Struggle Between Two Lines in the Ideological Sphere by Yang Jung-kuo
Struggle Between Two Lines in the Ideological Sphere by Yang Jung-kuo
Struggle Between Two Lines in the Ideological Sphere by Yang Jung-kuo
Struggle Between Two Lines in the Ideological Sphere During the Spring and Autumn Period And the Warring States Period
— Social changes during the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period as seen from the contention of views between the Confucian and Legalist schools.
by Yang Jung-kuo
Source: Peking Review, No. 8, February 22, 1974
CHINA was a slave society during the Yin and the Western Chou Dynasties. When it reached the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.) and the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), the times were those of rapid changes from the slave system to the feudal system
It was in this period of rapid social changes that slave struggles against enslavement and oppression by slave-owners kept on developing. For example, in the State of Chen, there was a revolt by the masses sent to build the city walls in 550 B.C.; there was a revolt in 520 B.C. by the "artisans" under the royal household of Chou * against the household; in 478 B.C. the handicraft slaves of the State of Wei besieged and attacked Duke Chuang of Wei. Handicraft slaves in the Slate of Wei in 470 B.C. used their tools to attack the ducal household * * and drove out Marquis Cheh of Wei. To oppose the rulers of the State of Cheng, some slaves gathered in places densely covered with reeds to form resistance groups. In the State of Tsin it was recorded that the masses ran away as if from a pursuing enemy as soon as the ruler issued an order; in other words, they fled to demonstrate their opposition to their ruler.
Impelled by the force of the class struggle by the .slaves and the masses, the system of land ownership was also going through a change. In the old slave society of the Yin and the Western Chou Dynasties, all land had belonged to the royal clan. Because of the increase in the power of private families and emergence of privately owned land after the middle Spring and Autumn Period, the State of Lu in 594 B.C. (the fifteenth year of Duke Hsuan of Lu) had to initiate the system of levying tax on private land and thereby recognized private ownership of land. At that time, this was a significant change. Consequently, there emerged the landlords and tenants as well as peasants coming from freemen and tilling their own fields. As a result, the individual economy started to develop.
From the Spring and Autumn Period to the Warring Stales Period, the enslaved masses1 struggle developed further. One example was the slave revolt in the Stale of Chin led by a man called Chin; numbering several thousand, the insurgents dealt the slave-owning aristocrats of different states at the time heavy blows. Because of this, Chih was held in great esteem by the enslaved masses and exercised great influence in society. At that lime the land of the newly emerging landlords was tilled by the masses who paid rent, which meant that the feudal relations of production were further developed. A number of slaves became free through their struggles and some of them sold their labour power and became farm labourers exploited by the newly rising landlord class.
This changing situation naturally made it impossible to keep the old laws and institutions of the Yin and the Western Chou Dynasties which maintained the political hierarchy and exploited the slaves. The result was that ''the rites were lost and music was ruined." By the Warring States Period, people no longer talked about the "'rites" and "sincerity.'' The rule under the slave system was confronted by irretrievable doom.
Therefore, the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period was a time of rapid social changes and a time of transition from the slave system to the feudal system. During this transition the slaves were fighting for liberation and the new forces were rising. And they all rose to launch continuous attacks on the slave-owning class. Wasn't this very clear?
Under these circumstances, fierce struggles between two different classes and two different lines also made their appearance in the ideological sphere. As Lenin was to point out: One must not fail to see "the struggle of parties in philosophy, a struggle which in the last analysis reflects the tendencies and ideology of the antagonistic classes in modern society. Recent philosophy is as partisan as was philosophy two thousand years ago." (Materialism and Empirio-CTiticism.) Also as Chairman Mao pointed out: "In class society everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, Is stamped with the brand of a class." (On Practice.)
Confucius and later followers of the Confucian school like Tzu Ssu and Mencius were the representatives of the ideology of the declining slave-owning class at that time, while the representatives of the ideology of the newly rising landlord class were people like Shang Yang and Han Fei of the Legalist school. Another philosopher Hsun Tzu belonged to the Confucian school, but judging by his philosophical viewpoint and political thought, he basically represented the ideology of the newly rising force.
