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Paresh Chattopadhyay and his time

Originally published: Mainstream on February 17 2023 by Pradip Baksi (more by Mainstream) (Posted Feb 24, 2023)

Paresh Chattopadhyay/Pareshda1 was born in Rudrakar of undivided Bengal. That place is now located within the Shariatpur district of Bangladesh. He died in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

I had only one face to face encounter with him. It was sometime in 1966. I was then an enthusiastic supporter of the “Cultural Revolution” launched by Mao Zedong and some of his colleagues in Beijing and Shanghai. In those days Pareshda taught at the IIM, Calcutta and signed some of his articles in the now defunct Now as C.C. Paresh. A friend of mine and I liked some of those articles and we sought an interview with him. He gracefully granted us one. We gave him a copy of one of our publications and opened our move by asking him about his views on Stalin. He was very critical of Stalin and his legacy. Blissfully unaware of his exposure to the Council Communists and to some other streams of dissident communists and marxists of Central and Western Europe and fortified by the ignorant arrogance of greenhorns, we promptly concluded that Pareshda was a Trotskyist and our meeting was over. After a gap of about four and a half decades we started exchanging emails, from around the middle of 2012, thanks to the efforts of Sankar Ray/Sankarda.2 The three of us shared some common interests in the progress of the second Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe or MEGA2.3

Pareshda was active as a student and a teacher in the three cities of Kolkata, Paris and Montreal, located in three different continents and cultural milieus, during the days of the last cold war and beyond. He was trained as an economist and taught economics, sociology and some related topics of statistics. Some of my own teachers were his contemporaries at the University of Calcutta. He was, perhaps, one of our first students andfor us South Asiansour first teacher exposed to all the 15 volumes of Karl Marx’s “Capital” and the work preparatory to it.4

During the last decade of his life Pareshda tirelessly insisted that all of us interested in Marx’s Critique of Political Economy as a discipline must study the corresponding texts in the original languages and he tried to set an example, wherever possible, through his own use of Marx’s texts in the original languages. The translations of Marx’s texts that came down to us in South Asia and elsewhere during the twentieth century were edited by people who used several varieties of the ideological filters of marxism-leninism, first manufactured in the erstwhile USSR and then recycled through the UK, USA and PRC. Consequently, these translations remain transcreations masquerading as Marx’s texts. Hence the need to study Marx’s texts in the languages of the originals. This approach is not appreciated by most of our anglophone communists and marxists. They continue to conflate Marx’s texts with many kinds of marxisms and subscribe to the contra-historical, and hence idealist, belief that Marx was the first marxist. At the first level this reluctance to engage with Marx’s texts in the original languages and the habit of clinging to their incorrect English translations may be indicative of our psychological inertia and laziness about learning new languages. At the subsequent levels it reflects some deep-going cultural processes of our societies that have repeatedly transformed our searches for truth, beauty, goodness and justice into their opposites.

In the past we have translated the heterodox discourses of Śākyamuni Buddha, critical of the dominant Dharmas and Darshans of South Asia of his time that are conjectured to have been delivered in some of the yet to be reconstructed Middle Indic dialect(s) into some varieties of codified Pāli, Sáṃskṛtam, Tibetic, Mongolic, Chinese etc. literary languages, and transformed them into their opposites, namely, into the dogmatic canonical texts of the various sects of the Southern, Northern and Eastern Bauddha Dharmas and Darshans, crafted to serve the interests of various sanghas and empires of Asia.

Right now our criminal rulers are busy weaponizing the attitude of benign personal Bhakti towards the protagonist of the ancient poetic text titled Rāmāyaṇam, transcreated and transformed into the medieval text called the Rāmacaritamānasa, to organize violent pogroms and governmental repressions against our Muslims and Christians, our humiliated and tormented labouring castes and tribes, and against all shades of liberals and dissidents even from within our hegemonic castes, to consolidate their own power and to destroy every institution of our early modern civil and political societies that comes in their way. Who could have imagined that a fictional “rabble” and their lord despised by Madhusudan in the middle of the nineteenth century5 would be invoked by some rabble-rousing warlords in real time to turn India that is Bharat into a wasteland in the twenty-first ?

To study the texts that have emerged from India the readers of other parts of the world have studied and continue to study our ancient, medieval and modern languages. To study Marx’s texts, we too have to study the ancient, medieval and modern languages of Europe that he used. Karl Marx and India-studies were born in Germany at around the same time. One of Marx’s teachers of Greek and Latin literature at the Bonn University August Wilhelm von Schlegel (1767-1845) was also one of the principal architects of India-studies in Western Europe. In spite of that originary connection, contemporary developments in Marx-studies, India-studies and Germany-studies remain almost unrelated terra incognita for most of us, and that even in these days of continuous accessibility of all sorts of texts on the world wide web.

