China and India Compared
The Russian Revolution was a kind of thunder in the modern world. But in certain ways the Chinese Revolution has been more significant, for it has demonstrated a new path for Asia, in extraordinary counterpoise to the fabulous Japanese experiment. It saw the destruction, it seems, of old Confucius; but it also saw very clearly the way that under Mao Marx himself was transformed. Socialism with a Chinese face has some important lessons about how a great people has coped with the tragic dislocations of the late imperial era. As we learn lessons from the Chinese past, and from such personages as Hung Hsiu-chüan, Sun Yat-sen and Mao Zedong, we may come to learn how the old transcendental religions may be related to the new and aggressive values of Mao Zedong thought.
It may, by way of a preliminary, be interesting to compare the fate of India in its struggle against the West and its adaptation to modernity and the fate of China. These two very different civilizations, related however by Buddhism, experienced somewhat differing styles of Western incursion. It may be that China was on the brink of being occupied by the Western powers plus Japan, had it not been for the interruption of World War I, with its weakening of imperial poise and its issuance in Versailles’ not altogether consistent commitment to the ‘national assumption’. But the fact is that China did not become a colonial dependency, except in those fragments of extraterritorial concessions along the coast which were conduits for the economic penetration of the hinterland. Thus China did not to the same degree undergo the re-structuring which the British conquest of India brought about. Moreover, India had already experienced invasion and dominance by the Mughals: the Hindu majority had adapted somewhat to that (for them) rather depressing experience; and the substition of the Raj was not to the same intensity as unwelcome therefore as it might have been. The Hindu educated class, itself an expression of adaptation to the new conditions of life, was able to forge, in due course, a new ideology, what I call the Modern Hindu Ideology, which blended motifs from traditional religion with more modern notions of democratic pluralism and Indian nationalism. Very roughly, this ideology can be summed up as saying that all religions point to the same truth, and that the genius of Hinduism is that it has typically embraced this unity in plurality.
Thus India has pioneered a toleration, which can combine traditional spiritual values with those of modern democracy and social reform. The twin political symbols of this ideology in the period of the struggle against the British were Nehru and Gandhi, the one standing for modernity, liberalism, economic dynamism; the other standing for tradition, peace, spiritual struggle and social justice. There was already apparent a tension visible in this alliance between the dhoti-clad Gujerati lawyer and the impeccable Kashmiri Brahmin. But at any rate Indian nationalism was given new dignity by the pluralistic ideology. Also, history was in a way kind to India, for the debilitating effects of two wars and the coming to power of the Labour Government in 1945 made it possible for independence to be achieved without armed struggle, but rather on the basis of earlier non-violent protest. The British had neither the capacity nor the will to fight against Indian independence. Thus the New Hindu Ideology was able satisfactorily to shape the Indian state; and though the partition was a terrible wound and a tragic disappointment to Gandhi, it made it easier to found the Republic on the values of Nehru and Gandhi. It also showed something about Islam — that this faith could not easily accommodate itself to the embracing pluralism preached by Hindus: for Islam does not have any wider theory of toleration than that which applies to the peoples of the Book, the Christians and Jews. It thus turned out that the Republic as a secular State drew on the mainly Hindu ideology I have outlined; and it was one which drew on deep resources of religious tradition and combined with them the democratic and other social values of the English-speaking West. It was in a sense a Hindu view of life, but given a Western dressing.
The case of China was a kind of mirror image of this. For Mao adopted a Western ideology, namely Marxism, but bent it in Chinese directions. The reasons why China could not draw on its own deep resources, as India did, are complex and instructive. In order to see why it was so we need also to go back to the 19th century and the wounding and debilitating effects of the new interplay between Western and Chinese power and cultures.
The Disintegration of the Old China
It was above all the Opium War from 1839 to 1842 which both symbolically and in reality shook China: it signalled the humiliation which the proud Chinese empire had to suffer at the hands of the barbarian invaders who though clearly (to Chinese) inferior in civilization yet could command resources of energy and armament greater than those of China itself. The energy had in great measure to do with commerce. And commerce was as yet unbalanced. While many Chinese exports were of use to the West, access to the Chinese market was highly restricted, partly by the system which confined Europeans to factories or trading posts where business was to be done with named Chinese traders and groups. The trade imbalance could be beautifully cured by giving the British the right to sell freely in China, and in particular to sell opium, a valued product of its South Asian Empire. This basically was the motivation of the war, in which the Manchu emperor’s forces were easily overcome by a force of some 25 warships and 10,000 infantry.
Part of the weakness of the Empire indeed was the Manchu character of the dynasty, still regarded as foreign, and still stirring memories of its brutal treatment of the rebellion in South China. But perhaps there was something much deeper about the crisis, which was not to be resolved for over a hundred years. That deeper problem consisted of the very success of the longstanding Chinese imperial arrangement: the Chinese bureaucracy was not altogether at fault in thinking smugly that its culture was superior. What was a weakness though was that such a sense of superiority led to lack of self-criticism: and worse, the Confucian ethos did little to make Chinese minds appreciative of the true significance of Western science and technology, beginning to emerge spectacularly from within the pores of the surging industrial revolution. The issue was to be posed in a living way in 1905 with the abolition of the old imperial civil service examination: what, seriously, was going to take the place of Confucianism as the guiding philosophy of a modernized elite?
The Taiping Rebellion
A symptom of the crisis of China’s soul, and of its economic condition too, stricken with inefficient administration, rising populations and food shortages (classical conditions in the China of old for peasant rebellions), was the Taiping rebellion, under the shrewd shaman Hung. It is of profound interest because in so many ways it foreshadowed the later revolution of Mao; and we can learn something from its ultimate lack of success as to the way Marxism catered for the needs of a damaged and debilitated China. Of that, we shall see more anon.
The Rebellion, or perhaps we should call it a Revolution, in view of its drastic character in changing the social and political order (except of course that it turned out to be a failure), had in its bloodstream a strange mingling of cells — modernizing on the one hand and socially revolutionary; charismatic, visionary, religious on the other. The movement preached radical land reform, in effect a programme of collectives, equal rights for women, who were given access both to the civil service and to the army; consequently the binding of feet, prostitution, the sale of girls and other humiliations of the female were to be forbidden, and rape punished by death; monogamy was to be the norm of marriage; strict prohibition of alcohol, tobacco and the cursed opium; language was to be reformed; and older, idolatrous religion was to be attacked. Because of the Christian character of Hung’s prophetic call, or at least as he saw it, the Ten Commandments were imposed as law. Many of these reforms were part of the programme of the Communists a century later.
