Wang Ningyou: Marxism Is a Universal Truth, not a “Universal Value”

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Originally published in Party Building (Dangjian 党建), on 1 August 2013. This reprises many of the themes from the earlier articles on constitutionalism published in official media, but it also adds a strong nativist, essentialist note on the importance of studying historical classical works to capture and maintain a true cultural quintessence. 

Party Building Editorial Note: Marxism is the ideological system of the proletariat, and is not a “universal value” applicable to all people or all times. “Marxism is a universal value”, is a mistake in understanding, and does not make clear the difference between “universal values” and “universal truths”. A view “universal values” pundits have ulterior motives in putting forward the argument that “Marxism is a universal value”, they have different thoughts, and want to lead us into getting trapped in a “doubly difficult” plight: recognizing this argument benefits the pleadings for “universal values”; opposing this thesis weakens the guiding position of Marxism. We can clearly answer: Marxism is the ideological system of the proletariat and is not a “universal value” applicable to all people at all times.

The viewpoints of Wang Ningyou, Invited Researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Science Socialism Research Centre, Associate professor at the Renmin University of China Marxism Institute:

– Values are always concrete and historical, in a class society, values have a class nature, universally applicable and eternally existing “universal values” do not exist.

– Values reflect the unity of subject-object relationships, the objective reality of the material world cannot be considered as a basis for the existence of “universal values”.

– We must separate objective understanding (factual judgements) and value understandings (value judgements), we cannot consider some objective understanding as value understanding.

– Denying “universal values” does not mean denying the existence of consensus on value, but no consensus on value can be “universal”.

– We must not make generalities or commonalities in objective facts into the “universality” of value systems”.

– As the concept of “universality” has been brought into the political areas, it has been endowed with special meanings by Western mainstream ideologies and ruling groups.

Some people advocate that “universal values” are values that are universally applicable and will exist eternally, they are received by all people under heaven, and penetrate the development of human society from beginning to end. They believe that “universal values” have universal applicability, eternality and universal necessity. This sort of concept believes that, even though in practice, “universal values” are not yet fully reflected in the understanding of all people, or in their actions, this is only temporary. From the point of view of the general trends of historical development, “universal values” will, in the end, be universally recognized by all of mankind and become the basic principle to guide human activity and historical development. Now, is there something such as “universal values” that are commonly pursued by all people under heaven and exist eternally? In order to elucidate this question, we must start from this basic philosophical concept of values.

I, Values are always concrete and historical, in a class society, values have a class nature, universally applicable and eternally existing “universal values” do not exist

Values are philosophical categories reflecting subject-object relationships, meaning they are the effect or meaning of the subject vis-a-vis the object. Whether or not they can satisfy the needs of the subject as well as the extent of satisfaction is measured by whether or not the subject has values as well as the scale of those values. There are at least the following characteristics in the subject’s value understanding of the object: first and foremost, value understandings differ concretely according to differences in subject and differences in needs. We know that music can bring people the enjoyment of beauty, but this sort of value of beauty in music can only be tasted by the talented who understand how to enjoy it. Therefore, Marx said: “Where ears without a sense of music are concerned, the most beautiful music is meaningless”. Life is precious to every person, but in the eyes of revolutionaries, defying power and practicing truth are even more important than life. The magnificent feats of heroes who, like Giordano Bruno, defend truth and calmly climb the pyre, or the revolutionary magnificent feats of those like Xia Minghan, who abandoned life and liberty in a manner moving one to song and tears, are too many to enumerate.

The same object may have a different value because of differences in the needs of subjects. Water is the source of life. Even so, it appears that water has different values according to the different needs of humankind. Where water is used to resolve daily life needs, the value of water is reflected in its preservation of human existence and life; where water is used for irrigation, electricity generation, transportation or for production in factories and mines, the value of water is reflected in humankind’s engaging in industrial or agricultural production; when water is used to beautify the environment, water satisfies people’s demand for beautiful scenery. Even though subjects have the same needs, the value understanding or appraisal of the same object may be different as well, due to differences in evaluation standards, principles or methods between subjects. For example, when one is thirsty, one needs to drink water. But everyone has their own predilections and tastes in which water to drink. Some people like to drink hot water, some like to drink cold water, still others like to drink mineral water, tea, beverages, etc. The background of these choices reflects different value subjects, who have different conceptions on how to satisfy their own need for water.

Furthermore, values are historical, they change with the times, this is decided by the historicity of human activities. Human practices are an incessantly developing historical process. This decides the movement of the value understanding to take the satisfaction of human needs as objective, and inevitably is a historical process that incessantly develops following practice. As early as the time when the ancients discovered oil, oil at that time did not have much value to humankind (it was perhaps only limited to illumination). But following the emergence and development of industry, the energy value and chemical value of oil was fully revealed. Following the development of human practices and activities into news depths and breadths, humankind’s needs have also incessantly been enriched and developed, the world has, in torn, incessantly produced rich and varied values in the fact of humankind. Furthermore, following the emergence of new values, some old values progressively diminished or even disappeared. For example, following the daily development of traffic tools, human-powered vehicles’ traffic value progressively diminished.

Social existence decides social awareness. The satisfaction of human needs depends on the ability and means to understand nature and transform nature, it depends on the development level of social productive forces. Consequently, the concept of human need has clear differences at different times, and is invariably imprinted with the stamp of the times. Comparing the need of modern people for comfortable living conditions with primitive societies or even feudal societies, substantive changes have already occurred. Modem people aren’t just unable to be satisfied with a cave or a peasant’s thatched cottage from the feudal era, they are also unable to be satisfied with the living conditions from feudal castles without modern amenities. Modern people’s need for information concerning all sorts of events happening in the world are greatly different from the needs of people in the past, when there was no paper, radio, television or Internet.

In the social area, value understandings are decided by the economic base, which essentially means that they are decided by socio-economic relationships. The content of people’s value concepts and the standards for value judgements must always incessantly change in step with changes in socio-economic relationships. Under different socio-economic relationships, people endow the same value concept with completely different content, eternally unchangeable concepts do not exist at all. For example, people like fairness in debate, some people also say that it is an eternal thing that everyone pursues, as if this means it is a “universal” value concept. Even so, in different societies, the meaning of fairness is different. When criticizing Proudhon’s petty bourgeois “eternal fairness”, Engels gave a model definition to fairness. He said: fairness is never anything but the ideologies, glorified expression of the existing economic relations, at times from the conservative side, at times from the revolutionary side. The justice of the Greeks and Romans held slavery to be just. The justice of the bourgeois of 1789 demanded the abolition of feudalism because it was unjust. For the Prussian aristocrat even the miserable Kreisordnung is a violation of eternal justice. The conception of eternal justice therefore varies not only according to time and place, but also according to persons, and it belongs among those things of which Mulberger correctly says, ‘everyone understands something different.’

When Marx criticized Lassalle’s “fair distribution”, he used questioning methods to elaborate his own viewpoints concerning the issue of fairness, this viewpoint was completely the same as Engels’. He said: “What is ‘a fair distribution’? Do not the bourgeois assert that the present-day distribution is “fair”? And is it not, in fact, the only ‘fair’ distribution on the basis of the present-day mode of production? Are economic relations regulated by legal conceptions, or do not, on the contrary, legal relations arise out of economic ones? Have not also the socialist sectarians the most varied notions about ‘fair’ distribution?”

Third, in class societies, people’s value concepts unavoidably have a class nature, and especially systematized value views that rise to the ideological and theoretical level. Value subjects are people living in a certain society, they are not abstracted but real and concrete, every person lives in a certain class position. People living in different class positions unavoidably have their own class attributes in value understanding, value orientation and value concepts. Although not all value understandings have a class nature (for example, material values reflecting the relationship between humans and nature, naturally, concrete historical differences exist as well), but the socio-economic values, political values and spiritual values reflecting social relationships between people generally have a clear class nature, especially systematized and theorized value views The core value system of a society is the basic expression of the will of the ruling class, and reflects the nature and development orientation of social consciousness.

Recognizing the “class nature” of value concepts inevitably means that their “universality” must be denied. There may be value views of this class or of that class, but it is impossible that there are value concepts that transcend all classes and override all people. Even if humanity enters Communist societies, “universal values” cannot exist at all. Because, although classes and class differences will have disappeared in society at that time, and people’s class concepts will not have a class nature, communist societies are societies where every person gains complete and free development, every person’s individuality will be fully respected and nurtured, differences between subjects’ personalities due to different value understandings of the same object shall be a generally existing phenomenon. At the same time, communist societies are also societies that incessantly develop forwards, there may be historical changes in the value understanding of a subject towards an object, it is impossible that eternally unchanging value conceptions exist.