From the ideological struggle between the Confucians and the Legalists, we can see the momentous changes in society at the time. Whether to promote the development of the new system, or to try to preserve the old system; whether to serve the needs of the newly rising class in accordance with historical development, or try to turn history back by following the examples of 'former sage-kings''; whether to advocate the rule of ''law" suited to the development of the new age, or stubbornly try to preserve the so-called rule of "rites" in the old system; whether to try to solve contemporary problems with the current actual struggle in mind, or to use subjective concepts to define the developing objective reality — all this was bound to find expression in the struggle between the progressive class and the reactionary class of that time. So the contest in ideology between the Legalists and the Confucians reflected the struggle between the two classes and two lines at that tune.
The actual ideological struggle between the Legalists and the Confucians during the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period was as follows.
Confucius*** (551-479 B.C.) lived towards the end of the Spring and Autumn Period. At that time continuing slave uprisings and the emergence of the new force gradually made it impossible to preserve the so-called i ule of "rites" which upheld the rule of the slave system. Ideas about changing the old system began to appear. Two examples are: In 536 B.C. the people of the State of Cheng had inscribed the law code on metal, and in 513 B.C. the people of the State of Tsin cast an iron tripod inscribed with the laws. Thus when the laws were so inscribed in the State of Cheng, a conservative in the State of Tsin, Shu Hsiang, held that once the laws were made public, the slaves would make trouble and wage struggle against the aristocrats according to the laws. When the State of Tsin cast the tripod, Confucius even more strongly opposed it. He alleged that if these laws governing the relationship between slaves and aristocrats were written down in a code and engraved on the tripod for all to know, how could the aristocrats' rule under the slave system be respected? There would be no "proper order for the noble and the mean."' and how could this be called a slave-owning state? Confucius stubbornly took the stand of the slave-owners, trying to defend the old system.
That Confucius tried hard to preserve the old order can also be seen from the fact that as soon as he was made acting prime minister of the State of Lu in 497 B.C., he had the social reformer Shaocheng Mou killed He accused him of gathering a crowd to form an association, propagating heretical views and confusing right and wrong.
Duke Chien of the State of Chi at that time was cruelly exploiting the slaves who deeply hated him. Tien Cheng-lzu of Chi, however, changed the mode of production under the slave system into a feudal one to suit social development and it was said that he "took land rent from the people using a smaller dou [a Chinese unit for dry measure], but gave or lent grain to the people using a bigger dou." The people of Chi supported him and later, in 485 B.C., he killed Duke Chien and seized power. Confucius, however, stubbornly look the stand of the slave-owners and asked Duke Ai of Lu to suppress Tien with armed force
Confucius did his best to preserve the old order o( the slave system. The central idea he advocated was "jen" (benevolence), and the gist of it Was "to restrain oneself and restore the rites." He saw that the newly rising force was attacking the old order; for instance, the three Houses of Chi, Mengsun and Shusun of the State of Lu divided up part of the land belonging to the ducal household of Lu into three shares and each took one. Afterwards, the House of Chi changed the mode of production by collecting rent on the land acquired in this division. Confucius was very much against this and denounced the Chis time and again, considering the division of ducal land and the reform they adopted to be most improper and a concrete expression of failure to restrain themselves.
When Confucius saw that the slaves were fighting for liberation, he said: "The inferior men do not fear heaven's will because they do not know it; they bully the superior men [the slave-owning class] and revile the words of the sages [spokesmen of the slave-owning class]." He maintained that this was not in accordance with the doctrine of the mean and clamoured that "to act according to the mean (chung yung) is the highest virtue." But, he continued, "for long the common people have failed to do so," that is, the enslaved people had long opposed the slave-owners' rule and few had abided by the doctrine of the mean. This was because nobles like the Chis could not set a good example and restrain themselves, so the slaves went out of bounds in their actions and destroyed the rule of "rites." Therefore, he proposed that members of the ruling clan should restrain themselves to lead the morality of the common people towards kindness. Then the rule of "rites" characterized by "the superior men doing the governing and the inferior men toiling with their labour," that is, the rule of the slave system, could be restored.
