What’s Jesus doing at Kerala Marxists’ exhibition?

via V R Jayaraj - Daily Pioneer published on February 7, 2012

Karl Marx had described religion as the opium of the masses but his disciples in Kerala are now considering Jesus Christ, the origination point of perhaps the strongest religion in the world, as an indivisible part of the history of revolution and martyrdom.

That seems to be the only explanation for the presence of the picture of Jesus Christ among the imposing portraits of communist revolutionaries like Ernesto (Che) Guevara and various social reformers at the CPI(M)’s history exhibition titled “Marx Alone is Right” at the Putharikkandam Grounds in Thiruvananthapuram.

Christ’s picture at the CPI(M) exhibition is featuring in the section, “Martyrdom, from Christ to Che”. The show is one of the several programmes being held in Thiruvananthapuram where the State conference of the CPI(M) is to be held from February 7 to 10 prior to the 20th national congress of the party which Kozhikode will host from April 4 to 9.

About Christ’s presence at the Marxist exhibition, a senior priest of the Syro-Malabar Church said half-jokingly that communists were now depending on Jesus because personalities like Marx and Lenin had been outdated. “But they will meet with failure if the attempt is to describe Jesus as a communist,” he said.

“It is nothing but a survival strategy for them. They will go back to symbols of piety and spiritualism and interpret them as historical signs of liberation. That is understandable when their Gurus are outdated. However, we should welcome it if the Marxists are now returning to Christian or Jewish thoughts,” said the priest.

However, theoreticians of the CPI(M), which had just two years ago issued a directive stipulating that partymen, especially office-bearers, should not indulge in religious or spiritual activities despite the public position that the party was not against faith, are not timid this time about the display of the Jesus picture at the grand event.

“How can the Church claim exclusive right over Christ?” asks a Marxist theoretician running around to make the State meet a success. “Christ symbolizes human love and the ultimate sacrifice a man can make for the sake of humanity. His goal was liberation of mankind. Why can’t Marxists revere him as a martyr?” he asked.

But recent history of the CPI(M) in Kerala reveals that this is not the first time the Marxists have resorted to using the picture of Jesus Christ for political purposes. The Wayanad district unit of the party had sparked off a controversy after a hoarding it put up during its conference in December showed a Jesus picture along with that of Marx.

The incident caused heated discussions within the party while Christians in the area came out in protest saying it hurt their religions sentiments. The hoarding was later removed. Even before that, a CPI(M) campaign board in a Thrissur village with a huge concentration of Christian population had featured the picture of Virgin Mary much to the dislike of the Church.

Meanwhile, the State committee of the CPI(M) on Thursday approved the draft of the working report to be presented at the State conference. The report is said to be highly critical of octogenarian leader and central committee member VS Achuthanandan, arch enemy of the official neo-liberalist leadership headed by State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan.

As CPI(M)-watchers are predicting that the Thiruvananthapuram conference will turn out to be Waterloo of Achuthanandan, the draft report says that his positions on the SNC Lavalin corruption case, in which Pinarayi is the seventh accused, and the Mullaperiyar dam row between Kerala and Tamil Nadu had caused embarrassment to the party.

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