Naturally, recognizing the complexity of the phenomenon of values, the thousands of differences in value understandings and the class nature of value concepts is not to say that “the husband claims to be right and the wife claims to be right” in questions of value, and there is no objective standard. When discussing specific subject-object relationships, people may have different value understandings, but only those value understandings that conform to objective reality, reflect material development rules and are integrated with the scale of truth are correct and scientific understandings. The why we must persist in materialism in questions of values, and a reflection of value objectivity. Also, only with those correct and scientific value understandings is it possible to assist people’s practice and thereby create materials needed to satisfy human needs or spiritual achievements. Because of this, in the process of understanding and transforming the objective world, we must persist in the principle of integrating the scale of values with the scale of truth, and organically integrate satisfying human needs with handling matters according to scientific rules. Only in this way is it possible to incessantly achieve successes.

Correct and scientific value understandings are also not “universal”, they must always follow the development of practice and the deepening of understanding, and be incessantly enriched and perfected. The Chinese masses are the creators of history, and are the main force pushing forward social development. The aspirations and needs of proletariat and the broad labouring masses are consistent with the basic development tendencies of human societies from beginning to end. Because of this, the understanding of the process of the development of human societies, the analysis of phenomena and issues in the historical area, and especially the appraisal of major events and major personalities, can only be done correctly and scientifically by standing on the viewpoint of the proletariat and the broad labouring people, and evaluating matters according to standards that conform to the interests and aspirations of the masses. this is the basic reflection of Marxism concerning the principle of integrating the class nature of values and the scientific nature of values. For example, the evaluation of the major historical events that were the huge changes in the Soviet Union will come to different conclusions from different classes standing on different viewpoints, which might even be sharply opposed. When standing on the Western capital-monopolist class viewpoint, it must be recognized that the changes in the Soviet Union were a good thing, they were “historical progress”. Standing on the viewpoint of the people in the Soviet Union, according to the general rules of the development of human societies revealed by historical materialism, it can be believed that the changes in the Soviet Union were a historical tragedy, a historical retreat, and has brought major disaster to the people of the Soviet Union and even the people of the world.

II, Values reflect the synthesis of subject-object relationships, the objective reality of the material world cannot be considered as a basis for the existence of “universal values”

First and foremost, subjects and objects are the basic elements composing a value relationship, both are indispensible. Objects are the preconditions and counterparts of values, without objects, there would be subject corresponding with it, and movements in value understandings would certainly be out of the question. Similarly, subjects are the condition and basis for values to come into being, without the needs of a subject, there would be no subject to relate to objects, and value understanding movements would not exist, neither would value understandings or value concepts come into being.

Furthermore, objectivity and subjectivity are two fundamental characteristics of values. (1) Fundamentally, the objectivity of values is decided by social practice. Existing value relationships are the products of social practice, and rely on social practice. The objectivity of values is reflected in every segment of value relationships. For example, the needs of the subject are objective, and the counterparts or objects used to satisfy the needs of the subject are objective, the process and results of satisfying people’s needs are also objective. Furthermore, people’s needs are always restricted by objective historical conditions, this is also an important reflection of value objectivity. (2) The subjectivity of values is reflected in the subjective judgment of the value subject concerning the object. Whether or not objects have value and the extent of that value are the result of the cognition and evaluation of the subject’s subjective activities. Therefore, value understandings have a very strong subjectivity. Engels said: “the effect of objects is a sort of purely subjective thing that can essentially not be determined”. This sentence points the subjectivity and relativity of value understandings out clearly. Not all subjective understandings fall into the category of value understandings, but value understandings certainly are the result of the subjective will, and are shaped in the process of understanding and transforming the world.

Clarifying the above two points is extremely important. There is a viewpoint that considers the usability of things, in other words, the natural attributes of things that can satisfy some human needs as “universal values”, for example sunlight, air, water, bamboo trips, sawdust, sand, etc. Because these things are beneficial and useful to people, and their value cannot change, they are said to be eternal “universality”. This mistaken understanding of sort of viewpoint lies in the fact that it makes the objective reality of the material world into a basis for the existence of “universal values”. We know that the myriad things in the natural world exist, and that they cannot be changed by the human will. Lenin once summarized the objective existence of the myriad things in the natural world as the fundamental characteristic of the concept of matter in philosophy. The material world’s objective reality can be said to not have been born with Yao or to have died with Shun. Bit these objectively existing myriad things can only enter the category of value evaluation when they become the object of value understandings. Where no linkage occurs with a value subject, there only is a kind of objective existence. This sort of objectively existing fact cannot be said to have value, and can certainly not be said to have “universal value”.

III, We must separate objective understanding (factual judgments) and value understanding (value judgements), we cannot treat some objective understandings as value understandings

In the process of understanding the world, humankind has engendered a large amount of understanding of objects, there are two categories among them: one category is objective understanding. This has the state of the object itself as content to be reflected, and scientific knowledge of exploring the true features material world and its internal rules, are the descriptions of objective facts. This sort of understanding may either conform to (or partially conform to) objective reality, or not conform (partially not conform or completely not conform) to objective reality, but must not be mixed up with people’s subjective judgments, or transformed by the people’s subjective will. This sort judgement shaped with the objective of seeking truth is called factual judgments, for example, people looking for natural properties of gold or jade, physical characteristics, etc.

Another category is value judgements, these have the value relationship between objects and subjects as content to be reflected, judgements shaped in order to gain understanding of the meaning and use of subjects to objects, whether or not it is useful, whether or not it is worth something, whether or not it is good, whether or not it is beneficial, whether or not it has meaning, and so on. The basis for these judgements are the subjects’ needs. Where needs are different, value judgments may also be different, furthermore, there may be historical changes. For example, the people’s understanding of the collection value or market value of gold and jade may differ greatly because of differences in subjects, differences in market conditions and differences in times, objective uniform standards do not exist at all.

Naturally, there are also relationships between objective understandings and value understandings. Some understandings are both objective understandings and value understandings. Only when value judgements conform to the measure of reality, and thereby are scientific value judgments, can both be truly unified.

Clarifying the difference between objective understanding and value understanding is extremely important to our understanding of the issue of “universal values”. When some people discuss “universal values”, they always wittingly or unwittingly confuse objective understandings and subjective understandings, they consider objective understandings that do not fall into value categories at all, as value understandings, and use this to explain the existence of “universal values”. For example, some people believe that since humankind came into being, without making a difference between man and woman, class, or race, everyone must eat. Because of this, the sort of common human need like “people must have something to eat” is a “universal value”. Undoubtedly, people must eat to subsist, but this is a biological instinct that people share with all other animals in the world, this is a sort of objective understanding. Naturally, the meaning of eating is different, because of this, even listing “people need something to eat” into the category of value understandings cannot lead to the conclusion of universality. “The rich are overwhelmingly wealthy, while people freeze do death in the streets” is a true reflection of ancient exploiting societies. In the present world, according to statistics, there are 800 million people in the world who suffer from hunger every day, there are 4 billion people living poor lives, 100 million children living in the street, every year, there are 110 million children of five years or younger who die because of malnutrition, poverty or preventable or curable illnesses. And the total assets of three rich and powerful Americans Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Pail Allen are larger than the total amount of the GDPs of the 43 least developed countries in the world. These two categories of human groups are completely different when evaluating “people must have something to eat.

Some people consider Marxism as a “universal value”, the reason being that Marxism contains universal truths that are applicable across all four seas. When we say that Marxism is a universal truth, this is because it reveals the general rules of nature, society and thinking that have been proved by innumerable practices, and is a scientific conclusion tested by practice and history, that cannot be transformed by any person’s will. In terms of the proletariat and the broad labouring people, Marxism is both a factual judgment and a value judgement, even so, in the eyes of the bourgeoisie, Marxism is not a universal truth, conversely, they believe that Marxism is heretical fallacy. In history, Marxism has been subject to frenzied strangling by the international bourgeoisie since the day it was born, Marxism has been looked upon as a phantom. The basic reason is that Marxism is the ideological system of the proletariat and the ideological weapon of the proletariat to conduct class struggle, and it is not a “universal value” that all classes can identify with.

Some scholars believe that “Marxism is a universal value”, this is a mistaken understanding, and does not make clear the difference between “universal values” and “universal truths”. A few “universal value” pundits put forward the thesis that “Marxism is a universal value” with ulterior motives, they have different plans, and want to lead us into “paradoxical” circumstances: recognizing this thesis benefits the defence of “universal values”; opposing the thesis benefits the weakening of Marxism’s leading position. We can clearly answer: Marxism is the ideological system of the proletariat, and is not a “universal value” that can be applied to all people or all times.

IV, Denying “universal values” does not means denying the establishment of value consensus, but no value consensus can be “universal”.

