Michael Braverman portfolio / personal site

Mao - On The Correct Handling of Contradictions

Two Types of Contradictions Differing in Nature

Two types of contradictions1

  • Between the people and the enemy
  • Among people

The definitions of people and the enemy:

  • People (internal): The mass; those who, together united, fought against Japanese and U.S. imperialists.
  • Enemies (external): Those who resist the socialist revolution which includes the U.S imperialists and their running dogs, the bureaucrat-capitalists, the landlords, etc. These frequently introduce counter-revolutionaries in order to cause contradiction among the people.

The contradictions with the enemies are antagonistic for the most part, while the contradictions among the people (through different classes such as the peasantry, intelegentsia, working class and peasantry, etc.) are both, of an antagonistic as well as a non-antongonisitc character. The People’s Government represents the people’s interests, but there are contradictions that arise out of this representation nevertheless, which are the following:

  • Interests of the state and interests of the collective
  • Interests of democracy and interests of centralism
  • Between leadership and the led

Although the national bourgeoisie differs from of imperialists and landlords:

“The contradiction between the national bourgeoisie and the working class is one between exploiter and exploited, and is by nature antagonistic.”

This internal contradiction can eventually resolve into a contradiction that is of an “enemy” (external) kind if not handled properly. The way this must be handled is by criticizing and educating the national bourgeoisie and is thus a way of dealing with internal contradictions.

The questions of right and wrong is more clear in the case of the enemy, but not as clear in the case of contradictions among the people:

For example, the question of who is in the right, we or the domestic and foreign reactionaries, the imperialists, the feudalists and bureaucrat-capitalists, is also one of right and wrong, but it is in a different category from questions of right and wrong among the people.

These internal contradictions among the people can be resolved the proletariat exercising their dictatorship over the national bourgeoisie which is the fundamental aspect of “people’s democratic dictatorship”. This means that:
The People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, procession, demonstration, religious belief, and so on.”

But this guidance is not anarchic in the sense that it accords with the interests or wishes of the people. It is a democracy under a centralized guidance, a “freedom with leadership”. This frequently leads people to think that a people’s democracy entails less freedom than a Western parliamentary democracy. They ask for a two-party system where one takes the lead and the other stand in oppositions. “But this so-called two-party system is nothing but a device for maintaining the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie; it can never guarantee freedoms to the working people. As a matter of fact, freedom and democracy exist not in the abstract, but only in the concrete.”

Ideological questions must be resolved democratically, through a method of persuasion, discussion, criticism, and not by the method of coercion or repression. This goes under the formula epitomized in 1942 “unity—criticism—unity”:

This democratic method of resolving contradictions among the people was epitomized in 1942 in the formula “unity – criticism -unity”. To elaborate, that means starting from the desire for unity, resolving contradictions through criticism or struggle, and arriving at a new unity on a new basis.

Through the step of criticisms, one deconstructs things into what is right and wrong and re-integrates them back into the unity. Through this method of education and democracy, criticism and self-criticism become an crucial part of people’s democratic dictatorship.

Contradictions exist everywhere in nature and universe, and Marxist philosophy holds that unity consists of two parts being in constant struggle which compels things to change and eventually find unification. But contradictions between a socialist society and that of a capitalist society are of two different natures:

Contradictions in socialist society are fundamentally different from those in the old societies, such as capitalist society. In capitalist society contradictions find expression in acute antagonisms and conflicts, in sharp class struggle; they cannot be resolved by the capitalist system itself and can only be resolved by socialist revolution. The case is quite different with contradictions in socialist society; on the contrary, they are not antagonistic and can be ceaselessly resolved by the socialist system itself.

The contradictions between the people is therefore of a socialist kind which can be resolved through persuasion and democratic activity. It is a contradiction like that of any kind that can be found in the universe, which perpetuates change and resolves into unity. These contradictions can be solved from within the socialist system, while contradictions in a capitalist society cannot be resolved from within it, and therefore perpetuate an eventual dissolution. This is the fundamental difference.

Therefore, contradictions among the people are of a natural kind, that can be resolved through persuasion and discussion.