[Marxism] “Marx Got It Right"?
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun May 6 09:37:01 MDT 2018
(I understand that this is a joke but the bigger joke is that some on
the left don't get it. Like Deutscher Prize winner Stalin's Mustache and
Michael Roberts, among others.)
NY Times, May 6, 2018
On This Chinese TV Show, Participants Have Nothing to Lose but Their Chains
By CHRIS BUCKLEY
BEIJING — Regal orchestral music strikes up, a computer-animated train
races by and an old man with a bushy white beard looms onto the
television screen. Then the studio audience applauds as an effervescent
host opens an episode of China’s latest prime-time entertainment.
It looks like another Chinese talk show, but the bearded man is Karl
Marx. This is “Marx Got It Right,” a slickly produced program that is
part talk show, part indoctrination session — and a vivid illustration
of the quirky efforts that the Communist Party under Xi Jinping is
making to win over China’s millennials.
Saturday was the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth, and Mr. Xi, trying
to reassert the Communist Party’s dominance over an increasingly complex
society, has used the occasion to call for renewed devotion to the
founding tenets of Communism. He gave a big speech on Friday, days after
visiting Peking University, where he also stressed Marxist education.
“No idea or theory in the history of human thought has produced a
broader or deeper impact than Marxism,” Mr. Xi said to thousands of
officials in the Great Hall of the People. He called Marx “the greatest
thinker in modern times.”
“Marx Got It Right” is among the party’s attempts to impart that lesson
to younger people who grew up absorbed in their smartphones rather than
“The Communist Manifesto” or Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book.”
“For some, Marx is just an image of someone who always has a big beard,
and Marxism is just a bunch of concepts or a few exam questions,” Wu
Xuelan, the show’s host, told the audience of clean-cut students.
“Today, I want to ask everyone: Do you really understand Marx and Marxism?”
The five-episode show ran recently on China’s main state-run television
broadcaster, China Central Television, and has been widely promoted on
Communist Party websites.
The show, produced with help from propaganda officials, is part of the
party’s strategy to persuade twenty-somethings that the Marxist-Leninist
lessons they studied, or dozed through, in school still hold true.
China, the show insists, remains loyal to socialism, despite having as
many as 800 or more billionaires, rising high-tech conglomerates and
Still, even the studio audience of polite party loyalists seemed daunted
by Episode 3, “The Immortal ‘Das Kapital,’” about Marx’s forbidding
three-volume treatise on the workings of capitalism.
“I’m very happy that so many young friends from everywhere across the
country are here with us to relive in stories the arduous times when
Marx composed ‘Das Kapital,’” said Ms. Wu. “In modern human history,
Marxism will come to the fore during every great crisis or turning
point, and a classic indicator of this is Marx’s ‘Das Kapital.’”
When Ms. Wu asked who had read the book, one or two hands poked up. But
Ms. Wu had an answer for any students who took capitalists like Jack Ma
or Steve Jobs as their heroes and needed convincing to dive in.
“Media reports have said that if Marx was still alive today, he would be
a wealthy man from the royalties” from sales of “Das Kapital,” she said.
Laughter and banter are rare in each earnest, 33-minute episode. But the
show uses cartoons and folksy examples to argue that Marx discovered
fundamental truths about how societies evolve, and that China remains
shaped by Marx’s egalitarian ideals.
Left unsaid in the program: Measures of wealth inequality in China have
neared levels found in the United States, even as Mr. Xi courts global
capitalists at Davos.
While Mr. Xi has tried to woo foreign investors, he has also tried carve
a distinctive ideology — part old-school Communist values, part earthy
appeals to ancient Chinese tradition — that inoculates China from the
tumult of free markets and liberal democracy. The Chinese Communist
Party these days rarely mentions class struggle, and has embraced
markets since Deng Xiaoping’s era in the 1980s.
Even so, leaders insist that China stays above the ruthless rules of
capitalism. Above all, they emphasize that Marxism means keeping their
“I don’t think that the talk about Marxism came all of a sudden, but the
200th anniversary of his birth is a very important time frame and there
are many commemorative activities,” Wang Xinsheng, a professor of
Marxism at Nankai University in northern China, said. “China’s market
economy is one that uses market economics as a tool to realize the
values and goals of socialism.”
“Marx Got It Right” makes that point by showing the global financial
crisis of 2008, the bitter divisions of American politics and the tumult
of Brexit, while saying that China has remained stable and growing
thanks to one-party socialism held together by the ideals of Marx.
“I feel that China now is very safe, full of vitality and very
prosperous,” one student said, followed by other students praising
China’s growth, innovation and stability.
By contrast, the show blames the collapse of the Soviet bloc on
reformist politicians like Mikhail S. Gorbachev who abandoned
“The failure of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe was not the failure
of scientific socialism,” Jiang Hui, a Marxist scholar in Beijing, said
on the show. “On the contrary, it was their deviation from Marxism and
scientific socialism that led to their failure.”
“Marx Got It Right” belongs to a spate of Chinese propaganda spectacles
aimed at youth, although the results can feel forced. Last year,
officials in southern China produced a series called “Socialism Is a Bit
Hip,” which tried to mimic the zany garishness of pop culture.
Party-backed rap groups have also made patriotic songs with lyrics so
profane they should require parental guidance warnings.
Outside the tightly scripted television studio, Chinese people have
voiced more skepticism about “Marx Got It Right.” On Zhihu, a popular
Chinese website for posting questions and comments, users mocked the
show’s canned applause and the stilted back and forth between students
“One of the most important ideas in Marxism is to ‘doubt everything,’”
one comment said. “This whole thing made Marx into a great man, but Marx
opposed a cult of personality. As for the young representatives, the
less said about them the better — just Little Red Guards.”
No such doubts creep into "Marx Got It Right.”
“The influence of Marxism hasn’t shrunk,” Ms. Wu says. “Instead, it’s
growing ever stronger.”
Watch "Marx Got it Right":
More information about the Marxism