Updating, Localization and Sinicization of Marxism



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Congrès Marx International V - Contribution – Paris-Sorbonne et Nanterre – 3/6 octobre 2007


Updating, Localization and Sinicization of Marxism

Professor Jianhua Lin

World Communist Movement Research Institute of Liaocheng University

Liaocheng Shandong province 252059

The People’s Republic of China

E-mail Address: linjianhua@lcu.edu.cn

Office Telephone: 0635-8239400

Mobile Phone: 13963588880

About the author:

Jianhua Lin (male) was born in Shenxian county of Shandong province in the August of 1966. He is now Director of World Communist Movement Research Institute of Liaocheng University, Head of Academic Administration of Liaocheng University and Dean of World Socialist and Communist Movement Research Establishment of Shandong province. He is also a professor and doctoral supervisor in the Politics Academy of Huazhong Normal University.


In the criticism of Classical German Philosophy, Classical English Plutonomy and English and French Utopian Socialism, Marx and Engels discovered Historical Materialism and the Doctrine of Surplus Value, and on the basis of these discoveries they created Scientific Socialism. In June 1847, under the guidance and with the help of Marx and Engels, the first communist party ---Communist League was established and Marxism was established as its guiding ideology.

The vitality of Marxism transcends time and space. Although Marxism was born in 19th century, it did not stop in 19th century but goes down to the 21st century. Although Marxism was born in Europe, it was not confined to Europe but has been spread all over the world. Neither the assault and the slander from the hostile opponents nor the censure and suspicion from those who misunderstood it nor the rape and the distortion from the doctrinaires, has ever held back or has ever had the possibility to hold back its pace of advance. For 160 years, no other theory can maintain such flourishing vigor and play such an important role in or produce such far-reaching effects on propelling history forward. Although the present situation has changed dramatically compared with that in Marx and Engels’ times, the general developing trend of the history does not go beyond the scope of what distinguished Marxist writers revealed in their works.

Where does the value of Marxism lie in? It lies in its keeping pace with the times and its integration with the concrete practice of every nation. Lenin once stated clearly that, only “by taking into account, in the first place, the fundamental distinctive features of the various ‘epochs’ (and not single episodes in the history of individual countries), can we correctly evolve our tactics; only a knowledge of the basic features of a given epoch can serve as the foundation for an understanding of the specific features of one country or another,”1 and the foundation to put forward some tasks corresponding with the actual conditions.



I. Updating Marxism

We should be “problem” conscious in the study of Marxism. Generally speaking, the “problem” can roughly be divided on five different levels, namely crucial problemmajor problemimportant problemgeneral problem and small problem. The crucial problem of Marxism is the problem of the age. Marxism advances the progress of our age and at the same time Marxism itself is always advancing constantly with the development of the age, the practice and the science.

As a constantly advancing theory, every historic leap of Marxism was branded deeply with the times; every historic leap was the result of Marxists’, like Marx and Engels, constant forging ahead in an innovative way based on their elaborate survey of the characteristics of the age, on their accurate grasping the pulse of the times and on their deep insight of developing trend of the times; every historic leap reflected the spirit of keeping pace with the times. Just as what Engels pointed out: “In every epoch, and therefore also in ours, theoretical thought is a historical product, which at different times assumes very different forms and, therewith, very different contents.”1 Lenin also pointed out: “It is important to realise that in revolutionary times the objective situation changes with the same swiftness and abruptness as the current of life in general. And we must be able to adapt our tactics and immediate tasks to the specific features of every given situation.” 2

Now the world is undergoing a great transformation, transition and development. With the present topic being peace and development and multi-polarization developing in the turns and twists, economic globalization is irreversible; science and technology is changing with each passing day even with each passing hour; many different kinds of ideological trends coexist; the competition of the comprehensive national strength is more and more intense. Facing the turbulent tides of our times, it is high time we had a broad international field of vision and carried on profound strategic thinking. In a complex and changeable situation we must keep sober-minded to explore and grasp the issues which have inherent laws so that we may deal properly with the big issue of updating Marxism.

