Within Marxist debates, tensions continue to exist between modern socialism and the revolutionary religious tradition. I propose to analyse this question by focusing comparing the European situation, with its long history of “forerunners of socialism,” and China, especially the Taiping Revolution of the nineteenth century. While Europe presents the relation between modern socialism and revolutionary religion in relatively well-known terms, the Chinese situation generates greater complexity in what may be called a dialectic of old and new. In order to see how this dialectic unfolds, I examine Mao Zedong’s wary assessments of the Taiping Revolution, which was inspired at its core by innovative reinterpretations of revolutionary Christianity. I close by proposing that the tension between older revolutionary traditions and the current moment is a tension that characterises the revolutionary tradition itself.
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