Would Karl Marx Roll Over in His Grave?

Sa Zhong Zi (meaning “sow seeds”) is the pseudonym for an American living in China assisting with the support and strengthening of the Chinese house church.

Recently my research has led me to read about Karl Marx and his views on the purpose of public education.  Apparently Marx did not have a comprehensive philosophy of education, but from his views on other matters (such as history and economics) it is possible to gain an understanding of how he viewed education.

According to one author, “The aims of Marxist education can be found in the Marxist conception of history and in the critical analysis it provides of social and economic exploitation.  Marxist theory holds that in order to rectify these inhumane conditions that society must move from capitalism to socialism and eventually communism.”  In this environment education serves as a tool to enlighten those who are unaware of the evils of capitalism and mold the students into becoming “a new kind of being- a socialist being.” (Ozman, 2012)

Marx felt capitalism misused education and he was very critical of capitalism’s force on society.  Many of his analyses actually made a great deal of sense both then and now.  We have seen gross abuses within our own capitalist economy by big businesses with no accountability, such as in the 2008 economic crisis in the US.  Marx’s economic determinism has a ring of truth to it when we consider the forces at work that created these conditions.  

The wheels fall off the proverbial cart, however, with Marx’s solutions. Ultimately what we have seen with many countries that embraced communism is that the class struggle allowed the old system to be replaced by a new regime.  Over time, however, this new regime succumbs to the same temptations and evils that plagued the old regime.


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Over time, this new regime succumbs to the same temptations and evils that plagued the old regime.


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Consider China as an example.  Marx was very critical of the aggressive imperialism of Western nations.  His critique was well-deserved.  There was exploitation and abuse for the gain of those who held the power and the expense of the powerless.  China, a communist country, had experienced the abuses of imperialist nations such as the US and England but in this early quarter of the 21st century China wishes to cast a vision for “One Belt, One Road”.  Many African nations such as Ethiopia have benefitted from China’s road building, but robust infrastructure projects have left many nations financially in debt to China.  One African pastor told me recently that these road building projects “do nothing to provide sustainable jobs for our people.”  This kind of softer version of imperialism is still imperialism and Marx would certainly have been critical of how it neglected the longer term needs of the working class.

Returning to the topic of education, another author described Marx’s critique of capitalism’s use of education by saying, “With the rise of industrialism, capitalism, and liberalism, large-scale systems of mass education had been erected to indoctrinate working-class children with a patriotic loyalty to the nation in the hope of blinding them to their real interests. Capitalist schools used curricula designed to instill children with an exaggerated devotion to national myths, often presented as factual history. They were made literate so that they would be receptive to the capitalist-controlled press, which stimulated patriotism.” (Gutek, 1995)

If you were to replace the word “capitalism” with “communism” in the previous paragraph you would have a very accurate description of China today.  For centuries Chinese education was denominated by the Imperial Examination system that prepared China’s best and brightest to become civil servants. Toward the end of the Qing Dynasty in the late 19th century this system was shut down and modernized.  After 1949 the Communist Party adopted a replica of the Soviet Union’s public education model based on Marxist-Leninist ideology.

Our daughter attended public school in China from the first to the third grade of primary school.  She told us stories of what they were learning and we saw first hand what it means to “indoctrinate working-class children with a patriotic loyalty.”  Stories about common people like Lei Feng were taught to these young children.  Lei Feng is the poster-child of the ideal citizen in China who puts service to others and the country ahead of his own interests. When I talk to my Chinese friends about Lei Feng, most of them admit that his life and actions have been greatly hyperbolized for the purpose of promoting loyalty to country and party. It is ironic that Marx’s critique of capitalism included exposing an education system that promoted “an exaggerated devotion to national myths” (Gutek).   

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We saw first hand what it means to “indoctrinate working-class children with a patriotic loyalty.”

 The recent repressive measures aimed at all religious followers in China have been widely criticized in the Western media.  A recent article in the New York Times was referenced by Wang Yi, the pastor of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, in a recent sermon challenging the church to recognize that China’s government, while monetarily wealthy, is morally and spiritually bankrupt.  

China’s work in Africa has met with both praises and criticisms.  The massive amount of debt that many African nations owe to China is a bit disturbing, but quality of life has improved in many of these nations.  Only God can give the final judgment on many of these matters. Those of us from the West need to be careful how harshly we judge in light of our own past, but the current situation in China raises many questions. Does the current regime really believe in the theories of Marxism-Leninism or are some of their recent policies a sign that the party is deeply divided?  Whatever the case, the actions of the government are a far cry from what Marx himself envisioned.

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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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Stories from Nanjing

About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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