The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity
of opposites, is the basic law of materialist dialectics. Lenin said, "Dialectics in
the proper sense is the study of contradiction in the very essence of objects.''  Lenin often called this law the essence of dialectics; he also called
it the kernel of dialectics.  In studying this law, therefore, we
cannot but touch upon a variety of questions, upon a number of philosophical problems. If
we can become clear on all these problems, we shall arrive at a fundamental understanding
of materialist dialectics. The problems are: the two world outlooks, the universality of
contradiction, the particularity of contradiction, the principal contradiction and the
principal aspect of a contradiction, the identity and struggle of the aspects of a
contradiction, and the place of antagonism in contradiction.
The criticism to which the
idealism of the Deborin school has been subjected in Soviet philosophical circles in
recent years has aroused great interest among us. Deborin's idealism has exerted a very
bad influence in the Chinese Communist Party, and it cannot be said that the dogmatist
thinking in our Party is unrelated to the approach of that school. Our present study of
philosophy should therefore have the eradication of dogmatist thinking as its main
I. THE TWO WORLD OUTLOOKS
Throughout the history of human knowledge, there have been two
conceptions concerning the law of development of the universe, the metaphysical conception
and the dialectical conception, which form two opposing world outlooks. Lenin said:
- The two basic (or two possible? or two historically observable?) conceptions of
development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and
development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive
opposites and their reciprocal relation). 
Here Lenin was referring to these two different world outlooks.
In China another name for metaphysics is hsuan-hsueh. For a long period in
history whether in China or in Europe, this way of thinking, which is part and parcel of
the idealist world outlook, occupied a dominant position in human thought. In Europe, the
materialism of the bourgeoisie in its early days was also metaphysical. As the social
economy of many European countries advanced to the stage of highly developed capitalism,
as the forces of production, the class struggle and the sciences developed to a level
unprecedented in history, and as the industrial proletariat became the greatest motive
force in historical development, there arose the Marxist world outlook of materialist
dialectics. Then, in addition to open and barefaced reactionary idealism, vulgar
evolutionism emerged among the bourgeoisie to oppose materialist dialectics.
The metaphysical or vulgar evolutionist world outlook sees things as isolated, static
and one-sided. It regards all things in the universe, their forms and their species, as
eternally isolated from one another and immutable. Such change as there is can only be an
increase or decrease in quantity or a change of place. Moreover, the cause of such an
increase or decrease or change of place is not inside things but outside them, that is,
the motive force is external. Metaphysicians hold that all the different kinds of things
in the universe and all their characteristics have been the same ever since they first
came into being. All subsequent changes have simply been increases or decreases in
quantity. They contend that a thing can only keep on repeating itself as the same kind of
thing and cannot change into anything different. In their opinion, capitalist
exploitation, capitalist competition, the individualist ideology of capitalist society,
and so on, can all be found in ancient slave society, or even in primitive society, and
will exist for ever unchanged. They ascribe the causes of social development to factors
external to society, such as geography and climate. They search in an over-simplified way
outside a thing for the causes of its development, and they deny the theory of materialist
dialectics which holds that development arises from the contradictions inside a thing.
Consequently they can explain neither the qualitative diversity of things, nor the
phenomenon of one quality changing into another. In Europe, this mode of thinking existed
as mechanical materialism in the 17th and 18th centuries and as vulgar evolutionism at the
end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. In China, there was the
metaphysical thinking exemplified in the saying "Heaven changeth not, likewise the
Tao changeth not",  and it was supported by the decadent feudal
ruling classes for a long time. Mechanical materialism and vulgar evolutionism, which were
imported from Europe in the last hundred gears, are supported by the bourgeoisie.
As opposed to the metaphysical world outlook, the world outlook of materialist
dialectics holds that in order to understand the development of a thing we should study it
internally and in its relations with other things; in other words, the development of
things should be seen as their internal and necessary self-movement, while each thing in
its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it. The fundamental
cause of the development of a thing is not external but internal; it lies in the
contradictoriness within the thing. There is internal contradiction in every single thing,
hence its motion and development. Contradictoriness within a thing is the fundamental
cause of its development, while its interrelations and interactions with other things are
secondary causes. Thus materialist dialectics effectively combats the theory of external
causes, or of an external motive force, advanced by metaphysical mechanical materialism
and vulgar evolutionism. It is evident that purely external causes can only give rise to
mechanical motion, that is, to changes in scale or quantity, but cannot explain why things
differ qualitatively in thousands of ways and why one thing changes into another. As a
matter of fact, even mechanical motion under external force occurs through the internal
contradictoriness of things. Simple growth in plants and animals, their quantitative
development, is likewise chiefly the result of their internal contradictions. Similarly,
social development is due chiefly not to external but to internal causes. Countries with
almost the same geographical and climatic conditions display great diversity and
unevenness in their development. Moreover, great social changes may take place in one and
the same country although its geography and climate remain unchanged. Imperialist Russia
changed into the socialist Soviet Union, and feudal Japan, which had locked its doors
against the world, changed into imperialist Japan, although no change occurred in the
geography and climate of either country. Long dominated by feudalism, China has undergone
great changes in the last hundred years and is now changing in the direction of a new
China, liberated and-free, and yet no change has occurred in her geography and climate.
Changes do take place in the geography and climate of the earth as a whole and in every
part of it, but they are insignificant when compared with changes in society; geographical
and climatic changes manifest themselves in terms of tens of thousands of years, while
social changes manifest themselves in thousands, hundreds or tens of years, and even in a
few years or months in times of revolution. According to materialist dialectics, changes
in nature are due chiefly to the development of the internal contradictions in nature.
Changes in society are due chiefly to the development of the internal contradictions in
society, that is, the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of
production, the contradiction between classes and the contradiction between the old and
the new; it is the development of these contradictions that pushes society forward and
gives the impetus for the supersession of the old society by the new. Does materialist
dialectics exclude external causes? Not at all. It holds that external causes are the
condition of change and internal causes are the basis of change, and that external causes
become operative through internal causes. In a suitable temperature an egg changes into a
chicken, but no temperature can change a stone into a chicken, because each has a
different basis. There is constant interaction between the peoples of different countries.
In the era of capitalism, and especially in the era of imperialism and proletarian
revolution, the interaction and mutual impact of different countries in the political,
economic and cultural spheres are extremely great. The October Socialist Revolution
ushered in a new epoch in world history as well as in Russian history. It exerted
influence on internal changes in the other countries in the world and, similarly and in a
particularly profound way, on internal changes in China. These changes, however, were
effected through the inner laws of development of these countries, China included. In
battle, one army is victorious and the other is defeated, both the victory and the defeat
are determined by internal causes The one is victorious either because it is strong or
because of its competent generalship, the other is vanquished either because it is weak or
because of its incompetent generalship; it is through internal causes that external causes
become operative. In China in 1927, the defeat of the proletariat by the big bourgeoisie
came about through the opportunism then to be found within the Chinese proletariat itself
(inside the Chinese Communist Party). When we liquidated this opportunism, the Chinese
revolution resumed its advance. Later, the Chinese revolution again suffered severe
setbacks at the hands of the enemy, because adventurism had risen within our Party. When
we liquidated this adventurism, our cause advanced once again. Thus it can be seen that to
lead the revolution to victory, a political party must depend on the correctness of its
own political line and the solidity of its own organization.
The dialectical world outlook emerged in ancient times both in China and in Europe.
Ancient dialectics, however, had a somewhat spontaneous and naive character; in the social
and historical conditions then prevailing, it was not yet able to form a theoretical
system, hence it could not fully explain the world and was supplanted by metaphysics. The
famous German philosopher Hegel, who lived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, made
most important contributions to dialectics, but his dialectics was idealist. It was not
until Marx and Engels, the great protagonists of the proletarian movement, had synthesized
the positive achievements in the history of human knowledge and, in particular, critically
absorbed the rational elements of Hegelian dialectics and created the great theory of
dialectical and historical materialism that an unprecedented revolution occurred in the
history of human knowledge. This theory was further developed by Lenin and Stalin. As soon
as it spread to China, it wrought tremendous changes in the world of Chinese thought.
This dialectical world outlook teaches us primarily how to observe and analyse the
movement of opposites in different things and, on the basis of such analysis, to indicate
the methods for resolving contradictions. It is therefore most important for us to
understand the law of contradiction in things in a concrete way.