One thinks of Chu Deh the great Maoist general, pacing the decks of a river steamer, conquering the opium addiction; one thinks of the new literary language of the people’s literature in Red China; one looks onwards to the waving fields of grain of which Mao wrote sentimentally in one of his poems, after a visit to his native village, where now the collective rules where once the landlords milked the fields. Yet at the back of Hung’s strange call to action there stands not some reasoned out philosophy, not some long intellectual pondering of China’s crisis, not some careful economic or other analysis. What lay behind it all was a vision. And a vision, strangely, with something of a Christian content. It was thus by a strange injection of an alien faith that the enthusiasts of the Great Kingdom of Heavenly Peace were fired. It is worth while looking back on these circumstances.
The Life of Hung
Hung was born in January 1814 and was of a poor Hakka farming family. The Hakka were seen in South China as ‘guest workers’, foreigners, speaking their own dialect, far from those of South China, and were tough, rebellious, often doing despised work, egalitarian, fierce. Hung’s brilliance as a boy led his family to make great sacrifices to give him an education, but though he was a fine pupil at school he repeatedly and humiliatingly began to fail the more advanced examinations that might have paved his way into the civil service and the ranks of the Confucian gentry. His failure in 1837 precipitated a crisis in which he lay in bed for forty days, in a kind of mixture of coma and frenzy. After he had got better he related that in the course of this crisis he had had a visionary experience, a kind of dream in which he had gone up into heaven and there had seen an old man clad in a black robe and bearing a golden sword. The old man gave him the sword and told him that he should use it to ‘kill the demons’. Also there he encountered a younger man who gave him further instruction in how to destroy the demons. But what demons? Confucius was, in Hung’s dream, sent for and was humiliated and whipped in his presence for his sin in not including in his books the true doctrine. But what true doctrine? Confucius was not, however, banished from heaven. The old man meanwhile gave Hung certain great titles, the most important of which was that of Heavenly King. So much, then for Hung’s later account of this strange experience.
But another half dozen years were to pass, while Hung eked out a living by village school-teaching, before anything more explosive was to happen. That was brought on by the rediscovery of a small book which Hung had got several years before in the streets of Canton from a white preacher and his Chinese assistant. A cousin of Hung’s borrowed the book, read it and drew its strange contents to Hung’s attention. This was in 1843, shortly after China’s humiliation in the Opium War and the Treaty of Nanking. The book was a set of Christian tracts and biblical excerpts, put together by a convert called Liang A-fa. It preached basic Christian truths — the creation of the world, the saving work of Christ, the equality of all nations, races and persons under God, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the sacrament of baptism, the need for moral reform. The work staggered Hung, not only for its message but because it seemed to provide the key to the interpretation of his old vision. The demons were the idols: clearly Hung had a mission to smash idolatry. He embarked on this as soon as he had begun preaching and had made a handful of converts. The old man was the Father, the younger one the Son. Hung himself was a kind of adjunct or younger brother of the Son. Though for a number of years one might look on Hung as a kind of evangelical preacher rather than revolutionary, events unwound in such a manner as to turn him and his followers into a rebel force.
The Taiping Collapse
It is not here necessary to trace out the great convulsion which led the Taipings into very spectacular conquests and the setting up of their capital in Nanking, nor to catalogue the disasters which led to their defeat in 1864, after Nanking was taken on July 19 of that year. But in the first part of their revolution, from 1851 to 1856 there is little doubt that something approaching a social reconstruction was effected over large areas of South and Central China. Their vigorous iconoclasm brought a decline in traditional religion, a new asceticism through the abolition of gambling, opium smoking, etc., and the cessation of slavery and prostitution. If land reform lagged, nevertheless a new atmosphere of brotherly equality was generated, and a feeling of proud independence. International equality meant no discrimination against the foreigner; but it also meant that the ordinary Chinese could hold their heads high. But in the latter part of their rule, factionalism led to paranoia in the leadership, and an increased decadence and luxury which alienated the peasant following. The new leadership began to display some of the worst and silliest attitudes of the old regime. Moreover, the anti-Confucian drive of the ideology only alienated the literati: so the Taipings came to rely, dangerously, on their army, and not on the warm support of the classes whom they had earlier claimed to liberate from Manchu oppression. But despite their collapse in the end and the follies of their rule, the Taipings did leave an imprint on China: South-Central China could scarce be the same again, for the wars had caused up to twenty million deaths. But there were those who lived on to remember the old slogans ‘Down with the Manchu devils’, and ‘Land to the tillers’, and to prize the way they had struggled truly for national independence, against the opium and the arrogance of those who were beginning to subvert the Chinese nation from without. Moreover, the Taipings would live on in the memories of the Reds, for it has long for them been a puzzling matter, to relate their own great revolution to that strange harbinger of the Great Kingdom of Heavenly Peace and the strange vision of its shamanistic Emperor, Hung Hsiu-Ch’uan?
Ideology and Rebellion
One lesson was the great power which an ideology could impart to the otherwise rather anarchic forces of peasant rebellion. It was, so to say, the mind which could change a restless cat into a purposeful tiger. But yet the Taiping ideology had a weakness at the mental level, and this was in part because it stemmed from vision, and in part because it flowed from evangelical Protestantism. For the trouble with the latter is that it has a disconnected ideology, and presents a biblical drama and a myth of salvation which bears with it no wider intellectual meaning. Thus for the Confucian intellectual there could be little that was attractive in Hung’s religious teaching; the more so as Hung was so strongly given to the smashing of temple images and the shrines through which traditional China had kept in contact with its ancestors. While a century later Marxism provided an alternative set of ideas which the intellectual could master and apply, Hung’s preaching was scarcely in the true sense educated: it was too visionary, too violent to give a coherent (not to say modern) view of the world in a time of doubt and disintegration. The intellectual is important in these matters because a new social order itself needs to be administered, and whatever happens to the older education, a new form has to be brought in capable of mobilizing the minds of those experts society still requires and of bringing up a new generation of cadres. One could add too, that Hung was as much out of touch with science, or maybe even more out of touch, than were the old Confucian elite.
What had to be seen was that beyond the ships riding at anchor in the Pearl River, and the new guns which now the armies of China were beginning to buy, and beyond (strange to say) the passionate missionaries there lay a civilization which held within itself some new and explosive styles of knowledge. As the Japanese were to see with extraordinary clarity, the menace of the West lay not so much in its grey ships and shells as in the whole implication of modern knowledge and know-how which lay in the deep hinterland (or hinterocean) behind the visible effects of the foreign devils in the East itself. Could old and new be synthesized? But what unforeseen changes would need to be made? The Opium War and the Taiping Revolution posed the question with a bright clarity. The West, blundering and greedily, though also with a strange missionary idealism, had put a stunning, torturing question to the soul of China. How was the soul of China to respond?
