Chapter I

The Law of the Unity and Conflict of Opposites

Two Conceptions of Development

Everything flows, everything changes; there is nothing absolutely stagnant, nothing unchangeable in the processes of actuality. This was the conclusion, the guiding principle of knowledge (already formulated by the ancient Greek thinkers) at which bourgeois science of the first half of the nineteenth century arrived, influenced as it was by the stormy social transformations of the epoch of classical bourgeois revolutions. Such a scientific conclusion was possible only after many centuries of social practice and through the accumulation of a mass of data concerning the mutability of natural phenomena. However, one ought not to think that all those who acknowledge the mutability of phenomena understand it in an objective fashion as governed by law, as an evolutionary development.

Subjective idealists, for whom actuality is nothing else than a stream of psychic experiences in the subject (which stream constitutes the primitive and therefore uncaused “given”) have declared the very question of the objective law-governance of such “actuality” to be metaphysical. But even among those who have come to regard change as a law-governed development we find two different basic points of view – the materialistic, which proceeds from the development of the objective material world, and the idealistic which sees in this development the unfolding of “Idea,” of spiritual essence. Within the limits of each of these basic philosophic camps there exist two more or less clearly expressed conceptions of the type and character of law-governed development; to their survey we shall now proceed.

The exponents of the first view see in development a simple increase or diminution, a repetition therefore of that which already exists. Thus qualitatively different physical processes are ascribed by them to different quantitative combinations of atoms or electrons; and transformations of physical processes one into another are ascribed to a quantitative increase, diminution or repetition of those same combinations. In the development of organic life, in the emergence and differentiation of vital forms, they see only a simple quantitative change in that which had already existed in the first living beings that appeared on earth.

And so they hold that in the capitalism of the beginning of the twentieth century and even in that of the post-war period there is nothing qualitatively new in comparison with its earlier period of development. In modern capitalism they say we are dealing only with quantitative developments of already existing elements and factors of capitalism – with a growth of the army of workers, with an increase in the volume of capital investments, with a lessening of the number of owners of means of production.

The exponents of this view are really quite unable to offer any solution of the actual problem of development – the law-governed emergence of the new out of the old. They merely describe the growth, the decrease, the recurrence of this or that aspect of the object.

This first conception remains on the surface of phenomena. It can describe merely the outer appearance of movement but cannot divulge its essence; it is able merely to describe the growth or diminution of different elements or factors in a process, but cannot explain the internal cause of its evolutionary movement, cannot show how and why a given process develops. The supporters of this conception, when they would attempt such an explanation, are compelled to seek for some external factor to account for the qualitatively new, since this could never be given by merely quantitative changes. It is hardly surprising that they are frequently driven to the theory of divine intervention. The supporters of this view cannot explain how a thing comes to be turned into its own opposite, cannot explain “leaps,” the disappearance of the “old” and the emergence of the “new.” Thus from this standpoint it is impossible to show why capitalism must inevitably grow into socialism, or why classes in the U.S.S.R. disappear as the result of sharp class struggle. The exponents of this point of view are supporters of the mechanistic conception of development.

The exponents of the second conception proceed from the standpoint that everything develops by means of a struggle of opposites, by a division, a dichotomy, of every unity into mutually exclusive opposites. Thus capitalism develops in virtue of the contradiction between the social character of production and the private means of appropriation; transitional economy develops on the basis of the struggle between developing and growing socialism and developed, but not yet annihilated, capitalism, and also on the basis of the sharpened conflict of classes in this period in the course of which classes ultimately disappear.

The second conception, not remaining on the surface of phenomena, expresses the essence of movement as the unity of opposites. It demands a penetration into the depth of a process, a disclosure of the internal laws which are responsible for the development of that process. This conception seeks the causes of development not outside the process but in its very midst; it seeks mainly to disclose the source of the “self-movement” of the process. To understand a process means to disclose its contradictory aspects, to establish their mutual relationship, to follow up the movement of its contradictions through all its stages. This view gives the key to the “leaps” which characterize the evolutionary series; it explains the changing of a process into its opposite, the annihilation of the “old” and emergence of the “new.” Thus only by disclosing the basic contradictions of capitalism and by showing that the inevitable consequence of such contradictions is the destruction of capitalism by proletarian revolution do we explain the historic necessity of socialism. This second conception is the conception of dialectic materialism.

In his celebrated fragment “On Dialectics,” Lenin wrote:

Two fundamental (or is it the two possible? or is it the two historically observed?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition; and development as a unity of opposites (the division of the one into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal correlation).

“The first conception is dead, poor and dry; the second is vital. It is only this second conception which offers the key to understanding the ‘self-movement’ of everything in existence; it alone offers the key to understanding ‘leaps’ to the ‘interruption of gradual succession,’ to the ‘transformation into the opposite’ to the destruction of the old and the appearance of the new.”*

* Lenin, vol. xiii, p. 323.

Throughout the whole course of philosophic history we meet with these two conceptions, more or less clearly and precisely formulated, or we meet with views that are occasionally muddled yet approximate to one of these two conceptions of development.

Thus the Greek philosophers Leucippus and Democritus attacking the metaphysical theory of the Eleatic school (the school of Parmenides, which held the world to be unchangeable and denied the reality of movement) declared that the world develops according to the principle of necessity; that everything in the world is found in eternal and endless motion. But their conception of development is mechanical. The world, in their opinion, consists of an endless number of atoms, different in form and moving in empty space. In the atoms there exist no internal states; they act on one another only by collisions resulting from their mechanical movement. The difference between things is explained by the difference in the spatial attributes, the number and mutual arrangement of the aggregates of atoms which compose them. Emergence is the uniting of atoms; disappearance their falling apart.

Proceeding from this materialistic conception, the leading one of its time, Leucippus and Democritus explained the origin and development of the solar system, the movement of the human soul, etc. To this point of view, with some variations, Epicurus and his followers adhered.

In the seventeenth century a very similar philosophy was established and developed by Pierre Gassendi. His contemporary, the great philosopher and physicist René Descartes – idealist on the question of the origin of our knowledge, materialist in his physical researches – confirmed the idea of the universal connection of all the phenomena in nature and explained the development of the world purely mechanically, although somewhat differently from the Greek Atomists.

This conception of movement was the basis of most of the physics of that period and finds expression in the works of the great French materialists. The mechanistic attitude was not only dominant in material science but profoundly influenced the theories concerning the development of human society. A succession of bourgeois philosophers explained all social phenomena as due to the simple interactions of individuals seeking their self-preservation. But these philosophers failed to observe the class struggle and the contradictions in society; they were, therefore, quite unable to reveal the actual laws of social development.

In more recent times, under the influence of ever intensifying class contradictions, there has appeared a mechanistic theory which sought to explain social development by the antagonism of forces directed one against the other and their eventual equilibrium. The direction of the development of a social phenomenon is, it is said, determined at any particular moment by the quantitative predominance of the force which determines that direction. Thus, according to Herbert Spencer, “tyranny and freedom” are forces independent of each other, which strive to balance each other. By the quantitative predominance of freedom or of tyranny the resultant of this antagonism is determined. We also find this principle of development in Dühring, who attacked the dialectic of Marx and Engels, and after Dühring came Bogdanov who constructed a complete philosophy which proposed to explain every phenomenon of nature, society and thought by the principle of equilibrium.

This conception was afterwards borrowed from Bogdanov by Bukharin who saw the cause of the development of social structures not in their internal contradictions but in the relationship of the system with the environment, of society with nature.

The mechanistic theory of development permeates reformist sociology, which holds that the simple quantitative growth of monopoly and of finance-capital signifies the growing of capitalism into socialism, that the simple growth of bourgeois democracy is an ever greater winning of power by the working class, etc. These philosophers have thrown aside the theory of movement by means of contradictions as too revolutionary. A mechanistic principle of development also penetrates the views of Trotskyism; for instance its acceptance of the superficial view that capitalism was planted in Russia by the West, a view which ignores the development of capitalism that proceeded among us on the basis of the break-up of the peasant community. The Trotskyist theory of the impossibility of a socialist victory in one country alone proceeds from its ignoring of the unevenness of the development of capitalism and of the internal laws of development of the U.S.S.R. which have by the operation of new internal forces made it possible to resolve those contradictions of the proletariat and peasantry that obstruct the building of socialism. This theory holds that the external contradictions of capitalism and the U.S.S.R. are the determining factor in our development, and that the course of development of the environment (capitalism) determines the course of development of the system, i.e. the U.S.S.R.

Not only the mechanistic but also the dialectical conception of development is met in the course of philosophic history. “Movement itself is a contradiction,” the Eleatics pointed out, and that is the very reason why they, as metaphysicians, denied the objectivity of movement. The greatest of them, Zeno, brought together a number of examples to refute the objectivity of movement. The basis of his proof is that movement contains within itself a contradiction and is therefore untrue, since from the viewpoint of the Eleatics a thing is true only if it is at one with itself, is identical with itself, unalterable.

The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus declared: “All things flow, all changes, it is impossible to enter twice into one and the same stream.” Everything is found in eternal flux, at one moment in the process of stabilization, in the next of passing away. He affirmed that everything is found in development by virtue of the strife of opposites.

In the new philosophy which grew up along with the rise of the bourgeoisie the idea of development by means of contradiction was revived by Kant and Hegel.

In opposition to the view of Newton, who held that the movement of the solar system, once it had been brought into existence as a result of the first divine impulse, remains unchanged, and that the planets preserve their primeval relative distances and distribution, Kant, in the early phase of his development, propounded a theory of the origin of the solar system from a revolving nebula without the intervention of God. He affirmed that out of the primeval nebula, as a result of the struggle arising from the repulsion and attraction of its components was formed a system of planets, including our earth, and he predicted an inevitable collapse of that system in the distant future. Kant’s notion of development still lay as a whole within the bounds of a mechanistic world-outlook, for we see that attraction and repulsion were considered by him as opposing mechanical forces belonging to matter. It was only later in his more fundamental philosophical works that the critical Kant approached to a dialectical understanding of contradiction, which, however, he now limited by the bounds of reason, ruling out any idea of contradiction in connection with the objective world of “things in themselves.”

The idealist system which most dearly and fully works out the idea of development by means of the strife of opposites was that of Hegel, and this part of his philosophy is his greatest contribution to human thought. He wrote:

Identity is the definition only of a simple, immediate, dead being, but contradiction is the root of all movement and vitality, and only in so far as a thing has in itself contradiction does it move, does it possess an impulse and activity.

“Contradiction is not simply the negation of normality but is the principle of every self-movement, of that which indeed is nothing else than the expression of contradictions.

“All things are contradictory in themselves – this proposition expresses the truth and essence of things better than any other.”

Hegel, in opposition to Kant, held that it is impossible to attribute contradiction to the subject alone. He insisted on the necessity of disclosing the contradictions in the very process of actuality (which was understood by him idealistically) because in the strife of opposites he saw the root, the basis of every self-movement.

But having set up this basic law of development, the idealist Hegel inevitably distorted and limited it. He held that the movement of the objective world is a form of movement of absolute spirit, and subordinated the development of objective processes to a system of categories, made up in his own head. Thus at every step he betrayed the law he had himself set up. Being a bourgeois idealist and a German philistine he declared that in the Idea, i.e. in the highest stage of development, contradictions are reconciled, a stoppage of development takes place. After depicting the movement of society as the development of the World Spirit through contradictions, he declared that in the Prussian monarchy – the highest incarnation of the State idea – social contradictions were reconciled. Thus Hegel subordinated the revolutionary law of a struggle of opposites to the bourgeois theory of their reconciliation. Modern neo-Hegelians like Bradley, and Gentile, the philosopher of Fascism, act as did the reactionaries of Hegel’s day; they seize on this reactionary side of the Hegelian philosophy and develop a theory of reconciliation of opposites. Marx and Engels, on the contrary, took from Hegel this same revolutionary side, reworked it critically and developed the law of the unity and conflict of opposites.

Lenin wrote:

Consider such expressions as ‘movement and self-movement,’ meaning spontaneous, internally necessary movement, ‘change,’ ‘movement and vitality,’ ‘the principle of every self-movement,’ ‘movement and action,’ in contrast to ‘dead existence’ and who will believe that these represent the very core of Hegel’s frozen absolutism, as it has been called. It is necessary to disclose this essence, to understand it, to save it, to remove its shell, to cleanse it – and that is what Marx and Engels did.”

Marx and Engels, being materialist-communists and therefore free from the half-and-half policy of Hegel, were the first to show the essentially revolutionary character of this law. In a large number of their works – Capital, Anti-Dühring, The Poverty of Philosophy, Ludwig Feuerbach, Dialectic of Nature – as well as in a number of their letters, they indicated the theoretical and practical importance of this law as a universal law of the development of nature, society and thought. They were the first logically, dispassionately and exhaustively to apply it to the analysis of all those processes and phenomena which they undertook to investigate, whether it was the analysis of the basic laws of development of social structures, the analysis of capitalism, the different historic episodes of class struggle, the politics and tactics of the workers’ movement, or the development of technique and natural science. They did not constrict the investigation of concrete processes by forcing it to conform with ready-made abstract schemes, they did not subordinate it to an artificial, laboured movement of categories, as did Proudhon and Lassalle, who succumbed to the worst features of Hegelianism, but they disclosed the internal contradiction of processes and traced out their movement and mutual connection, their transitions one to another in all their concrete and unique characteristics.