It should be said that certain subjects, under certain conditions, and within certain scopes, may come to certain value consensus. For example, in the progress of human civilizations, and in the cultural exchange between various nations, different nations and different countries may progressively form approval of certain fundamental values, and it may even be so that on a global level, there are value consensus that the absolute majority of people agrees with. But all value consensus are conditional and fall within a certain scope, furthermore, they may change in step with changes in categories and scopes, and a “universal” value consensus that is eternally unchangeable does not exist.

For example, the relationship between humans and nature. using nature enriches humankind, this is a value consensus of humankind. But this human consensus also is changing continuously. When productive forces  were backwards and science or technology had not yet developed, people placed an excessive stress on grabbing from the natural world, and they even did not stint to violate natural rules in order to satisfy excessive human needs, and therefore,  were punished by nature. Following the development of science and technology, human capacity understanding and transformation, on the basis of summarising lessons of the past, humankind has progressively learnt to understand the harm of plundering nature without thinking of the consequences, and consequently, has begun to change and even abandon its original mistaken concepts and methods. In the present time, humankind lays an even bigger stress on respecting the rules of nature, advocates a scientific use of nature, and proposes harmonious co-existence with and sustainable development of nature. There is no doubt that in the future, humankind will incessantly enrich and develop its understanding of using nature through new practices.

Moreover, there are nuclear threats, terrorism, environmental pollution, resource depletion and other global problems of this time. All of humanity has a common interest because of this, and a value understanding has emerged on this basis, to reflect and resolve these problems. But these value understandings of all of humanity are still not “universal”. Because all of humanity facing common problems and the existence of the common interests are one thing, but interests in dealing with common interests and methods to deal with common problems are a completely different thing. For example, until today, the US are unwilling to renounce their first use of nuclear weapons, until now, they are unwilling to accede to the “Kyoto Agreement” to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, in the end, this is because they want to safeguard the political rule and economic interest of the American monopolist bourgeoisie.

The world climate convention that was convened in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, in September 2009, can be said to be an extreme satire of those “universal value” preachers. Representatives of more than 190 countries brought the worry and common problems of all of humanity into the meeting. Even so, this value consensus of protecting the global environment did not meet the true universal agreement of all participating countries, there was a great difference between developed countries and developing countries on matters such as which actions to undertake and other such questions. The US openly refused to accept the “principle of common but differential responsibilities” that was generally approved by international society, and every effort was undertaken to ensure that the US did not have to bear its historical responsibility and actual responsibility, at the same time, it still spearheaded criticism directed at China. This essentially meant that protecting this human consensus of protecting the global environment had not become a “universal value” for the US and other Western developed countries.

Another example is constitutionalism. Some people sedulously conceal the class nature of constitutionalism, and do their utmost to attenuate the systemic properties of constitutionalism, they aim to separate constitutionalism from capitalist systems, to ensure that it becomes a universally applicable value concept and systemic model with independent characteristics. There is no doubt that constitutionalism is the universal value understanding of Western capitalist, and that what it safeguards is the interests of the bourgeoisie in occupying the ruling position, it is a protective escort for capitalism. Because of this, in the eyes of the proletariat and the broad labourers, constitutionalism is a tool for the ruling class to suppress them, and has a deep impression of the capitalist system. Comrade Mao Zedong once deeply exposed the essence and nature of constitutionalism and capitalism, he believed that European-American-style constitutionalism was “bourgeois dictatorship” constitutionalism, “for example, England, France, the US and other countries at present, what is called constitutionalism, or what is called democratic politics, in fact is a politics that eats people:. Where this sort of constitutionalism is concerned, the proletariat and the broad labouring masses absolutely not believe that it is “universal”. On the contrary, after the victory in the proletarian revolutions, it is even more necessary to sweep this into the rubbish bin of history. Constitutionalism is absolutely not something of which all people say that “there is no difference between East and West”, or that it is a “universal value” that “has a universal meaning for all of humankind”.

V, The generalities or commonalities of objective realities must not be considered as the “universality” of value concepts.

People advocating for “universal values” have a common point in their thinking, which is that they consider the generalities or commonalities that people abstract from objective reality as the “universalities” of value concepts. For example, they take the common points of value concepts existing among different classes and different groups, they abstract equal or similar experiences accumulated in different countries, and call them “universal values”. For example, democracy, freedom, equality, fairness, justice, human rights, etc., are stressed in capitalist countries and are stressed in Socialist countries as well, they are present in the capitalist lexicon, and are present in the Marxist lexicon as well, capitalist countries do market economies and the rule of law, Socialist countries do them as well. Because of this, democracy, freedom, equality, fairness, justice, human rights, etc., are the “universal values” that the entire humanity commonly pursues, market economy and the rule of law are “universal experiences”, “universal models” and “universal values”.

Separating the commonalities or generalities of things from their individualities and particularities means only looking at one side and not the other, this is a metaphysical method for understanding. In philosophical terms, the commonalities or generalities of objective realities cannot exist in isolation. People may abstract the commonalities or generalities from the objective targets of their abstraction, but in reality, the commonalities or generalities cannot be separated from individualities and particularities. Commonalities or generalities must always reside in individualities and particularities, and must be manifested through individualities and particularities. Abstract realities from which individualities and particularities are removed basically do not exist. People may abstract generalities from all kinds of concrete fruits (apples, tangerines, pineapples, bananas, etc.) but on the market, they can only buy concrete fruits.

In fact, the commonalities and generalities abstracted from things cannot be completely determined, static and unchanging. Because under certain historical conditions, objective conditions are limited, human method, abilities and levels to understand things is always limited. It is necessary to undergo the process from practice to understanding, and again from understanding to practice, in a never-ending circle. This decides the commonalities and generalities of things, which are inevitable concrete and historical, and not eternally unchanging. Furthermore, the commonalities and generalities of things fall into the category of objective understanding. The abovementioned democracy, freedom, equality, fairness, justice, human rights, etc., belong to the category of value understandings, hence, democracy, freedom, equality, fairness, justice and human rights are never “universal” in the area of value systems.

For example, although democracy is an abstract concept, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat both talk about democracy, but in the end, which sort of democracy is better? Different classes have different answers in relation to democracy. The Marxist answer is the democracy of the proletariat, or Socialist democracy, in which the people master their own affairs. The democracy that the bourgeoisie talks about, is essentially the democracy of the bourgeois dictatorship, which guarantees the freedom of capital to exploit and suppress. Exactly because different classes have different understandings of democracy, in the Marxist vocabulary, we must always talk about bourgeois democracy and proletarian democracy, capitalist democracy and Socialist democracy. These qualifiers in front of the word democracy are indispensable, and point out the class nature of democracy and the essence of democracy. One sort of pure democracy, common democracy or “universal democracy” that all of humanity identifies with has never existed in human societies.

Abstract freedom does not exist in real social life. People’s understanding of freedom is always concrete and differentiated. Different classes have different answers, that even are completely opposed. The bourgeoisie believes that relying on the possession of the means of production, employing workers and exploiting the surplus value created by workers is their right and freedom; the working class believes that they will only gain their own freedom through the abolition of the private ownership system and the abolition of the exploiting labour system.

Concerning the essence of democracy and freedom, Comrade Mao Zedong said: “In fact, there is only concrete freedom in the world, and concrete democracy, there is no abstract freedom or abstract democracy. In class struggle societies, where there is the freedom for the exploiting classes to exploit the labouring people, there is no freedom for the labouring people to be free from exploitation. Where there is bourgeois democracy, there is no democracy of the proletariat or the working people”. He also said that “democracy and freedom are relative, not absolute, they all occur and develop in history”.

Not only democracy and freedom are concrete and have a class nature, the same is true for equality, fairness, justice, human rights and other such concepts. Under existing conditions of class and class conflict, concrete freedoms and equality are deceptive. Lenin acutely pointed out that “as long as classes have not yet been eliminated, any general debate concerning freedom and equality is deceptive, cheats the workers, or cheats the whole body of labourers who are subject to capitalist exploitation, regardless of how it is said, this always safeguards the interests of the bourgeoisie. As long as classes have not yet been abolished, any debate concerning freedom and equality shall put forward this question: freedom for which class? In the end, how is this sort of freedom to be used? Equality between which class and which other class? In the end, equality for which side? Directly or indirectly, wilfully or inadvertently avoiding these questions naturally means safeguarding the interests of the bourgeoisie, the interests of capital, and the interest of exploiters. As long as mention of these problems is avoided, and the private ownership system of the means of production is not discussed, the slogans of freedom and equality are hypocritical falsehoods of capitalist societies, because capitalist societies use the formal recognition of freedom and equality to cover up that workers and the whole body of labourers subject to capitalist exploitation, who are the absolute majority of capitalist countries’ inhabitants, are economically unfree and unequal in fact.”

