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On Dialectical Materialism

Posted On 07 May 2014

The following text was written by Ray Nunes in the late 1980s as part of a study group of people
who were interested in forming a new Marxist-Leninist party in New ealand! "t is an introdu#tory
text about the Marxist theory of de$elopment% also &nown as diale#ti#al materialism! "t in#ludes a
#omparison between important philosophi#al writings of $arious Marxists! 'e ha$e shared it
be#ause it gi$es a good insight on the basi#s of Marxist (hilosophy!

Dialectical materialism is the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism. Not only is it the sole otloo! "hich
#i$es a scientifically-%ased nderstandin# of the "orld arond s& it also ena%les s to nderstand
"hat %rin#s a%ot chan#es in that "orld ' incldin# hman society and in people(s tho#hts a%ot it.
)hat is the first important thin# to note. )he second important thin# is that a proper nderstandin# of
dialectical materialism can ena%le a "or!ers( political party to #ide its practical "or! correctly in the
process of chan#in# the "orld. *e shall deal "ith these t"o aspects in order.
Philosophy ' the stdy of the de$elopment of hman thin!in# a%ot the natral "orld and man(s
place in it ' has a fairly lon# history. +t in the middle of the nineteenth centry it nder"ent a
re$oltion at the hands of the t"o #reat thin!ers and fonders of scientific socialism, -arl Marx and
.rederic! /n#els. /n#els "rote an accont of the de$elopment of their philosophy in his pamphlet0
Ld"i# .eer%ach and the /nd of 1lassical 2erman Philosophy. 3)he "ord 4end( is sed in the
sense of 4otcome(.5 6e "rites0
)he #reat %asic 7estion of all philosophy, especially of more recent philosophy, is that concernin#
the relation of thin!in# and %ein#8 )he 7estion of the position of thin!in# in relation to %ein#, a
7estion "hich %y the "ay, had played a #reat part also in the scholasticism of the Middle 9#es, the
7estion0 "hich is primary, spirit or natre ' that 7estion, in relation to the chrch, "as sharpened
into this0 Did 2od create the "orld or has the "orld %een in existence eternally8 )he ans"ers "hich
the philosophers #a$e to this 7estion split them into t"o #reat camps. )hose "ho asserted the
primacy of spirit to natre and therefore, in the last instance, assmed "orld creation in some form
or other ' and amon# the philosophers, 6e#el, for example, this creation often %ecomes still more
intricate and impossi%le than in 1hristianity ' comprised the camp of idealism. )he others, "ho
re#arded natre as primary, %elon# to the $arios schools of materialism
)hese t"o expressions, idealism and materialism, ori#inally si#nify nothin# else %t this 8 315
Most of the earlier 2ree! philosophers "ere materialists in their otloo!. :mportant contri%tions to
materialism "ere also made %y /n#lish philosophers, particlarly .rancis +acon, ;ohn Loc!e and
)homas 6o%%es, to "hich #rop Marx #a$e the credit of %ein# the fathers of modern materialism.
)he .rench materialists of the ei#hteenth centry "ere mch inflenced %y the +ritish school. :n the
sphere of ideas they helped to prepare the #rond for the #reat .rench <e$oltion of 17=>->?. /ach
of these schools "as opposed %y philosophical idealists, particlarly 3%t not only5 %y theolo#ians,
ad$ocates of reli#ion. @o it is today "ith Marxism.
Ap to the mid-nineteenth centry the reli#ios ' and most of the seclar ' athorities propa#ated the
idea that the %i%le, %oth the old and the ne" testaments, "ere the fonts of all !no"led#e. )he a#e
of the earth "as held to %e a%ot six thosand years. )he natre of the "ider ni$erse "as
n!no"n. )oday an immense array of factal e$idence has %een accmlated %y the physical
sciences ' particlarly astronomy, #eolo#y, palaeontolo#y, chemistry and physics, conclsi$ely
pro$in# that the a#e of the earth is in the $icinity of 4.B thosand million years, "hile the a#e of the
ni$erse is approximately 1B thosand million years. Or o"n solar system "ith its sn and planets
is a tiny part of the Mil!y *ay #alaxy, "ith its t"o hndred %illion stars, and there are at least t"o
%illion #alaxies in the cosmos, many mch $aster than or o"n. )he simplest forms of life on earth
ori#inated a%ot three %illion years a#o, e$ol$in# e$entally into modern man 3homo sapiens5
some"here %et"een one hndred thosand and forty thosand years a#o, a mere trifle in #eolo#ical
Modern man, homo sapiens, is himself descended from ancestral species !no"n as hominids.
No"adays, anthropolo#y can trace earlier types of erect-"al!in# %ein#s %ac! se$eral million years,
"ith an e$oltionary history "hich incldes a nm%er of increasin#ly s!illed tool-ma!in#-and-sin#
hominid species.C1ontemporary scientific data sch as the a%o$e pro$ides the modern, natral-
scientific %asis for materialism and for affirmin# the primacy of matter in relation to mind.
)ho#ht that does not ori#inate from a %rain cannot and does not exist. )ho#ht is a prodct of
thin!in# %ein#s, %t the "orld existed %illions of years %efore sch %ein#s e$ol$ed. Matter is primary&
tho#ht, consciosness secondary. )hat is the %asic philosophical standpoint of Marxism-Leninism
today, as de$eloped %y Marx and /n#els, reinforced %y a centry of scientific ad$ance
*hile Marx and /n#els did not ha$e all the modern disco$eries of science to dra" on, many $ital
scientific disco$eries did ta!e place in the nineteenth centry "hich nderpinned their philosophical
materialism. /n#els mentions particlarly the disco$ery of the mechanical e7i$alent of heat 3Mayer
and ;ole5& the la" of the conser$ation of ener#y 3"hich shold %e called the la" of the
transformation of ener#y5& the natre of the cell as the %asis of %iolo#ical de$elopment 3Dircho"5&
and the epoch-ma!in# esta%lishment of e$oltionary science %y Dar"in.
:n 2ermany, the late ei#hteenth and early nineteenth centries prodced an otcrop of important
thin!ers "ho esta%lished the 2erman school of classical philosophy. @ome 3-ant, e.#.5 "ere a
mixtre of materialism and idealism. Others "ere idealists ot to refte materialism. One of these,
ho"e$er, 2eor# 6e#el, "hile his philosophical system "as idealist, %ecame the first in modern times
to de$elop his philosophy on the %asis of the dialectical method. :n a preface to his #reat "or!
1apital, Marx "rote0
)he mystification "hich dialectic sffers in 6e#el(s hands, %y no means pre$ents him from %ein# the
first to present its #eneral form of "or!in# in a comprehensi$e and conscios manner. *ith him it is
standin# on its head. :t mst %e trned ri#ht side p a#ain, if yo "old disco$er the rational !ernel
"ithin the mystical shell. 325
Marx and /n#els came p, as it "ere, thro#h the school of classical 2erman philosophy, and at first
%ecame adherents of 6e#el. 6o"e$er, 6e#el(s idealism "as s%Eected to se$ere criticism %y Ld"i#
.eer%ach from the point of $ie" of materialism. :mmediately Marx and /n#els %ecame
4.eer%achians(& that is, they ans"ered the %asic 7estion of philosophy %y affirmin# that natre,
matter, "as primary and tho#ht, consciosness, "as secondary. +t they "ent mch frther than
.eer%ach, "hose otloo! lac!ed consistency. )hey nited philosophical materialism "ith the
dialectical method of 6e#el, only "ith that method standin# pon its feet, not pon its head, and
re$oltionised philosophy "ith the otloo! of dialectical materialism.
Philosophical Materialism
Most people !no" philosophical idealism in the form of reli#ion. Of corse there is an enormos
$ariety of reli#ions and sects. Nearly all ha$e in common a %elief in a creator, a #od "ho made the
"orld and e$erythin# in it. )his $ie" sally holds that the "orld "as created %efore man and does
not depend on man for its existence. )his $ie" is ths a form of o%Eecti$e idealism.
@%Eecti$e idealism, on the other hand, holds that the material "orld, natre, %ein#, exist only in
men(s consciosness, that they are the prodct of or sensations or ideas. )hat is, if one ceases to
o%ser$e them, they do not exist.
Materialism, on the other hand, considers that #ods and their po"ers are man-made, as primiti$e
forms of explanations of natral phenomena "hich "ere once mysteries %ecase of man(s lac! of
scientific !no"led#e, %t are no"adays no lon#er. )he many natre #ods ' thnder, "ind, forests,
ri$ers etc. #radally in the corse of a#es %ecame refined and distilled into a sin#le, omnipotent
%ein#. )he reli#ions, incldin# 1hristianity, to "hich sch #ods %elon# are a distortin# mirror, in
"hich man, "ho created them, sees a one-sided reflection of the social life, %eliefs and cstoms of
peoples from "hich they spran#. *hy, then, do they not disappear in the li#ht of present-day
scientific !no"led#e8 +ecase the exploitin# classes consciosly se them as ideolo#ical "eapons
to con$ince the masses that the pro%lems of this "orld ' "ars, star$ation, po$erty, oppression etc.,
are cased %y a creator& that man is therefore po"erless a#ainst them, and can only s%mit and
hope for a %etter life in another, tho#h mythical, "orld after death. *ithot the immense spport of
the exploiters, rendered in a thosand different "ays, #ods and reli#ion "old 7ic!ly lose most of
their follo"in#s. <eli#ion is consciosly sed %y the %or#eoisie as a form of opim to stpefy the
masses and di$ert them from str##le for socialism.
@%Eecti$e idealism is another "ay of attac!in# materialism. :ts chief spo!esman "as the /n#lish
+ishop +er!eley, in the early ei#hteenth centry. :ts modern ad$ocates ha$e to dis#ise it, %ecase,
carried to its lo#ical conclsion, %y denyin# the o%Eecti$e existence of e$erythin# %t one(s o"n
sensations, it redces to the %elief that only the spea!er exists, a $ie" !no"n as solipsism and
ridicled as sch. :n a period of political reaction follo"in# the defeat of the 1>0B <ssian re$oltion,
a trend of s%Eecti$e idealism made its "ay into Marxism, pretendin# to %e the latest thin# in modern
science, deri$in# as it did from the 9strian scientist /rnst Mach. Lenin defended Marxism from the
"old-%e Machians in his %oo! Materialism and /mpirio-1riticism. 9ns"erin# sch people "ho
claimed to ha$e risen a%o$e the 4nai$e realism( of Marxist materialism, Lenin "rote0
)he Fnai$e realismG of any healthy person "ho has not %een an inmate of a lnatic asylm or a ppil
of the idealist philosophers consists in the $ie" that thin#s, the en$ironment, the "orld, exist
independently of or sensation, of or consciosness, of or @elf and of man in #eneral. 3?5
:n one "ay or another, e$en tho#h it may dis#ise itself as positi$ism, a spposed 4philosophy of
science(, s%Eecti$e idealism leads %ac! to the idea of a creator. )hs, as /n#els sho"ed, there are
t"o lines in philosophy, the line of materialism or the line of idealism. 49re "e to proceed from thin#s
to sensation and tho#ht, or from tho#ht and sensation to thin#s8( 345
Motion and Development
Once Marx and /n#els had, %y intense intellectal la%or, reached the lminos standpoint of
dialectical materialism 3and /n#els ac!no"led#es Marx(s pre-eminence in this "or!5 they applied it
in all of their in$esti#ations, "ritin#s and practical acti$ity sch as the fondin# and leadin# of the
.irst :nternational, the 4:nternational *or!in# Men(s 9ssociation(.
*hile reco#nisin# the #reat achie$ements of the ei#hteenth centry .rench materialists, they
pointed to the main shortcomin#s of this school. Lenin smmarised their $ie"s as follo"s0
)his Hi.e., .renchI materialism "as predominantly mechanical, failin# to ta!e accont of the latest
de$elopments of chemistry and %iolo#y 8 25 the old materialism "as non-historical, non-dialectical
3metaphysical, in the sense of anti-dialectical5, and did not adhere consistently and comprehensi$ely
to the standpoint of de$elopment& ?5 it 8 only interpreted the "orld, "hereas the point is to chan#e it&
that is to say, it did not nderstand the importance of re$oltionary, practical acti$ity. 3B5
4Mechanical( materialism arose in the form it did %ecase at that time the science of mechanics "as
the first to come to any definite close. )his $ie" nderstood de$elopment in a 4mechanical( "ay,
simply as increase or decrease in siJe or 7antity, or as mo$ement in a circle "hich simply repeated
itself and came %ac! to the same startin# point. 4Not adherin# to the standpoint of de$elopment(
means that it did not concei$e of, or try to explain, the chan#es of state that are a mar!ed featre of
actal de$elopment. <ather it sa" the "orld as a $ast machine "hose parts, sch as li$in# thin#s
and also society, cold only nder#o chan#es in siJe and in de corse, li!e the fly"heel of an
en#ine, "old come %ac! to %e#in the process a#ain.
Not only the "orld, %t the entire ni$erse arond s is a demonstration that o%Eecti$e reality is
material. )hat is, all that exists otside of or heads, otside of the minds of people, is material. )his
is an inte#ral part of the Marxist theory of !no"led#e, of ho" man!ind ac7ires $alid !no"led#e.
)here is a relationship %et"een mind and matter, %t it is one "hich only dialectical materialism can
properly explain. .eer%ach first #a$e a materialist explanation "hich Marx and /n#els a#reed "ith
flly. /n#els smmarises his $ie" as follo"s0
)he material, sensosly percepti%le "orld to "hich "e orsel$es %elon# is the only reality 8 Or
consciosness and or thin!in#, ho"e$er sprasensos Ha%o$e the senses. 9thorI they may
seem, are the prodct of a material, %odily or#an, the %rain. Matter is not a prodct of mind, %t mind
itself is merely the hi#hest prodct of matter. 3K5
+eyond this, for historical reasons "hich /n#els explains in the passa#e follo"in#, .eer%ach "as
na%le to #o. *e "ill #o into more detail on the Marxist theory of !no"led#e frther on. :t is sfficient
to note here that the relationship of matter to mind, "hich the .rench materialists cold not
ade7ately explain, is nderstood more easily "hen "e consider that matter can %e approached
from t"o sides& that of philosophy and that of the physical sciences. 6ere "e are concerned mainly
"ith the philosophical concept of matter, "hich can %e defined as 4all that "hich exists otside of and
independently of consciosness(. )his is the fndamental materialist $ie" of matter. )he actal
physical constittion of matter, its strctre, the inter-relations of the atomic ncles, the so-called
elementary particles, positi$e and ne#ati$e electricity, the interchan#ea%ility of particles "ith ener#y
and radiation, are s%Eects for the physical sciences to stdy. /$ery day ne" disco$eries in this field
enlar#e ' and sometimes correct the scientific %ody of !no"led#e relatin# to it. +t these disco$eries
do not alter the philosophical $ie", "hich considers the 7estion 4"hat is matter8( "ithin the
frame"or! of the specific relationship of matter and mind in the particlar sphere of the theory of
!no"led#e, epistemolo#y. Natre, matter, is in a constant state of motion. Nothin# is a%soltely at
rest, nor can it %e. )he real connection %et"een matter and motion "as nclear to former
materialists. 49nd yet(, "rote /n#els o$er a centry a#o, 4it is simple eno#h. Motion is the mode of
existence of matter. Ne$er any"here has there %een matter "ithot motion, nor can there %e.( 375
Motion in this sense is not only mechanical motion in space 3or space-time5 %t all forms of chan#e
and de$elopment, #ro"th and decay. Matter is in constant motion "here$er man loo!s, %oth in the
"orld and in the cosmos. *ithin e$ery atom, electrons are spinnin# and or%itin# a central ncles,
and e$ery o%Eect, ho"e$er infinitesimal, is either a mo$in# particle or made p of mo$in# particles,
"hich can also ha$e a dal character as particle and "a$e. Or "orld spins on its axis, rotates
arond the sn, "hile the "hole solar system rotates arond the #alaxy, "hich, in trn, is part of a
lar#er system of #alaxies, all mo$in# in a #eneral process of expansion of the ni$erse. )he physics
and mechanics to "hich "e ha$e Est %een referrin# are %t t"o of the many forms of the motion of
matter. /ach of the maEor sciences is, in fact, a stdy of a %asic form of the motion of matter&
chemistry, plant and animal %iolo#y are other forms, "hile a still more complex form exists in the
de$elopment of society. :t is not difficlt to see that all li$in# thin#s are in a state of #ro"th or decay.
:t is more difficlt to see thin#s "hich appear 7ite sta%le nder#oin# chan#e. 9 roc! may seem to
%e 7ite nchan#in#. Ne$ertheless, it is %ein# acted pon %y sn, "ind and rain 3or condensation5
"hich impercepti%ly %rin# a%ot chan#es. )hs it is that the earth itself has a history of %illions of
years in time, drin# "hich the roc!s, land masses, and continents, seas, ri$ers, la!es and oceans,
ha$e all nder#one contless chan#es and are still nder#oin# them. 9 lmp of "ood sch as a
ta%le may !eep its appearance for a lon# time %t it, too, is s%Eect to atmospheric and chemical
chan#es "hich lead to its e$ental decay.
)hs "hen "e examine the "orld of natre "e find that chan#e and de$elopment are ni$ersal,
e$en tho#h "ith some thin#s chan#e seems so slo" that they appear to %e at rest. +t this rest is
only relati$e to certain times "hen these same thin#s nder#o rapid chan#es. )here is nothin#
"hatsoe$er in the ni$erse that is at a%solte rest.
)here ha$e %een many attac!s on philosophical materialism %esides those "hich openly ta!e the
standpoint of reli#ion or ot-and-ot idealism. Particlarly, the 7estion of the theory of !no"led#e is
a focs of attac!. )here are those philosophers, amon# them 6me and -ant, and their more
modern descendants, 4"ho 7estion the possi%ility of any co#nition or at least of an exhasti$e
co#nition of the "orld8 )he most tellin# reftation of this, as of all other philosophical crotchets is
practice, namely, experiment and indstry,( 3=.5 "rites /n#els.
-ant introdced the concept of 4n#raspa%le( thin#s-in-themsel$es, that is, that there are classes of
thin#s %eyond the capacity and a%ility of man to !no". /n#els ans"ers this o%Eection "ith the
materialist line0 4:f "e are a%le to pro$e the correctness of or conception of a natral process %y
ma!in# it orsel$es, %rin#in# it into %ein# ot of its conditions and ma!in# it ser$e or o"n prposes
into the %ar#ain, then there is an end to the -antian n#raspa%le Fthin#-in-itselfG4. 3>5 6e cites the
chemical extraction from coal tar of the colorin# matter of the madder root, aliJarin, as one of the
many similar cases, of once 4n#raspa%le( thin#s-in-themsel$es "hich o$erni#ht %ecame 4thin#s-for-
s(. Of corse, today there are thosands of s%stances existin# in natre, "hose chemical
constitents ' often $ery complex, as in the case of inslin ' ha$e %een analysed and nderstood to
the point of %ein# synthesised %y modern science and technolo#y. )here is nothin# n#raspa%le no"
a%ot many sch processes "hich "ere in earlier times apparently nfathoma%le mysteries. )he
materialist $ie"point is this0 there is nothin# "hich is n!no"a%le& only thin#s "hich are not !no"n.
)he de$elopment of hman !no"led#e is, in fact, a constant process of transition of thin#s-in-
themsel$es into thin#s-for-s.
9nd indeed this is a central tas! of modern scientific, 3i.e., Marxist-Leninist5 epistemolo#y, the
explanation of the transition from i#norance to !no"led#e. .or it is precisely this transition, this
transformation, that is co#nition. +t there are thin#s "hich can ne$er %e !no"n to man, ar#ed the
fonder of the philosophy of positi$ism, 9#ste 1omte, in the nineteenth centry. Man can ne$er
!no" the composition of the stars, he claimed. Let t"o years after his death in 1=B> the
spectroscope "as in$ented and the chemical composition of the stars cold %e determined %y the
techni7e of spectral analysis, e$er since a standard practice in astronomy.