In their enquiries Marx and Engels did not confine themselves to pointing to the presence of all the contradictions in this or that process as though they were of equal importance, but singled out the essential contradiction upon which the others depended. Marx applied this law of the unity and conflict of opposites with remarkable completeness and thoroughness in his Capital, which remains till this day the unsurpassed model of the application of dialectical materialism to the investigation of the complex process of social development. Marx showed in Capital the movement of the contradictions of capitalism from its rise to its decay, and established the necessity of its final downfall. He showed how the contradictions of capitalism are intensified and how all the conditions and possibility of their revolutionary solution are being prepared. He was able to show just how it was possible to prepare practically for the solution of those contradictions which are the motive force of social development. Thus he became the founder of the strategy and tactics of the workers’ party. His analysis showed with great force that the unity of capitalism was relative and that the struggle of opposites within it was absolutely fundamental.

In contrast to the reformist theoreticians who discarded Marxian dialectic as an “unnecessary survival,” Lenin remained faithful to it, made it concrete, developed and exalted it to a higher level. His service in working out and further developing the law of opposites was very great. In the struggle with the liberals, the reformists, the Social Revolutionary Party* and dissentients within the party, he applied it in just as masterly a fashion as Marx to the investigation of whatever phenomena he chose to consider. He investigated the further development of the contradictions of capitalism in the epoch of imperialism, he uncovered the basic contradictions and transitions of the contradictory forces at different stages of the class struggle and brilliantly applied this basic law of dialectic to the policy and tactics of the party. In his struggle with the Kantians, with the Machists, with bourgeois reactionary philosophy he showed in masterly manner the bi-polar nature of thought, the fact that it is at one and the same time relative and absolute. By developing Marxism both on the basis of the experience of the class struggle in the epoch of imperialism (from which he drew important conclusions) and on the basis of new developments in science since the time of Engels, he gave a most brilliant philosophic expression to the law of opposites as the basic law of development.

* Social Revolutionary. This party desired an agrarian revolution to the advantage of the peasants who were their chief support. They were extreme petty bourgeois democrats and often resorted to terrorism.

To sum up, the two fundamental conceptions of development are the mechanistic, which regards development as a simple increase, diminution and repetition, and the dialectic, which sees in development the division of a unitary process, the unity and conflict of opposites.

In the same year, 1914, that Lenin was writing his notes “On Dialectic,” J. V. Plekhanov in his work From Idealism to Materialism sought to formulate his own understanding of the two conceptions of development. He wrote:

“Hegel’s view-point was the view-point of development. But one can understand development in different ways. Even nowadays we still meet naturalists who repeat sententiously, ‘Nature does not make leaps.’ Sociologists too quite often repeat the same thing, ‘Social development is accomplished by means of slow, gradual changes.’ Hegel affirmed, on the contrary, that just as in nature so too in history leaps are unavoidable. ‘Changes of being,’ he says, ‘ consist not only in the transition of one quantity to another quantity, but also in the transition of quality into quantity, and the reverse process – every one of the transitions of the latter type forms a break in gradualness and gives to the phenomenon an entirely new character, qualitatively different from the former.’ Development becomes comprehensible only when we consider gradual changes as a process by which a leap (or leaps maybe) is prepared and evoked. Whoever wishes to explain the emergence of a given phenomenon merely by slow changes must in fact unconsciously suppose that it has already existed but remained unnoticed because its dimensions are too minute. But in such an ‘explanation’ the notion of emergence is replaced by the notion of growth, of a simple change of magnitude, i.e. the very thing requiring explanation is arbitrarily removed.”

Plekhanov has correctly formulated the essence of the mechanistic conception of development, but he did not succeed in showing the dialectical essence. He speaks of leaps, of the breaking of continuity, of the transition of quantity into quality. But he has not seized the main point, the essential thing in the conception of development. He has not understood the duality which is found within the unity, in other words the unity and conflict of opposites, that fundamental conception which alone gives us the key to the understanding of leaps in evolution, of breaks in gradualness, of the transition of quantity into quality, in fact, of the whole developmental process in nature and history.

Chapter II

The Division of Unity, the Disclosure of Essential Opposites

All processes that originate in nature and society are found in uninterrupted mutual action. In one way or another they are mutually linked up and influence each other. But in order to get to understand any one of them, to investigate the course of its development, to establish the character of its mutual action with other processes, it is no use to proceed only from the action of external forces on a given phenomenon, as do the mechanists, but it is necessary to lay bare its internal contradictions.

The fact that all phenomena in the world contain within themselves a number of contradictory aspects and properties was noticed long ago and is still noticed every day and reflected in people’s thoughts and notions. But these opposing aspects were and are reflected in different ways. The eclectics, who see the opposing aspects of some processes but do not know how to expose their internal connection and mutual relationships, grasp at now one, now another of its opposing factors, according to their point of view or to the changing situation, and whatever aspect they select they advance as the general characteristic of the whole.

Another group of philosophers holds that contradictions belong only to the surface of processes, to their appearance; that there are none within the essence of things. Therefore from their point of view a true notion cannot contain a contradiction within itself. Thus, as we saw, thought the Eleatics, Parmenides and Zeno; thus think metaphysicians of all times. Certain liberal thinkers of the ‘90’s, for example, could not deny a number of contradictions in the economic order which existed in the Russian countryside and were expressed in the progressive land-deprivation of part of the peasantry, in seasonal occupations, in the contradictions between the dealer and the home craftsman, etc. But these contradictions were regarded by them, not as the expression of the development of peasant economy along the capitalist path, but as phenomena that were external and fortuitous with regard to the countryside, which had retained its primordial communal character all the time.

It is only the materialist-dialectician who does not have to give confusing answers when called on to explain how it is possible to make contradictory assertions about the same thing, who does not have to explain the contradictions of a process as lying merely on the surface of phenomena or existing merely in our thought. Only dialectical materialism proceeds from the objective contradictions of actuality, from the internal struggle of the opposing aspects of a process, proceeds as it were from the law of the change and development of actuality itself.

Lenin wrote:

The division of the one and the knowledge of its contradictory parts... is the essence (one of the essential aspects of being, its fundamental, if not the fundamental characteristic) of dialectic. This is exactly how Hegel puts the question.

“The condition for understanding all world processes as in ‘self-movement,’ in spontaneous development conceived in its vital and living forms – is the knowledge of the unity of their opposites. Development is in fact the conflict of opposites.”

Even in a simple mechanical impulse we find this contradiction in an elementary primitive form, in the form of action and counter-action, but in this the source of self-movement is not yet revealed because mechanics seeks the cause of movement outside the object in motion. Mechanical movement is always only one aspect, one external form of the self-movement of concrete phenomena.

The class struggle in the history of society, the contradiction between productive forces and the relations of production show clearly enough the correctness of this law in relation to the development of social structures. It is the same in natural processes also.

Modern science no longer regards the atom as an unalterable, self-identical “brick of the universe,” a final limit to the division of physical matter. It has shown the atom to be a unity of centres of positive and negative electricity, which by their mutual penetration determine the physical and chemical properties of the atom. Nay, more, physicists and chemists have closely and critically examined the basis of the historic view of the nature of chemical elements, which a few decades ago appeared to be absolutely fixed. They have been able to show that their nature is not fixed. Chemical elements develop and the internal cause of their development is the movement of the internal contradiction of their atoms.

The dialectical character of the processes of nature emerges with special clarity in regard to the phenomena of life. Life and death, emergence and annihilation, assimilation and dissimilation (accretion and discharge of matter and of energy) are found to be side by side and to interpenetrate each other both in the life of organisms and in the life of every component cell.

The contradictory unity of variability and heredity displayed by the organism in the struggle for existence is the mainspring of organic evolution.

In the history of technique also we deal with development on the basis of the internal contradictions found in any given social-economic structure, contradictions which determine the course of its self-development. Thus in the development of machinery we meet with the emergence of contradictions between the machine and the material of which it is made and the solution of these contradictions by the construction of machines out of more suitable materials – out of metal instead of wood (originally machines were wooden), out of high quality steels, out of hard alloys, out of plastic material which can be easily moulded, etc., by the transition to new types of machines, by increasing the power of the old, etc. We have also a continual contradiction between the motive machine that provides the power, the transmissive mechanism and the machine that does the work at the “tool” end of the process.

We have contradictions between the technical bases of the different productive branches. Thus when the perfection of the loom in England at the end of the eighteenth century revealed and intensified the backwardness of spinning, the contradiction was solved by the appearance of the spinning machine, which in its turn made weaving backward; this new contradiction led to the appearance of Cartwright’s loom. The contradiction between the appearance of the new machines and the handcraft methods of their production brought forth the appearance and development of a new branch of production, machine-construction. These technical revolutions in industry led in turn to a contradiction with the backward transport system (sailing ships and horse wagons) and that evoked the railway and the steamship.

Contradictions of such a type exist all the time. An invention which arises as the result of the accumulation of preceding technical and social development is grafted on to the older technique when conditions are favourable, and leads to new contradictions, to be resolved by new inventions. It is in this way that technical progress is achieved.

The unity of opposites, the division of unity is the universal law of the development of our thinking. Lenin wrote:

Knowledge is the eternal endless approximation of thought to the object. The reflection of nature in man’s thought must not be understood in a ‘dead manner’ ‘abstractly,’ without movement, without contradiction, but as an eternal process of movement, as the emergence of contradictions and their resolution.”

Our knowledge of the objective world, as we have said already, moves between the poles of relative and absolute truth. At every stage of social development our knowledge is relative, because it is conditioned by the historic degree of the development of practice. But we move on the whole towards absolute truth, reflecting at every stage of our relative knowledge more and more of the aspects of absolute truth.

Our ideas, in proportion to the development of human knowledge and its closer approximation to reality, become more and more flexible, and therefore more and more adequate to reflect the universal connection, the division of unity, the conflict of opposites in objective actuality.

Each one of the general categories of materialistic dialectic which reflect the degrees of man’s knowledge of the laws of development of actuality presupposes its own opposite; thus, quality is unthinkable without quantity, content without form, possibility without actuality. Such categories are more and more seen to embody the principle of the unity of opposites.

Lenin in his fragment “On Dialectic” emphasizes the fundamental importance of the division of unity as follows:

This aspect of dialectics customarily received very little attention (e.g. by Plekhanov): the identity of opposites is taken as the sum-total of examples; for example ‘a seed,’ and in Engels’s, for example, ‘primitive communism.’ But this is in the interest of popularization and not as the law of knowledge (and as the law of the objective world.)”

The “seed” is taken as an example of development through contradictions, for the seed dies that a new plant may live, then the plant dies that the new seed may live. “Primitive Communism,” too, is only able to develop into civilization through the appearance within it of inequalities which are at one and the same time a forward step and a retrogression.*

* See a long note by Lenin in vol. xiii of his Works, p. 322.

But while Engels gave these examples in order to make the law of opposites more easily understood, Plekhanov used them because he did not understand the unity and conflict of opposites and could only deal with instances without proceeding to explain the underlying law itself.

In one of his works Plekhanov wrote:

Now here is a point we must examine. We already know, that Überweg was right and in what measure he was right, when he demanded from logically thinking people a definite answer to the definite question as to whether a given object possessed a given property. But imagine that we are dealing not with a simple object, but a complex one, which unites in itself directly opposite phenomena and therefore combines in itself directly opposite properties. Does Überweg’s demand apply to pronouncements on such an object? No, Überweg himself – although he opposes the Hegelian dialectic – finds that here it is necessary to make use of a new principle, in fact the principle of the combination of opposites.

 “One more point has to be considered. We know already that Überweg was right, and we know how right he was, in demanding that those who think should think logically, and in demanding definite answers to definite questions as to whether this or that characteristic attaches to this or that object. Now, however, let us suppose that we have to do with an object which is not simple but complex and has diametrically conflicting properties. Can the judgment demanded by Überweg be applied to such an object? No, Überweg himself, just as strenuously opposed as Trendelenburg to the Hegelian dialectic, considers that in this case we must judge in accordance with another rule, known in logic under the name of principium coincidentiae oppositorum (the principle of the coincidence of opposites). Well now, the immense majority of the phenomena with which natural science and sociological science have to do come within the category of such objects. The simplest globule of protoplasm, the life of a society in the very earliest phase of evolution – one and the other exhibit diametrically conflicting properties. Manifestly, then, we must reserve for the dialectical method a very large place in natural science and in sociology. Since investigators have begun to do this, these sciences have advanced with rapid strides.”*

* Plekhanov, Fundamental Problems of Marxism, p. 120.