Market economics have their general meaning, but market economies cannot exist in abstraction, they always must be integrated with a country’s basic system and concrete national circumstances, in practice, market economy systems each having different characteristics are formed. There are capitalist market economies and Socialist market economies. Even in countries with similar social systems, market economy structures may manifest themselves differently. This is the characteristic of market economies that inevitable emerges in the process of integration with different national conditions. Comrade Jiang Zemin pointed out that: “the “Socialist” in front of the Socialist market economic system care indispensible, that they are not superfluous, and certainly not “drawing snakes and adding feet”, it is the exact opposite, this is “drawing dragons and adding eyes”. What is called “adding eyes”, is pointing out the essence of our market economy”, “Western market economies are done under a capitalist system, our market economy is done under a Socialist system, this is a point of difference, and our creativity and characteristics are reflected herein”. Furthermore, following the development of practice, different countries and different social systems may differ in terms of the content and understanding of the market economy. Socialism may do a market economy, but not because the market economy is a “universal value”, but because the market economy, like the planned economy, are methods for developing and means for regulating economies. What is suitable is used, what is unsuitable is not used.

The rule of law essentially is a tool of the class occupying the economically dominant position to safeguard its ruling position, and is the basic method for the ruling class in a society to govern the country and structure administration. The rule of law is a method and means to manage the country and the society, and is not the exclusive possession of any single social form, it exists in all countries that have law. But the rule of law is not abstract, it inevitably obtains the nature and attributes of a sort of social form through the process of serving that social form. For example, our putting forward ruling the country according to the law and constructing a Socialist rule of law country refers to the fact that the Party leads the people in governing the country, and it guarantees that the people engage in democratic elections, democratic policymaking, democratic management and democratic supervision according to the law, and safeguard the broad people’s fundamental interests. Jiang Zemin pointed out that: “Persisting in the leadership of the Party and the Socialist orientation” as well as “guaranteeing that the broad popular masses fully exercise democratic power” are the “two principles” that must be implemented in building a Socialist rule of law country. This has pointed out the essential difference between Socialist rule of law and capitalist rule of law.

We oppose the term “universal value”, but that does not mean a denial of the commonalities and generalities of objects, or one-sidedly stressing individualities and particularities, as some people pointed out. We stand for the recovery of the true spirit of dialectical materialism. We must both see the commonalities and generalities of objects, and see the individualities and particularities of objects, and unify both in a scientific manner. People who advocate “universal values” one-sidedly stress the commonalities and generalities of objects, and make them into a basis for the existence of “universal values”, this essentially violates the Marxist worldview and methodology, and does also not conform to objective reality.

VI, Vigilance against the trap of “universal values”

Originally, “universal” was a religious concept broadly used in European medieval Christianity. Its original idea refers to everyone under Heaven, or all of human kind. By the Nineties of the 20th Century, some Western theologians and ethics scholars designated some commonly accepted and broadly recognized ethnical concepts and moral standards as ‘universal ethics” or “global ethics”, “common ethics” or “world ethics”, etc., and started a high tide of marching towards “universal values” internationally. In the main, during this period, philosophers, psychologists, politics scholars and scholars in some other areas began to describe some commonly recognized phenomena and concepts as “universal values”.

When Western scholars interpret the concept “universality”, it mainly refers to a basic consensus recognized by a majority of people. For one of the main pioneers of “universal ethics”, the German philosopher Hans Küng, “universal ethics” are a sort of “basic consensus in the ethical area” and “a sort of minimum common values, standard and attitudes recognized by all religions, that are supported by believers and non-believers”. The English philosopher and historian of political thought Isaiah Berlin believes that “universal values” are a sort of values that are commonly observed by the majority of people in a majority of places and situations, almost all the time, regardless of whether or not people are conscious of this or express this in their actions.

But after the concept of “universality” was brought into the area of politics, Western mainstream ideology and ruling cliques endowed it with a specific connotation. In 1996, a leading figure in US politics and foreign affairs think tanks, Samuel Huntington, claimed in his “Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” that Western “universal civilization” and “universalism” was to be used to counter non-Western civilizations and non-Western social ideologies. He believed that, although the “collapse of Communism” in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe meant that Western liberal democratic thought had gained “a global victory”, the clash between Western civilization and anti-Western civilizations, Western ideology and non-Western ideology, still exists in the world of today. He also had to point out that: the concept of universal civilization is a special product of Western civilization, and “the universalism in Westerners’ eyes, is imperialism to non-Westerners”. How is this clash to be dealt with? Huntington points out: “At the end of the 20th Century, the concept of universal civilizations has helped the West to defend their domination of the cultures of other societies, and their demanding that those societies imitate Western practices and structures. Universalism is the West’s ideology to deal with non-Western civilizations.

At the beginning of the 2st Century, the US have begun to make “universal values” into a new offensive and a new concepts for them to promote their hegemonic ideology, policy and strategy. The Obama government has raised the promotion of “universal values” to a new strategic height. On 27 May 2020, the US Government submitted the “United States National Security” to Congress, which pointed out that there are four long-term interests for the US, the third of which is “respecting universal values domestically and in the whole world”. This report clearly pointed out that: the US persist in “universal values”, and devote themselves to promoting “universal values” on a global scale. The persistent support for “universal values” distinguishes the US from enemies, inimical governments and potential adversaries. The report also meticulously expounds six strategic measures that must be adopted to spread “universal values”, for example, affirming the legality of all peaceful democratic movements in non-democratic countries, establishing a broad alliance of “universal value” promoters, etc. On 15 December 2010, Hillary Clinton issued the US “Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review”, of which the foreword pointed out that: in a new global structure, we must promote the security and the flourishing of the US, respect “universal values” as well as international order. We start from this point, to determine trends remoulding global structures.

As early as July 2006, on the eve of the right-wing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s first election as prime minister, he played up “universal values””. He believed that freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law were four “universal values” that were central to his foreign policy concepts, and promoted them in Asia and round the world. he also indicated that he would strengthen cooperation with the US, Europe and India that shared his “universal value” views of freedom and democracy, with Asia at the centre and would vigorously expand this value system. When he was elected prime minister for the second time on 18 January 2013, he proclaimed the “New Five Principles of Foreign Affairs in South-East Asia” to encircle China, in the Indonesian capital Djakarta, one of those principles was “consolidating and spreading ‘freedom, democracy and fundamental human rights’ and other universal values”.

Nonetheless, there are people in our country who believe that in China’s implementation of reform and opening up, and realizing modernization, “universal values” must be recognized, “universal values” must be taken as yardsticks, and rails must be linked with mainstream international concepts; in the face of these “universal values”, it is not necessary to differentiate between the surnames “capital” and “social”; to liberate thoughts, the slogan “universal values” must be established; China must have a footing in its national characteristics, but must also embrace ”universal values”. Some people even believe that the history of success of three decades of reform and opening up is the result of having realized these ”universal values”. These discourses match with the “universal value” strategy of the US and other such Western countries vis-a-vis the outside world, including China.

Mr. Fei Xiaotong pointed out that: “‘Cultural self-consciousness’ is a need of the present times, it refers to the fact that people living in a certain culture have self-knowledge about their culture”. In terms of its implications, cultural self-consciousness means that people have a sober self-knowledge of their own culture, and that its content can only been truly understood and learnt by those having self-knowledge. Cultural self-consciousness decides people’s spiritual attitudes, whether or not people have self-knowledge of their own culture may be reflected through their thoughts, words and actions. These thoughts, words and actions are the symbols of cultural self-consciousness.

First and foremost, cultural self-consciousness means being extremely clear bout what the quintessence and excellent traditions of one’s own culture are. If people want to determine what the cream and the dregs of their own culture are through scientific research and social practice, which also means that they still lack self-knowledge about their own culture. In these terms, Chinese people are the nation that lack cultural self-consciousness in the world today. Westerners have a Christian culture, Muslims have an Islamic culture, the Russians have an Eastern Orthodox culture… whenever the Chinese people discuss what the cream of Chinese culture is, and they often get bogged into endless dispute.

Furthermore, there are people with cultural self-consciousness who have a strong cultural self-confidence, who are completely convinced that their existence is perfectly justified. Faith is not a subjective concept that is detained in a mind, but it is a yardstick for human life. Chinese culture has fostered and formed a magnificent culture that is the axis of an era. In history, Chinese people once had a strong cultural self-consciousness, believing that “heaven does not change, and the Way also does not change”, cultural self-confidence coexisted with Chinese people’s living principles and heaven and earth. Even so, after the Opium War, because of civilizational differences between China and the West, imperialist aggression and the global structure of the Cold War, and moreover, the atheist nature of Chinese culture, Chinese people progressively accepted large amounts of Western ideological concepts, in order to strive for national independence and liberation, as well as the modernization of China, but at the same time, they hid their own cultural consciousness, and lost their cultural self-confidence step by step, and in the end, considered the Chinese culture handed down to us by the ancients as the backward ideology of a feudal society. The result that this engendered is that many Chinese often feel culturally inferior, even though they warmly love Chinese culture, they are always perplexed about what is the quintessence of Chinese culture, they collaborate to differentiate the cream and the dregs of Chinese culture, but are not clear about the cultural classics and the spiritual traditions that present the individuality of Chinese culture throughout.