)here is another type of attac! alon# a different line %t "ith the same intent. )his is the a#nostic
$ie"point represented %y 6me and carried do"n to modern positi$ism.
Materialism holds that or senses #i$e s relia%le information on the o%Eecti$e "orld, that all or
!no"led#e deri$es from information #i$en to s %y or sensations.
)o this latter point the a#nostic of 6me(s tendency a#rees. +t then he 7estions "hether or
sensations can #i$e s really accrate representations of o%Eects. 6e denies that %eyond the
%ondary of sensations there is anythin# certain. )his is also the line of modern positi$ism of $arios
shades. )o the 7estions "hich the materialist ans"ers0 yes, "e can !no" that either "ith or
present le$el of !no"led#e or "ith frther in$esti#ation, the positi$ist ans"ers0 "e do not and cannot
!no" the ans"er.
/n#els( reply to this "as&
.rom the moment "e trn to or o"n se these o%Eects, accordin# to the 7alities "e percei$e in
them, "e pt to an infalli%le test the correctness or other"ise of or sense-perceptions. :f these
perceptions ha$e %een "ron#, then or estimate of the se to "hich an o%Eect can %e trned mst
also %e "ron#, and or attempt mst fail. +t if "e scceed in accomplishin# or aim, if "e find that
the o%Eect does a#ree "ith or idea of it, and does ans"er the prpose "e intended it for, then that is
positi$e proof that or perceptions of it and of its 7alities, so far, a#ree "ith reality otside
orsel$es. 3105
/n#els called a#nosticism 4shamefaced materialism(. )he a#nostic re#ards natre materialistically,
%t he adds that there is no "ay of !no"in# that there is or is not some sort of @preme +ein#
%eyond the !no"n ni$erse. /$en in /n#els( time the scientific !no"led#e of the ni$erse "as sch
that there "as no room for any creator, particlarly one sht ot from the existin# ni$erse. )oday
that scientific !no"led#e has %een enormosly extended, and the concept of an e$oltionary
ni$erse is still more thoro#hly and n7estiona%ly esta%lished.
)he materialistic $ie" that or sense perceptions #i$e s an accrate reflection of reality is flly
%orne ot %y all modern science.
)he hman %rain is constitted of matter or#anised in a particlar "ay. :t is matter that thin!s. :t is
the repository of the sensory connections of man "ith the external "orld, as a reslt of "hich a
$ariety of mental acti$ities ta!es place. )he sm of these acti$ities0 sensation, perception,
conception, tho#ht, feelin# and "ill, ma!e p consciosness. :n or consciosness the material
"orld is reflected. )hs, consciosness is a property of the %rain, a reflection of %ein#. *ithot a
%rain, this definite form of or#anised matter, there can %e no tho#ht, no consciosness. 6ence, in
the relationship of matter to consciosness, natre to spirit, matter is n7estiona%ly primary.
)he conception that tho#ht or consciosness can exist separately from the %rain is the %asis of the
reli#ios %elief in the existence of a 2od, "hich holds that the material ni$erse and all that it
contains is simply a tho#ht ' or tho#hts ' in the mind or consciosness of an immaterial %ein#. Of
corse, there is not the sli#htest tittle of e$idence for sch a %elief. )he only consciosness !no"n to
man!ind is that "hich is a prodct of the %rain. )he more trly or consciosness reflects the
material "orld, the more scientifically accrate is or !no"led#e of the latter.
:n today(s "orld reactionary idealists still attac! materialism %y sm##lin# into the theory of
!no"led#e 6mean a#nosticism and the lon#-dispro$ed -antian n#raspa%le 4thin#-in-itself( in ne"
#ises. Predominant amon# these is the 4ncertainty principle( of modern 7antm mechanics. )his
holds that the $elocity and position of particles sch as the electron or li#ht photon cannot %e
measred simltaneosly %ecase the $ery act of tilisin# a measrin# instrment sch as a %eam
of li#ht "old alter one or the other.
Modern physics also reco#nises that sch particles are actally t"ofold in character, appearin#
either as particle or "a$e accordin# to the physical reaction ta!in# place. :nstead of reco#nisin# this
4nity and str##le of opposites( as a splendid example in natre of the fndamental correctness of
dialectics, %or#eois philosophers immediately sa" an opportnity of attac!in# materialism %y
assertin# that the ncertainty principle pro$ed "ron# the dialectical materialist $ie" that e$erythin# is
!no"a%le& there are only thin#s that are not !no"n. )hey assert the impossi%ility of !no"in#
simltaneosly the $elocity and position of particles.
+t the fact is that the "a$e-particle dality can %e reprodced in the la%oratory in scientific
experiments. Moreo$er, sin# statistical methods, %oth the $elocity and position of particles can %e
determined "ith sfficient accracy to ena%le man to trn them to practical se, sho"in# that they
are not n!no"a%le 4thin#s-in-themsel$es(. )he prodction of the electron tnnellin# microscope
"hich #i$es ne" possi%ilities of direct close-p stdy of atoms, ma!es se precisely of statistical
methods of determinin# "ith #reat accracy %oth the position and $elocity of electrons& it is practical
e$idence that %oth these are !no"a%le, tho#h in a special statistical form %ased on pro%a%ility.
6istorically spea!in#, Marx and /n#els %ecame philosophical materialists %efore they nited the
dialectical method "ith materialism to form the inte#ral "orld otloo! of dialectical materialism.
)he "orld otloo! of dialectical materialism incorporates materialist dialectics, a scientific theory of
9ll thin#s and processes are in a state of de$elopment, e$en tho#h this may not al"ays %e e$ident
to the na!ed eye. )o say a thin# is de$elopin# is to say that it is chan#in# ' either #ro"in# or
decayin# 3and sally these processes #o on simltaneosly, as in %iolo#y5.
6man !no"led#e extends o$er three $ery %road fields0 natre 3the material "orld arond s5,
society, and hman tho#ht. 9ll of these are constantly in a state of de$elopment and chan#e.
Dialectics is ni7e in that it ena%les s to nderstand ' and se ' the #eneral la"s of chan#e.
9ny science only %ecomes esta%lished "hen, thro#h contined o%ser$ation, collection and
comparison of facts concernin# its s%Eect matter, and close stdy of these facts, re#larly recrrin#
featres and essential, inner connections are re$ealed and, after testin# in practice, %ecome !no"n
as the la"s of this science.
@o it is "ith dialectics, the stdy of motion, chan#e and de$elopment. /n#els defined dialectics as
4the science of the #eneral la"s of motion, %oth of the external "orld and of hman tho#ht ' t"o
sets of la"s "hich are identical in s%stance %t differ in their expression in so far as the hman
mind can apply them consciosly, "hile in natre and also p to no" H1===. 9thorI for the most part
in hman history, these la"s assert themsel$es nconsciosly, in the form of external necessity, in
the midst of an endless series of accidents. 3115
)he #reat $ale of materialist dialectics is that it ena%les s to nderstand thin#s and processes in
their actal mo$ement and in their mtal interaction "ith other thin#s arond them. :t teaches s to
see! the %asic case of mo$ement "ithin thin#s, and not otside them. :t ta!es accont not only of
slo" and #radal chan#es in thin#s 3e$oltionary chan#e5 %t also of sdden chan#es, leaps from
one state to another 3re$oltionary chan#e5, and sho"s the connection %et"een these t"o types of
chan#e. .or instance, #radal decrease in the temperatre of "ater leads to a point ' no#ht
de#rees celsis ' "here a sdden chan#e ta!es place to a ne" state, to a s%stance, ice, "ith 7ite
different properties from those of "ater. Note that there is not a slo" #ro"th of an e$er-thic!enin#
paste ntil the ne" s%stance, ice, is reached. *hat ta!es place is a leap to a ne" and different
state. @imilarly, #radal increase in the temperatre of "ater leads to a sdden, not #radal, chan#e
at 100 de#rees celsis to a ne" state, steam, a#ain a s%stance "ith different properties from those
of "ater. *e "ill %rin# for"ard more examples 3natre is fll of them5 as "e deal frther on "ith the
la"s of dialectics.
Dialectics differs essentially from formal lo#ic in that it deals "ith thin#s and processes as they are in
the real "orld, in a state of motion and de$elopment, not static and nchan#in#.
4)he #reat %asic tho#ht(, "rites /n#els, that 4the "orld is not to %e comprehended as a complex of
ready-made thin#s, %t as a complex of processes, in "hich the thin#s apparently sta%le no less
than their mind ima#es in or heads, the concepts, #o thro#h an ninterrpted chan#e of comin#
into %ein# and passin# a"ay 8 this #reat fndamental tho#ht has, especially since the time of
6e#el, so thoro#hly permeated ordinary consciosness that in this #enerality it is no" scarcely e$er
contradicted(. 3125
:n his %io#raphical essay, -arl Marx, Lenin points ot that 6e#elian dialectics as the most
comprehensi$e, the most rich in content, and the most profond doctrine of de$elopment, "as
re#arded %y Marx and /n#els as the #reatest achie$ement of classical 2erman philosophy. 6e
)hey considered e$ery other formlation of the principle of de$elopment, of e$oltion, one-sided and
poor in content, and distortin# and mtilatin# the real corse of de$elopment 3"hich often proceeds
%y leaps, catastrophes and re$oltions5 in natre and society. 31?5
*hile 6e#el de$eloped the doctrine of dialectical de$elopment and formlated la"s of dialectics, he
presented them as la"s of the mo$ement of tho#ht, and then in an pside-do"n "ay. 6e asserted
that the motion and de$elopment of natre and society in the real "orld, only comes a%ot as the
reslt, the materialisation moment %y moment, of the de$elopment of an all-em%racin# idea, "hich
he called the 9%solte :dea. )his of corse, is pre idealism, the $ie" that matter is created %y
tho#ht. *here the 9%solte :dea came from 6e#el ne#lects to mention.
Anli!e 6e#el(s, Marx(s dialectics "ere materialist. )hs he "rites in an 9fter"ord to 1apital0 4My
dialectic method is not only different from the 6e#elian, %t is its direct opposite.( 3145
Marx trned dialectics the ri#ht "ay p. 6e sho"ed, in contrast to 6e#el, that 15 the ideas of men
arise from the material "orld arond them, and 25 that real de$elopment proceeds from chan#es in
the material "orld to chan#es in people(s ideas, and not $ice-$ersa.
)hese materialist $ie"s correspond "ith the modern scientific nderstandin# of the "orld. )he
material "orld existed lon# %efore men and conse7ently lon# %efore ideas, "hich are "holly a
prodct of a material or#an, the hman %rain.
)a!e for example the ri#ht to stri!e. :s it possi%le that sch an idea cold exist %efore there "ere
people8 )he $ery notion is ldicros. +t frther, a stri!e is the act of a #rop of "a#e "or!ers "ho
refse to sell their la%or po"er to a #i$en employer at a #i$en time. @ch an act cold not ta!e
place nder sla$e society or fedalism %ecase in those systems la%or po"er "as not commonly a
commodity. )he idea of the ri#ht to stri!e, therefore, can only come into existence on the %asis of the
material conditions of the "a#e "or!ers nder capitalism, the conditions of capitalist commodity
prodction, "here la%or po"er is a commodity %o#ht and sold on the mar!et li!e any other, and
"here the "or!ers, as the o"ners of this commodity, can "ithhold it from the mar!et. Plainly, the
material "orld #i$es rise to the idea and not $ice-$ersa.
)he "ord 4materialism( is often sed %y %or#eois parsons and the press to denote the possession
of material #oods, #lttony, self-indl#ence etc., in order to discredit the philosophical otloo! of
materialism. +t the 4#ross( materialism in$ented %y the parsons is the pro$ince of capital, of the
"ealthy %or#eoisie, and %y no means that of the adherents of the philosophy of dialectical
materialism, "hose aim is the li%eration of man!ind precisely from %or#eois rle, from the ideolo#y
of self-interest and 4me first(, "hich o%Eecti$ely is ser$ed %y Est those "ho denonce 4materialism(
"ith sch lod and only too often, hypocritical $oices.
Materialist dialectics not only reEects all nscientific $ie"s on the relation of spirit to natre, of
thin!in# to %ein#. :t also opposes the nscientific $ie" that all thin#s exist in separation from each
other and are nchan#in# in all essentials. )his otloo!, called metaphysics, is part of the reli#ios
"orld $ie" %t is not limited to the chrch. .rench materialism "as also metaphysical in its #eneral
otloo!. Lar#ely this "as de to the limitations of the ei#hteenth centry. @cience "as still relati$ely
nde$eloped, still in the sta#e of collection and o%ser$ation of data. 4+t this method of "or!(, says
/n#els, 4has also left s as le#acy the ha%it of o%ser$in# natral o%Eects and processes in isolation,
apart from their connection "ith the $ast "hole& of o%ser$in# them in repose, not in motion M( 31B5
)he metaphysical mode of tho#ht is directly opposed to that of dialectics. )hs, it held that ne"
$arieties of plants and animals cold not emer#e as a reslt of natral de$elopment. <eli#ion still
#enerally propa#ates this $ie" in respect of the emer#ence of man, despite the o$er"helmin#
scientific e$idence for hman e$oltion from the animal !in#dom. )his comes not only from the stdy
of fossils, palaeontolo#y, %t also from the science of moleclar %iolo#y, "hich sho"s that the
#enetic ma!ep of man is almost identical "ith that of the chimpanJee. 3>= per cent so, accordin# to
an article in @cientific 9merican, 1>>75. Ander the title of 4creationism(, reli#ion tries to co$er its anti-
scientific, metaphysical otloo! ' that all thin#s are created %y 2od for eternity ' "ith a scientific-
sondin# name.
)he .rench philosopher, <o%inet, 317?B-1=205 asserted that the adlt person "as the same as the
em%ryo. )he only difference "as one of siJe. )he em%ryo "as spposed to contain in extreme
miniatre, all the $arios parts and or#ans of the flly #ro"n or#anism, a metaphysical $ie" of
hman %iolo#y.
Modern metaphysics considers de$elopment simply as 7antitati$e increase or decrease, refses to
reco#nise leaps and sdden chan#es, and particlarly the notion that the sorce of de$elopment in
thin#s is internal contradiction, "hich "e "ill consider in more depth shortly. :t is not srprisin# that
the rlin# class ma!es se of metaphysics in $arios "ays, not only in the role of reli#ion.
*e find it in politics, in the role of reformism and re$isionist ad$ocacy of the #radal #ro"in# o$er of
capitalism into socialism, the denial of the class str##le and the necessity of re$oltion. )he .a%ian
@ociety in /n#land 3and after *orld *ar :: in Ne" Nealand5 preached 4the ine$ita%ility of #radalism(
in opposition to Marxism and in spport of 4La%or( socialism, "hich meant in practice s%stittin#
class colla%oration %et"een "or!ers and capitalists for class str##le %et"een them, "ith the aim of
ma!in# the "or!ers simply an appenda#e of the capitalist class.
The Laws of Dialectics
@o far "e ha$e #i$en a #eneral otline of the main aspects of philosophical materialism and of its
opposition to philosophical idealism. *e ha$e also considered dialectics as a doctrine of
de$elopment in opposition to metaphysics.
*hen "e come to the la"s of dialectics "hich it is necessary to se in the practical "or! of chan#in#
society "e find certain pro%lems "hich can %e confsin# to those Est comin# to the s%Eect. )hese
concern certain differences in exposition, and also some errors, contained in, for instance, @talin(s
$ie"s. :t is necessary to try to elcidate these differences and sol$e the pro%lem of "ho and "hat is
.irst of all let s say that Marx and /n#els, the fonders of dialectical materialism, too! o$er the
three dialectical la"s exponded %y 6e#el, tilised them in their "or!, and enlar#ed pon them from
their materialist standpoint. )hese la"s are stated in their classical form0 15 )he la" of the nity and
str##le of opposites. 25 )he la" of the transformation of 7antity into 7ality and $ice-$ersa, and ?5
)he la" of the ne#ation of the ne#ation.
@et ot %aldly in this "ay, these la"s may appear rather stran#e and hard to #rasp. 6o"e$er, as "e
come to examine them "e shall find that they ha$e real meanin# and can %e nderstood and sed.
9s "e earlier noted, they express in a #eneral "ay certain featres common to the process of
de$elopment 3or motion, or chan#e.5 *e "ill #i$e a %rief otline of each la", "ith examples, and then
retrn to them in a different settin#, ta!in# into accont ne" and different formlations sed %y %oth
@talin and Mao, and consider the natre and relati$e importance of these.
LAW I: )he la" of the nity and str##le of opposites. 3)his can also %e called the la" of
)his means that all thin#s or processes de$elop and chan#e as a reslt of the str##le of opposites
3opposin# tendencies or forces5 "ithin them. *hether in natre, society or hman tho#ht, all thin#s
or processes contain sch opposites, or contradictions, and each side or aspect of each
contradiction, "hile mtally exclsi$e of its opposin# side or aspect, is interactin# "ith or
interdependent on the other. )hs they at the same time form a nity of opposites, insepara%le from
each other.
9 ma#net has a north and soth pole, "hich interact "ith each other, and tho#h "e may ct that
ma#net into t"o, for, ei#ht or more parts, north and soth poles "ill remain. )he positi$ely-char#ed
ncles of an atom is in contradiction "ith the ne#ati$ely-char#ed electrons "hich or%it it. :n li$in#
thin#s "e see life and death in indissol%le nity, as the contradictory processes of assimilation and
dissimilation proceed "ithin e$ery cell. :n capitalist society "e find a %asic contradiction %et"een
capital and la%or, the capitalist class and the "or!in# class. 1apital cannot exist in separation from
its opposite la%or, as lon# as capitalism lasts, for it depends on class exploitation for its existence.
:n the sphere of tho#ht, "e find a mental reflection of the contradictions in the o%Eecti$e "orld. )his
applies to the comprehension of %oth lar#e and small phenomena, to the se of concepts "hich
reflect str##le, chan#e and de$elopment in society as "ell as natre.
)o nderstand "hy a massi$e o%Eect li!e the sn appears to %e in a state of e7ili%rim, emittin# life-
#i$in# heat o$er thosands of millions of years, man first had to nderstand %oth #ra$itation and
nclear reactions, for the emission of heat from the sn is explained %y the contradiction %et"een
nclear radiation and #ra$itation. *hat !eeps the sn in a state of relati$e e7ili%rim is the process
of nclear reactions "ithin the interior of the sn, a process of the con$ersion of hydro#en into
helim, "hich reslts in radiation pressre streamin# from the core to the oter layer. )his process is
conteracted 3opposed5 %y #ra$itational pressre of the sn(s mass actin# to"ards the sn(s centre,
ths maintainin# a sta%le condition ' as lon# as the internal stoc! of hydro#en does not %ecome too
depleted. .or it mst %e realised that, in the contradiction motion-e7ili%rim, motion is a%solte,
e7ili%rim relati$e. /$entally 3tho#h it "ill last a fe" %illion years yet5 the e7ili%rim "ill %e
disrpted, %t motion "ill remain, only ta!in# different forms.
Many of or e$eryday "ords are actally concepts that arise from e$eryday existence on earth "ithin
ordinary space and time, and they lose their meanin# except "hen ta!en to#ether as opposed
concepts. )hs, p-do"n& %ac!"ards-for"ards& in-ot& nder-o$er& here-there and similar "ords
denotin# space relations only ha$e si#nificance as a nity of opposites. )here is no p "ithot do"n,
no nder "ithot o$er etc. @imilarly in relations of time0 soon-late& no"-then& al"ays-ne$er& often-
seldom etc. Or ideas ima#e the real "orld& only dialectics ena%les s to ima#e it in its motion.
:t is the str##le %et"een opposites "ithin a thin# that leads to its mo$ement and de$elopment, p to
the point "here a ne" thin# 3or process5 emer#es and replaces that "hich existed %efore. )he
str##le %et"een an e## shell and the #ro"in# em%ryo it shelters ends in the latter %rea!in# the
shell and emer#in# as a li$in# chic!, replacin# the e##. )he str##le %et"een the positi$e and
ne#ati$e char#es in a thnderclod lead to the emer#ence of a li#htnin# flash, a ne" thin# "hich
sol$es the contradiction %et"een the opposed char#es. )here are contless other examples "hich
can %e #i$en. )he reader "ill find many more in /n#els( %oo!s, 49nti-Dhrin#( and 4Dialectics of
LAW II: )he la" of the transformation of 7antity into 7ality and $ice-$ersa.