Confucianism and the Challenge to China
Let us revert for a moment to the comparison with India. India could make a response partly because it was able to reach deeply into its own ancient resources in order to begin fashioning a meaningful response to the West. The Indian elite could marry subtle spiritual philosophy to modern science; they could bend the institutions of the foreigner to the needs of India itself. But where were the resources deep in the soul of China? Well, one could easily enough point to the ways in which Chinese philosophy shows rationality and a concern for penetrating the realities within the harmony of the cosmos. Or at least one can now so point, due to the heroic labours of Joseph Needham. There was nothing intrinsically inimical to science in the old picture of the Tao or even in the Confucian ethic. But the Confucian religion was another matter. By this I do not so much mean the cult of ancestors which has tended to get tied in to the Confucian ethic; nor even so much the Neo-Confucian ideology which was so limpid and compelling a counterpoise to the subtleties of Buddhism. Rather I refer to the fact that Confucianism was much more than a system of ideas and rites: it was the soul of the bureaucracy precisely because it was through the Classics that the aspirant mandarin had his mind deeply formed. It was by knowing these by heart and in nuance that the ambitious young man could pass into the gentry (unlike poor Hung, whose compensation it was to be a crazed Emperor in the southern capital, Nanking). It was by mastering the ethos of Master K’ung that the ruling class gained its certification. It was by following the ideal of the scholar that he would then live out his life: not just an administrator but also a lover of ancient beauties; not only a general but a writer of poems; not only a man set over others, but given (in principle) to the grave courtesies which for the best of Confucians governed the intercourse between human beings. And in looking to the Emperor, who himself paid heed to the mandate of Heaven, the bureaucrats looked to a symbol of harmony between heaven and earth. It was a religion of no great passion, of course; and it need not be framed in a set of dogmas. It was centered more on the rituals of correct behaviour, both towards others and towards Heaven. It was an ethos surrounded by a peculiar gravity. It was fine in its way. But it was hierarchical; and through that too it became embedded in a form of feudalism which in its rural injustices could so persistently spark rebellions among the desperate and the landless poor. It could also be corrupted where the old more stoical Chinese values were overlaid by the pressures of inflation and the disloyalties occasioned by a foreign rule. The priesthood of this grave religion were the bureaucrats themselves. It was a religion of mandarins above all. And it was precisely the structure of the imperial civil service which was challenged by the incursions of the red devils. It was precisely the continued usefulness of the old classics, which had held an Empire together for over two thousand years, that the new technologies and science of the West were to call in doubt.
Confucianism and Performatives
It is a pity in some ways that the old Confucianism was due to be buried by the forces of the 19th-century history. Or perhaps, more accurately, it is a pity that it is no longer used as a resource in modern China. It is clear that as a total system it is dead, and as a living way of giving meaning and direction to an imperial administration it is no longer relevant. Confucianism as a religion has, one suspects, no future. But it does not follow from this that it cannot teach us much: just as there is no real future in Neoplatonism, and folk now are not going to revive Orphism or go back to being Aristotelians — but it in no way follows from all this that we cannot learn from those old masters. Our Western classical heritage still remains as a resource, if not as a living tradition. It is in this sense that Confucianism can be a resource today, and not only for the Chinese but also for the whole wide world, as we adopt one another’s ancestors in the converging planetary culture of today. Perhaps Confucianism has the most important message to give to us in the modern world if we are truly to understand the rights and meanings of the individual. Let me expand.
The Confucian outlook is counterpoised to that of the old legalists. For the legalist school the Confucian emphasis upon virtue was dangerous as a political doctrine; for the mandate of heaven theory which made true succession turn on virtue was too unstable. For legalism law backed by power was vital. But the Confucian position was basically that the ruler, and more generally any person in his dealings with others, ought to use the minimum of force in trying to achieve correct results. It is through sincere, goodhearted, correctness of behaviour that men and women are moved to good conduct. The Confucian ethos is in the last resort a doctrine of how to move men to good ceremonial. If that is, we can translate that wondrous word li by ‘ceremonial’ (‘rites’, ‘manners’, ‘good form’, ‘propriety’ — none of the words quite fit). One way of looking at this in modern terms is to see li as the right use of performatives. It is through the magic of words and gestures that we influence one another. Consider love: it is not the case that when a man says ‘I love you’ to a woman he is simply reporting a feeling he has. He may or may not have such a feeling — let us hope for her sake that he has and that thus he is sincere. He is not, then, reporting, but he is expressing love: he is hoping to communicate his feeling to her, to make her feel that she is loved. Thus his words are doing something. The whole language of love is of this sort. Likewise it is through courtesy and concerned language that we convey reverence to one another. Thus when we talk of the sanctity of the individual what we have in mind is that he is to be treated in a certain way. He is to be treated with respect, and his privacy is not to be outraged. He is not to be humiliated. Indeed we overlook the gestural, symbolic, performative aspect of relations between human beings if we look upon their welfare crudely and simply through a calculus of pleasure and pain. For pleasures and pains come in context. Thus when a mother gives something to her child she may do it because she knows that the gift will cause the child pleasure; but the giving itself is more than this because it is expressive of her love and helps to make him feel that he is truly wanted in the world: that he is important. For the most part too the horrors of torture are not just about the pain which makes men writhe: they are about the very writhing, the humiliation which the torturer inflicts on his victim. Why else would he do it? He is not interested in moving pink flesh in itself: it is because here in front of him is a human being within his power, on whom he can inflict that horror which makes his eyes plead and plead. Thus the torturer feels himself aggrandized. It is of course unfortunate that so often men feel better when they humiliate their fellows.
Confucianism as a Resource
Now it may be that traditional Confucianism’s actual performatives were, in some respects, wrongly based, in that they implied a class system in society, while the duty of filial piety may have been taken to too great an extreme. Nevertheless, the doctrine of li (backed by virtues such as human-heartedness or benevolence, and a sense of duty, etc.) was in part a theory of how we can so far as possible interact with one another in an ordered way without the use of force. The magic of the performative is a substitute for the cruder measures of power. By placing the rite, the performative, at the centre of the worldview the Confucians have something of profound importance to say to us. This has too often been obscured by the fact that we are puzzled (in the West) by Confucius’ rather quaint concern for old forms of ritual and music. How could such an archaic view of education be relevant to us today? Moreover, in providing the basis for a rather conservative social order Confucianism often seems to modern men as ‘reactionary’, unprogressive; and in any event quite out of date because the society it helped to prop up has inexorably disappeared, washed over by the great red tide of Communism, obliterated; and scarcely vigorous in the secular post-Confucian societies of the Chinese diaspora and cultural fringe. Where is the mandate of heaven in Singapore? How important are the old rites in South Korea? How can the old feudalism still sound its old supposed harmonies in Taiwan? Surely the Confucianists are men of yesteryear.
