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College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University

The Form of Mao Zedong's `Sinificant of Marxism' Author(s): Nick Knight Reviewed work(s): Source: The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, No. 9 (Jan., 1983), pp. 17-33 Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2159087 . Accessed: 24/04/2012 07:53
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THE FORM OF MAO ZEDONG'S 'SINIFICATION OF MARXISM' Nick Knight


The resolutionadopted by the Sixth Plenum of the EleventhCentral Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in June 1981 to of a represents major re-evaluation Mao Zedong's contribution Chinese of Marxism.Mao's 'theoryof continuedrevolutionunder the dictatorship and rationalised actionsof the Cultural the whichinformed the proletariat', Revolution, is denounced as 'entirelyerroneous';' likewise, during the decade from 1956 to 1966 Mao was guiltyof serious 'theoreticaland 2 in practical mistakesconcerningclass struggle a socialist society'. Such negativejudgmentsare, however,balanced in the resolutionby a strong of affirmation the positiverole played by Mao duringthe pre-Liberation and practical policies are period, and both his theoreticalcontributions of victory theChineserevolution: to viewedas central the eventual
In the 22 yearsfrom1927 to 1949, Comrade Mao Zedong and otherParty difficulties graduallyworked and leaders managed to overcomeinnumerable and specificpolicies and directedtheirimplementaout an overallstrategy defeatsto great tion, so thatthe revolutionwas able to switchfromstaggering victory.Our Partyand people would have had to grope in the dark much longerhad it not been forComrade Mao Zedong, who more than once rescued the Chinese revolutionfromgravedanger,and forthe Central Committeeof the Partywhichwas headed by him and which chartedthe correctpolitical course for the whole Party,the whole people and the firm, people's army.3

to It seems clear that the presentChineseleadershave attempted staketheir of on claim to ideologicallegitimacy theiradherenceto and utilisation the the developedand utilisedby Mao during pretype of ChineseMarxismfirst the Yan'an period (1936-47). Since Liberationyears,and especiallyduring the Sixth Plenummanyarticleshave appearedin theChinesepressextolling various aspects of Mao's contribution theoryduring to the Yan'an period,
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and it is evidentthat the typeof ChineseMarxismwhichbecamedominant withinthe CPC at that time is now being elevated as a model which the is as present leadership keen to be perceived emulating. One element of this pre-Liberation Chinese Marxismwhich has been of of singledout for praise is its integration the universal truths Marxism with the realities of Chinese society and the Chinese revolution.The the resolutionof the Sixth Plenumin factperceives originof Mao Zedong Thought thisintegration: in
had of OurParty creatively and appliedthebasictenets Marxism-Leninism integrated with concrete them the of practice theChinese revolution. this In of cameintobeing the way,thegreat system Mao ZedongThought and correct pathto victory theChinese for revolution charted. was Thisis a major contribution Marxism-Leninism.4 to

The currentemphasis on Mao's pre-Liberation contributions Marxist to theory makes it appropriate and relevant to raise for discussion the distinctive mannerin whichMao addressedthisproblemof integrating the universal theoryof Marxism withthe 'concretepractice'of Chinesesociety and theChineserevolution. This processof integration described Mao was by in thelate 1930s as the 'sinification Marxism', of and it is thepurposeof this of paper to analyse the form of this sinification Marxismat Mao's hands. In other words,this paper will examinethe logic whichpermitted Mao to of harmonisehis insistenceon the universality Marxismas a theoryof history withhis simultaneous on emphasis theneed to pay close attention to Chineseparticularities. contentof thissinified The Marxism(such as Mao's emphasis on the peasantry,the establishment rural base areas, the of of the encirclement the citiesfrom countryside) not be considered. will Western of critiquesof Mao's sinification Marxism have tendedto cluster around two lines of interpretation. The firstof these suggeststhat the sinification Marxism of a was essentially function Mao's sinocentrism of and entailedthe elevationof Chinese tradition and realitiesat the expense of Marxism'suniversaltruths.5The second argues that the sinification of Marxismwas a ploy utilisedby Mao to enhance his own position in the power struggle withtheMoscow-oriented Returned Students'Faction which had favoureda more orthodoxEuropean and Sovietreadingof Marxism.6 The following analysiswill suggestthat Mao's sinification Marxism of was neitherof these, that it was ratheran attemptto establisha formulaby which a universal theorysuch as Marxismcould be utilisedin a particular national context and culturewithoutabandoningthe universality that of theory. In orderto comprehend manner whichMao approachedthe sinificain the tion of Marxismit is first to on necessary comment briefly Mao's distinctive philosophyof science,for this was an important factorin facilitating his

