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Man of the Moment
The theories of Karl Marx remain invaluable 200 years after the German philosopher's birth
By Lu Yan | NO.20 MAY 17, 2018

A conference marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx takes place in Beijing on May 4 (XINHUA)

'Two centuries on, despite huge and profound changes in human society, the name of Karl Marx is still respected all over the world and his theory still shines with the brilliant light of truth," said Chinese President Xi Jinping at a grand gathering in Beijing to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth on May 4.

Multiple events, including art exhibitions, seminars and reading groups, have been held across China to honor the life and work of the renowned philosopher, economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist and journalist.

"Today, we hold this grand gathering with great veneration to mark the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth, to remember his great character and historic deeds and to review his noble spirit and brilliant thoughts," said Xi, also General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and Chairman of the Central Military Commission.

A statue of Karl Marx donated by China is unveiled in his birth town of Trier, Germany, on May 5 (XINHUA)

Illuminating thoughts

Born the son of a lawyer on May 5, 1818, Marx aspired to work for the greater good of people from a young age, writing in a high school essay On the Choice of a Profession at the age of 17 that "If we have chosen the position in life in which we can most of all work for mankind, no burdens can bow us down, because they are sacrifices for the benefit of all; then we shall experience no petty, limited, selfish joy, but our happiness will belong to millions, our deeds will live on quietly but perpetually at work, and over our ashes will be shed the hot tears of noble people."

Marx is the "teacher of revolution for the proletariat and working people all over the world," said Xi.

With noble ideals and no fear of difficulty or adversity, throughout his life Marx devoted himself to striving for the liberation of humanity, scaling the peak of thought in his pursuit of truth, and the unremitting fight to overturn the old world and establish a new one, according to Xi.

The most valuable and influential spiritual asset that Marx has left us is the scientific theory named after him—Marxism. Like a spectacular sunrise, the theory illuminates the path of humanity's exploration of the law of history and humanity's search for its own liberation, Xi said.

"The thought and theory of Marx are of his times and go beyond his times," Xi said. "They are the essence of the spirit of those times, and the essence of the spirit of all humanity." Xi went on to describe Marxism as a scientific theory that reveals the rule of human social development in a creative manner.

Having developed the materialist conception of history and theory of surplus value, Marx showed how humanity would leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom and the road for the people to realize freedom and liberation, Xi said.

Marxism, the first ideology for the liberation of the people themselves, is a theory of the people.

"Marxism, for the first time, explored the path to humanity's freedom and liberation from the stance of the people, and pointed out the direction, with scientific theory, toward an ideal society with no oppression or exploitation, where every person would enjoy equality and freedom," Xi said.

Stressing that practicality is a prominent characteristic of Marxism that makes it different from other theories, Xi said that Marxism is a theory of practices that directs the people to change the world. It is an open theory that is constantly developing and always stands at the frontier of the times. "That is why it is always relevant and able to explore new issues in the development of the times and respond to new challenges for human society."

Xi said that over the 170 years since the publication of The Communist Manifesto, Marxism has been spread around the world, unrivaled in the history of human ideology in terms of the breadth and depth of its influence.

After World War II, a large number of socialist countries were established, Xi said, stressing that the founding of the People's Republic of China in particular has greatly increased the strength of socialism across the world.

"There might be setbacks in the development of socialism in the world, but the overall trend for human social development has never changed, and it will never change," Xi said.

"Marxism has not only profoundly changed the world, but also China," Xi said.

The reverberations of the October Revolution in Russia brought Marxism-Leninism to China, indicating the way forward, offering a new choice for the Chinese people in their struggle to survive and setting the scene for the birth of the CPC.

Since its founding, the CPC has combined the fundamental principles of Marxism with the reality of Chinese revolution, transforming the Chinese nation from "the sick man of East Asia" to one able to stand up by uniting and leading the people through long-term struggle.

"This tremendous transformation serves as proof that only through socialism can we save China," Xi said.

Since reform and opening up, the CPC has combined the fundamental principles of Marxism with the reality of China's reform and opening up, and the nation which stood up has grown rich.

"This tremendous transformation serves as proof that only through socialism with Chinese characteristics can we develop China," Xi said.

In the new era, the CPC has again combined the fundamental principles of Marxism with China's contemporary reality, uniting and leading the people in "undertaking the great struggle, building the great project, advancing the great cause and realizing the great dream."

The Chinese nation has come to embrace a great change, as the one who grew rich is now becoming strong.

"This tremendous transformation serves as proof that only by adhering to and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics can we realize national rejuvenation," Xi said.

"It is perfectly right for history and the people to choose Marxism, as well as for the CPC to write Marxism on its own flag, to combine the fundamental principles of Marxism with China's reality, and to continuously adapt Marxism to the Chinese context and times."

The CPC uses Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, the Scientific Outlook on Development, and Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as its guides for action, according to the Party Constitution revised and adopted at the 19th CPC National Congress in October 2017.

Visitors appreciate works of art at an exhibition to honor Karl Marx in Beijing on May 5 (XINHUA)

Contemporary significance

"I feel motivated after listening to the General Secretary's speech and want to learn more about Marxism," said Pan Xuexi, a student of the School of Public Administration at Inner Mongolia University, who watched the commemoratory event on television. "Now I notice that there are more young people like me who read works written by Marx."

Li Shuting, a journalism major at Lanzhou University, said that she learned about working for the public from Marx. "I want to devote myself to the development and people of the underdeveloped western region of China after graduation and contribute my own share to the construction of my country," she said.

"With Marxism as an ideological guidance, the CPC can better lead Chinese people to work for social development and progress," said Liu Haitao, Executive Dean of the School of Marxism at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee.

Copyedited by Laurence Coulton

Comments to luyan@bjreview.com

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