into gold, but as soon as I am no longer the proprietor, the gold becomes sand.” The Russian people are in this position. They are not as rich as the Europeans or the Americans, and because of this they are unhappy.
Syamasundara: One of the methods the authorities in Russia use is to constantly whip the people into believing there may be a war at any moment. Then they think, “To protect our country, we must work hard.”
Prabhupada: If the people cannot make any profit on their work, however, they will eventually lose all interest in the country. The average man will think, “Whether I work or not, I get the same result. I cannot adequately feed and clothe my family.” Then he will begin to lose his incentive to work. A scientist will see that despite his high position, his wife and children are dressed just like the common laborer.
Syamasundara: Marx says that industrial and scientific work is the highest kind of activity.
Prabhupada: But unless the scientists and the industrialists receive sufficient profit, they will be reluctant to work for the state.
Syamasundara: The Russian goal is the production of material goods for the enhancement of human well-being.
Prabhupada: Their “human well-being” actually means, “If you don’t agree with me, I’ll cut your throat.” This is their “well-being.” Stalin had his idea of “human well-being,” but anyone who disagreed with his version of it was killed or imprisoned. They may say that a few must suffer for the sake of many, but we have personally seen that Russia has achieved neither general happiness nor prosperity. For example, in Moscow none of the big buildings have been recently built. They are old and ravaged, or poorly renovated. Also, at the stores the people had to stand in long lines to make purchases. These are indications that economic conditions are unsound.
Syamasundara: Marx considered religion an illusion that must be condemned.
Prabhupada: The divisions between different religious faiths may be an illusion, but Marx’s philosophy is also an illusion.
Syamasundara: Do you mean that it’s not being practiced?
Prabhupada: In the sixty years since the Russian Revolution, his philosophy has become distorted. On the other hand, Lord Brahma began the Vedic religion countless years ago, and though foreigners have been trying to devastate it for the last two thousand years, it is still intact. Vedic religion is not an illusion, at least not for India.
Syamasundara: Here is Marx’s famous statement about religion. He says, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world, just as it is the spirit of the spiritless situation. It is the opiate of the people.”
Prabhupada: He does not know what religion is. His definition is false. The Vedas state that religion is the course of action given by God. God is a fact, and His law is also a fact. It is not an illusion. Krishna gives the definition of religion in Bhagavad-gita (Bg. 18.66): sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja. To surrender unto God—this is religion.
Syamasundara: Marx believes 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.
Prabhupada: He himself has created a philosophy that is presently being enforced by coercion and killing.
Syamasundara: And he promised that in the future things will be better. So he is guilty of the very thing that he condemns religion for.
Prabhupada: 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 Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, a Muslim or a Christian, you must serve. Because we are presently rendering service to so many people and so many things, we are becoming confused. Therefore, Krishna advises us to give up all this service and serve Him alone:
mam ekam saranam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo
moksayisyami ma sucah
“Abandon all varieties of service and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.” (Bg. 18.66)
Syamasundara: The communists—and even to a certain extent the capitalists—believe that service for the production of goods is the only real service. Therefore they condemn us because we are not producing anything tangible.
Prabhupada: How can they condemn us? We are giving service to humanity by teaching the highest knowledge. A high court judge does not produce any grains in the field. He sits in a chair and gets $25,000 or $30,000. Does that mean he is not rendering any service? Of course he is. The theory that unless one performs manual labor in the factory or the fields he is not doing service would simply give credit to the peasant and the worker. It is a peasant philosophy.
There is a story about a king and his prime minister. Once the king’s salaried workers complained, “We are actually working, and this minister is doing nothing, yet you are paying him such a large salary. Why is that?” The king then called his minister in and also had someone bring in an elephant. “Please take this elephant and weigh it,” the king said to his workers. The workers took the elephant to all the markets, but they could not find a scale large enough to weigh the animal. When they returned to the palace the king asked, “What happened?” One of the workers answered, “Sir, we could not find a scale large enough to weigh the elephant.” Then the king addressed his prime minister, “Will you please weigh this elephant?” “Yes sir,” said the prime minister, and he took the elephant away. He returned within a few minutes and said, “It weighs sixteen hundred and fifty pounds.” All the workers were astonished. “How did you weigh the elephant so quickly?” one of them asked. “Did you find some very large scale?” The minister replied, “No. It is impossible to weigh an elephant on a scale. I went to the river, took the elephant on a boat, and noted the watermark. After taking the elephant off the boat, I put weights in the boat until the same watermark was reached. Then I had the elephant’s weight.” The king said to his workers, “Now do you see the difference?” One who has intelligence has strength, not the fools and the rascals. Marx and his followers are simply fools and rascals. We don’t take advice from them; we take advice from Krishna or His representative.