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theory withChinesenationalparticularities. integration a universal of of Mao Zedong'sPhilosophy Science on was based firmly the beliefthat methodology Mao's view of scientific access the the inductivemethodrepresented only reliablemeansof gaining to of the 'truth'of the 'objectiveworld'.According Mao, an investigation to of this objective world commencedfromnumerousobservations specific draw shouldthe investigator numerous observations and onlyafter instances, fromthe (in conclusionsor generalisations the formof laws or principles) rejectedthe deductiveapproach,and available evidence.Mao consistently scientific to method: it perceived as contrary Marxist
definitions. from reality notfrom and we start a In discussingproblem, should to us ... WeareMarxists, Marxism and teaches thatinourapproach a problem and start from not abstract definitions, that we should objective facts, from from an our and policies measures we shouldderive guiding principles, facts.7 of analysis these

use in methodis captured his frequent Mao's conceptionof the inductive of the four-character phrase 'seekingtruthfromfacts' (shishiqiu shi). He of definedthe components thisphraseas follows:"'Facts" are all the things that exist objectively,"truth" means the internalrelationsof objective (guilixing),and "to seek" meansto study'.8 namelytheir regularities things, for approach',9 To 'seek truthfromfacts' represented Mao 'the scientific in the and in orderto pursuethisapproachone had to 'appropriate material 0 and synthesis'.' detailand subjectit to scientific analysis are the end AlthoughMao made it quite clear that laws and principles of resultof numerous observations thefunctioning thereal world,he was of somewhat reticent about what constituted a sufficientnumber of unusual of observations priorto the formulation suchlaws. Fromtherather mannerin whichMao employedthe concept'law' (guilU)it is probablethat by as he regardedthe necessarynumberof observations beingdetermined and believed that a the nature of the phenomenonunder investigation, had been made when themesand trends sufficient numberof observations appeared to the observer.There are no clear guidelinesin Mao's Yan'an on nevertheless, examining by writings the actual processof law derivation; the mannerin which Mao employed the termguilu, we can make some on comments the statusof 'law' in his thought. general In the philosophy of science as this has developed in the Western sense) has come tradition conceptof 'law' (in the scientific the intellectual of of This validdescription the behaviour a category. to denote a universally of description(in the inductiveparadigm)is foundedon the observation The numerousspecificinstanceswithinthe categoryunder investigation. assumptionis made that, because all observedinstancesin that category

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in behaved a certain manner a and (thatis, indicated regular predictable in all instances thatcategory behavein a like will pattern behaviour), of The important manner. pointis thata law is basedon thepresumption of exact replication all instances(observed of and unobserved) withina that the category; is,that lawhasa universal validity. AlthoughMao explicitlyespoused an inductive methodology, his to approach the derivation laws (of society, of history, forexample) war, in detailfromthisinductive departed important to paradigm. According Mao, although laws of universal statusdid exist,it was possible also to derivelaws whichdid not have such universal and whichwere status, applicable instances within general a onlyto particular That category. itwas in possible Mao'sviewto formulate 'laws'of specific (rather universal) than is if validity madeevident we examine analysis thephenomenon his of of war. In a document 1936 entitled of 'Problems strategy China's in of revolutionary Maomakes following war', the comment:
... thedifferent fordirecting aredetermined thedifferent laws wars by circumstances thosewars- differences their of in time, placeand nature

(xingzhi). As regardsthe timefactor,both war and its laws develop; each historical stagehas its special characteristics, hence the laws in each and historical stage have theirspecial characteristics cannot be mechanically and applied in anotherstage. As forthe natureof war, since revolutionary war and counter-revolutionary both have theirspecial characteristics, laws war the themalso have theirown characteristics, those applyingto one and governing cannot be mechanicallytransferred the other.As forthe factorof place, to own characteristics, laws of war foreach countryor nation also have the theirown characteristics, here,too, those applyingto one cannot be and to mechanically transferred the other.In studying laws fordirecting the wars that occur at different historicalstages,that differ natureand that are in waged in different places and by different nations,we mustfix our attention on the characteristics developmentof each, and mustoppose a mechaniand

sinceeachcountry nation, or a especially large or has country nation, its

I cal approach theproblem war. I to of

It is clearly evident from thisinteresting passagethatMao rejected the notion thatthere onlybe lawsof warin general. thecontrary, is can On it and possible desirable seekout lawsdescribing regularities specific to the of as of theatres war. Thisis because lawsofwardevelop, the altering thenature of war itself in alters. from events one geographical may Laws arising area be relevant another in not in place,orfor that matter thesamelocation a at different time.The laws. warmayalso vary of to of according the 'nature' it war,whether is revolutionary counter-revolutionary. a 'law' or In fact, from particular situation a maybe derived war which, of because theunique of time, admixture in placeand 'nature', maybe inapplicable anyother war A situation. 'law' thusbecomes description theregularitiesa specific a of of instance a general of category example, particular (for a battle campaign), or rather thanof thecategory itself this (in case,waringeneral). 'law'ofthis A