II. THE UNIVERSALITY OF CONTRADICTION
For convenience of exposition, I shall deal first with the
universality of contradiction and then proceed to the particularity of contradiction. The
reason is that the universality of contradiction can be explained more briefly, for it has
been widely recognized ever since the materialist-dialectical world outlook was discovered
and materialist dialectics applied with outstanding success to analysing many aspects of
human history and natural history and to changing many aspects of society and nature (as
in the Soviet Union) by the great creators and continuers of Marxism -- Marx, Engels,
Lenin and Stalin; whereas the particularity of contradiction is still not dearly
understood by many comrades, and especially by the dogmatists. They do not understand that
it is precisely in the particularity of contradiction that the universality of
contradiction resides. Nor do they understand how important is the study of the
particularity of contradiction in the concrete things confronting us for guiding the
course of revolutionary practice. Therefore, it is necessary to stress the study of the
particularity of contradiction and to explain it at adequate length. For this reason, in
our analysis of the law of contradiction in things, we shall first analyse the
universality of contradiction, then place special stress on analysing the particularity of
contradiction, and finally return to the universality of contradiction.
The universality or absoluteness of contradiction has a twofold meaning. One is that
contradiction exists in the process of development of all things, and the other is that in
the process of development of each thing a movement of opposites exists from beginning to
Engels said, "Motion itself is a contradiction."  Lenin
defined the law of the unity of opposites as "the recognition (discovery) of the
contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and
processes of nature (including mind and society)".  Are
these ideas correct? Yes, they are. The interdependence of the contradictory aspects
present in all things and the struggle between these aspects determine the life of all
things and push their development forward. There is nothing that does not contain
contradiction; without contradiction nothing would exist.
Contradiction is the basis of the simple forms of motion (for instance, mechanical
motion) and still more so of the complex forms of motion.
Engels explained the universality of contradiction as follows:
- If simple mechanical change of place contains a contradiction, this is even more true of
the higher forms of motion of matter, and especially of organic life and its development.
... life consists precisely and primarily in this -- that a being is at each moment itself
and yet something else. Life is therefore also a contradiction which is present in things
and processes themselves, and which constantly originates and resolves itself; and as soon
as the contradiction ceases, life, too, comes to an end, and death steps in. We likewise
saw that also in the sphere of thought we could not escape contradictions, and that for
example the contradiction between man's inherently unlimited capacity for knowledge and
its actual presence only in men who are externally limited and possess limited cognition
finds its solution in what is -- at least practically, for us -- an endless succession of
generations, in infinite progress.
... one of the basic principles of higher
mathematics is the contradiction that in certain circumstances straight lines and curves
may be the same....
But even lower mathematics teems with contradictions. 
Lenin illustrated the universality of contradiction as follows:
- In mathematics: + and -- . Differential and integral.
In mechanics: action and
In physics: positive and negative electricity.
In chemistry: the combination and dissociation of atoms.
In social science: the class struggle. 
In war, offence and defence, advance and retreat, victory and defeat are all mutually
contradictory phenomena. One cannot exist without the other. The two aspects are at once
in conflict and in interdependence, and this constitutes the totality of a war,
pushes its development forward and solves its problems.
Every difference in men's concepts should be regarded as reflecting an objective
contradiction. Objective contradictions are reflected in subjective thinking, and this
process constitutes the contradictory movement of concepts, pushes forward the development
of thought, and ceaselessly solves problems in man's thinking.
Opposition and struggle between ideas of different kinds constantly occur within the
Party; this is a reflection within the Party of contradictions between classes and between
the new and the old in society. If there were no contradictions in the Party and no
ideological struggle& to resolve them, the Party's life would come to an end.
Thus it is already clear that contradiction exists universally and in all processes,
whether in the simple or in the complex forms of motion, whether in objective phenomena or
ideological phenomena. But does contradiction also exist at the initial stage of each
Is there a movement of opposites from beginning to end in the process of development of
every single thing?
As can be seen from the articles written by Soviet philosophers criticizing it, the
Deborin school maintains that contradiction appears not at the inception of a process but
only when it has developed to a certain stage. If this were the case, then the cause of
the development of the process before that stage would be external and not internal.
Deborin thus reverts to the metaphysical theories of external causality and of mechanism.
Applying this view in the analysis of concrete problems, the Deborin school sees only
differences but not contradictions between the kulaks and the peasants in general under
existing conditions in the Soviet Union, thus entirely agreeing with Bukharin. In
analysing the French Revolution, it holds that before the Revolution there were likewise
only differences but not contradictions within the Third Estate, which was composed of the
workers, the peasants and the bourgeoisie. These views of the Deborin school are
anti-Marxist. This school does not understand that each and every difference already
contains contradiction and that difference itself is contradiction. Labour and capital
have been in contradiction ever since the two classes came into being, only at first the
contradiction had not yet become intense. Even under the social conditions existing in the
Soviet Union, there is a difference between workers and peasants and this very difference
is a contradiction, although, unlike the contradiction between labour and capital, it will
not become intensified into antagonism or assume the form of class struggle; the workers
and the peasants have established a firm alliance in the course of socialist construction
and are gradually resolving this contradiction in the course of the advance from socialism
to communism. The question is one of different kinds of contradiction, not of the presence
or absence of contradiction. Contradiction is universal and absolute, it is present in the
process of development of all things and permeates every process from beginning to end.
What is meant by the emergence of a new process? The old unity with its constituent
opposites yields to a new unity with its constituent opposites, whereupon a new process
emerges to replace the old. The old process ends and the new one begins. The new process
contains new contradictions and begins its own history of the development of
As Lenin pointed out, Marx in his Capital gave a model analysis of this movement
of opposites which runs through the process of development of things from beginning to
end. This is the method that must be employed in studying the development of all things.
Lenin, too, employed this method correctly and adhered to it in all his writings.
In his Capital, Marx first analyses the simplest, most ordinary and fundamental,
most common and everyday relation of bourgeois (commodity) society, a relation
encountered billions of times, viz. the exchange of commodities. In this very simple
phenomenon (in this "cell" of bourgeois society) analysis reveals all the
contradictions (or the germs of all the contradictions) of modern society. The
subsequent exposition shows us the development (both growth and movement) of
these contradictions and of this society in the [summation] of its individual parts, from
its beginning to its end.
Lenin added, "Such must also be the method of exposition (or study) of dialectics
in general." 
Chinese Communists must learn this method; only then will they be able correctly to
analyse the history and the present state of the Chinese revolution and infer its future.
III. THE PARTICULARITY OF CONTRADICTION
Contradiction is present in the process of development of all
things; it permeates the process of development of each thing from beginning to end. This
is the universality and absoluteness of contradiction which we have discussed above. Now
let us discuss the particularity and relativity of contradiction.
This problem should be studied on several levels.
First, the contradiction in each form of motion of matter has its particularity. Man's
knowledge of matter is knowledge of its forms of motion, because there is nothing in this
world except matter in motion and this motion must assume certain forms. In considering
each form of motion of matter, we must observe the points which it has in common with
other forms of motion. But what is especially important and necessary, constituting as it
does the foundation of our knowledge of a thing, is to observe what is particular to this
form of motion of matter, namely, to observe the qualitative difference between this form
of motion and other forms. Only when we have done so can we distinguish between things.
Every form of motion contains within itself its own particular contradiction. This
particular contradiction constitutes the particular essence which distinguishes one thing
from another. It is the internal cause or, as it may be called, the basis for the immense
variety of things in the world. There are many forms of motion in nature, mechanical
motion, sound, light, heat, electricity, dissociation, combination, and so on. All these
forms are interdependent, but in its essence each is different from the others. The
particular essence of each form of motion is determined by its own particular
contradiction. This holds true not only for nature but also for social and ideological
phenomena. Every form of society, every form of ideology, has its own particular
contradiction and particular essence.
The sciences are differentiated precisely on the basis of the particular contradictions
inherent in their respective objects of study. Thus the contradiction peculiar to a
certain field of phenomena constitutes the object of study for a specific branch of
science. For example, positive and negative numbers in mathematics; action and reaction in
mechanics; positive and negative electricity in physics; dissociation and combination in
chemistry; forces of production and relations of production, classes and class struggle,
in social science; offence and defence in military science; idealism and materialism, the
metaphysical outlook and the dialectical outlook, in philosophy; and so on -- all these
are the objects of study of different branches of science precisely because each branch
has its own particular contradiction and particular essence. Of course, unless we
understand the universality of contradiction, we have no way of discovering the universal
cause or universal basis for the movement or development of things; however, unless we
study the particularity of contradiction, we have no way of determining the particular
essence of a thing which differentiates it from other things, no way of discovering the
particular cause or particular basis for the movement or development of a thing, and no
way of distinguishing one thing from another or of demarcating the fields of science.
As regards the sequence in the movement of man's knowledge, there is always a gradual
growth from the knowledge of individual and particular things to the knowledge of things
in general. Only after man knows the particular essence of many different things can he
proceed to generalization and know the common essence of things.