*e spo!e %efore of "ater %ein# transformed into steam or ice as a reslt of #radal increase or
decrease in temperatre, that is, in the 7antity of heat in the "ater. )his is a simple example of
7antity %ein# trned into 7ality at a certain point, %oth s%stances %ein# 7alitati$ely different from
"ater. )here are an infinite nm%er of examples in natre. /$ery metal has a meltin# point "here it
%ecomes a li7id& e$ery #as "ill %ecome a li7id "hen s%Eected to a sfficient pressre& the
addition of a sin#le netron may %e sfficient to prodce a 7alitati$ely different s%stance, an
isotope, from a #i$en element. :n society, %efore sla$ery %ecomes economically possi%le the
prodcti$e forces mst reach a certain minimm le$el ena%lin# the sla$e to prodce more than his
o"n p!eep& similarly a certain 7antity of capital mst %e accmlated %efore it %ecomes possi%le
to employ a "a#e "or!er.
9 "ar cannot %e "on %y a platoon. +t %y recritment a platoon can #ro" to a %attalion, a %attalion
to a di$ision, and a di$ision into an army capa%le of "innin# a "ar. @imilarly, a #radal increase in
re$oltionary forces "ithin a contry can %rin# a%ot a position of stren#th from a position of
"ea!ness and lead to a sccessfl re$oltion sch as too! place in <ssia and 1hina, or a
sccessfl national li%eration "ar sch as too! place in Diet Nam. )he sccess of sch re$oltions in
trn #i$es rise to a #reat #ro"th in other re$oltionary forces. )hs, not only is 7antity transformed
into 7ality, %t 7ality is also transformed into 7antity.
*ithin the "or!in#-class Party the #radal accmlation of experience and of Marxist-Leninist
nderstandin# leads to impro$ement in the 7ality of its mem%ers and in the correctness of its
policies. 9t a certain point this is transformed into an increase in nm%ers, ntil contined
de$elopment of this !ind leads to the point "here the Party %ecomes the Party of the masses and is
capa%le of sccessflly leadin# the socialist re$oltion.
/$ery chan#e of 7ality in a de$elopin# thin# creates a ne" %asis for 7antitati$e increase. 1han#es
in 7ality are themsel$es the reslt of #radal increase in the 7antity or force of one opposite in a
contradiction ntil a point is reached "here a transformation to a ne" 7ality 3a leap to a ne" state5
ta!es place.
LAW III: )he ne#ation of the ne#ation
)his 4third la"( of dialectics "as formlated %y 6e#el as one of the three classical la"s of dialectics.
)he content #i$en it %y Marx and /n#els "as, in essence, that of a repeated process of the ne"
spersedin# the old, "hich is a %asic featre of all de$elopment. )his simply means that in the
nfoldin# of the str##le of opposites in any contradiction, at a certain point a ne" state emer#es,
replacin# or ne#atin# the former state, and in trn it itself %ecomes ne#ated in frther de$elopment,
and so on. )hs the process appears as a 4ne#ation of the ne#ation.( )his can more simply %e called
the spersession of the old %y the ne".
*hat is ne" in a thin# is the opposite to that "hich is old. @tr##le ta!es place %et"een these
opposites, or 4aspects( of the contradiction, leadin# e$entally to the dominance of the ne" o$er the
old and the emer#ence of a ne" 7ality. ;st as the chic! spersedes the e##, frther de$elopment
sees the adlt %ird spersede the chic!. :n each case the ne" spersedes the old.
Ne#ation of a former state %y a ne" state is a fndamental la" of de$elopment. 2eolo#y is a
mltifold record of the replacement of one era %y another. :n %iolo#ical de$elopment, %oth in plants
and animals, innmera%le ne" species ha$e ne#ated former species. Li!e"ise, in society, ne"
social systems arise as a reslt of de$elopment determined %y society(s o"n la"s of motion, each
replacin# a pre$ios socio-economic formation& from primiti$e commnism to sla$ery, to fedalism,
to capitalism, to socialism 3e$en tho#h capitalism has %een restored in formerly socialist contries5.
+ecase it is a natral featre of de$elopment, the ne#ation of a particlar state "ill carry "ith it
featres of the latter state. )here "ill, in fact, %e 4an apparent retrn to the old,( %t the ne" thin# that
has de$eloped "ill %e on a ne" and hi#her le$el compared to "hat existed %efore.
)he a%o$e is ho" Marxists %ro#ht p on the "or!s of Marx and /n#els essentially nderstood the
ne#ation of the ne#ation.
:t %ecame one of the three 4classical la"s( of dialectics ta!en from 6e#el and exponded %y /n#els
in his philosophical "ritin#s.
+t %ecase this formlation "as #i$en to one of the classical la"s, it does not mean that nothin#
more can or shold %e said a%ot them. )hat "old %e a#ainst the $ery spirit of dialectics. 9s "e
shall see, Lenin, @talin and Mao all said more a%ot them.
)he 7estion can %e a confsin# one for someone readin# either @talin or Mao on dialectics, then
readin# Marx, /n#els or Lenin and findin# different approaches, and in the case of @talin and Mao a
reEection of the ne#ation of the ne#ation.
*hat is of the first importance is ac7irin# a %asically correct content that is in line "ith the essence
of the dialectical method. 6ence this re$ie" of the classical la"s as a startin# point, as an aid to
o$ercomin# sch confsion as may arise.
:n a section of 1apital entitled 4)he @o-1alled Primiti$e 9ccmlation(, Marx #i$es a thoro#hly-
detailed, factal exposition of ho" the small-peasant, pri$ate property of the fedal era is seiJed
from him %y the %r#eonin# capitalist class in a len#thy historical process "hich trns the %asis of
prodction from %ein# indi$idal in character to %ein# social in character. :n the concldin# chapter
of this section, entitled 46istorical )endency of 1apitalist 9ccmlation(, he spea!s of ho" mercilessly
this 4expropriation of the immediate prodcers( "as accomplished, and then proceeds to sho" ho"
the action of the %ilt-in la"s of capitalism prepare the #rond for the expropriation in trn of the
capitalist class. *hile prodction nder capitalism %ecomes e$er more social, capital is concentrated
into fe"er hands, and at the same time the system of prodction or#anises and disciplines the
"or!in# class so that they %ecome the #ra$edi##ers of capitalism.
9fter ha$in# sho"n ho" this process is accomplished in real life, in history, Marx sms p %y sayin#0
41entralisation of the means of prodction and socialisation of la%or at last reach a point "here they
%ecome incompati%le "ith their capitalist inte#ment. this inte#ment is %rst asnder. )he !nell of
capitalist pri$ate property sonds. )he expropriators are expropriated(.
)he capitalist mode of appropriation, the reslt of the capitalist mode of prodction, prodces
capitalist pri$ate property. )his is the first ne#ation of indi$idal pri$ate property, as fonded on the
la%or of the proprietor. +t capitalist prodction %e#ets, "ith the inexora%ility of a la" of Natre, its
o"n ne#ation. :t is the ne#ation of the ne#ation. )his does not re-esta%lish pri$ate property for the
prodcer, %t #i$es him indi$idal property %ased on the ac7isitions of the capitalist era0 i.e., on co-
operation and the possession in common of the land and of the means of prodction. 31K5
)hs, after ha$in# spent fifty pa#es pro$in# from history that one part of the process has partially
occrred, and that a frther part mst occr in the ftre, Marx characterises this as a dialectical
process, the ne#ation of the ne#ation.
+or#eois critics of Marx attac!ed him then and later "ith tryin# to 4pro$e( the ine$ita%ility of
socialism thro#h the 46e#elian )riad(. )his latter "as an expression to descri%e de$elopment of
tho#ht thro#h three phases0 a positi$e statement ' thesis, its ne#ati$e opposition ' antithesis,
resltin# in a hi#her otcome, synthesis. )his is similar in form to the ne#ation of the ne#ation.
/n#els pointed ot in ans"er to sch an attac! from the anti-Marxist and "old-%e reformer of
socialism, 6err Professor Dhrin# that Marx sho"ed the ine$ita%ility of an 4expropriation of the
expropriators( from a thoro#h in$esti#ation of the "hole process of capitalism(s de$elopment.
6a$in# done that, he notes that it is a dialectical process, and that in all this there is not the sli#htest
attempt %y Marx to 4pro$e( anythin# %y the ne#ation of the ne#ation.
@pea!in# of his o"n dialectical method in contrast to 6e#el(s, Marx 7otes $ery fa$ora%ly a re$ie"
of 1apital, "hich he p%lished in the 9fter"ord to the %oo!(s second edition, and "hich he says
#i$es an a%soltely correct description of his method. :n this description there is not a "ord a%ot
triads, only of Marx(s strictly scientific method of in$esti#ation "hich see!s ot and discloses the
special 3historical5 la"s that re#late the ori#in, existence, de$elopment, and death of a #i$en social
or#anism and its replacement %y a hi#her or#anism.
Marxs Method
Marx #oes on to say that his method is the 4direct opposite( of 6e#el(s. 9ccordin# to 6e#el the
de$elopment of the idea, in conformity "ith the dialectical la"s of the triad, determines the
de$elopment of the real "orld. 9nd it is only in that case, of corse, that one can spea! of the
importance of the triads, of the incontro$erti%ility of the dialectical process.
9 <ssian critic of Marx named Mi!hailo$s!y also imitated Dhrin# in his criticism. Mch of the
fore#oin# is in fact a smmary of Lenin(s scathin# re%ttal of the former in *hat the .riends of the
People 9re.
:t mst %e remem%ered that in dissociatin# himself from 6e#el(s method Marx says0 4*ith me, on the
contrary, the ideal is nothin# else than the material "orld reflected %y the hman mind, and
translated into forms of tho#ht(, and he adds that 4dialectic 8 in its rational form 8 incldes in its
comprehension and affirmati$e reco#nition of the existin# state of thin#s, at the same time also, the
reco#nition of the ne#ation of that state M( 3175
)hs, here "e see that the matter can %e 3and actally is5 treated as a contradiction %et"een
affirmation and ne#ation, "hich is repeated in any len#thy process. )his shold %e !ept in mind
"hen "e come to Mao(s treatment of contradiction and the ne#ation of the ne#ation.
9t the ris! of %orin# the reader "e mst spend yet a little more time on this %ecase of the role
assi#ned to the ne#ation of the ne#ation %y %oth @talin and Mao.
@pea!in# of Mi!hailo$s!y(s repetition of Dhrin#(s ar#ments, Lenin "rites0
<eplyin# to Dhrin#, "ho had attac!ed Marx(s dialectics, /n#els says that Marx ne$er dreamed of
4pro$in#( anythin# %y means of 6e#elian triads, that Marx only stdied and in$esti#ated the real
process, and that the sole criterion of theory reco#nised %y him "as its conformity to reality. :f,
ho"e$er, it sometimes happened that the de$elopment of some particlar social phenomenon fitted
in "ith the 6e#elian scheme, namely, thesis ' ne#ation ' ne#ation of the ne#ation, there is nothin#
srprisin# a%ot that, for it is no rare thin# in natre at all 8 :t is clear to e$ery%ody that the main
"ei#ht of /n#els( ar#ment is that materialists mst correctly and accrately depict the actal
historical process, and that insistence on dialectics, the selection of examples to demonstrate the
correctness of the triad is nothin# %t a relic of the 6e#elianism ot of "hich scientific socialism has
#ro"n, a relic of its manner of expression. 31=.5
Marx himself "as a master at applyin# dialectical materialism, as any stdent of 1apital "old soon
disco$er. 6e hoped to "rite an exposition of the s%Eect, %t his other "or! left him too little time.
)hs the tas! of poplarisin# Marxist philosophy 3as "ell as some other aspects of Marxism, sch as
its analysis of scientific de$elopment5 fell to .rederic! /n#els. )here are se$eral "ell-!no"n "or!s in
"hich this is carried ot, in particlar, the poplar #eneral otline of Marxism, @ocialism, Atopian and
@cientific& 9nti-Dhrin#, a polemical "or! a#ainst the self-proclaimed ni$ersal #enis and socialist
reformer, the %oo! itself %ein# s%titled0 46err /#en Dhrin#(s <e$oltion in @cience(, part of "hich
"as rearran#ed to comprise @ocialism, Atopian and @cientific& and Ld"i# .eer%ach and the /nd
Halso translated as OOtcomeOI of 1lassical 2erman Philosophy. /n#els( other main "or! on the
s%Eect, the Dialectics of Natre, is more specialised and directed to"ards demonstratin# that, as he
remar!s else"here0 4Natre is the proof of dialectics(.
:n addition, there are Marx(s o"n comments on dialectics and philosophy scattered thro#hot his
"ritin#s, incldin# his early "or!s, "ith /n#els& )he 6oly .amily, and )he 2erman :deolo#y, and his
early essays criticisin# 6e#elian philosophy. 6o"e$er, for the most part, p to the time of @talin,
Marxists internationally ndo%tedly ac7ired their !no"led#e of dialectical materialism thro#h the
a%o$e-mentioned "or!s of /n#els. Lenin "as no exception. 6e defended %oth dialectical and
historical materialism a#ainst %or#eois and petty-%or#eois critics of Marx and in practice applied
the same dialectics sed %y Marx and /n#els in a similar masterly "ay to them.
Lenin "as also $ery "idely read in philosophy, %ein# familiar "ith all the main trends in /ropean
philosophy 3as his "or!s sho"5 and ma!in# a particlar stdy of 6e#el in order to deepen his
nderstandin# of dialectics. Lenin made $ital practical and theoretical se of materialist dialectics.
.irst, this "as in the reco#nition of the necessity of %ildin# a party of a ne" type a%le to condct
re$oltionary acti$ity in the ne" conditions created %y the de$elopment of monopoly capitalism.
@econd, in the theoretical and practical str##le a#ainst the Machian s%Eecti$e idealist trend sho"n
%y a nm%er of leadin# Party fi#res in the period follo"in# the defeat of the 1>0B re$oltion. 6is
%oo!, Materialism and /mpirio-1riticism is %oth a reftation of this trend 3"hich is %asically similar to
the modern schools of positi$ism,5 and at the same time is a profond exposition of Marxist
philosophy in #eneral and a frther de$elopment of the Marxist theory of !no"led#e in particlar.
Lastly, this mastery of dialectics "as sho"n in the de$elopment of a ne" theory of re$oltion,
%rin#in# Marxism into line "ith chan#es in the character of capitalism and the de$elopment of a ne"
sta#e, imperialism. )he correctness of his se of the Marxist dialectical method is sho"n %y the
trimph of the socialist re$oltion in <ssia in No$em%er, 1>17.
9ltho#h "hat has Est #one %efore may appear to %e an historical di#ression, it has %een necessary
to sho" the %asis of the materialist dialectics sed %y Marx and /n#els and mainly exponded %y
/n#els 3"ho said in Ld"i# .eer%ach that for years it had %een his and Marx(s %est "or!in# tool
and their sharpest "eapon5.
)he 4la" of the ne#ation of the ne#ation( played the least role in their methods. Primarily, they
in$esti#ated thin#s in their real historical de$elopment, motion and chan#e, and %ecase motion
itself is a contradiction, they necessarily so#ht ot the contradictions "ithin thin#s as the sorce of
this de$elopment. )his "as the principal fondation of their method. Lenin, too& nderstood this. :n a
note in his 1onspects of 6e#el(s 4@cience of Lo#ic( Est after 6e#el(s criticism of the -antian 4thin#-
in-itself(, he "rites0
Dialectics is the teachin# "hich sho"s ho" Opposites can %e and ho" they happen to %e 3ho" they
%ecome5 identical, ' nder "hat conditions they are identical, %ecomin# transformed into one
another, ' "hy the hman mind shold #rasp these opposites not as dead, ri#id, %t as li$in#,
conditional, mo%ile, %ecomin# transformed into one another. 31>5
*ritin# in his 4Lo#ic( on the La" of 1ontradiction, 6e#el notes0 41ontradiction is the root of all
mo$ement and $itality and it is only insofar as it contains a 1ontradiction that anythin# mo$es and
has implse and acti$ity(. 3205
:n $arios "ays 6e#el retrns to and repeats this selfsame concept, and Lenin ma!es this
penetratin# comment0
Mo$ement and 4self-mo$ement( 3this N+P ar%itrary 3independent5, spontaneos, internally-necessary
mo$ement5, 4chan#e(, 4mo$ement and $itality(, 4the principle of all self-mo$ement(, 4implse( 3)rie%5 to
4mo$ement( and to 4acti$ity( ' the opposite to 4dead +ein#( ' "ho "old %elie$e that this is the core of
46e#elianism,( of a%stract and a%strse 3ponderos, a%srd85 6e#elianism88 )his core had to %e
disco$ered, nderstood, resced, laid %are, refined, "hich is precisely "hat Marx and /n#els did. 21
)hat is to say, the la" of contradiction, the la" of the nity and str##le of opposites "as precisely
the core of the dialectics of Marx and /n#els.
)he phrase0 4ne#ation of the ne#ation(, is inclded %y Lenin in his description of Marx(s dialectics in
his %io#raphical essay, -arl Marx. +t he does not sin#le it ot as a la", simply as a featre of
de$elopment %y sta#es0 49 de$elopment that repeats, as it "ere, sta#es that ha$e already %een
passed, %t repeats them in a different "ay, on a hi#her %asis 34the ne#ation of the ne#ation(5, a
de$elopment, so to spea!, that proceeds in spirals, not in a strai#ht line( 3225
Lenin in his Philosophical Note%oo!s also #i$es emphasis to a statement %y 6e#el0 4)he ne#ati$e is
to an e7al extent positi$e( ' ne#ation is somethin# definite, has a definite content, the inner
contradictions lead to the replacement of the old content %y a ne", hi#her one. 32?5 6ere a#ain is the
idea of the spersession of the old %y the ne", leadin# to a hi#her sta#e of de$elopment %y ne#ation
of the old, the otcome of a contradiction %et"een the old and the ne" "hich, as Marx indicated in
the 49fter"ord( to 1apital, can %e re#arded as a ne" affirmation "hich is in contradiction "ith a ne"
:n a sixteen-point smmary of the elements of dialectics as a more detailed ela%oration of a three-
point smmary %y 6e#el 3@ee 1onspects of 6e#el(s @cience of Lo#ic5, Lenin a#ain treats the
4ne#ation of the ne#ation( simply as a manifestation of the apparent retrn to the old ' i.e., as a
s%ordinate featre, not a la".
:n the same smmary Lenin has a note in re#ard to the second 4la"(. :n Point >, spea!in# of
contradiction 3the first la"5, he says0 >5 Not only the nity of opposites, %t the transitions of e$ery
determination, 7ality, featre, side, property into e$ery other Hinto its opposite8I.( 9nd in re#ard to
La" ::, this is later %rac!eted "ith another contradiction as follo"s0
31B5 )he str##le of content "ith form and con$ersely. )he thro"in# off of the form, the
transformation of the content. 31K5 )he transition of 7antity into 7ality and $ice $ersa. 331B and 1K
are examples of >55. 3245
)hs from this "e see that Lenin considered that "hat "as pre$iosly re#arded as a 4classical la"(,
the transition of 7antity into 7ality and $ice $ersa, is in reality simply a particlar form of
Lenin "rote that not empty, ftile, sceptical ne#ation 4is characteristic and essential in dialectics '
"hich ndo%tedly contains the element 8 of ne#ation and indeed as its most important element '
no, %t ne#ation as a moment HfactorI of connection as a moment HfactorI of de$elopment, retainin#
the positi$e M 32B5 Lenin ths clearly adhered to ne#ation as an inte#ral part of dialectics, %t not as
a %asic la".