Updating Marxism actually means that Marxism is developing or was developed. That is because theory is just the understanding in a certain historical stage of human history, and it was constrained by the development of economy, science and technology, culture etc. There is no such great theory or thought that transcends time and space and history. Whatever the theory, it has its historical limitations. So it is impossible for the predecessors to explain the current issues. In March 1895, not long before Engels passed away, he wrote an article named: “Introduction to Karl Marx’s The Class Struggles in France: 1848 to 1850”, in which, he briefly summarized the basic points about “property in common” and the practice of communist movement in 50 years. He frankly wrote that: “History has shown us too to have been wrong, has revealed our point of view at that time as an illusion. It has done even more; it has not merely dispelled the erroneous notions we then held; it has also completely transformed the conditions under which the proletariat has to fight. The mode of struggle of 1848 is today obsolete in every respect, and this is a point which deserves closer examination on the present occasion”.3 He also wrote: “History has proved us wrong, and all who thought like us. It has made it clear that the state of economic development on the Continent at that time was not, by a long way, ripe for the elimination of capitalist production; it has proved this by the economic revolution which, since 1848, has seized the whole of the Continent, and has caused big industry to take real root in France, Austria, Hungary, Poland and, recently, in Russia, while it has made Germany positively an industrial country of the first rank — all on a capitalist basis, which in the year 1848, therefore, still had a great capacity for expansion”. He also mentioned affectionately: “This only proves, once and for all, how impossible it was in 1848 to win social transformation merely by a surprise attack”. That is to say, even Marx and Engels themselves didn’t make everything clear and precise at their time, not even to say issues in the remote future.

As one of the founders of CCP, Mao Zedong ever exhorted: “Marx, when he was alive, couldn’t see all the problems that would appear in the future, and therefore couldn’t solve all these problems. Problems in Russia can only be solved by Lenin, and in the same way, problems in China can only be solved by the Chinese people”.1 Deng Xiaoping ever said affectionately: “We cannot expect Marx to provide ready answers to questions that arise a hundred or several hundred years after his death. Nor can we ask Lenin to give answers to questions that arise fifty or a hundred years after his death. A true Marxist-Leninist must understand, carry on and develop Marxism-Leninism in light of the current situation.”2

Marx himself was a “scholar”, who never came into power, so he never took account of problems in governing. Scholar makes remarks theoretically. “The pedantic view” is thorough academic view. Lenin, who is different with Marx, led the October Revolution of Russia in 1917and rose to power so he thought more about government construction. Therefore, in order to keep pace with the times, we must notice the great changes taking place in the world politics, economy, culture, science and technology and other fields in only 160 years after the publication of The Communist Manifesto; we must notice the great changes taking place in the socialist construction; we must notice the great changes taking place in the people’s and the CCP members’ working and living conditions and in the social environment. We must take full account of the new issues and tough challenges aroused by these great changes. That is because the implementation is depended on the demand of the country. The application and development of Marxism is based on the concrete practice of each country. So the realization form and the theory form of Marxism must be different according to the actual conditions of different countries, and will vary with the changing of state conditions. Only when we constantly observe the countries and the world with Marxism, we can obtain practical experiences and promote the updating of Marxism, that is to develop and enrich Marxism in practice.

II. The Localization of Marxism

The value and vitalization of Marxism lies in its integration with the concrete practice in every country, that is the localization of Marxism. Localization mainly has two aspects of meaning: one aspect is the birthplace; another is the native land of Colonialist Countries (in contrast with the Colonial Countries exploited).

The localization of Marxism refers to Marxism with different country characteristics formed through the integration of Marxism with the concrete practice in every country. In the final analysis, it is to solve the problems aroused in the interrelationship of theory and practice. Marxism, which was named after Marx, is an accomplished scientific system. However its value only can be realized when it is absorbed by a nation and developed with time. The localization of Marxism is to integrate the basic tenets or universal truth of Marxism with the practice of each country in each historical stage, in concrete international environment and in background characteristics of times; it is to integrate the basic tenets or universal truth of Marxism with the practice of renovation, construction, reformation and development of each country. Just as what Deng Xiaoping pointed out that only Marxism that is integrated with the realities of each country to formulate new principles is true Marxism. “We have always believed that Communist Parties everywhere should carry forward and develop Marxism in light of the conditions in their own countries. If we disregard realities, it is meaningless to talk about Marxism.” Here Deng Xiaoping indeed proposed a very important view: Marxism, only when it is integrated with the realities of each country, is true Marxism.

The localization of Marxism, as so called, in short, means a thorough application. The true meaning of localization is to absorb Marxism in each country, that is the localization of Marxism or the localized Marxism which united rather departed with each other. A thorough localization of Marxism must oppose dogmatism, bookishness, academic Marxism and avoid the opportunism of denying Marxism in the disguise of adherence to the features of each country. Therefore, this thorough application of Marxism is rather a dynamic process of development with turns and twists than a straight and immediate one.

The connotation of the localization mainly includes the following four aspects:

1. It first requires the soul or essence of Marxism, namely the Marxist stand, viewpoint and method, to take the features and styles of each country to make it pleasant to be heard and seen so as to arm the communist party, the working class and the broad masses of the people of all countries. Only in such a way will it finally radicate, bloom and bear fruits on that land.

2. The second distinguished aspect is that the concrete arguments of some distinguished Marxist, which don’t tally with the actual conditions of a country, shouldn’t be copied mechanically. Instead, we should create new theories, propose new viewpoints and pursue new methods in line with the actual conditions and realities of each country to solve the new conflicts and problems arise in renovation and construction so as to promote the development of revolution and construction and add brand new theories into the system of Marxism.