When man attains the knowledge of this common essence, he uses it as a guide and
proceeds to study various concrete things which have not yet been studied, or studied
thoroughly, and to discover the particular essence of each; only thus is he able to
supplement, enrich and develop his knowledge of their common essence and prevent such
knowledge from withering or petrifying. These are the two processes of cognition: one,
from the particular to the general, and the other, from the general to the particular.
Thus cognition always moves in cycles and (so long as scientific method is strictly
adhered to) each cycle advances human knowledge a step higher and so makes it more and
more profound. Where our dogmatists err on this question is that, on the one hand, they do
not understand that we have to study the particularity of contradiction and know the
particular essence of individual things before we can adequately know the universality of
contradiction and the common essence of things, and that, on the other hand, they do not
understand that after knowing the common essence of things, we must go further and study
the concrete things that have not yet been thoroughly studied or have only just emerged.
Our dogmatists are lazy-bones. They refuse to undertake any painstaking study of concrete
things, they regard general truths as emerging out of the void, they turn them into purely
abstract unfathomable formulas, and thereby completely deny and reverse the normal
sequence by which man comes to know truth. Nor do they understand the interconnection of
the two processes in cognition -- from the particular to the general and then from the
general to the particular. They understand nothing of the Marxist theory of knowledge.
It is necessary not only to study the particular contradiction and the essence
determined thereby of every great system of the forms of motion of matter, but also to
study the particular contradiction and the essence of each process in the long course of
development of each form of motion of matter. In every form of motion, each process of
development which is real (and not imaginary) is qualitatively different. Our study must
emphasize and start from this point.
Qualitatively different contradictions can only be resolved by qualitatively different
methods. For instance, the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is
resolved by the method of socialist revolution; the contradiction between the great masses
of the people and the feudal system is resolved by the method of democratic revolution;
the contradiction between the colonies and imperialism is resolved by the method of
national revolutionary war; the contradiction between the working class and the peasant
class in socialist society is resolved by the method of collectivization and mechanization
in agriculture; contradiction within the Communist Party is resolved by the method of
criticism and self-criticism; the contradiction between society and nature is resolved by
the method of developing the productive forces. Processes change, old processes and old
contradictions disappear, new processes and new contradictions emerge, and the methods of
resolving contradictions differ accordingly. In Russia, there was a fundamental difference
between the contradiction resolved by the February Revolution and the contradiction
resolved by the October Revolution, as well as between the methods used to resolve them.
The principle of using different methods to resolve different contradictions is one which
Marxist-Leninists must strictly observe. The dogmatists do not observe this principle;
they do not understand that conditions differ in different kinds of revolution and so do
not understand that different methods should be used to resolve different contradictions;
on the contrary, they invariably adopt what they imagine to be an unalterable formula and
arbitrarily apply it everywhere, which only causes setbacks to the revolution or makes a
sorry mess of what was originally well done.
In order to reveal the particularity of the contradictions in any process in the
development of a thing, in their totality or interconnections, that is, in order to reveal
the essence of the process, it is necessary to reveal the particularity of the two aspects
of each of the contradictions in that process; otherwise it will be impossible to discover
the essence of the process. This likewise requires the utmost attention in our study.
There are many contradictions in the course of development of any major thing. For
instance, in the course of China's bourgeois-democratic revolution, where the conditions
are exceedingly complex, there exist the contradiction between all the oppressed classes
in Chinese society and imperialism, the contradiction between the great masses of the
people and feudalism, the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the
contradiction between the peasantry and the urban petty bourgeoisie on the one hand and
the bourgeoisie on the other, the contradiction between the various reactionary ruling
groups, and so on. These contradictions cannot be treated in the same way since each has
its own particularity; moreover, the two aspects of each contradiction cannot be treated
in the same way since each aspect has its own characteristics. We who are engages in the
Chinese revolution should not only understand the particularity of these contradictions in
their totality, that is, in their interconnections, but should also study the two aspects
of each contradiction as the only means of understanding the totality. When we speak of
understanding each aspect of a contradiction, we mean understanding what specific position
each aspect occupies, what concrete forms it assumes in its interdependence and in its
contradiction with its opposite, and what concrete methods are employed in the struggle
with its opposite, when the two are both interdependent and in contradiction, and also
after the interdependence breaks down. It is of great importance to study these problems.
Lenin meant just this when he said that the most essential thing in Marxism, the living
soul of Marxism, is the concrete analysis of concrete conditions. 
Our dogmatists have violated Lenin's teachings; they never use their brains to analyse
anything concretely, and in their writings and speeches they always use stereotypes devoid
of content, thereby creating a very bad style of work in our Party.
In studying a problem, we must shun subjectivity, one-sidedness and superficiality. To
be subjective means not to look at problems objectively, that is, not to use the
materialist viewpoint in looking at problems. I have discussed this in my essay "On
Practice". To be one-sided means not to look at problems all-sidedly, for example, to
understand only China but not Japan, only the Communist Party but not the Kuomintang, only
the proletariat but not the bourgeoisie, only the peasants but not the landlords, only the
favourable conditions but not the difficult ones, only the past but not the future, only
individual parts but not the whole, only the defects but not the achievements, only the
plaintiff's case but not the defendant's, only underground revolutionary work but not open
revolutionary work, and so on. In a word, it means not to understand the characteristics
of both aspects of a contradiction. This is what we mean by looking at a problem
one-sidedly. Or it may be called seeing the part but not the whole, seeing the trees but
not the forest. That way it is impossible to kind the method for resolving a
contradiction, it is impossible to accomplish the tasks of the revolution, to carry out
assignments well or to develop inner-Party ideological struggle correctly. When Sun Wu Tzu
said in discussing military science, "Know the enemy and know yourself, and you can
fight a hundred battles with no danger of defeat'',  he was
referring to the two sides in a battle. Wei Chengi  of the Tang
Dynasty also understood the error of one-sidedness when he said, "Listen to both
sides and you will be enlightened, heed only one side and you will be benighted." But
our comrades often look at problems one-sidedly, and so they often run into snags. In the
novel Shui Hu Chuan, Sung Chiang thrice attacked Chu Village. 
Twice he was defeated because he was ignorant of the local conditions and used the wrong
method. Later he changed his method; first he investigated the situation, and he
familiarized himself with the maze of roads, then he broke up the alliance between the Li,
Hu and Chu Villages and sent his men in disguise into the enemy camp to lie in wait, using
a stratagem similar to that of the Trojan Horse in the foreign story. And on the third
occasion he won. There are many examples of materialist dialectics in Shui Hu Chuan,
of which the episode of the three attacks on Chu Village is one of the best. Lenin said:
- ... in order really to know an object we must embrace, study, all its sides, all
connections and "mediations". We shall never achieve this completely, but the
demand for all-sidedness is a safeguard against mistakes and rigidity. 
We should remember his words. To be superficial means to consider neither the
characteristics of a contradiction in its totality nor the characteristics of each of its
aspects; it means to deny the necessity for probing deeply into a thing and minutely
studying the characteristics of its contradiction, but instead merely to look from afar
and, after glimpsing the rough outline, immediately to try to resolve the contradiction
(to answer a question, settle a dispute, handle work, or direct a military operation).
This way of doing things is bound to lead to trouble. The reason the dogmatist and
empiricist comrades in China have made mistakes lies precisely in their subjectivist,
one-sided and superficial way of looking at things. To be one-sided and superficial is at
the same time to be subjective. For all objective things are actually interconnected and
are governed by inner laws, but instead of undertaking the task of reflecting things as
they really are some people only look at things one-sidedly or superficially and who know
neither their interconnections nor their inner laws, and so their method is subjectivist.
Not only does the whole process of the movement of opposites in the development of a
thing, both in their interconnections and in each of the aspects, have particular features
to which we must give attention, but each stage in the process has its particular
features to which we must give attention too.
The fundamental contradiction in the process of development of a thing and the essence
of the process determined by this fundamental contradiction will not disappear until the
process is completed; but in a lengthy process the conditions usually differ at each
stage. The reason is that, although the nature of the fundamental contradiction in the
process of development of a thing and the essence of the process remain unchanged, the
fundamental contradiction becomes more and more intensified as it passes from one stage to
another in the lengthy process. In addition, among the numerous major and minor
contradictions which are determined or influenced by the fundamental contradiction, some
become intensified, some are temporarily or partially resolved or mitigated, and some new
ones emerge; hence the process is marked by stages. If people do not pay attention to the
stages in the process of development of a thing, they cannot deal with its contradictions
For instance, when the capitalism of the era of free competition developed into
imperialism, there was no change in the class nature of the two classes in fundamental
contradiction, namely, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, or in the capitalist essence
of society; however, the contradiction between these two classes became intensified, the
contradiction between monopoly and non-monopoly capital emerged, the contradiction between
the colonial powers and the colonies became intensified, the contradiction among the
capitalist countries resulting from their uneven development manifested itself with
particular sharpness, and thus there arose the special stage of capitalism, the stage of
imperialism. Leninism is the Marxism of the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution
precisely because Lenin and Stalin have correctly explained these contradictions and
correctly formulated the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution for their
Take the process of China's bourgeois-democratic revolution, which began with the
Revolution of 1911; it, too, has several distinct stages. In particular, the revolution in
its period of bourgeois leadership and the revolution in its period of proletarian
leadership represent two vastly different historical stages. In other words, proletarian
leadership has fundamentally changed the whole face of the revolution, has brought about a
new alignment of classes, given rise to a tremendous upsurge in the peasant revolution,
imparted thoroughness to the revolution against imperialism and feudalism, created the
possibility of the transition from the democratic revolution to the socialist revolution,
and so on. None of these was possible in the period when the revolution was under
bourgeois leadership. Although no change has taken place in the nature of the fundamental
contradiction in the process as a whole, i.e., in the anti-imperialist,
anti-feudal, democratic-revolutionary nature of the process (the opposite of which is its
semi-colonial and semi-feudal nature), nonetheless this process has passed through several
stages of development in the course of more than twenty years; during this time many great
events have taken place -- the failure of the Revolution of 1911 and the establishment of
the regime of the Northern warlords, the formation of the first national united front and
the revolution of 1924-27, the break-up of the united front and the desertion of the
bourgeoisie to the side of the counterrevolution, the wars among the new warlords, the
Agrarian Revolutionary War, the establishment of the second national united front and the
War of Resistance Against Japan. These stages are marked by particular features such as
the intensification of certain contradictions (e.g., the Agrarian Revolutionary War
and the Japanese invasion of the four northeastern provinces), the partial or temporary
resolution of other contradictions (e.g., the destruction of the Northern warlords
and our confiscation of the land of the landlords), and the emergence of yet other
contradictions (e.g., the conflicts among the new warlords, and the landlords'
recapture of the land after the loss of our revolutionary base areas in the south).
In studying the particularities of the contradictions at each stage in the process of
development of a thing, we must not only observe them in their interconnections or their
totality, we must also examine the two aspects of each contradiction.
For instance, consider the Kuomintang and the Communist Party. Take one aspect, the
Kuomintang. In the period of the first united front, the Kuomintang carried out Sun
Yat-sen's Three Great Policies of alliance with Russia, co-operation with the Communist
Party, and assistance to the peasants and workers; hence it was revolutionary and
vigorous, it was an alliance of various classes for the democratic revolution. After 1927,
however, the Kuomintang changed into its opposite and became a reactionary bloc of the
landlords and big bourgeoisie. After the Sian Incident in December 1936, it began another
change in the direction of ending the civil war and co-operating with the Communist Party
for joint opposition to Japanese imperialism. Such have been the particular features of
the Kuomintang in the three stages. Of course, these features have arisen from a variety
of causes. Now take the other aspect, the Chinese Communist Party. In the period of the
first united front, the Chinese Communist Party was in its infancy; it courageously led
the revolution of 1924-27 but revealed its immaturity in its understanding of the
character, the tasks and the methods of the revolution, and consequently it became
possible for Chen Tu-hsiuism, which appeared during the latter part of this revolution, to
assert itself and bring about the defeat of the revolution. After 1927, the Communist
Party courageously led the Agrarian Revolutionary War and created the revolutionary army
and revolutionary base areas; however, it committed adventurist errors which brought about
very great losses both to the army and to the base areas. Since 1935 the Party has
corrected these errors and has been leading the new united front for resistance to Japan;
this great struggle is now developing. At the present stage, the Communist Party is a
Party that has gone through the test of two revolutions and acquired a wealth of
experience. Such have been the particular features of the Chinese Communist Party in the
three stages. These features, too, have arisen from a variety of causes. Without studying
both these sets of features we cannot understand the particular relations between the two
parties during the various stages of their development, namely, the establishment of a
united front, the break-up of the united front, and the establishment of another united
front. What is even more fundamental for the study of the particular features of the two
parties is the examination of the class basis of the two parties and the resultant
contradictions which have arisen between each party and other forces at different periods.
For instance, in the period of its first cooperation with the Communist Party, the
Kuomintang stood in contradiction to foreign imperialism and was therefore
anti-imperialist; on the other hand, it stood in contradiction to the great masses of the
people within the country -- although in words it promised many benefits to the working
people, in fact it gave them little or nothing. In the period when it carried on the
anti-Communist war, the Kuomintang collaborated with imperialism and feudalism against the
great masses of the people and wiped out all the gains they had won in the revolution, and
thereby intensified its contradictions with them. In the present period of the
anti-Japanese war, the Kuomintang stands in contradiction to Japanese imperialism and
wants co-operation with the Communist Party, without however relaxing its struggle against
the Communist Party and the people or its oppression of them. As for the Communist Party,
it has always, in every period, stood with the great masses of the people against
imperialism and feudalism, but in the present period of the anti-Japanese war, it has
adopted a moderate policy towards the Kuomintang and the domestic feudal forces because
the Kuomintang has «pressed itself in favour of resisting Japan. The above circumstances
have resulted now in alliance between the two parties and now in struggle between them,
and even during the periods of alliance there has been a complicated state of simultaneous
alliance and struggle. If we do not study the particular features of both aspects of the
contradiction, we shall fail to understand not only the relations of each party with the
other forces, but also the relations between the two parties.
It can thus be seen that in studying the particularity of any kind of contradiction --
the contradiction in each form of motion of matter, the contradiction in each of its
processes of development, the two aspects of the contradiction in each process, the
contradiction at each stage of a process, and the two aspects of the contradiction at each
stage -- in studying the particularity of all these contradictions, we must not be
subjective and arbitrary but must analyse it concretely. Without concrete analysis there
can be no knowledge of the particularity of any contradiction. We must always remember
Lenin's words, the concrete analysis of concrete conditions.
Marx and Engels were the first to provide us with excellent models of such concrete
When Marx and Engels applied the law of contradiction in things to the study of the
socio-historical process, they discovered the contradiction between the productive forces
and the relations of production, they discovered the contradiction between the exploiting
and exploited classes and also the resultant contradiction between the economic base and
its superstructure (politics, ideology, etc.), and they discovered how these
contradictions inevitably lead to different kinds of social revolution in different kinds
of class society.
When Marx applied this law to the study of the economic structure of capitalist
society, he discovered that the basic contradiction of this society is the contradiction
between the social character of production and the private character of ownership. This
contradiction manifests itself in the contradiction between the organized character of
production in individual enterprises and the anarchic character of production in society
as a whole. In terms of class relations, it manifests itself in the contradiction between
the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
Because the range of things is vast and there is no limit to their development, what is
universal in one context becomes particular in another. Conversely, what is particular in
one context becomes universal in another. The contradiction in the capitalist system
between the social character of production and the private ownership of the means of
production is common to all countries where capitalism exists and develops; as far as
capitalism is concerned, this constitutes the universality of contradiction. But this
contradiction of capitalism belongs only to a certain historical stage in the general
development of class society; as far as the contradiction between the productive forces
and the relations of production in class society as a whole is concerned, it constitutes
the particularity of contradiction. However, in the course of dissecting the particularity
of all these contradictions in capitalist society, Marx gave a still more profound, more
adequate and more complete elucidation of the universality of the contradiction between
the productive forces and the relations of production in class society in general.
Since the particular is united with the universal and since the universality as well as
the particularity of contradiction is inherent in everything, universality residing in
particularity, we should, when studying an object, try to discover both the particular and
the universal and their interconnection, to discover both particularity and universality
and also their interconnection within the object itself, and to discover the
interconnections of this object with the many objects outside it. When Stalin explained
the historical roots of Leninism in his famous work, The Foundations of Leninism,
he analysed the international situation in which Leninism arose, analysed those
contradictions of capitalism which reached their culmination under imperialism, and showed
how these contradictions made proletarian revolution a matter for immediate action and
created favourable conditions for a direct onslaught on capitalism. What is more, he
analysed the reasons why Russia became the cradle of Leninism, why tsarist Russia became
the focus of all the contradictions of imperialism, and why it was possible for the
Russian proletariat to become the vanguard of the international revolutionary proletariat.
Thus, Stalin analysed the universality of contradiction in imperialism, showing why
Leninism is the Marxism of the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, and at the
same time analysed the particularity of tsarist Russian imperialism within this general
contradiction, showing why Russia became the birthplace of the theory and tactics of
proletarian revolution and how the universality of contradiction is contained in this
particularity. Stalin's analysis provides us with a model for understanding the
particularity and the universality of contradiction and their interconnection.
On the question of using dialectics in the study of objective phenomena, Marx and
Engels, and likewise Lenin and~Stalin, always enjoin people not to be in any way
subjective and arbitrary but, from the concrete conditions in the actual objective
movement of these phenomena, to discover their concrete contradictions, the concrete
position of each aspect of every contradiction and the concrete interrelations of the
contradictions. Our dogmatists do not have this attitude in study and therefore can never
get anything right. We must take warning from their failure and learn to acquire this
attitude, which is the only correct one in study.
The relationship between the universality and the particularity of contradiction is the
relationship between the general character and the individual character of contradiction.
By the former we mean that contradiction exists in and runs through all processes from
beginning to end; motion, things, processes, thinking -- all are contradictions. To deny
contradiction is to deny everything. This is a universal truth for all times and all
countries, which admits of no exception. Hence the general character, the absoluteness of
contradiction. But this general character is contained in every individual character;
without individual character there can be no general character. If all individual
character were removed, what general character would remain? It is because each
contradiction is particular that individual character arises. All individual character
exists conditionally and temporarily, and hence is relative.
This truth concerning general and individual character, concerning absoluteness and
relativity, is the quintessence of the problem of contradiction in things; failure to
understand it is tantamount to abandoning dialectics.
IV. THE PRINCIPAL CONTRADICTION
AND THE PRINCIPAL ASPECT OF A CONTRADICTION
There are still two points in the problem of the particularity
of contradiction which must be singled out for analysis, namely, the principal
contradiction and the principal aspect of a contradiction.
There are many contradictions in the process of development of a complex thing, and one
of them is necessarily the principal contradiction whose existence and development
determine or influence the existence and development of the other contradictions.
For instance, in capitalist society the two forces in contradiction, the proletariat
and the bourgeoisie, form the principal contradiction. The other contradictions, such as
those between the remnant feudal class and the bourgeoisie, between the peasant petty
bourgeoisie ant the bourgeoisie, between the proletariat and the peasant petty
bourgeoisie, between the non-monopoly capitalists and the monopoly capitalists, between
bourgeois democracy and bourgeois fascism, among the capitalist countries and between
imperialism and the colonies, are all determined or influenced by this principal
In a semi-colonial country such as China, the relationship between the principal
contradiction and the non-principal contradictions presents a complicated picture.
When imperialism launches a war of aggression against such a country, all its various
classes, except for some traitors, can temporarily unite in a national war against
imperialism. At such a time, the contradiction between imperialism and the country
concerned becomes the principal contradiction, while all the contradictions among the
various classes within the country (including what was the principal contradiction,
between the feudal system and the great masses of the people) are temporarily relegated to
a secondary and subordinate position. So it was in China in the Opium War of 1840, the
Sino-Japanese War of 1894 and the Yi Ho Tuan War of 1900, and so it is now in the present
But in another situation, the contradictions change position. When imperialism carries
on its oppression not by war, but by milder means -- political, economic and cultural --
the ruling classes in semi-colonial countries capitulate to imperialism, and the two form
an alliance for the joint oppression of the masses of the people. At such a time, the
masses often resort to civil war against the alliance of imperialism and the feudal
classes, while imperialism often employs indirect methods rather than direct action in
helping the reactionaries in the semi-colonial countries to oppress the people, and thus
the internal contradictions become particularly sharp. This is what happened in China in
the Revolutionary War of 1911, the Revolutionary War of 1924-27, and the ten years of
Agrarian Revolutionary War after 1997. Wars among the various reactionary ruling groups in
the semi-colonial countries, e.g., the wars among the warlords in China, fall into the
When a revolutionary civil war develops to the point of threatening the very existence
of imperialism and its running dogs, the domestic reactionaries, imperialism often adopts
other methods in order to maintain its rule; it either tries to split the revolutionary
front from within or sends armed forces to help the domestic reactionaries directly. At
such a time, foreign imperialism and domestic reaction stand quite openly at one pole
while the masses of the people stand at the other pole, thus forming the principal
contradiction which determines or influences the development of the other contradictions.
The assistance given by various capitalist countries to the Russian reactionaries after
the October Revolution is an example of armed intervention. Chiang Kai-shek's betrayal in
1927 is an example of splitting the revolutionary front.
But whatever happens, there is no doubt at all that at every stage in the development
of a process, there is only one principal contradiction which plays the leading role.
Hence, if in any process there are a number of' contradictions, one of them must be the
principal contradiction playing the leading and decisive role, while the rest occupy a
secondary and subordinate position. Therefore, in studying any complex process in which
there are two or more contradictions, we must devote every effort to funding its principal
contradiction. Once this principal contradiction is grasped, all problems can be readily
solved. This is the method Marx taught us in his study of capitalist society. Likewise
Lenin and Stalin taught us this method when they studied imperialism and the general
crisis of capitalism and when they studied the Soviet economy. There are thousands of
scholars and men of action who do not understand it, and the result is that, lost in a
fog, they are unable to get to the heart of a problem and naturally cannot find a way to
resolve its contradictions.
As we have said, one must not treat all the contradictions in a process as being equal
but must distinguish between the principal and the secondary contradictions, and pay
special attention to grasping the principal one. But, in any given contradiction, whether
principal or secondary, should the two contradictory aspects be treated as equal? Again,
no. In any contradiction the development of the contradictory aspects is uneven. Sometimes
they seem to be in equilibrium, which is however only temporary and relative, while
unevenness is basic. Of the two contradictory aspects, one must be principal and the other
secondary. The principal aspect is the one playing the leading role in the contradiction.
The nature of a thing is determined mainly by the principal aspect of a contradiction, the
aspect which has gained the dominant position.
But this situation is not static; the principal and the non-principal aspects of a
contradiction transform themselves into each other and the nature of the thing changes
accordingly. In a given process or at a given stage in the development of a contradiction,
A is the principal aspect and B is the non-principal aspect; at another stage or in
another process the roles are reversed -- a change determined by the extent of the
increase or decrease in the force of each aspect in its struggle against the other in the
course of the development of a thing.
We often speak of "the new superseding the old". The supersession of the old
by the new is a general, eternal and inviolable law of the universe. The transformation of
one thing into another, through leaps of different forms in accordance with its essence
and external conditions -- this is the process of the new superseding the old. In each
thing there is contradiction between its new and its old aspects, and this gives rise to a
series of struggles with many twists and turns. As a result of these struggles, the new
aspect changes from being minor to being major and rises to predominance, while the old
aspect changes from being major to being minor and gradually dies out. And the moment the
new aspect gains dominance over the old, the old thing changes qualitatively into a new
thing. It can thus be seen that the nature of a thing is mainly determined by the
principal aspect of the contradiction, the aspect which has gained predominance. When the
principal aspect which has gained predominance changes, the nature of a thing changes
In capitalist society, capitalism has changed its position from being a subordinate
force in the old feudal era to being the dominant force, and the nature of society has
accordingly changed from feudal to capitalist. In the new, capitalist era, the feudal
forces changed from their former dominant position to a subordinate one, gradually dying
out. Such was the case, for example, in Britain and France. With the development of the
productive forces, the bourgeoisie changes from being a new class playing a progressive
role to being an old class playing a reactionary role, until it is finally overthrown by
the proletariat and becomes a class deprived of privately owned means of production and
stripped of power, when it, too, gradually dies out. The proletariat, which is much more
numerous than the bourgeoisie and grows simultaneously with it but under its rule, is a
new force which, initially subordinate to the bourgeoisie, gradually gains strength,
becomes an independent class playing the leading role in history, and finally seizes
political power and becomes the ruling class. Thereupon the nature of society changes and
the old capitalist society becomes the new socialist society. This is the path already
taken by the Soviet Union, a path that all other countries will inevitably take.
Look at China, for instance. Imperialism occupies the principal position in the
contradiction in which China has been reduced to a semi-colony, it oppresses the Chinese
people, and China has been changed from an independent country into a semi-colonial one.
But this state of affairs will inevitably change; in the struggle between the two sides,
the power of the Chinese people which is growing under the leadership of the proletariat
will inevitably change China from a semi-colony into an independent country, whereas
imperialism will be overthrown and old China will inevitably change into New China.