Another important aspect of Confucius' benevolence is the advocating of filial piety and brotherly duty (proper behaviour towards elder brothers); these were considered to be the fundamentals of benevolence. His idea was that if members of the ruling clan were well united, the rule of the clan aristocracy could be consolidated. This would lead the slaves to incline to kindness and to refrain from revolt and then there would be no cases of insubordination or violence. This is another gist of Confucius' benevolence.
To preserve the rule of the slave-owners, Confucius also advocated idealist apriorism. He claimed that it was the heroes who made history and babbled that "sages" were "born with knowledge," He held that "only the highest, who are wise, and the lowest, who are stupid, cannot be changed" because this had been ordained by heaven. Confucius considered that he had received virtue from heaven — "Heaven endows me with virtue." At that time some people criticized him to be "one who knows the trends cannot be turned back and still wants to do it." In other words, he had taken on himself the task of restoring the already moribund slave system.
Basing himself on idealist apriorism, Confucius also advocated "rectifying titles." In his view, the various titles and ranks were most important to uphold; slaveowners of different ranks as well as the enslaved people must all keep to their positions. For instance, "good government prevails" only when "ceremonies, music [government orders] and punitive military expeditions [military orders]" were controlled by the "son of heaven," that is, the king of the Chou Dynasty should hold the supreme political and military power. But at that time such matters were controlled by the dukes and la fu (senior officials) and in some cases the supreme power of a state was even in the hands of stewards under ta fu. That meant bad government and led to great disorder in society. Actually this was a clear indication of the decline of the clan aristocracy and the emergence of new forces. To prevent the enslaved people from raising their voice of revolt, Confucius also wanted to use "rectifying titles" as the solution, vainly hoping to pull the changes in society back to the original order.
Advocating idealist apriorism, Confucius wanted people to turn away from the actual situation and to "examine their own thoughts" instead; for if people contacted social reality, they would see the contradictions and would wage struggles against the clan aristocracy. All advocates of idealism in the past had the same reactionary aim of trying to make people turn away from reality.
The political views of Shang Yang**** (? —338 B.C.) were directly opposite to those of Confucius. To conform with the social development at that time and uphold the spirit of the Legalist school, he opposed the idea of "following the ancient way" and the Confucian concept "to base the teachings on the sage-kings Yao and Shun and to base the institutions on those of King Wen and King Wu of Chou." When he argued about the need of reform with some conservatives before Duke Hsiao of Chin, he pointed out; "To govern one can follow a different way; as long as it suits the state, one need not follow the ancient example." In other words, legislation should be made according to social developments of the time.
Shang Yang also opposed the ancient rites and music under the slave system advocated by the Confucians, considering this a "sign of licence" that would lead people on to the wrong path. He was also against the Confucian idea of benevolence which the Confucians used in trying to preserve the rule of the slave system, pointing out that this was the "mother of wrong things," the root of all crime. This was because everything the Confucians advocated, including "benevolence and righteousness," "filial piety and brotherly duty," "honesty and sincerity" and the study of the Book of Songs and the Book of History *****, was for the purpose of upholding the rule of the slave system of the ruling clan. He deemed that advocating such things at that time was very harmful and was turning history back.
The first step in Shang Yang's programme for reform was to abolish the nine squares (ching tien) land system******which exploited the labour of slaves. Therefore, the remaining demarcations of this land system were thoroughly demolished. By affirming private ownership of land, people could freely buy and sell land. This was a measure which facilitated the development of the landlord economy of the time. As Marx said: "It is the sovereigns who in all ages have been subject to economic conditions, but it is never they who have dictated laws to them. Legislation, whether political or civil, never does more than proclaim, express in words, the will of economic relations.” (The Poverty of Philosophy.) Shang Yang's reform precisely illustrated this point.
He also proposed the policy of encouraging farming and military achievements. "Those slaves who work hard in farming and weaving and produce more grain and silk could become freemen." This gave the slaves a chance to win freedom and would lead to the development of the individual economy during the process of the formation of feudal society. Those who clung to the old slave system, had their main interest in the urban economy and employed slaves in commerce, and those who did not work hard at farming, would be made slaves even if they were freemen.