*hat Lenin sa" "as that the essence of ne#ation "as the replacement ' or spersession ' of the
old %y the ne", %t that the positi$e content of the old is retained. )his is tre in the case of all
de$elopment. @cience has de$eloped precisely in this "ay, "ith ne" and more correct concepts of
natral processes replacin# concepts formerly tho#ht correct, in the li#ht of the le$el of the scientific
!no"led#e of the period. )his does not mean ncritical acceptance of all the old. )he former state of
thin#s is ne#ated& that is the %asic featre of the de$elopment. )he retention of "hat may %e positi$e
and sefl to the ne" is determined %y the natre of the str##le %et"een the opposites, the t"o
main aspects of the contradiction.
9fter the socialist re$oltion in <ssia a petty-%or#eois intellectal trend #re" p in the field of
literatre in particlar and cltre in #eneral, to a%olish all pre-existin# cltre and start creatin# '
from scratch ' a proletarian cltre to replace it. Lenin fo#ht $i#orosly a#ainst this trend, !no"n as
Proletclt. 6e "rote0 4Only a precise !no"led#e and transformation of the cltre created %y the
entire de$elopment of man!ind "ill ena%le s to create a proletarian cltre. )he latter is not
cltched ot of thin air& it is not an in$ention of those "ho call themsel$es experts in proletarian
cltre. )hat is all nonsense. Proletarian cltre mst %e the lo#ical de$elopment of the store of
!no"led#e man!ind has accmlated nder the yo!e of capitalist, lando"ner and %reacratic
society.( 32K5 :t is in this sense that the ne#ation of the former state of society retains "hat is sefl
and necessary to the ne" state.
@o far "e ha$e presented, in otline only, some of the main aspects of dialectical materialism as
de$eloped %y Marx and /n#els, and frther deepened %y Lenin.
Stalins Views
*ith the p%lication of @talin(s essay Dialectical and 6istorical Materialism in 1>?=, the 1ommnist
mo$ement internationally 3tho#h most pro%a%ly not 1hina5 tended to ma!e this the focal point of
their stdy of the s%Eect. )his sitation lasted ntil -hrshche$(s dennciation of @talin in 1>BK and
the sppression of most of @talin(s "or!s. /$en after this, many 1ommnist parties re#arded this
pamphlet as the %est short exposition of dialectical and historical materialism.
@talin(s essay, "hich "as p%lished in many different forms, incldin# as a separate pamphlet, is
di$ided into three sections0 15 Dialectics and the dialectical method ' incldin# the la"s of dialectics&
25 Philosophical Materialism, "hich considered 3a5 the materiality of the "orld& 3%5 the materialist
ans"er to the %asic 7estion of philosophy, namely that matter is primary, and tho#ht or spirit
secondary& and the !no"a%ility of the "orld, the non-existence of 4n#raspa%le( thin#s-in-
themsel$es, and the fact that the proof of the $alidity of or !no"led#e lies in hman practice. ?5 )he
third section of the pamphlet concerns historical materialism& the fact that social consciosness
deri$es from and is %ased on social %ein#& the relationship of the forces of prodction to the social
relations of prodction& the fact that these relations form the economic %asis of society on "hich is
erected a correspondin# le#al, political and ideolo#ical sperstrctre& and the str##le %et"een
anta#onistic classes "hich arises on the %asis of the prodction relations of exploiters and exploited,
"ith the e$ental otcome of that str##le %ein# the ine$ita%le o$erthro" of the capitalist class and
the esta%lishment of socialism and commnism.
HPamphlet : of the present series dealt separately "ith historical materialism. :t cold ha$e follo"ed
the same pattern as @talinOs "or!, %t did not %ecase it "old ha$e meant dealin# "ith the most
a%stract material in the stdy of Marxism-Leninism i.e., dialectics, at the otset, ths placin# an
o%stacle in the "ay of learnin# for ne"comers to theory.I
Or assessment of @talin(s pamphlet is as follo"s. Mainly, the "or! is intended to %e a smmary of
the teachin#s of Marx and /n#els on philosophy and its application to history, and it scceeds in this
$ery "ell in respect of historical materialism, and not as "ell in respect of philosophical materialism.
@perficially it "old appear that there is little the matter "ith the section on dialectics, %t
nfortnately, this section contains serios shortcomin#s. )he main one of these is that, "hile
correctly pointin# to the necessity of comprehendin# all thin#s and processes in their real
de$elopment, @talin, enmeratin# for la"s of dialectics, treats them as %ein# all more or less
e7ally important. +t this is not the case, nor "as it the method follo"ed %y Marx, /n#els and
Lenin, e$en tho#h appearances may %e a#ainst /n#els. )he la" "hich they re#arded as the most
important and decisi$e for de$elopment is the la" of contradiction. *e ha$e already demonstrated
this in the precedin# pa#es. :t can %e frther sho"n %y some 7otations from Lenin(s short ' %t $ery
profond article, clled from his from his Philosophical Note%oo!s entitled, in $olme ?= of his
1ollected *or!s, On the Qestion of Dialectics 3in the 12-$olme @elected *or!s it is0 On
:t is plain from the contents of his 4Note%oo!s( that Lenin intended to "rite a "or! on dialectics, %t
lac!ed the time. )he short article here referred to is a %rief smmin# p of his stdies. 9t the otset
he says0
)he splittin# of a sin#le "hole and the co#nition of its contradictory parts is the essence 3one of the
essentials, one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristics or featres5 of dialectics. )his is
precisely ho" 6e#el, too, pts the matter 8
9nd frther0
)he identity of opposites 3it "old %e more correct to say their 4nity(, ' altho#h the difference
%et"een the terms identity and nity is not particlarly important here. :n a certain sense %oth are
correct5 is the reco#nition 3disco$ery5 of the contradictory, mtally exclsi$e, opposite tendencies in
all phenomena and processes of natre 3incldin# mind and society5. )he condition for the
!no"led#e of all processes of the "orld in their 4self-mo$ement(, in their spontaneos de$elopment,
in their real life, is a !no"led#e of them as a nity of opposites. De$elopment is the 4str##le( of
opposites. )he t"o %asic 3or t"o possi%le8 or t"o historically o%ser$a%le85 conceptions of
de$elopment 3e$oltion5 are0 de$elopment as decrease and increase, as repetition, and
de$elopment as a nity of opposites8
:n the first conception of motion, self-mo$ement, its dri$in# force, its sorce, its moti$e, remains in
the shade 3or this sorce is made external ' 2od, s%Eect, etc.5.
)he first conception is lifeless, pale and dry. )he second is li$in#. )he second alone frnishes the
!ey to the self-mo$ement of e$erythin# existin#& it alone frnishes the !ey to the leaps, to the %rea!
in continity, to the transformation into the opposite, to the destrction of the old and the emer#ence
of the ne".
)he nity 3coincidence, identity, e7al action5 of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory,
relati$e. )he str##le of mtally exclsi$e opposites is a%solte, Est as de$elopment and motion
are a%solte. 3275
*hat is perfectly plain from this 7ote is that the la" of contradiction 3the nity of opposites5 is "hat
ena%les one to nderstand the self-mo$ement of thin#s. )hs, materialist dialectics holds that the
primary case of mo$ement and de$elopment is internal, arisin# from the contradiction "ithin thin#s,
and not from some otside case.
:s this not also ho" Marx sa" dialectical motion8 *hat do "e see in 1apital, his main "or! )hat in
his analysis of $ale, the latter is presented as ha$in# a t"ofold character, %ein# comprised of se-
$ale and exchan#e-$ale. Moreo$er, nderlyin# the t"ofold character of $ale ' and Marx "as the
first to reco#nise this and nderstand its importance ' lay a t"ofold character of la%or, in the form of
concrete la%or and a%stract la%or. : "as the first to point ot and examine critically this t"o-fold
natre of the la%or contained in commodities,G Marx "rote in 1apital. 9nd to emphasise Est ho"
important this contradictory character of la%or "as, he added in the next sentence0 F9s this point is
the pi$ot on "hich a clear comprehension of Political /conomy trns, "e mst #o more into detail,
32=.5 "hich he proceeds to do. 9nd frther, he "rites to /n#els on the completion of the first $olme
of 1apital0 )he %est points in my %oo! are0 15 the t"o-fold character of la%or, accordin# to "hether it
is expressed in se $ale or exchan#e $ale. 39ll nderstandin# of the facts depends pon this.5
32>5 )he dialectical method of stdyin# a thin# or process from all sides in order to disclose the
internal contradictions "hich impel its de$elopment is apparent thro#hot 1apital.
:n Lenin(s article On the Qestion of Dialectics already 7oted, he later states0
:n his 1apital, Marx first analyses the simplest, most ordinary and fndamental, most common and
e$eryday relation of %or#eois 3commodity5 society, a relation encontered %illions of times, $iJ. the
exchan#e of commodities. :n this $ery simple phenomenon 3in this 4cell( of %or#eois society5
analysis re$eals all the contradictions 3or the #erms of all the contradictions5 of modern society. )he
s%se7ent exposition sho"s s the de$elopment 3%oth #ro"th and mo$ement5 of these
contradictions and of this society in the sm of its indi$idal parts, from its %e#innin# to its end.
@ch mst also %e the method of exposition 3or stdy5 of dialectics in #eneral 3for "ith Marx the
dialectics of %or#eois society is only a particlar case of dialectics5. 3?05
:n Lenin(s article On the Qestion of Dialectics "e ha$e a $irtal pro#ramme for the frther
de$elopment of dialectics as a stdy of contradiction& a pro#ramme for the exposition of the %asic
character of contradiction, for the deepenin# of the nderstandin# of contradiction as the %asic
case of de$elopment, the internal case of self-mo$ement, and as a "eapon of in$esti#ation into all
processes and phenomena, into all aspects of society.
)his pro#ramme appears to ha$e %een missed %y @talin. .or he ma!es only a %rief smmary of the
la" of contradiction in his pamphlet, the la" is placed last in his exposition of dialectical la"s, and it
is not treated as the %asic la".
:n his treatment of the dialectical method, @talin exponds for la"s. 315 )he la" of interconnection
and interdependence of phenomena& 325 the la" of continos chan#e and de$elopment thro#h the
spersession of the old %y the ne"& 3?5 the la" of the transition of 7antity into 7ality and $ice
$ersa, and 345 the la" of the nity and str##le of opposites.
9s can %e seen, these la"s differ from the three 4classical( la"s, "hich ma!e no mention of any la"
of interconnection, tho#h certainly classical dialectics reco#nises the interconnectedness of
phenomena, and is itself a lo#ic of motion and de$elopment, in contradistinction to metaphysics.
+t the internal content of motion is, as "e ha$e seen, contradiction, and the interconnection of a
#i$en thin# or process "ith srrondin# phenomena is no less attri%ta%le to the de$elopment of
)he 4ne#ation of the ne#ation( is not mentioned %y @talin. 6o"e$er, it mst %e said that in re#ard to
chan#e and de$elopment, he sees the content of this as the spersession of the old %y the ne",
tho#h he does not se this exact formlation. :n connection "ith the transition of 7antity into
7ality and $ice $ersa, @talin #i$es this the stats of a distinct la" of dialectics, a maEor la". )his is
the more srprisin# as, in spite of 7otin# from Lenin(s Philosophical Note%oo!s, he apparently
completely misses Lenin(s $ie", contained in his 3pre$iosly-7oted5 1K-point smmary of the
dialectical method "hich fi#res prominently in the Note%oo!s, namely, that this la" of transition is
actally a particlar case of contradiction.
:t is e$ident from his exposition that @talin did not realise the o$erridin# importance of the la" of
contradiction for dialectics and hence "as %ond to ma!e errors in analysin# thin#s.
Mao Tse-Tungs Views
:t "as Mao )se-tn# "ho nderstood Lenin(s pro#ramme for the frther de$elopment of dialectics
and carried it ot in his %rilliant essay On 1ontradiction.
+esides the importance of contradiction, Lenin stressed in his article the si#nificance of dialectics as
a 4theory of !no"led#e( 3the philosophical term for this is 4epistemolo#y(5. Mao also #a$e this aspect
of dialectics a masterly, short exposition 3in "hich he de$eloped it frther5 in another %rilliant essay0
On Practice. )hese t"o pamphlets, "hose content is at once poplar and profond, are an
in$ala%le #ide to the practical "or! of a Marxist-Leninist party or to any acti$e "or!er in the class
+efore #oin# on to loo! at these "or!s of Mao, "e said a%o$e that @talin(s article did not scceed so
"ell in its treatment of philosophical materialism. *e refer here to @ection 2 %5, "hich treats of
idealism, %t only of s%Eecti$e idealism. :t entirely omits reference to the $ery common trends of
o%Eecti$e idealism, "hich incldes most maEor reli#ions and as "ell, 6e#el(s o%Eecti$e idealism. )his
is a nota%le omission, considerin# that the o%Eecti$e idealism of reli#ion is %y far the most commonly-
held "orld $ie" of the masses of "or!ers and other toilers thro#hot the "orld.
9s to /n#els, Lenin had the hi#hest re#ard for his "ritin#s on dialectics, %t he says in his
pre$iosly-7oted article on the s%Eect, that in re#ard to the co#nition of the nity of opposites0
)his aspect of dialectics 3e.#. in Ple!hano$5 sally recei$es inade7ate attention0 the identity of
opposites is ta!en as the sm-total of examples 3Ffor example, a seed,G Ffor example, primiti$e
commnism.G )he same is tre of /n#els. +t H"ith himI it is Fin the interests of poplarisationG5 and
not as a la" of co#nition 3and as a la" of the o%Eecti$e "orld5. 3?15
*hat Lenin is pointin# ot is that /n#els, "hile poplarisin# dialectics and ma!in# a #reat
contri%tion in doin# so, ne$ertheless did not %rin# ot the %asic natre of the la" of contradiction.
Lenin pts thin#s in perspecti$e "hen he says0 4Dialectics in the proper sense is the stdy of
contradiction in the $ery essence of o%Eects( 3?25
+efore proceedin# to consider Mao(s exposition of the la" of contradiction, let s refer %ac! to the
7estion of dialectical la"s. :n a Pen#in +oo! entitled Mao )se-tn# Anrehearsed, there "ere
p%lished in 1>74 3i.e., in Mao(s lifetime5 a nm%er of nofficial texts of important speeches and
articles %y Mao dated %et"een 1>BK and 1>71. *hile a de#ree of circmspection in re#ard to these
mst %e sed in $ie" of the fact that they are not athorised texts, it is possi%le to distin#ish the
athentic $oice of Mao in mch of the %oo!. )he follo"in# are t"o 7otes re#ardin# philosophy
"hich ha$e the rin# of trth and do not contradict %t are flly in line "ith, "hat Mao "rote in On
1ontradiction. )he first, from a )al! on Qestions of Philosophy on 9#st 1=, 1>K4, is as follo"s0
1omrade -an# @hen#0 41old the 1hairman say somethin# a%ot the three cate#ories.( H9thorOs
note0 this refers to the three dialectical la"sI. HMaoI0 /n#els tal!ed a%ot the three cate#ories, %t as
for me : don(t %elie$e in t"o of those cate#ories 3)he nity of opposites is the most %asic la", the
transformation of 7ality and 7antity into one another is the nity of the opposites 7ality and
7antity, and the ne#ation of the ne#ation does not exist at all.5 )he Extaposition, on the same le$el,
of the transformation of 7ality and 7antity into one another, the ne#ation of the ne#ation, and the
la" of the nity of opposites is 4triplism(, not monism. )he most %asic thin# is the nity of opposites.
)he transformation of 7ality and 7antity into one another is the nity of the opposites 7ality and
7antity. )here is no sch thin# as the ne#ation of the ne#ation. 9ffirmation, ne#ation, affirmation,
ne#ation 8 in the de$elopment of thin#s, e$ery lin! in the chain of e$ents is %oth affirmation and
ne#ation. @la$e-holdin# society ne#ated primiti$e society, %t "ith reference to fedal society it
constitted, in trn, the affirmation. .edal society constitted the ne#ation in relation to sla$e-
holdin# society, %t it "as in trn the affirmation "ith reference to capitalist society. 1apitalist society
"as the ne#ation in relation to fedal society %t it is, in trn, the affirmation in relation to socialist
society. 3??5
Once a#ain, the reference to 4affirmation and ne#ation( as a contradiction har!s %ac! to Lenin.
1ommentin# on 4ne#ation( in 6e#el(s Lo#ic, he says0 4@cientific consideration demands the
demonstration of difference, connection, transition. .rom assertion to ne#ation ' from ne#ation to
nity "ith the asserted ' "ithot this, dialectics %ecomes empty ne#ation, a #ame, or scepsis. 3?45
)he second 7ote of Mao(s, from a @peech at 6an#cho", 21 Decem%er 1>KB, is as follo"s0 4:t sed
to %e said that there "ere three #reat la"s of dialectics, then @talin said there "ere for. :n my $ie"
there is only one %asic la" and that is the la" of contradiction. Qality and 7antity, positi$e and
ne#ati$e, external appearance and essence, content and form, necessity and freedom, possi%ility
and reality etc., are all cases of the nity of opposites.( 3?B5
*e mst say here that in or opinion Mao(s $ie" is the correct one. *hat "as formerly expressed as
three la"s is more correctly expressed as one %asic la". Lenin made it clear that the dialectics of
Marx and /n#els "ere fndamentally %ased on the la" of contradiction, and his o"n statements
sho" that he too re#arded this la" as fndamental. 9s "e ha$e already recorded, he specifically
sa" 7antity and 7ality as a nity of opposites, "hile earlier, Marx had already expressed the
contradiction0 affirmation-ne#ation.
*hat is clear is that Mao had made a profond stdy of Lenin(s Philosophical Note%oo!s, and his
short article On the Qestion of Dialectics, and his other "ritin#s on philosophy, and he had also
a%sor%ed the philosophical $ie"s of Marx and /n#els. )hs, his o"n philosophical "ritin#s "ere flly
in line "ith their %asic $ie"s "hile ma!in# a frther ad$ance, and still frther demystifyin# dialectics
from the point of $ie" of mass nderstandin#.
:f Mao re#arded dialectics from the point of $ie" that there "as only one %asic la", and not three or
for, the 7estion arises0 "hy did he not say so in On 1ontradiction8 )he fact is that at that time,
altho#h the 1ommnist Party of 1hina %elon#ed to the 1ommnist :nternational, their experience of
this or#anisation had ta#ht them that it "as tterly "ron# on 1hina. +t still, the 7estion "as one
of nity in the "orld 1ommnist mo$ement, of "hich @talin "as the ndispted leader. )o ha$e
dispted @talin(s for la"s then "old ha$e had a disrpti$e effect on this nity at a time "hen the
@o$iet Anion "as the only socialist state in the "orld and a %astion of the international "or!in# class.
Mao "as a%le to "rite On 1ontradiction #i$in# pride of place to one %asic la" %t presentin# it in a
"ay that did not concretely criticise @talin or the @o$iet Anion.
:t is plain from Mao(s o"n "or!s and from the dialectics of the 1hinese re$oltion that %y 1>?=, "hen
he "rote On 1ontradiction and On Practice Mao already had a deeper nderstandin# of dialectical
materialism than @talin. Later, he "rote more on the s%Eect, "hile still #i$in# @talin credit for his
positi$e achie$ements.
:n a 4)al! at a 1onference of Party 1ommittee @ecretaries( in ;anary 1>B7, Mao noted that Marx,
/n#els and Lenin de$eloped Marxism %y "ide stdy and %y reftin# 4ne#ati$e stff( and added0
:n this respect, @talin "as not as #ood. .or instance, in his time, 2erman classical idealist
philosophy "as descri%ed as reaction on the part of the 2erman aristocracy to the .rench re$oltion.
)his conclsion totally ne#ates 2erman classical idealist philosophy. @talin ne#ated 2erman military
science, alle#in# that it "as no lon#er of any se and that %oo!s %y 1lase"itJ shold no lon#er %e
read since the 2ermans had %een defeated. H9thorOs note0 Lenin, ho"e$er, stdied 1lase"itJ and
sed his definition of "arI.
@talin had a fair amont of metaphysics in him,G adds Mao. F:n the 46istory of the 1ommnist Party
of the @o$iet Anion 3+olshe$i!s5, @hort 1orse,( @talin says that Marxist dialectics had for principal
featres. 9s the first featre he tal!s of the interconnection of thin#s, as if all thin#s happen to %e
interconnected for no reason at all. *hat then are the thin#s that are interconnected8 :t is the t"o
contradictory aspects of a thin# that are interconnected. /$erythin# has t"o contradictory aspects.
