Treat the Seven Important Ideological Trends Correctly and Make Innovations in Our Social Sciences Independently

An Interview with Professor Cheng Enfu

Interviewer: Liang Weiguo
Chinese Social Sciences Net (CSSN)

[Introduction to the Interviewee] March 31, 2012 – Cheng Enfu, born in Shanghai in 1950, is a professor, PhD candidate supervisor, and representative to the Eleventh National People’s Congress, as well as the director of the Marxist Academy, an affiliate of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).
In May 2004, Prof. Cheng gave a lecture in a study meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee presided by Hu Jintao, general secretary. In February 2002, he presented a report on how to reform in a theoretical symposium presided by Jiang Zemin, former general secretary. He has been seen as “one of the representatives of the fourth generation of China’s economists” and “one of the most creative economists in China” by some influential newspapers in China and Japan.

Prof.. Cheng is also a member (academician) of CASS, member of the CASS Academic Division Presidium, director of the Academic Division of Marxism Study in CASS, chairman of the World Association of Political Economy (a global academic community), chairman of the Chinese Society for Studies of Foreign Economics, president of the Institute for Studies of Regularities in China’s Economy, and an “Expert of the Marxism Discipline Appraisal Group in the Academic Degree Commission” of the State Council. He enjoys a State Council Special Allowance.

Cheng Enfu, the director of the Marxist Academy in CASS, is describing the current situation of China’s ideological field.

It is the premise of a firm political belief to keep ideologically sober. What ideological trends are there in the ideological realm in China today? What are their key ideas? How to understand and treat them? How to develop the philosophy and social sciences with Chinese characteristics and Chinese style? Liang Weiguo, CSSN reporter, had an interview with Prof. Cheng Enfu recently for the answers to the questions.

To Resist the negative effects of Neoliberalism on reform

Interviewer: It is a must to identify the true and the false through comparisons among various ideologies if we want to get clear on what are Marxism, socialism with Chinese characteristics and the socialist core value system. Director Cheng, what ideological trends are there in our society today?
Cheng Enfu: In fact, there are seven important ideological trends in the ideological realm in China today: Neoliberalism, Democratic Socialism, the New Left, Eclectic Marxism, traditional Marxism, Revivalism and Innovative Marxism. By ideological trend, I use it as a neutral concept and various studies of Marxism can also be seen as ideological trends.

In the 1870s, the UK suffered from a serious economic crisis. T.H. Green firstly created a theory which maintained the tradition of UK’s liberalism and implemented state intervention to bring the role of state into full play. After the 1890s, many radical intellectuals — who called themselves “collectivists” — within and outside the Liberal Party contended to build an equal and cooperative new society. “Neoliberalism” was the popular word which represented the theory they held. Could you please give us your understanding of “Neoliberalism”?

Neoliberalism is the ideology, economic theory and policy proposal of the monopolizing capitalist classes. Its theories and policies can be summarized as “four de- or -izations”.

Firstly, Neoliberalism stands for de-regulation of economy. It believes that planning of economy and regulation of distribution by state would ruin economic freedom and kill the enthusiasm of the “economic man”. Only by letting the market run freely can we have the best result.

Secondly, Neoliberalism stands for the privatization of economy. It contends that privatization would become the basis on which the role of market could be brought into full play, and private enterprises are the most efficient ones, and the public resources should be privatized. Neoliberalism tends to reduce public sectors, state-owned sectors and institutions to the minimum, or none.

Thirdly, Neoliberalism stands for the liberalization of economy. It claims that free choice should be the most essential principle of economic and political activities. We should have the right to possess personal property and carry out free trade, consumption and employment. But it denies the free flow of the labor force. The nature of its liberalization of economy is to protect the unfair economic globalization dominated by the US and the unjust old international economic order.

Fourthly, Neoliberalism stands for the personalization of welfare. It stands against building a welfare state and improving the welfare of the laborers. And that is a typical feature of Neoliberalism. However, it has not been clearly stated in the academic circles both in and outside China.

Zhang Weiying and Yao Yang, professors of Peking University, are leading figures of China’s Neoliberalism.

The diversification of guiding ideologies advocated by Democratic Socialism

The concept of Democratic Socialism was first put forward in the book “The Preconditions of Socialism” by Eduard Bernstein in 1899. In June 1951, the Socialist International passed the declaration “Aims and Tasks of Democratic Socialism” as its principles when it was founded. It clearly set “Democratic Socialism” as its program and standed openly against the scientific socialism of Marxism.


How should we understand Democratic Socialism?

Democratic Socialism is the term to describe the ideological systems of social democratic parties, socialist parties, labor parties and Socialist International. A capitalist reformist ideology has become prevalent in the Western societies since the beginning of the twentieth century. It originates from the right wing of the Socialist International and Bernstein is the founder of the basic thought of “Democratic Socialism”. Nowadays, Democratic Socialism is regarded not only as a theory, but also as a form of practice. The social democratic parties have long been ruling ones or ruling in turns in many western capitalist nations, which generates a profound influence on the changes in the world today.

Firstly, Democratic Socialism is against holding Marxism as the only guiding ideology, proposing a pluralism of world-views and guiding ideologies for the diversity of socialist thoughts and origins. Secondly, Democratic Socialism advocates the multi-party system of the capital class. Social parties under different titles wipe out the working-class nature of their parties and are against the principle of democratic centralism. Thirdly, Democratic Socialism holds that socialism can be realized without changing capitalist private ownership by claiming that the principal structure of the means of production ownership is not the criterion for judging the nature of a society. Fourthly, Democratic Socialism gives up the goal of communism, and proposes to fight for a system with social justice, liberty, democracy and world peace through the bourgeois’ rationality and ethic principles, such as freedom, equality, justice and mutual assistance, etc.

