Just like other dialecticians, Mao is thoroughly confused:
Here are a few more confused DM-worthies:"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....
"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....
"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."* [Mao (1961b), pp.340-42. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted in my Essays. Bold emphasis added.]
All this seems to suggest that objects and processes not only change because of their internal opposites, but that they change into them (and, according to Lenin, they change into all of them!), and that they also produce these opposites while they change --, or they do so as a result of that change. As we shall see, all this presents DM-theorists with some rather nasty dialectical headaches."The law of the interpenetration of opposites.... [M]utual penetration of polar opposites and transformation into each other when carried to extremes...." [Engels* (1954), pp.17, 62.]
"[Among the elements of dialectics are the following:] internally contradictory tendencies…in [a thing]…as the sum and unity of opposites…. [This involves] not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other [into its opposite?]….
"The identity of opposites…is the recognition…of the contradictory, mutually exclusive, opposite tendencies in all phenomena and processes of nature…. The condition for the knowledge of all processes of the world in their 'self-movement', in their spontaneous development, in their real life, is the knowledge of them as a unity of opposites. Development is the 'struggle' of opposites…. [This] alone furnishes the key to the self-movement of everything existing….
"The unity…of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relative. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as development and motion are absolute…." [Lenin (1961), pp.221-22, 357-58. Emphases in the original.]
"And so every phenomenon, by the action of those same forces which condition its existence, sooner or later, but inevitably, is transformed into its own opposite…." [Plekhanov (1956), p.77.]
To see this, let us suppose that object/process A is comprised of two "internal opposites" O* and O**, and thus changes as a result.
But, O* cannot itself change into O** since O** already exists! If O** didn't already exist, according to this theory, O* could not change, for there would be no opposite to bring that about.
And it is no good propelling O** into the future so that it now becomes what O* will change into, since O* will do no such thing unless O** is already there in the present to make that happen!
But, if object/process A is already composed of a dialectical union of O* and not-O* (i.e., O**) and O* 'changes' into not-O*, how can it do this if not-O* already exists? All that seems to happen is that O* disappears. Thus, O* does not change into not-O*, it is just replaced by it.
At the very least, this account of change leaves it entirely mysterious how not-O* itself came about. It seems to have popped into existence from nowhere.
It cannot have come from O*, since O* can only change because of the operation of not-O*, which does not yet exist! And pushing the process into the past (via a 'reversed' version of the negation of the negation) will merely reduplicate the above problems.
[DM = Dialectical Materialism; FL = Formal Logic.]
Now, it could be objected that all this seems to place objects and/or processes into fixed categories, which is one of the main criticisms dialecticians make of FL. Hence, the above argument is entirely misguided -- or so it could be claimed.
In that case, let us suppose that object/process A is comprised of two changing "internal opposites" O* and O**, and thus develops as a result.
The rest still follows. Hence, if object/process A is already composed of a changing dialectical union of O* and not-O* (i.e., O**) and O* 'develops' into not-O* as a result, where then is the change? All that seems to happen is that O* disappears.
Thus, O* does not change into not-O* it is just replaced by it, since not-O* already exists!
The only way to read this to avoid the above difficulty is to argue that despite this, O* still 'develops' into not-O*. But that cannot work, for not-O* must already exist for this to happen, and that would mean that there would now be two not-O*s where once there was only one!
It would also mean, incidentally, that all the while not-O* must remain the unchanged (which denouement would violate the DM-thesis that all things are always changing, and changing onto one another!).
Of course, it could be argued that not-O* 'develops' into O* while not-O* 'develops' into O*. But if that were so, while it was happening, these two would no longer be 'opposites' of one another --, not unless we widen the term "opposite" to mean "anything that an object/process turns into, and/or any intermediate object/process" while that is taking place". Naturally, that would make this 'Law' work by definitional fiat, rendering it eminently 'subjective' once more.
But even this will not work. Let us once again suppose that object/process A is comprised of two changing "internal opposites" O* and O**, and thus develops as a result. On this scenario, O* would change into an intermediary, but not into not-O* (which is, as we saw above, O**), contradicting the DM-worthies quoted earlier.
No, O* would have to change into an intermediary -- say O*1 --, and it would remain in that state, unchanged, for there is as yet no not-O*1 in existence to make it change any further.
Anyway, even if O*1 were to change into not-O*1 itself (as we suppose it must, given the doctrine laid down by the DM-prophets), then all the earlier problems would reappear, for this could only take place if not-O*1 already exists to make it happen. But not-O*1 cannot already exist, for O*1 has not changed into it yet!
It could be objected that the above abstract argument misses the point; in the real world things manifestly change. For example, it might be the case that John is a boy, but in a few years time it will be the case that John is a man. Now, the fact that other individuals are already men, does not stop John changing into one, as the above claims. So, John can change into his opposite even though that opposite already exists. Or so it could be claimed.
Maybe so, but according to the DM-worthies above, John can only change because of a struggle between opposites. Are we now really supposed to believe that "John is a man" is struggling with "John is a boy" -- or that manhood is struggling with boyhood?
Furthermore, John's 'opposite' is whatever he becomes (if he is allowed to develop naturally). But, as noted above, that opposite cannot now exist or John would not need to become him!
So, in ten or fifteen years, John will not just become any man, he will become a particular man. Let us call the man that he becomes Manj. In that case, this opposite must exist now or John will not change into him (if the DM-worthies above are to be believed). But, if that is so, John cannot become Manj since he already exists!