Third, if we have self-knowledge about our own culture, we will be able to clearly know what kind of people we are, and know what this means. When people study the classics of their own culture, they understand themselves, and answer the question who “I” am, consequently, they define themselves by their own culture. What is a pity is that nowadays, not a few of our people still face this perplexity: what kind of people are the Chinese? What is meant by China? Our consciousness is hidden by some ideological concepts that believe themselves to be scientific but that have fallen behind the times, causing us to underestimate the Chinese culture that lets us become Chinese people, and to be unable to understand ourselves correctly.

Finally, people who have self-consciousness inevitably firmly believe in the classical works of their own culture. In intellectual structures constructed by cultural classics, there not only is scientific knowledge, but also knowledge carrying cultural quintessence; although posterity cannot verify it in scientific experience, these still are truths that go without saying. If people only believe science, that would bean that they lack cultural self-confidence. At present, the main content of Chinese education is exactly imparting this sort of knowledge structure that lacks cultural self-confidence. Our education only passes on knowledge, and does not pass on culture. The wealthier we become in material terms, the poorer we become spiritually, and consequently, the quality of cultural morality incessantly slides down.

After the Cold War, cultural identification replaced the class identification from the past, cultural self-consciousness also correspondingly replaced class consciousness, and became an important symbol deciding people’s spiritual attitude. Because of this, Chinese people must have cultural self-consciousness before they are able to adjust to the needs of the present times.

汪亭友:马克思主义是普遍真理不是“普世价值”
党建编者按:马克思主义是无产阶级的思想体系,并非适用一切人、适合一切时代的“普世价值”。“马克思主义是普世价值”,这是认识上的误区,是没有搞清楚“普世价值”与“普遍真理”的区别。个别“普世价值”论者别有用心地提出“马克思主义是普世价值”的论断,是有别的想法,是想使我们陷入“两难”境地:承认这一论断,则有利于为“普世价值”辩护;反对这一论断,则有利于削弱马克思主义的指导地位。我们可以明确回答:马克思主义是无产阶级的思想体系,并非适用一切人、适合一切时代的“普世价值”。

中国社会科学院世界社会主义研究中心特邀研究员、中国人民大学马克思主义学院副教授汪亭友的观点:

●价值总是具体的、历史的,在阶级社会价值是有阶级性的,根本不存在普遍适用、永恒存在的“普世价值”。

●价值是反映主客体关系的统一体,不能把物质世界的客观实在性当成“普世价值”存在的依据。

●要把客观认识(事实判断)和价值认识(价值判断)区分开来,不能将某些客观认识当作价值认识。

●否定“普世价值”并不否定价值共识的存在,但所有的价值共识都不会是“普世”的。

●不要把客观事物中的共性或一般性当做价值观念的“普世性”。

●当“普世”概念被引入政治领域后,就被西方主流意识形态和统治集团赋予了特殊的涵义。

一些人主张的“普世价值”是指普遍适用、永恒存在的价值,它为普天下所有的人接受,并贯穿于人类社会发展的始终。即认为“普世价值”具有普适性、永恒性、普遍必然性。这种观念认为,尽管在现实中“普世价值”还不一定为所有的人意识到并在行为中充分体现出来,但这只是暂时的。从历史发展的总的趋势看,“普世价值”最终会得到全人类的普遍认同,成为指导人类活动和历史发展的基本准则。那么,有没有这种普天下的人共同追求且永恒存在的“普世价值”呢?要说明这个问题,需要从哲学上的价值这一基本概念说起。

一、价值总是具体的、历史的,在阶级社会价值是有阶级性的,根本不存在普遍适用、永恒存在的“普世价值”

价值是一个反映主客体关系的哲学范畴,指的是客体对于主体的效用或意义。是否满足主体的需要以及满足的程度,是衡量客体有无价值及价值大小的尺度。主体对客体的价值认识至少有以下几个特征:首先,价值认识因主体的不同、需求的不同而有具体的差异。我们知道,音乐能给人带来美的享受,但音乐这种美的价值,只有那些懂得欣赏的人才能品味出来。所以马克思说:“对于没有音乐感的耳朵来说,最美的音乐也毫无意义”。生命对每个人来说都是宝贵的,但在革命者眼里,不畏强权、践行真理却比生命更重要。像乔·布鲁诺那样为捍卫真理而坦然登上火刑架的英雄壮举,像夏明翰那样若为自由故生命也可抛的可歌可泣的革命壮举,不胜枚举。

同样的客体会因主体需求不同而有不同的价值。水是生命的源泉。然而水却因人类需求不同呈现不同的价值。当水用来解决日常生活需求时,水的价值体现在维持人的生存和生活上;当水用于灌溉、发电、运输,用于工矿企业生产时,水的价值体现为人类从事的工农业生产上;而当水用来美化环境时,水满足了人们对美景的需求。即便有着同样需求的主体,也会因主体之间诸如评价的标准、原则、方法等不同,而对同一客体有不同的价值认识和评价。比如,人口渴了,需要喝水。但喝什么样的水,每个人都有自己的偏好、口味。有的人喜欢喝热水,有的人喜欢喝凉水,还有人喜欢喝矿泉水、茶水、饮料等。这些选择背后反映出不同的价值主体,对水如何满足自己的需要,有着不同的解读。

其次,价值具有历史性,它因时而异,这是由人类活动的历史性决定的。人类的实践是一个不断发展的历史过程。这就决定了以满足人的需求为目的的价值认识活动,也必然是一个随着实践不断发展的历史过程。早在古代人们就发现了石油,那时的石油实际上对人类没有多少价值(可能仅限于照明)。但随着工业的出现和发展,石油的能源价值、化纤价值等充分展现出来。随着人类实践活动向新的深度和广度发展,人类的需要也不断地丰富和发展,世界便在人类面前不断涌现出丰富多彩的价值。而且,随着新的价值的出现,某些旧的价值也将逐渐缩小乃至消失。比如,随着交通工具的日益发达,人力车的交通价值便日渐缩小。

社会存在决定社会意识。人类需求的满足,取决于认识自然、改造自然的能力和手段,取决于社会生产力发展水平。因此,人们的需求观念在不同的时代有显著差别,无不打上时代的印记。现代人对生活条件舒适的需要同原始社会甚至封建社会的人相比,已经发生了实质性的改变。现代人不仅不能满足于洞穴或封建时代农民的茅舍,而且已不能满足于没有现代化设施的封建城堡的生活条件。现代人对有关世界上所发生各种事件的信息的需要,极大地不同于过去没有报纸、广播、电视、网络时人们的需要。

在社会领域,价值认识是由经济基础决定的,从根本上讲是由社会经济关系决定的。人们的价值观念的内容、价值判断的标准,总要随着社会经济关系的变化而不断改变。在不同的社会经济关系下,人们赋予同一个价值观念以完全不同的内涵,根本不存在永恒不变的观念。比如,人们喜欢议论公平,有人还把它说成是永恒的、人人都追求的东西,似乎这就是“普世”的价值观念了。然而在不同社会里,公平的内涵是不一样的。恩格斯在批评蒲鲁东小资产阶级的“永恒的公平”时,给公平下过一个经典性的定义。他说:公平“始终只是现存经济关系的或者反映其保守方面,或者反映其革命方面的观念化的神圣化的表现。希腊人和罗马人的公平认为奴隶制度是公平的;1789年资产者的公平要求废除封建制度;在普鲁士的容克看来,甚至行政区域条例也是对永恒公平的破坏。所以关于永恒公平的观念不仅因时因地而变,甚至也因人而异,正如米尔伯格说过的那样,‘一个人有一个人的理解’”。

马克思在批评拉萨尔的“公平的分配”时,用提问的方式阐述了自己关于公平问题的观点,这一观点同恩格斯是完全一样的。他说:“什么是‘公平的’分配呢?难道资产者不是断言今天的分配是‘公平的’吗?难道它事实上不是现今的生产方式基础上唯一‘公平的’分配吗?难道经济关系是由法的概念来调节,而不是相反,从经济关系中产生出法的关系吗?难道各种社会主义宗派分子关于‘公平的’分配不是也有各种极不相同的观念吗?”