3. Localization means that we should have the courage to admit and discard the outdated arguments or tenets, principles in light of the essence of Marxism-- keeping pace with the times and create new theories in accordance with times combining new realities.

4. The concept also implies that Marxism becomes concrete in the integration with the realities of each country.

Marxism is a system of theory which makes objective and scientific studies on world history and contemporary society. It is developing. However, Marxism faces two problems at present: the first one is that it is dogmatized by dogmatist; the second is that it is ruined by the so called Marxist. Mao Zedong ever said that dogmatism must be avoided because it is even worthless than dog’s droppings which may fertilize the fields. That is because Marxism is developing and every part of it has its rising stage, steady stage, declining stage and outdated stage.1 So in localization, we should notice two tendencies: one is seeking truth from facts; another is subjectivism. The first is the one we should advocate and persist; the second we should oppose and discard.

In my opinion, we can construct a subject “the science of localization of Marxism” and the contents mainly consist of the following six aspects:


  1. To understand and treat properly the distinguished Marxist authors and their works.

  2. To understand and deal with the problems aroused by the times.

  3. To understand and deal with the problems aroused by the concrete conditions of all countries.

  4. To understand and treat the two attitudes and tendencies in the integration of theory with reality, namely subjectivism (includes dogmatism and empiricism) and seeking truth from facts.

  5. The method to conquer subjectivism: emancipating the mind, seeking truth from facts and keeping pace with the times.

  6. To understand and treat the naming of “the localization of Marxism” or “the localized Marxism”, that is the relationship of the “source” of Marxism and the “branches” of Marxism

III. The Sinicization of Marxism

Stalin ever made a penetrating comment: “ The theory without revolutionary practice is empty, while the practice without the guidance of the revolutionary theory is blind.” 1 However, Stalin was the first one to show disapproval of “the sinicization of Marxism”, a phrase in “The Position of CCP in the National War” written by Mao Zedong during the new-democratic revolution in China, precisely, in 14 of october,1938 during the period of anti--Japanese war. His disapproval resulted in that CCP and Mao Zedong modified the phrase “the sinicization of Marxism” into “to make Marxism concrete in China” in published files. The proposition of “the sinicization of Marxism” shows that we should thoroughly apply Marxism disseminated from Europe into the realities in China, that is to make it sinicized. Facts have proved that the proposition of “the sinicization of Marxism” made by Mao Zedong is absolutely correct. By extension, “to localize Marxism, to apply Marxism into the realities of each country and to put it in a national form” will also become a universal truth of Marxism, which will hold true no matter where and when. While Stalin’s “the sinicization of Marxism” shows somewhat a sense of narrow nationalism as “to make Marxism concrete in China” is in accordance with proletarian internationalism. Stalin always insisted that the theories of Marx and Engels couldn’t be developed but could be made concrete.

Lenin, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping are all quintessence of combining Marxism with the times and the concrete practice in their countries. Deng Xiaoping ever pointed out, “What, after all, is socialism? The Soviet Union has been building socialism for so many years and yet is still not quite clear what it is. Perhaps Lenin had a good idea when he adopted the New Economic Policy. But as time went on, the Soviet pattern became ossified.th How could Deng Xiaoping obtain such a conclusion?

As we all know, hesitations, conflicts and waverings are inevitable in the forming of an idea. As a thinker, Lenin realized that Russia with its backward economy, politics and culture can only enter socialist society in a lumpy fashioned way instead of a straight way. However, as a revolutionist, Lenin hoped to enter socialist society straightly. War Communism Policy implemented from 1918 to 1920 strengthened the latter part of his conflicting ideas. From the spring of 1921, Russia under the leadership of Lenin made a historical choice---to implement the New Economic Policy. Lenin demanded to discard the concept of entering socialist society straightly. Even though there are ups and downs in Lenin’s exploration of the construction of socialist in the underdeveloped eastern countries, the essence of his exploration may be summarized into the following two points: (1) Only the western developed countries will usher into socialist society directly after socialist revolution; the underdeveloped eastern counties have to move into the socialist society in a lumpy fashioned way. (2) The lumpy fashioned way consists of three aspects—the key of economic construction is to develop commodity economy; the key of political construction is to establish democracy; the key of the ideological and cultural construction is to promote cultural revolution. The core of carrying out these three aspects is to take economic development as the central task and do all we can to develop the productive forces. These two aspects enlightened profoundly the contemporary socialist construction.