Plekhanov admits the presence of a diversity of opposite aspects or properties and of their mutual interaction in objects and processes. He knows that it is impossible to understand their mutual connection, this combination of opposites, on the basis of formal logic; it requires the application of dialectical logic. But here he remains, for he does not understand that “the combination of opposites” in processes is not only a unity but also a conflict of opposites, that the conflict of indissolubly connected “mutually penetrating” opposites determines the movement, is the basic law of development.

Plekhanov not only failed to recognize the problem of development by means of contradiction as the problem of development by means of division of unity but gave very little attention to the problem of contradiction itself.

He spoke of dialectic only in very general terms as of a theory of eternal development by means of emergence and annihilation. Lenin regarded the theory of the unity and conflict of opposites as the most important aspect of dialectic, but Plekhanov was more concerned with the transitoriness of forms. Thus in expounding Hegel, he said:

The basis, the chief distinguishing feature of dialectic is indicated by Hegel as an ‘eternal change of forms, an eternal rejection of each form in turn, which is first brought into existence by a particular content or tendency and subsequently supplanted by another in consequence of the further development of that same content.”

Indisputably, the dialectic of content and form comprises one of the essential elements of dialectic. But to indicate this alone is not enough. It is necessary to explain why a given content leads to the necessity of replacing a given form with another determined form. And this is only to be explained by the contradiction of form and content, by their conflict, which is only one of the concrete ways of showing the basic law of dialectic – the law of unity and conflict of opposites. That is what Plekhanov did not understand. Plekhanov understands the law of contradiction only as the statement of the transition of a form into its own individual opposite.

Ignorance of this law led him to declare that one should study, on a basis of formal logic, the moments of comparative stability in any given process.

In the foreword to the second edition of Ludwig Feuerbach, Plekhanov directly states that the movement of matter is the basis of all natural phenomena, and that movement is a contradiction. But he illustrates this contradiction only by the example of a mechanical movement, the shifting of a point.

It is true that even a simple movement, the mechanical shifting of a point in space, is contradictory. A moving point is simultaneously found and not found in a given spot. Here already we have the unity of opposites, but in its simplest and most primitive form. Mechanical movement originating in consequence of an impulse or impact, i.e. in. consequence of external causes, is derived from some other higher form of movement and is therefore quite inadequate as an illustration of movement in general, as for instance physical, chemical, biological and social movement. The mechanical is contained in each one of these in a certain degree, but the higher and more complex the form of the movement of matter, the, smaller is the role that the mechanical plays. So it is impossible to reduce the contradictions of all these forms of movement to that of mechanical movement.

To stop short with this type of contradiction, as Plekhanov does, is to limit the significance of the law of opposites and render it incapable of explaining “self-movement” since it does not disclose the basic contradictions in the higher types.

Nay, more, he speaks out directly against the understanding of movement by way of division of unity. In his work On the Development of the Monist View of History, he wrote: “Whoever wished to penetrate into the essence of the dialectical process and began by expounding the doctrine of the internal opposition found within each successive phenomenon in the course of any evolutionary series, would be approaching the task from the wrong end.”

To understand a process, to disclose the source of its self-movement, it is not enough to establish the diversity of the contradictions, the conflict of the many opposing aspects – it is necessary to disclose in this diversity the basic fundamental contradictions which define the movement of the process.

In opposition to the metaphysics of bourgeois ideology, which at the best limited itself to a statement of the mutual action of social “factors,” Marx, Engels and Lenin demanded the disclosure of the basic contradiction of every social structure, which consists in the contradiction between those productive forces and the productive relations which are found together in that particular social structure.

This basic contradiction determines all the other contradictions of the given social form and the course of the latter’s development is the reason why the classical exponents of Marxism regarded the whole mass of contradictions found in social development from the standpoint of this basic contradiction.

Bourgeois political economy, before and after Marx, took its stand on the eternity of bourgeois relations and could not disclose the actual contradictions of capitalism, which are the law of its emergence, development and decay. Even the foremost intellects of bourgeois economic science – Adam Smith and Ricardo, who taught that value is the substantiated human labour in the article of sale and that the amount of value is determined by the amount of working expenses, that profit and ground rent are the unpaid work of the labourer – even they could not disclose the basic laws of the development of the social formation they were considering, because they had not marked its contradictions. These forerunners of classical bourgeois political economy and their successors also quite failed to penetrate deeper than the surface of the phenomena of distorted capitalist practice. Their “methodology” amounted to this – they sought to turn one of the phenomena of capitalist economy, torn from its connection with the rest, into a principle which could characterize the whole of capitalism. Thus some of them found “the law of supply and demand” to be this principle, others claimed to find it in “the costs of production,” a third group in “the cost to the consumer,” etc. And so they were unable to give any general picture of the development of capitalism or to disclose its governing laws. Marx opposed the metaphysics of bourgeois political economy with his dialectic of capitalist actuality itself; he wrote: “Only by setting in place of opposing dogmas, opposing facts and the real contradictions which make up their concealed basis, is it possible to convert political economy into a positive science.”

Marx disclosed the basic contradictions of the bourgeois means of production and in this way explained the law of its development. He showed that the contradiction between capitalist productive forces and the relations of production determines the development of capitalism.

This contradiction, which emerges in the form of the contradiction between the social character of production and the private means of appropriation, “is also that basic contradiction which includes in itself all those contradictions which surround modern society and are specially evident in heavy industry” (Engels).

This basic contradiction finds its expression and development in a number of other contradictions of capitalism. We will mention some of them.

1. The contradiction between the effective organization of production in each separate factory and the anarchy in the general course of social production.

2. The perfection of machines and the widening of production as the compulsory law for each capitalist, on one side; the growth of a reserve army of industry, and periodically repeating crises, on the other side. Here the means of production rebels against the capitalist relations of production.

3. “For capitalism as a whole there is the peculiarity of the difference between property in capital and the application of capital to production, that is to say between finance capital and industrial or productive capital; the difference between the rentier who lives only by income from money capital and the entrepreneur together with all those people who take an immediate part in the utilization of their capital” (Lenin).

This last difference in which the social character of production distorted by capitalist relations finds its expression is clearly displayed in the joint-stock companies, in which for the mass of shareholders there remain only the functions of the rentier and the formal right of property in the undertaking, whereas the actual allocating of the accumulated profits, the direction of production and the income from the undertaking remain in the hands of a small group of “financial supermen” (Lenin).

Analysing the basic contradictions of capitalism, Marx showed that they lead inevitably to the necessity of revolution and to proletarian dictatorship.

Lenin traced the transformation of capitalism into the last stage of its development – into imperialism, which in a new form, in the form of monopoly, develops the basic contradictions of the capitalist system, leading them to the final crises of capitalism. By proceeding from analysis of the basic contradictions of monopoly capitalism and the whole sum of contradictions that grow up on their basis, by disclosing the inequality of the development of imperialism in different countries, Lenin showed scientifically the possibility of breaking the imperialist chain at its weakest link, the possibility of a victory of revolution, of a victory of socialism, in a single country.

Lenin and Stalin in their works have shown the basic, leading contradiction of the socialist transitional economy; it is the struggle of socialism with the remnants of capitalism.

The basic contradiction of our transitional economy was formulated by Lenin as follows:

“The economy of Russia in the epoch of proletarian dictatorship presents itself as the conflict between the first forms of the communistic unified large-scale labour-State and small-scale commodity production accompanied by the capitalism that is being preserved along with it and is always being reborn on its basis.”

This concentrated Leninist formula contains the characteristic of the following three aspects of the contradiction of transitional economy.

1. The contradiction of large-scale socialist industry with the market-capitalist tendencies of small-scale commodity economy.

This contradiction was and is being resolved, not by the brutal pressure of the proletariat on the peasantry, as our enemies depict it, but in a form of union of the proletariat with the peasantry under the guidance of the proletariat, which union has as its task the abolition of classes and is directed both against the capitalist tendencies of the peasantry itself, and against those capitalist agents who ceaselessly try to play on those tendencies in order to break up this union from within.

This union is made actual firstly by means of the identification of the interests of the small producer with the interests of socialism, with the aims of developing socialist industry, and secondly by means of the socialist reconstruction of peasant economy in the form of all-round collectivization, which signifies the liquidation of that base for the continual rebirth of capitalism to which Lenin alluded.

2. The antagonism between the interests of the proletariat, the owners of socialistic industry, and the capitalistic elements – elements which have been in part already expropriated since the October Revolution and put to rout in the civil war, but are not yet finally liquidated, and in part are being born anew on the basis of N.E.P.* on the basis of individualist, small-scale, peasant economy.

* N.E.P. The New Economic Policy was adopted under the leadership of Lenin at the Tenth Congress of the Communist Party in 1921. It allowed considerable scope for private trading but retained a State monopoly of foreign trade, transport, heavy industry and much light industry. It allowed the rapid growth of capitalist elements in the countryside. It was in Lenin’s own words, “Capitalism plus socialism.”

This contradiction was resolved by the proletariat on the lines of the general policy of the party which was the industrialization of the country and the socialist recasting of peasant economy; different methods were required at different stages of the revolution, ranging from the policy of curtailing and expelling the capitalist elements to the liquidation of the kulaks as a class and the establishment of all-round collectivization.

The basic contradictions of the transitional period, which have been indicated by Lenin, find their expression in a number of its other contradictions. Such for example is the contradiction between our advanced socialist relations and the backward technique which is the heritage of Russian capitalism; this contradiction will be resolved by a vigorous development of socialist industry.

Another such contradiction is the contradiction between the socialist organization of production and petty bourgeois and bourgeois habits and traditions relating to production and work, which once again are the workers’ heritage from the past; this contradiction will be resolved by the mass recasting of the people under the leadership of the Party, by the fostering of socialist discipline, by the developing of new socialist forms of work.

3. We will point finally to the contradiction between the still limited output of socialist industry and agriculture and the growing demands of the workers.

This contradiction is being resolved by the increasing productivity of labour in industry and agriculture, by the vigorous tempo of the industrialization of the land, by the development of light industry, by the mobilization of the internal resources of heavy industry for production of widely demanded goods, by the struggle for the organized economic strengthening of the collective farms and finally by the developing of collective farm trade.

In disclosing the above-mentioned basic contradiction of the transitional economy of the U.S.S.R., Lenin and Stalin showed that the proletariat of the Soviet Union under the leadership of the Communist Party, by having set up its dictatorship, by possessing large-scale industry, transport and colossal resources of natural wealth, by introducing a monopoly of external trade, by establishing a union with the middle peasantry, possesses everything necessary for the resolution of this contradiction by its own internal powers. It possesses everything necessary to industrialize the country, to lead the peasant economy into socialist forms of agriculture and in this way to abolish classes. Lenin and Stalin have shown the full possibility of a victory for socialism in our country.

Stalin wrote:

What is meant by the possibility of the victory of socialism in one country? It is the possibility of resolving the contradictions between the proletariat and the peasantry by the internal forces of our country, the possibility of the proletariat’s gaining power and making use of that power for the construction of a full socialist society in our country, accompanied by the sympathy and support of the proletarians of other countries, but without a preliminary victory of the proletarian revolution in those other countries.”

This basic contradiction will be finally resolved in the U.S.S.R. at the end of the second Five Year Plan, which has as its basic problem the full liquidation of capitalist elements and classes generally, the abolition of all those causes that create class distinctions – the construction of a classless society.

After the abolition of classes, internal contradictions, in spite of the opinion of opportunists, will still be the source of the “self-movement” of society.

Although it is not our purpose here to dwell on what the basic contradiction of communist society is going to be, yet we can say with assurance, that in the first phase of communism – socialism – the determining form of this contradiction will be the contradiction between the socialist character of production (based on society’s appropriation of the means of production) and the distribution of the “means of existence and enjoyment” (with the exclusion of necessary social funds) according to work done. This contradiction determines and will determine the whole diversity of the aspects of social development. It will be resolved by the growth of the productivity of labour and on that basis by such a refashioning of our people as will make possible the realization of the principle; “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

And so to understand the movement of any process it is necessary to disclose, amidst the diversity of its contradictions and opposite tendencies, the basic contradiction which determines the development of the process as a whole; it is necessary to disclose the source of its “self-movement.”

The internal contradictions of every process are qualitatively distinct from those of any other process. The basic contradiction of capitalism – the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, which can be solved only by socialist revolution, is one matter; the basic contradiction of the transitional economy, which will be solved by the industrialization of the country, by collectivization and Soviet farm construction, is another.

