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Gu Zhun (Chinese: 顾准; 1915–1974) was a Chinese intellectual, economist and pioneer of post-Marxist Chinese liberalism. A victim of "anti-Rightist" purges, he spent his later life in prisons and reeducation centres.

The recovery and publication of Gu's prison diaries and theoretical writings caused a sensation in intellectual circles when published in the mid 1990s. Having spent his life as a highly trained economist with Marxist convictions and heroic career as a revolutionary, his fall from grace and savage punishment led him to develop an authentic and deeply personal conversion to the values of liberal democracy. Cut off from the mainstream of 20th century Western thought, he in a sense "reinvented the wheel" of liberal theory. While certain critics have disparaged his ideas as "laughable if translated into English,"[who?] from a Chinese liberal perspective he represents a rare case of authentic invention of liberalism, relatively free of suspect foreign influences.

Gu was an accountancy expert in his youth, joining the underground Communist Party in Shanghai in the late 1930s, and later appointed to leading roles in the post-Liberation Shanghai tax administration. However, having given outspoken and unwelcome advice to senior cadres, he was in 1952 charged with counter-revolutionary tendencies, demoted and sentenced to "remoulding."

In each of the succeeding cycles of Leftist-inspired purges Gu's "Rightist" label was reimposed and his punishments renewed. Rehabilitated in a brief period of political relaxation in the early 1960s, he was rescued from his pariah status by the economist Sun Yefang, with whom he had been associated in the Shanghai underground movement. Sun arranged a research position for Gu in the Institute of Economics of the Philosophy and Social Science Section (Xuebu, 学部) of the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS). The Xuebu was to form the core of the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS) when it was split off from CAS in 1977. Many senior figures in CASS, such as the economist Wu Jinglian, were formatively influenced by Gu Zhun during this period.

The Cultural Revolution once again submerged people with Rightist backgrounds. Gu was again subjected to harsh punitive treatment, losing contact with his wife and children. His main contact with the outside world was with his brother Chen Minzhi (陈敏之) (1920-).

Contemporary intellectual historians like Zhu Xueqin have hailed Gu Zhun's oeuvre as a major resource for contemporary Chinese liberalism. Li Shenzhi, a Vice-President of CASS and noted liberal activist, wrote of Gu Zhun as a man who "set himself ablaze to illuminate others.” Critics decry this as exaggeration, pointing to the limits of Gu's intellectual range.

Main economic thought

(Most of his works were written in 1973 and 1974.)

“… today people turn idealism into dogmas in the name of revolution, hence I am turning absolutely to empiricism and pluralism, and democracy.”

Why did capitalism arise in Britain?

Imperialism (the "highest level of capitalism," according to Lenin) failed to follow the path predicted by Lenin, just as capitalism had not developed according to the predictions of Karl Marx.

Marx had predicted inevitable demise of capitalism, on the grounds that:

  1. The core of capitalism ⇒ multiplication of capital ⇒ high profit ⇒ lower wages ⇒ insufficient consumption ⇒ creates panic;
  2. Moreover, when the organic composition of capital increases, the commensurable surplus value performance for the increasingly lowed capital profit margin. Thus, the margin profit on capital tends to zero: capitalism cannot persist in the long run and will die eventually;
  3. In social structural terms, capital tends to be centralised. As more and more capitalists are deprived, contradictions between capital and private ownership will increase. Socialism will finally only require a slight effort.
  4. These predictions were belied by the realities of the early 20th century, making it necessary for Lenin to offer a modified theory. Unfortunately, this too failed to be confirmed. The Great Depression that followed the economic crisis of 1929 (the third "international" general crisis of the 1930s) encouraged a rediscovery of Marx. Now 40 years had gone by (i.e. to the time of Gu Zhun's writing), but no repeat of the Great Depression has taken place and it was unlikely that it ever would. Why?

The reason for capitalism's great vitality is, apart from new technology, products and materials; and big companies, governments and trade union; and in addition to its pluralistic philosophy, academic freedom and democratic politics, is that it did not limit, but tried to develop critique. Capitalism may be a pile of evil, but this fact is constantly exposed, and given unceasingly attention. Improvements great or small can thus be made. Hence, capitalism was enabled to continue; "…I see that the capitalism cannot be extinguished through violent revolution, because of its improvement through critique . …"

See also