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law indicates,however,that a 'law' may have a relativeand temporary validityonly, its applicabilityover and above the specificcircumscribed of of by the improbability an exact replication the constituent of features the instancefromwhich the law was derived.Mao, indeed,referred the to of historical relativity the 'laws' thathe employed:'all thelaws fordirecting war develop as historydevelops and as war develops; nothingis changeless'.12 In Mao's hands, a 'law' does not automatically have a generalor universalvalidity,but provides at the level of the specificinstance an useful in understanding interpretation that specific instance. The very of specificity such a 'law' is conducive to an appreciationof the exact of regularities a specificinstance,and may be of some use in providing practical lessons for the understanding other instances within the of category; no assumption can be made, however, that an immediate extrapolationor predictioncan be made on the basis of such a specific 'law'. From Mao's references such specific'laws' it seems in fact that the to or notion of extrapolation prediction role. A specific'law' playeda minimal rathera description the internalrelationships a specific represented of of instance,and the regularities those relationships. of Mao emphasisedthe interpretation such regularities, of rather than insistingon a necessary correlation between these regularities and those evidentin otherinstances withinthe same category.Such correlative of regularities might courseexist, but in the applicationof a 'law' derived from a one instance within category

in sorthas a validity onlyforthe instance question, and becauseof the (perhaps) unrepeatable nature of that specificinstancecan have no pretension a general to validity other for instances within category a the as whole. It could be arguedthat for Mao the specificinstancebecame (for of in purposes law derivation) category itself. a However, an argument such involves two problems. Firstly, suggests possibility an infinite it the of in regression which category capableofcontinued a is subdivision provide to increasingly more specific laws havingincreasingly general less validity. of thereis the problem repeatability. Secondly, Inductive procedure (to which Mao subscribed) demands a scientific must that law describe feature a whichwillbe exactly in of a category A repeated every instance. law thus has a predictive capacitywhichis premised the repeatability the on of behaviour thecategory of law.It appears described that by certain, however, thatMao was notoverly concerned repeatability, he wasto accord with and of the statusof law to descriptions unrepeatable In instances. this specific the conception, conceptof law as having highdegree predictability a of withinthe same categoryis undermined. amongstother instances In conventional usage,a law derived induction a universally stateby is valid of of Mao's handling theconcept of ment abouta characteristic a category;

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in to to sensitive possibledifferences other one had necessarily remain application a 'law' thegeneral of instances, orderto avoida mechanical in of be by of applicability whichmight limited the uniqueness the specific underThis to it instance from which was derived. pointis central a proper of of instance. Mao standing Mao's concept 'law' at thelevelof thespecific of in largely formulation in levelforitsutility, was interested a 'law' at this in evident one and Knowledge theregularities of strategy. political military of instante (thatis, its 'law') couldaid in theinterpretationtheregularities if but applied, could of a related instance, suchknowledge, mechanically and underconsideration lead specific the instance to concealregularities or to As out,'the strategies tactics. Mao wasto point subsequently mistaken and specialcharacteristics stagehavetheir laws of war in each historical 3 in be stage'.1 applied another cannot mechanically of couldbe no transcendence Arewe to assume, then, thatforMao there of validity? a to the specitic allow the formulation laws having universal element Mao's thought in doubta Heraclitean Although thereis without in ofthat it ('nothing changeless'), is alsocertain he believed theexistence is transcending) norms whilebuilt which, upon(butat thesametime universal of for and a thespecific, provided framework theinterpretation explanation of laws the Mao perceived derivation suchuniversal as nature and society. the to inductive logic)from specific thegeneral. proceeding accordwith (in the between specific the If one is to arrive objective at truth, connection 'In thenature things, particular of the mustbe maintained: and thegeneral from theydepart are linked;once separated and the general inseparably ' for the that, Mao,the'laws'governing specific objective truth'." It appears which were blocksfrom 'laws'of wider generality constituted building the on of thisinductive andrelying an pyramid resting each constructed, level lowerlevel of generality, untilthe entire edifice restedon immediately instance. at 'laws'describing regularitiesthelevelofthespecific in in originates direct experience', Mao's 'all knowledge Although genuine recorded ancestors contemporaries and by accumulated and viewexperience could be coupled with one's own direct experience) (that is, indirect of of to experience providethe data forthe construction thispyramid provided theywere 'scientifically 'laws'.'s Laws previously formulated, in of could be employed fromthe directexperience others, abstracted' view it a Thus, Mao'scriteria, wasvalidto by completingscientific ofreality. reflecsuchas Marxism representing as a scientific theory accepta universal if to with tionof objective reality it had beenconstructed regard thenorms from particular the universal, the to and of inductive building procedure, abstracted'indirect utilisingthe distilled wisdom of 'scientifically Mao did not perceive, between therefore, contradiction any experience. world for under overarching view, he an an methodology utilising empiricist dialectical historical and that acceptedimplicitly thisworldview(Marxist

