Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

J. Werner

Beat Back the Dogmato-Revisionist Attack on Mao Tsetung Thought

Comments on Enver Hoxha’s Imperialism and the Revolution

IV. Dialectics

We have attempted to show throughout this article that Enver Hoxha’s outlook is a metaphysical and idealist outlook. But it is not necessary to extrapolate this from his political views; he confesses quite openly and unabashedly to these views in his criticism of Mao’s dialectical materialism.

Hoxha begins by making ridiculous charges against Mao, that “he adheres to a metaphysical, evolutionary concept.” But in trying to “explain” Mao’s concept, Hoxha only reveals his own utterly metaphysical world view:

Contrary to materialist dialectics, which envisages progressive development in the form of a spiral, Mao Tsetung preaches development in the form of a cycle, going round in a circle, as a process of ebb and flow which goes from equilibrium to disequilibrium and back to equilibrium again, from motion to rest and back to motion again, from rise to fall and from fall to rise, from advance to retreat and to advance again, etc.[120]

Mao, of course, never adhered to a metaphysical, evolutionary concept at all. In his famous work “On Contradiction,” he polemicizes directly against the “metaphysical or vulgar evolutionist world outlook that sees things as isolated, static and onesided.” He points out that ”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 forever unchanged.”[121]

In this passage, and indeed throughout the work, Mao makes a thorough and profound criticism of the metaphysical outlook, and it is obvious to anyone who reads it that Hoxha’s characterization of it is simply swill. But what is interesting is Hoxha’s definition of a “cycle” and how he tries to counterpose it to the concept of a spiral.

It is certainly true that things don’t repeat themselves in a “circle,” but it is just as true that things do go from ebb to flow, flow to ebb; from advance to defeat and to advance again and so on. Isn’t that how the mass movement develops in the capitalist countries? Yes, it is, and each “cycle,” if you will, does not lead back to where it started but in fact, speaking generally, each represents an overall advance in the movement. Isn’t it equally true that in a war an army goes from advance to retreat and to advance again? It is precisely through this cyclical process that the overall direction, progress, of the war works itself out. The same is generally true of any protracted, complex process. It is only in Albania (actually it is only in Enver Hoxha’s mind) that the class struggle and the revolution develop “uninterruptedly” and go from one victory to another, never suffering a defeat or setback or, God forbid, periods of turbulence and “chaos.”

While Hoxha is burning Mao’s books, he should burn Marx’s Capital as well for that work (always upheld by Marxist-Leninists as the classic example of the application of dialectics) is teeming with examples of things that work themselves out not in endless, unchanging repetition but whose forward motion comes about through cycles. For instance, there is the circulation of capital itself, whose formula is M-C-M, from money to commodity to money, which Marx describes as “the restless never-ending process of profit-making,” or as “the circular course of capital,” and of which he says, “This process as a whole constitutes therefore the process of moving in circuits.”[122] But yet it is this process of “never-ending” cycles which is also the process of the accumulation of capital, the process of movement from competitive capitalism to monopoly capitalism, etc. Or there are the crises which recur cyclically in capitalism, but through the cyclic recurrence of which capitalism moves toward its final end. The point is that although these processes take place in cycles, these are not cycles which endlessly return to their beginning points, but what is happening is actually a spiral, and it is precisely through such cycles and circuits that all development takes place and qualitative leaps are made.

It is worthwhile to quote Mao’s brilliant summary of the Marxist theory of knowledge as an excellent example of the correct use of dialectics:

Discover the truth through practice, and again through practice verify and develop the truth. Start from perceptual knowledge and actively develop it into rational knowledge; then start from rational knowledge and actively guide revolutionary practice to change both the subjective and the objective world. Practice, knowledge, again practice, and again knowledge. This form repeats itself in endless cycles, and with each cycle the content of practice and knowledge rises to a higher level. Such is the whole of the dialectical-materialist theory of knowledge, and such is the dialectical-materialist theory of the unity of knowing and doing.[123]

Thus Mao is clearly putting forward the process of rising to a “higher level” through a series of endless cycles–a spiral! Hoxha confuses the point because the only kind of “spiral” he can understand is one with all of the curves removed. Anyone who thinks that a spiral doesn’t contain cycles must be literally as well as politically blind.[123a]

Dismissing Hoxha’s attempt to paint Mao as an astrologist and a believer in ancient mythology with the lack of comment it deserves, we will proceed to examine one of his more serious arguments against Mao. In a typical Hoxhaite compilation of lies and his own muddled thinking, Hoxha says:

Mao Tsetung negates the internal contradictions inherent in things and phenomena and treats development as simple repetition, as a chain of unchangeable states in which the same opposites and the same relationship between them are observed. The mutual transformation of the 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.[125]

Well what have we here! Hoxha, who denies the existence of two lines in the party, who denies the existence of antagonistic classes under socialism, has mounted a high horse to accuse Mao Tsetung of negating the internal contradictions in things! This charge almost equals his brilliant thesis that Mao is a “racist” which he then follows by offering example after example of his own chauvinism and narrow nationalism! This statement is truly like that of the thief who hollered, “There is no gold buried here!”