Syamasundara: So religion is not simply a police force to keep people in illusion?
Prabhupada: No. Religion means to serve the spirit. That is religion. Everyone is rendering service, but no one knows where his service will be most successful. Therefore Krishna says, “Serve Me, and you will serve the spiritual society.” This is real religion. The Marxists want to build a so-called perfect society without religion, yet even up to this day, because India’s foundation is religion, people all over the world adore India.
Syamasundara: Marx says that God does not create man; rather, man creates God.
Prabhupada: That is more nonsense. From what he says, I can tell he is a nonsensical rascal and a fool. One cannot understand that someone is a fool unless he talks. A fool may dress very nicely and sit like a gentleman amongst gentlemen, but we can tell the fools from the learned men by their speech.
Syamasundara: Marx’s follower was Nikolai Lenin. He reinforced all of Marx’s ideas and added a few of his own. He believed that revolution is a fundamental fact of history. He said that history moves in leaps, and that it progresses toward the communist leap. He wanted Russia to leap into the dictatorship of the proletariat, which he called the final stage of historical development.
Prabhupada: No. We can say with confidence—and they may note it carefully—that after the Bolshevik Revolution there will be many other revolutions, because as long as people live on the mental plane there will be only revolution. Our proposition is to give up all these mental concoctions and come to the spiritual platform. If one comes to the spiritual platform, there will be no more revolution. As Dhruva Maharaja said, natah param parama vedmi na yatra nadah: “Now that I am seeing God, I am completely satisfied. Now all kinds of theorizing processes are finished.” So God consciousness is the final revolution. There will be repeated revolutions in this material world unless people come to Krishna consciousness.
Syamasundara: The Hare Krishna revolution.
Prabhupada: The Vedic injunction is that people are searching after knowledge, and that when one understands the Absolute Truth, he understands everything. Yasmin vijnate sarvam evam vijnatam bhavati. People are trying to approach an objective, but they do not know the final objective is Krishna. They are simply trying to make adjustments with so many materialistic revolutions. They have no knowledge that they are spiritual beings, and that unless they go back to the spiritual world and associate with the Supreme Spirit, God, there is no question of happiness. We are like fish out of water. Just as a fish cannot be happy unless he is in the water, we cannot be happy apart from the spiritual world. We are part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit, Krishna, but we have left His association and fallen from the spiritual world because of our desire to enjoy this material world. So unless we reawaken the understanding of our spiritual position and go back home to the spiritual world, we can never be happy. We can go on theorizing for many lifetimes, but we will only see one revolution after another. The old order changes, yielding its place to the new. Or in other words, history repeats itself.
Syamasundara: Marx says that there are always two conflicting properties in material nature, and that the inner pulsation of opposite forces causes history to take leaps from one revolution to another. He claims that the communist revolution is the final revolution because it is the perfect answer to all social contradictions.
Prabhupada: If the communist idea is spiritualized, then it will become perfect. As long as the communist idea remains materialistic, it cannot be the final revolution. They believe that the state is the owner of everything. But the state is not the owner; the real owner is God. When they come to this conclusion, then the communist idea will be perfect. We also have a communistic philosophy. They say that everything must be done for the state, but in our International Society for Krishna Consciousness we are actually practicing perfect communism by doing everything for Krishna. We know Krishna is the supreme enjoyer of the result of all work (bhoktaram yajna-tapasam). The communist philosophy as it is now practiced is vague, but it can become perfect if they accept the conclusion of the Bhagavad-gita, that Krishna is the supreme proprietor, the supreme enjoyer, and the supreme friend of everyone. Then people will be happy. Now they mistrust the state, but if the people accept Krishna as their friend, they will have perfect confidence in Him, just as Arjuna was perfectly confident in Krishna on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra. The great victory of Arjuna and his associates on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra showed that his confidence in Krishna was justified:
yatra yogesvarah krsno
yatra partho dhanur-dharah
tatra srir vijayo bhutir
dhruva nitir matir mama
“Wherever there is Krishna, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion.” (Bg. 18.78) So if Krishna is at the center of society, then the people will be perfectly secure and prosperous. The communist idea is welcome, provided they are prepared to replace the so-called state with God. That is religion.