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materialism) been constructed accordance had in withthe idiosyncratic inductionist which espoused he methodology his throughout productive life. There are obviouslyserious difficulties with Mao's position.The of construction an inductive to the of pyramid permit formulation universal lawsis threatened Mao'sinsistence 'laws'ofthespecific that by instance may not be capable of replication. This absenceof the criterion repeatof ability framing in 'laws'of low generality intoquestion possibility calls the of utilising such 'laws' as the raw material fromwhichgeneral laws be on Mao's insistence building might constructed. from particular the to the general may thushave restedon an unresolved contradiction his in methodological approach. important The pointremains, however, Mao that believedit possibleto formulate both universal laws and specific 'laws', however tenuousthe methodological connection betweenthem.It will becomeevident that thisdistinction between universal laws and specific 'laws' was central themanner which to in Mao approached problem the of a sinifying Marxism, taking universal theory providingwith national and it a form without from detracting itsuniversal status. The FormofMao's 'Sinification Marxism' of It was stressed thelastsection one ofthedistinguishing in that features of Mao's approach the interpretation phenomena his insistence to of was on the grasping regularities whichcharacterise specific the instance, his and concomitant distrust applying of principles laws in an undiscriminating or manner whichignored such distinguishing regularities thelevelof the at specific instance. Thissensitivity theimportance grasping specific to of the manifestation general of or principles lawsled Mao to perceive Marxism in a methodology capableof facilitating questforcomprehension the his of In particular. keeping withthisposition, Mao appears havebeenlargely to uninterested the historically in specific contentof Marx'sanalyses, and nowhere the Yan'an writings there in does appearany attempt givea to coherent exposition any of theMarxist of classics. This absenceof interpretive textscannotbe regarded accidental, an oversight to the as or due of exigencies thewarsituation. thecontrary, wouldhaveregarded On Mao aimedat elucidating content suchclassics a singular exegesis the of as waste of time,forthe utility suchcontent of wouldbe limited the particuby larities the societywhichhad been the object of investigation. of This hostility uncritical of thecontent theMarxist to use of classics reflected is in clearly a document 1941 entitled of 'Resolution theCentral of Committee of the ChineseCommunist Partyon the Yan'an Cadre School'. In this resolution, Mao's insistence theseparation thecontent theMarxist on of of classics from their 'essence' emerges clearly:
At present fundamental the weakness theYan'anCadreSchoolliesinthelack of of contact between and theory practice, between whatis studied whatis and

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THE AUSTRALIANJOURNAL CHINESE AFFAIRS OF and exists serious the fault subjectivism dogmatism. of applied, there and Thisfault manifests itself letting in students study plethora a [dadui;literally, 'large heaps'] ofabstract Marxist-Leninist and principles, notpaying attention hardly (or to paying attention) understanding essence how their and in to applythem theconcrete Chinese In situation. order correct to this it be of defect, must stressed thepurpose thestudy Marxist-Leninist that of is to theory to enablethestudent correctly applyit in theresolution the of of practical problems theChinese and revolution, nottheill-digested and cramming recitation principles of found books.Firstly, must in we let the students and of distinguish words sentences Marxism-Leninism its from we let essence; secondly, must thestudents this .. comprehend essence .; the thirdly, students muststudy gainmastery applying essence and over this in China'sconcrete all environment; formalistic, hollowstudy to be is In abandoned. order achieve purpose, to this besides Marxistteaching Leninist in education Chinese theories, and history conditions, Party and 6 and history policy, be must increased.1

It is obvious from this quote that Mao's confidencein Marxismhad nothingto do with the content of Marx's analyses. Such content was capitalism)at a particular historical moment(the mid-nineteenth century). The historicalcharacteristics that particularconjuncturedescribedby of Marx, such as its class structure and the nature of its class struggle, were perceived by Mao as the historically specificcontent of Marx's analysis, somethingwhich had to be differentiated fromthe generalprinciples or laws whichMarx formulated. is important note thatMao regarded It to such and laws of Marxism-Leninism 'abstract'and not necessarily principles as of immediaterelevanceor utilityin the Chinese context.Mao regarded such or abstractprinciples laws of Marxism-Leninism constituted assertions as of of the universalised status of certainphenomena.Althoughhe implicitly he accepted theirvalidity, did not accept thatsuch assertions, themselves, of could indicate the mannerin which such phenomenafoundmanifestation in specifichistorical situations. The abstractuniversal of class struggle law is a good example. Class struggle a universally is existing social phenomenon; of it is characteristic all societiesexcept the most primitive. However,the Marxist whichasserts universality class struggle nothing say, law ofthe has to in Mao's view,about the mannerin whichclass struggle withina particular historicaland socio-economiccontext will be made manifest.Thus, this law (whilederiving universal from of initially observations numerous specific instances)remains'abstract'in the absence of its applicationto determine the formit mighttake in a further specificinstance.It is in thissense that
necessarily specific to a particular mode of production (Western European

elementin Mao's thoughtcould coexist witha confidencein certainoveror laws and principles. arching universal Mao's conflictwith the 'dogmatists'withinthe CPC must be seen as

Mao could accept the principles of Marxism as being universallyvalid, while at the same time being 'abstract'. It is also in this sense that the empiricist

