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China to publish new edition of the complete works of Marx and Engels

The staff of the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau (CCTB), the official translators of the Communist Party of China (CPC), are working on the second edition of the complete works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels -- a campaign that is expected to require decades of collaborative efforts.

The 70-volume project, launched in 1986 with the approval of the CPC Central Committee, will provide more comprehensive, authoritative and precise versions of the writings for the reference of Party and government organs, academic organizations and individuals, said Wang Xuedong, deputy chief of the CCTB.

“A total of 21 volumes have been published so far. The 14th and 35th volumes, which we just finished, are being checked by the publishing house before the printing,” said Wang.

More than 100 CCTB translators began to work on the first Chinese edition in 1955 based on the Russian version that was published by a research institute of Marxism and Leninism under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

After 30 years of hard work, CCTB staff finished the 50-volume Chinese edition, which combined more than 2,000 essays, 4,000 letters, and 400 recordings into a single, comprehensive source.

It was the first time for China to compile and publish a relatively complete edition of Marx and Engels’ writings, creating a source of systematic and reliable theoretical material for the research of Marxism and socialism, said Chai Fangguo, chief of a CCTB department specifically dedicated to the works of Marx and Lenin.

Publishing the first Chinese edition was a landmark event in the history of disseminating Marxism in China, but minor defects were later found out due to unavoidable historical reasons, Wang pointed out.

He explained that about 60 percent of Marx and Engels’ works were written in German, 30 percent were written in English, while the rest were written in French and other languages.

However, most of the first Chinese edition was translated from Russian, the only available version at that time. The secondhand translation sometimes obscured the meaning of the original language, according to Chai.

Historians later confirmed that some of the materials in the first edition were not written by Marx or Engels, while newly discovered manuscripts and writings are still waiting to be translated.

“Such dissatisfaction only accounted for a tiny proportion of the first edition, but we believed in the necessity of working out a better version. Our proposal was soon approved by the Party,” said Chai.

The translation project is closely linked to the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA), a compilation containing the complete writings of Marx and Engels created by the Internationale Marx-Engels-Stiftung (IMES).

The IMES was established in 1990 by Amsterdam's International Institute of Social History (IISG), which holds most of Marx and Engels' original manuscripts. The aim of the IMES is to complete the MEGA as a historical-critical edition of the complete works of Marx and Engels in the wake of the dramatic changes in East Germany in 1989, according to IISG’s official website.

The scope of the MEGA has been reduced to 114 volumes, of which 55 were published as of 2008. At the present time, teams of scholars from Germany, Russia, France, the Netherlands, Austria, the U.S. and Japan are working on the MEGA, making it the most important international project of its kind, according to the IISG.

“We had planned to finish the second Chinese edition before 2020, but both the international and domestic campaigns have taken more time and efforts than expected, so the deadline seems impossible to reach,” said Chai.

A lack of translators has also slowed down the CCTB’s campaign.

“We’re in a ‘talent crisis’,” said Wang, explaining that the CCTB has suffered from dwindling numbers of qualified translators.

University graduates are required to have master’s degrees and be fluent in German to participate, which has limited the number of eligible candidates. Many young people left not long after they were employed, complaining that the work was challenging but not interesting, according to Chai.

The number of translators serving in Chai’s department has dropped from 100 to 40 over the last 20 years, leaving some significant translation projects to retired experts, he revealed.

“Everyone has his or her own personality and value orientation, but I feel lucky to be able to work here,” said Zhang Fengfeng, 29, who came to the CCTB six years ago after graduating from the Beijing Foreign Studies University.

“It may sound boring to translate theoretical writings all day long, but the work brings me the gift of knowledge. I feel especially successful when my translation work receives public recognition,” said Zhang.

The CPC has attached great importance to the introduction of Marxist and Communist literature to China ever since the party was founded in 1921.

The CPC set up the College of Marxism and Leninism in 1938 at the revolutionary base of Yan’an in northwestern China's Shaanxi Province to train Party officials.

The college’s translation department was the first official organization to translate and edit Marxist works under direct Party leadership, according to 96-year-old He Xilin, the department’s first translator.

Founded in 1953, the CCTB assumed the responsibility of systematically translating the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and other Communist philosophers. The bureau has also translated works by Chinese leaders, including Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, for foreign readers.

Carrying out theoretical research is another significant function of the CCTB, which now employs 286 people, including 138 senior translators, according to Yi Junqing, chief of the bureau.

“In upholding Marxism under new historical conditions, it is important to promptly address new issues emerging in practice and thus provide scientific guidance for practice,” said Hu Jintao, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, at a grand gathering marking the 90th anniversary of the CPC on July 1.

“Chinese Communists believe that the basic tenets of Marxism are an irrefutable truth and that Marxism must be constantly enriched and developed as practice changes. We never take Marxism as an empty, rigid or stereotyped dogma,” Hu stressed.

He Xilin said, "The Party has not only carried forward Marxism and Leninism, but managed to develop its own theories in a Chinese way."

"Conditions for translation work have greatly improved and I'm glad to see that the Party continues to attach great importance to the cause."

In addition to translating Marxist literature into Mandarin, “China has employed experts to work out editions for ethnic minority groups to ensure their right to read theoretical classics,” said Li Jianhui, chief of China’s Ethnic Language Translation Bureau (ELTB).

Ten volumes containing some of the works of Marx and Engels are planned to be published in seven ethnic languages, such as Tibetan, Uygur and Mongolian, according to Li.

The project was launched in 2005 and is expected to be finished within ten years.

ELTB’s ethnic experts have almost finished translating Marx’s three-volume writing “The Capital” and are working on another piece of writing based on a CCTB document published in March 2010.

“Many difficulties have emerged due to language and cultural issues, and experts sometimes have to consult Russian, Korean and Japanese versions, hold discussions and ask academic societies for help,” said Li.

Founded in 1955, the ELTB has translated many writings by Marx, Lenin, and some Chinese leaders.

Chinese authorities have nurtured a four-tier ethnic language mechanism across the country, ensuring that regions of different administrative levels can have institutions to carry out language-related activities, including translation, dissemination and training, according to Li.

China has also published The Communist Manifesto and Anti-Duhring for blind people, despite a higher cost for printing, according to Wang. Xuedong. of the CCTB.

“The Party's growth over the past 90 years shows that theoretical maturity is the basis for political conviction. Advancing with the times is a prerequisite for forging ahead in action, and unity of thinking is an important guarantee for the whole Party to march in step,” he stressed. --end--

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