第三,在阶级社会里,人们的价值观念不可避免地带有阶级性,特别是上升到思想理论层面的系统化的价值观。价值主体是生活在一定社会中的人,不是抽象的而是现实的、具体的,每一个人都在一定的阶级地位中生活。生活在不同阶级地位中的人,在价值认识、价值取向乃至价值观念上不可避免地带有本阶级的属性。虽然并不是所有的价值认识都具有阶级性(比如反映人与自然关系的物质价值,当然也存在着具体的历史的差异),但反映人与人之间社会关系的社会经济价值、政治价值和精神价值一般都具有鲜明的阶级性,尤其是系统化理论化的价值观。一个社会的核心价值体系就是统治阶级意志的根本表达,体现着社会意识的性质和发展方向。

承认价值观念的“阶级性”,就必然要否定它的“普世性”。可以有这个阶级的价值观、那个阶级的价值观,但不可能有超越一切阶级并凌驾所有人之上的价值观念。即便人类进入到共产主义社会,也不会存在什么“普世价值”。因为那时的社会虽然消灭了阶级和阶级差别,人们的价值观念没有了阶级性,但共产主义社会是一个每个人都得到全面而自由发展的社会,每个人的个性都得到充分尊重和发扬,因主体个性上的差异对同一对象产生不同的价值认识应是普遍存在的现象。同时共产主义社会也是一个不断向前发展的社会,主体对同一客体的价值认识也会有历史性的变化,不可能存在永恒不变的价值观念。

当然,承认价值现象的纷繁复杂、价值认识的千差万别、价值观念的阶级性,绝不是说在价值问题上“公说公有理,婆说婆有理”,没有任何客观的标准。就特定的主客体关系而言,人们可以有不同的价值认识,但只有那些符合客观实际、反映事物发展规律、与真理尺度相统一的价值认识,才是正确的、科学的认识。这是在价值问题上我们必须坚持的唯物论,也是价值客观性的体现。也只有这些正确的、科学的价值认识,才会有助于人们的实践,从而创造出满足人类需要的物质或精神成果。因此,在认识和改造客观世界的过程中,要坚持价值尺度和真理尺度相统一的原则,把满足人的需要同按科学规律办事有机地统一起来。只有这样,才能不断获得成功。

正确的、科学的价值认识也不是“普世”的,总要随着实践的发展、认识的深化,而不断丰富和完善。人民群众是历史的创造者,是推动社会发展的主体力量。无产阶级和广大劳动人民的愿望和要求始终同人类社会发展的根本趋势相一致。因此对人类社会发展进程的认识,对历史领域的现象和问题的分析,特别是对重大事件和重要人物的评价,只有站在无产阶级和广大劳动人民的立场上,按照符合人民利益和愿望的标准进行评价,才是正确的、科学的。这是马克思主义关于价值的阶级性与价值的科学性相统一原则的根本体现。比如对苏联剧变这一重大历史事件的评价,不同的阶级站在不同的立场上得出的结论是不同的,甚至截然对立。站在西方垄断资产阶级的立场上,必然认为苏联剧变是一件好事,是“历史的进步”。而站在广大苏联人民的立场上,按照唯物史观揭示的人类社会发展的一般规律,就会认为,苏联剧变是历史的悲剧,是历史的倒退,它给广大苏联人民乃至世界人民带来深重灾难。

二、价值是反映主客体关系的统一体,不能把物质世界的客观实在性当成“普世价值”存在的依据

首先,主体与客体是构成价值关系的基本要件,两者缺一不可。客体是价值的前提和对象,没有客体,也就没有与之对应的主体,更谈不上价值认知活动了。同样,主体是价值生成的条件和基础,没有主体的需要,没有同客体发生联系的主体,就不会存在价值认识活动,也就不会产生价值认识、价值观念了。

其次,客观性和主观性是价值的两个基本特性。(1)从根本上讲,价值的客观性是由社会实践决定的。现实的价值关系,都是社会实践的产物,都依赖于社会实践。价值的客观性体现在价值关系的各个环节上。比如主体的需要是客观的,用来满足主体需要的对象即客体是客观的,满足人的需要的过程与结果也是客观的。另外人的需要总要受到客观历史条件的制约,这也是价值客观性的一个重要体现。(2)价值的主观性体现在价值是主体对客体的主观判断。客体有无价值及其价值的大小,是由主体的主观活动进行认知和评价的结果。因此,价值认识具有很强的主观性。恩格斯说:“物品的效用是一种纯主观的根本不能绝对确定的东西”。这句话点明了价值认识的主观性和相对性。并不是所有的主体认识都属于价值认知的范畴,但价值认识一定是主体意识活动的结果,是主体在认识和改造世界的过程中形成的。

明确上述两点非常重要。有一种观点把物的有用性,即物能满足人的某种需要的自然属性看成“普世价值”,比如阳光、空气、水、竹片、木屑、泥沙等。因为这些物质对人有益有用的性能和价值不会改变,因而具有永恒的“普世性”。这种观点的认识误区在于把物质世界的客观实在性当成“普世价值”存在的依据。我们知道,自然界的万事万物是客观存在的,是不以人的意志为转移的。列宁曾把自然界万事万物共有的客观实在性,概括为哲学上物质概念的根本特性。物质世界的客观实在性,可以说不因尧存,不以桀亡。但这些客观存在的万事万物,只有成为价值认识的客体时才能成为价值评价的范畴。不与价值主体发生联系的存在,只是一种客观存在。这种客观存在的事物是谈不上有价值的,更谈不上是“普世价值”。

三、要把客观认识(事实判断)和价值认识(价值判断)区分开来,不能将某些客观认识当作价值认识

人类在认识世界的过程中,产生了大量关于客体的认识,其中有两类:一类是客观认识。这是以客体本身的状态为反映内容,是探究物质世界本来面目及其内在规律的科学认识,是对客观事实的描述。这类认识要么符合(或部分符合)客观实际,要么不符合(部分不符合或完全不符合)客观实际,不夹杂着人的主观判断,不以人的主观意志为转移。这种以求真为目的形成的判断叫做事实判断,比如,人们探究黄金和玉石的天然属性、物理特性等。

另一类是价值认识,它是以客体和主体之间的价值关系为反映内容,以获取关于客体对主体的效用和意义,即有没有用、值不值、好不好、有利还是不利、有没有意义等,诸如此类的认识所形成的判断叫做价值判断。这类判断的依据是主体的需求。需求不同,价值判断也会不一样,而且还会有历史性的变化。比如,人们认识黄金和玉石的收藏价值、市场价值,就会因主体的不同、市场行情的不同、时代的不同而有很大的差异,根本不存在客观统一的标准。

当然,客观认识和价值认识之间也有联系。有些认识既是客观认识又是价值认识。当价值认识符合真理的尺度,因而是科学的价值认识时,两者才能真正地统一起来。

明确客观认识与价值认识之间的区别,对我们认识“普世价值”问题非常重要。一些人在谈论“普世价值”时,总是有意无意地把客观认识和价值认识混淆了,把本不属于价值范畴的客观认识当做价值认识,以此来说明“普世价值”的存在。比如,有人认为人类自产生以来,不分男女,不分阶级、种族,都得要吃饭。因此,“人是要吃饭的”这种全人类的共同需求就是“普世价值”。毫无疑问,人要生存就得吃饭,但这是人类同地球上其他动物共有的一种生理本能,这是一种客观认识。当然,吃饭的内涵也是不一样的,因此,即使把“人是要吃饭的”纳入价值认知的范畴,也不能得出“普世”的结论。“朱门酒肉臭,路有冻死骨”是古代剥削社会的真实写照。而在当今世界,据统计,全球每天有8亿人在挨饿,有40亿人生活贫困,1亿孩童流落在街头,每年有1100万名5岁以下的儿童死于营养不良、贫困和可以预防或可以治愈的疾病。而美国富豪比尔·盖茨、沃伦·巴菲特、保罗·艾伦三人总资产比世界上最不发达的43个国家GDP的总量还多。这两类人群对“人是要吃饭的”评价是绝对不一样的。

有人把马克思主义看成“普世价值”,理由是马克思主义是放之四海而皆准的普遍真理。我们说马克思主义是普遍真理,这是因为它所揭示的关于自然、社会和思维发展的一般规律已被无数的实践证实,是经过实践和历史检验不以任何人的意志为转移的科学结论。在无产阶级和广大劳动人民看来,马克思主义既是事实判断又是价值判断。然而在资产阶级看来,马克思主义不是普遍真理,相反他们认为马克思主义是异端邪说。在历史上,马克思主义自诞生时起就遭到国际资产阶级的疯狂扼杀,马克思主义被当作幽灵一般看待。根本原因是马克思主义是无产阶级的思想体系,是无产阶级进行阶级斗争的思想武器,而不是所有阶级都能认同的“普世价值”。

有的学者认为,“马克思主义是普世价值”,这是认识上的误区,是没有搞清楚“普世价值”与“普遍真理”的区别。个别“普世价值”论者别有用心地提出“马克思主义是普世价值”的论断,是有别的想法,是想使我们陷入“两难”境地:承认这一论断,则有利于为“普世价值”辩护;反对这一论断,则有利于削弱马克思主义的指导地位。我们可以明确回答:马克思主义是无产阶级的思想体系,并非适用一切人、适合一切时代的“普世价值”。

