Chinese Marxist Philosophy
Chinese Marxist Philosophy is the philosophy of dialectical materialism that was introduced into China in the early 1900s and continues in the Chinese academia to the current day.
Marxist philosophy was initially imported into China between 1900 and 1930, in translations from German, Russian and Japanese. The Chinese translator of the Origin of Species, Ma Junwu, was also the first one who introduced Marxism into China. For Ma, evolutionism and Marxism are the secrets of social development. This was before the formal dialectical materialism of the Communist Party, in which many independent radical intellectuals embraced Marxism. Many of them would later join the Party. Chinese Dialectical Materialism began to be formalized during the 1930s, under the influence of Mitin’s New Philosophy. In the late 1930s, Chairman Mao Zedong would begin to develop his own sinified version of Dialectical Materialism that was independent of the Soviet Philosophy. Maoist Dialectics remained the dominant paradigm into the 1970s, and most debates were on technical questions of dialectical ontology. In the 1980s the Dengist reforms led to a large-scale translation and influence of works of Western Marxism and Marxist Humanism.
Development of the concept
Li Da (1890–1966) translated many of the early works of German social democracy and Soviet Marxism into Chinese. He Sinified the New Philosophy of Mark Borisovich Mitin in his Elements of Sociology. Ai Siqi translated many of Mitin’s works and helped introduce the New Philosophy to China. Early Chinese Marxism borrowed heavily from Soviet textbooks. Following Mitin, Ai Siqi attacked the idea of equality of contradictions between two unequal things. The Chinese Philosophers would strongly take the side of Mitin against Deborin. They were particularly influenced by his unity of theory and praxis. Mao Zedong would be influenced by these works in authoring his Lectures on Dialectical Materialism.
Mao Zedong was critical of the dialectical materialism of Stalin and notably never cited his Dialectical and Historical Materialism which was considered the foundational text of philosophical orthodoxy within the ComIntern. Mao criticized Stalin for dropping the Negation of the Negation from the laws of dialectics and for not recognizing that opposites are interconnected.
In the late 1930s, a series of debates were held on the extent to which Dialectical Logic was a supplement to or replacement for Formal Logic. A major controversy that would continue into the 1960s, was whether a dialectical contradiction was the same thing as a logical contradiction.
Mao later moved away from replicating the New Philosophy, and attempted to develop his own form of Marxism that heavily emphasized the centrality of On Contradiction and On Practice. Mao saw the struggle between opposites as the key to dialectics, and this would play a major role in the One Divides Into Two controversy of the 1960s. In Mao’s 1964 Talk On Questions Of Philosophy he rejected any possibility of synthesizing divided opposites. Negations was absolute and alternated in a bad infinity with affirmation.
Wang Ruoshui was initially a major advocate of the Maoist One Divides into Two line during the Cultural Revolution. But would later advocate Marxist humanism.
In 1973 Foreign Languages Press published Three Major Struggles on China’s Philosophical Front (1949–64). The three main philosophical debates revolved around The Theory of “Synthesized Economic Base”, the Question of the Identity Between Thinking and Being and the Theory of “Combine Two into One”.
In 1974, during the Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius there were major historiographical debates about the relative merits of the Confucian and Legalist schools. Legalism was interpreted as the progressive feudal ideology of the rising Qin against the decaying slave-holder ideology of Confucius.
In the post-Mao era there were major debates on the role that contradictions and alienation played within a Socialist society. Deng Xiaoping personally intervened against the Marxist Humanist trend in insisting that alienation was solely based on private property, and had no place in a socialist China.