But, as I have said, Confucius can still function for us as a vital resource. And it is here that we need to take seriously the thought that the performative, the rite, the courtesy, the gesture — these are embedded in our nature. We are not beings who can communicate ethical values any other way than by gesture. If I bind up your wounds, you who have been beaten up and are laying by the wayside, it is of course to staunch your pain, to relieve suffering: but it is out of a recognition that you are a person whose life and pleasures are to be respected. My action is a token of reverence. It follows from this that operationally the sacredness of the individual means that the individual is such that he is to be treated with reverence, and there is no other way to do this save through gestures, through performative utterances? I cannot show reverence abstractly but only through a kind of ritual behaviour. It is well for bureaucrats to remember this: what does it benefit people if the State’s handouts are doled forth with an ill grace? The whole logic of the handout is that the community cares for those who are unable to earn their living, because they too have worth as human beings and as members of society. But the ill grace alienates, and makes the person feel a degree of humiliation. (But rough men say: why should he be treated so well considering he gets all that money for doing nothing while I have to work my guts out to earn my money? To which one is tempted to reply: And so you look on money as a kind of symbol of worth? That is indeed one way to consider it, but note how money now becomes loaded symbolically, a paper performative.) In brief, then, the sacredness of the individual means that he ought to be treated in a certain way, with sincere performatives of respect. In a sense then personhood is a performative construct. But where is its root? For the old Confucianists li itself grew out of nature, of the interplay between heaven and earth: it was part of the fabric of the cosmos. But is it? To that we need in due course to return.
The Maoists were well aware of the importance of li in human affairs. They turned Confucius upon his head, by using the rites of humiliation — the dunce’s cap and the like, the struggle session and so forth — as a means of disciplining and punishing the people’s enemies. The Cultural Revolution itself was also an anti-Confucian movement, in that it emphasized the importance of young people, not the old. The older gestures of respect were gone, and an older structure of society was being swept away not by crude power but by the revolutionary rituals of a new age.
Chinese Options: Buddhism
But it is time to return to the 19th century. In fact, because Confucianism was embedded in the structures of the old Empire and because it was the ideology of a ruling class which could not adapt itself to the modern age, Confucianism, for all its virtues, could hardly by itself prove to be a structure for incorporating a new vision of China. One of the major problems indeed of the period was that the so-called three religions of China were for differing reasons hardly suited to the new tasks of construction being imposed willy-nilly on the Chinese by the challenge of the West. Thus though one can point in the modern period to a certain revival of Buddhism — summed up most clearly perhaps in the life and thought of T’ai-hsü (1890–1947). He might be said to have tried to bring together three main motifs: the notion that the religion of China should be the Mahayana (Confucianism and Taoism being reckoned as part of the fabric of Chinese culture, without representing rival ideologies to the overarching Buddhism which he preached); the dynamization of Buddhism through concern with social welfare and reform; and the revival of international Buddhist exchange. Such Buddhist ecumenism, if we may so call it, to some extent was at variance with his more immediately Chinese and nationalist concerns. His teachings, though vigorous and high minded, did not altogether seem right to many of his fellow Buddhists, who feared that social activism might rob the monastery of its power as a place of training in detachment and meditation. For many it was better to think of the Pure Land as a heavenly rather than an earthly place. T’ai-hsü’s new Buddhist eschatology was thus at variance with the strong tradition of Buddhist other-worldliness. Little did the Buddhists of the inter-war period realize that soon enough social activism would be roughly forced upon them by the Communist regime after it came into power — for it made the monks perform agricultural and light industrial jobs. But in any case perhaps T’ai-hsü’s vision was not one which could seriously work: for one thing China did not have a convincing tradition of Buddhism as state religion and it was not well adapted to be the ideology of a new bureaucratic and managerial class. Though it was much more consonant in many respects with Western science than was much of the Christianity which was preached in China, Buddhism lacked a kind of material ruthlessness: and this may have been necessary in the days of China’s dislocations if it were ever to reconstruct itself and stand up to the vast pressures of the capitalist powers so eager for its markets. Indeed it may well be to the credit of Buddhism that it has such deep reservations about power. But this itself meant that it was not in a strong position to function as an ideology of a renewed China.
Chinese Options: Taoism
Taoism could hardly, either, prove any kind of salvation. Its ancient ideas were a wonderful blend of the panenhenic and quiet anarchism; and they had done much to give a new flavour and vitality to Chinese Buddhism. The Tao-teh-ching remains a deep and beautiful anthology which can lighten our attitudes to the universe and life around us. But popular Taoism as it had developed in parallel with Buddhism was too much entangled in magic and in folk religion to provide the impetus of Chinese revival. It is true that the old anarchic motif had in more modern times expressed itself through Taoist-oriented secret societies: and these were potentially a contributing stream to the river of revolution. But Taoism in general did not provide in modern times a coherent ideology: and in any event it lived a kind of symbiosis with the other great traditions and might not be able to maintain any true vitality in a changed and in particular a modernized environment. For the Chinese situation was such that only through the mobilizing of society and through changes in attitudes occasioned by the needs of survival in the world of modern knowledge could China gain a new form of independence in the face of the Western powers. Thus, in brief, there were serious problems about China’s traditions as resources for the reshaping of China. It is therefore perhaps no coincidence that the Taipings should have had a partly Christian origin, or that two powerful leaders of the later period, Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek were both Christians.
The Question of Social Democracy
The events which saw the crumbling of the Empire in 1911 and the establishment of a Republic did not bring in their train conditions which were conducive of a social democratic regime. The reasons were various. First, there was hardly any length of time for a new order to settle down. In the first instance the attempt of Yüan Shih-k’ai to make himself into a new Emperor created turbulence. Then it was not long before China began to disintegrate into the War Lord Period. Sun Yat-sen himself, before his death, became disillusioned with the gyrations of the democratic politicians.
