[This hitherto unpublished article by Comrade N Sanmugathasan was written in 1986 to mark the 10th death anniversary of Comrade Mao Zedong. It is presented unedited here in view of its continuing relevance.]
| Some Thoughts on Mao’s Philosophy |
Comrade N. Sanmugathasan
Comrade Mao Tse-tung was not only a great Marxist-Leninist revolutionary but also a great philosopher. It is not possible within the scope of a single article to analyse all of Mao's contributions to philosophy. I shall try to dwell on one or two basic points of Mao's philosophy.
One of Mao's main philosophical works is his essay 'On Contradiction', in which he deals with the universality of contradiction in men and matter and how development takes place as a result of clash of the contradictions that are always present. The first sentence of this essay states: "The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the basic law of materialist dialectics". It is a most profound statement.
Simply, this law means that motion is inherent in all forms of matter and that motion, i.e. development, takes place as a result of the development and clash of contradictions that are always present, and, further, between the different aspects of each contradiction there is both identity and struggle; and that, through the process of developing contradictions, a thing or a phenomenon changes into its opposite. Thus, Comrade Mao Tse-tung in one sentence explained the basic law of materialist dialectics.
A most systematic exposition of Marxist dialectics by one of the founders of scientific socialism, Engels, is to be found in one of his most famous works 'Anti-Dühring'. This is a very important book because it refutes all forms of fallacies spread so assiduously by Dühring. The most important mistake of Dühring was that he had negated the law of contradiction. He held that contradictions were only artificial.
Engels made a comprehensive criticism of Dühring and refuted his wrong theories. He established the fact that the law of contradiction was an objective law of matter. He stated that movement is contradiction, that is to say, things are moving and developing because of inherent contradictions; and that by the law of contradictions we mean the law of the unity of opposites.
In his book 'Science of Logic', Hegel has stated that there were three basic laws in dialectics. They were (1) the law that qualitative and quantitative changes give rise to one another; (2) the law of the unity of opposites; and (3) the law of the negation of the negation.
These were three basic laws of dialectics put forward by Hegel. Marx and Engels recognised and affirmed these three basic laws, but put them in the opposite order. Hegel had presented these laws as not as the laws of objective dialectics but of subjective dialectics. He did not regard these laws as inherent in objective things but only as the laws governing man's thinking, i.e. in the logic of the thinking of men. In other words, Hegel interpreted dialectics from an idealist point of view.
However, according to Marx and Engels, the law of contradiction, i.e. the law of the unity of the opposites was a law that is inherent in objective things whereas man's knowledge of contradictions is but a reflection of the objective law, in man's thinking. Therefore, Marx and Engels had satirised Hegel and pointed out that he stood truth on its head.
Marx and Engels reversed this position and pointed out that these laws of dialectics are inherent in objective things. This was made clear by Engels in his 'Anti-Dühring' and 'Dialectics of Nature'.
In Lenin's time, the question arose as to which of these three laws is the most basic. Comrade Mao Tse-tung refers to Lenin's article 'On the Question of Dialectics' and points out that "Lenin often called this law (i.e. the law of contradiction) the essence of dialectics.
Although Lenin pointed out that this law was the kernel of dialectics, he did not live long enough to point out the relationship between this kernel and the other two laws of dialectics.
Later, the philosophical circles of the USSR put these three laws in different orders. In 1938, in the 'Short History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union', Stalin put the law of the unity of the opposites as the last one instead of the first one.
Comrade Mao Tse-tung systematically studied the laws of Marxist-Leninist dialectics and has developed Lenin's thesis, in his 'Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People'
In this work, Mao deals with the question of how to handle contradictions among the people as opposed to how to handle contradictions between the enemy and ourselves. He also deals with the theory of how contradictions of different nature can be converted into each other. He also uses the law of contradiction to explain how to deal with struggles between different views and ideas inside the party.