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contradistinction Mao, the 'dogmatists'believed that the content of to Marx's study of the dynamics of WesternEuropean capitalismand its resultant class structure and strugglehad relevance in the Chinese revolutionary context,despite the dissimilarity conditions.This content of the of encompassedprinciples describing regularities the particular historical whichMarxhad analysed,suchas thatdescribing class structure situation the in prevailing Western European capitalism.Such principles werenot perceived by the 'dogmatists' havingonly a localisedapplicability, as however, and wereregarded representing universal the as of Mao insisted, truths Marxism. Marx's writings Europe it was necessary on to the contrary, that in utilising or to abstracta more generalised principle law fromthe contentin orderto allow its application elsewhere.He regardedthe process of deriving such or universally applicable abstractions laws as a scientific procedurewhich permitted construction the ultimate the of levelin the inductionist pyramid. By this procedure, Marx's generalisationsor 'laws' describingspecific in instanceswithina category (class struggle nineteenth centuryEurope) could be separatedfromthe law whichdescribedthe categoryin general or universal terms(class struggle existsin all societiessave the mostprimitive). in Marx's generalisations about the class structure Europe and elsewhere were consequently for the equivalent, Mao, to specific'laws'. By abstracting generalprinciplefromsuch specific'laws', it was possibleto derivelaws at laws whichhad a universal the highest level of generality, and which validity or were not constrainedby any historically culturallyspecificcontent. in the law whichassertedthe ubiquityof class struggle Therefore, universal all societies except the most primitivewould direct attention to the of withinsociety,but could not suggest centrality classes and class struggle in how class structure struggle or would be made manifest any particular of societyat any point in time.The disclosure the natureof class structure and strugglewithin such a specific context could result only from an empirical analysisto disclosethe specific'laws' of thatcontext. In his 'sinification'speech of October 1938 ('On the new stage') Mao 7 insisted thatMarxism was 'universally applicable'.1 It is clear,however, that Mao refusedto entertain or the notion that the specificprinciples 'laws' arising from Marx's analysis of European capitalismpossessed universal natureof thehistorical status,fortheirrelevancewas limitedby the specific situationfromwhich they had arisen.To isolate the universal of character what was requiredwas a processof abstraction Marxism, (divorcing principle from content) wherebyhistorically limited 'laws' could produce universal laws divorced from specifichistoricallimitations.The principlesor laws resultingfrom this process were necessarily 'abstract', for they were theiruniversal basicallydevoid of any contentwhichcould restrict validity. The functionof such universallaws was to posit the generalor universal

In primarily profound a disagreement thisinterpretationMarxism. over of

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but existenceof certainphenomena(such as class struggle) not to anticipate take in any concretesituation thatsuchphenomena might the specificforms or historical moment.It is in thissense thatMarxismcould be 'universally towardssuchphenomena. to applicable',forit served directattention regarding nature the laws or abstractions Yet thisproduction universal of for of the world represented Mao only the firstelementin the equation which constituted The production such universal of laws was not Marxism. of an end in itself;the laws had to be utilisedto guide investigation the phenomenathey describedat an abstractlevel, at the level of the specific law could aid in the elucidationof the instance. In this way, a universal law and particular, only by theunionof thetwo could theuniversal cease to be an abstraction with no content.Withoutapplicationto determine the of specificmanifestation the universallaw, the universallaw necessarily remained'abstract'in that the link betweenthe particular and the general in Marxismcould not be abstract thissense,forit was defined was ruptured. the and (in Mao's mind)as theunityof the particular theuniversal, universal The being applied and given specific form at the level of the particular. universal in Marxism toto,but rather premises Marxismdid not represent of one element of a complete ideology. As a complete ideology, Marxism universal 'abstract')laws utilisedto disclose'laws' at thelevel comprised (or of the particular instance;Marxismwould remainincompletewithoutthe in union of the universal when and particular this manner.Consequently, only Mao assertedin 'On the new stage' that 'thereis no abstractMarxism, 8 thatMarxism a completeideology as concreteMarxism,' he was indicating was defined by the use of its abstractions universallaws in specific or rather than that there were no abstractionsin historicalcircumstances, Marxism all. The function 'abstract' of at Marxism was to provideuniversally the of applicable laws whichwould facilitate elucidationof the regularities historicalinstance.Withoutthese abstractions the particular (its universal would be the result: withoutthe application laws), an aimlessempiricism the of such universal to laws or abstractions specifichistoricalsituations, on ideologywould become a sterileacademic exercise.Mao's insistence the application of the universallaws of Marxismto Chinese conditions was on view of Marxism, therefore rather thanon predicated his own distinctive a capricious desire to bend or distortthe ideology in favourof China's empiricalrealities. Mao perceived his view of Marxism as theoretically on tenable,and thisbecause of (ratherthanin spite of) his heavyemphasis of to the universal of applying principles Marxism theactualities the Chinese revolution Chinesesociety. and Thus Marxism's of utility did not end withthe provision certainuniversally applicable abstractionsor laws. Mao also perceived in Marxisma methodologywhereby such abstractionscould be applied to concrete of was an integral that is, the processof applicationitself feature situations;