9s the forth featre he tal!s of the internal contradiction in all thin#s, %t then he deals only "ith the
str##le of opposites, "ithot mentionin# their nity. 9ccordin# to the %asic la" of dialectics, the
nity of opposites, there is at once str##le and nity %et"een the opposites, "hich are %oth
mtally exclsi$e and interconnected and "hich nder #i$en conditions transform themsel$es into
each other.G 3?K5
Dialectics A Practical Weapon
Mao )se-tn# "rote for essays on philosophy0 On Practice, On 1ontradiction, On the 1orrect
6andlin# of 1ontradictions 9mon# the People, and *here Do 1orrect :deas 1ome .rom. )o#ether
they constitte a %asic means for approachin# and sol$in# pro%lems that arise in the practical "or!
of the Marxist-Leninist party.
9ll of them repay close stdy, %t particlarly On 1ontradiction and On Practice, for they constitte a
systematised approach to the nderstandin# of dialectical materialism. *hat is presented here is
only an introdctory otline& to actally master these "or!s re7ires the direct stdy of them.
Perhaps a fe" remar!s as to their ori#in may %e sefl.
:n the history of the 1hinese re$oltion errors of %oth a ri#ht opportnist and left do#matist natre
"ere made %y the 1ommnist Party of 1hina in its early history. Particlarly dama#in# "ere the
errors of a #rop of leaders "ho "ere left do#matists and doctrinaires 3led %y *an# Min#5 "ho had
retrned to 1hina after a period of stdyin# theory and the @o$iet experience in the A@@<, %t "ho
did not nderstand the different character and circmstances of the 1hinese re$oltion. :n 1hina the
first sta#e "as that of a %or#eois-democratic 3or ne"-democratic5 and not a directly socialist,
re$oltion. )he latter had to %e preceded %y the former %efore it cold hope to scceed. +t the
military and political line of the do#matists consisted of copyin# the @o$iet experience in a
mechanical "ay, "hich reslted in hea$y losses to the re$oltionary forces. )heir military line
consisted of condctin#, or demandin# of others that they shold condct, city insrrections,
irrespecti$e of losses and repeated failres& and of al"ays meetin# 1hian# -ai-she!(s %etter-armed
and mch %i##er forces head on in frontal assalts. )hese tactics reslted in the forced
a%andonment, at #reat cost, of the sccessfl lar#e-scale <ed 9rmy %ases in the @oth, %ilt p
nder Mao(s leadership, and the conse7ent necessity of findin# a ne" %ase in the far north. )his
had its otcome in the historic 4Lon# March(. Ap to nearly a half-"ay point in the march, at the
to"nship of )snyi, the *an# Min#-1omintern line still pre$ailed, and the re$oltionary forces had
%een decimated. 9t their last #asp, they called an expanded Political +rea meetin# "hich chan#ed
the leadership, placin# Mao at the head. .rom then on, the re$oltion ne$er loo!ed %ac!. )he <ed
9rmy scceeded in esta%lishin# a %ase at Lenan in the north. :t "as there that Mao "rote On
Practice and On 1ontradiction to com%at and correct the immensely harmfl and erroneos trend of
do#matism and its offshoot, empiricism. 6o"e$er, in order to achie$e this Mao had to sm p,
systematise and de$elop frther the Marxist-Leninist teachin#s on dialectical materialism in as
poplar a form as "as possi%le. :n doin# this he made the Marxist method far more accessi%le to the
masses than pre$iosly, no mean achie$ement.
*hat follo"s here is simply in smmary form. )he ori#inals mst %e stdied for a proper #rasp of the
s%Eect matter.
The Law of Contradiction
:t is no dispara#ement to Lenin(s #enis as a dialectician to o%ser$e that the actal ennciation of
the la" of contradiction as the %asic la" of dialectics "as made %y Mao. 3Of corse, as "e ha$e
sho"n, the content of Lenin(s $ie"s points to precisely this conclsion5. Mao ma!es his important
statement in the openin# sentence of his essay On 1ontradiction. :t reads0
)he la" of contradiction in thin#s, that is, the la" of the nity of opposites, is the most %asic la" in
materialist dialectics. 3?75
*hy is statin# this as the %asic la" a step for"ard in Marxism-Leninism8 +ecase in the stdy of
Marxist philosophy it concentrates attention on "hat is primary and %asic in the method of approach
to dialectics. :f one #i$es e7al "ei#ht to each of the classical dialectical la"s, then one can easily
end p 3as Ple!hano$ did, for instance5 %y merely 7otin# examples of their operation "ithot
actally penetratin# to the essence of a pro%lem and there%y also seein# "hat is necessary to sol$e
it. )hs, to reco#nise and state the determinin# character of contradiction as the %asic startin# point
of the dialectical method of in$esti#ation and stdy is a definite ad$ance, a ne" contri%tion to
Marxist-Leninist science, and a $ala%le aid to ne"comers to its stdy.
Mao points ot that a $ariety of 7estions arise in connection "ith this la", and says0
:f "e can %ecome clear on all these pro%lems, "e shall arri$e at a fndamental nderstandin# of
materialist dialectics. )he pro%lems are0 the t"o "orld otloo!s, the ni$ersality of contradiction, the
particlarity of contradiction, the principal contradiction and the principal aspect of a contradiction,
the identity and str##le of the aspects of a contradiction, and the place of anta#onism in
contradiction. 3?=.5
*hat Mao has to say on these pro%lems constittes the content of his essay.
:. )he )"o *orld Otloo!s
)hese are the metaphysical and the dialectical materialist "orld otloo!s. *e ha$e earlier #i$en
some explanation of these t"o otloo!s. :n connection "ith metaphysicians, Mao also says0
)hey contend that a thin# can only !eep repeatin# itself as the same !ind of thin# and cannot
chan#e into anythin# different. :n their opinion, capitalist exploitation, capitalist competition, the
indi$idalist ideolo#y of capitalist society, and so on, can all %e fond in ancient sla$e society, or
e$en in primiti$e society, and "ill exist fore$er nchan#ed. )hey ascri%e the cases of social
de$elopment to factors external to society, sch as #eo#raphy and climate. )hey search in an
o$ersimplified "ay otside a thin# for the cases of its de$elopment, and they deny the theory of
materialist dialectics "hich holds that de$elopment arises from the contradictions inside a thin#.
1onse7ently they can explain neither the 7alitati$e di$ersity of thin#s, nor the phenomenon of one
7ality chan#in# into another. 3?>5
Mao points ot that materialist dialectics holds that 41ontradictoriness "ithin a thin# is the
fndamental case of its de$elopment, "hile its interrelations and interactions "ith other thin#s are
secondary cases 8 :t is e$ident that prely external cases cannot explain "hy thin#s differ
7alitati$ely and "hy one thin# chan#es into another.( 3405
:t is plain that $ast chan#es ha$e occrred in hman society %oth /ast and *est, tho#h no chan#e
has occrred in either #eo#raphy or climate.
)ho#h #eo#raphy and climate are conditions for its de$elopment, hman society chan#es mch
more rapidly than either %ecase its internal contradictions are different from theirs. 6ere "e mst
spend a moment on an important, in fact a $ital, 7estion "hich re7ires a frther 7ote0
Does materialist dialectics exclde external cases8 Not at all. :t holds that external cases are the
condition of chan#e and internal cases are the %asis of chan#e, and that external cases %ecome
operati$e thro#h internal cases. :n a sita%le temperatre an e## chan#es into a chic!en, %t no
temperatre can chan#e a stone into a chic!en, %ecase each has a different %asis. 3415
Mao points ot that the Octo%er re$oltion in <ssia had an enormos international impact and that
it exerted inflence on chan#es in $arios contries. +t these chan#es, as in 1hina, "ere effected
thro#h the inner la"s of de$elopment in these contries.
:n Ne" Nealand, the %i# imperialist po"ers ha$e inflenced the de$elopment of Ne" Nealand
capitalist society. +t their inflence has %een effected thro#h the inner la"s of de$elopment of
Ne" Nealand capitalism. *hat pshes for"ard the de$elopment of Ne" Nealand capitalist society is
the internal class str##le of "or!ers a#ainst capitalists. )he inflence of imperialism is a secondary
case, and not a primary case. Ne" Nealand is a de$eloped capitalist contry "ith no fedal class
relations. )his means that it does not face a %or#eois-democratic or anti-imperialist sta#e in its
re$oltion, %t is in the sta#e of socialist re$oltion. .or a lon#-time in the no" thoro#hly mddle-
headed 1ommnist Party of Ne" Nealand the opportnist *.Mc9ra tried to di$ert the Party 3and
lar#ely scceeded5 on to the erroneos path of a t"o-sta#e re$oltion. 9ccordin# to him, the external
contradiction "ith imperialism "as primary, and the internal class contradiction secondary. .or him,
Ne" Nealand "as a 4third-"orld( type contry. /$entally his line "as defeated, %t it too! far lon#er
than it shold ha$e, precisely %ecase of lac! of nderstandin# of this relationship %et"een internal
and external cases "hich Mao ma!es 7ite clear.
)his points the "ay to formlatin# a correct line for the de$elopment of the re$oltionary case in
Ne" Nealand. *hile not i#norin# external cases and contradictions, a Marxist-Leninist party mst
see! ot the main internal contradictions. )hs, Mao points ot, 4it can %e seen that to lead the
re$oltion to $ictory, a political party mst depend on the correctness of its o"n political line and the
solidity of its o"n or#anisation(. 3425 :n other "ords, it cannot expect or rely on socialism %ein#
%ro#ht to it from otside. :t mst %e "on as the reslt of internal class and re$oltionary str##le.
::. )he Ani$ersality of 1ontradiction
)here are t"o sides to facets of this 7estion. )he first, that contradiction exists in all thin#s and
processes. *e ha$e already explained that this is in line "ith all scientific 3i.e., $alid, and not
ima#ined, !no"led#e5. 1ontradiction is ni$ersal %ecase all thin#s are de$elopin#, chan#in#, and
hence in motion. Motion itself, as /n#els explained in 9nti-Dhrin#, is a contradiction. 9 thin# is in
one place "hile it is already mo$in# to"ards another. )he only thin# that does not chan#e is the
process of chan#e itself.
)he other aspect of ni$ersality is that a thin# or process is in motion "hile it exists as a specific
nity of opposites. )hs a mo$ement exists in the thin# or process thro#hot its life, %t "hen an
existin# thin# or process ends, the former contradiction that mo$ed and de$eloped it #i$es "ay to
ne" contradictions "ithin the ne" thin#, "hich nder#oes its o"n de$elopment resltin# from the
ne" internal contradictions.
:::. )he Particlarity of 1ontradiction0
:n his analysis of this side of dialectics Mao %ro!e entirely ne" theoretical #rond. :t "as a
necessary part of his systematic de$elopment of materialist dialectics, for it sho"s the %asis of the
errors of the do#matists. 3*e are certainly not done "ith this anti-Marxist tendency, as is sho"n %y
the thoro#hly do#matist, one-sided and sperficial $ie"point of the 3no" defnct5 leader of the
9l%anian Party of La%or, /n$er 6oxha "ho, not nderstandin# the first thin# a%ot dialectics,
attac!ed, slandered and criticised Mao(s "or!s on the s%Eect. More is said on this frther on.
Mao(s analysis of particlarity stdies, to %e#in "ith, se$eral essential featres of contradictions.
15 /ach form of the motion of matter has its particlarity. /ach has a specific character "hich is
determined %y the particlar natre of the contradiction "ithin it. )his particlar contradiction
constittes the particlar essence "hich distin#ishes one thin# from another. :t is the internal case
or, as it may %e called, the %asis for the immense $ariety of thin#s in the "orld. 34?5
/$ery form of the motion of matter has its o"n particlar contradiction0 )he follo"in# examples are
#i$en %y %oth Lenin and Mao0 :n mathematics0 R and -. Differential and inte#ral. :n mechanics0 action
and reaction. :n physics0 positi$e and ne#ati$e electricity. :n chemistry0 the com%ination and
dissociation of atoms. :n social science0 the class str##le.
)here are, of corse, many others. :n "ar0 Offence and defence, ad$ance and retreat, $ictory and
defeat. :n %iolo#y0 9ssimilation and dissimilation. 3:t shold %e noted that maEor de$elopments ha$e
ta!en place in the physical sciences and in %iolo#y since Lenin. .or instance, "e "old ha$e to add
to physics the contradiction %et"een the atomic ncles and its electron shell and %et"een the
stron# and electro-"ea! nclear forces and %et"een these forces and #ra$itation. +esides, there
ha$e %een nmeros s%-di$isions of each of the sciences, of "hich physics is only one example,
each s%di$ision ha$in# its o"n particlarity of contradiction.5
Particlarity of contradiction is "hat distin#ishes each science or sphere of !no"led#e.
)his holds tre not only for natre %t also for social and ideolo#ical phenomena. /$ery form of
society, e$ery form of ideolo#y has its o"n particlar contradiction and particlar essence. 3445
)he stdy of the particlar contradictions in each science is "hat ena%les one to %e distin#ished
from another. :t is seless tryin# to apply the la"s of physics to mathematics, or the la"s of %iolo#y
to social science. 3)his latter has %een done, and prodced the extremely reactionary otloo! of
4social Dar"inism( as a %asis for claims of racial speriority.5
@ocial science stdies the forces of prodction and the relations of prodction, classes and class
str##le. 39nd, "e mst add, %asis and sperstrctre5. Philosophy stdies materialism and
idealism, the dialectical otloo! and the metaphysical otloo!.
)he stdy of the ni$ersality of contradiction ena%les s to nderstand the ni$ersal case or %asis
for the mo$ement and de$elopment of thin#s. +t stdyin# particlarity is necessary to ena%le s to
differentiate %et"een thin#s and processes and leads s to"ards sol$in# particlar pro%lems in a
correct "ay.
)here are t"o processes in co#nition0 from the particlar to the #eneral and from the #eneral to the
particlar. Man(s !no"led#e %e#ins "ith #ettin# to !no" the essence of many particlars, and on the
%asis of this !no"led#e he can proceed to #eneralise, findin# the common essence of thin#s. )his
done, he can tilise sch #eneralised concepts to stdy ne", concrete thin#s, deepenin# the
!no"led#e of %oth the particlar and the #eneral. Do#matists do not follo" this se7ence of
o%tainin# !no"led#e. )hey end p sin# ri#id formlas applica%le to all thin#s at all times. )hs,
Marx, /n#els and Lenin had "ritten nothin# a%ot a re$oltion proceedin# %y esta%lishin# military
%ases in the contryside and then srrondin# and ta!in# the cities "ith the aid of city insrrections.
Nor had they spo!en of protracted "ar as a necessary part of re$oltionary strate#y nder specific
conditions. :n their time these forms of str##le "ere not on the a#enda, for they "ere concerned
mainly "ith de$eloped, capitalist /rope. )o the do#matist /n$er 6oxha therefore, only the formla
of the <ssian re$oltion cold %e applied to any re$oltions. :f they did not proceed accordin# to
this formla, they cold not %e #enine socialist re$oltions. :n spite of this, the 1hinese re$oltion
did not proceed accordin# to 6oxha(s metaphysical formla, yet it scceeded. 6oxha asserts that it
"as ne$er a socialist re$oltion. 9nd yet @talin, "ho "as claimed %y 6oxha to ha$e made no
mista!es, called 1hina a socialist contry in his /conomic Pro%lems of @ocialism in the A@@< in
:n fact, 6oxha dre" most of his lines of attac! on Mao from the <ssian re$isionists, there%y
sho"in# that do#matism and re$isionism can trn into each other.
*hat is necessary to a$oid fallin# into do#matism is the stdy of the particlarity of contradiction. +t
there are also other aspects to this side of matters.
25 *hen "e are dealin# "ith different forms of the motion of matter, "e start from the fact that each
process of real de$elopment is 7alitati$ely different. )hs, each "ill ha$e its o"n particlar
contradiction. 6ere Mao ma!es the follo"in# $ery important o%ser$ation0
Qalitati$ely different contradictions can only %e resol$ed %y 7alitati$ely different methods. .or
instance, the contradiction %et"een the proletariat and the %or#eoisie is resol$ed %y the method of
socialist re$oltion& the contradiction %et"een the #reat masses of the people and the fedal system
is resol$ed %y the method of democratic re$oltion& the contradiction %et"een the colonies and
imperialism is resol$ed %y the method of national re$oltionary "ar& the contradiction %et"een the
"or!in# class and the peasant class in socialist society is resol$ed %y the method of collecti$isation
in a#ricltre& contradiction "ithin the 1ommnist Party is resol$ed %y the method of criticism and
self-criticism& the contradiction %et"een society and natre is resol$ed %y the method of de$elopin#
the prodcti$e forces. 34B5
?5 )o nderstand "hat contradictions exist in any maEor thin# is $ital. +t each contradiction has its
o"n opposites 3or aspects5 "hich mst %e stdied, %ecase the nderstandin# of each contradiction
depends on nderstandin# the mtal str##le and interdependence of each aspect. )hese aspects
mst each %e analysed and stdied. )his is %asically "hat Lenin meant "hen he emphasised that
the most essential thin# in Marxism, the li$in# sol of Marxism, is the concrete analysis of concrete
conditions. 34K5
)he s%stittion of stereotypes for stdy of a thin# in its real de$elopment is characteristic of
.or instance, people "ho ima#ine that a re$oltion in Ne" Nealand "old follo" exactly the same
path as either the <ssian or 1hinese re$oltions are mechanically transferrin# stereotypes to
conditions "hich are 7ite different from either <ssia or 1hina. *hat is %asic and common is that
there is a %or#eoisie and a proletariat. +t "e ha$e no fedalism in Ne" Nealand& it has %een a
capitalist contry from the /ropean settlement. )here are a $ariety of contradictions %esides that of
the %or#eoisie and the proletariat. )here is the contradiction %et"een the monopolist and non-
monopolist %or#eoisie& the contradiction %et"een "or!ers and sections of the petty %or#eoisie
incldin# small farmers, and the contradiction %et"een the rlin# capitalist class and the oppressed
nationalities of the Maori people and the Pacific :slanders.
)o sol$e pro%lems of the Ne" Nealand re$oltion the particlar natre of each contradiction and
each aspect of each contradiction mst %e stdied, so that the entire ensem%le of contradictions
may %e nderstood in their interconnection, and correct policies adopted for their soltion.
.ollo"in# Lenin, Mao casti#ated people "ho "ere s%Eecti$e, one-sided and sperficial. )hat is, they
did not ta!e an o%Eecti$e $ie" of each contradiction, of the concrete conditions in "hich each aspect
de$elops. )hey did not $ie" pro%lems all-sidedly. )his same pro%lem has %eset Ne" Nealand. )a!e
the 1>B1 *aterfront dispte. )his "as the lar#est stri!e str##le in Ne" Nealand(s history, in$ol$in#
a s%stantial part of the indstrial "or!ers. :t "as a class str##le in the proper sense of the term,
i.e., en#a#in# a siJea%le proportion of the "or!in# class, and ine$ita%ly %ecame a political str##le.
)ho#h it ended in defeat, there "ere many important lessons for the "or!in# class to %e dra"n
from it, %oth positi$e and ne#ati$e. )he #reat fi#ht of the com%ined "or!ers a#ainst the emer#ency
la"s and or#anisation of sca% la%or %y the 2o$ernment and the .ederation of La%or sho"ed a
#limpse of "hat a nited, militant "or!in# class cold do. )hose "ho participated in it had their class
consciosness s%stantially raised. 6o"e$er, today only the ne#ati$e side of it is recalled %y the
dyed-in-the "ool opportnists "hose constant refrain ' in the ser$ice of the employin# class ' is0 *e
mst ne$er ha$e another 1>B1.