The change of old China into New China also involves a change in the relation between
the old feudal forces and the new popular forces within the country. The old feudal
landlord class will be overthrown, and from being the ruler it will change into being the
ruled; and this class, too, will gradually die out. From being the ruled the people, led
by the proletariat, will become the rulers. Thereupon, the nature of Chinese society will
change and the old, semi-colonial and semi-feudal society will change into a new
Instances of such reciprocal transformation are found in our past experience. The Ching
Dynasty which ruled China for nearly three hundred years was overthrown in the Revolution
of 1911, and the revolutionary Tung Meng Hui under Sun Yat-sen's leadership was
victorious for a time. In the Revolutionary War of 1924-27, the revolutionary forces of
the Communist-Kuomintang alliance in the south changed from being weak to being strong and
won victory in the Northern Expedition, while the Northern warlords who once ruled the
roost were overthrown. In 1927, the people's forces led by the Communist Party were
greatly reduced numerically under the attacks of Kuomintang reaction, but with the
elimination of opportunism within their ranks they gradually grew again. In the
revolutionary base areas under Communist leadership, the peasants have been transformed
from being the ruled to being the rulers, while the landlords have undergone a reverse
transformation. It is always so in the world, the new displacing the old, the old being
superseded by the new, the old being eliminated to make way for the new, and the new
emerging out of the old.
At certain times in the revolutionary struggle, the difficulties outweigh the
favourable conditions and so constitute the principal aspect of the contradiction and the
favourable conditions constitute the secondary aspect. But through their efforts the
revolutionaries can overcome the difficulties step by step and open up a favourable new
situation; thus a difficult situation yields place to a favourable one. This- is what
happened after the failure of the revolution in China in 1927 and during the Long March of
the Chinese Red Army. In the present Sino-Japanese War, China is again in a difficult
position, but we can change this and fundamentally transform the situation as between
China and Japan. Conversely, favourable conditions can be transformed into difficulty if
the revolutionaries make mistakes. Thus the victory of the revolution of 1924-27 turned
into defeat. The revolutionary base areas which grew up in the southern provinces after
1927 had all suffered defeat by 1934.
When we engage in study, the same holds good for the contradiction in the passage from
ignorance to knowledge. At the very beginning of our study of Marxism, our ignorance of or
scanty acquaintance with Marxism stands in contradiction to knowledge of Marxism. But by
assiduous study, ignorance can be transformed into knowledge, scanty knowledge into
substantial knowledge, and blindness in the application of Marxism into mastery of its
Some people think that this is not true of certain contradictions. For instance, in the
contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production, the
productive forces are the principal aspect; in the contradiction between theory and
practice, practice is the principal aspect; in the contradiction between the economic base
and the superstructure, the economic base is the principal aspect; and there is no change
in their respective positions. This is the mechanical materialist conception, not the
dialectical materialist conception. True, the productive forces, practice and the economic
base generally play the principal and decisive role; whoever denies this is not a
materialist. But it must also be admitted that in certain conditions, such aspects as the
relations of production, theory and the superstructure in turn manifest themselves in the
principal and decisive role. When it is impossible for the productive forces to develop
without a change in the relations of production, then the change in the relations of
production plays the principal and decisive role. The creation and advocacy of
revolutionary theory plays the principal and decisive role in those times of which Lenin
said, "Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.''  When a task, no maker which, has to be performed, but there is as yet
no guiding line, method, plan or policy, the principal and decisive thing is to decide on
a guiding line, method, plan or policy. When the superstructure (politics, culture, etc.)
obstructs the development of the economic base, political and cultural changes become
principal and decisive. Are we going against materialism when we say this? No. The reason
is that while we recognize that in the general development of history the material
determines the mental and social being determines social consciousness, we also -- and
indeed must -- recognize the reaction of mental on material things, of social
consciousness on social being and of the superstructure on the economic base. This does
not go against materialism; on the contrary, it avoids mechanical materialism and firmly
upholds dialectical materialism.
In studying the particularity of contradiction, unless we examine these two facets --
the principal and the non-principal contradictions in a process, and the principal and the
non-principal aspects of a contradiction -- that is, unless we examine the distinctive
character of these two facets of contradiction, we shall get bogged down in abstractions,
be unable to understand contradiction concretely and consequently be unable to find the
correct method of resolving it. The distinctive character or particularity of these two
facets of contradiction represents the unevenness of the forces that are in contradiction.
Nothing in this world develops absolutely evenly; we must oppose the theory of even
development or the theory of equilibrium. Moreover, it is these concrete features of a
contradiction and the changes in the principal and non-principal aspects of a
contradiction in the course of its development that manifest the force of the new
superseding the old. The study of the various states of unevenness in contradictions, of
the principal and non-principal contradictions and of the principal and the non-principal
aspects of a contradiction constitutes an essential method by which a revolutionary
political party correctly determines its strategic and tactical policies both in political
and in military affairs. All Communists must give it attention.
V. THE IDENTITY AND STRUGGLE
OF THE ASPECTS OF A CONTRADICTION
When we understand the universality and the particularity of
contradiction, we must proceed to study the problem of the identity and struggle of the
aspects of a contradiction.
Identity, unity, coincidence, interpenetration, interpermeation, interdependence (or
mutual dependence for existence), interconnection or mutual co-operation -- all these
different terms mean the same thing and refer to the following two points: first,
the existence of each of the two aspects of a contradiction in the process of the
development of a thing presupposes the existence of the other aspect, and both aspects
coexist in a single entity; second, in given conditions, each of the two contradictory
aspects transforms itself into its opposite. This is the meaning of identity.
- Dialectics is the teaching which shows how opposites can be and how they
happen to be (how they become) identical -- under what conditions they are
identical, transforming themselves into one another, -- why the human mind should take
these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, transforming
themselves into one another. 
What does this passage mean?
The contradictory aspects in every process exclude each other, struggle with each other
and are in opposition to each other. Without exception, they are contained in the process
of development of all things and in all human thought. A simple process contains only a
single pair of opposites, while a complex process contains more. And in turn, the pairs of
opposites are in contradiction to one another.)
That is how all things in the objective world and all human thought are constituted and
how they are set in motion.
This being so, there is an utter lack of identity or unity. How then can one speak of
identity or unity?
The fact is that no contradictory aspect can exist in isolation. Without its opposite
aspect, each loses the condition for its existence. Just think, can any one contradictory
aspect of a thing or of a concept in the human mind exist independently? Without life,
there would be no death; without death, there would be no life. Without "above",
there would be no "below") without "below", there would be no
"above". Without misfortune, there would be no good fortune; without good
fortune, these would be no misfortune. Without facility, there would be no difficulty)
without difficulty, there would be no facility. Without landlords, there would be no
tenant-peasants; without tenant-peasants, there would be no landlords. Without the
bourgeoisie, there would be no proletariat; without the proletariat, there would be no
bourgeoisie. Without imperialist oppression of nations, there would be no colonies or
semi-colonies; without colonies or semicolonies, there would be no imperialist oppression
of nations. It is so with all opposites; in given conditions, on the one hand they are
opposed to each other, and on the other they are interconnected, interpenetrating,
interpermeating and interdependent, and this character is described as identity. In given
conditions, all contradictory aspects possess the character of non-identity and hence are
described as being in contradiction. But they also possess the character of identity and
hence are interconnected. This is what Lenin means when he says that dialectics studies
"how opposites can be ... identical". How then can they be
identical? Because each is the condition for the other's existence. This is the first
meaning of identity.
But is it enough to say merely that each of the contradictory aspects is the condition
for the other's existence, that there is identity between them and that consequently they
can coexist in a single entity? No, it is not. The matter does not end with their
dependence on each other for their existence; what is more important is their
transformation into each other. That is to say, in given conditions, each of the
contradictory aspects within a thing transforms itself into its opposite, changes its
position to that of its opposite. This is the second meaning of the identity of
Why is there identity here, too? You see, by means of revolution the proletariat, at
one time the ruled, is transformed into the ruler, while the bourgeoisie, the erstwhile
ruler, is transformed into the ruled and changes its position to that originally occupied
by its opposite. This has already taken place in the Soviet Union, as it will take place
throughout the world. If there were no interconnection and identity of opposites in given
conditions, how could such a change take place?
The Kuomintang, which played a certain positive role at a certain stage in modern
Chinese history, became a counter-revolutionary party after 1927 because of its inherent
class nature and because of imperialist blandishments (these being the conditions); but it
has been compelled to agree to resist Japan because of the sharpening of the contradiction
between China and Japan and because of the Communist Party's policy of the united front
(these being the conditions). Things in contradiction change into one another, and herein
lies a definite identity.
Our agrarian revolution has been a process in which the landlord class owning the land
is transformed into a class that has lost its land, while the peasants who once lost their
land are transformed into small holders who have acquired land, and it will be such a
process once again. In given conditions having and not having, acquiring and losing, are
interconnected; there is identity of the two sides. Under socialism, private peasant
ownership is transformed into the public ownership of socialist agriculture; this has
already taken place in the Soviet Union, as it will take place everywhere else. There is a
bridge leading from private property to public property, which in philosophy is called
identity, or transformation into each other, or interpenetration.
To consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat or the dictatorship of the people is
in fact to prepare the conditions for abolishing this dictatorship and advancing to the
higher stage when all state systems are eliminated. To establish and build the Communist
Party is in fact to prepare the conditions for the elimination of the Communist Party and
all political parties. To build a revolutionary army under the leadership of the Communist
Party and to carry on revolutionary war is in fact to prepare the conditions for the
permanent elimination of war. These opposites are at the same time complementary.
War and peace, as everybody knows, transform themselves into each other. War is
transformed into peace; for instance, the First World War was transformed into the
post-war peace, and the civil war in China has now stopped, giving place to internal
peace. Peace is transformed into war; for instance, the Kuomintang-Communist co-operation
was transformed into war in 1927, and today's situation of world peace may be transformed
into a second world war. Why is this so? Because in class society such contradictory
things as war and peace have an identity in given conditions.
All contradictory things are interconnected; not only do they coexist in a single
entity in given conditions, but in other given conditions, they also transform themselves
into each other. This is the full meaning of the identity of opposites. This is what Lenin
meant when he discussed "how they happen to be (how they become) identical --
under what conditions they are identical, transforming themselves into one another".
Why is it that "the human mind should take these opposites not as dead, rigid, but
as living, conditional, mobile, transforming themselves into one another"? Because
that is just how things are in objective reality. The fact is that the unity or identity
of opposites in objective things is not dead or rigid, but is living, conditional, mobile,
temporary and relative; in given conditions, every contradictory aspect transforms itself
into its opposite. Reflected in man's thinking, this becomes the Marxist world outlook of
materialist dialectics. It is only the reactionary ruling classes of the past and present
and the metaphysicians in their service who regard opposites not as living, conditional,
mobile and transforming themselves into one another, but as dead and rigid, and they
propagate this fallacy everywhere to delude the masses of the people, thus seeking to
perpetuate their rule. The task of Communists is to expose the fallacies of the
reactionaries and metaphysicians, to propagate the dialectics inherent in things, and so
accelerate the transformation of things and achieve the goal of revolution.
In speaking of the identity of opposites in given conditions, what we are referring to
is real and concrete opposites and the real and concrete transformations of opposites into
one another. There are innumerable transformations in mythology, for instance, Kua Fu's
race with the sun in Shan Hai Ching,  Yi's shooting down of
nine suns in Huai Nan Tzu,  the Monkey King's seventy-two
metamorphoses in Hsi Yu Chi,  the numerous episodes of
ghosts and foxes metamorphosed into human beings in the Strange Tales of Liao Chai,
 etc. But these legendary transformations of opposites are not
concrete changes reflecting concrete contradictions. They are naive, imaginary,
subjectively conceived transformations conjured up in men's minds by innumerable real and
complex transformations of opposites into one another. Marx said, "All mythology
masters and dominates and shapes the forces of nature in and through the imagination;
hence it disappears as soon as man gains mastery over the forces of nature.''  The myriads of changes in mythology (and also in nursery tales)
delight people because they imaginatively picture man's conquest of the forces of nature,
and the best myths possess "eternal charm", as Marx put it; but myths are not
built out of the concrete contradictions existing in given conditions and therefore are
not a scientific reflection of reality. That is to say, in myths or nursery tales the
aspects constituting a contradiction have only an imaginary identity, not a concrete
identity. The scientific reflection of the identity in real transformations is Marxist
Why can an egg but not a stone be transformed into a chicken? Why is there identity
between war and peace and none between war and a stone? Why can human beings give birth
only to human beings and not to anything else? The sole reason is that the identity of
opposites exists only in necessary given conditions. Without these necessary given
conditions there can be no identity whatsoever.
Why is it that in Russia in 1917 the bourgeois-democratic February Revolution was
directly linked with the proletarian socialist October Revolution, while in France the
bourgeois revolution was not directly linked with a socialist revolution and the Paris
Commune of 1871 ended in failure? Why is it, on the other hand, that the nomadic system of
Mongolia and Central Asia has been directly linked with socialism? Why is it that the
Chinese revolution can avoid a capitalist future and be directly linked with socialism
without taking the old historical road of the Western countries, without passing through a
period of bourgeois dictatorship? The sole reason is the concrete conditions of the time.
When certain necessary conditions are present, certain contradictions arise in the process
of development of things and, moreover, the opposites contained in them are interdependent
and become transformed into one another; otherwise none of this would be possible.
Such is the problem of identity. What then is struggle? And what is the relation
between identity and struggle?
- The unity (coincidence, identity, equal action) of opposites is conditional, temporary,
transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as
development and motion are absolute. 
What does this passage mean?
All processes have a beginning and an end, all processes transform themselves into
their opposites. The constancy of all processes is relative, but the mutability manifested
in the transformation of one process into another is absolute.
There are two states of motion in all things, that of relative rest and that of
conspicuous change. Both are caused by the struggle between the two contradictory elements
contained in a thing. When the thing is in the first state of motion, it is undergoing
only quantitative and not qualitative change and consequently presents the outward
appearance of being at rest. When the thing is in the second state of motion, the
quantitative change of the first state has already reached a culminating point and gives
rise to the dissolution of the thing as an entity and thereupon a qualitative change
ensues, hence the appearance of a conspicuous change. Such unity, solidarity, combination,
harmony, balance, stalemate, deadlock, rest, constancy, equilibrium, solidity, attraction,
etc., as we see in daily life, are all the appearances of things in the state of
quantitative change. On the other hand, the dissolution of unity, that is, the destruction
of this solidarity, combination, harmony, balance, stalemate, deadlock, rest, constancy,
equilibrium, solidity and attraction, and the change of each into its opposite are all the
appearances of things in the state of qualitative change, the transformation of one
process into another. Things are constantly transforming themselves from the first into
the second state of motion; the struggle of opposites goes on in both states but the
contradiction is resolved through the second state. That is why we say that the unity of
opposites is conditional, temporary and relative, while the struggle of mutually exclusive
opposites is absolute.
When we said above that two opposite things can coexist in a single entity and can
transform themselves into each other because there is identity between them, we were
speaking of conditionality, that is to say, in given conditions two contradictory things
can be united and can transform themselves into each other, but in the absence of these
conditions, they cannot constitute a contradiction, cannot coexist in the same entity and
cannot transform themselves into one another. It is because the identity of opposites
obtains only in given conditions that we have said identity is conditional and relative.
We may add that the struggle between opposites permeates a process from beginning to end
and makes one process transform itself into another, that it is ubiquitous, and that
struggle is therefore unconditional and absolute.
The combination of conditional, relative identity and unconditional, absolute struggle
constitutes the movement of opposites in all things.
We Chinese often say, "Things that oppose each other also complement each
other."  That is, things opposed to each other have identity.
This saying is dialectical and contrary to metaphysics. "Oppose each other"
refers to the mutual exclusion or the struggle of two contradictory aspects.
"Complement each other" means that in given conditions the two contradictory
aspects unite and achieve identity. Yet struggle is inherent in identity and without
struggle there can be no identity.
In identity there is struggle, in particularity there is universality, and in
individuality there is generality. To quote Lenin, "... there is an absolute in the
VI. THE PLACE OF ANTAGONISM IN CONTRADICTION
The question of the struggle of opposites includes the question
of what is antagonism. Our answer is that antagonism is one form, but not the only form,
of the struggle of opposites.
In human history, antagonism between classes exists as a particular manifestation of
the struggle of opposites. Consider the contradiction between the exploiting and the
exploited classes. Such contradictory classes coexist for a long time in the same society,
be it slave society, feudal society or capitalist society, and they struggle with each
other; but it is not until the contradiction between the two classes develops to a certain
stage that it assumes the form of open antagonism and develops into revolution. The same
holds for the transformation of peace into war in class society.
Before it explodes, a bomb is a single entity in which opposites coexist in given
conditions. The explosion takes place only when a new condition, ignition, is present. An
analogous situation arises in all those natural phenomena which finally assume the form of
open conflict to resolve old contradictions and produce new things.
It is highly important to grasp this fact. It enables us to understand that revolutions
and revolutionary wars are inevitable in class society and that without them, it is
impossible to accomplish any leap in social development and to overthrow the reactionary
ruling classes and therefore impossible for the people to win political power. Communists
must expose the deceitful propaganda of the reactionaries, such as the assertion that
social revolution is unnecessary and impossible. They must firmly uphold the
Marxist-Leninist theory of social revolution and enable the people to understand that
social revolution is not only entirely necessary but also entirely practicable, and that
the whole history of mankind and the triumph of the Soviet Union have confirmed this
However, we must make a concrete study of the circumstances of each specific struggle
of opposites and should not arbitrarily apply the formula discussed above to everything.