Moreover the Kuomintang party took a tilt towards Moscow. The fact was that democratic institutions presupposed a more stable and homogenous middle class than could be found in China; they also presupposed a method of alleviating the increasing distress of rural China, for instance through effective livelihood. The post-revolutionary period saw the disintegration of the old civil service, so that often officials themselves became parties to the higher banditry which was tearing China apart. Also, it was doubtful whether the building of a new China would be possible without a stronger sense of history and destiny than the Kuomintang theorists possessed. Earlier, there had been the admittedly somewhat fanciful utopianism of the reforming K’ang Yu-wei, who at least consciously tried to wed the past to a democratic future: it is true that his picture of Confucius as a reformer, and his view of the relativism of ethics in the context of the evolution of human institutions, alienated him from Confucian traditionalists; but at least he tried to give a rationale for a new democratic order which made sense of it in relation to the past. But to a great extent the men who came to control the Kuomintang were too pragmatically orientated to be able to shape up a new order. Further, Chiang Kai-shek, in the late twenties and early thirties when he was faced with the twin menace of the Japanese encroachments and the guerrilla war being developed by the Communists preferred to deal first with the internal menace rather than the external threat. In so doing he came increasingly into alliance with China’s capitalists, and over-reliant upon the Western powers at whom nationalistically his party had long sniped.
The Attraction of Marxism
The attraction of Marxism, for young men such as Mao when he came to study it during his first years in Peking, was that it provided a key to China’s history. Given that key, thoughts of the right actions to be undertaken could form. Indeed, it might be thought that Marxist analysis often oversimplifies history, and in Mao’s later thinking commonly a kind of schematism was introduced, analysing the major and minor factors, and the major and minor contradictions, in a given historical situation or social reality. But it can be argued that a degree of schematism is valuable, even if it may distort things. The main reason is that without schematism there is only a blur, and a blur is as much a distortion as — more of a distortion than — a schematism. Moreover, the purpose of understanding ongoing human affairs is (for Mao at least) that thereby they can be altered. Theory and practice go together, both before and after understanding. Before, because it is by action that one gets a clearer grasp of the situation in which one is acting: after, because it is by understanding that future action is guided. Applying his theory of knowledge to recent Chinese history, Mao wrote in his On Practice:
Similarly with the Chinese people’s knowledge of imperialism. The first stage was one of superficial, perceptual knowledge, as shown in the indiscriminate anti-foreign struggles of the Movement of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, the Yi Ho Tuan Movement and so on. It was only in the second stage that the Chinese people reached the stage of rational knowledge, saw the internal and external contradictions of imperialism and saw the essential truth that imperialism has allied itself with China’s comprador and feudal classes to oppress and exploit the great masses of the Chinese people. This knowledge began about the time of the May 4th Movement of 1919.
In this last Mao was referring to the storm of protest which was aroused when the news of the provisions of the Versailles Treaty reached China and which was known as the Cultural Revolution (the name being used as part of the title of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which Mao instigated nearly fifty years later). The shameful treatment of China, by allowing Japan to take over the German concessions in Shantung, was a sign that the Western powers were really indifferent to the fate of the China which was trying to reconstruct herself at the end of the first and puzzling period of the Republic.
Neither the West nor Japan particularly wanted a strong China. The slide into chaos there might be advantageous from various points of view.
So, for Mao, there was a kind of leap of knowledge which took place in the very indignation of 1919: but it was not blind indignation, but a dawning of a deeper knowledge of the inner nature of capitalism and of imperialism. To some degree Mao was echoing some themes of Neo-Confucianism, of the solidity of theory and practice, but in a quite new key. For one thing, Marxism generated a theory of struggle and contradiction which was hardly in consonance with older Chinese ideas of harmony. For Mao the continuance of struggle was important and exhilarating. For him such struggles extended indefinitely into the future even through the era of communism. For it was through the continual discernment of newer and higher forms of contradiction that knowledge and action progressed. No one can understand Mao’s later views on the Cultural Revolution who does not see that he not only believed in continuous revolution, in the manner of Trotsky, but more deeply, saw the whole process of change and of knowledge (which go hand in hand) as without any limit, a long spiralling upwards through higher forms; but never to reach some absolute resting place. Part of his reason for thinking this was that while the way in which knowledge comes to be is dialectical, it continually throws up rational knowledge which becomes out of date as social and other conditions change: it has to be re-corrected in order to be brought into closer harmony with reality; but though such harmony, a kind of ultimate monism in which the practical and theoretical sides of life are brought into a unity, is something which we may have as an idea guiding us in our struggles, in fact the nature of existence is replete with contradictions: and these will tend to drive a wedge between a given formulation of human knowledge and the reality which it purports to be about.
Mao and History
Mao’s theory of history and of human struggle was itself an extension of his espousal as a youth of Darwinism. But for him the sight of nature red in tooth and claw was not offputting, for he relished the way in which, through struggle, higher forms of life could be born. This is in keeping too with his fascination with, and great skill at, war. One of the advantages which Mao’s Marxism had was that it could serve not only as an ideology of social reconstruction but also as an ideology of armed struggle against imperialism. One could hardly expect such a doctrine to grow out of the old Confucianism; and it was inconceivable as an extension of Great Vehicle metaphysics or the philosophy of old Taoism. As we shall see there were ways in which Maoism had a kind of functional analogy to the older ideologies; but as far as its content was concerned it was radically opposed to them (though Mao partly for family reasons had some sort of sympathy for Buddhism).
One cannot say that Mao’s theory of perpetual struggle was in basic conflict with earlier Marxism; still, it had a special practical meaning which meant that Mao tried to build in a kind of criticism into the society which he had helped to fashion. There were contradictory tendencies in Mao here, as was brought out in his theory of democratic centralism. He found the anarchistic flavour of some of the old Taoist secret societies attractive; and to some extent his populism suggested that as far as possible the people should be given a wide degree of spontaneous action. Indeed, his theory of war was one which implied a blend between central control and independent action. This was intrinsic to the guerrilla methods which he evolved so effectively in the struggle against the Japanese. But he never fully solved the problem of how to combine the discipline of a single Party organization and the anarchism of his youth. The Cultural Revolution did not, after all, lead to very constructive forms of criticism and social experimentation. Still it remains an important motif in Mao’s thinking, and one which might in the future be exploited by those who wish to see a more open society in China.