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the total ideology of Marxism.As Mao was to point out in 'On the new to stage',it was necessary study'the viewpoint[lichang] and methodology with which they [Marx and Lenin] observedand solved problems'.'9 Mao interpreted this Marxistmethodologyfor the study of society as having several essential features.These included a consciousnessof history, the analysis of a situationin its entirety, and class analysis. Mao perceived these threemethodological features Marxismas providing key which of the would disclose the manner in which the universalmanifesteditselfas within specifichistoricalinstances.It was necessary(by the regularities employment thisapplicationprocedure)to seek the universal of withinthe Marxismwould remainan incompleteideological systemif the particular; universal and particular were not conjoinedin this fashion.Mao could only conceiveof Marxismas a completesystemin its application.Consequently, Marxism in the Chinese context consisted of Marxism's universallaws applied in a certainmannerto disclose the regularities specific'laws') (or which characterisedChinese society and the Chinese revolution.Once disclosed, the specific 'laws' describing characterising aspects of Chinese society and the Chinese revolutionbecame (for Mao) an integral part of Marxismwithinthat historically definedsituation.It is in this sense that Mao could call forthe sinification Marxism, forwithinthathistorically of defined situation Marxism could only become complete through its sinification:
Thereis no suchthing abstract as but Marxism. Marxism, onlyconcrete What we call concrete Marxism Marxism hastakenon a national is that that form, in is,Marxism appliedto theconcrete conditions struggle theconcrete in and notMarxism prevailing China, used.If a Chinese abstractly who Chinese Communist, is partof thegreat people. . . talksofMarxism Chinese this is an abstracapartfrom peculiarities, Marxism merely empty tion.Consequently, Sinification Marxism thatis to say,making of the that certain in all itsmanifestationsis imbued it with Chinese peculiarities, it to thatmust using according thosepeculiarities becomes problem a be understood solvedbythewholeParty and without delay.20

From this perspective, the sinification Marxismwas not a questionof of the elevation of Chinese realities at the expense of ideology, but the completionof Marxismas an ideological system.Inherent Mao's sinifiin cation of Marxism is the notion that Marxismas a complete ideological thanjust a seriesof universal system(rather laws or abstractions) definable is only within a concrete historical context, and this because there is in Marxisma necessaryunion between the universaland the regularities (or to laws drawattention. specific'laws') of the particular whichthe universal of Thus, althoughthe sinification Marxism is, as Wylieclaims,a 'culturally 1 chargedterm',2 it does not claim culturalprivilege overMarxism. Within a laws would need to be different cultural- historical or context,the universal

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situation. Because these regularitieswould be differentfrom those of the Chinese context, that particular Marxism would differ accordingly. Both, nevertheless, would share a common stock of universal laws. Mao was to repeat, in 'On New Democracy' (1940), this necessity for a union between the universal truths of Marxism and the regularities characterising the Chinese situation: ... in applying Marxism China, to Chinese Communists fully must and the truth Marxism properly integrate universal of with concrete the practice or of theChinese the truth Marxism of revolution, in other words, universal must be combined withspecific and national characteristics acquirea definite if and national form it is to be useful, inno circumstances itbe applied can as formula.22 subjectively a mere

conjoinedwiththe regularities (specific'laws') characteristic thatunique of

Here again, the emphasis was on Marxism as finding completion (and through this completion, utility) by its integrationwithin an historicallyand culturallyspecific setting. This view of Marxism led logically to an insistence on the need for close attention to the particular characteristics of Chinese society and history. Mao was to returnto this point again and again in subsequent writingsof the Yan'an period, and he made no attempt to conceal his impatience with those Marxists who were preoccupied with foreign models and history to the exclusion of Chinese historyand conditions. He perceived this preoccupation as largely a manifestation of an incorrect interpretation of Marxism, one which regarded the content and historically specific 'laws' of a largely European form of Marxism as having relevance within the Chinese context. In 'Reform our study' (1941), Mao isolated three conditions having deleterious effect within the Chinese Communist Party: the study of current conditions was being neglected, as were the study of history and the application of Marxism-Leninism.For Mao, these failingswere a manifestation of an incorrect interpretationof Marxism. His critique of them was inspired by his own view of Marxism which insisted on the integrationof Marxism's universal laws with the specific 'laws' describing the regularities characteristicof China as a particularhistorical instance; and that integration was only possible through a detailed investigation and close knowledge of current conditions and Chinese history.Mao believed that Marxists labouring under a dogmatic misinterpretation Marxism were guilty of 'subjectivism', of an epithet intended to indicate divorce from reality and a preoccupation with theory for its own sake: With attitude, person a this doesnotmakea systematic thorough and study of theenvironment, works sheer but enthusiasm hasa and by subjective of blurred this he picture thefaceof Chinatoday.With attitude, mutilates and in knows (geduan) history, onlyGreecebutnotChina, is completely the

SINIFICATION OF MARXISM Withthis dark about the China of yesterdayand the day beforeyesterday. attitude,a person studiesthe theoriesof Marx, Engels,Lenin and Stalin in the what connectiontheymay have abstractand withoutany aim, not inquiring to the Chinese Revolution. He goes to Marx, Engels,Lenin and Stalin not to seek the standpointsand methodswithwhich to studythe theoreticaland tactical problemsbut to studytheorypurelyfortheory'ssake.23