Xie Tao, professor of the Renmin University of China, and Xin Ziling, professor of the National Defense University, are the leading figures of the ideological trend.

China’s ‘New Left’

The New Left may easily run to an extreme for its theoretical immaturity

Since the early 1960s, those who support revolution among college students and young people in China, Japan and US began to form the New Left. When we have a scan on the ideologies of China today, we can see the ideological pattern coming into existence in the mid- 1990s has evolved into a two-side confrontation: one side is liberalism talking to itself and the other the stern New Left. Could you give us more information about the New Left?

The New Left is an loose group of intellectuals, who try to influence academia and politics by catching the eye of the public through their articles in journals or on the internet. Many in the New Left have overseas study experience and some are still living abroad.

The important theoretical battle-field of the New Left is the website “Utopia” (wuyou zhi xiang). Han Deqiang, professor of the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, is the leading figure.

A correct attitude towards Eclectic Marxism

Engels’ “Anti-Duhring,” “Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy,”  and Lenin’s “Materialism and Empirio-criticism” are the essence of the philosophy of Marxism. It is necessary to carefully read them for the reason that it can help us systematically master the fundamental principles of Marxist philosophy and set up a Marxist scientific world-view and life philosophy. We often hear the saying “eclectic Marxism” in our daily life. Could you give us some information about the concept?

The Eclectic Marxism is an ideological trend in China. It is an idea and methodology that doesn’t differentiate the principal and secondary contraditions and juxtapose them, and mechanically mixes totally opposite viewpoints without principle. Some of the eclecticists speak highly of the basic theories of the Western Economics, regarding selfishness as the human nature and fully supporting the hypothesis of economic man for egoism. It also believes that human beings’ selfishness could lead to social collaboration and an increase of public welfare. It lays one-side emphasis on efficiency and completely neglects justice.

Wang Dongjing, professor of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, is the leading figure.

We should pay attention to the traditional Marxism

Marxism originated in Western Europe in the 1840s when capitalism has undergone a long development over there. Nowadays, at the moment when we are facing the serious challenges from globalization, what is the inspiration behind the spread and development of Marxism in China in modern time and today? And what is the hard lesson that we could learn from it?

We have to pay attention to the ideological trend of traditional Marxism in China. The positive side of the traditional Marxism is that it forcefully criticized some wrong ideological trends, especially Neoliberalism, Democratic Socialism and Eclectic Marxism. Some of the criticisms, however, are overdone and they are fond of “Great Criticism” (da pipan) and getting serious in terms of lines and principles (shanggangshangxian). Some senior scholars have done more than enough criticism but produced little innovation, due to not following the new resources both from home and abroad. It is wrong of them to approve the key practices during the Cultural Revolution.

The typical media of traditional Marxism is “maoflag net”. Li Cunrui, ex-director of National Statistics Bureau, is the leading figure of the traditional Marxism.

Revivalism trying to govern the country through such traditions as Confucianism, Buddhism and Taosim

Revivalism means to restore the ancient systems, customs and ideas in an attempt to achieve cultural identification or cultural recreation. So how should we view Revivalism? And how should we deal with it?

Revivalism, also called the worship of ancient classics and styles, advocates governing the country with the ideas from such traditions as Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism. Jiang Qing is regarded as the most eloquent grassroot figure in the mainland. He published Political Confucianism (Sanlian Publishing House, 2003). Deng Xiaojun published Confucianism and Democracy (Sichuan People’s Publishing House, 1995).

Innovative Marxism promoting the practical development of Marxism

In October 1938, at the Sixth Party Plenum, Mao Zedong criticized dogmatism and called on the whole Party to lauch a learning campaign, asking all communists with research ability, especially the high-rank cadres of the Party, should study theory, history and current affairs and carry on the precious heritages “from Confucius to Sun Yat-sen,” so as to sinicize Marxism. During the process, Innovative Marxism played an important role. Could you give us more information?

The first leading figures of Innovative Marxism is Liu Guoguang, Special Adviser and former Vice-president of CASS. Me and Fang Keli, chairman of the History of Chinese Philosophy Society, are also the leading figures. In terms of general theory and guiding principles, Innovative Marxism in the academic circle is to keep in high accord with the CPC Central Committee and emphasizes making innovations independently in the teaching and studies in the social sciences in China, stands against rigidly following the “foreign”, “indigenous” and “Marxist” dogmas. The  social sciences in China should advocate the following academic principles and thinking ways: “the world conditions are regarded as background, the national conditions as ground, Marxism as body with the West ideas as references, ancient Chinese learning as our root, so as to synthesize and innovate.” We should take Marxism, Leninism and their sinicized versions as the principal and the dominant to modernize the social sciences in China through innovations, rather than “connecting our trains with international ones by following foreign dogmas” or “return to the ancient by following indigeneous dogmas.”

The journals such as Marxism Study, Review of International Thought (English) and Review of Political Economy in the World, edited by me, are the representative media of Innovative Marxism. Digest of Marxism and the website Academy of Marxism (myy.cass.cn) also reflect the latest theoretical trends of Innovative Marxism.

Category : China / Marxism / Neoliberalism

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