Herman Gorter and the origins of Marxism in China
Until 1921, the texts on Marxism to reach the Chinese Communist movement were dominated by an economic determinist interpretation of the materialist conception of history. Many Chinese converts to Marxism considered that belief in 'orthodox' Marxism necessitated belief in its economic determinism. In 1921, with the publication in China of the famous Dutch Marxist Herman Gorter's An Explanation of the Materialist Conception of History, it became evident that there were alternatives to economic determinism that could also claim to be "orthodox" Marxism. Gorter's flexible and multifaceted perspective on Marxism allowed that many factors can influence "historical evolution," and that they can interact in ways specific to particular historical contexts. Gorter emphasised the political and ideological struggles of the working class as central to the success of revolution. He nevertheless insisted, following Engels, that the economic factor was ultimately dominant. Gorter's ideas were well received by Chinese Marxists, particularly his Chinese translator Li Da, who amplified the influence of Gorter's Marxism in his own prolific essays on the materialist conception of history. It is possible that Mao Zedong was influenced by Gorter's ideas, either directly or indirectly via the writings of Li Da, and the evidence for this is evaluated.
© 2005 Sage Publications. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. First published in China Information. This journal is available online: http://cin.sagepub.com/content/vol19/issue3/