29

movement 1942-44 therewas a of During the Zhengfeng(Rectification) heavy emphasis on eradicatingthis 'subjectivism',and the Zhengfeng withdisclosing distinguishthe documentsindicatea generalpreoccupation and (the ing characteristics specific'laws') of the Chineserevolution Chinese policies in line with those society, and the necessity for formulating Zhengfengmust consequentlybe seen, in large part, as a characteristics. of acceptanceof the sinification Marxism (as Mao move to gain Party-wide perceived it), a formulationwhich had found acceptance amongst an since 1938 but had not important sectionof Partyleadersand intellectuals cadres. rank-and-file amongst foundwide audienceor comprehension had to be regarded In 'On the new stage',Mao had assertedthatMarxism in as a guide to action. He returned thisthemefrequently theZhengfeng to it representedthe major theme of his keynote speech documents,and (1942): the 'Reformin learning, Partyand literature' originally entitled
Our comradesmustunderstandthat we do not studyMarxism-Leninism because it is pleasingto the eye, or because it has some mysticalvalue . . . Marxism-Leninism no beauty, nor has it any mysticalvalue. It is only has useful . . . Marx, Lenin, and Stalin have repeatedlysaid, 'Our extremely doctrineis not dogma; it is a guide to action.' . . . Theory and practice can be combined only if men of the Chinese CommunistPartytake the standpoints, apply them to China, and concepts,and methodsof Marxism-Leninism, createa theoryfromconscientiousresearchon the realitiesof the Chinese Revolution and Chinese history.24

a We have seen that,forMao, sinified Marxism represented union between Marxism's universal laws and the specific 'laws' which described the of characterising regularities the Chinese historicalcontext. How did he that this as a 'guide to action'? It must be stressed perceivethis ideology for ideologicalsystemdid not containwithinit the formulae automaticand correctresponsesto the various political,economic or military necessarily The function of whichmight arise in the courseof revolution. contingencies of the ideologywas to facilitate accuratean interpretation the historical as the context as was possible. From this information political actor would with the then be in a position to take judicious action commensurate of as objectivelimitations the situation outlinedby the ideology.The action could only be regardedas appropriatein its conception (ratherthan as necessarilycorrect), for there could be no formulafor 'correct' action in provided.Havinga clear and, it could be hoped, implicit the information

30

THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF CHINESE AFFAIRS

accurate pictureof the characterising regularities the historical of situation would act as a guide to action by rulingout inappropriate responsesand presenting certainactions as preferable, perhaps obvious. Here again, or the influenceof the inductivemethod is revealed in Mao's method of formulatinghistorical responses: under no circumstancescould one formulatestrategyor tactics a priori, but only via a careful arbitrarily of analysis of the regularities the historically specificsituation.One had to alwaysto work 'upwards'fromthe factsrather thanattempting imposea for action on reality.In 'Reformour study'Mao predetermined blueprint indicated clearly the necessityof employingan inductiveapproach in or searchingfor an appropriatestrategy policy: 'Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin have taughtus that we should proceed fromobjectiverealitiesand thatwe shouldderive themto serveas a basis forour actions'.2" laws from It is in thiscontextthatMao's theory practicefinds of relevance. Ideology could only serveas a guideto actionby presenting accurateassessment an of the historicalsituationor process.It was up to the politicalactor,utilising directand indirect and takingfullcognizanceof theregularities experience, (specific 'laws') of the situation,to draw the necessaryinferences and an formulate appropriate Such a responsecould not be responseaccordingly. regardedas 'correct'in advance of its implementation, only as appropriate. The only methodof ascertaining whether seemingly the appropriate action was correctwas by performing action and evaluating results. there the If its was an equivalencebetween intention and result,then the action and the interpretation upon which it was based were indeed correct;otherwise the disparitybetween intentionand result served to indicate either faulty of analysis of the situation,or formulation seeminglyappropriatebut incorrectresponse. Only by thus engagingreality could experience be so gainedand action refined thatthegap betweentheseemingly appropriate and the correct responsecould be minimised. In conclusion,it appearsthatforMao, Marxism was a complexideological constituted of various elements and only capable of finding system completedefinition withinan historically I specificsetting. have attempted to demonstratethat Mao's sinificationof Marxism was not the subordinationof ideology to Chinese realityor culture,nor was it merelya clever tactical move in the power struggle with the Returned Students' Faction. It was a function rather Mao's perception of thatthe universal laws of Marxismdid not represent Marxismas a complete ideological system, and thatforthiscompletion, suchuniversal laws had necessarily be united to with the specific'laws' whichdescribedthe regularities China characterising a particularhistoricalsituation.Mao believed that this union of the as universaland the particular allowed the completionof the Marxistsystem, whichnevertheless not detract and createda genuinely ChineseMarxism did the of from universal statusof Marxism a theory history as and society. April1982

