Karl Marx: 200 years old and still relevant

By: XinhuaFrom:English Edition of Xinhua | Updated: 2018-May-4 14:21
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BEIJING, May 3 (Xinhua) -- When it came to thinking of his ideal type of girlfriend, Wang Boxian could not help but think about Karl Marx's wife, Jenny.

"Through almost 50 years of weal and woe, the common cause of striving for happiness for all humanity that Marx and Jenny shared, demonstrated what should be the foundation of a marriage," opined Wang, a junior student at Renmin University.

In Professor Zhang Xiaomeng's class on Marxism, a required course for every university student in China, Wang got to know Marx as a person. Waxing lyrical about Marx romancing his wife, Wang said: "Young Marx pored over the works of Homer and Shakespeare, so his love poems to Jenny were very touching and beautiful."

Wang sees Marx as a vivid and passionate man, not just as a boring political theoretician.

This Saturday marks the 200th anniversary of Marx's birth. Over the past decades, Marxism has been the foundation of many theories developed by the Chinese communists to guide the nation. Its successful practice in China has inspired generations of Chinese people, and it has even become popular among Chinese youth. Marxism and Marx, it seems, is hip.

As one of the youngest professors in the School of Marxism, Zhang has long been charmed by Marx's philosophy, especially after conducting comparative studies of philosophical systems, in universities in France and the United States.

To let her students develop an interest in Marxism, she has resorted to showing films such as "The Young Karl Marx" and Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times," which shed light on Marxist ideas. She has tailored courses on Marx for different majors, such as philosophy, politics and economics. She has even set up a WeChat account to enhance class interaction and give the students creative assignments and extensive reading.

In a recent WeChat article, a student imagined giving Marx a tour of China in 2018, explaining to him the many great ways the country had adapted and localized his theories. "Marx's prophesy is turning into reality in China," it said.

Even when she is not on the job, Zhang frequently talks about the many different styles of Marxism to her family, friends, and people from different lines of work. "Almost without exception, they are all very interested," she said. "I'm confident in the charms of Marxism. So I'm more willing to be an explainer rather than an enforcer."

Studying in the library in north China's Inner Mongolia University, Pan Xuexi receives an unusual text message from a friend: "Marx is a contradictory Taurus. He asks people to care about foods and vegetables, and in the meantime longed for an idealistic life," Pan, unsurprisingly, laughed as she read out the message.

"Now more and more young people are reading Marx's works," said Pan, who is the co-organizer of the "Introduction to the Marxist classics" activity on campus.

"The activities we held initially were like political lectures, so few people came in the beginning. We were later inspired by a song titled 'Marx is a post-90s,' and started looking for similarities shared by Marx and the young generation," Pan said. "We found that Marx was a typical Taurus and had a procrastination issue in doing things. He was also a punster and never let poverty limit his thoughts."

"Marx is a post-90s" is a rap song about Marx and Marxism written by Zhuo Sina, a graduate from Peking University, with a love of all things Marx.

"Unlike the serious expressions in books, the song portrays Marx in a very different way. He was a passionate youth and very close to us," said Song Jiawen, a student.

Whilst humming along to the tune of the song, Song opened "The Communist Manifesto," for the first time. "It was very abstruse for me, but I want to know how Marx thinks," Song said.

Song joined Pan's reading programs and was more than happy to find that she began to understand the book after discussions with professors and students.

The same can be said about Zhao Min, a student in Inner Mongolia Normal University, who discovered how great Marxism was through a popular TV show.

"The show explains Marx and Marxism in various aspects, making Marx a well-developed figure with a vivid image," Zhao said. "To me, Marx was like a swordsman in a kung fu novel being underappreciated, but who never stopped searching for the truth. His spirit encourages me in dealing with difficulties in study," Zhao said.

Wearing black-framed glasses, Hu Xiaochen, 30, has found meaning and joy in interpreting and compiling the second edition of "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels."

"I have read the bilingual version of 'The Communist Manifesto' in Chinese and German, and 'The German Ideology' at university. When I began working at the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, I read all the original editions and my interest in studying Marxism just keeps growing," Hu said.

Hu's latest research is titled: "How should the young generation learn Marxism in the 'micro-era'?" In his report, he proposes using multimedia such as short videos and animation to promote Marxism. "I hope more young people can read, understand and learn from Marxism," he said.

While he may have been born 200 years ago, for the trendsetting Chinese youth of today Marx and Marxism are more relevant than ever.