四、否定“普世价值”并不否定价值共识的存在,但所有的价值共识都不会是“普世”的

应该说,一定的主体在一定的条件下、一定的范围内,可以达成一定的价值共识。比如在人类文明进步中,在各民族文化交流中,不同的民族、不同的国家会逐步形成对某些基本价值的认可,甚至在全球范围内还存在绝大多数人认同的价值共识。但所有的价值共识都是有条件、有范围的,而且会随着条件和范围的改变而改变,并不存在一种永恒不变的“普世”的价值共识。

比如在人与自然的关系上。利用自然造福人类,这是人类的价值共识。但人类的这一共识也始终处于发展变化中。在生产力落后、科学技术还不发达的时代,人类过多地强调对自然界的攫取,甚至为满足人类过度需要而不惜违背自然规律,因此遭受大自然的惩罚。随着科学技术的发展,人类认识和改造自然能力的增强,在总结以往教训的基础上,人类逐渐意识到不计后果地掠夺自然的危害,于是开始改变乃至抛弃原有的错误观念和做法。当今时代,人类更加强调尊重自然规律,提倡科学地利用自然,主张人与自然的和谐相处、可持续发展。毫无疑问,将来的人类会在新的实践中不断丰富和发展对利用自然的认识。

又如当今时代的核威慑、恐怖主义、环境污染、资源枯竭等全球性问题。全人类因此有了共同利益,并在此基础上产生反映并解决这些问题的价值共识。但这些全人类的价值共识并不是“普世”的。因为全人类面临共同问题与存在共同利益是一回事,而对待共同利益的态度、处理共同问题的方法却完全是另外一回事。比如美国至今不肯放弃率先使用核武器的权利,至今不肯加入旨在减少全球温室气体排放量的《京都议定书》,说到底是要维护美国垄断资产阶级的政治统治和经济利益。

2009年9月在丹麦首都哥本哈根召开的世界气候大会,可以说是对“普世价值”鼓吹者的极大讽刺。190多个国家的代表带着对全人类共同问题的担忧参加了会议。然而保护全球环境这个价值共识并没有得到与会各国的真正的普遍认同,发达国家与发展中国家在譬如如何采取行动等问题上分歧巨大。美国公开拒绝接受国际社会普遍认可的“共同但有区别的责任原则”,竭力推卸美国应承担的历史责任和现实义务,同时还把批判的矛头指向中国。其实质是保护全球环境这个人类共识并没有成为美国等西方发达国家的“普世价值”。

再如宪政。一些人刻意掩盖宪政的阶级实质,竭力淡化宪政的制度属性,试图把宪政同资本主义制度剥离开来,使之成为具有独立形态的普遍适用的价值理念和制度模式。毫无疑问,宪政是西方资产阶级的普遍价值共识,它维护的是占统治地位的资产阶级的利益,是为发展资本主义保驾护航。因此,宪政对无产阶级和广大劳动人民来说,是统治阶级压迫他们的工具,有着深刻的资本主义制度内涵。毛泽东同志曾深刻揭露宪政的资本主义本质和实质,他认为欧美式的宪政是“资产阶级专政的”宪政,“像现在的英、法、美等国,所谓宪政,所谓民主政治,实际上都是吃人政治”。对于这样的宪政,无产阶级和广大劳动人民决不认为它是“普世”的。相反在无产阶级革命胜利以后,还要将它扫进历史的垃圾堆。宪政绝不是一些人所说的“无东西方之分”、“对全人类有普遍意义”的“普世价值”。

五、不要把客观事物中的共性或一般性当做价值观念的“普世性”

主张“普世价值”的人在思维上有一个共同点,即把人们从客观事物中抽象出来的共性或一般性,当做价值观念的“普世性”。比如,把不同阶级、不同人群存在的价值观念中的共同点、把不同国家在实践中积累的相同或相似的经验抽象出来,叫做“普世价值”。如民主、自由、平等、公平、正义、人权等,资本主义国家讲,社会主义国家也讲,资产阶级的语汇里有,马克思主义的语汇里也有,资本主义国家在做市场经济和法治,社会主义国家也在搞。因此,民主、自由、平等、公平、正义、人权等就是全人类共同追求的“普世价值”,市场经济以及法治就是“普世经验”、“普世模式”、“普世价值”。

把事物的共性或一般性与个性或特殊性割裂开来,只看其一不看其二,这是形而上学的认识方法。从哲学上讲,客观事物的共性或一般性并不能孤立存在。人们在思维中可以抽象出客观对象的共性或一般性来,但是在现实中,共性或一般性脱离不了个性、特殊性。共性或一般性总要寓于个性、特殊性之中,并要通过个性与特殊性表现出来。完全脱离个性与特殊性的抽象事物是根本不存在的。人们可以从各种各样的具体水果(苹果、橘子、菠萝、香蕉等)中抽象出共性,把它概括为水果,但在市场上只能买到具体的水果。

即使从事物中抽象出来的共性或一般性也不会一劳永逸、静止不变的。因为一定历史条件下,受主客观条件的限制,人类认识事物的手段、能力、水平总是有限的。需要经历从实践到认识、再从认识到实践,如此循环往复以至无穷。这就决定了事物的共性或一般性,也必然是具体的、历史的,而不是永恒不变的。另外,事物的共性或一般性属于客观认识的范畴。而上述民主、自由、平等、公平、正义、人权等属于价值观的范畴,价值观领域的民主、自由、平等、公平、正义、人权等从来就不是“普世”的。

比如,民主虽然是个抽象的概括,资产阶级和无产阶级都讲民主,但究竟哪种民主好?不同的阶级对民主有不同的回答。马克思主义的回答是无产阶级的民主、社会主义的民主,人民当家作主。而资产阶级所说的民主,实质上是资产阶级专政的民主,保障的是资本剥削和压迫的自由。正因为不同的阶级对民主有不同的认识,所以在马克思主义的语汇里,总要讲资产阶级的民主、无产阶级的民主,资本主义的民主、社会主义的民主。民主前面的这些限定语绝不是可有可无的,而是点明了民主的阶级性、民主的本质。人类社会从来就不存在一种全人类都能认同的纯粹民主、一般民主或“普世民主”。

抽象的自由在现实社会生活中也是不存在的。人们对自由的理解总是具体的、有差别的。不同的阶级有不一样的回答,甚至是完全对立的。资产阶级认为凭借占有的生产资料雇用工人、榨取工人创造的剩余价值,就是他们的权利和自由;而工人阶级则认为,消灭私有制、消灭雇佣劳动制度,才能获得自己的自由。

对于民主、自由的本质,毛泽东同志一语中的:“实际上,世界上只有具体的自由,具体的民主,没有抽象的自由,抽象的民主。在阶级斗争的社会里,有了剥削阶级的剥削劳动人民的自由,就没有劳动人民不受剥削的自由。有了资产阶级的民主,就没有无产阶级和劳动人民的民主。”他还说:“民主自由都是相对的,不是绝对的,都是在历史上发生和发展的。”

不仅民主、自由是具体的、有阶级性的,平等、公平、正义、人权等观念也是如此。在存在阶级和阶级对立的条件下,抽象的自由、平等都是骗人的。列宁尖锐地指出:“只要阶级还没有消灭,任何关于自由和平等的笼统议论都是欺骗自己,或者是欺骗工人,欺骗全体受资本剥削的劳动者,无论怎么说,都是在维护资产阶级的利益。只要阶级还没有消灭,对于自由和平等的任何议论都应当提出这样的问题:是哪一个阶级的自由?到底怎样使用这种自由?是哪个阶级同哪个阶级的平等?到底是哪一方面的平等?直接或间接、有意或无意地回避这些问题,必然是维护资产阶级的利益、资本的利益、剥削者的利益。只要闭口不谈这些问题,不谈生产资料的私有制,自由和平等的口号就是资产阶级社会的谎话和伪善,因为资产阶级社会用形式上承认自由和平等来掩盖工人、全体受资本剥削的劳动者,即所有资本主义国家中大多数居民在经济方面事实上的不自由和不平等。”

市场经济有其一般性的内涵,但市场经济并不能抽象存在,它总要与一个国家的基本制度、具体国情结合起来,在实践中形成各具特色的市场经济体制。有资本主义的市场经济,有社会主义的市场经济。即便在社会制度相同的国家,市场经济体制也会有不同表现。这是市场经济在与不同国情结合的过程中必然产生的特殊性。江泽民同志指出,社会主义市场经济体制前面的“‘社会主义’这几个字是不能没有的,这并非多余,并非‘画蛇添足’,而恰恰相反,这是‘画龙点睛’。所谓‘点睛’,就是点明我们市场经济的性质”,“西方市场经济是在资本主义制度下搞的,我们的市场经济是在社会主义制度下搞的,这是不同点,而我们的创造性和特色也就体现在这里”。而且,随着实践的发展,不同的国家、不同的社会制度对市场经济的内涵和理解也会发生变化。社会主义可以搞市场经济,并不是因为市场经济是“普世价值”,而是市场经济如同计划经济一样,都是发展生产的方法、调节经济的手段。合适就用,不合适就不用。

