The Basic Propositions and Principal Standpoints of Marxist Thinking on Historical Progress

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.5, 2017


The Basic Propositions and Principal Standpoints of Marxist Thinking on Historical Progress



Cheng Lin


Historical progress is an innate necessity of Marxist thought. Western liberal scholars’ rejection of this idea is actually a rejection of historical materialism and hence of the whole Marxist theoretical system, including scientific socialism. If we are to uphold the Marxist idea of historical progress, it is necessary to respond to the accusations liberal political philosophy has levelled at Marxism on the three basic propositions of historical laws, historical determinism and historical teleology, in order to clarify these questions and maintain the principal standpoints of Marxism. Marxism holds that history does have laws, and the essence of the laws is that history makes constant progress. Such laws can be grasped and understood by us to a certain extent. Marxism believes that the progress of history is determined by the laws of history, so the Marxist idea of historical progress is a kind of historical determinism. However, this historical determinism is not unitary or mechanical (that is, it is not solely economic nor does it involve only the forces of production). Instead, it takes into account not only necessity and objectivity, but also contingency and subjective agency; it stresses not only the decisive role of the productive forces and the economic foundation, but also the importance of the relations of production and the superstructure in dialectical and systemic determinism. Marxist thinking on historical progress is not in any sense historical teleology, even thoughit does discuss the purpose of history in the sense of real man and man’s purposive activity. Marxist thought on historical progress argues that it is real man and his purposive historical activity in accord with historical laws that drive the progress of history.