The Bright Red Banner
of Mao Tsetung Thought
By N. Sanmugathasan,
General Secretary, Ceylon Communist Party
Red Banner of Mao Tsetung Thought was published in June 1969. The
Chinese Communist Party promoted and helped distribute it broadly.
The excerpt below from Chapter IV calls attention to Mao's development
of the correct understanding of dialectics. AWTW
of Comrade Mao Tsetung to the Development of Marxism-Leninism
Let us now take Comrade Mao Tsetung's most important philosophical
article, "On Contradiction", and study it closely. It
was written 30 years ago. In this article Comrade Mao Tsetung has
very obviously made a creative exposition of Marxist-Leninist dialectics.
Take the first sentence in this article: "The law of contradiction
in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the basic
law of materialist dialectics." This is a most profound statement.
It is a very short sentence but it would take a day to explain it.
Simply, this law means that motion is inherent in all forms of matter
and that motion, that is, development, takes place as a result of
the development and clash of the contradictions that are always
present; and further, between the different aspects of each contradiction
there is both identity and struggle; and, that, through the process
of developing contradictions a thing or a phenomenon changes into
its opposite. Thus, Comrade Mao Tsetung in one sentence explains
the basic law of materialistic dialectics.
A most systematic exposition of Marxist dialectics by one of the
founders of scientific socialism, Engels, is to be found in one
of his most famous works "Anti-D-hring". This is a very
important book because it refutes all forms of fallacies spread
so assiduously by D-hring. The most important mistake of D-hring
was that he had negated the law of contradiction. He held that contradictions
were artificial. Engels made a comprehensive criticism of D-hring
and refuted his wrong theories. He established the fact that the
law of contradiction was an objective law of matter. He stated that
movement is contradiction, that is to say, things are moving and
developing because of inherent contradictions; and that by the law
of contradiction we mean the law of the unity of opposites.
That is why Comrade Mao Tsetung has described the law of contradiction
as not just another law of materialist dialectics, but its most
basic law. In the second sentence of his article, Comrade Mao Tsetung
has quoted Lenin's statement that "Dialectics in the proper
sense is the study of contradiction in the very essence of objects."
It is, therefore, very important for us to understand that the law
of contradictions, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is
the most basic law of materialist dialectics.
In his book "The Science of Logic", Hegel, the philosopher,
had stated that there were three basic laws in dialectics. They
were (1) the law that quantitative and qualitative changes give
rise to one another; (2) the law of the unity of opposites; (3)
the law of the negation of the negation.
These were the three basic laws of dialectics put forward by Hegel.
Marx and Engels recognised and affirmed these three basic laws of
Hegel but put them in the opposite order.
Hegel had presented these three laws not as the law of objective
dialectics but as subjective dialectics. That is, he did not regard
these laws as inherent in objective things but only as governing
the law of man's thinking i.e. in the logic of the thinking of men.
In other words, Hegel interpreted dialectics from an idealist point
However, according to Marx and Engels, the law of contradiction,
the law of the unity of opposites, was a law that is inherent in
objective things whereas man's knowledge of contradiction is but
a reflection of the objective law in man's thinking. Therefore,
Marx and Engels had satirized Hegel and pointed out that he had
stood truth on its head.
Marx and Engels reversed this position and pointed out that these
laws of dialectics are inherent in objective things. This was made
clear by Engels in his "Anti-D-hring" and "Dialectics
in Nature". A new development
arose in Lenin's time. The question arose as to which of the three
laws of dialectics is the most basic. In the third sentence of his
article, Comrade Mao Tsetung refers to Lenin's article "On
the question of Dialectics" and points out that "Lenin
often called this law (i.e. the law of contradiction) the essence
of dialectics; he also called it the kernel of dialectics".
Although Lenin pointed out that this law was the kernel of dialectics,
he did not live to point out the relation between this kernel and
the other two laws of dialectics.
Later, when the philosophical circles in the USSR dealt with these
things, they pointed out the three laws but put them in different
order. They put them in the following order: 1) the law of the unity
of opposites; 2) the law about quantitative and qualitative changes;
and 3) the law of the negation of the negation.
This was the formula used in the USSR for a long time.
In 1938, in The Short History of the Communist Party of the Soviet
Union (Bolsheviks), Stalin presented 4 features of the dialectical
method: 1) All phenomena are inter-connected and inter-dependent;
2) All matter is in a process of motion and movement and development;
3) Quantitative changes lead to qualitative changes; and 4) Everything
develops on the basis of the struggle of the opposites.
Stalin, thus, put the law of the unity and struggle of the opposites
as the last one instead of as the first one. When the philosophical
circles in the USSR dealt with the three laws of dialectics or when
Stalin wrote about the four features of the dialectical method,
both sections were putting the law of contradiction, the law of
the unity of the opposites, on an equal footing with the other
laws, instead of treating it as the basic law of materialist dialectics.