Trotsky did not understand the essential character and specific nature of the development of the basic contradiction of capitalism in the imperialist epoch, he did not understand the law of uneven development. This is the first reason for his denial of the possibility of a victory for socialism in one country. According to Trotsky the contradiction between the proletariat and peasantry in the U.S.S.R. is the same sort of contradiction as the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in a capitalist economy and, in his opinion, is to be resolved in the same way as the second – by international revolution. Trotsky also did not see the specific difference, that the peasants are small-scale commodity producers who work with their own means of production and not bourgeois who exploit the work of other people (though it is true that from the midst of the peasants capitalism is being born every minute), that as a workman the peasant is the ally of the proletariat and that under a proletarian dictatorship conditions are created that will bring over the peasantry to socialist forms of agriculture. This is the second reason for his denial of the possibility of a victory for socialism in one country. Practice has gloriously refuted Trotsky and has shown that a contradiction which is qualitatively different must be differently resolved. The contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the conditions of capitalism is to be resolved by revolution, by a proletarian seizure of state-power, but the contradiction between the proletariat and the peasantry in the conditions of the U.S.S.R. is to be resolved by industrialization of the country and by the collectivization of the agricultural economy, which leads to the liquidation of classes.

Practice has gloriously confirmed the theory of the possibility of a victory for socialism in one country.

The opportunists of the right do not remark the specific character of the contradictions between the proletariat and the peasantry, and between the proletariat and the capitalist elements of a country – these two contradictions are held by them to be of the same type, on this idea rests their theory of the peaceful transition of the kulak into socialism.

The lessons we get from Trotskyism and right opportunism teach us the necessity of disclosing the specific quality of the internal contradictions of any process. And for this a knowledge of every aspect of the contradiction is necessary. Marx wrote in The Holy Family, “Proletariat and riches are contradictions; as such they form a united whole. Both of them are brought forth by the world of private property. The question is, what definite position does each of these two opposites occupy in the contradiction.” It is not enough to say they are the two aspects of a united whole. To understand the basic contradictions of capitalism we must get to know the specific properties of the proletariat and bourgeoisie, their relations with each other, their concrete mutual independence, and the mutual conditioning factors of both classes. What the Marx-Leninist dialectic requires for the study of any process is this: the exhaustive disclosure of all aspects of the contradiction with their concrete relations, that is to say, the “definite position which each of the two opposites occupies in the contradiction.”

Chapter III

Mutual Penetration of Opposites!

Not only does every unity contain within itself polar opposites but these internal opposites are mutually connected with each other; one aspect of a contradiction cannot exist without the other. In capitalist society the bourgeoisie is connected with the proletariat, the proletariat with the bourgeoisie; neither of these two classes can develop without the other, because the bourgeoisie cannot exist without exploiting the labour of others and the hired proletariat cannot exist without selling its labour power to a capitalist, seeing that itself it does not possess the means of production.

This mutual connectedness and mutual conditioning of contradictory aspects of actuality has also been stressed by the Party in its struggle on two fronts on the question of the character of N.E.P.

When a policy like that of the N.E.P. is adopted, both aspects must be preserved: the first aspect, which is directed against the régime of militant communism and has as its aim the securing of what is known as the free market, and the second aspect, which is directed against complete freedom of market and has as its aim the securing of a regulating role by the state over the market. Abolish one of these aspects and you will no longer have the N.E.P.” (Stalin).

We see the same indissoluble connection of contradictory aspects in all the processes of objective actuality. There is no mechanical action without its counteraction. The chemical dissolution of atoms is indissolubly connected with their union. Electrical energy declares itself in the form of opposite electricities – positive and negative.

The existence of two mutually contradictory aspects, their conflict and their flowing together into a new category,” wrote Marx, “comprises the essence of the dialectical movement. If you limit yourself to the task of warding off the bad aspect (for the preservation of the ‘good’ aspect corresponding to it, as Proudhon demanded) then by the separation of these aspects you put an end to the whole dialectical process.”

Opposites are not only found in indissoluble, inalienable connection, but they cross over and mutually penetrate each other.

Thus process of production in a capitalist factory is simultaneously an aggregation of capitalist productive relations (for example the relations between the capitalist and the worker), and an aggregation of productive forces (the labour of the workers and the means of production). Development from manufacture* to machine production is not only a change of productive forces, but a development and spreading of new productive relations. The union of the labour force of the workers and the means of production is simultaneously a connection of productive forces and a connection of people in the process of production, which together make up the relation. The division of labour in manufacture is a relation in production and emerges also as a productive force.

* Manufacture, strictly speaking, means “by hand” (Latin, manus) not by machine. It refers therefore to the period before machino-facture and steam power.

On the basis of this mutual penetration of capitalist productive forces, and capitalist relations in. production, the process of ever intensifying contradiction between proletariat and bourgeoisie is also developed.

The mutual penetration of opposites, the transition of one opposite into another, belongs to all processes. But to uncover and reveal this mutual penetration, a careful, concrete analysis of the process is required.

The interests of the proletariat and the working peasantry in the U.S.S.R., classes opposed to each other both on account of their historic past and their relations to the means of production, are nowadays beginning to coincide. With regard to fundamental questions of socialist construction, the peasant, as worker, appears as the ally of the proletariat. The peasant is interested in the strengthening of the proletarian dictatorship, because it guards him from having to return the land to the landlords and delivers him from exploitation by the kulak.* The peasant is interested in the socialist development of agricultural economy because this is the best method of raising agricultural economy to a higher level. The peasant is interested in the industrialization of the country because this creates a material basis for raising the level of agricultural economy and guarantees the defence of the country from the encroachment of capitalists and landlords. Here we have the coincidence of the interests of the proletariat and the peasantry. Not until conditions were favourable for the rapid expansion of socialist industry on the one hand and for a mass movement of the peasants towards collectivization on the other, was it possible to unite the private-property interests of the peasants with the general interests of socialism.

* Kulak, lit. fists. The tight-fisted, well-to-do peasant. “He may be a good manager, a man of enterprise and initiative, but as long as he exercises his talents for his own benefit, for the benefit of individualism, he is a great danger, a great enemy and must be wiped out” (Hindus, Humanity Uprooted).

The first form of this combination was the N.E.P., which at the end of the civil war made possible the improvement of individualistic peasant economy and its co-operation on the basis of what is called the free market, under state control. In this way, the raw material and provisions for socialist industry were guaranteed. The combination of peasant economy and large-scale industry became ever closer as socialist relations in industry and trade, the industrialization of the country, the development of machine-tractor stations and of the system of collective contracts with the state kept growing and were confirmed. The result of this policy is that now, on the basis of direct collectivization of individual peasant holdings, N.E.P. has become a form of combination of the private-property interests of the peasantry with the interests of socialism, and this leads to the growth and strengthening of socialist relations. The world-historical strategic significance of N.E.P. is determined by this fact, that the Party set up this policy on the basis of a profound analysis of the course and development of the contradictions of the transitional economy and. the indissoluble connection of the opposite tendencies of their mutual penetration.

We have emerged into the period of socialism and we are experiencing the last stage of N.E.P. – that is a contradiction! We are proceeding to a final liquidation of classes and we are strengthening the financial system and credit organizations; we have adopted cost-accounting, we keep the purchasing power of the rouble stable and along with the organized economic strengthening of the collective farms we encourage the development of collective farm trading. But we do this because the strengthening of the financial system and the state banks is at the same time helping us to take stock of our economic position, to plan more exactly and to introduce disciplined business control. The cost-accounting system, the introduction of socialist planning into the workshop, the brigade, and the collective farm. The development of collective farm trading strengthens the bond between the proletariat and the collective-farm peasants. An example of the analysis of the mutual penetration of opposites is given by Stalin in his solution of the problem of the relation of national and international culture under socialism.

“The encouragement of cultures that are national in form and socialistic in content,” said Stalin, in his report to the Sixteenth Assembly, “under conditions of proletarian dictatorship in one country, with the ultimate aim of welding them into one general socialist culture (one both in form and content), with one general language, for the day when the proletariat shall have conquered and socialism have spread all over the world – in this conception we find the truly dialectical character of the Leninist approach to this question of national culture.”

“It may be objected that such a way of stating the question is ‘contradictory.’ But do we not meet with similar contradictions in the question of the State? We are for the withering away of the State. And yet we also believe in the proletarian dictatorship, which represents the strongest and mightiest form of State power that has existed up to now. To keep on developing State power in order to prepare the conditions for the withering away of State power – that is the Marxist formula. It is ‘contradictory’? Yes, ‘contradictory.’ But the contradiction is vital, and wholly reflects Marxian dialectic.

“Or for example, the Leninist statement on the right of the constituted nations of the U.S.S.R. to self-determination, even up to the point of cuffing adrift from the Soviet Union. Lenin sometimes used to put his thesis on national self-determination in the form of this simple statement, ‘disunity for unity.’ Just think – disunity for unity! It smacks of paradox. All the same this contradictory formula reflects that vital truth of Marxian dialectic which enables the Bolsheviks to overcome the most formidable obstacles that beset this national question.

“The same thing must be said about the question of national culture; there is an efflorescence of national cultures (and languages) in the period of proletarian dictatorship in one country but the very purpose of this is to prepare the conditions for the extinction of these separate cultures and the welding of them into one common socialist culture (and one common language) when socialism shall be victorious over the whole world.

“Whoever has not understood this feature of the contradictions belonging to our transitional time, whoever has not understood this dialectic of historical processes, that person is dead to Marxism.”

In the transitional period, when the masses of builders of socialism have not yet “divested themselves of the skin of the old capitalist Adam,” when individualist habits and survivals are not yet outlived even in the ranks of the working class (to say nothing of’ the peasantry and old intelligentsia), we have to deal with many cases of the divergence of personal and social interests. But the Communist Party does not brush aside this actual contradiction and does not idealize actuality. It proceeds from the principle that the development of socialist relations for the first time in history makes widely possible such a “mutual penetration” of personal and social interests as will lead, not to the crushing of personality, but to its real and full development along the same line as the interests of all society. This “mutual penetration” is manifested in the form of piece-work, the insistence of differential wages according to the quality and quantity of the work done, the bonus system, diplomas and other awards for exceptionally good work and other forms of encouragement designed to enlist all the powers of the individual in the service of society.

“Mutual penetration” of opposites is also characteristic of the processes of our knowledge.

One of the basic contradictions of human knowledge is, as we have already seen, the contradiction of relative and absolute truths.

We have the same mutual penetration in the relationship of the particular and the general which are reflected in our ideas. The particular does not exist except in relation to the general. The general exists only in the particulars. Every generalization only approximately grasps all the particular objects. Every particular thing partly enters into the general.

The universal laws of development, reflected in the categories of materialistic dialectic, can be understood only on the basis of the mutual penetration of opposites.

Dialectic shows,” writes Engels, “that to hold that basis and consequence, cause and action, identity and difference, being and essence, are unalterable opposites, will not bear criticism. Analysis shows the presence of one pole in latent form within the other, that at the determined point one pole goes over into the other and that all logic is developed only from the moving of these two opposites in one another’s direction.”

Lenin used to call this “mutual penetration” of opposites – the identity of opposites. To disclose the mutual penetration, the identity of opposites in any process is the central problem of our theory of knowledge, of materialistic dialectic.

Aptly enough, Engels, in defining the three basic laws of dialectic, formulated the law of movement through contradictions as “the law of the mutual penetration of opposites.”

Lenin defined dialectic as “the teaching of how contradictions may be and are identical; under what conditions they are identical; how they turn into each other and so become identical; why the mind of man must not accept these opposites as dead or frozen but as living, conditional, mobile, the one always in process of turning into the other.”

To understand how opposites become identical is only possible by means of a careful, concrete and profound analysis of the process, by a study of the movement of all its basic aspects at its different stages, of all the conditions and possibilities of their transitions.

The mutual penetration of opposites, being the expression of the basic scientific laws underlying the process, becomes possible and is realized only in some particular complex of conditions.

The wage labourer is a living identity of opposites since he is the basic productive force of capitalism and all material commodities and at the same time is divorced from the means of production, possesses nothing except his hands, and is exploited by another class. Such a mutual penetration of opposites becomes possible only under the conditions of the capitalist system of production.

The development of a culture, national in form, and international in content, the strengthening of the state power for the creation of the conditions leading to its decline, become possible and necessary only under the proletarian dictatorship. The development of cost accounting in order to strengthen the financial system for the development of socialist planning is necessary in the period when it is still impossible to replace money in any way, and is possible only until the conditions for doing away with money shall have been created. The raising of the productivity of labour by enlisting the personal interest of the worker, by encouraging the more highly qualified workers, by the preferential treatment of shock-brigaders, is possible only in the conditions of proletarian dictatorship and because increase in the productivity of labour is the decisive condition for constructing a complete socialist society and for the transition to a communist society with its principle of distribution according to needs.

The understanding of this aspect of the law of the unity and conflict of opposites has made possible a correct analysis of the economic situation, of the mutual relations of classes and parties and consequently has determined the policy of our Party. Lenin wrote:

We have all been learning a little Marxism; we have been learning how and when it is possible to unite opposites. Even more important is the fact that the revolution has compelled us to be continually uniting opposites in practice. But let us remember that these opposites may be united so as to obtain either mere discords or a symphony.”

Such a dialectical combination of opposing policies which appeared absolutely incompatible to the Mensheviks was the policy of our Party in relation to the Liberals in the period of the Zemstvo campaign* “to keep distinct in order to strike together.” On the basis of such a combination was built the policy of the party in relation to the peasantry at different stages of the revolution, the combining of the interests of the proletariat and of the poorer peasants to bring about the socialist revolution, the policy of union with the well-to-do peasantry after the eighth assembly of the Party.