No all-sided analysis has e$er %een made of this dispte, nor are "e #oin# to attempt one here. +t
there "ere serios shortcomin#s on the "or!ers( side. )he 1ommnist Party, from "hich the "or!ers
had a ri#ht to expect firm leadership, too! the road of opportnism. :t tamely s%mitted to the
emer#ency anti-stri!e le#islation, made no attempt itself to %rea! ot of it politically or to lead
"or!ers to defy it. :t issed no independent ille#al propa#anda and !ept its paper, the People(s
Doice, "ithin the confines of the la". :n fact an internal Party circlar openly proclaimed the slo#an0
4+ry Lorself in the )rade AnionsP( )his "as pre economism, pre tailism, sited to a rear#ard,
not a $an#ard party.
*ithin the stri!e leadership ' "hich inclded some commnists ' there "as a stron# tendency
to"ards syndicalism ' the idea of one %i# nion "innin# po"er %y a #eneral stri!e. )hs the role of
the state "as not properly nderstood or #i$en serios tho#ht %y the *atersiders( leadership, nor
its a%ility to or#anise stri!e%rea!in#. )his is not a criticism of that leadership(s firmness, "illin#ness
to str##le, a%ility to or#anise spport locally, nationally and internationally, and certainly not of the
ran! and file, "ho fo#ht $aliantly.
Ne$ertheless, s%Eecti$ism rled. )he "atersiders( leadership nderstood only the militant "or!ers,
not the %ac!"ard ones, only the inflence of the stri!in# "or!ers, and not the inflence of the
employers, only their o"n stren#th, and not the role and stren#th of the capitalist state apparats.
)hat is, in relation to the particlarity of contradiction they considered only the fa$ora%le conditions
and not the difficlt ones. Of corse, this de$eloped from a trade nion str##le into a political
str##le, %t not a re$oltionary str##le. )he latter is a mch more complex affair ' not yet
experienced in Ne" Nealand ' and one "hich "old demand mch fller analysis.
@perficiality is, not #oin# deeply into the essence of thin#s %t merely loo!in# at srface
appearances and ima#inin# that this is eno#h to !no" all a%ot an o%Eect. @ays Mao0 4)o %e one-
sided and sperficial is at the same time to %e s%Eecti$e. .or all o%Eecti$e thin#s are actally
interconnected and are #o$erned %y inner la"sM( 3475 )hese can only %e re$ealed %y o%Eecti$e
stdy of each aspect of each particlar contradiction, loo!in# at these all-sidedly, #oin# from the
otside to the inside and from the inside to the otside.
45 )he de$elopment of any complex thin# proceeds %y sta#es.
6man society has passed thro#h se$eral sch sta#es& Primiti$e 1ommnism, @la$e @ociety,
.edalism, 1apitalism and @ocialism. )he de$elopment of imperialism, of monopoly capitalism, is a
particlar sta#e in the de$elopment of capitalism. :f "e considered that the state monopoly
capitalism of the present era is the same as the free competition capitalism of Marx(s day "e "old
%e ma!in# a serios error. *e "old not %e reco#nisin# ' as Lenin did ' that imperialism as the
hi#hest sta#e of capitalism, "hile not chan#in# the fndamental contradiction of capitalism 3that
%et"een social prodction and pri$ate appropriation5 has certain special featres %ecase that
contradiction has %een intensified. )hese featres are exponded in or Party(s earlier pamphlet,
:mperialism. )hey inclde the domination of monopoly, the mer#in# of %an!in# and indstrial capital
and on that %asis the creation of a rlin# oli#archy of finance-capitalists in all maEor capitalist
contries, the di$ision of the "orld %et"een the capitalist com%ines, and the territorial di$ision of the
"orld %et"een the #reat po"ers, leadin#, %ecase of the ne$en economic and political
de$elopment of capitalism in this sta#e, to imperialist "ars for the redi$ision of an already-di$ided
/ach maEor process has its sta#es, drin# "hich the fndamental contradiction is intensified, #i$in#
rise to ne" featres "hich mst %e #rasped and nderstood.
+efore *orld *ar :: a #reat part of the "orld(s peoples li$ed nder the direct colonial rle of one or
other #reat po"er. +t the intensification of the contradiction %et"een the imperialist #reat po"ers
and the oppressed peoples led to $ast national independence str##les in the colonies. )hat
contradiction has %een modified into a contradiction %et"een imperialism and neo-colonial states.
+t "ith the ad$ent of a ne" "orld crisis this contradiction is itself sharpenin#, and is "ea!enin#
imperialism #enerally.
*ithin Ne" Nealand, the de$elopin# crisis is sho"in# itself in increased exploitation, and mass
nemployment, and is raisin# the possi%ility of a trn %y the "or!in# class from the %or#eois La%or
Party to"ards a Marxist-Leninist party. Of corse, this prespposes a #reat 7antitati$e and
7alitati$e rise in the class str##le of the "or!ers. +t "e are already enterin# pon this ne" sta#e,
"hich "ill differ 7alitati$ely from pre$ios sta#es in its political le$el, pro$idin# that the Marxist-
Leninist handlin# of contradictions is correct.
B5 )he stdy of the particlarity of contradiction at each sta#e of a process of de$elopment mst not
rest at stdyin# their interconnections drin# each sta#e& it mst also inclde the stdy of the t"o
aspects of each contradiction.
:t mi#ht appear, if "e "ere stdyin# the str##les %et"een the "or!in# class and the capitalist class
in Ne" Nealand, that the political parties of the capitalists ha$e %een represented in history %y the
parties of the r%an and rral %or#eoisie ' in sccession, Li%eral 3later 4Anited(5 and <eform "hich
to#ether re#roped nder the name National, and the "or!in# class represented %y the La%or Party
and 3tho#h ne$er in Parliament and only in a small minority5 the 1ommnist Party. +t that "old
%e a mista!en analysis. )he La%or Party, despite its name and its promises of the 4socialisation of
the means of prodction, distri%tion and exchan#e( once enshrined in its constittion, "as from the
first a %or#eois party "ith the aim of introdcin# mild reforms of capitalism in order to di$ert the
"or!in# class from re$oltion.
+ecase the Ne" Nealand capitalist class 3incldin# the %i# farmers5 shared in the sperprofitsC of
+ritish imperialist exploitation of the colonies, it "as a%le to ma!e concessions to an pper stratm
of the "or!in# class in the form of extra pay, hosin# loans and especially for La%or politicians and
trade nion secretaries, positions on 2o$ernment %oards and commissions, concessions "hich
created a la%or aristocracy to ser$e as a prop to the rlin# class. )he La%or Party "as %ased on
this %or#eoisified section of the "or!ers and a #ro"in# r%an middle class. :ts leadership, policy
and tactics "ere %or#eois thro#h and thro#h, and still are.
)hs the "or!in# class has, in the main, in practice al"ays follo"ed at the tail of the %or#eoisie and
only small sections of it ha$e #ra$itated to"ards socialist re$oltion, at one time represented %y the
1ommnist Party. 6o"e$er, from 1>=0 on, the 1ommnist Party of Ne" Nealand thre" ot Mao )se-
tn# and %lindly follo"ed the do#matistSre$isionist road of /n$er 6oxha, there%y %ecomin# tterly
incapa%le of leadin# the "or!in# class to socialism.CC
.rom 1>K? to 1>7> the 1ommnist Party of Ne" Nealand stood firmly "ith Mao )se-tn# in
opposition to -hrsche$(s re$isionism. 6o"e$er, early in 1>=0 a factional ptsch %y an anti-Mao
#rop in the Party leadership shifted the 1PNN on to %lind follo"in# of /n$er 6oxha and the Party of
La%or of 9l%ania 3the PL95. .rom then on they relied on the PL9 for their theory, and it happened to
%e thoro#hly mista!en on many 7estions, particlarly on Mao )se-tn# and the 1hinese
<e$oltion, on dialectical materialism and on the fndamental 7estion of continin# re$oltion
nder the dictatorship of the proletariat. :t %ecame s"ell-headed, asserted falsely that it led the
ideolo#ical str##le a#ainst re$isionism in the 1>K0s, and tried to pt itself at the head of the "orld
re$oltion, "hich it "as in practice tterly incapa%le of leadin# %ecase of its left do#matism and
i#norance of #enine materialist dialectics.
+ecase of its do#matismSre$isionism, 9l%ania soon restored capitalism. )he 1PNN then proceeded
on a line of %lind follo"in# of @talin. +y 1>>? it "as ready to ditch @talin, and %y 1>>4 it
somersalted into a line of denoncin# %oth @talin and @o$iet socialism. :t then lanched a $iolent
attac! on @talin, completely falsifyin# history, adopted a pro-imperialist, neo-)rots!yist line, nited
"ith the neo-)rots!yist or#anisation the 4:nternational @ocialists(, dropped the name 41ommnist
Party(, callin# itself, first the 4@ocialist *or!ers Party(, then the 4@ocialist *or!ers Or#anisation( as it
mer#ed "ith the Dnedin-%ased %ody of a similar title. :n the process it chan#ed the name from
*or!ers Doice 3itself a chan#e from the ori#inal People(s Doice to @ocialist *or!er.5 9ll flly in line
"ith the %or#eois principle0 :f yo can(t %eat 4em, Eoin 4em.
)his complete and tter de#eneration of a one-time solid "or!in#-class party can %e traced to a
com%ination of the main errors "arned a#ainst %y Mao in the a%o$e para#raphs0 ri#ht opportnism,
do#matism, and empiricism. Pro%a%ly the decisi$e factor, once Mao "as discarded, "as their almost
complete i#norance in re#ard to the application of materialist dialectics in order to sol$e pro%lems.
9n examination of the t"o aspects of each contradiction %rin#s this ot, and sho"s the necessity of
a ne" Marxist-Leninist party free from re$isionism of the ri#ht or left.
)he particlarity of contradiction is not easy to #rasp. Mao "as the first to really de$elop this aspect
of dialectics. +t it is %asic to a real nderstandin# and application of dialectics. Mao smmarises its
main points as follo"s0
:n stdyin# the particlarity of any !ind of contradiction ' the contradiction in each form of motion of
matter, the contradiction in each of its processes of de$elopment, the t"o aspects of the
contradiction in each process, the contradiction at each sta#e of a process, and the t"o aspects of
the contradiction at each sta#e ' in stdyin# the particlarity of all these contradictions, "e mst not
%e s%Eecti$e and ar%itrary %t mst analyse it concretely. *ithot concrete analysis there can %e no
!no"led#e of the particlarity of any contradiction. *e mst al"ays remem%er Lenin(s "ords, the
concrete analysis of concrete conditions. 34=.5
:n an earlier pamphlet on 6istorical Materialism "e considered the economic and social
contradictions re$ealed %y Marx and /n#els as the mo$in# force of society in #eneral and the main
socio-economic formations in particlar.
:n societies "here capitalism pre$ails the %asic contradiction is %et"een the social character of
prodction and the pri$ate character of appropriation arisin# from the pri$ate o"nership of the
means of prodction. *ithin capitalism, this constittes the ni$ersality of contradiction. +t for
society in #eneral, it is only one sta#e of the de$elopment of the contradiction %et"een the
prodcti$e forces and the prodction relations and ths constittes the particlarity of contradiction.
1ontradiction is ni$ersal in that it exists in e$erythin# and rns thro#h all processes from
%e#innin# to end. )his is the a%solteness of contradiction. +t this ni$ersality resides and can only
exist in, particlars. No-one can eat frit as sch, or ac7ire !no"led#e as sch& they are
#eneralised concepts "hich exist only in particlar forms.
*rites Mao0
:f all indi$idal character "ere remo$ed, "hat #eneral character "old remain8 :t is %ecase each
contradiction is particlar that indi$idal character arises. 9ll indi$idal character exists conditionally
and temporarily, and hence is relati$e.
)his trth concernin# #eneral and indi$idal character, concernin# a%solteness and relati$ity, is the
7intessence of the pro%lem of contradiction in thin#s& failre to nderstand it is tantamont to
a%andonin# dialectics. 34>5
:D. )he Principal 1ontradiction
and the Principal 9spect of a 1ontradiction
)hese are t"o frther points in the pro%lem of the particlarity of contradiction. :ndeed, they are $ital.
/$ery complex thin# has a nm%er of contradictions "ithin it %t one of them is the main or principal
contradiction, the existence and de$elopment of "hich determines the de$elopment of all the others.
*ithin capitalism, the main social contradiction is that %et"een the proletariat and the %or#eoisie.
)his determines or inflences all the other contradictions "hich "e ha$e mentioned pre$iosly in this
connection. :n addition, it determines or inflences the contradictions %et"een the imperialist
contries themsel$es, %et"een them and the neo-colonies and dependent contries, and 3earlier5
%et"een the capitalist and socialist sectors.
*ith the esta%lishment of the socialist @o$iet Anion, the main contradictions in the "orld "ent from
three to for. )o the contradictions "ithin imperialism 3that %et"een the proletariat and the
%or#eoisie& %et"een the imperialist po"ers and the colonies and oppressed peoples& and %et"een
the imperialist po"ers themsel$es5 "as no" added the contradiction %et"een imperialism and
*hen *orld *ar :: %e#an, it did so as a "ar of t"o anta#onistic imperialist %locs as did *orld *ar :.
:t "as an intensification of the contradictions %et"een the imperialist po"ers. .rom the point of $ie"
of the "or!in# class of the #ropin#s of po"ers in$ol$ed, it "as a "ar for the redi$ision of the "orld
%et"een t"o ri$al #an#s of imperialist %andits, an nEst imperialist "ar that cold %enefit only those
#an#s, and not the international "or!in# class. )heir dty "as to oppose the "ar.
6o"e$er, "hen NaJi 2ermany and its /ropean allies attac!ed the land of socialism, the @o$iet
Anion, the character of the "ar nder"ent a chan#e. Despite fndamental differences %et"een the
A@@< and the 9llied po"ers, there no" "as a common o$erridin# interest %et"een them of
defeatin# the 9xis po"ers. +ecase the @o$iet Anion "as a $ital %ase for the maintenance and
extension of the dictatorship of the proletariat, for the de$elopment of "orld re$oltion, the main
contradiction nder"ent a chan#e. *ithin the %loc of 9llied po"ers the class contradiction %ecame
s%ordinated to the contradiction %et"een the @o$iet Anion and the international "or!in# class and
oppressed peoples ' in temporary alliance "ith the 9llied po"ers ' on the one hand, and the 9xis
po"ers on the other.
Natrally, this presented a complicated #ropin# of contradictions, %t "hile the interests of the
A@@< and one imperialist %loc temporarily coincided, contined opposition to the "ar %y the "or!in#
class "ithin that %loc "old in practice ha$e %een aidin# the forces most immediately hostile to the
@o$iet Anion and threatenin# to destroy it.
Natrally, the 9llied %loc did not chan#e its imperialist character, and this #o$erned its policy drin#
the "ar and in the peace that follo"ed it. +t it "old ha$e %een a serios error not to ha$e seen
that a ne" main contradiction had emer#ed after the attac! on the socialist A@@<.
)hs accordin# to the de$elopment of the $arios contradictions in a thin#, it is $ital to %e a%le to
distin#ish the main contradiction& and it is necessary also to see that, accordin# to concrete
conditions, this contradiction can chan#e, and #i$e "ay to a different one.
4:f in any process there are a nm%er of contradictions(, "rites Mao, 4one of them mst %e the
principal contradiction playin# the leadin# and decisi$e role, "hile the rest occpy a secondary and
s%ordinate role. )herefore, in stdyin# any complex process in "hich there are t"o or more
contradictions "e mst de$ote e$ery effort to findin# the principal contradiction. Once this principal
contradiction is #rasped, all pro%lems can %e readily sol$ed(. 3B05 Mao also adds that there are
thosands of scholars and men of action "ho do not nderstand this method and conse7ently
cannot #et to the heart of a pro%lem and sol$e it.
;st as in any #rop of contradictions one plays the principal role and the others a secondary role,
so too, in any #i$en contradiction one aspect plays the principal and its opposite a secondary role.
*hile at certain times there may %e an e7ili%rim, this can only %e temporary. )he natre of a thin#
is determined %y the principal aspect, the one "hich has #ained the dominant position.
+t contradictions do not remain static. )hey de$elop. 9nd at different sta#es the roles of the t"o
aspects are re$ersed. )he former principal aspect %ecomes the non-principal aspect and $ice-$ersa.
)his chan#e is determined %y an increase or decrease in the force of each aspect in the corse of
the str##le %et"een %oth in the process of de$elopment.
6ere "e mst 7ote a $ery important passa#e from On 1ontradiction in "hich the relationship of the
other classical dialectical la"s as s%ordinate to and arisin# from the la" of contradiction is made
clear for the first time.
*e often spea! of the 4ne" spersedin# the old(. )he spersession of the old %y the ne" is a
#eneral, eternal and in$iola%le la" of the ni$erse. )he transformation of one thin# into another,
thro#h leaps of different forms in accordance "ith its essence and external conditions ' this is the
process of the ne" spersedin# the old. :n each thin# there is contradiction %et"een its ne" and old
aspects, and this #i$es rise to a series of str##les "ith many t"ists and trns. 9s a reslt of these
str##les, the ne" aspect chan#es from %ein# minor to %ein# maEor and rises to predominance,
"hile the old aspect chan#es from %ein# maEor to %ein# minor and #radally dies ot. 9nd the
moment the ne" aspect #ains dominance o$er the old, the old thin# chan#es 7alitati$ely into a ne"
thin#. :t can ths %e seen that the natre of a thin# is mainly determined %y the principal aspect of
the contradiction, the aspect "hich has #ained predominance. *hen the principal aspect "hich has
#ained predominance chan#es, the natre of a thin# chan#es accordin#ly. 3B15
*hat determines that the ne" spersedes the old is the str##le of the t"o aspects of the
contradiction in "hich one #ro"s, de$elops and %ecomes predominant, "hile the formerly dominant
aspect %ecomes minor and #radally dies ot %ecase a leap to a ne" state has ta!en place, a ne"
thin# has emer#ed.
6ere "e can see that contradiction is the %asic la" determinin# all de$elopment, and that the other
classical la"s of dialectics actally descri%e the featres of de$elopment arisin# from the str##le of
opposite aspects of contradictions. )hey are not separate and independent la"s, operatin# apart
from contradiction.
)here are many instances of the old spersedin# the ne" in history. Ander fedalism the
%or#eoisie "as part of the third estate, part of the people oppressed %y the aristocracy. +t it
represented the ne" and #ro"in# prodcti$e forces, increased in siJe and stren#th and in the
.rench re$oltion o$erthre" the aristocracy and %ecame the dominant class. Despite later apparent
re$erses 3the sort of t"ists and trns of "hich Mao spea!s5 "hen the monarchy "as re-esta%lished
for instance, the %or#eoisie still %asically held po"er %ecase the ne"ly-de$eloped prodcti$e
forces "ere nder their control. )he proletariat has t"o or three times since %een on the $er#e of
seiJin# po"er in .rance, and it is stron#er and more nmeros than the %or#eoisie. +t
international capital has each time come to the aid of the %or#eoisie and shored it p. .or all that, in
the lon# rn the "or!ers "ill ine$ita%ly scceed in re$oltion ' despite the present dominance of
re$isionism in the "or!in# class.
:n <ssia the proletariat seiJed po"er in 1>17 and %ecame the rlin# class, "hile the old capitalist
class "as o$erthro"n and appeared to ha$e died ot. +t ne" %or#eois elements #re" stron# e$en
nder socialism, and capitalism "as a%le to ma!e a come%ac!.
9 similar sitation occrred in 1hina in the mid-1>70s. 9 separate pamphlet is de$oted to these
re$erses to socialism, "hich "ill, in the corse of frther de$elopment, #i$e "ay a#ain to the #ro"th
of the ne" in society, the proletariat and the oppressed peoples "ho are carryin# on #ro"in#
str##le a#ainst imperialism.
9 #reat deal depends on the efforts of the re$oltionaries in o$ercomin# difficlties and openin# p
fa$ora%le conditions for ad$ance, as happened se$eral times drin# the <ssian and 1hinese
re$oltions. 1on$ersely, mista!es can lead to re$erses, in "hich difficlties temporarily %ecome
:n discssin# the str##le of the opposite aspects of a contradiction, Mao points ot that the
ac7irin# of !no"led#e of Marxism proceeds thro#h assidos stdy, transformin# i#norance into
!no"led#e, and mo$es from %lindness in its application to mastery in application.