Mao’s Voluntarism and Adaptation of Marxism
A feature of Mao’s outlook, his so-called voluntarism, is something which does take him further away from mainstream Marxism. For Mao came to put such a strong emphasis upon the power of the will in overcoming obstacles that into his cult, especially during the period of the Cultural Revolution, there came to be blended a strange mixture of faith and an ascetic ethic. The stress upon the will goes back to Mao’s early days — his fanaticism for instance about personal fitness was an example of the way he saw the mind subordinating the physical to its purposes. But of course his voluntarism must be seen in the context of the struggle between the self and the outer social and physical reality: by driving forward in the given direction, on the basis of Marxist theory, one will discover whether the world ‘gives’ or hits back. If it hits back, error is thus removed and one goes on to formulate a new way of going at the problem. If it gives, then this in itself shows the truth of the idea governing one’s drive. So it is in this way that the will shapes the world. Mao was especially self-conńfident in the powers of effort and analysis combined; and some of the later excesses of the period of the Cultural Revolution go back to a certain hubris. But this Titanism is important in relation to traditional Marxism. For it was by a double thought change that Mao shaped the doctrine to the needs of China from the thirties onward. One part of that change was to forget the dogma that the revolution is tied to the proletariat: for China was short of industrialization and of a widespread working class. The vast sea of the Chinese population was peasant. And for Mao therefore the revolution must stir that sea. Second, because of the situation of China at the mercy of foreign capitalism, Mao was able to take a favourable view of the national bourgeoisie (as distinguished from the comprador class who were agents of external imperialism). The adaptation of the programme of revolution to the Chinese situation was, of course, accompanied by the fashioning of methods of guerrilla and civil war which in due course brought Mao to power, not by some lightning coup d’état as in the case of Lenin, but by a fairly prolonged struggle enjoying a considerable degree of rural support. The very blankness of the alternatives in the post-war period, for Chiang had no bent towards the democratic constitutionalism which at one time had been the main thrust of the Kuomintang programme, and the fact that intellectuals had been often badly treated in this period, meant that Mao was able to draw on a certain amount of sympathy and wide acquiescence among the ranks of intellectuals and of professional people.
A Kind of Spiritual Materialism
Mao’s voluntarism, his theory of contradictions, his faith in science (as he understood it), his belief in an unlimited upward struggle — these, of course, all existed within the framework of a kind of materialism. But it would be wrong to think that for Mao matter was just a kind of physical force or thing: the fact that within it there pulsed contradictions gave it a strange dynamism; while in the pragmatic application of the idea of the material transformation of society and of nature, material objects came to have, as for other Marxists, a kind of symbolic value. ‘Socialism plus electrification’: there is a hint of the symbol-power of matter already in this. Power stations and dams, new patterns of irrigation, the fine crops of the new era, the plants making ball bearings or cars or transistors, the artisan’s bowls — such material entities exist as signs of a new life, and they glow with the haloes of the new age. Thus in the new China the most mundane achievements are celebrated, either as successes or as cases of collectivist altruism. A strong work ethic is preached which makes the transformation of matter itself into a new kind of sacrament. It is not so much that laborare est orare: rather that true prayer is work. Pigs, then, wear haloes, and an almost religious sanctity was ascribed to the heroisms of labour. Consider a passage from the People’s Daily which translates Mao’s voluntarism into popular piety. It concerns a truck driver.
He got the engine running, put his toe on the accelerator while keeping the heel over the brake pedal, so that if he fainted or died he would automatically stop the lorry. Eyes blazing, he battled through the raging storm along the rugged muddy mountain road. Not only his shirt, but his arms and the steering wheel were splattered with blood. It was not the engine, but sheer will-power geared to the invincible thought of Mao Tse-tung that kept the lorry moving forward, up and down six slopes, across two streams, and round eight sharp bends. Liu Chih-chun finally reached a production team, where he fainted away as soon as he was given first aid.
Matter and Symbols
The fact that Marxism espouses a special kind of symbolic materialism, in which matter’s substance becomes something which in itself can have value, in that matter transformed by human endeavour becomes itself a sign of social change and a means to the good life, should not surprise us. For it is a commonplace of human life that up to a certain degree material objects are seen not as things in themselves but as having special meaning. What we call a vulgar materialist is one often who uses the material objects at his command to signalize grandeur: he wishes, in effect, to be judged by the goods which he has at his disposal and consumes. Material possessions have a powerful symbolic value, for they show something of the substance of the individual who possesses them: that is why conversely those who renounce the world do not so much give up the world (for how in a sense could they?), as renounce the good things which men of the world typically think to be of value. The monk, in having few possessions, wishes to show that he is more concerned with the Transcendent than with the things of this life. Often those objects which symbolize power become particularly prized. Thus the cult of the great motorbike, roaring under black leather into the speedy distance, is a symbol of power, sheer power, and thus of liberation from the plodding restrictions of humdrum existence. But in the modern world especially, it is not enough for the bike to be a symbol of power in some fancy way: it has actually got to have the power. Its engine must be of grand, violent capacity as measured by the literal measurements of the trade. Thus what is real may have symbolic value, but on condition that it really is as it is claimed to be. A certain realism and love of literal actualities is thus part of the fabric of the symbolism. This is the symbolism of the actual, and it is a kind of materialism in so far as it sees primary value in the material, and in what can be measured materially. It may also be accompanied by a down-to-earth attitude which is critical of fancy and unproved ideas: a kind of bluff honesty of the visible deflating the pomps of the spiritual, and reducing pretensions by bringing on them the scrutiny of an empirical eye. Marxism tends to generate a systematic, somewhat evangelical, version of such attitudes.
Mao and Science
Part of the system, of course, is the notion that the new order which the revolution brings into being will be, or already is, based upon science and technological modernity. It is true that in China the lack of trained doctors required the expedient of the ‘barefoot doctors’; while also there was interest in reaching back into the old scientific tradition — for instance through the use of acupuncture. But basically Mao conceived of his new world as scientific and he thought, of course, of his own Marxism as being scientific. The conquest of nature, the social struggle (beginning with the class struggle) and the advancement of a scientific outlook — these formed the trinity of his programme. But in various respects he failed to understand the nature of science. Indeed there is, in general, some severe conflict between the practice of Marxism and the conditions for the flourishing of the scientific enquiry. This is so important an observation that it is worth trying to spell out clearly what lies behind it and what its consequences are.