* Zemstvo campaign. The zemstvos or provincial assemblies were created in 1864 and consisted of a number of elected delegates of landowners and peasants. Their powers were restricted in 1890 but in 1905 in response to public opinion they regained some of their independent initiative. The question then was to what extent revolutionary socialists should participate in these bodies.

A clear model of the combination of opposites in the policy of the Party is found in the “Six Conditions”* of Stalin which introduced business methods and payment by results into Soviet industry and which, while giving every kind of support to the old intelligentsia, took steps to create, in the shortest period possible, numerous cadres of workings class technical experts. This “combination of opposites” in the policy of our Party is directed towards social development in a determined direction and was always worked out in practice on the basis of an accurate and concrete study of objective contradictions. That is why this combination always resulted in victory for the party line. That is why we have got from it a “symphony,” not mere discords.

* “The Six Conditions” of Stalin, were laid down in his speech to the leaders of industry in June 1931. Stalin asserted that a new situation had been created by the development of industry and that this required new methods of working. He enumerated six of these including rationalization, payment by results, personal responsibility for the job, technical education, encouragement of the intelligentsia and business accounting.
A combination of opposites that does not issue from a faithful reckoning with objective conditions and facts is an eclectic combination and cannot lead to the victory of the determined trend of development, but instead to its defeat. Thus the Mensheviks constructed a whole policy of struggle for a bourgeois democratic revolution on the basis of an eclectic combination of the interests of the proletariat with those of the liberal bourgeoisie, which combination ignored the irreconcilability of those interests, ignored the concrete conditions of the development of Russia, ignored the peasantry as the basic ally of the proletariat in this revolution, and handed the hegemony in the revolution to the liberal bourgeoisie, to whose interests it subordinated those of the proletariat. Such a combination led, as we said, to discord, to the defeat of the bourgeois democratic revolution.

The right opportunists in the U.S.S.R. held it necessary to combine the interests of the proletariat with those of the peasantry in such a way as neither to harm the kulak by curtailing his tendencies to exploit – rather to enable him to develop them – nor to prepare or carry out the policy of liquidating the kulak as a class. They held it was necessary to combine for many decades the small scale individualist peasant economy with large scale socialistic production. This combination is eclectic and impossible, for it falls to realize the impracticability of continuing a long drawn-out development of a double system – large scale socialist industry on the one hand, and on the other, decaying peasant economy, that economy which every hour and every minute gives birth again to capitalism. This combination ignored the irreconcilability of the interests of the proletariat and the capitalist elements. Such a combination would inevitably lead not to a victory for socialism but to a bourgeois restoration. Gradualist socialists seek theoretically to base their betrayal of the interests of the working class and their furious war against communism on an eclectic combination of the irreconcilable class-antagonists – the bourgeoisie and the proletariat – as given in the doctrine of the “evolution of capitalism into socialism.”

The group of Menshevist idealists, in spite of its repeated declarations on the unity of opposites as their mutual penetration, has in its analysis of concrete problems distorted both the proposition itself and the facts under investigation. The mutual penetration of opposites has in essence been reduced by them to the more limited notion that opposites presuppose each other. It is this abstract approach, this approach “in general” without concrete analysis, that has prevented the Deborin group from rightly understanding the dialectical unity of the historic and the logical in knowledge, the unity of theory and practice in revolutionary struggle and the actual relationships between the proletariat and peasantry in revolution.

The study of mutual penetration, of the identity of opposites, demands a concrete enquiry into the contradictory aspects of a process in its movement and development, the conditioning and mobility of all its facets, their conversion into each other.

But those mechanists who hold themselves to be Marxists do not understand movement by means of contradictions. The mechanistic view has been very clearly and directly expressed by Bukharin in his Theory of Historic Materialism.

“In the world there exist differently acting forces directed one against the other. Only in exceptional cases do they-balance each other. Then we have a state of rest, i.e. their actual conflict remains hidden. But it is sufficient to change one of these forces, and immediately the internal contradictions will be manifest, there will ensue a breakdown of equilibrium, and if a new equilibrium is established, it is established on a new basis, i.e. with another combination of forces, etc. What follows from this? It follows that ‘conflict of opposites,’ i.e. the antagonism of differently directed forces, does indeed condition movement.”

According to Bukharin, there exist forces independent of each other and they act on each other. It is this external collision of differently directed forces that conditions movement. While Lenin requires to know in the first place the internal contradictions of a process, to find the source of self-movement, Bukharin requires the determination of external forces that collide with each other. Lenin speaks of the division of the unity, requires the disclosure of the internal identity of opposites, the establishment of the concrete character of the connections of opposing aspects and their transitions. Bukharin requires the mere finding of independent forces. He understands the law of the unity of opposites mechanically, because he proceeds from the mechanics of a simple collision of forces independent of each other, as the general notional “model” which is suitable to explain every phenomenon. Such a reduction of an internal process to a conflict of independent forces inevitably leads to the seeking of the cause of change outside the process, in the action of its environment.

From the mechanistic understanding of the unity of opposites proceeds the theory of organized capitalism, which holds, as fundamental for the epoch of imperialism, not the internal contradictions of each country, but their external contradictions on the world arena.

On the mechanistic understanding of contradictions is constructed the Trotskyist theory that denies the possibility of a socialist victory in one country. Trotsky recognizes, as basic and decisive in this question, not the internal contradictions of our Soviet economy (which are being resolved within the country), but the external contradictions, the contradictions between the Soviet Union and capitalist countries. Trotsky holds that it is these last that determine the development of soviet economy and so only a resolution of these contradictions can lead to a complete victory of socialism in our country.

Bukharin, like all mechanists, identifies contradiction with antagonism. That is wrong. Those contradictions (carefully distinguished by Marx and Engels in their analysis of the complex forms of development of class society) are antagonistic, in which the struggle of indissolubly connected opposites proceeds in the form of their external collisions, which are directed on the part of the dominant opposite so as to preserve the subordination of its opposite and of the type of contradiction itself; and on the part of the subordinated opposite – to the destruction of the dominant opposite and of the contradiction itself as well.

The contradiction of any process is resolved, not by some external force, as think the mechanists, but by the development of the contradiction itself. This is true also in regard to antagonistic contradictions. But in the course of development of an antagonistic contradiction at its different stages, only the premises for its resolution are prepared and ripen. The contradiction itself at every new stage becomes ever more intensified. An antagonistic contradiction does not pass beyond the stages of its partial resolution.

Thus the periodic crises of capitalism are a violent form in which the contradictions of a given cycle of capitalist reproduction find their resolution; but in relation to the contradictions of the capitalist means of production as a whole, these crises emerge only as landmarks of the further intensification of these contradictions and of the ripening of the forces making for the violent overthrow of capitalism.

Antagonistic contradictions are resolved by the kind of leap in which the internal opposites emerge as relatively independent opposites, external to each other, by a leap that leads to the abolition of the formerly dominant opposite and to the establishment of a new contradictions. In this contradiction the subordinated opposite of the previous contradiction now becomes the dominant opposite, preserving a number of its peculiarities and determining by itself the form of the new contradiction, especially at the first stages of its development.

But in contradictions that do not have an antagonistic character, the development of the contradiction signifies not only the growth of the forces making for its final resolution, but each new step in the development of the contradiction is at the same time also its partial resolution.

Not all contradictions are antagonistic. Thus the relationships of the proletariat and the peasantry are not of an antagonistic character – in both classes we find a number of common interests. In a class society the contradictions of the basic classes are antagonistic and are resolved in antagonistic form. In developed socialist society there will be no class struggle, no class antagonism. “It is only in an order of things,” says Marx, “in which there will be no more classes and class antagonism, that social evolutions will cease to be political revolutions.”*

* Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy.

But Bukharin, because he identifies contradiction with antagonism, holds that in general there will be in this case no contradictions at all.

This is what Lenin wrote in answer to that assertion: “Quite wrong. Antagonism and contradiction are by no means the same. Under socialism the first will vanish, the second will remain.”

If in developed socialism there were no contradictions – contradictions between productive forces and relations in production, between production and demand, no contradictions of technique, etc. then the development of socialism would be impossible, then instead of movement we should have stagnation. Only in virtue of the internal contradictions of the socialist order can there be development from one phase to another and higher phase.

But each step in the development of socialism will denote not only a ripening of the forces making for a developed communist society, but also an immediate partial resolution of the contradictions of socialism. Just in the same way, each new stage in the transitional period denotes not only a growth of the forces making for socialism (which can enter into being once the leap to a new order is made), but also an immediate construction of socialism, a partial resolution of the most basic contradiction of the transitional period.

The identification of contradiction with antagonism leads on the one hand to the Trotskyist assertion that the contradictions between the proletariat and the peasantry are of the same character as those between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, i.e. are relations of class antagonism. On the other hand, it leads to right-opportunist conclusions. The right-opportunists maintain that the relations of these classes are not antagonistic and are, therefore, not even contradictory.

Chapter IV

Analysis of the Movement of the Contradiction of a Process from Its Beginning to Its End

Lenin wrote of Karl Marx’s Capital:

“Marx in his Capital at first analyses the simplest, the most ordinary, fundamental and commonplace thing, a relation to be observed billions of times in bourgeois commodity society: the exchange of commodities. In that simple phenomenon (in that cell of the bourgeois society) the analysis reveals all the contradictions (and their embryo as well) of modern society. The subsequent exposition shows the development (both growth and movement) of these contradictions and that of society in the sum total of its fundamental parts, from beginning to end. Such must also be the method of exposition (and of study as well) of dialectics in general.”*

* Lenin, vol. xiii, p. 324.

Such indeed must be the method of studying any process, i.e. our task must be to find its simplest, basic relations, to disclose in it the basic contradictions, to investigate their development and their conflict; to investigate how the development of a contradiction prepares its resolution and determines the form of its resolution; to investigate the qualitative changes in the successive phases of development of a process, the relative independence of movement of contradictory aspects, their mutual connection, their transitions one into the other; to disclose in the development of the conflict of opposites in any process the necessity and also all the conditions and possibilities of its conversion into its own opposite. Such must be the course of study of any process in its emergence, development and decay.

In Capital Marx begins from the simplest, basic relations of merchant-capitalist society – the exchange of commodities. He at once shows the ambiguity, the contradictory characteristics of a “commodity,” an article made simply for sale, as a unity of price and value, discloses its internal contradictions, the ambiguous character of the labour that creates the article, the concrete labour on the one hand and on the other the abstract labour that creates the value.

Marx further shows that the internal contradiction concealed in the commodity finds the forms of its movement in the external contradiction, which emerges as the relation of the relative and the equivalent forms of value, which are polar opposites, indissolubly connected with each other. The further development of this relationship, which reflects the development of the commodity, goes through three stages of a simple, a developed and finally a universal form of value. In the last of these stages, the article takes on the double form of the commodity itself and its monetary equivalent.

The development of money, in its different functions, being the result of the extension and complication of commodity relations and at the same time the condition of the development of these relations, is the further form of development of its initial contradictions.

Marx shows further the process of the development of money into capital, the internal contradiction of the general form of movement of capital and the continual resolution of this contradiction in the buying and selling of labour power. The appearance of the latter denotes the higher development of the initial contradiction, the development of the law of value on a very universal scale. At this point development takes place more quickly and with more intensity than formerly, because by the separation of the means of production from the producer (and the stage of development of commodity relations that we are discussing inevitably leads to such a separation) the basic productive power – labour power – is turned into a commodity. Production of commodities for sale becomes capitalist. Thus we arrive at the basic means of production of a new social structure. The conversion of money into capital denotes the development of the law of value into a new qualitatively unique law-system – into the law of Surplus Value which is the “source of the self-movement” of capitalism.

Marx shows that the capitalist organization of production “denotes the concentration in great workshops of the hitherto disconnected means of production and their conversion by this means from the productive forces of separate persons into social productive forces” but under conditions of individual appropriation. He further shows how the pursuit after a continuous increase in the rate of surplus value, which depends on the physiological limitations of the working day and the resistance of the working class, leads to the growth and intensification of the contradictions between the social character of production and individual appropriation – that basic contradiction of capitalism – leads to the growing of simple capitalist co-operation into manufacture, and thence into production by machinery. Marx showed that the increase of the rate of exploitation requires an uninterrupted expansion of production, that reproduction leads to the concentration and centralization of capital and consequently to the ruin of small-scale capitalists. From another point of view, the same process of capitalist reproduction* creates an industrial reserve army, and ever more and more intensifies class contradictions. Marx disclosed in all its terrible nakedness the general law of capitalist accumulation, with the absolute impoverishment of the working class as its obverse side, thus showing the inevitability of the collapse of capitalism.

* Reproduction. A technical term in Marxian economics. In order to maintain the flow of commodities the instruments of production must be renewed; at the same time every commodity wears out or is destroyed. Industry therefore shows us various kinds of commodities being produced, used and produced again. There is a constant reproduction of things. See Marx, Capital, vol. i, p. 621.