Some have called Pareshda a hegelian marxist and placed him within a network of libertarian marxist tendency. In their own words: “Some current Hegelian Marxists of note include Christopher J. Arthur, Cyril Smith and Paresh Chattopadhyay, the latter two also influenced by Raya Dunayevskaya and Marxist-Humanism…”6. Yet others have called him an Indian-Canadian economist and placed him within the tradition of what they call western marxism.7

For me, personally, he was first and foremost a teacher. I have sought and obtained his advice on several occasions. He had advised me to start from Marx’s 1843 Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right while I was trying flesh out Marx’s brief untitled note starting with the sentence: “The history of the origin of the modern state or the French Revolution”(1844)8 in our own contexts. When I was studying Marx’s narratives on wage-labour with the aim of investigating the universe of familial labour without wages and did not have access to all the versions of those narratives, contained in the different variants of “Capital” I, available as the five volumes of MEGA2 II/5-109, he informed me about his own and Maximilien Rubel’s comparative readings of those versions. Over the last one decade we have occasionally exchanged some ideas and publications on some areas of our common interest. These included: our plural societies10, music11, Bengali and English literature12, history 13 and some issues related to the editing and translation of Marx’s texts.14

To understand Pareshda and his time we must study his texts in their original contexts. I conclude this note with a bibliography of his writings. It may be of some use for tracing the path of evolution of his ideas that have passed through many schools of the Bengali, French and Canadian marxisms and academic cultures, to engage with Marx’s texts in the original languages and in their original contexts. It lays no claim to completeness. I hope that others will add more of what they know about his texts and thus help create a more complete database for our present and future investigators interested in Marx’s open-ended critique of political economy as a discipline.

Paresh Chattopadhyay: A bibliography

I. Books

  • 1994: The Marxian concept of capital and the Soviet experience: essay in the critique of political economy, Westport etc.: Praeger.
  • 2016: Marx’s Associated Mode of Production: A Critique of Marxism, Cham: Springer Nature/Palgrave Macmillan.
  • 2018: Socialism and Commodity Production: Essay in MarxRevival, Leiden/Boston: Brill.
  • 2021: Socialism in Marx’s Capital: Towards a DealieanetedWorld, Cham: Springer Nature/Palgrave Macmillan.

II. Chapters in Books

  • 1985: Chapter 8. On the Problematic of ‘the State as Capitalist’ and Its Significance for the Third World: An Essay in the Critique of Political Economy: 129-153, in: Mitra, Ashok [Ed.], The truth unites: Essays in Tribute to Samar Sen, Calcutta: Subarnarekha.
  • 1993: Chapter 3. Bureaucracy and class in Marxism: 39-59, in Garston, Neil [Ed.], Bureaucracy: three paradigms, Boston: Kluwer.
  • 2004: Chapter 13. Socialism and Value Categories in Early Soviet Doctrine: Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin, Preobrazhensky: 219-232, in: Freeman, Alan et al [Ed.], The New Value Controversy and the foundations of Economics, Cheltenham etc.: Edward Elgar.
  • 2012: Chapter 12. Competition: 72-77; and, Chapter 23. Friedrich Engels: 144-148, in: Fine, Ben et al [Eds.], The ElgarCompanion to Marxist Economics, Cheltenham etc.: Edward Elgar.
  • 2014: Chapter 1. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels on communism: 37-52, in: Smith, Stephen A. [Ed.], The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism, Oxford: OUP.

III. Articles

III. Book Reviews

IV. Talk


  1. https://libcom.org/tags/paresh-chattopadhyay
    He was born on 01 January 1927 and died on 14 January 2023:
    I have not seen his birth certificate or matriculation certificate. Sankarda had some other information about his year of birth and held that Pareshda was born a few years later.
  2. https://kafila.online/2012/06/22/mega-the-recovery-of-marx-and-marxian-path-sankar-ray/
  3. MEGA2 I-IV:
  4. https://mega.bbaw.de/de/struktur/ii-abteilung
  5. “I despise Ram and his rabble;…”: Michael Madhusudan Dutt to Raj Narain Bose, in an undated letter written sometime between the 16th of January and the 29th of August 1861; see: letter no. 70 in: গুপ্ত,ক্ষেত্র [সম্পা.] (১৩৭০/1963), কবি মধূসূদন ও তাঁর পত্রাবলী [Poet Madhusudan and his letters]: ১৫৩, কলিকাতা: গ্রন্থনিলয়।
  6. Wright, Chris (2005):
  7. Van der Linden, Marcel (2007), Western Marxism and the Soviet Union: A Survey of Critical Theories and Debates since1917 (in Dutch 1989 and in German 1992), English translation by Jurrian Bendien, Leiden/Boston: Brill (2007): 266-270.
  8. MEGA2 IV/3(1998):11.
  9. See the webpage indicated on note [4] above.
  10. The Wancho people of the Patkai Hills; the hunter-gatherers of the corporate sector of our urban enclaves; our ongoing linguistic genocide; various streams of our Marxists.
  11. Computational musicological approach to the study of Hindustani Classical Music; Music and Marx. Pareshda was a trained singer in his youth. He lost his voice after some illness.
  12. Rabindranath Thakur, Satinath Bhaduri, Keston Sutherland, Martin Puchner and Keith Tribe
  13. Friedrich Engels, Victoria Woodhull and Julius Martov.
  14. Texts of some Russian editors of the MEGA2 II; reviews of some translations of Karl Marx’s “Capital” into Persian and Bahasa Indonesia
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