Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Former Members of the Committee for a Proletarian Party

In Defense of Mao Tsetung’s Contributions to Materialist Dialectics

Position Papers Prepared for the National Joint Study


In Imperialism and the Revolution, Hoxha charges that “the mutual transformation of opposites into each other, understood as a mere exchange of places and not as a resolution of the contradiction and a qualitative change of the very phenomenon which comprises these opposites, is used by Mao Tsetung as a formal pattern to which everything is subject.” (pg. 113, COUSML edition)

The heart of Hoxha’s criticism concerns Mao’s understanding that 1) quantity and quality are a unity of opposites and 2) the change of the principal aspect of a contradiction explains the transformation of quantity into quality.

Mao understood quantity and quality to be inseparable, each being the condition for the other’s existence. As two aspects of a contradiction, they always mutually penetrate and transform themselves into each other. There can be no quantity apart from what actual thing, or quality, is in question. There exists only the quantity of a determined quality. Conversely, there can be no qualitative thing without its own quantitative properties. At a determined stage of quantitative development of a qualitatively distinct thing, its quantity turns into “its opposite”, into a new quality. And this new quality, in its turn, transforms itself into a new stage of quantitative development.

Mao does, in fact, make the point that opposites undergo an “exchange of places.” To demonstrate, he points to the qualitative transformations of society, e.g., from feudalism to capitalism and from capitalism to socialism. The old feudal landlord class is overthrown and from being the ruler it changes into being the ruled. With the emergence of capitalism, the proletariat comes into being as the oppressed, exploited class over which the capitalist class rules. But with the socialist revolution, the formerly ruling class of capitalists turns into its opposite, changes into being the ruled under the dictatorship of the proletariat. The proletariat, as well, has changed qualitatively. In its relation to the bourgeoisie, it has changed to being the ruling class in power. And in its relation to the means of production, it has changed from being alienated from them and merely extensions and operators of them to being their owners and masters. Through this “mere exchange of places”, we have the forward progress and qualitative development of society.

Hoxha’s charge that Mao regards the mutual transformation of opposites as a “mere exchange of places” is meant as an attack on Mao’s explanation of qualitative change in terms of the principal and non-principal aspects of a contradiction. Mao defines the principal aspect of a contradiction as the aspect which is dominant, plays the leading role and mainly determines the quality of a thing. With the socialist revolution, the fundamental contradiction between the proletariat and bourgeoisie undergoes a qualitative change. The proletariat replaces the bourgeoisie as the principal or dominant aspect. Because of the emergence of a new principal aspect, the quality of the society is transformed from capitalist to socialist. But this transformation still retains elements of the old society in the form of the non-principal aspect. Mao understood this qualitative change to be the result of the accumulation of quantitative changes of the two opposing aspects. But he doesn’t reduce the idea of quality to the status of quantitative change of place or position, as Hoxha opportunistically implies in his charge quoted above.

One of Mao’s major contributions to Marxism-Leninism is the theory of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Mao was able to add to and develop Marxism-Leninism from the vantage point of the Chinese revolution and having summed up the lessons of the successes and tragic defeat of socialism in the USSR in the form of the restoration of capitalism. Mao recognized the continued existence of class struggle under socialism. As early as 1957, he put forward that the question of who wins out, the bourgeoisie or the proletariat, is not finally settled with the advent of socialism. He went beyond acknowledging the remnants of the old society and the threat to socialism they represent. Mao understood that a new, more dangerous bourgeoisie would emerge based on the survivals of capitalism. Class struggle in society would inevitably lead to and be reflected in class struggle within the communist party. This class struggle would be manifested in the struggle between those in the communist party committed to socialist construction and those against. Mao identified the main threat of restoration of capitalism to be the new bourgeoisie and its political representatives in the communist party itself.

The bourgeoisie doesn’t resign itself to extinction upon becoming overthrown from power. Imperialism being an international system, the expropriated bourgeoisie will team up with its own kind in other countries. It will do this militarily, economically, politically and ideologically as conditions permit. As time goes by though, the old bourgeoisie has either suffered the wrath of the workers, died of or been incapacitated by old age, been discredited, been bought out, etc. But based on the carryovers from capitalist society comes a new aspiring bourgeoisie in a much better position to carry on the legacy of exploitation and inequality. This legacy is in the forms of differentials in wages, privileges of certain strata of society, contradictions and inequities between mental and manual labor, city and countryside, etc. And it is in the form of the ideas and habits of the petty producer. The Communist Party of China under Mao identified these factors as bourgeois right. Resting on and in pursuit of this “right”, the present rulers of China have halted socialist construction and are forging an all-around alliance with the USA and its allies.

