Where do correct ideas come from?

Editor's Note: This passage is from the “Draft Decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party on Certain Problems in Our Present Rural Work,” which was drawn up under direction of the leader of the Chinese Revolution, Mao Tse-tung.
 
It bears significance today for members of the African People’s Socialist Party as we struggle to become ever more effective in our work to overturn imperialist white power and build a united, liberated Africa and African people.
 

 

Where do correct ideas come from? Do they drop from the skies? No.

 
Are they innate in the mind? No.
 
They come from social prac­tice, and from it alone; they come from three kinds of social prac­tice, the struggle for production, the class struggle and scientific experiment.
 
It is man’s social being that determines his thinking. Once the correct ideas characteristic of the advanced class are grasped by the masses, these ideas turn into a material force which changes society and changes the world.
 
In their social practice, men engage in various kinds of strug­gle and gain rich experience, both from their successes and from their failures. Countless phenom­ena of the objective external world are reflected in a man’s brain through his five sense or­gans—the organs of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.
 
At first, knowl­edge is perceptual. The leap to con­ceptual knowledge, i.e., to ideas, occurs when sufficient perceptual knowledge is accumulated.
 
This is one process in cog­nition. It is the first stage in the whole process of cognition, the stage leading from objective mat­ter to subjective consciousness, from existence to ideas.
 
Whether or not one’s con­sciousness or ideas (including theories, policies, plans or mea­sures) do correctly reflect the laws of the objective external world is not yet proved at this stage, in which it is not yet possible to as­certain whether they are correct or not.
 
Then comes the second stage in the process of cognition—the stage leading from conscious­ness back to matter, from ideas back to existence—in which the knowledge gained in the first stage is applied in social practice to ascertain whether the theories, policies, plans or measures meet with the anticipated success.
 
Generally speaking, those that succeed are correct and those that fail are incorrect, and this is especially true of man’s struggle with nature.
 
In social struggle, the forces representing the advanced class sometimes suffer defeat, not be­cause their ideas are incorrect, but because, in the balance of forces engaged in struggle, they are not as powerful for the time being as the forces of reaction; they are therefore temporarily de­feated, but they are bound to tri­umph sooner or later.
 
Man’s knowledge makes an­other leap through the test of practice. This leap is more impor­tant than the previous one.
 
For it is this leap alone that can prove the correctness or in­correctness of the first leap in cognition, i.e., of the ideas, theo­ries, policies, plans or measures formulated in the course of reflect­ing the objective external world.
 
There is no other way of test­ing truth.
 
Furthermore, the one and only purpose of the proletariat in know­ing the world is to change it.
 
Often, correct knowledge can be arrived at only after many repetitions of the process leading from matter to con­s c iousness and then back to matter, that is, leading from practice to knowledge and then back to practice.
 
Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge, the dialectical materi­alist theory of knowledge. Among our comrades there are many who do not yet understand this theory of knowledge.
 
When asked the sources of their ideas, opinions, policies, methods, plans and conclusions, eloquent speeches and long ar­ticles they consider the questions strange and cannot answer it.
 
Nor do they comprehend that matter can be transformed into consciousness and conscious­ness into matter, although such leaps are phenomena of every­day life.
 
It is therefore necessary to educate our comrades in the dialectical materialist theory of knowledge so that they can ori­entate their thinking correctly, become good at investigation and study and at summing up ex­perience, overcome difficulties, commit fewer mistakes, do their work better and struggle hard so as to build China into a great and powerful socialist country and help the broad masses of the op­pressed and exploited throughout the world in fulfillment of our great internationalist duty.
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