法治从本质上讲是经济上占支配地位的阶级维护其政治统治的一种工具,是一个社会的统治阶级治国理政的基本方式。法治作为管理国家和社会的一种手段和方式,并不为某一社会形态所独有,存在于一切有法的社会。但法治不是抽象的,它在服务某一具体社会形态的过程中必然带有此种社会形态的性质和属性。比如,我们提出依法治国,建设社会主义法治国家,是指党领导人民治理国家,保证人民依法实行民主选举、民主决策、民主管理和民主监督,维护广大人民的根本利益。江泽民同志指出:“坚持党的领导和社会主义方向”以及“保证广大人民群众充分行使民主权利”,是建设社会主义法治国家必须贯彻的“两个原则”。这就点明了社会主义法治同资本主义法治的本质区别。

我们反对“普世价值”的提法,并不是要否定事物的共性或一般性,或如一些人指责的片面强调个性、特殊性。我们主张恢复唯物辩证法的本来面目。既要看到事物的共性或一般性,又要看到事物的个性或特殊性,并将两者科学地统一起来。主张“普世价值”的人,片面强调事物的共性或一般性,以此作为“普世价值”存在的根据,这从根本上背离了马克思主义的世界观和方法论,也不符合客观实际。

六、警惕“普世价值”的陷阱

“普世”原本是欧洲中世纪基督教广泛使用的一个宗教概念。其本意是指普天下所有的人,亦即全人类。到了20世纪90年代,西方的一些神学家、伦理学家把某种普遍接受或广泛认同的伦理观念和道德规范称为“普世伦理”、“全球伦理”、“普遍伦理”或“世界伦理”等,并在国际上掀起一股走向“普世伦理”的热潮。也大体在这个时期,哲学、心理学、政治学等领域的一些学者,开始把某种普遍认同的现象或观念概括为“普世价值”。

西方学者在解释“普世”概念时,主要指大多数人认同的基本共识。“普世伦理”的主要倡导者之一、德国神学家孔汉思认为,“普世伦理”是一种在“伦理方面的基本共识”,是“由所有宗教肯定的、得到信徒和非信徒支持的、一种最低限度的共同的价值、标准和态度”。英国哲学家和政治思想史学家赛亚·伯林认为,“普世价值”是一种大多数人在绝大多数的地方和情况下、在几乎所有时代都共同操守的价值,不管人们是否意识到或在行为中表现出来。

但当“普世”概念被引入政治领域后,就被西方主流意识形态和统治集团赋予了特殊的涵义。1996年,美国政治与外交智库的代表人物塞缪尔·亨廷顿在《文明的冲突与世界秩序的重建》一书中,主张用西方的“普世文明”、“普世主义”对付非西方的文明和非西方社会的意识形态。他认为,虽然苏联东欧“共产主义的崩溃”意味着西方的民主自由思想取得“全球性胜利”,但当今世界仍然存在西方文明与反西方的文明、西方意识形态与反西方意识形态的冲突。他还无奈地指出:普世文明的概念是西方文明的独特产物,然而“西方人眼中的普世主义,对非西方来说就是帝国主义”。如何对待这种冲突呢?亨廷顿指出:“20世纪末,普世文明的概念有助于为西方对其他社会的文化统治和那些社会模仿西方的实践和体制的需要作辩护。普世主义是西方对付非西方社会的意识形态。”

到了21世纪初,美国开始把“普世价值”作为它推行霸权主义思想、政治、战略的新攻势、新概念。奥巴马政府更是把推行“普世价值”提到新的战略高度。2010年5月27日,美国政府向国会提交的《美国国家安全战略》指出,美国的持久利益有4项,其中第3项是“在国内和全世界尊重普世价值”。这份报告明确指出:美国坚信“普世价值”,致力于在世界范围推广“普世价值”。对“普世价值”的坚定支持,这是美国区别于敌人、敌对政府和潜在对手的原因。报告还详尽阐述了推进“普世价值”要采取的6个方面的战略措施,比如认可非民主国家的一切和平民主运动的合法性,为“普世价值”推广者建立一个更广泛的联盟等。2010年12月15日,希拉里·克林顿发布的美国《四年外交与发展评估报告》前言部分指出:在新世界格局中我们必须推动美国的安全与繁荣,尊重“普世价值”观以及国际秩序。我们从这一点着手,确定重塑世界格局的趋势。

日本右翼首相安倍晋三早在2006年7月第一次当选首相前夕就鼓吹过“普世价值”。他认为,他的外交理念中心是重视自由、民主、人权和法治这四种“普世价值”,并向亚洲和全世界推广。他还表示,将加强与共享自由和民主主义等“普世价值”观的美国、澳洲和印度合作,以亚洲为中心,积极扩大这种价值观。第二次当选首相后的2013年1月18日,他在印度尼西亚首都雅加达发表了围堵中国的“东南亚外交新五原则”,其中第一项就是“巩固和普及‘自由民主、基本人权’等普世价值”。

然而在我国却有人认为,中国实行改革开放,实现现代化,必须承认“普世价值”,以“普世价值”为尺度,跟国际上的主流观念接轨;在这些“普世价值”面前,没必要区分姓“资”姓“社”;解放思想就要确立“普世价值”的口号;中国要立足民族特色,但也要拥抱“普世价值”。有的人甚至认为,30年改革开放历史功绩的取得,就是由于实现了这些“普世价值”的结果。这些言论是对美国等西方国家的对外包括对中国的“普世价值”战略的配合。

费孝通先生指出:“‘文化自觉’是当今时代的要求,它指的是生活在一定文化中的人对其文化有自知之明”。就其内涵而言,文化自觉是人对自己文化的清醒自知,其内容只有自知者能够真正理解体会。文化自觉决定着人的精神状态,人们是否对其文化有自知之明,可以通过他们的思想言行表现出来。这些思想言行就是文化自觉的标志。

首先,文化自觉意味着非常清楚自己文化的精髓和优秀传统是什么。如果人们要通过科学研究与社会实践去判断自己文化的精华与糟粕,那也就意味着,他对自己的文化还没有自知之明。从这个意义上说,中国人是当今世界上最缺乏文化自觉的民族。西方人是基督教文化,穆斯林是伊斯兰教文化,俄罗斯人是东正教文化……中国人但凡讨论何谓中国文化的精华,却常常陷入无尽无休的争论。

其次,有文化自觉的人会拥有强烈的文化自信,确信其存在天经地义。信念并非仅滞留在头脑中的主观观念,而是人的生命准绳。中国文化是孕育、成型于轴心时代的伟大文化。历史上,中国人也曾拥有强烈的文化自信,确信“天不变,道亦不变”,自信中国文化暨中国人的生命原则与天地共存。然而,鸦片战争以后,由于中西方之间的文明冲突、帝国主义的侵略与冷战世界格局的影响,加之中国文化的非宗教性质,中国人为争取民族独立解放与国家的现代化,逐步接受了大量西方的思想观念,但同时却遮蔽了自己的文化意识,一步步丧失了文化自信,最终将先人留给我们的中国文化视为封建社会的落后意识形态。因此造成的结果是,很多中国人经常感到文化自卑,虽然热爱中国文化,却总是困惑于何谓中国文化的精髓,纠结于中国文化精华与糟粕的辨析,始终不清楚代表中国文化个性的文化经典与精神传统是什么。

再次,如果对自己文化有自知之明,就会清楚知道自己是什么人,而且知道这意味着什么。人们学习自己文化的经典,就是认识自己,回答“我”是谁,从而以自己的文化界定自己。很遗憾的是,如今我们不少人还面对这些困惑:中国人是什么人?何谓中国?我们的意识为某些自以为科学却已落后于时代的思想观念所遮蔽,使我们漠视让自己成为中国人的中国文化,而不能正确认识自己。

最后,有文化自觉的人必然确信自己文化的经典著作。在文化经典所建构的知识体系中,不仅有科学知识,还有承载文化精髓的知识;后者虽不能验证于科学实验,却仍是不言而喻的真理。如果人们只相信科学,那就意味着他们缺乏文化自觉。目前中国教育的主要内容,正是传授这样一种缺乏文化自觉的知识体系。我们的教育只传授知识,却没有传承文化。我们在物质上越来越富有,在精神上却越来越贫乏,因而文化道德素质才不断下滑。

冷战后,文化认同已取代过去的阶级认同,文化自觉也相应取代阶级觉悟,成为决定人的精神状态的重要标志。因此,中国人要有文化自觉,才能顺应当今时代的要求。

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