First, modern science has developed its own tradition and momentum. It is a tradition which has had as one of its principal modern bases the university as created in Western Europe and America in the 19th century: a milieu which was considered to be favourable to research (itself in its modern form a creation of the 19th century), partly because of the academic freedom which was supposed to inhere in the institutions and persons therein. This was a liberal idea, and a product of the liberalism of a bourgeois era. And despite a great deal of flabbiness in the universities, the liberal concept was a sound one, in that part of the fabric of science is its critical temper: and it is above all in a liberal milieu that mutual criticism can flourish. Where strong impositions of conformity are made by society or by the State, then the liberal spirit necessarily withers, or goes at best into hiding. It is interesting that the Chinese Academy of Sciences was in fact protected during the Cultural Revolution and beyond, so that top scientists had a privileged insulation from social criticism denied to other senior academics at this time. This is a technique in other Marxists societies: to keep key scientists in a rather cocooned state, with plenty of the good things of life, at least by comparison with their fellows.
Second, it is part of the modern conception of the scientific establishment that science is an international activity and so needs the free exchange of people and ideas. Basically, science has now become planetary. It so happens that countries which are in the midst of social upheaval may feel it highly important to seal themselves off; and it is an irony that no greater tribute can be paid to the power of ideas than the lengths to which censorship and information starvation are practised in such states. But, of course, if permission for travel, correspondence and other exchanges are themselves controlled by a bureaucracy (and a police force) then decisions about what are and what are not valid theories may ultimately be in the hands of State functionaries who are not themselves scientists. And an extreme case of this was the espousal by Stalin of the theories of Lysenko: a case, incidentally, where a mark in Lysenko’s favour seemed to be that his ideas fitted in better with Marxism than the prevalent Neo-Darwinianism.
Science and Criticism
But clearly the core of the conflict between Marxism and science lies in the matter of criticism. For Marxism itself comes to function in socialist societies as itself a set of dogmas which might be harmless enough did they not claim to be scientific. It is part of the power of the Marxist myth that it is scientific. For, again, a certain symbolism of the real comes into play: what is generated by science is real, actual, in principle powerful; and it is the modern magic. So, Marxism, in claiming the virtues of this magic, can set its face dogmatically in the direction of science, and so discourage some ideas and encourage others, but for ideological rather than for truly scientific reasons. Further, the whole attitude one finds in Marxist circles to bourgeois achievements rather deplorably overlooks the fact that it has above all been in the milieu of the liberal bourgeois society that most science and most social criticism including Marxism itself has been generated. So, then, the core of the problem lies in the problem of criticism and of openness. So, we need to dig into the conditions of criticism and openness. It is obviously not just because Marxist states are socialist that they are authoritarian and — indeed — for the most part totalitarian. It rather seems to be so because Marxism itself provides an ideology which can justify totalitarianism, and can give rulers that dangerous mixture of idealism and absolute power. In the anarchic conditions of modern China, it is to be argued that, after all, there was no real alternative apart from chaos to a relatively ruthless central government, and one of the attractions therefore of Mao’s ideology was that it provided this sense of orderliness from the centre, together with some concession to popular methods and a dedication to the social services by the party to the masses. But as events since the death of Mao have shown, this centralism and high degree of thought control are not quite stable. Given that some of the primary problems of order and feeding have been solved, in itself a very remarkable and almost sacred achievement (for think of the miseries that the new China replaced), the move onwards to a technologically more sophisticated society has needed a loosening of the mental bonds, and a greater degree of openness to the other world than the Mao of the Cultural Revolution was able and willing to allow. Indeed, in the modern planet, all forms of totalitarianism are increasingly liable to be unstable, and will thus have a tendency to become a bit liberalized; and this in turn will create an impetus towards greater internal freedom. Let us reflect briefly on the reasons for all this.
Freedom and the Global System
First, the planet as an economic system is becoming more and more interconnected. Thus the oil crisis of 1979 has not been sealed off from the countries of Eastern Europe. Such integration will involve an increased thirst for the means of trade: for instance, the garnering of hard currencies through tourism. Travel, even the restricted kind that constitutes most tourism, is itself a means for the transmission of ideas. Second, radio and television communication is not to be stopped very easily at national boundaries; and this is another breach in the totalitarian system of the censorship and control of information (and misinformation: for alas, so much of the so-called news which is doled out there is lies). Third, a degree of individualism is almost irresistible as an ideal. That is to say, the regimentation of the totalitarian state is not altogether very welcome to people; and while folk may make great sacrifices in a period of crisis and in the struggle against tangible enemies, it is hard to maintain such a spirit in calmer times. By definition, the success of the revolution brings those calmer times, when dams are built, floods no longer sweep down, the rice grows well, and people, though poor, have adequate clothes and shelter. It is then that the unease may start. Individualism is a form of freedom, and it may, for that matter, not be altogether devoid of social outreach, in that the family may come to dominate concerns, rather than the wider society. Thus a transition to the era of ‘socialism with a human face’ is to be expected. Very often the ideal of a new generation is that of socialism (whose moral qualities they would still much respect), but with a liberal interpretation. In this way there is a convergence towards the social democratic outlook.
Mao and Nationalism
But for all the problems that are coming to haunt the new China in the last part of the 20th century, nothing can take away from Mao and his associates the staggering achievement of a united China, strong enough to stand up to other great powers, and a formidable force in East Asia. That new China had, as we have seen, to be built not only through forceful action, but through an ideology. For China, of the options open to it, virtually only Marxism could fulfil the role of a chart with which to make the journey to independence and social reconstruction. In a way, it was fortunate for the Maoists that the Japanese were rampant in China in the main period of the guerrilla struggle: for it meant that Maoism could clearly present itself in a nationalist context, as a force fighting against the foreign invader, the cruellest, in a way, of all the imperialists. Moreover, though Maoism was a Western ideology adapted to the situation of China, its foreignness was moderated by the way in which, it came to fulfil some of the functions, by analogy, that the old ‘three religions of China’ had performed. On the other hand, though we have analogical function, there is content reversal, as we shall observe. That is, the content of Maoism was in radical conflict as far as content goes with those three systems of belief. By content reversal, an old ethos and an old system of values is opposed, is in due course swept away; but by the analogy of function, something positive is provided to replace the old.