Mao Zedong is a historical giant with original thinking and great creative spirit. He consistently maintained that we should understand and transcend Marxism-Leninism. It was just with this spirit of “transcending” and creativity that Mao Zedong solved successfully the historical problem of the proletarian revolution and the establishment of the socialist system in a large oriental semi-colonial and semi-feudal country. With this spirit he also struggled to find a way to bring about socialist modernization in China where the economy and culture were backward. On the eve of the founding of People’s Republic of China in 1949, Mao Zedong ever put forward that we might enter into the socialist society through the development of “new democratic society” under “people's democratic dictatorship.” This concept by itself is distinctive; however, in the very early years of the People's Republic of China, it couldn’t deviate from “the Russian way” and had no choice but to “side with Russia without reservation”. Basically, it modeled on Russia in its socialist development. In 1956, when Russian socialist system, which was highly centralized on economy, politics, ideology and culture was severely criticized, Mao Zedong and other Marxists, based on the historical experience and Russian lessons, put forward that we must deal with the ten major relationships and handle the contradictions among the people properly and so on. That was a significant beginning in the exploration of building socialism with Chinese characteristics proceeding from the Chinese realities. It is a pity that from late 1957, in a complicated domestic and international situation Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communists shifted the focus of our work to class struggle. Consequently, the exploration of the road of socialist development cannot proceed normally.

After the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee in 1978, Deng Xiaoping, with great theoretical and political courage, took on the heavy responsibilities of continuing to explore the road of socialist modernization with Chinese characteristics. Facing the problems like how to build socialism, how to consolidate and develop socialism in such a large oriental country with backward economy and culture, Deng Xiaoping creatively put forward the central statement and basic slogan: “building socialism with Chinese characteristics” based on his long-term exploration. By “building socialism with Chinese characteristics”, he clearly pointed out the historical tasks and the direction of struggling for Communist Party and our country and in these several vivid words he also summarized the great cause that Contemporary China was engaging in. On September 1, 1982, in the opening speech at the Twelfth National Party Congress, Deng Xiaoping pointed out: “In carrying out our modernization we must proceed from Chinese realities. Both in revolution and in construction we should also learn from foreign countries and draw on their experience. But mechanical application of foreign experience and copying of foreign models will get us nowhere. We have had many lessons in this respect. We must integrate the universal truth of Marxism with the concrete realities of China, blaze a path of our own and build a socialism with Chinese characteristics. That is the basic conclusion we have reached after reviewing our long history.”1 In May, 1989, he also pointed out: “Each country must build socialism according to its own conditions. There are not and cannot be fixed models.”2 That is because “countries differ from one another in many respects, such as their economic base, history, environment and neighbours. We can study the experience of other countries but never copy them.”3 The process from putting forward the idea of “taking the road of the Russians” then to “taking the road of our own” marked that Communist Party had deepened their understanding of Marxism from universality to particularity. That is the new starting point of integrating Marxism with the concrete realities of Chinese Socialist Construction in an authentic way. Now the Chinese Communists put forward the expression “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, which is more concise and standardized. Socialism with Chinese characteristics will certainly emit an extraordinary splendor in the garden of Marxism and the world communist movement.



Therefore, the conclusion is: only Marxism and Scientific Socialism, precisely, only the socialism with Chinese characteristics can save China, develop China and guide China.

1 Vladimir Lenin. Collected Works (the Chinese version, the second edition), vol.26, Beijing: People's Publishing House, 1995.

1 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Collected Works (the Chinese version), vol. 4, p.284, Beijing: People's Publishing House, 1995.

2 Vladimir Lenin. Collected Works (the Chinese version), vol.29, p.44, Beijing: People's Publishing House, 1985.

3 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Collected Works (the Chinese version, the second edition), vol. 4, Beijing: People's Publishing House, 1995.

1 Mao Zedong. Collected Works (the Chinese version), vol. 8, p. 5, Beijing: People's Publishing House, 1999.

2 Deng Xiaoping. Collected Works (the Chinese version), vol. 3, p. 291, Beijing: People's Publishing House, 1993.

1 Yu Guangyuan. “The Explanation and Criticism of ‘My Theory on the Four Kind of Consumer Goods”(Chinese version), p. 3, Socialist Market Economic Forum in China, 2004.3.

1 Joseph Stalin. Collected Works (Chinese Version), p.199-200, the People’s Publishing House, 1979.

th Deng Xiaoping. Collected Works (the Chinese version), vol. 3, p. 139, Beijing: People's Publishing House, 1993.

1 Deng Xiaoping. Collected Works (the Chinese version), vol. 3, p. 2-3, Beijing: People's Publishing House, 1993.

2 Deng Xiaoping. Collected Works (the Chinese version), vol. 3, p. 292, Beijing: People's Publishing House, 1993.

3 Deng Xiaoping. Collected Works (the Chinese version), vol. 3, p.263, Beijing: People's Publishing House, 1993.



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