In disclosing the essence of capitalism and its deep, ever changing contradictions, Marx shows the emergence, on their basis, of contradictory phenomena. To this are devoted the second and third volumes of Capital, where Marx shows the process of the circulation of capital and its reproduction, and the division of surplus value into the forms of profits of enterprise, interest, profits of commerce and ground rent. Marx shows here how the law of value is developed in its external forms, growing into a law of costs of production. He shows how production is expanded, how the organic composition of capital grows and how under the influence of this, the rate of profit falls although the hope of its rise is the very thing which drives capitalism to develop the forces of production. He further shows how capitalist contradictions ever more and more intensify, finding their temporary solution in certain characteristic phenomena – crisis, depression, recovery, boom – the trade cycle, which appears as the forces of production emerge in ever more irreconcilable conflict with the social law of their development. The social structure of capitalism hampers the development of productive forces. The bourgeoisie becomes unable to control production. The movement of capitalist contradictions gives rise to the necessity and also to all the conditions and possibilities of the collapse of capitalism.

That is the picture unfolded by Marx in Capital and completed by Lenin and Stalin in their works on imperialism and the general crisis of capitalism.

The method applied by Marx in Capital has necessarily to be applied in the study of any process. A model of the masterly application of this method is the analysis of development of the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie given by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. This same method lies at the basis of the analysis of the origin, development and abolition of classes and the state given by Engels in his work The Origin of the Family, and by Lenin in The State and Revolution, and of the analysis of the origin and development of capitalism in Russia given by Lenin in his celebrated work on The Development of Capitalism in Russia.

An analysis of the movement of contradiction in its emergence, development and decay is the only way to a knowledge both of the basic laws of the development of a process and of the diverse concrete forms of its appearance at different stages and in different conditions.

The mechanistic conception not only cannot show the movement of opposites in their emergence and development, but really inhibits such a method of getting to understand actuality, because from its point of view every process begins its movement from stable equilibrium, when either there are no contradictions or they are reconciled and balanced and therefore cannot be a stimulus to further development. Contradictions appear only at a known stage of the movement of a process, as a result of the action of external causes, as a result of the upsetting of equilibrium.

The group of Menshevist idealists, forsaking concrete actuality for the field of pure abstractions – of the self-movement of mere ideas, also came out with a revision of this method. The Deborin group uncritically accepted the Hegelian way of stating the question of the unity of opposites without noticing its idealistic features.

Hegel in founding his whole philosophic system, proceeded, as we have said earlier, from the self-development of absolute spirit. However, in distinction from other idealists – and in this lies his great service – he took as a “model” for the different forms of absolute spirit the stages in the development of social knowledge, which stages he understood and interpreted in his own way. After schematizing the different forms of thought which he had observed in history, he came to the conclusion that dialectical knowledge (which contains in its own categories, and in their order, in a purely theoretical fashion, the history of knowledge) passes in its understanding of any object through stages of identity, difference, opposition and contradiction. To say nothing of the fact that Hegel wrongly represented “identity” as the first step in knowledge, the organic defect of all his philosophy was this, that he connected his scheme of the development of knowledge, of subjective mind, with the objective world as the law of development of all its subjects. In this the idealist, Hegel, stands out clearly.

Deborin did not notice that Hegel, by making absolute certain characteristic features of our thought, by declaring them to be the movement of absolute spirit, by constructing a formalistic scheme of the movement of categories, was also forcing actuality and its developments into the Procrustean bed of such a scheme.

According to Deborin (following Hegel) the development of the processes of objective actuality proceeds from abstract identity to difference, from difference to oppositeness and thence to internal contradiction. Deborin wrote:

“When all the necessary steps of development – from simple identity through difference and oppositeness have been traversed, then begins the epoch of the ‘resolution of contradictions.’”

In Deborin’s opinion and that of his followers, contradiction appears in a process, not at its very beginning, but only at a certain stage of its movement; but this can mean only one thing, namely, that until this stage is reached, the development of the process is not by virtue of its inward contradictions. This view-point is not only a revision of dialectic at its central point, but is close to the mechanistic conception of development. Because if the development of any process begins and proceeds up to a given moment not by virtue of its internal division – assuming it be at the beginning still undeveloped – then the process, until this moment, must be due to external causes. But that is also the view of the mechanists. Deborin, by accepting Hegel’s scheme, which identifies the development of knowledge with the development of matter, has, in his understanding of the basic law of dialectic, lapsed into mechanism, against which he had waged such a desperate conflict. The only logical dialectic can be materialistic dialectic.

By applying this view on the development of contradiction to the analysis of the concrete question of the relations between the proletariat and the peasantry in the conditions of the U.S.S.R., Deborin and Luppol came to the conclusion that they are not contradictory relations but only relations of difference, i.e. they came to a right-opportunist watering down of the contradiction between the two classes. Karev, proceeding from the same point of view, declared that in the Third Estate of pre-revolutionary France, there were no internal contradictions but only differences, i.e. the relations of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie were not contradictory. In actuality the interests of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie were contradictory from the very moment of the emergence of these antagonistic classes.

It is quite true that contradictions move, become intensified, go through a number of stages in their development, forming at each one of them new qualitative properties. It is also true, that the knowledge of the contradictions of this or that process emerges most fully and visibly at the highest developed stage of the process. The proletariat, we know, becomes as a whole ever more and more conscious of the irreconcilability of its interests with those of the bourgeoisie, according as the capitalist contradictions intensify. But from these true positions it is impossible to conclude, as does Deborin, that contradictions appear only at a given stage of the development of a process. No, they belong to it from the very beginning.

Deborin’s view blunts our apprehension of the contradictions of the initial stages in the development of processes, leads to a watering down of them and in this way is a perversion of dialectic; it pursues the Menshevist line.

The development of a process at all its stages is the movement of its contradictions.

Chapter V

The Relativity of the Unity of Opposites and the Absoluteness of Their Conflict

In the foreword to the first volume of Capital Marx wrote:

“In its rational form dialectic is a scandal and an abomination to the bourgeoisie and its doctrinaire spokesmen, because, while supplying a positive understanding of the existing state of things, it at the same time furnishes an understanding of the negation of that state of things, and enables us to recognize that that state of things will inevitably break up; it is an abomination to them because it regards every historically developed social form as in fluid movement, as transient; because it lets nothing overawe it, but is in its very nature critical and revolutionary.”

Dialectic “in its rational form,” materialistic dialectic, is a scandal and an abomination to the bourgeoisie because, as opposed to metaphysical views which stress the immutability of existing forms or their slow uninterrupted “evolutionary” change, it demonstrates the revolutionary change of forms, the self-negation of everything existent, in virtue of the development of internal contradictions.

But whoever reduced Marx’s thought, or the Marx-Leninist doctrine of development in general, to the statement “all flows, all changes,” would distort the actual essence of the doctrine and would open the door to mechanism, relativism, teleology, and modern neo-Hegelianism. Indeed the mechanists also, as we know, are ready to admit that “all flows, all changes.” But “flows and changes” in their understanding is only a quantitative process, the actual elements remaining unchanged. And the relativist not only admits that “all changes, all flows,” but makes such change absolute, including within it our own knowledge. Thus every kind of stability in objective phenomena is swept away, becoming but a subjective appearance. Our knowledge is held to be limited and distorted in its very nature so that it does not even reflect truly the creative flow of reality.

The teleologically inclined bourgeois thinker also admits that “all flows, all changes.” But he goes on to affirm that this flow, this change, is nothing else than the path to the realization of ever more perfect forms, the tendency towards which is deeply seated in life itself, that movement is determined by those ideal forms in which the imminent purposes of life reside.

There are other eclectic points of view, as, for instance, the theory that history shows an alternation of stable and revolutionary epochs, the first characterized by definiteness, stability and self-identity of the processes found in it, the second by indefiniteness, movement and change. Where there is definiteness there is no change; where there is movement, there is no definiteness – that is the essence of this eclectic wisdom!

Only a conception of development as a conflict of internal contradictions at all stages of development, gives a profound and adequate understanding of actuality and arms us against mechanism, relativism, eclecticism and other bourgeois revisionist “isms.” This conception alone shows the unity of the aspects of a process and their relative identity not as an external form, not as a stage in a process, not as a basic characteristic of a process, but as a form of internal contradiction, of conflict of internal opposites. This form expresses the type of contradiction and is determined by it (the contradiction), emerges on its basis, develops and decays. There is no internal contradiction without a unity of conflicting aspects within, without a general basis of conflict which expresses itself in the relative identity of opposites. But unity and identity, which are the necessary form of the movement of the contradiction, are at the same time conditioned by it as by the actual content of the development. Therefore, to regard unity, the identity of opposites, as a “reconciliation of opposites” is a direct perversion of Marxism. Yet we find this view expressed in almost identical terms by the mechanists, the reformist socialists and the Menshevist idealists.

Materialistic dialectic has nothing in common with the point of view of “reconciliation of opposites” which subordinates the conflict of opposites to a process of inevitable and pre-determined reconciliation. Materialistic dialectic which is “in essence critical and revolutionary” (Marx) understands the resolution of contradictions to be the replacement of one type of contradiction by another. This resolution, in which “opposites become identified” (Lenin), expresses not the “reconciliation” but the resolution of their contradiction in a new contradiction, a new type of internal conflict.

This thought was also expressed by Lenin in his celebrated proposition on the relativity of the unity of opposites and the absoluteness of their conflict, which was neglected and not understood by the Menshevist idealists. Lenin wrote:

The unity (the coincidence, identity, resultant force) of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, and relative. The struggle of the mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, as movement and evolution are.”*

* Lenin, vol. xiii, p. 24.

For, as we see, the conflict of mutually exclusive opposites leads to a change in the character of that unity, coincidence and mutual penetration in which they are found; this conflict determines the character of the resolution of their contradiction. Conflict makes their internal unity conditional, temporal, transitional. Conflict leads to the final resolution of the given contradictions, to their removal, creates the beginning of a new process. In a class society, every given form of society is temporal and transitory, the change of any given form of a class society and the abolition of classes are accomplished by means of class struggle. On the developing basis of the contradiction of capitalist economy, i.e. the contradiction between the social character of production and individual appropriation, only the conflict of both mutually exclusive opposites would lead to the replacing of the original form of their unity and mutual penetration (out of which they were developing into something new) by another form. The growing intensity of the conflict of these opposites leads to the necessity of their final resolution and liquidation. This conflict creates also all the necessary conditions and possibilities for it.

Out of the thorough understanding of this aspect of dialectic proceeds the policy of our Party. The Party saw in the different forms of the bond between the proletariat and the peasantry, at the various stages of N.E.P., not a form of reconciliation of those opposites, but a form of resolution of the temporal, partial contradictions, characteristic of the given stage, and at the same time, a step forward in the resolution of the basic contradiction of the transitional period – the contradiction between socialism and capitalism. And so the Party did not make eternal the different forms of this bond between peasants and industrial workers (for this would have meant that we were oblivious of the basic contradictions of the transitional period – which was the mistake of the right deviation), nor did it regard the changing of slogans in relation to the peasantry as manoeuvres called out by the situation, allowing us to “gain time” until the final resolution of the contradiction in world socialism – which was how the Trotskyists viewed the matter.

Stalin in a speech at the Fifteenth Congress said:

Our development proceeds, not by a smooth, unbroken movement upwards. No, comrades, we have classes, we have contradictions inside the country, we have a past, a present and a future, and the contradictions between these are still with us. We cannot therefore glide smoothly forward. Our course is one of struggle, of ever developing contradictions and of their subsequent mastery, analysis and liquidation. Never, so long as there are classes, shall we be in the position to say: Well, thank God, now all is well. Never, comrades, shall we have that state of affairs. Always in our experience something is dying out. But whatever it is, it does not like the idea of dying; it struggles to go on existing, it defends its outworn activity. Always something new is being born in our life. But whatever it is, it is not just born, it screams and cries, asserting its right to exist…. The struggle between the old and the new, between what is dying out and what is born – that is the basis of our movement.”

Only in bitter class struggle with the capitalist elements, and in their eventual suppression, only in the proletariat’s struggle for a socialist recasting of the small-individualist peasant economy (which is the last base upon which capitalism can rebuild itself), only in the struggle for the higher productivity of labour, in the struggle for the inculcation of socialist discipline can classes be abolished.

The policy of the Communist Party proceeds on the understanding that the contradiction between the Soviet Union and its backward technique, a struggle which takes place in the conditions of a capitalist environment, can be only temporary, that it will be resolved inevitably either by the Bolsheviks’ mastery of technique or by the collapse of Soviet power.

A characteristic feature of our party is that we do not fear difficulties or contradictions, we do not flee from strife, but proceed to a dispassionate analysis of the contradictions of actuality, an exposure of new contradictions, a study of the course of their movement, of the course of preparation of conditions and possibilities for their mastery and solution.