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32

THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF CHINESE AFFAIRS

NOTES
'On questions of Party history:resolutionon certainquestions in the historyof our Party since the foundingof the People's Republic of China', BeijingReview, XXIV: 27 (6 July1981), 20-21. ibid., 20. ibid., 13. ibid., 12. Of these, Raymond Wylie's interpretationis perhaps the most interestingand sophisticated.According to Wylie, Mao was concerned to create 'a new variantof Marxism that exhibited a scientific revolutionary content withina Chinese national form'; see The Emergenceof Maoism: Mao Tse-tung, Ch'en Po-ta, and the Search for Chinese Theory 1935-1945 (Stanford UniversityPress, Stanford, 1980), p.90; see also Raymond Wylie, 'Mao Tse-tung, Ch'en Po-ta and the "sinification of Marxism", 1936-38', The China Quarterly,79 (September 1979), 447-80. Mark Selden has argued that Mao's sinification of Marxism involved a 'nationalistic emphasis on Chinese experience'; see The Yenan Way in Revolutionary China (Harvard UniversityPress, Cambridge,Mass., 1971), p.191 (emphasis in original). Jack Gray suggeststhat it involved 'modifying those [Marxist-Leninist] generalisations to fit the very different circumstancesof China'; see Mao Tse-tung(Lutterworth Press,Guildfordand London, 1973), p.41. StuartSchramhas argued thatMao denied altogetherthe existence of 'a universally valid formof Marxism',and thathis 'preoccupation with the glory of China' led to a sinification Marxismwhich was of 'hermetic';see The Political Thoughtof Mao Tse-tung (rev. edn, Penguin,Harmondsworth, 1969), pp.112-16. James Chieh Hsiung suggests that Mao's sinification formulation,with its emphasis on Chinese history,was 'neithersound historynor good theory';Ideology and Practice: The Evolution of Chinese Communism(Praeger, New York, 1970), p.69. FredericWakemanargues that Mao 'wished to temperthe universal theory of Marxism with the specific practice of revolution in China'; History and Will:Philosophical Perspectivesof Mao Tse-tung'sThought (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1973), p.229. Soviet analysts have denounced the sinification Marxismas a productof Mao's 'Great-HanChauvinism';see A Critique of of Mao Tse-tung's Theoretical Conceptions (Progress Publishers,Moscow, 1972), pp.70-71. See also Maurice Thorez's criticismof Mao's sinificationof Marxism at the 1960 Moscow Conference in Stuart R. Schram and Helen Carrered'Encausse, Marxismin Asia: An IntroductionwithReadings (Allen Lane, London, 1969), p.309. Robert C. North argues that Mao was 'adapting Russian Communistpolitical theory to meet peculiar Chinese requirementsand the convenience of his own climb to power'; see Moscow and Chinese Communists(Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1953 and 1963), p.193. Wylie also argues that Mao's sinification of Marxism for 'emergedand developed in the context of a fiercestruggle supremepower in the CCP between Mao and the Returned Students'; see 'Mao Tse-tung,Ch'en Po-ta and the "sinificationof Marxism"', 462; also The Emergence of Maoism, p.52. Stuart

2 3 4 5

SINIFICATION OF MARXISM

33

Schram suggeststhat 'Mao's [sinification] speech of October 1938 thus announced, in effect, the terms of the final show-down between himselfand the "Returned Stuart Schram (ed.), Authority, Participation and Cultural Change in China Press,Cambridge,1973), p.17. (CambridgeUniversity
7 Student" faction . . .'; see 'The Cultural Revolution in historical perspective', in

Selected Worksof Mao Tse-tung(hereafterSW) (Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1967), vol.III, p.74; Mao Zedong xuanji [Selected Worksof Mao Zedong] (hereafter XJ) (Beijing, 1966), vol.III, p.810; also Takeuchi Minoru (ed.), Mao Zedong ji [Collected Writingsof Mao Zedongi (hereafterJi) (Tokyo, 1970-72), vol.VIII, p.118. Mao was to repeat his rejection of the deductive method many yearslater in his critiqueof the Soviet Manual of Political Economy: Human knowledgealways encountersappearances first.Proceedingfrom there, one searches out principlesand laws. The text does the opposite. Its methodology is deductive,not analytical. Accordingto formallogic, 'People all wilt die. Mr Chang is a person. ThereforeMr Chang will die'. This is a conclusion derived from the premisethat all human beings die. This is the deductive method. For every question the text firstgives definitions,which it then takes as a major premise and reasons from there, failing to understandthat the major premise a should be the result of researching question. Not until one has gone through the concreteresearchcan principlesand laws be discoveredand proved. A (Mao Tse-tung, Critique of Soviet Economics, tr. Moss Roberts (Monthly Review Press,New York, 1977), p.74.) SW III, p.22; XJIIII, p.759; Ji VII, p.322. Translationmodified. SW II, p.339;XJ II, p.623;Ji VII, p.148.

8 9
10

SW III, p.21;XJ III, p.757;Ji VII, p.320. I I SW I, pp.181-82;XJ I, p.157;Ji V, p.86.


12

13

SW I, p.182;XJ I, pp.157-58;JiV, pp.87-88.

SW I, p.181; XJ I, p.157; Ji V, p.86. SW I, p.300;XJ I, pp.264-65. SW II, p.208; XJ II, pp.498-99;Ji VI, p.259.
Ji VI, p.261.

14 Ji VI, p.269; see also StuartR. Schram,op.cit., p.183.


15

16 Ji VIII, p.43. Emphasisadded.


17

18

19 SW II, p.209; XJ II, pp.498-99; Ji VI, p.259.


20

21
22 23 24 25

Schram,op.cit., p.172;Ji VI, p.261; SW II, p.209;XJ II, p.499-500. The Emergenceof Maoism, p.52. SW II, pp.380-81; XJ II, p.667;Ji VII, p.202. Emphasisadded. SW III, p.21; XJ III, p.757;Ji VII, p.320. SW III, p.43; XJ III, p.778;Ji VIII, p.75. SW III, p.21; XJ III, p.757;Ji VII, p.320.