Mao also pts the relationship of a nm%er of %asic social contradictions in the clearest of terms. 6e
points ot that it is a mechanical materialist conception to consider that the prodcti$e forces are
al"ays the principal aspect as compared to the relations of prodction, that practice is al"ays
principal as compared to theory, and that al"ays the economic %ase is principal as compared to the
sperstrctre. )re, in each case the first-named sally plays the principal and decisi$e role, %t
nder certain conditions, the opposite aspects sho" themsel$es as decisi$e.
*hen frther de$elopment of the prodcti$e forces is pre$ented %y existin# prodction relations, a
chan#e in the latter plays the decisi$e role. @imilarly, in an epoch of theoretical chaos, correct theory
plays a decisi$e role, as it did "ith Lenin(s p%lication of :s!ra as the theoretical preparation for the
party of a ne" type. 9s Lenin said0 4*ithot re$oltionary theory there can %e no re$oltionary
mo$ement.( 3B25
Li!e"ise "hen the political, cltral and ideolo#ical sperstrctre o%strct the de$elopment of the
economic %ase, then chan#es in that sperstrctre play the decisi$e role.
)his $ie" is in fll conformity "ith materialist dialectics, "hich re#ards social consciosness as
determined %y social %ein#, %t reco#nises that social consciosness reacts on social %ein# and the
material life of society.
)he contradictory forces in any process are ne$en. 1han#e is a%solte. /7ili%rim is only relati$e.
)hat is "hy Mao states0 4)he stdy of the $arios states of ne$enness in contradictions, of the
principal and non-principal contradictions and of the principal and non-principal aspects of a
contradiction constittes an essential method %y "hich a re$oltionary political party correctly
determines its strate#ic and tactical policies %oth in political and in military affairs. 9ll 1ommnists
mst #i$e it attention.( 3B?5
)hat is to say, it is a !ey to formlatin# correct strate#y and tactics.
D. )he :dentity and @tr##le of the 9spects of a 1ontradiction
9s "e ha$e already pointed ot, each aspect of a contradiction depends on the other for its
existence, that is, they are mtally interdependent. :n capitalism, "ithot the %or#eoisie there
"old %e no proletariat and $ice-$ersa& "ithot p, there "old %e no do"n, "ithot o$er, no nder,
"ithot landlords no tenants and $ice-$ersa, "ithot imperialist oppression of peoples, no oppressed
peoples and $ice-$ersa.
)his sho"s "hat Lenin stressed, "hen he pointed ot that opposites can %e identical namely, that
the opposite aspects of a contradiction cannot each exist in isolation. )his, as Mao states, is the first
meanin# of identity.
+t there is a second, more important meanin#0 that in #i$en conditions, each aspect can transform
itself into its opposite.
No" at first si#ht this mi#ht seem stran#e, that thin#s can transform themsel$es into their opposites.
+t this is precisely "hat happens as a reslt of the str##le of opposites. :n the corse of the
str##le one aspect of a contradiction #athers stren#th and %ecomes ppermost, "hereas formerly it
"as in an inferior position, "hile the opposite aspect "hich "as formerly dominant, is redced to the
s%ordinate position.
:n fedal times the aristocracy "as the rlin# class and the %or#eoisie a class that "as rled. +t
str##le and re$oltion transformed the %or#eoisie into the rlin# class. Li!e"ise, the %or#eoisie is
the rlin# class and the proletariat the rled nder capitalism. +t str##le and re$oltion scceeded
in transformin# each class into its opposite in a lar#e part of the "orld follo"in# the socialist
re$oltion in <ssia. )he proletariat %ecame the rlin# class and the %or#eoisie the rled, in
socialist society. 9nd, despite re$erses, that "ill recr ntil finally the proletariat "ill trimph o$er the
%or#eoisie on a "orld scale.
)he str##le of opposites is ni$ersal, and so is their identity. )his applies to all thin#s, not only
society. )his is the dialectics of the mo$ement of opposites in thin#s in the real "orld. )hose
opposed to chan#e and de$elopment, the reactionaries and metaphysicians representin# the
o%solete rlin# classes, oppose this dialectical $ie", "hich holds that there is an identity %et"een
opposin# aspects of a contradiction and that nder #i$en conditions opposite aspects can %e
transformed into each other. )hs Mao comments0
)he tas! of 1ommnists is to expose the fallacies of the reactionaries and the metaphysicians, to
propa#ate the dialectics inherent in thin#s, and so accelerate the transformation of thin#s and
achie$e the #oal of re$oltion. 3B45
)here is a difference %et"een ima#inary transformations sch as occr in mytholo#y, and in the real
transformations that occr in real, de$elopin# thin#s and processes.
)here is no identity %et"een an e## and a stone, therefore an e## cannot #i$e %irth to a stone or
$ice-$ersa. )here is no identity %et"een a #ame of chess and a crocodile. +oth exist nder #i$en
conditions and cannot %e transformed into each other. )he identity of opposites exists only nder
#i$en conditions.
*ithin Ne" Nealand, there is no fedal, landed aristocracy to %e o$erthro"n in order to esta%lish
%or#eois democracy. )herefore there is no need to ha$e a %or#eois-democratic sta#e prior to a
proletarian socialist re$oltion.
)hat is, the concrete conditions of Ne" Nealand capitalism differ from those of %oth <ssia and
1hina %efore their socialist re$oltions. :n those contries there "as identity %et"een the t"o sta#es
of the re$oltion. :n Ne" Nealand and flly de$eloped capitalist contries there is no sch identity.
)hey face a proletarian socialist re$oltion a#ainst their o"n %or#eoisie. )heir o"n %or#eoisie is
also in$ol$ed, to a #reater or lesser de#ree, "ith the imperialism of the #reat po"ers. )here is
identity, therefore, %et"een the str##le of the proletariat a#ainst the %or#eoisie and also %et"een
the str##le of the proletariat a#ainst imperialism. )hese are the conditions "hich mst %e
nderstood %y the Party of the proletariat in order to lead a str##le to facilitate the transformation of
the proletariat into the rlin# class and in the sppression of the %or#eoisie and of imperialism.
/arlier in this pamphlet "e pointed to the relationship %et"een rest and motion. Mao ta!es this
frther, and points ot that in all thin#s there are t"o states of motion, relati$e rest and conspicos
chan#e. :n the first state, only 7antitati$e chan#e 3increase or decrease in 7antity, siJe etc.5 is
ta!in# place. +t, resltin# from the str##le of opposites, a clminatin# point is reached "hen
conspicos chan#e ta!es place in 7ality. :n the first case, the ot"ard appearance sho"s a thin#
at rest. :n the second, "e see the dissoltion of the old state and its replacement %y a ne" state,
transformation of 7antity into 7ality.
)his transformation of relati$e rest into conspicos chan#e, of 7antitati$e chan#e into 7alitati$e
chan#e, is occrrin# constantly in all processes in natre, society, and in hman tho#ht "hich
reflects the real, o%Eecti$e "orld in de$elopment.
*e see it in society in the #ro"th of conditions "hich lead to a re$oltionary sitation. 9 dialectical
nderstandin# of the identity and str##le of aspects of a contradiction e7ips Marxist-Leninists to
prepare for, and nderstand ho" to tilise the de$elopment of sch a sitation, so as to procre a
fa$ora%le otcome for the proletariat and the mass of "or!in# people.
D:. )he Place of 9nta#onism in 1ontradiction
:n discssin# this aspect of dialectics, Mao expands considera%ly on the distinction %et"een
anta#onism and contradiction noted %y Lenin, "ho said0 49nta#onism and contradiction are not at all
one and the same. Ander socialism, the first "ill disappear, the second "ill remain(. 3BB5
Lenin "as the first to dra" attention to this distinction, tho#h Marx and /n#els often referred to
anta#onisms, and the distinction "as implicit in their "ritin#s. :n his famos Preface to the 1riti7e of
Political /conomy, Marx made the profond o%ser$ation that0 4)he %or#eois relations of prodction
are the last anta#onistic form of the social process of prodction M( tho#h assredly he, li!e Lenin,
ne$er en$isa#ed an end to contradiction nder socialism or commnism.
Mao "rites in On 1ontradiction0 4)he 7estion of the str##le of opposites incldes the 7estion of
"hat is anta#onism. Or ans"er is that anta#onism is one form, %t not the only form, of the str##le
of opposites(.BK 6e sho"s %oth in this "or! and in a frther, later essay On the 1orrect 6andlin# of
1ontradictions 9mon# the People, that distin#ishin# %et"een the t"o types of contradictions,
anta#onistic and non-anta#onistic, is a matter of #reat practical importance for re$oltionary parties,
%oth %efore and after a socialist re$oltion, for it closely concerns the 7estion, "ho are or friends
and "ho are or enemies.
6e points ot that opposites can co-exist for a lon# time in society in the form of exploitin# and
exploited classes, %t not ntil this contradiction reaches a certain sta#e does it manifest itself in the
form of open anta#onism and de$elop into re$oltion.
9nta#onistic contradictions also exist in natre "hen they reach the sta#e of open conflict "hich
resol$es old contradictions to prodce ne" thin#s.
:n capitalist society, the contradiction %et"een the %or#eoisie and the proletariat exists from its
%e#innin#. 6o"e$er, only "hen it reaches the sta#e of open class conflict does it %ecome
anta#onistic in form. )hen re$oltion is on the a#enda.
@ome contradictions are anta#onistic in natre, others are not. 9nta#onism is not the ni$ersal form
of contradiction. )his is most important to remem%er, for the methods of resol$in# each of the t"o
types of contradictions differ. Dependin# on ho" thin#s de$elop concretely, some contradictions
"hich are non-anta#onistic can %ecome anta#onistic, "hile others "hich are anta#onistic can
%ecome non-anta#onistic.
*ithin a Marxist-Leninist party the concrete de$elopment of contradictions %et"een correct and
incorrect thin!in# can lead to an anta#onistic contradiction if a person persists in a pro$en error.
6o"e$er if that person corrects the mista!e and reco#nises it as sch, then the contradiction can %e
trned into a non-anta#onistic one. )he re$erse process also holds #ood.
Ander Lenin(s leadership, the @o$iet 1ommnist Party sed correct methods to sol$e inner-Party
contradictions and also contradictions that de$eloped after the socialist re$oltion %et"een the Party
and #o$ernment on the one hand and different sections of the people on the other. Lenin too! #reat
pains to resol$e contradictions %et"een the proletariat and the petty %or#eoisie, incldin# the
peasantry, so that they "old not %ecome anta#onistic. @imilarly, Mao )se-tn# at different sta#es of
the 1hinese <e$oltion defined "hich classes or sections of classes shold %e re#arded as friends
and "hich as enemies, and adopted different policies to"ards each section accordin# to "hether it
cold or cold not %e an ally of the proletariat. )his correct policy ena%led the re$oltionary
proletariat to nite the maximm forces possi%le a#ainst the enemy at each sta#e of the re$oltion.
*hile @talin "as an otstandin# re$oltionary leader, this particlar aspect of dialectics "as
ne#lected %y him. 9s a conse7ence, he sometimes treated contradictions "ithin the people 3"hich
"ere essentially non-anta#onistic5 as anta#onistic in form, sin# "ron# methods to resol$e them.
*hile this "as a falt, @talin ne$ertheless remained an implaca%le foe of imperialism. -hrshche$,
on the other hand, tried to trn the anta#onistic contradiction %et"een socialism and imperialism into
a non-anta#onistic one %y chan#in# socialism into social-imperialism and restorin# capitalism. 6e
%ecame an enemy of socialism in deeds, "hile pretendin# to adhere to it in "ords. 6is sccessors,
+reJhne$, 2or%ache$ and Leltsin follo"ed the same path and restored capitalism.
:n his essay On the 1orrect 6andlin# of 1ontradictions 9mon# the People 31>B75 Mao #i$es an
extended accont of ho" the t"o different types of contradiction applied to 1hina. 6e pointed ot 3as
did Lenin %efore him5 that in the contradiction %et"een the people and the enemy, the content of
"ho constittes 4the people( differs at different periods of the re$oltion and in the period of socialist
Mao "rites0
1ontradictions in a socialist society are fndamentally different from those in the old societies, sch
as capitalist society. :n capitalist society contradictions find expression in acte anta#onism and
conflicts, in sharp class str##le& they cannot %e resol$ed %y the capitalist system itself and can only
%e resol$ed %y socialist re$oltion. On the contrary, the case is different "ith contradictions in
socialist society, "here they are not anta#onistic and can %e resol$ed one after another %y the
socialist system itself. 3B75
)his "as "ritten %efore -hrsche$ism sho"ed itself flly as conter-re$oltionary social-imperialism.
:t soon %ecame clear to Mao 3"ho made it clear to the "orld5 that in real life it "as possi%le for
socialism to #i$e rise "ithin itself to an anta#onistic class, the ne" %or#eoisie, consistin# of hi#hly-
paid %reacrats, mana#ers, technicians, professional people etc., and a la%or aristocracy.
)his "as a ne" and nexpected de$elopment, sho"in# that to pre$ent the ne" %or#eoisie from
actally seiJin# po"er, as it had done in <ssia, the possi%ilities of its doin# so had to %e reco#nised
and #arded a#ainst %y contined class str##le nder socialism. :n accordance "ith this
nderstandin#, Mao made perhaps his most important contri%tion to theoretical Marxism,
de$elopment of the theory of continin# re$oltion nder the dictatorship of the proletariat. More "ill
%e said on this in the next section, %t it is sfficient to note here that @talin had erred in statin# in
the 1onstittion of the A@@< in 1>?K, that there "ere no lon#er anta#onistic classes in the @o$iet
Anion. :n fact the ne" %or#eoisie "as an anta#onistic class. :t "as already in existence then, and
#re" rapidly in the post-"ar period, ena%lin# -hrshche$, its foremost representati$e, to #ain
spport for a srpation of po"er, leadin# to the restoration of capitalism.
*e lea$e the 7estion of the rise of this same ne" %or#eois class to po"er in 1hina to %e dealt
"ith in a separate pamphlet. 6o"e$er, it can %e seen from the practical experience of the #ro"th of
anta#onistic contradictions nder socialism that the 7estion of the place of anta#onism in
contradiction is a $ery important aspect of the s%Eect, and re7ires mch attention from Marxist-
Leninist parties aimin# to accomplish a socialist re$oltion.
*e thin! it is "orth repeatin# Mao(s %rief 41onclsion( to On 1ontradiction %efore proceedin# to
consider the Marxist theory of !no"led#e.
*e may no" say a fe" "ords to sm p. )he la" of contradiction in thin#s, that is, the la" of the
nity of opposites, is the fndamental la" of natre and of society and therefore also the
fndamental la" of tho#ht. :t stands opposed to the metaphysical "orld otloo!. :t represents a
#reat re$oltion in the history of hman !no"led#e. 9ccordin# to dialectical materialism,
contradiction is present in all processes of o%Eecti$ely existin# thin#s and of s%Eecti$e tho#ht and
permeates all these processes from %e#innin# to end& this is the ni$ersality and a%solteness of
contradiction. /ach contradiction and each of its aspects ha$e their respecti$e characteristics& this is
the particlarity and relati$ity of contradiction. :n #i$en conditions, opposites possess identity, and
conse7ently can co-exist in a sin#le entity and can transform themsel$es into each other& this a#ain
is the particlarity and relati$ity of contradiction. +t the str##le of opposites is ceaseless, it #oes
on %oth "hen the opposites are coexistin# and "hen they are transformin# themsel$es into each
other& and %ecomes especially conspicos "hen they are transformin# themsel$es into one
another& this a#ain is the ni$ersality and a%solteness of contradiction. :n stdyin# the particlarity
and relati$ity of contradiction, "e mst #i$e attention to the distinction %et"een the principal and the
non-principal contradictions and to the distinction %et"een the principal aspect and the non-principal
aspect of a contradiction& in stdyin# the ni$ersality of contradiction and the str##le of opposites in
contradiction, "e mst #i$e attention to the distinction %et"een the different forms of str##le.
Other"ise "e shall ma!e mista!es. :f, thro#h stdy, "e achie$e a real nderstandin# of the
essentials explained a%o$e, "e shall %e a%le to demolish do#matist ideas "hich are contrary to the
%asic principles of Marxism-Leninism and detrimental to or re$oltionary case, and or comrades
"ith practical experience "ill %e a%le to or#anise their experience into principles and a$oid repeatin#
empiricist errors. )hese are a fe" simple conclsions from or stdy of the la" of contradiction. B=
D::. )he )heory of -no"led#e
*e ha$e already #i$en a %rief smmary of this in connection "ith the mass line, in the pamphlet on
the Marxist-Leninist party. Mao deals "ith this theory s%stantially in On Practice, and %riefly in his
forth philosophical essay, *here Do 1orrect :deas 1ome .rom 3May,1>K?5.
*e shall mention some frther aspects here, %t refer the reader to Mao(s ori#inal pamphlet for
proper and fll exposition.
Of corse, Mao did not in$ent the Marxist theory of !no"led#e, "hich is an inte#ral part of dialectical
materialism. Marx and /n#els "ere the first to see and to expond the real relationship %et"een
hman !no"led#e and hman practice, reftin# the main idealist theories on this s%Eect. /n#els in
particlar, in 9nti-Dhrin# and Ld"i# .eer%ach and the /nd of 1lassical 2erman Philosophy,
demolished from the dialectical materialist $ie"point not only the -antian theory of n!no"a%le
4thin#s-in-themsel$es(, %t also the erroneos line of a#nosticism in relation to the $alidity of hman
Lenin frther de$eloped the dialectical materialist theory of !no"led#e in his scathin# indictment of
the errors of the 4Machians(, the disciples of the 9strian physicist /rnst Mach, particlarly certain
mem%ers of the Party, "ho tried to s%stitte the s%Eecti$e idealist otloo! of positi$ism for Marxist
materialism in the period after 1>0B. )he %oo! Materialism and /mpirio 1riticism in "hich he carried
ot this tas! is a profond "or!, and repays mch stdy. 3+ecase the 7estion of epistemolo#y also
arises ot of the str##le of the t"o philosophical lines o$er the %asic 7estion of philosophy '
already 7oted ' "e ha$e treated certain aspects of this 7estion nder the headin# of
4Philosophical Materialism( early in this chapter. Particlarly this applies to the se of 7antm
mechanics and the 4ncertainty principle( %y modern positi$ism. +ecase of its specialised character
"e tho#ht it %etter to introdce it earlier, rather than here.5
Mao(s On Practice is more of a poplarisation, tho#h ne$ertheless it also is profond. :t is %ased on
the teachin#s of Marx, /n#els and Lenin. 9ltho#h it is only a short essay, in it Mao systematises all
the main featres of the Marxist-Leninist theory of !no"led#e, and does so in a "ay that ma!es the
s%Eect accessi%le in readily nderstanda%le form. +t, of particlar importance, Mao ta!es this
theory ot of the apparently distant 3tho#h $ital5 realms of philosophy and sho"s ho", once
#rasped, it is of practical importance in the e$eryday "or! of Marxist-Leninists. )his is %ecase the
essay "as aimed at correctin# the errors of do#matism and empiricism that had arisen ot of
re$oltionary practice and had pla#ed the 1ommnist Party of 1hina in the 1>?0s.
6o" does man o%tain $alid, relia%le !no"led#e concernin# natre, society and hman tho#ht8
Marxism ans"ers, in the first place, thro#h the str##le for prodction. Prodcin# his o"n means of
s%sistence mar!s man off from the animal !in#dom. :t is the most fndamental practical acti$ity of
man. :f prodction ceases, social life %ecomes impossi%le. )hro#hot history, therefore, man(s
prodcti$e acti$ity is his most fndamental acti$ity. :n the corse of it he recei$es many sense
perceptions "hich ena%le him to achie$e a certain le$el of perceptal !no"led#e of thin#s and
processes arond him. )his is the first sta#e of !no"led#e. 9t a certain point his increase in
perceptal !no"led#e manifests itself %y a leap into the second sta#e of !no"led#e, rational
!no"led#e, a sta#e in "hich concepts are formed, #eneralised ideas that ena%le man to nderstand
"hole classes of o%Eects, "hereas formerly he only nderstood indi$idal thin#s or particlar
featres of them. Not only that, "ith the aid of these #eneral concepts man can reason and dra"
conclsions "hich ena%le him to nderstand the essence of #i$en thin#s and processes. )hese are
the first t"o sta#es of !no"led#e or co#nition. +t man(s !no"led#e is still incomplete at this point,
for he cannot %e sre his ne" !no"led#e and his conclsions from it are correct.
