Published: The Vanguard, February 11, 1987.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Sam Richards and Paul Saba
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I have recently read a comment on a Chinese book entitled Mao Zedong. This book was compiled in China and is described as a “Biography, Assessment and Reminiscences”. It is very good that great attention be paid to Mao Zedong.
Too little attention has been paid to the international position of Mao Zedong. In the comment I read about this book, there is a suggestion that Chairman Mao’s contribution was limited to China.
In my opinion, Chairman Mao made immense contribution to the theory and practice of Marxism. I agree, but not wholly, with the commentator or compiler of the material (I am not sure which), when it is said “It is not right to say that Mao Zedong’s Thought is a development of Marxism-Leninism in all its aspects or that it represents new stage of Marxism”. It is not a development in all aspects, because Mao Zedong never set out to do that. For example, there is very little in Mao Zedong’s writings about political economy. There are other aspects of Marxism-Leninism upon which Chairman Mao wrote very little.
To me, however, he did creatively develop Marxism-Leninism at its very core – materialist dialectics. At the time his classics On Contradiction and On Practice, were written the international communist movement was in danger of serious dogmatism. Mao Zedong’s classics broke from that. They demonstrated the origin of Marxism-Leninism in the facts of nature and society in a qualitatively creative way. “Seek truth from facts” can be a cliché, and if mechanically repeated, it assumes that form. It too, can be turned into dogma or an ikon. Still, it is an eternal reminder that the origin of Marxist principle is in the facts of nature and society. Marx, Engels and Lenin distilled (from those facts the general principles that are called materialist dialectics. One difficulty about the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin on this matter is that they are dispersed, they are polemical and largely concerned about rebutting respective contemporaries long since dead and forgotten. This does not detract from their positive revelation of the fundamental principles of materialist dialectics. It is in this way that the principles of materialist dialectics came to be described.
Mao Zedong’s On Contradiction and On Practice are, in my opinion, the best single overall and comprehensive exposition of materialist dialectics. On Practice is a gem readily understood and applicable universally, worldwide, to every sphere of activity. On Contradiction is a little more difficult but of equal stature.
Chairman Mao’s philosophical writings maintain a consistency of adherence to and development of Marxism. Moreover in virtually all he wrote is an unparalleled adherence to facts, to materialist dialectics. It is an object lesson to read them, think over them, derive guidance from the method of thought and approach.
Just as important is their insistence on ideology being in the first place in a Communist party – an ideology based on truth from facts and developing those facts.
This too, is a development of Marxism. Lenin said that without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement (scientific socialist revolutionary movement). Mao Zedong systematically developed and practised this proposition. It goes to the very heart of the life and development of a Communist Party and of the life and practice of Communists wherever they are and whoever they are.
On Practice and On Contradiction cleared the way to the development of the Chinese Communist party and Chinese revolution. They opened new perspectives for Communism throughout the world. They taught Communists how to think correctly and act correctly.
By leading the Chinese people and Communists to victorious revolution, Mao Zedong and his comrades did creatively develop Marxism.
I recall my very first detailed conversation with Mao Zedong. (I had formally met him in 1956). It was in 1963. He gave me a talk on the then international revolutionary movement. It was entirely consistent with materialist dialectics and he expounded that. When I said that I thought maybe we in Australia, who had opposed some of Khrushchev’s ideas, were being wise after the event, he said that commonly it was possible to be wise only after the event; it was not till then that sufficient facts had been accumulated from which to draw conclusions. Again he said that in a strike struggle, the position both of the workers and the employers had to be considered. He was a man imbued with Marxism and undoubtedly developed the truth from facts.
Personally, I believe that internationally in the ’60s, the promotion of many of his sayings assisted the socialist consciousness of the people and their understanding of the world. Facts internationally in some ways, did not work out as he envisaged. That simply proved the correctness of what he said to me in 1963 – commonly it is possible to be wise only after the events. Marx, Engel and Lenin also made some predictions that were not borne out by the facts. But all of them expounded principle that were certainly derived from facts and were borne out by facts.
As to what happened in China in subsequent years, the Chinese comrades have considered the matter. I respect their opinion and I am not familiar with all the facts. I last talked with Mao Zedong In the late ’60s.
I am opposed to denigration of Mao Zedong, but it would be wrong to attribute all the positive to Mao Zedong. Just as it is wrong to attribute all of Marxism to Marx. Like Marx and Engels and Lenin, Mao worked with others. He drew from them and they from him. In the 60s, I had the benefit of talks with Zhou Enlai, Liu Shaochi, Deng Xiaoping, Zhu De, Peng Zhen, Zhao Ziyang and others and also with some who turned out to be bad. Of those I have named, I found them to think and talk like Chairman Mao. They made an enormous contribution. Certainly there were shades of differences in some of their respective approach. Some differences assumed later a shape of which I was not aware. They impressed me as mighty men, worthy colleagues of Mao Zedong. I regard Mao Zedong (and those whom I have personally named), as representative of the Chinese Communists as I regard my contacts with them not as a personal but as a representative matter. It is wrong, in my opinion, either to elevate individuals unduly or to fall to see them as representative of the people.
Mao Zedong had an all-round world-wide outlook. To me, he had the calmness, serenity, confidence, enormous breadth of vision, born of being steeped in materialist dialectics which gave him unparalleled confidence in the people. The mass line that be expounded is surely a development of Marxism.
This is meant to be no more than a note prompted by another note. I adhere to the view that Mao Zedong made a unique contribution to the international cause of Communism and the liberation of mankind. His writings should be deeply studied and independently thought over using the general principles and putting on one side those things peculiarity confined to China.