Is it possible to construct a Maoist Christology? Earlier, I noted some reflections from the young Mao on Jesus, only to come across yet more. He begins by noting Confucius’s famous observation: ‘The superior man wishes to be slow in speech and earnest in conduct’. But then he goes against the sage:

If one person who has obtained a pearl and another who owns half a jade disk do not engage in mutual questioning and interaction, how can they broaden their knowledge and achieve erudition? Perhaps this is what is known as inviting offense with speech. But even so, speech cannot be discarded because it can cause transgression, just as food cannot be discarded simply because it can cause one to choke. Furthermore, he who speaks does not necessarily transgress, and even if he does transgress, this is but a small matter to a wise man. Jesus was dismembered for speaking out, Long and Bi were executed for speaking out. (The Writings of Mao Zedong, vol. 1, pp. 72-73).

Crucifixion does not seem to have been an ancient Chinese practice, although dismemberment and disembowelment were (the latter being the fate of Guan Longxian and Bi Gan, who opposed the brutal Zhou Xiu in the twelfth century). Apart from the angle on Jesus, I am intrigued by the way he already draws on eastern and western dimensions in his thought, which was a feature of his later practice.

This one just snuck out as the new year was about turn (enjoying it in the village of Herrnhut, Saxony). It’s a piece with Monthly Review, assessing Gennady Zyuganov’s speech from 27 October and focusing on the issue of Marxism and religion.

Sergey sent me this great link to Zyuganov‘s speech on the auspicious day of 27 October this year. As everyone should know, Zyuganov is the chairman of the central committee of the Russian Communist Party. And the event was the 14th joint plenum  of that committee. The theme: the importance of and need to renew Marxist theory. He points out that Gorbachev took advantage of theoretical stagnation in Marxist thought and was thereby able to defeat the CPSU ideologically. It was the mark of a liberal-bourgeois revolution, from which it was a short step to the dismantling of the USSR. Perestroika is the signal of that ideological defeat. Of course, he calls for a deep re-engagement with the work of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, the latter of whom observed: ‘Without theory we are dead’.

But – and here it becomes really interesting – he has quite a bit to say about religion. He reasserts the old party platform of freedom of conscience in the party on matters of religion, the need for religious institutions and the party to operate in peaceful coexistence, indeed to attract people with religious belief to the party. And then he quotes Stalin to kick off a discussion concerning radical and revolutionary forms of religion, so much so that they share the goals of scientific socialism. Che Guavara turns up, as does Hugo Chavez, along with liberation theology. All of them oppose the Golden Calf of capital, whether socialist, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and so on.

And in outlining the measures needed for theoretical renewal that criticises the mistakes made and draws lessons from the achievements of the past – in terms of history, philosophy, science, religion and so on – he points out: ‘Soviet socialism is not only the past, but the future of Russia’.

I wonder if they need a resident theologian.