​Why should American youth study Xi Jinping's writings?

By Caleb T. Maupin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, June 1, 2018
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A conference to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx is held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, May 4, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

Ever since the financial crisis of 2008 there has been a renewed interest in Marxism among the younger generation of Americans. A 2017 article in Bloomberg News, citing poll numbers, reported: "In a Harvard University poll conducted last year, 51 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds in the U.S. said they opposed capitalism; only 42 percent expressed support."

Many universities across the United States offer courses on Marxism, usually taught by the philosophy department. However, these courses focus on post-World War II Western reinterpretations of Karl Marx's ideas.

University professors in the United States who educate young people about Marx's ideas, generally discourage students from engaging with those who actually put these ideas into practice. The socialist revolutions of the 20th century and the writings of figures like Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping or Fidel Castro are dismissed in vague Cold War stereotypes about "Stalinism." The actual achievements of these leaders and the understanding of Marxism that they popularized and utilized to exercise political leadership is ignored.

Young people who seek to study Marxism in the United States are usually taught the ideas of the Frankfurt School in West Germany. These courses give priority to figures like Herbert Marcuse, Susan Sontag, Jean-Paul Sartre, Judith Butler, and other "New Leftists" who utilized Marx's ideas, primarily as a way to understand and critique art and culture. Despite drawing from Marx, these "post modernists" were largely critical of Marx's economic principles and his concept of historical materialism.

With the Cold War long over and the Soviet Union gone, this refusal to study Marxism in terms of political and economic policy, not abstract philosophy, cannot be justified. This refusal is even less justifiable in 2018, when the second largest economy in the world is directed by a Marxist political party.

President Xi Jinping, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, gave an eloquent presentation in honor of the 200th birthday of Karl Marx. Xi said, "Like a spectacular sunrise, his theory illuminated the path of humanity's exploration of the laws of history, and humanity's search for their own liberation." Xi reflected on the brilliance of the Chinese Communist leaders in applying these universal laws of history and economy to China's unique historical conditions.

The Chinese Communist Party, a party that has always had a thorough Marxist worldview, has achieved real results in terms of poverty alleviation, promoting scientific breakthroughs and technological innovation, and raising China from being the "sick man of Asia" to the status of a global power.

Western academics will often allege that China is misinterpreting or misapplying Marx's teachings. Even if they take this mistaken position, is it still not worth studying how China has interpreted and applied these concepts? In the context of our 21st century global community, isn't the Chinese understanding of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought and Deng Xiaoping Theory relevant to those who want to understand contemporary politics?

Xi Jinping has published a wide body of work regarding Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and its role in both the Chinese domestic situation and the world. Those who are interested in Marxism should engage with these ideas, not dismiss them.

Marx's famous essay "Theses on Feuerbach" ends with the often-quoted phrase: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it."

The Chinese Communist Party, arguably more than any other existing political organization, has changed the world. Those who are serious about understanding Marxist thought as well as the realities of contemporary international relations should come to understand Xi Jinping's ideas and the ideological principles that guide the People's Republic of China.

Caleb Maupin is a journalist and political analyst who resides in New York City focusing on U.S. foreign policy and the global system of monopoly capitalism and imperialism.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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