But leaving aside this ridiculous charge as well as Hoxha’s attempt to reintroduce his “theory of circles” and pin it on Mao, we come to the heart of the question–Hoxha’s contention that the “mutual transformation of opposites into each other” means “a resolution of the contradiction and a qualitative change of the very phenomenon which comprises the opposites.” Well, Hoxha is half correct, which is a huge improvement over most of his statements. The transformation of things into their opposites does indeed mean that a qualitative change has taken place. Unfortunately for Hoxha’s polemic, however, he is unable–except by mere assertion–to show where Mao denies this. Mao not only has not denied it, he explains it, and, unlike Hoxha, correctly:

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 contradictions–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 accordingly.[126]

Thus Mao is very clear: the transformation of opposites in a contradiction is not, as Hoxha (mis)represents Mao’s line, “the mere exchange of places,” but to use Mao’s own words, “the old thing changes qualitatively into a new thing.”

No, the difference here–and it is a vital one–is not over whether a qualitative change takes place when opposites become transformed into each other, but whether that transformation “resolves”–i.e. abolishes–the contradiction itself! We have, on Hoxha’s part, a sort of flip side of his earlier “Deborin school” error. Whereas in one aspect, as we have previously pointed out, Hoxha’s line reflects the view that a contradiction only emerges at a certain stage of development, here he is saying that contradiction disappears at the moment of qualitative change. What both views have in common is the failure to see contradiction running through the entire process of development of a thing from its beginning to its end.

Hoxha’s thesis of the resolution of a contradiction taking place merely because each aspect is turned into its opposite is transparently wrong. Take, for example, the contradiction between war and peace, on a world scale or in any particular country. The contradiction between war and peace has existed from even before the advent of classes and will not be resolved until peace is not only the principal aspect but until it “gobbles up” its opposite, war, entirely and on a world scale. At that point there will no longer be any contradiction between war and peace, and the term peace itself will have no meaning, except as an historical factor.

But between the dawn of wars and the dawn of communism is a long historical period, during which these two aspects remain locked in struggle and many qualitative changes take place, in which war is transformed into peace and vice versa. This is why Mao was correct to criticize the Soviet philosophy textbook (which he said reflected Stalin’s view) for saying there was no identity between war and peace.[127] World War 2 grew out of a period of relative peace, which in turn grew out of a period of relative war, viz., the first world war. World War 2 gave rise to a period of relative peace on a world scale. Yet in none of these instances was the contradiction resolved between war and peace. Each peace still had aspects of war (both the war that had passed and the war that was to come as well as revolutionary wars) within it. And this process has not taken place as the endless repetition of circles, but exactly as a spiral, with each cycle from war to peace and back to war again leading to the forward advance of society, as revolutionary wars–wars of the working class and the oppressed peoples, which alone can lead to the abolition of war–have triumphed first in one country and then in several. It was this kind of correct, dialectical understanding that led Mao to say, in the face of Khrushchev’s hysteria that another world war would bring the end of humanity, that another world war would lead instead to a revolutionary storm on an unprecedented scale and the real possibility of handing the system of imperialism its greatest defeats ever.

There are, of course, numerous other examples from nature and society of the operation of this principle–in which the principal aspect of a contradiction changes and leads to a qualitative change, yet the contradiction remains and the opposites continue to struggle. Hoxha’s thesis is a reflection of his own metaphysical outlook, which holds that once a qualitative change has taken place it is impossible for the aspects of the contradiction to again reverse themselves, because the contradiction itself has ceased to exist. Yea is yea, and nay is nay–such is the bourgeois logical, but anti-dialectical, reasoning of Hoxha. It may do fine for common sense, but it can only lead a revolution to defeat.

Hoxha’s point in making a stand on this question is clear–he wants to invent a non-existent philosophical principle (that qualitative change means the elimination of the contradiction that gave rise to it) in order to justify his idealist, metaphysical line on the nature of socialism. So Hoxha criticizes Mao for not seeing that “the socialist revolution is 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.”[128] And then he quotes Mao:

If the bourgeoisie and the proletariat cannot transform themselves into each other, how does it come that, through revolution, the proletariat becomes the ruling class and the bourgeoisie the ruled class?. . . We stand in diametrical opposition to Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang. As a result of the mutual struggle and exclusion of the two contradictory aspects with the Kuomintang we changed places. . .[129]

“This same logic has also led Mao Tsetung to revise the Marxist-Leninist theory on the two phases of communist society.” So Hoxha comments.