The oppressive legacy of bourgeois right and the division of labor handed down by centuries of class society persist and exercize a strong reactionary influence on the development of socialist society. Given this influence of the past, we can see that, in general, when a new quality first emerges it is always relatively weaker than the old quality out of which it arose because of its relative instability and immaturity. Lenin explained that for some time after the proletariat seized political power, the bourgeoisie would remain stronger and would always try to stage a come back. The socialist revolution transforms the major means of production from being private property into socialist property owned by the state on behalf of the working class and its allies. But when the bourgeoisie is formally expropriated, the bourgeois relations of production, which are broader than just property relations, can’t be abolished at one stroke.

Mao stated that “if people like Lin Piao come to power, it will be quite easy for them to rig up the capitalist system.” He was not negating the qualitative distinction between capitalism and socialism. He was pointing out that the proletariat and bourgeoisie may have transformed themselves into their opposites, but this process of exchange of place could be reversed. This identity between the aspects of capitalism and socialism, the continuity between the capitalist and socialist periods explains the persistence of class struggle under socialism. This struggle is not external to socialism; it would be mistaken to mechanically conceive of capitalism as a defeated, dying system which exercises its influence from outside the internal contradictions of socialism. The lesson to be drawn is that even with the decisive defeat of the old exploiting class, the material conditions under socialism itself will serve to engender a new bourgeoisie. This bourgeoisie could and, in fact, did become the principal aspect through taking over the CPC from within and is now attempting to restore capitalism. This is why Mao repeatedly warned, “Never forget class struggle!”

In attacking Mao’s interpretation and development of Marxist-Leninist philosophy, Hoxha misinterprets the meaning of the qualitative leap from capitalism to socialism. “Thus, he (Mao) does not see the socialist revolution as a qualitative change of society in which antagonistic classes and the oppression and exploitation of man by man are abolished, but conceives it as a simple change of places between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.” (Imperialism and the Revolution, COUSML edition, pgs. 112-3) (emphasis added) Hoxha’s error is ultra-“left” in its misunderstanding of the qualitative leap from capitalism to socialism. The idealist would tend to deny the need for a state power while Hoxha denies the continued existence of the very class of erstwhile exploiters that both condition and is the object of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

While presuming to be staunch defenders of the name of Stalin, Hoxha and the PLA deny the lessons of Stalin’s and the CPSU’s major mistake. That mistake is to deny the existence of antagonistic classes with irreconcilable interests under socialism. Hoxha sees the aspects of contradictions in socialist society, to the extent that he does see them, as being external to one another. He opposes the dialectics of Mao only to replace it with a view that denies the division of socialist society and the communist party into two. Rather than seeing the two antagonistic classes residing internally in socialist society and the two-line struggle in the party being a reflection of this, he tries to construct a “pure and monolithic” entity. The aspect with which the proletariat is engaged in struggle, namely, the bourgeoisie as engendered by the very conditions of socialist society, is ignored. All we are led to believe threatens socialism are remnants of the exploiting classes and the imperialist-revisionist encirclement. This state of affairs can only exist in the realm of the ideal, not in objective reality, and is therefore idealist.

Hoxha charges that “openly revising the Marxist-Leninist concept of socialism and communism, which in essence, are two phases of the one type, of the one socio-economic order, and which are distinguished from each other only by the degree of their development and maturity, Mao Tsetung presents socialism as something diametrically opposite to communism.” That socialism and communism are two phases of the one type, of the-one socio-economic order is a logical and consistent continuation of Hoxha’s scheme of things under socialism. His one-sided, mechanical underestimation of the danger posed by the bourgeoisie under socialism, his view tending to see purity and monolithism being externally acted upon from without precludes both in theory and practice the real and final resolution of the contradiction that classless society, that communism represents Communism and socialism are diametrically opposite insofar as classless society precludes the necessity for the dictatorship of the proletariat. With the complete elimination of the bourgeoisie, there is no class over which there can be a dictatorship of the proletariat.

Classless society is the qualitatively next and higher step after class society under socialism. The principles “from each according to ability, to each according to work” and “from each according to ability, to each according to need” represent much more than a difference in degree of development and maturity.

Hoxha’s view, in not understanding the difference between socialism and communism, precludes communism’s actual realization. But his idealism does open the door to capitalist restoration. By attributing the main and only threat of restoration to remnants of old society and the imperialist-revisionist encirclement, and denying that bourgeois elements exist in socialist society and the communist party itself, he fails to recognize socialist society in terms of the principal and non-principal aspects. The non-principal aspect, the bourgeoisie, is mechanically negated while the principal aspect, the proletariat, is idealized and imagined to be the pure side. This idealist outlook falsely portrays socialism as irreversible, tries to undercut our vigilance and sets the stage for capitalist restoration.