Mao and Confucianism
Thus the old Confucian ethic was bitterly opposed, because of its hierarchical nature and because it gave expression to the old oppressive social order. It was an ethic of feudalism, and with feudalism overthrown something new was needed. Marxism’s ethic of human equality, for example the equality of women (a passionate commitment of Mao himself), could provide the central value in the new society. But furthermore, just as Confucianism had supplied a kind of religion for the ruling bureaucracy, so now Maoism provided an altruist ethic for the new governing class, the party cadres (with the added twist from Mao’s anarchistic soul, that the ethic should be purified by struggle, and hence the Cultural Revolution to stir the sluggard party itself). At any rate Maoism could be the belief system of a new, equal-seeming, hard-working man-darinate of the people. But the content is reversed: there is no hierarchy of heaven and earth: and instead of heaven, Mao presents the mandate of the people (when he writes poetically of heaven in his poems he really means the Chinese people). The idealism of Wang Yang-ming’s Neo-Confucian philosophy is replaced by the pragmatic materialism of the new era. Thus Confucius falls in the new China: but a new system of the li of manners is born. Incidentally, the Chinese Communists were well aware of the performative character of individual dignity: the parade in the dunce’s cap and other humiliations were potent ritual means of destroying egos. Suicide was not infrequent. For in the new China the new li was one of party rectitude, social service, uttering the right slogans, conforming to the party line, participating in mass demonstrations.
Mao and Buddhism
Buddhism, for many in the old China, was a faith of the masses, potent in expressing and mobilizing human hopes and fears in the ongoing troubles of this world. Its devo-tionalism was not something to be encouraged in the hard-headed era of material progress. The chatter of a Pure Land was to be replaced. But Chinese Communism has projected itself as a mass faith too. The apparatus of the Little Red Book, the pictures ubiquitous of Mao, the processions, the quotations and so on — these projected into the new society some of the attitudes of older faith. The new China in the future was itself a more tangible substitute for the Pure Land. So instead of the symbolisms of the other world, there is the symbolic materialism of this. Instead of the idealism of Yogacara there is Marxian materialism. Instead of an historical karma, there are the analyses of history provided by the historical dialectic. So, both as a system of ideas and as a system of popular practices, Buddhism is swept away: but its function as a devotional faith is taken over by the new cult of Mao. And yet we can wonder how far Marxism truly deals with the angst of life, that suffering which (Buddhism insists) is woven into the very fabric of this life. Do the future factories make present sorrows meaningful?
Mao and Taoism
The magical side of Taoism reflected the feeling of ordinary people that spiritual power should be relevant somehow to their material concerns. The anarchistic aspect was a means of mobilizing popular discontents. In the new China the old magic is washed away in the whole new task of educating the masses in simple science. The new era is one where truly the magic works, for it is scientific Marxism mobilized for the welfare of society. The mobilization of the masses is part of Mao’s whole doctrine of democratic centralism. But the old Taoist idea that somehow we should find peace through non-action and harmonization with nature is brusquely rejected. It is through struggle, the dialectic, contradictions, that progress occurs: and if theory and practice, truth and nature, may come increasingly to coincide in the onward progression of society, this is far from the quiet monism of Lao-tze.
Echoes of the Old China
We may see then ways in which echoes and contrasts from the old China gave Chinese meaning to the new philosophy. It is clear from history since 1949 that the revolution essentially is Chinese, and almost imperial in its practice. Tibet has been thoroughly brought under Peking’s control and colonized by many Han Chinese. The Soviet Union has been kept at arm’s length, suspected of old Russian-style ambitions at domination. Vietnam has been given sharp lessons to remind it that it should strictly fall within the Chinese rather than the Soviet sphere of influence. Thus has the new China reasserted an old strength. Though lip service is paid to the internationalism of the Marxist movement, basically China does not seem much interested in world revolution; but more in the expression and maintenance of China’s national interests.
Revolution as a Rite of Passage
It is virtually inevitable that Marxism should fall thus into national moulds. The international solidarity of the working class does not mean much psychologically, and World War I demonstrated that the socialists of different countries would, when it came to the bitter and glorious exigencies of patriotic war, fight against one another, as also did Christians. In practice and emotionally, the ‘people’ and ‘the masses’ come to be identified with the working class and favoured elements of a particular nation or ethnic group. It is the adjective which comes before ‘people’ which comes to give shape to the socialist enterprise. And as we have noted before, the very centralization implied in bureaucratic socialism helps to foster a kind of national solidarity. Moreover, the revolutionary character of the new foundation of a nation, as with the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Chinese of 1949 and so on, is a kind of rite of passage, a casting off of the old (weak, exploited, divided, not truly patriotic Adam) and the taking of the new Adam (the heroic, the socialist, the brave, new Adam). The revolution, as we have seen, is like an individual’s conversion experience. A fresh start can be made because the person is born again: so too is the nation born again. The bloody sacrifices of the revolutionary epoch add to the new substance of a suffering but yet triumphant people. In the case of China, the truly marvellous events of the epochal Long March provide a fabulous myth for the foundation of the new order. The immense suffering and heroism also signifies a kind of pilgrimage out of the old China and into the new. It was a kind of modern day Exodus. In such ways Marxism, by its socialism and by its sense of ritual transformation through revolution, is a suitable ideology for the re-founding of nations. It is because of that that it has proved so successful in the modern world. And where in the Third World, where there are corrupt and torturing regimes often under the sway of capitalist interests (seen as greedy forces from the callous white Northern hemisphere), can men hold high their heads, unless they can love their hateful countries by taking a draft on the future? The revolution promises a purgation, and brings in the future brightnesses to outweigh the crazed darknesses of the past. Thus Cuba and Nicaragua, Angola and Mozambique.
The New Taipings
The Chinese experience, then, in the modern world is one in which, in the historic circumstances of the breaking asunder of the old empire, the live option turned out to be a form of Marxism. It was Mao’s genius that he came to formulate a yellow Marxism and that he could so excellently follow his own ideas in practice by being the foremost leader and warrior in the long process of battling both against the Japanese and the Kuomintang. His was a new vision of the material world, pulsing with inner contradictions, giving those who were conscious of the true analysis of history the opportunity to transform both a whole people and a whole land. By the glowing transformations of matter in commune and factory, new and beautiful characters could be written upon the blank page of the peasant’s mind. And yet, times — as Mao always knew — change. The new China begins to enter a new phase, less certainly; for it was Mao’s Marxism which gave meaning and expression to a revolutionary national struggle which is now past. The twice born China has grown older: and now the insistent requirements of progress and military strength demand a deeper use of technology and science: which in turn means an opening to the West; which in turn threatens to let new ideas and forces into the Chinese mind. But the principal achievement of the ideology of Mao has been to give direction to one of the greatest movements in history, and to solve those problems which Hung Hsu-ch’uan could not resolve.
Mao was the mad Hung again.
The Taiping rebellion, however,
Was no blood-solution. Never
Would China repair the gray-green willow
And the characters on the scrolls
Till it swam against the red-devil salt billow
With strong arms.
In Hunan were bitter and rice-blown
But Mao vowed he was not alone
In the grassland and ice
And in the caves of Yenan,
And on that great day in Peking.