Kaganovich, in a speech celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Institute of Red Professors, said in describing this feature of Bolshevist practice:

“What exactly does the unity of opposites mean in the ordinary language of our political party? The unity of opposites in actuality means not to be afraid of difficulties. Not to be afraid of those contradictions of life which spring up on our journey, but instead to conquer them with Bolshevist energy and staunchness.”

A characteristic feature of our party is its struggle for the victory of a determined tendency of development, for the victory of one of two opposite alternatives; it is a struggle that excludes any haphazard drift.

The understanding of the absolute struggle of opposites and of the relativity of their unity distinguishes Marx-Leninism from the reformist parties. Not one theoretician of social reformism, neither Kautsky nor Plekhanov, could rise to the comprehension of movement by means of the division of unity, of the absoluteness of the struggle of opposites and the relativity of their unity; hence their merely formal acknowledgment and lack of comprehension of these principles. The further evolution of these theoreticians, especially Kautsky, consisted of an ever greater revision of this central aspect of materialistic dialectic. It was not a matter of chance that at the end of his life Kautsky completely rejected dialectic and declared that the theory of social movement proceeding by means of contradictions was merely “revolutionary metaphysics.”

The whole political theory and tactics of the right wing of the older reformism and of modern reformist socialism are based on theories of this sort and derive from the idea of the reconciliation of opposites. Thus instead of Marx’s proposition on the irreconcilability of the conflict of classes, they preach a harmony of interests of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, a compromise between both classes, they summon the proletariat to assist capitalist rationalization, or to support the national bourgeoisie in its straggle for a market, or to take part in bourgeois governments, etc. Instead of a struggle to overcome the contradictions of capitalism, a struggle for their forcible resolution by means of setting up a proletarian dictatorship and expropriating the bourgeoisie, they try to smooth over, to reconcile these contradictions and by that means to preserve capitalism.

The tactics of the Bolsheviks in relationship to the liberal bourgeoisie in the period of the Zemstvo campaign were expressed in the slogan “To keep separate in order to strike together.” This common offensive with the liberal bourgeoisie at a determined stage and in a determined form was a relative, temporary, conditional moment in the tactics of socialism. But the Mensheviks attached to this relative moment an absolute significance and placed it at the base of all their strategy, and finally as a consequence played the part of the left wing of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. In 1917, the Menshevists, Plekhanov in particular, came out as supporters of the bourgeoisie, preaching a harmony of class interests, and demanding the continuance of the imperialist war, and directed all their energy against everything that hindered the strengthening of capitalism and above all against the preparation for a socialist revolution. After October the Mensheviks directly supported the Whites. In the period of the developed advance of socialism on the whole front, when the Mensheviks, overestimating the importance of the capitalist elements within the country, had dreams of a bourgeois “regeneration” of the Soviet power and were finally disappointed, they transferred their activity to a direct hostility to the vital interests of the proletariat of the U.S.S.R. and to sabotage and espionage in the service of the general staffs of the imperialist powers. And all this in the name of establishing a democracy, by which they meant a society whose aim was to harmonize the interests of proletariat and bourgeoisie.

The conception of the unity of opposites as their reconciliation is also characteristic of the positions of the Right. From the Marx-Leninist position of the irreconcilability of the contradictions of the capitalist means of production they have lapsed into a theory of organized capitalism, which asserts that the contradictions within capitalist countries can be removed and transferred to an external arena, to the world market. They have formulated a theory that, all the world over, the kulak peasant economy will gradually turn into socialism. The Leninist theory of the abolition of classes by means of intensified class struggle has been replaced by a theory of the abolition of the class struggle, its peaceful dying out. They explained the intensification of class struggle in the U.S.S.R. by the “blunders of the Bolsheviks with their unwise decrees,” and did not realize that the growth and advancement of socialist elements inevitably evoke the opposition of the dying capitalist elements. The Right did not see the contradictions within the peasantry itself, they represented them as a homogeneous social mass. They did not “notice” that our union with the peasantry is a union that takes account of the irreconcilability of the interests of proletariat and bourgeoisie and therefore is directed against the capitalist elements and tendencies within the peasantry.

The Right did not understand that the union of the proletariat with the peasantry is a form of the proletariat’s struggle for the recasting of small-scale commodity economy, for its transfer to the socialist path of development. They “forgot” about the temporary character of N.E.P., about its ambiguity. The right-opportunist theory, being a theory of reconciliation of opposites, leads to the perpetuation of small-scale commodity production and therefore to the perpetuation of classes. “Bukharin, the theoretician without dialectic, the scholastic theoretician” (Stalin), did not understand the doctrine of the absolute conflict of opposites and the relativity of their unity.

The view-point of reconciliation of opposites constituted the basis for that revision of Marxian dialectic which issued from the group of Menshevist idealists. Not one of its expositors finds room to mention the absoluteness of the conflict of opposites and the relativity of their union, although they ceaselessly comment on the paragraph in Lenin’s On Dialectic where this aspect of the “division of unity” is formulated with extraordinary accuracy and clearness. In not one of their works is a criticism of the theory of the “reconciliation of opposites” to be found. On the contrary that is the very theory from which they proceed. Thus Deborin holds that dialectical materialism “scientifically reconciles opposites, namely, freedom and necessity, subjectivism and objectivism, but reconciles them dialectically.” According to him, in dialectic “subject and object, object and knowledge about the object, obtain a relative reconciliation.” Deborin defines dialectic not as a doctrine of the conflict of opposites, but as a “doctrine of the merging together of opposites.”

Dialectical materialism grew up in conflict with different forms of bourgeois philosophy, each of which was built upon the exaggeration and over-development of one aspect of human knowledge. But dialectical materialism did not simply cast them from the threshold, but critically worked over everything of value that had been discovered by preceding philosophy, including the rationalism and empiricism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Deborin, however, regards this critical treatment of the bourgeois heritage as a reconciliation of opposite philosophic tendencies. He holds that “dialectical materialism reconciles extreme empiricism with extreme rationalism in a higher synthesis of the two.”

The theory of reconciliation of opposites is a metaphysical theory. Because it does not lead to the disclosure of the ways of egress from a given situation it perpetuates each given situation. Nor does it direct its attention to the origin of the new, to the creation of the new premises, possibilities, conditions, that will originate new processes on the basis of the contradictions of the given process.

The type and character of the contending opposites, the degree of their development, define also the character of the solution of their contradiction. It is necessary to distinguish the forms of resolution of temporary, partial contradictions (which make possible the development of the basic contradictions of a process) from the forms of resolution of the basic contradictions of a process as a whole, which lead to the removal of that process. Thus the different forms of the bond between the proletariat and the peasantry in the U.S.S.R. made possible such a development of small-scale commodity production and large-scale socialist industry as prepared the way for a final resolution of the basic contradiction. And the forms of final resolution of those contradictions, which lead to the removal of the given basic contradiction, are all-round collectivization and the conversion of agricultural economy into a branch of socialist industry. The final resolution of contradictions denotes the removal of both opposite aspects. The victory of the proletariat in the socialist revolution denotes that it ceases to be a class in capitalist society and that the elements of the bourgeoisie opposed to it cease to be the class controlling the country’s economy. The construction of socialism denotes the victory of the proletariat, one of the basic classes of the transitional period, and leads to the abolition of classes as a whole, including, of course, the proletariat.

The mechanists, who hold that a process develops in virtue of externally directed forces, think that the process goes in the direction of that force which predominates quantitatively. Bogdanov wrote:

“If this or that process – the movement of a body, the life of an organism, the development of society – is determined by the strife of two opposing forces, then, when one of these predominates quantitatively, however little, the process goes to its side, is subordinated in its direction. As soon as another force develops and at last equalizes itself with the first, the whole character of the process changes its quality; either it comes to an end, or later (however small be the increase of the second force), it takes on a new directions.”

Though this is basically true for mechanics, yet in the higher forms of movement it is impossible to attribute the direction of a process only to the direction of the quantitatively predominating aspect. Thus the capitalist elements at war with feudalism were at first feebler than the feudalistic elements, but the development went ever more and more in the direction of the former; the growth and strengthening of the capitalist elements resulted in the predominance of capitalism over feudalism, and the destruction of feudalist relations only at the end of the process.

The socialist elements in the U.S.S.R., although at the time still very feeble, yet immediately after the October revolution played the leading role in the struggle with the capitalist elements. The growth of socialist elements consolidated their position and led to their victory over the capitalist elements.

The proletariat in the U.S.S.R. takes the leading role in union with the peasantry, which quantitatively exceeds the proletariat many times. The proletariat becomes the grave-digger of capitalism, creates a new direction for the development of productive forces, creates new forms of social relations, not simply because it increases quantitatively within the framework of capitalism, but chiefly because, in the conditions of the ever intensifying contradiction between productive forces and the capitalist relations of production, it welds itself together and organizes itself, and, under the leadership of its political party, resolves by means of revolution the capitalist productive relations and establishes proletarian dictatorship.

The mechanists’ view ignores all the concrete conditions of the development of a process, all the qualitative uniqueness of its laws. This leads to drift, to a falling back on natural forces, because, from this point of view, a mere simple quantitative predominance over the weaker aspect is sufficient to ensure a new direction in development. This view fully justifies the reformist theory of a peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism, which is to proceed from the fact of the predominance of the specific gravity of the proletariat in large-scale capitalist countries. It also fully justifies the Trotskyist denial of the possibility of a socialist victory in the U.S.S.R., in virtue of the quantitative weakness of the proletariat and the low level of productive forces in that country.

The character and direction of a process are defined by the character and direction of its basic moving contradictions – by their concrete mutual relations, by their conflict in the determined concrete situation. In the conflict of the mutually exclusive opposites, of the different tendencies of development, of the old with the new (as we saw above in more detail), one of the aspects, one of the tendencies, develops, becomes the leading one, and this defines the character and direction of a process. But this or that aspect or tendency of development becomes a leading one only through conflict. Thus in the conflict between the capitalist and socialist elements in the U.S.S.R., the socialist elements took the lead by virtue of the fact that the proletariat had established its dictatorship, had got possession of large scale industry, were nationalizing the land, because it had established such mutual relations with the peasantry as guaranteed the support of the latter and thus prepared all the conditions and possibilities for the socialist recasting of the whole trading economy. If the dictatorship had weakened or the clearness of the general line of the party had become confused, if the opportunist elements had conquered, if there had ensued a long period of opposition to the peasantry, then the capitalist elements would have come “on top,” would have begun to play the leading role and to annihilate the socialist elements. A less progressive tendency of development can conquer a more progressive. An old, ever more and more obstructive element, can, in fighting with a new, sustain itself for a considerable time, not allow the new to develop, and for a time even destroy it entirely. Capitalism, which hinders the development of productive forces, at the same time maintains its own existence, does not come automatically to a crash. Only the conflict of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie resolves the question of the crash of capitalism. That is why our party carries on a very fierce war against the theory of drift, which weakens the struggle of the proletariat and by this means strengthens its opponents and makes it possible for capitalism to go on maintaining itself.

Chapter VI

Theory of Equilibrium

We have expounded the basic moments of the law of the unity of opposites – the essence of dialectic.

Bukharin does not understand this law. In his book The Theory of Historic Materialism he set himself the task of, as it were, transposing Hegel’s idealistic mystical teaching on contradiction into a materialistic key. From Bukharin’s view-point this must signify the translation of Hegelian dialectic into the language of modern mechanism. True to his position he holds that Hegel and Marx in speaking of movement by means of contradictions, implied in fact a collision of two oppositely directed forces. External forces collide and form a temporary, mobile equilibrium, which is then broken and is again set up on a new basis. Following Hegel, he called the primitive state of equilibrium “thesis,” its destruction “antithesis,” and the setting up of equilibrium on a new basis (“in which opposites are reconciled”) “synthesis.” Bukharin expounds his theory thus: Everything consists of a number of elements connected with each other, which form a certain system. Every such “system” is connected with such other systems as compose its environment. Environment and system act mutually. This contradiction of system and environment lies, according to Bukharin, at the basis of all development.

Bukharin does not deny internal contradictions. He admits that in society, for instance, there exists a number of internal contradictions: contradictions between productive forces and the relations of production, contradictions of class, etc. But these internal contradictions, according to Bukharin, are the resultant of the external contradictions of the environment and the system. Thus, class struggle within society is determined, according to Bukharin, by the contradiction of society and nature. Bukharin writes:

“Internal (structural) equilibrium is a magnitude dependent on external equilibrium, is a ‘function’ of this external equilibrium.”