In his 1983 speech The Party’s urgent tasks on the organizational and ideological fronts Deng said that
As to alienation, after Marx discovered the law of surplus value, he used that term only to describe wage labour in capitalist society, meaning that such labour was alien to the workers themselves and was performed against their will, so that the capitalist might profit at their expense. Yet in discussing alienation some of our comrades go beyond capitalism; some even ignore the remaining alienation of labour under capitalism and its consequences. Rather, they allege that alienation exists under socialism and can be found in the economic, political and ideological realms, that in the course of its development socialism constantly gives rise to a force of alienation, as a result of the activities of the main body of the society. Moreover, they try to explain our reform from the point of view of overcoming this alienation. Thus they cannot help people to correctly understand and solve the problems that have arisen in socialist society today, or to correctly understand and carry out the continual reform that is essential for our technological and social advance. On the contrary, their position will only lead people to criticize, doubt and negate socialism, to consider it as hopeless as capitalism and to renounce their confidence in the future of socialism and communism. “So what’s the point of building socialism?” they say.
Despite Deng’s condemnation, High Culture Fever continued to rise in China, with the work of Fredric Jameson being particularly popular.
Marxist philosophy in modern China
In modern China, Marxism is modified as the political ideology by the Communist Party of China to govern the party and the nation. The important concepts of Marxism, such as the ruling class and the ruling ideas, the material labor and the mental labor, superstructure and economic base, and the ideological state apparatuses, are used by the paramount leaders of People’s Republic of China to create guiding socio-political theories which make up the Chinese Marxist Philosophy. Two of the most important theories created by the leaders of China are: the Three Represents coined by the former leader of China, Jiang Zemin; and the Chinese Dream coined by Xi Jinping, the current General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. – Citation needed for all claims
How Marxism was applied to the Three Represents Theory
The formal statements of the Three Represents Theory are: Our party must always represent the requirements of China’s advanced productive forces, represents the orientation of China’s advanced culture, and represents the fundamental interests of the majority of the Chinese people. The Three Represents are in light of the ideas proposed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their article “the ruling class and the ruling ideas”.
First, Marx and Engels argued “to present its interest as the common interest of all the members of society, … the class making a revolution comes forward from the very start, … not as a class but as the representative of the whole of society, as the whole mass of society confronting the one ruling class”. Following Marx and Engels’ideas, the Chinese Communist Party which took over power from feudalism through revolution does not treat itself as the ruling class, but as the party that represents the interests of the majority of the society.
Second, from the perspective of the historically organic ideologies, “material forces are the content and ideologies are the form… the material forces would be inconceivable historically without form and the ideologies would be individual fancies without the material forces”. The Chinese Communist Party perceives that the material forces are the same as the productive forces, and the ideologies are another form of cultures. To put it another way, the productive forces are the economic bases and the ideologies are the superstructure. Therefore, the Chinese Communist Party represents both the advanced productive forces and the advanced culture.
Third, “one must bring an order into this rule of ideas, prove a mystical connection among the successive ruling ideas”, as indicated by Marx and Engels. The order of the Three Represents therefore reflects the successive ruling ideas. The Chinese Communist Party believes that the productive forces must come first than the advanced culture. Only when the Chinese people had the advanced productive forces, could they have the advanced culture. Therefore, the Chinese Communist Party represents the productive forces and then represents the advanced culture.
How Marxism was applied to the Chinese Dream
Xi Jinping proposed the Chinese Dream as a slogan when he visited to the National Museum of China. Xi said “young people should dare to dream, work assiduously to fulfill the dreams, and contribute to the revitalization of the nation”. Marx and Engels had similar concepts in their works. They proposed a new division of labor: mental labor and material labor. Mental labors control the means of mental production, and thus appear as the thinkers of the class and make the formation of the illusions. The material labors, however, are active members of the material production. Marx and Engels argued that since the material labors are in reality the active members of this class and have less time to make up illusions and ideas about themselves, they are passive and receptive to the mental labors’ illusions. The Chinese Dream draws knowledge from Marx and Engels’ ideas about “illusions”. Xi Jinping selected “dream” instead of “illusion” to reflect his ideas that Chinese people, especially the young generation, should dream. Xi did not say that the Chinese dream is made up by the mental labors; instead he argued that the Chinese dream should be made up by the young generation. By saying that the dream is not the ruling class’s illusion but the young generations’ own dream, Xi continued to recommend the young people to work hard and achieve the dream.
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