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Ideas of Marx still offer answers for today’s problems

Author  :  Zhang Qianyuan     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2018-05-24

In the speech delivered at the ceremony to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth, Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, pointed out that Marxist theory, like a spectacular sunrise, illuminates the path on which humans explore the law of history and seek their own emancipation. 

In the past two centuries, human society has undergone profound changes. The scientific theory named after Marx guides the progress of human society and still shines the light of truth. What endows Marxism with enduring vitality?

As a political activist, Marx had great aspirations and remained committed to the struggle for human liberation, fighting to overthrow the old world and replace it with a new one. As a scholar, he took up the mission and sought to climb the peak of thought despite difficulties and ordeals in order to pursue truth. Keeping in line with the times, sharing destiny with the people, focusing on and responding to the major tasks of the times and the reality—this is what makes Marxism ever renewed and vigorous. 

Practice-oriented outlook

Even in his youth, he proposed to alter the world. He said, “the philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” Speculative construction is indeed important, but it does not develop any real content. Speculation must, in order to attain some semblance of real content, try somehow to find its way back from the “Fruit.” In the early period of Marx’s career planning, he bore in mind the firm conviction to work for the perfection and happiness of his contemporaries.

During his later revolutionary career, he fought for the happiness of all mankind. He advocated the practical application of principles. Throughout his lifetime, he dedicated himself to combining the general law of human social development with the specific conditions of different countries, and applied the law based on the differentiated economic and political conditions of the countries, by which the strategy of the proletarian revolution can be found. 

Devotion to scientific theory

Marx endured unimaginable hardships in attempts to establish a scientific theoretical system. In the 1850s and 1860s, he devoted himself to the study of political economy. He usually did research in the library from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and would write at night until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. From the beginning of 1851 to the fall of the year, Marx read works by as many as 80 authors and carefully took notes. From August 1861 to June 1863, he wrote 1,472 quarto-sized pages of manuscripts, which took up a total of 23 notebooks. During the years of Marx’s theoretical study, illness could not stop him from thinking, poverty could not stop him from working, persecution could not make him yield, and displacement, homelessness did not preclude him from continuing to think. He was undaunted in the pursuit of truth.

Self-criticism for truth

While conducting scientific research, Marx tried to observe things according to their original looks, and understand them objectively by grasping the nature of the reality, instead of tailoring the facts based on the subjective personal or hierarchical need. Marx was loyal to the truth and never complacent about his theoretical achievement. In 1872, 24 years after the Communist Manifesto was published, he said frankly that the manifesto was out of date in many respects due to the development of big industry and the workers’ movement. It takes courage to criticize others in terms of theoretical research and it is especially valuable to be self-critical.

Meticulous scholarly attitude

That Marx was so meticulous and conscientious—even harsh—about his academic research is because he was bonding with the proletariat. In order for the working class to clearly understand his theory, he tried to use plain, easily understandable language. In his Reminiscences of Marx, Paul Lafargue, a French Marxist and Marx’s son-in-law, wrote that Marx was never satisfied with secondhand information. He always went to the source itself, no matter how tedious the process.

Capital contains so many quotations from obscure authors that one might think Marx wanted to show off how well read he was. He had no such intention. He considered himself obliged to name the author who had first expressed an idea or formulated it most correctly, no matter how insignificant and little known he was. His critics were never able to prove that he was negligent or that he based his arguments on facts which did not bear strict checking. 

Marx’s thought and theory, while stemming from the era he was living in, went beyond that era. They are both the essence of the spirit of that era and the spirit of all humanity. That we commemorate Marx today is to, under the guidance of the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, develop Marxism in the 21stcentury and in contemporary China, and keep writing the new chapter of adhering to and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era.


Zhang Qianyuan is a professor from the School of Marxism at Wuhan University.


(Edited and translated by BAI LE) 








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