Such is Bukharin’s theory of equilibrium which he advances as the only correct, “theoretically systematic exposition and basis” of the Marxian dialectic. All that has been expounded in the foregoing pages makes clear that this theory leaves out of account the determining role of internal contradictions, the indissoluble connection of opposing aspects, their transitions into each other, their identity, and replaces the conflict of opposites by their reconciliation, i.e. it distorts the law of the division of unity and has nothing in common with Marx-Leninism. Bukharin’s theory of equilibrium is not new. It enjoys great popularity in bourgeois sociology and economics. The bourgeois philosopher and sociologist, Herbert Spencer, built upon just such a theory a mechanistic theory of evolution. In his opinion, there exist in nature forces directed against each other, between which an equilibrium is eventually established. The direction of movement in a phenomenon is determined by the quantitative predominance of this or that opposing aspect. Thus, for example, tyranny and freedom are, in his opinion, two independent forces, which all the time seek to balance each other, from which it follows that from the quantitative predominance of freedom or tyranny depends the movement of both these antagonists. But Herbert Spencer, in contrast to Bukharin, never called his theory dialectic. Prior to Spencer, Dühring, who directly attacked the dialectic of Marx and Engels, wrote: “Antagonism of forces that oppose each other in an opposite direction is also the basic form of all the actions and manifestations of nature.” Engels, in Anti-Dühring, strongly criticized this view. The theory of equilibrium was most clearly formulated by Bogdanov, who sought to reconcile idealism and materialism. Long before Bukharin he set himself the task of transferring on to the soil of materialism not only the dialectic of Hegel, but also the dialectic of Marx and Engels which, in his opinion, was not completely emancipated from the idealism from which it originally sprang. The Marxian conception of dialectic, that is to say, of development, suffers, says Bogdanov, in common with the purely Hegelian conception, from lack of clarity and completeness, and for this reason the application of the dialectical method is inaccurate and diffuse. Bogdanov, long before Bukharin, translates dialectic into the “language of mechanics.” Just like Spencer and Dühring he holds that movement through contradictions is a conflict between “two oppositely directed activities.” But he admits at once that such a conception of the law of contradictory development parts company with the basic propositions of Marxism, and goes on to assert that Marxism by its failure to realize this truth is unable to explain the transition of quantity into quality. Bogdanov defines dialectic as “an organized process that proceeds by way of the conflict of opposing forces.” Movement, in his opinion, begins first as an equilibrium which contains no contradictions; then that equilibrium is destroyed by the conflict of two opposing forces and set up anew on a fresh basis. The basic, determining contradiction, he holds to be the external, which is conditioned by the conflict of internal forces and by the preponderance of one of them at a determined stage. In his opinion the basic contradiction is between the environment and the system.

This theory of equilibrium enjoyed great popularity among various groups whose social and economic policies were in opposition to the Bolshevik line.

Bukharin was also led to argue that class contradictions are only the results of the contradiction between society and the natural environment, so that if the equilibrium of society and nature is upset then the conflict of classes is intensified; if society and nature are in stable equilibrium then the class struggle ceases.

Although Bukharin tries to combine this theory with the Marx-Leninist theory of the inevitability of the proletarian revolution in view of the internal contradictions of capitalism, yet it is perfectly clear that Bukharin, by belittling the internal contradictions and not admitting their determined role, cannot prove the inevitability of the collapse of capitalism.

Following Bogdanov he holds that society (including a Soviet economic order) develops when in return for its expended working energy it receives from nature as much or more energy. When this is the case we get equilibrium between society and nature.

The whole economic policy of Soviet society must proceed from the necessity of establishing such an equilibrium and must not allow any chance infringement of it.

Bukharin proceeds to argue that the class struggle and similar contradictions can and should be removed with all speed by establishing an equilibrium between society and nature. This can be done by balancing the different factors in the natural economy.

From this it follows that the point of crucial importance is that part of the economic plan where production has fallen behind. It may be iron, in which case engineering production generally will be held up. It may be bricks, in which case the building plan will be delayed. But these “equilibrium sociologists” deduced from their theory that the way to restore equilibrium was to cut down production and building to the level of the diminished supplies of iron and bricks. In other words we are to avoid the contradiction of the class struggle by slowing down capital construction.

They also hold that we should overcome the contradiction between decaying small-scale individualist agricultural economy and large-scale socialist industry not by bringing the development of agriculture up to the level of industry (which is possible only by its transition to socialist forms of farming), but on the contrary, by lowering the temp of the development of industry and thus establishing an equilibrium between them. Stalin himself dealt with this theory in his speech to the Agrarian Conference.

It is supposed,” said Stalin, “that we have a socialist and a capitalist sector, side by side. These two compartments are completely isolated from one another. Each can pursue its own course without affecting the other. It is a geometrical fact that parallel lines do not meet, but the authors of this remarkable theory think that at some time or other these parallels will meet, and when they do, we shall have socialism.”

Whence also arose the struggle against the Bolshevik tempo of industrial development, against rapid industrialization, and the struggle of some years ago to speed up light industry (at the cost of slowing down our plan for rapid capital development), in order to provide the individual peasants immediately with generous supplies of consumption goods, this same struggle aiming at perpetuating the small peasant economy for many years to come. This, in their opinion, would be the guarantee of a swiftly obtained equilibrium between agricultural economy and industry and of a harmonious development towards socialism without any intensification of class conflict.

Marx-Leninist dialectic does not deny external contradictions – the action of one process on another. On the contrary it proceeds from the idea of an indissoluble connection of all processes of actuality and demands a knowledge of the mutual action of processes, their influence on each other, and their mutual penetration.

But whereas mechanism and its theory of equilibrium regard any phenomenon as the result of the external action of processes on each other, and opposes one to the other as external and independent aspects of one and the same process, dialectic sees in the external only a particular form in which the internal manifests itself. Therefore, when we speak of the mutual action of the aspect of one process the dialectician will not be deceived by the moment of independence, of “externality,” of these aspects but will seek to disclose in them, as the basis of their mutual action, as the actual “source of self-movement” of the process, their unifying internal contradiction. And so the dialectician will not classify the qualitatively different and mutually interacting processes as wholly independent and mutually external “systems” and “environments.” Moreover, since dialectic proceeds from the idea of an internal “unity of the world, which is contained in the fact of its being material,” dialectic will see in the mutual action of external processes the mutual action of the diverse forms and degrees of matter alone, which matter is developed in these forms and through their mutual action. Therefore, dialectic will regard the external mutual action of processes as a moment of world development and will never forget that the basic law underlying all moments is that of the unity and conflict of opposites.

There is of course no development of a process apart from its mutual action with other processes. It is a complete distortion of Leninism to represent the doctrine of self-movement, of spontaneous development, as though certain internal principles, locked up as it were and isolated from relations with the environment, were the determining factors in self-movement and provided all the conditions of development. But the external always plays its separate part not as the basis of development, but as one of its necessary conditions, and therefore its influence on a process may be understood only on the basis of a knowledge of those internal contradictions which fundamentally determine the course of development.

Marx-Leninist dialectic does not deny the contradiction of society and nature, but regards it as not the main, not the determining contradiction of social development. When we study history we see in a number of countries that whereas the geographic, climatic conditions, the vegetable and animal world, the natural riches, remained relatively unchanged, yet the social relations were changed, e.g. feudalism was replaced by capitalism.

In the development of any particular social structure, for instance capitalism, dialectic regards the internal contradiction between capitalist productive forces and the capitalist relations of production as the important and determining factor. The contradiction between society and nature exists of course under capitalism, but the particular form of this contradiction is determined not by the properties of the geographical environment but by the basic laws of the development of capitalism. Society, by virtue of its internal law-governance and its development of productive forces, changes the geographical environment by ways and means specific for each social formation. Especially comprehensive was this changing of geographical environment by social man under capitalism with its machine technique and with its social character of production. There is a shortage of forests – the felling of them and their replanting are regulated. There is not enough coal – they substitute “white coal,” i.e. petroleum. There is not enough leather, wool, silk – they make leather, wool and silk artificially. If there is not enough moisture from the atmosphere, they irrigate. The animal and vegetable world is being refashioned, for they are creating new breeds of animals, new types of plants.

If in capitalist society the total amount of change in nature is, in spite of this, extremely limited, then once again this is explained not by the contradiction between society and nature but by capitalist productive relations, which do not permit the fullest possible development of productive forces. Only socialism guarantees such a possibility. The determining role of the social system in this matter of nature and society is clearly seen in the U.S.S.R. to-day, where the unified economic plan makes use of all achievements of science and is changing the face of the whole country.

The contradictions between the capitalist and socialist systems do, of course, influence the development of socialist relationships in the U.S.S.R. But socialist society is developing on the basis of internal laws, on the basis of internal contradictions, and not on the basis of the external contradictions between the capitalist world and ourselves. The development of the U.S.S.R. is by no means subordinate to the development of capitalist world economy as Trotsky thinks. Economic and financial blockade, the refusal of credits, the blocking of Soviet exports, the different forms of diplomatic pressure, etc. – all are in some degree reflected in the development of socialism in the U.S.S.R., but the character and degree of the reflection are determined by the internal contradictions in our country. The degree in which the development of socialism is checked by international capitalism depends on the degree of development and relative strength of the socialist and capitalist elements within the country. The weaker the former and the stronger the latter, the lower will be the tempo of industrialization and collectivization of the country, the feebler the onslaught on the capitalist elements, and the feebler our defence of the socialist front-line trenches. The stronger the force of kulakism, of N.E.P. in our country, the wider the net of our enemies. The greater the bureaucratism, the stronger the influence of opportunism in our ranks – so much the more vulnerable are we. In fact the degree in which our movement can be hampered by international capitalism depends in the last resort upon ourselves, upon the internal conditions of the country, and it would be completely untrue to attribute the rate of transition or the forms of transition to the varying influences of the capitalist world upon the Soviet Union.

A clear proof of this proposition and one which upsets all the assertions of the Trotskyists, is to be found in the fact that the world crisis of capitalism has not fundamentally affected the U.S.S.R. This crisis undoubtedly brought with it a number of complementary difficulties for our task of construction (the worsening conditions of credit, the fall of prices for our export, etc.), but it has had no decisive significance for the construction of socialism.

We are constructing socialism on the basis of the internal force of the country; our development towards socialism and the stages through which we pass are determined by the internal laws of social change. Nay more, the very change in the methods of the attack upon us by imperialism can be understood fundamentally only through a knowledge of our internal development.

Even the issue of the desperate attempts of capitalism to destroy the Soviet Union is determined, in significant and ever greater degree, by the measure of our development and by the strength of the Soviet Union – because international capitalism is riven by internal contradictions, and the growth of socialism in the Soviet Union and the significant development of the forces of world proletarian revolution intensify these contradictions.

The full victory of socialism in our country has a decisive importance also for the final victory of socialism.

And so we see that external contradictions certainly influence the development of a process; that such contradictions, however, are only overcome by the internal self-development of that process itself.

The theory of equilibrium ignores the specific properties, the qualitative peculiarity, of the process and its aspects. It replaces qualitative analysis with a purely mechanistic view and mechanistically derives one phenomenon from another.

The theory of equilibrium, by ignoring the concrete content of a process and the necessity of disclosing its “source of self-movement,” by belittling the latter or seeking to find the source of movement outside the given process, leads, on the one hand, to an abstract rationalistic approach to questions altogether too general to be of use, and on the other hand, to an empty schematism or to plain empiricism, which fails to penetrate to the heart of things. This ambiguity is characteristic also of our “Rights.” Thus on the one hand they approach the questions of Soviet economy abstractly, they do not analyse the concrete conditions, phases and stages of its development, they cannot understand how the conditions and possibilities of a new phenomenon are created, they do not notice that a new stage of development sets questions in a new way, resolves its contradictions in a new way. On the other hand, by proceeding from the theory of establishing equilibrium, by levelling down to the weak spots in national economy, they arrive at a narrow practicality, aiming at quickly establishing some sort of balance between socialist industry and peasant production, a balance which they would attain by encouraging kulakism and restoring capitalism.

The theory of equilibrium proceeds from the view-point of the reconciliation of opposites. For the upholders of this theory the state of equilibrium is the phase when opposites are reconciled. The: upholders of this theory perpetuate the unity of opposites in their old form. They hold that unity cannot be removed by internal forces, it is to be removed only by external action. For them the Leninist proposition of the absoluteness of the conflict of opposites is a door with seven seals!

The theory of equilibrium, which so greatly exaggerates the relative independence of processes and their aspects, which slurs over the internal contradiction of a process, which preaches the reconciliation of opposites, is the theoretical basis of right-opportunism and of many hostile groups and therefore in its class essence is the theory of the restoration of capitalism.

The Deborin group with their tardy criticism of the theory of equilibrium were quite unable to refute it. Apart from the fact that their criticism was too general and abstract, they did not even criticize the theory of equilibrium for its main defects; firstly for its failure to acknowledge the fact that a process is from beginning to end developed by way of contradictions, and secondly for its reconciliation of opposites. They could not finally refute the theory of equilibrium because their own understanding of the law of unity of opposites is almost identical with that theory. Like the mechanists they hold that contradiction is not part of a process at the moment of its emergence, but only at a certain stage of its development. Whence follows the conclusion, which they themselves are afraid to draw, that up till this moment a process develops as the result of external forces. Like the supporters of the theory which we have been discussing, they share the reformist view of reconciliation of opposites.

Click here to return to the Archives Material

Click here to go to Section III of Marxist Philosophy