In war, those who fought for the state and won merits could win high official rank and political honours, while those engaged in private feuds contrary to the interest of the state would be punished according to the seriousness of their crime. Shang Yang pointed out: "When the people like farming and war," "their families would become well-off and they would become illustrious in the state." He despised the "roaming scholars" for such scholars were mainly the type who tried to restore the declining rule of the slave system of the clan aristocrats, like Confucius and Mencius of the Confucian school who roamed the various states. Shang Yang had a low estimate of such people.
Shang Yang encouraged the people who engaged in farming to cultivate wasteland as much as they could. He also specified that "families with more than one male adult living together should have their tax doubled." This was a measure to promote the development of the individual economy in agriculture at that time Shang Yang also advocated and encouraged the use of oxen in farming and thereby speeded up farm production.
Shang Yang's ideas regarding farming and war were materialist and based on actual struggle. His philosophy was directly opposed to Confucian idealist apriorism. Confucius opposed his disciples learning farming and gardening and taking part in manual labour, and he advocated "rectifying titles" which was subjective idealism. This was why in his time peasants described him as a parasite "whose four limbs do not toil and who does not know the difference between the five grains." What is of key importance is that the difference in views between Shang Yang and Confucius reflects their respective class stands. When we compare the two views, isn't it clear who was for progress and who was for retrogression in that period of rapid social changes?
Shang Yang made laws for the newly rising landlord class. He advocated that "punishment should be extended to all ranks of people." This was meant to meet the interests of the rising landlords' forces and to disintegrate the rule of the slave system of the clan aristocrats. High ministers, generals or ta fu (senior officials) would be punished just like the common people if they should violate the state laws and what the state forbade. This measure was actually a criticism of the Confucian view that "punishment should not be extended to anyone in the rank of to fu or higher than ta fu."
Thus on the one hand Shang Yang specified that people could attain noble rank through farming and war and raise their political status, on the other hand he specified that even members of the ruling clan or aristocrats could not get noble rank if they did not win merit in war. This actually was a measure to destroy the rule of the clan aristocracy.
To shatter the rule of the slave system of clan aristocracy and facilitate the growth of the feudal economy, Shang Yang also encouraged slaves fleeing from other states to come to the State of Chin and take part in farming, giving them land to till and houses to live in by a method which made state-owned land and houses private freeholds. The result of this measure was that the enemy states' labour force was reduced in time of peace and their military strength was sapped in time of war. This way of "sapping enemy strength" "actually amounted to winning wars," and the State of Chin could thus speed up agricultural production.
(To be continued in the next issue.)
* Royal household refers to the house and property, including land and slaves, of the supreme ruler of the Chou Dynasty.
** Ducal household refers to the house and property of a duke conferred by the Chou Dynasty.
*** Confucius was a native of Chufu in the State of Lu, which embraced the southwestern part of today's Shantung Province, with its capital in Chufu (the present Chufu County). His thought was mainly recorded in the Analects. As to the criticism of Confucius, another article by the same author entitled "Confucius — A Thinker Who Stubbornly Upheld the Slave System" was published in Peking Review, No 41, 1973.
**** His original name was Kungsun Yang. Born in a noble family in the State of Wei, he served as an official in Wei. Later he went to the State of Chin and helped Duke Hsiao of Chin to carry out reforms. He got his fief in Shang and afterwards became known as Shang Yang.
***** The Book of Songs is China's earliest collection of songs. It was said that Confucius deleted certain songs in this book. The Book of History, also known as the Shang Shu, is a collection of political documents and historical records before the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period.
****** This was a land system in China's slave society under which the slave-owners exploited the slaves. All the land in the country at that time belonged to the king of the Chou Dynasty, the chief of the slave-owners. Every piece of land was divided in the shape of the Chinese character and was bestowed to the slave-owning aristocrats of different ranks who forced the slaves to cultivate the land for them.
Source: Peking Review, No. 8, February 22, 1974
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