)o test their correctness, a third leap is necessary, a leap %ac! from rational !no"led#e into practice,
practical acti$ity. .or this is the real test, to see if or $ie"s, concepts, opinions, Ed#ments and
conclsions really correspond to the actal thin#s and processes existin# in the o%Eecti$e "orld, the
external reality arond s. :f they do, then that part of the process of the de$elopment of or
!no"led#e of a thin# or process can %e re#arded as correct, and "e can #o on to stdy other thin#s
and processes sin# this correct !no"led#e as a Empin#-off place. :f, ho"e$er, or concepts,
conclsions etc. are sho"n in practice not to correspond "ith o%Eecti$e reality, "e mst in$esti#ate
frther to find "hat is falty and incorrect and ta!e steps to %rin# it into line "ith the o%Eecti$e "orld.
)his process is a continos one in the "hole history of man!ind. Anderstandin# this se7ence is
necessary in order to #rasp the importance of practice as the startin# point for the ac7isition of
!no"led#e and the necessity of the retrn to practice for testin# it. :t sho"s that0
15 9ll man(s !no"led#e has its ori#ins in hman practice, social practice. Man(s ideas are not innate,
nor do they drop from the s!ies. )hey come from social practice of three different %t interrelated
!inds0 the str##le for prodction& the class str##le and scientific experiment.
)he !no"led#e of the class str##le is of particlar importance in nderstandin# and chan#in#
society. Man ac7ires !no"led#e of social classes in the corse of the str##le for prodction
%ecase relations %et"een classes are social relations "hich arise independently of man(s "ill, in
the practical acti$ity of prodction. 9s classes de$elop, so does the str##le of classes, #i$in# rise to
man(s !no"led#e of this str##le.
25 )he sta#e of rational !no"led#e, "hile dependent on perceptal !no"led#e, is the more important
sta#e, for it ena%les one to penetrate to the essence of thin#s.
Perceptal !no"led#e is, in the first place, a !no"led#e of particlars, of the many indi$idal sides
or aspects of or natral srrondin#s. <ational !no"led#e, ho"e$er, ena%les s to mo$e from the
particlar to the ni$ersal in or nderstandin#. @ays Mao0
)he real tas! of !no"in# is, thro#h perception, to arri$e at tho#ht, to arri$e step %y step, at the
comprehension of the internal contradictions of o%Eecti$e thin#s, of their la"s, and of the internal
relations %et"een one process and another, that is, to arri$e at lo#ical !no"led#e. 3B>5
Lo#ical !no"led#e ena%les s to #rasp the "hole of a process or #rop of phenomena, and not Est
their separate parts.
Anderstandin# this trth sho"s s the importance of theory. :t sho"s p the error of empiricism,
"hich is rle-of-thm% Marxism, "hich concentrates on narro" practical acti$ity and denies the need
for theory.
)his does not mean that theory is primary. +y no means. Practice is primary. Mao sms it p
co#ently in the follo"in# "ords0
)he Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism has t"o otstandin# characteristics. One is its
class natre0 it openly a$o"s that dialectical materialism is in the ser$ice of the proletariat. )he other
is its practicality0 it emphasises the dependence of theory on practice, emphasises that theory is
%ased on practice and in trn ser$es practice. 3K05
)he 7estion of learnin# from practice, of ta!in# part in practice in order to learn from it, is a #ard
a#ainst do#matism, is a #ard a#ainst mechanical transfer of one contry(s soltion of certain
pro%lems to another contry "here the form of the pro%lem is 7ite different and practical experience
points to a different soltion. )his "as a pro%lem in the 1hinese re$oltion, "here a #rop in the
Party so#ht to treat theory as a do#ma, as pro$idin# the ans"er to e$ery pro%lem irrespecti$e of
time, place, circmstances, and the actal conditions in "hich the pro%lem arose. *e ha$e already
mentioned this in connection "ith the *an# Min# line in an earlier section.
+t correct theory is ne$ertheless an in$ala%le "eapon, not to pro$ide ready-made soltions, %t to
%e a #ide to action. )he theory of the Ne" Nealand re$oltion has yet to %e properly de$eloped. :t
can only de$elop as a correct theory in close connection "ith practice. )here is no do%t that it "ill
ha$e o$erridin# %asic thin#s in common "ith all socialist re$oltions, particlarly the aim of smashin#
the %or#eois state machine and esta%lishin# the dictatorship of the proletariat. +t it "ill also ha$e
some certain special featres arisin# ot of the particlar conditions, the actal historical
de$elopment of Ne" Nealand as a capitalist contry. Marxism-Leninism re7ires that these %e ta!en
into accont, that in other "ords "e mst stdy the class str##le and the on#oin# experiences of
the Ne" Nealand re$oltion, scanty tho#h these may %e at the present time, in order to arri$e at an
nderstandin# of the la"s of the Ne" Nealand socialist re$oltion.
9#ain "e retrn to Mao for a %rief %t profond statement on the relationship of practice to theory.
Or practice pro$es that "hat is percei$ed cannot at once %e comprehended and that only "hat is
comprehended can %e more deeply percei$ed. Perception only sol$es the pro%lem of phenomena
Happearances - <NI& theory alone can sol$e the pro%lem of essence. )he sol$in# of %oth these
pro%lems is not separa%le in the sli#htest de#ree from practice. 3K15
9ll !no"led#e ori#inates in perception thro#h man(s senses. +t "e cannot each ha$e direct
experience of more than a small part of the "orld of natre and social life as a "hole. )hs, for the
most part, or !no"led#e consists of indirect experience, the experience of others. +t an immense
%ody of social !no"led#e has %een %ilt p "hich is relia%le %ecase it has %een repeatedly tested
in practice. )his is o%$ios eno#h "hen it concerns the existence of peoples and places that ha$e
%ecome commonplace to s thro#h the media and modern commnications. .or instance, "e do
not 7estion the existence of the )aE Mahal or ice%er#s or Mont /$erest. )hese are examples of
indirect perceptal !no"led#e. +t "hat of scientific la"s, of social science, of the class str##le or
re$oltions8 )hese are not so easy to Ed#e, for hostile class interests may distort the trthfl
interpretation of experience.
Lenin noted that0
)ho#ht proceedin# from the concrete to the a%stract ' pro$idin# it is correct 8 does not #et a"ay
from the trth %t comes closer to it. )he a%straction of matter, of a la" of natre, the a%straction of
$ale, etc., in short, all scientific 3correct, serios, not a%srd5 a%stractions reflect natre more
deeply, trly and completely. 3K25
Pro$idin# that a #eninely scientific approach is made in the process of scientific a%straction, it is
possi%le to achie$e relia%le, $alid !no"led#e of "hat is in$esti#ated. *hen "e come to the social
sciences, ho"e$er, particlarly economics, politics and history, e.#., the standard teachin#s on them
are determined %y the interests of the rlin#, capitalist class. )hs, they are not scientific
a%stractions. Marxism-Leninism, as a science of society, is scientific, not %ein# concerned "ith
distortin# o%Eecti$e reality in order to ser$e the interests of the capitalist class.
)hs, the indirect experience smmed p in %asic Marxist-Leninist theory is relia%le, $alid
!no"led#e, for it is in the interests of the "or!in#-class to phold science. *e cannot all ha$e had
direct experience of the Octo%er <e$oltion, %t "e ha$e relia%le !no"led#e of it in the "ritin#s of
Lenin and the +olshe$i!s of the time, and "e can nderstand this re$oltion more deeply and flly if
"e ha$e or o"n direct experience of re$oltion.
)hs, !no"led#e as a "hole is insepara%le from direct experience.
)he mo$ement of !no"led#e from the perceptal to the rational sta#e, and the frther sta#e of
testin# or rational !no"led#e in practice is a continos process of %rin#in# or thin!in# into line
"ith the real mo$ement of the o%Eecti$e "orld& it continally raises the le$el of or !no"led#e of
thin#s and processes in "hat is relati$ely a ne$er-endin# spiral. )his same mo$ement holds #ood in
the practical day-to-day "or! of Marxist-Leninists in re#ard to small tas!s as "ell as %i#.
.irst, one in$esti#ates, ac7ires from the masses as mch perceptal !no"led#e as possi%le of a
sitation ' a stri!e or protest de$elopin# or ta!in# place ' then, if the data is sfficiently rich, one
#eneralises or dra"s conclsions, ma!in# a leap into lo#ical !no"led#e that more trly reflects
reality and ena%les soltions to pro%lems to %e fond and tested in practice.
*ithot in$esti#ation there can %e no properly-fonded !no"led#e. 6ence Mao(s "ell-!no"n dictm0
No in$esti#ation, no ri#ht to spea!.
:n the pamphlet on the 4Marxist-Leninist Party( "e pointed ot that the mass line is the application of
the Marxist theory of !no"led#e to all "or! amon# the masses, %oth in re$oltionary and non-
re$oltionary times.
)here are times "hen the thin!in# of some people in the re$oltionary ran!s does not !eep pace
"ith chan#es in the o%Eecti$e sitation. )hey fall %ehind and "ant the de$elopment to halt itself to
sit them. )his tendency exists historically as <i#ht opportnism. )hs, in %oth the <ssian and
1hinese re$oltions an internal t"o-line Party str##le had to %e "a#ed at $arios sta#es a#ainst
sch people in order to !eep the re$oltion mo$in# for"ard, not stoppin# at a %or#eois-democratic
sta#e, %t continin# the de$elopment of class str##le so as to esta%lish the dictatorship of the
proletariat. :t is tre that later, this "as ndermined from "ithin, %t the experience sho"ed the
correctness of the #eneral principle of applyin# the mass line.
)o stop at the sta#e of rational !no"led#e 3i.e., the #eneralisation of experience5 "ithot testin# it in
practice and follo"in# the mo$ement in its continos spiral de$elopment, that is, to treat theory as a
do#ma, is another mista!e fond in re$oltionary ran!s "hich contra$enes the mass line and rns
conter to the Marxist theory of !no"led#e.
9nd a third type of person is the narro" practical "or!er "ho stops short at perceptal !no"led#e
and coldn(t care less a%ot theory, ha$in# the mista!en %elief that practice %ein# primary means
that it is the only thin# that conts, ths committin# the error of empiricism, of relyin# solely on
experience and also $iolatin# the Marxist theory of !no"led#e.
)his latter error is $ery common in small, yon# and immatre parties. Often ' as in Ne" Nealand '
their forces are small, acti$e "or!ers are o$erloaded "ith practical tas!s, and the mass line stops at
perceptal !no"led#e. :t is also a herita#e of the times "hen Marxism-Leninism "as not stdied
seriosly or deeply %ecase the 4%i#( parties sch as the 1P@A or the 1ommnist Party of 1hina
"ere the people "ho did the theoretical "or!, and %lind follo"in# "as the norm.
Mao is concerned not simply "ith !no"in# the "orld, tho#h that is the first step, %t especially "ith
chan#in# it, in accordance "ith the $ie"point expressed %y the yon# Marx in his )heses on
.eer%ach. 4)he philosophers ha$e only interpreted the "orld, in $arios "ays& the point, ho"e$er, is
to chan#e it.( 3K?5 6e concldes On Practice "ith the follo"in# %rief smmin# p of the content of the
pamphlet, "hich is also a #ide to practical "or!.
Disco$er the trth thro#h practice, and a#ain thro#h practice $erify and de$elop the trth. @tart
from perceptal !no"led#e& then start from rational !no"led#e and acti$ely #ide re$oltionary
practice to chan#e %oth the s%Eecti$e and the o%Eecti$e "orld. Practice, !no"led#e, and a#ain
practice, and a#ain !no"led#e. )his form repeats itself in endless cycles, and "ith each cycle the
content of practice and !no"led#e rises to a hi#her le$el. @ch is the theory of !no"led#e, and sch
is the dialectical-materialist theory of the nity of !no"in# and doin#. 3K45
A Final Word
On 1ontradiction and On Practice are not only expositions of %asic Marxist philosophy. )hey are
also, #i$en proper stdy and nderstandin#, in$ala%le #ides to correct, practical re$oltionary
"or! %y a Marxist-Leninist party. )herein, in reality, lies their #reatest si#nificance. )hey may not %e
easy readin#. +t they are $itally important for the accomplishment of the tas! of sccessflly
leadin# the str##le of the "or!in# class and the masses for the o$erthro" of capitalism and
imperialism and the esta%lishment of socialism.
C @perprofits are those in excess of the a$era#e profits o%taina%le %y capital from exploitation at
home. .or mch of Ne" Nealand(s history its capitalists "ere a%le to o%tain lon# term a#reements
"ith +ritain to ta!e the #reater part of Ne" Nealand(s primary prodcts at relati$ely sta%le hi#h
prices, ths sharin# in the imperialist sper profits from +ritish colonialism. 9ltho#h +ritain cannot
play the same role today, its place is ta!en %y other imperialist po"ers sch as the A@9 and ;apan.
@ch a#reements are the main "ay in "hich Ne" Nealand(s rlin# class still o%tains a share in
imperialist sperprofits "hich pro$ide in Ne" Nealand, as else"here, the economic %asis of
opportnism and the creation of a la%or aristocracy from an pper layer of the "or!in# class.
CC/$en more so is this the case today 31>>75, "hen it has dissol$ed itself 31>>25 and s"n# o$er to
conter-re$oltionary )rots!yism, nitin# "ith the )rots!yist 4@ocialist *or!ers( Or#anisation.
15 /n#els, ., Ld"i# .eer%ach and the /nd of 1lassical 2erman Philosophy, Marx-/n#els @elected
*or!s, $ol. 2, p. ??4, .orei#n Lan#a#es P%lishin# 6ose, Mosco", 1>B1.
25 Marx, -, 1apital, $ol.1, p. 20, .orei#n Lan#a#es P%lishin# 6ose, Mosco", 1>B4.
?5 Lenin, D :, Materialism and /mpirio 1riticism, p. K?, Mosco", .orei#n Lan#a#es P%lishin#
6ose, 1>47.
45 i%id., p. ?4.
B5 Lenin, D :, -arl Marx, p.10, .orei#n Lan#a#es Press, Pe!in#, 1>70.
K5 /n#els, ., Ld"i# .eer%ach etc., p. ??7.
75 /n#els, ., 9nti-Dhrin#, Part :, chap.K, p77, Pro#ress P%lishers.
=.5 /n#els, ., Ld"i# .eer%ach, etc., p. ??K.
>5 i%id., p. ??K.
105 /n#els, ., @ocialism, Atopian and @cientific, :ntrodction, Marx-/n#els sel. "!s., $ol. 2, p. >2.
115 /n#els, ., Ld"i# .eer%ach etc., p. ?B0.
125 i%id., p. ?B1.
1?5 Lenin, D :, -arl Marx, p.11.
145 Marx, -, 1apital, $ol. :., p. 1>.
1B5 /n#els, ., 9nti-Dhrin#, p. ?1.
1K5 -.Marx, Op. cit., p. 7K?.
175 i%id., p20.
1=.5 Lenin, D :, *hat the .riends of the People 9re, coll. "!s., $ol.1, pp 1K?-1K4.
1>5 Lenin, D :, 1onspects of 6e#el(s 4@cience of Lo#ic( , coll. "!s., $ol. ?=, p. 10>.
205 Qoted in Lenin(s, 1onspects of 46e#el(s @cience of Lo#ic(, i%id., p.1?>.
215 i%id., p. 141.
225 Lenin, D :, -arl Marx, 1oll. *!s. Dol. 21, pB4.
2?5 Lenin, D :, 1onspects of 6e#el(s 4@cience of Lo#ic(, p. >7.
245 i%id., p. 222.
2B5 i%id., p. 22K.
2K5 Lenin, D :, )as!s of the Loth Lea#es, coll. "!s., $ol.?1, p. 2=7.
275 Lenin, D :, On the Qestion of Dialectics, coll. "!s., $ol.?=, pp. ?B>-?K0.
2=.5 Marx, -, 1apital, $ol. :, p. 41.
2>5 Marx-/n#els, @elected 1orrespondence, Letter >1, Marx to /n#els, 9#st 24, 1=K7, .orei#n
Lan#a#es P%lishin# 6ose, Mosco", translated from the <ssian edition of 1>B?, p2?2.
?05 Lenin, D :, On the Qestion of Dialectics, coll. "!s, $ol. ?=, pp. ?K0-?K1.
?15 i%id., p. ?B>. 3:n the 12-$olme edition of his @elected *or!s, the "ords 4"ith him( are inclded in
relation to /n#els. *e ha$e pt them here in s7are %rac!ets to clarify the 7oted translation5.
?25 Lenin, D :, 1onspects of 6e#el(s +oo!0 4Lectres on the 6istory of Philosophy(, coll. "!s.,
$ol.?=, pp. 2B?-2B4.
??5 Mao )se-tn# Anrehearsed, Pen#in +oo!s, /n#land, ed. %y @tart @chram, p. 22K.
?45 Lenin, D :, 1onspects of 6e#el(s 4@cience of Lo#ic(, p. 227.
?B5 Mao )se-tn# Anrehearsed, p. 240.
?K5 Mao )se-tn# )al!s at a 1onference of Party 1ommittee @ecretaries, sel. "!s., $ol. B, pp. ?K7-
?75 Mao )se-tn#, On 1ontradiction, sel. "!s., $ol. :, p. ?11, .orei#n Lan#a#es Press, Pe!in#,
?=.5 i%id., p. ?11.
?>5 i%id., pp. ?12-?1?.
405 i%id., p. ?1?.
415 i%id., p. ?14.
425 i%id., p. ?1B.
4?5 i%id., p. ?20.
445 i%id., p. ?20.
4B5 i%id., pp. ?21-?22.
4K5 Qoted from Note 10 to Mao(s Pro%lems of @trate#y in 1hina(s <e$oltionary *ar, sel. "!s.,$ol.:,
p. 2B1. )he translation #i$en in Lenin(s coll. "!s., -ommnisms, $ol. ?1, p.1KK is poorer.5
475 Mao )se-tn#, On 1ontradiction, p. ?24.
4=.5 i%id., p. ?2=.
4>5 i%id., p. ??0.
B05 i%id., p. ??2.
B15 i%id., p. ???.
B25 Lenin, D :, *hat :s )o +e Done, coll. "!s., $ol.B, p. ?K>.
B?5 Mao )se-tn#, On 1ontradiction, p. ??7.
B45 i%id., p. ?40.
BB5 Lenin, D :, <emar!s on N.:.+!harin(s 4/conomics of the )ransitional Period(, 7oted in On
1ontradiction, 3Note 2B, p?45, from sel. "!s., <ssian /dition, Mosco"-Lenin#rad, 1>?1, $ol. T:,
BK5 Mao )se-tn#, On 1ontradiction, p. ?4?.
B75 Mao )se-tn#, On the 1orrect 6andlin# of 1ontradictions 9mon# the People, .or /ssays in
Philosophy, .orei#n Lan#a#es Press, Pe!in#, 1>KK. p. >2.
B=.5 Mao )se-tn#, On 1ontradiction, p. ?4B.
B>5 Mao )se-tn#, On Practice, p.2>=.
K05 i%id., p. 2>7.
K15 i%id., p. 2>>.
K25 Lenin, D :, 1onspects of 6e#el(s 4@cience of Lo#ic(, coll. "!s., $ol. ?=, p. 171.
K?5 Marx, -, )heses on .eer%ach, Marx-/n#els sel. "!s., $ol. 2, p. ?K7.
K45 Mao )se-tn#, On 1ontradiction, p. ?0=