Contradiction and struggle are universal and absolute, but the methods of resolving
contradictions, that is, the forms of struggle, differ according to the differences in the
nature of the contradictions. Some contradictions are characterized by open antagonism,
others are not. In accordance with the concrete development of things, some contradictions
which were originally non-antagonistic develop into antagonistic ones, while others which
were originally antagonistic develop into nonantagonistic ones.
As already mentioned, so long as classes exist, contradictions between correct and
incorrect ideas in the Communist Party are reflections within the Party of class
contradictions. At first, with regard to certain issues, such contradictions may not
manifest themselves as antagonistic. But with the development of the class struggle, they
may grow and become antagonistic. The history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
shows us that the contradictions between the correct thinking of Lenin and Stalin and the
fallacious thinking of Trotsky, Bukharin and others did not at first manifest themselves
in an antagonistic form, but that later they did develop into antagonism. There are
similar cases in the history of the Chinese Communist Party. At first the contradictions
between the correct thinking of many of our Party comrades and the fallacious thinking of
Chen Tu-hsiu, Chang Kuo-tao and others also did not manifest themselves in an antagonistic
form, but later they did develop into antagonism. At present the contradiction between
correct and incorrect thinking in our Party does not manifest itself in an antagonistic
form, and if comrades who have committed mistakes can correct them, it will not develop
into antagonism. Therefore, the Party must on the one hand wage a serious struggle against
erroneous thinking, and on the other give the comrades who have committed errors ample
opportunity to wake up. This being the case, excessive struggle is obviously
inappropriate. But if the people who have committed errors persist in them and aggravate
them, there is the possibility that this contradiction will develop into antagonism.
Economically, the contradiction between town and country is an extremely antagonistic
one both in capitalist society, where under the rule of the bourgeoisie the towns
ruthlessly plunder the countryside, and in the Kuomintang areas in China, where under the
rule of foreign imperialism and the Chinese big comprador bourgeoisie the towns most
rapaciously plunder the countryside. But in a socialist country and in our revolutionary
base areas, this antagonistic contradiction has changed into one that is non-antagonistic;
and when communist society is reached it will be abolished.
Lenin said, "Antagonism and contradiction are not at all one and the same. Under
socialism, the first will disappear, the second will remain." 
That is to say, antagonism is one form, but not the only form, of the struggle of
opposites; the formula of antagonism cannot be arbitrarily applied everywhere.
We may now say a few words to sum up. The law of contradiction
in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the fundamental law of nature
and of society and therefore also the fundamental law of thought. It stands opposed to the
metaphysical world outlook. It represents a great revolution in the history of human
knowledge. According to dialectical materialism, contradiction is present in all processes
of objectively existing things and of subjective thought and permeates all these processes
from beginning to end; this is the universality and absoluteness of contradiction. Each
contradiction and each of its aspects have their respective characteristics; this is the
particularity and relativity of contradiction. In given conditions, opposites possess
identity, and consequently can coexist in a single entity and can transform themselves
into each other; this again is the particularity and relativity of contradiction. But the
struggle of opposites is ceaseless, it goes on both when the opposites are coexisting and
when they are transforming themselves into each other, and becomes especially conspicuous
when they are transforming themselves into one another; this again is the universality and
absoluteness of contradiction. In studying the particularity and relativity of
contradiction, we must give attention to the distinction between the principal
contradiction and the non-principal contradictions and to the distinction between the
principal aspect and the non-principal aspect of a contradiction; in studying the
universality of contradiction and the struggle of opposites in contradiction, we must give
attention to the distinction between the different forms of struggle. Otherwise we shall
make mistakes. If, through study, we achieve a real understanding of the essentials
explained above, we shall be able to demolish dogmatist ideas which are contrary to the
basic principles of Marxism-Leninism and detrimental to our revolutionary cause, and our
comrades with practical experience will be able to organize their experience into
principles and avoid repeating empiricist errors. These are a few simple conclusions from
our study of the law of contradiction.
 V. I. Lenin, "Conspectus of Hegel's Lectures on the
History of Philosophy" Collected Works, Russ. ea., Moscow, 1958, Vol. XXXVIII, p.
 In his essay "On the Question of Dialectics", Lenin
said, "The splitting in two of a single whole and the cognition of its contradictory
parts (see the quotation from Philo on Heraclitus at the beginning of Section 3 'On
Cognition' in Lassalle's book on Heraclitus) is the essence (one of the
'essentials', one of the principal, if not the principal, characteristics or features) of
dialectics." (Collected Works, Russ. ea., Moscow, 1958, Vol. XXXVIII, p. 357.)
In his "Conspectus of Hegel's The Science of Logic", he said, "In
brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This grasps
the kernel of dialectics, but it requires explanations and development." (Ibid., p.
 V. 1. Lenin, "On the Question of Dialectics", Coaected
Works, Russ. ed., Moscow, 1958, Vol. XXXVIII, p. 358.
 A saying of Tung Chung-shu (179-104 B.C.), a well-known
exponent of Confucianism in the Han Dynasty.
 Frederick Engels, "Dialectics. Quantity and Quality",
Anti-Duhring, Eng. ed., FLPH, Moscow, 1959, p. 166.
 V. I. Lenin, "On the Question of Dialectics", Collected
Works, Russ. ed., Moscow, 1958, Vol. XXXVIII, pp. 357-58
 Frederick Engels, op. cit., pp. 166-67.
 V. I. Lenin, "On the Question of Dialectics", Collected
Works, Russ. ed., Moscow, 1958, Vol. XXXVIII, p. 3S7.
 Ibid., pp. 358-59
 See "Problems of Strategy in China's Revolutionary
 See "Problems of Strategy in China's Revolutionary
 Wei Cheng (A.D. 580-643) was a statesman and historian of the
 Shui Hu Chuan (Heroes of the Marshes), a famous
14th century Chinese novel, describes a peasant war towards the end of the Northern Sung
Dynasty. Chu Village was in the vicinity of Liangshanpo, where Sung Chiang, leader of the
peasant uprising and hero of the novel, established his base. Chu Chao-feng, the head of
this village, was a despotic landlord.
 V. I. Lenin, "Once Again on the Trade Unions, the
Present Situation and the Mistakes of Trotsky and Bukharin", Selected Works,
Eng. ed., International Publishers, New York, 1943, Vol. IX, p. 66.
 V. I. Lenin, "What Is to Be Done?", Collected
Works, Eng. ed., FLPH, Moscow, 1961, Vol. V, p. 369.
 V. I. Lenin, "Conspectus of Hegel's The Science of
Logic", Collected Works, Russ. ea., Moscow, 1958, Vol. XXXVIII, pp. 97-98.
 Shan Hai Chug (Book of Mountains and Seas) was
written in the era of the Warring States (403-221 B.C.). In one of its fables Kua Fu, a
superman, pursued and overtook the sun. But he died of thirst, whereupon his staff was
transformed into the forest of Teng.
 Yi is one of the legendary heroes of ancient China, famous
for his archery. According to a legend in Huai Nan Tzu, compiled in the 2nd century
B.C., there were ten suns in the sky in the days of Emperor Yao. To put an end to the
damage to vegetation caused by these scorching suns, Emperor Yao ordered Yi to shoot them
down. In another legend recorded by Wang Yi (2nd century A.D.), the archer is said to have
shot down nine of the ten suns.
 Hsi Yu Chi (Pilgrimage to the West) is a 16th century novel,
the hero of which is the monkey god Sun Wu-kung. He could miraculously change at will into
seventy-two different shapes, such as a bird, a tree and a stone.
 The Strange Tales of Liao Chai, written by Pu
Sung-ling in the 17th century, is a well-known collection of 431 tales, mostly about
ghosts and fox spirits.
 Karl Marx, "Introduction to the Critique of Political
Economy", A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Eng. ed.,
Chicago, 1904, pp. 310-11.
 V. I. Lenin, "On the Question of Dialectics", Collected
Works, Russ. ed., Moscow, 1958, Vol. XXXVIII, p. 358.
 The saying "Things that oppose each other also
complement each other" first appeared in the History of the Earlier Han Dynasty
by Pan Ku, a celebrated historian in the 1st century A.D. It has long been a popular
 V. I. Lenin, "On the Question of Dialectics", Collected
Works, Russ. ea., Moscow, 1958, Vol. XXXVIII, p. 358.
 V. I. Lenin, "Remarks on N. I. Bukharin's Economics
of the Transitional Period" Selected Works, Russ. ed., Moscow-Leningrad, 1931,
Vol. XI, p. 357.