1960s >> 1963 >> no-708-august-1963
The newspapers are full of articles on the row between Russia and China, all “explaining” with greater or less obscurity the motives of the contestants. Apart from W. N. Ewer, who wrote in the Daily Herald that neither Khrushchev nor Mao really cares a comma what Marx said, because the row is not about Marxist doctrine but power politics, almost all the writers have treated it as if the two Governments really are concerned with the “holy writ” of Marx. Lenin, etc.
They are all trying to solve the wrong puzzle, yet the real one is far more fascinating.
It was Marx who wrote that in considering revolutionary changes and conflicts you have to distinguish between the real causes and developments on the one hand, and the “ideological forms” in which the people concerned saw and expressed the conflicts on the other. So looking back at the French revolution you don’t have to believe that it was about “liberty, equality and fraternity”: or that the Reformation was about Henry VIII’s divorces, the corruption in monasteries and points of theology.
All the Russian and Chinese leaders must presumably have read Marx, or at least Lenin, on the gulf between the slogans and ideologies and the economic realities, yet here they all are posturing and manoeuvring about the sacred texts like medieval theologians. The intriguing question is have they all got their tongues in their checks while they work on the credulity of their faithful flocks, or are they just a living example of the truth of what Marx wrote about past history?