[This is, of course, just a concrete example of the argument above.]
Consider another hackneyed example: water turning into steam at 100oC (under normal conditions). Are we really supposed to believe that the opposite that water becomes (i.e., steam) makes water turn into steam? It must do so if the above DM-worthies are to be believed. So, while you might think it is the heat/energy you are putting into the water that turns it into steam, what really happens according to these wise old dialecticians is that steam makes water turn into steam!
In that case, save energy, and turn the gas off!
Let us track a water molecule to see what happens to it. To identify it we shall call it W1, and the steam molecule it turns into S1. But, if the DM-worthies above are correct, S1 must already exist, otherwise W1 could not change into it. But if that is so, where does S1 disappear to? In fact, according to the above worthies, since opposites turn into one another, S1 must change into W1! So while you are boiling a kettle, according to this Superscientific theory, steam is turning back into the water you have just boiled, and at the same rate!
One wonders therefore how kettles manage to boil dry.
This must be so, otherwise, when W1 turns into S1 -- which already exists or W1 could not change -- there would have to be two S1s where there used to be one! Matter created from nowhere!
Of course, the same argument applies to water freezing (and to any and all other examples of change).
None of this, of course, is to deny that change occurs, only that DM cannot account for it.
Whichever way we try to re-package this 'Law' we end up with insuperable problems.
However, Mao attempted to revise Hegel, Engels and Lenin by the invention of principle and secondary contradictions (arguably to allow him to indulge in class-collaboration with the Goumindang):
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/...-1/mswv1_17.htm'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.'
But how can contradictions themselves change? Presumably, if they do, they too must be UO's.
[UO = Unity of Opposites.]
Let us assume then that the 'Primary' contradiction P1 changes into 'Secondary' contradiction S1.
But what brings about this change?
[MAD = Materialist Dialectics.]
Given the DM-theory of change, P1 must itself be composed of at least two further opposites, say: P* and P**, one of which P1 must turn into (since, as we saw, it is part of this MAD-theory that all things change into their opposites).
Hence, P1 turns into, say, P**.
[But do not try asking what happened to P*! As we will see, it's not that simple.]
But, once more: why did P1 change into P**?
Well, this must be because there is a 'contradiction' between P* and P** (or, perhaps, between P1 and P**).
But, in that case, if all things turn into their opposites, P* must change into P**, too! [But, P** already exists, so how can anything turn into it?]
There must therefore be two P**'s -- say P**a and P**b, for both of these to turn into, collectively or severally.
So, P1 and P* turn into one or other of P**a or P**b, while P** remains the same (or, it becomes one of these two, too).
But, that means that P** is either changeless (shock! horror!) or it too changes into one of the options that have already been selected for P* or P1 to become.
But, once more, P**a and P**b already exist, so P** cannot change into either of them!
Putting that 'difficulty' to one side for now, this can only mean that P1, which used to be made up of at least P* and P**, turns into P**, while P* turns into P**, too --, or it turns into something else (but into what and how?), or it disappears, or it does not change.
So, either P1 and P* merge into one entity (as they both become P**) or they turn into one or other of P**a or P**b -- or, third P** possibility (say, P**c) pops into existence as they (both?) change into it!
But if this is so, it is not easy to see how P1 could be part of the action. It must contain all these things (as internal opposites) if it is to turn into them, and yet that can only mean that it turns into one of its own parts! Once more, how can it do that if they too already exist?
Putting this to one side, too: the changes wrought in P1 and P* could not have been the result of a 'struggle of opposites', since this new opposite (i.e., P**c) does not yet exist!
On the other hand, if that opposite does exist (so that it can 'struggle' with one or both of the other two, and thereby cause the given change), neither P1 nor P* could change into it, since it already exists, too! So, these two cannot change, either.
Either that or there must be something else for one or both to change into -- but even then the same problems would simply return.
In that case, this 'theory' seems to imply that things either merge, disappear, or are created ex nihilo -- or they do not change!
Anyway, why should anything change from a P-type contradiction into an S-type, to begin with?
On this theory, this would only happen if, say, P1 already contained an S-type contradiction for it to change into. [Recall that on this 'theory', internal opposites cause change and things change into their opposites!] But where on earth did that S-type contradiction come from?
Given the above reasoning, for this to happen, P** (from earlier) must be an S-type contradiction, otherwise P1 (or P*) could not change into it. But, as we saw, P** already exists, so nothing can change into it!
Once more, these seem to be the only options available to MIST's: either P1 (or P*) merges with P**, or it (they) disappear into thin air -- or there are at least 3 versions of P** (P**a, P**b and P**c) for one or other to change into.
But these three (P**a, P**b and P**c) cannot exist, since if they did, P* and P1 could not change into them. But if they don't exist, they cannot struggle with anything in order to bring about the required change!
So, yet again, nothing actually changes (or nothing causes it!).
In that case, not only can this scenario not work, we still do not know why anything should alter from the one into the other sort of contradiction, or into anything whatsoever.
And these difficulties do not go away if concrete examples are substituted for the schematic letters used above. So, for example, why did the "primary contradiction" between China and Japan (referred to by Mao) change? On sound MAD-lines, it could only do so as a result of its own 'internal contradictions'. In that case, this "primary contradiction", C/J, must have had internal opposites C/J* and C/J**; the rest follows as before.
[MIST = Maoist Dialectician.]
More details can be found here:
More specifically here: