Chinese Marxist Philosophy

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 Academy to the current day.

There was an initial phase between 1900-1930 in which Marxist philosophy was imported into China and translated from German, Russian and Japanese. 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. From the 1930s a formalization of Chinese DiaMat took place, 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, with the Dengist reforms, there was the large-scale translation and influence of works of Western Marxism and Marxist Humanism.

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.[1] 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. [2]

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.[3]

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.[4]

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. [5]

Wang Ruoshui was initially a major advocate of the Maoist One Divides into Two line during the Cultural Revolution.[6] 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". [7]

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. [8]

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.[10]


  1. ^ History and Will: Philosophical Perspectives of Mao Tse-tung's Thought. 
  2. ^ [Marxist Philosophy in China : From Qu Qiubai to Mao Zedong, 1923-1945: Marxist Philosophy in China : From Qu Qiubai to Mao Zedong, 1923-1945:]. 
  3. ^ Chinese Dialectics: From Yijing to Marxism. 
  4. ^ Philosophy and Politics in China: The Controversy Over Dialectical .... 
  5. ^ In Defense of Lost Causes. 
  6. ^ From Post-Maoism to Post-Marxism: The Erosion of Official Ideology in Deng's. 
  7. ^ Three Major Struggles on China's Philosophical Front (1949-64). 
  8. ^ China's Intellectuals: Advise and Dissent. 
  9. ^ "The Party's urgent tasks on the organizational and ideological fronts". Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  10. ^ High Culture Fever: Politics, Aesthetics, and Ideology in Deng's China.