Well, Hoxha is getting nearer to the mark. It is true that Mao’s same logic, dialectical logic, approaching every question from the point of analyzing its internal contradiction and its contradictory aspects, is the same logic that leads him to develop the Marxist-Leninist understanding of socialism and the transition to communism. Hoxha takes great offense at Mao’s statement that:

According to dialectics, as surely as a man must die, the socialist system as a historical phenomenon will come to an end some day, to be negated by the communist system. If it is asserted that the socialist system and the relations of production and superstructure of socialism will not die out, what kind of Marxist thesis would that be? Wouldn’t it be the same as a religious creed or theology that preaches an everlasting god?[130]

Hoxha may not like it, but we think it’s fine!

Isn’t it quite obvious that the socialist system is qualitatively different from communism? Hoxha believes that this is not the case, that socialism and communism “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.”[131] Here it is, the revisionist line in all its glory. Not only is it impermissible to divide socialism into contradictory aspects for the purpose of analysis, it is impermissible to recognize a contradiction between socialism and communism.

Not surprisingly, it is Hoxha’s inability to understand the contradictions in socialism that makes it impossible for him to understand the contradiction between socialism and communism. Since, in Hoxha’s idealistic view, the qualitative change from capitalism to socialism means the resolution of the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, it follows that this transformation means the basic accomplishment of communism, albeit on a “lower” stage, and that all that is required is a mere quantitative development, “uninterrupted development” and maturation to achieve communism in its full sense.

The fundamental contradiction in socialist society is precisely the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie which, in turn, reflects the contradiction between “nascent communism” (as Lenin calls it) and the birthmarks–political, economic, social and moral–of the capitalist society from which socialism emerges. When these contradictions are resolved, that is when the bourgeoisie and the birthmarks of the old society die out under the repeated blows of the proletariat and the advance of socialist transformation, then and only then is it possible to say that mankind has entered the realm of communism, when new contradictions will determine the character of society. The transformation of the working class to the ruling class in society represents a qualitative leap and the elimination of classes altogether represents another, more profound, qualitative leap. This would seem quite elementary, especially in view of the hundred years of experience in socialist revolution since the Paris Commune, experience which has demonstrated that the transition to communism is longer, the resistance of the bourgeoisie more fierce, and the birthmarks of the old society more stubborn, than first envisioned by Marx and Engels, whose writings on socialism and communism were brilliant in their historical sweep but were naturally limited by the lack of experience of the proletariat in building socialism during their lifetime. But Hoxha insists on propagating and raising to the absurd the idea that socialism and communism are the same “economic and social system”!

Well, Mr. Hoxha, is “to each according to his work” a reflection of the same social-economic system as “to each according to his needs”? Is a society in which one class maintains a state, a dictatorship, the same social-economic system as a society in which there is no state and classes have disappeared? Really, even a child could see through Hoxha’s stupidity. How can the transition to classless society after thousands of years of class society (including socialism) not be a tremendous qualitative leap?

The implications, however, of Hoxha’s insistence that socialism and communism are “in essence” the same thing are ominous indeed. They throw the door wide open to that pernicious line that seems to accompany all revisionism–“the theory of the productive forces.” If socialism differs from communism only in its degree of “maturity,” if the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie has been eliminated by socialism, it follows that it is mainly the level of the development of the productive forces that distinguishes communism from its less “mature” stage of socialism. Indeed, the “theory of the productive forces” is the logical outgrowth and the fitting companion to Hoxha’s entire crusade against Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought.

As a result of the tragic loss of China to the world proletariat, the international communist movement is indeed facing its most serious crisis. At stake is whether to remain firm in revolutionary convictions and, on the basis of the science of Marxism-Leninism and the development and enrichment of that science by Mao Tsetung, to continue to advance in the revolutionary struggle. Or must the Marxist-Leninists abandon all that has been achieved in the struggle against Khrushchevite revisionism, the lessons of the Cultural Revolution and so on, and in one form or another accommodate with revisionism?

After the loss in China, the attention of the Marxist-Leninists focused on Albania and on Enver Hoxha. The PLA had stood together with Mao and the Chinese Communist Party in the struggle against Khrushchev, had supported the Cultural Revolution, had set an example for the world in refusing to kneel down before modern revisionism. But now the very things that must be cherished and defended, the very advances won by the international communist movement through fierce struggle and amidst setbacks as well as advances, have come under attack from a quarter from which we had come to expect something quite different.

It is clear, Hoxha’s protestations to the contrary, that the Albanian attack on Mao Tsetung Thought differs in no fundamental way from the chorus raised against Mao by the Soviet social-imperialists and the current Chinese revisionist rulers. All oppose Mao’s most important contribution to Marxism-Leninism, the theory and practice of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. To all of them, the Cultural Revolution represented all that filled them with fear–above all the revolutionary torrent of the masses tearing down all that stood in the way of the communist future and daring to shape every aspect of society into the image of the proletariat. The Soviet and Chinese revisionists, and now Enver Hoxha, recoil in horror at Mao’s dialectics–at his incisive and relentless efforts to seek out the contradiction at the heart of every process, at his refusal to kneel before any sacred cows, at his recognition that the world advances amidst turbulence and struggle, and his willingness to lead the masses forward through the inevitable storms. Mao’s famous call “It is right to rebel against reactionaries!” inspired revolutionaries on every continent, but it strikes fear into the hearts of all the reactionaries and revisionists.

Hoxha’s charges of “Asian communism” and “racism” are direct from the preachings of the Soviet revisionists;[131a] his distaste for the “chaos” of the Cultural Revolution and the poor mistreated ”communists” reads straight from Teng Hsiao-ping. He wants to be the center of the international communist movement, to be the representative of the “purity” of Marxism-Leninism–he is instead only a queer variant of revisionism and one that shows every sign of steadily losing its distinctive characteristics and merging with the main revisionist current emanating from Moscow. His only importance lies in the fact that he is attempting to drag a certain section of Marxist-Leninists, heretofore opponents of revisionism, into the revisionist quagmire and trying to sugar-coat the bitter pill of capitulation and betrayal. However, he should not get carried away with his delusions of a new International, with his role as the Stalin of such a movement–but a Stalin devoid of his revolutionary essence. The genuine Marxist-Leninists are already deserting him. Others move steadily rightward to become almost indistinguishable from the revisionist parties. Still others are but pathetic sects with not even an occasional thought of revolution.

The comment made in Revolution after the appearance of an Albanian press release announcing Hoxha’s utter and complete departure from Marxism with the publication of Imperialism and the Revolution remains a fitting conclusion after having examined in greater depth some of Hoxha’s main attacks on Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tsetung Thought: “At a time when the international communist movement is at a crossroads Enver Hoxha had the opportunity and the responsibility to play the role of a giant. He chose instead to be a pipsqueak.”[132]


[120] Hoxha, p. 112.

[121] Mao, “On Contradiction,” Selected Works, Vol. 1, p. 312.

[122] Marx, Capital, Vol. 1 (N.Y., 1967), p. 152; Vol. 2 (N.Y., 1967), pp. 56 and 48.

[123] Mao, “On Practice,” Selected Works, Vol. 1, p. 308.

[123a] We would suggest that Hoxha take his crusade against circles to Lenin, who wrote in his work “On the Question of Dialectics” (a five-page article which Hoxha quotes but has obviously not read): “Human knowledge is not (or does not follow) a straight line, but a curve, which endlessly approximates a series of circles, a spiral.”[124]

[124] Lenin, “On the Question of Dialectics," Collected Works, Vol. 38, p. 363.

[125] Hoxha, p. 113.

[126] Mao, “On Contradiction,” op. cit., p. 333.

[127] Mao, “Talks at a Conference of Secretaries of Provincial, Municipal and Autonomous Region Party Committees,” Selected Works, Vol. 5, p. 368.

[128] Hoxha, p. 113.

[129] Ibid., p. 128, quoting Mao, “Talks at a Conference of Party Committee Secretaries,” Vol. 5, p. 368, where this passage appears in slightly different form.

[130] Hoxha, p. 113, quoting Mao, “Talks at a Conference of Party Committee Secretaries,” Vol. 5, p. 377.

[131] Hoxha, p. 113.

[131a] Consider, for example, the following quote: “The political, economic, philosophical and sociological views and the tactical approach of Mao Tsetung and his followers reflect the influence and are in fact an eclectic mixture of various doctrines, theories and concepts including feudal Chinese philosophy (mostly Confucianism and Taoism), petty bourgeois socialism, petty bourgeois and peasant views, bourgeois-nationalist views, great-power chauvinism, Trotskyite and anarchist ideas.” Is this from Hoxha or perhaps one of his pitiful parrots? No, this comes from the pamphlet, What Peking Keeps Silent About, Moscow, 1972.

[1302] Revolution, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Jan. 1979), p. 4.