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 For Your Reference: Economic Base and Superstructure

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For Your Reference

Economic Base and Superstructure

by Hung Ou

Source: Peking Review, No. 33, August 15, 1975
Transcribed by www.wengewang.org



THE economic base refers to the economic system at a certain stage of social development, that is, the sum total of the relations of production. The superstructure embraces social views on politics, law, philosophy, art, religion, etc., and the political and legislative and judicial bodies and systems corresponding to these views.
  The contradiction between the superstructure and the economic base is one of the basic contradictions in a society. It promotes the development and change of society. The relationship between the superstructure and the economic base is one of dialectical unity. The economic base generally plays the principal and decisive role. The superstructure is founded on the economic base and its character decided by that of the latter. For instance, the economic base in capitalist society is the capitalist relations of production, and the superstructure built on this base is the state system of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and bourgeois ideology. The decisive role of the economic base can also be seen in the fact that "with the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed." (Karl Marx: Preface to "A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”)
  But the superstructure does not merely conform to the economic base passively. It is relatively independent and has an immense reaction on the economic base. An advanced superstructure is established to meet the needs of the growth of an advanced economic base. It promotes the formation and consolidation of its own base, destroys the old economic base and becomes the progressive forces propelling the growth of productive forces. A decadent superstructure protects the old economic base and hampers the birth and growth of the new economic base. Following the transformation of the old economic base, the old superstructure, especially old ideology, does not change immediately and will exist for quite a long period of time. It will play the reactionary role of undermining the new economic base and restoring the old one and become the reactionary forces that impede the growth of productive forces. The fact that the superstructure exercises the decisive influence on the economic base under certain conditions is clearly seen during the period of socialist revolution. This is because the socialist economic base cannot grow spontaneously out of the old society and can only be formed and grow after the proletariat has seized political power.
  In China, socialist transformation has in the main been completed with respect to the system of ownership and socialist relations of production have been established. But the economic base is not yet solid and bourgeois right, which has not yet been entirely abolished in the system of ownership, is still prevalent to a serious extent in relations between people and holds a dominant position in distribution. Therefore, socialist revolution must be continued with regard to the economic base.
  In socialist society, the contradiction between the superstructure and the economic base is still one of the basic social contradictions. There is harmony as well as contradiction between the superstructure and the economic base. Consisting of the state system and laws of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialist ideology guided by Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, China's superstructure "plays a positive role in facilitating the victory of socialist transformation and the establishment of the socialist organization of labour; it is suited to the socialist economic base, that is, to socialist relations of production." (Mao Tsetung: On the Correct Handling of Contradict ions Among the People.) But because of survivals of the old ideology, the existence of the conception of bourgeois right and defects in certain links in our state institutions, some aspects in the various spheres of the superstructure are in fact still controlled by the bourgeoisie which is predominant there; some are being transformed but the results are not yet consolidated, and old ideas and the old force of habit are trying obstinately to hold back the growth of socialist new things. All this stands in contradiction to the socialist economic base.
  During the entire historical period of socialism, the struggle in the various spheres of the superstructure by Marxism to defeat revisionism and by the proletariat to triumph over the bourgeoisie is protracted and tortuous and even very acute at times. Therefore, the proletariat must exercise all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie in the superstructure, including all spheres of culture, carry out socialist revolution well in the realm of the superstructure and develop socialist new-burn things and consolidate the socialist economic base.
  
  
  
  

 
 
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