A Marxist Philosophy Of Life Reading Mao’s Three Essays

879 words - 4 pages

From Mao’s three essays, namely In Memory of Norman Bethune, Serve the People, and The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains, we can see that the two defining themes of Mao’s rendition of Marxist philosophy towards life are altruism and pragmatism, both of which are in line with Marxist theories. However, considering the historical context of the three essays, Mao’s philosophy of life as shown in the aforementioned essays can be seen as propagandistic and does not necessarily reflect Mao’s true opinions on life.
In Mao’s essays, the idea of pragmatism is shown mainly by Mao’s emphasis on the importance of practice. The word pragmatism comes from the Greek word pragma, which means "deed, act"; the latter, in turn, derives from the Greek word prassō, which means "to practise, to achieve". Advocates for pragmatism argue that the value of an ideology or proposition lies in the fact whether it works satisfactorily in practice (McDermid). Such principle is evident in most of Mao’s works. For instance, In In Memory Of Norman Bethune, Mao commended the Canadian doctor for “putting this Leninist line into practice” (Mao, In Memory Of Norman Bethune). In Serve the People, Mao stressed again on the significance of practice. He argued that “Anyone … if what he proposes will benefit the people, we will act upon it” (Mao, Serve the People). Here Mao suggests that an idea, as long as it is in line with the Communist Party’s goal of serving the people, should be put into practice, no matter of its origins. This has once again shown the stress Mao had laid on the importance of practice, which is in line with pragmatism principles.
Altruism is another element in Mao’s philosophy of life shown in the three essays. Altruism is the tendency to promote others’ welfare regardless of oneself. This is particularly evident in In Memory of Norman Bethune, in which Bethune is described as a selfless hero who came to China to aid the Communist Party against Japanese aggression for the higher cause of internationalism. Mao commended him for possessing the spirit of “absolute selflessness”, which can lead one to become “noble-minded and pure, a man of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, a man who is of the value to the people”. The title of the essay Serve the People is arguably the most recognizable slogan for altruism in Communist China. In the essay, Mao calls upon his comrades in the Communist Party to “have the interests of the people and the sufferings of the great majority at heart”, and argues that to die for the people “is a worthy death”. This illustrates the tendency...

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