Comrade Mao Tsetung has systematically studied the laws of Marxist-Leninist
dialectics and has developed Lenin's thesis contained in his work
"On the Question of Dialectics". Comrade Mao Tsetung does
not deny the law about quantitative and qualitative changes or the
law of the negation. Engels had dealt with all these things in his
anti-D-hring. But, what Comrade Mao Tsetung does point out clearly
is that out of these laws, the most basic law is that of the law
of contradiction, the law of the unity of opposites. In this way,
he has put this question in a monistic way. He has refuted the theory
of putting these three basic laws on a parallel footing.
For example, Stalin says that the second feature of the dialectical
method is the law of motion or development. Actually, motion or
movement is inherent in contradiction and this had been pointed
out by Engels in his "Anti-D-hring" when he said "motion
itself is a contradiction". If we grasp that the law of contradiction
i.e. the law of the unity of opposites is the most basic law of
materialist dialectics, then we can understand that all the other
laws of dialectics spring from this basic law.
Thus, it is clear that by asserting the primacy of the law of contradiction,
the law of the unity of the opposites, Comrade Mao Tsetung has creatively
developed Marxist-Leninist philosophy and dialectics.
Although Mao Tsetung's article "On Contradiction" is his
most important contribution on Marxist philosophy, he has also developed
Marxist philosophy on a number of other points.
Another important philosophical work of Comrade Mao Tsetung is his
article on "The Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the
People". In this work, he deals with the question of how to
handle contradictions between the enemy and ourselves. He also deals
with the theory of how contradictions of different natures can be
converted into each other. He also uses the law of contradiction
to explain how to deal with the struggle between different views
and ideas inside the Party.
Already, in his article, "On Contradiction", Comrade Mao
Tsetung had pointed out that "Opposition and struggle between
ideas of different kinds constantly occur within the Party; this
is a reflection within the party of contradiction between classes
and between the new and the old in society. If there were to be
contradiction in the party and no ideological struggles to resolve
them, the party's life would come to an end."
This was the first time that Comrade Mao Tsetung used the law of
contradiction, the law of the unity of the opposites, to explain
the question of opposition and struggle between different ideas
within a party. This is a creative development of Marxism-Leninism.
In the past, in the history of the Communist Party of China and
in respect of some comrades in other parties also, incorrect views
prevailed about the attitude to opposition and struggle between
contradictory ideas inside the Communist Party. Some comrades admitted
the law of contradiction when they dealt with phenomena outside
the Party. However, when they came face to face with contradictory
views inside the Party, they failed to use the dialectical method
and, instead, used the metaphysical approach. In other words, they
failed to understand that contradictions are universal and would
also exist inside the Party too as a reflection of the contradictions
outside the Party. Therefore, when these comrades came across contradictions
and struggles inside the Party, they thought that it was terrible
It was as an answer to such a metaphysical approach that Comrade
Mao Tsetung pointed out the universality of contradiction and that,
therefore, opposition and struggle between different ideas constantly
occurs inside the Party too. This was nothing strange because it
was a reflection of class contradictions outside and the struggle
between the old and the new inside the Party. If these contradictions
and the consequent ideological struggles to resolve them ceased
to exist within the Party, then the life of the Party would itself
Only if we understand this aspect of inner-party struggle and its
virtual inevitability in any living and developing Party can we
understand the struggle that developed inside the Communist Party
of China against Liu Shao-chi and his henchmen.
When the imperialists saw the Cultural Revolution in China and the
exposure of Liu Shao-chi and his black gang, they thought that the
Communist Party of China would be finished. When the Soviet revisionists
saw the same phenomenon they also thought that the Communist Party
of China would collapse and that the leadership of Comrade Mao Tsetung
would be overthrown.
Even some friends did not understand this question correctly and
felt sad and thought that everything inside the Communist Party
of China is not good. They did not understand that if such contradictions
and ideological struggles to resolve them did not occur, then the
life of the Party would come to an end.
The reasons why these comrades get these wrong ideas is that they
do not look at these ideological struggles from a dialectical view-point.
That is why, at the very beginning of the Cultural Revolution, Comrade
Mao Tsetung said that the Cultural Revolution was a sign of the
sound development of the Chinese Party.
Therefore, comrades and friends should look at the phenomenon of
the Chinese Cultural Revolution from this Marxist-Leninist dialectical
standpoint. They will, then, realize that it was a good thing and
not at all a bad thing. They will then realize the tremendous significance
of the struggle against Liu Shao-chi and his wrong views. They will
also understand that if this struggle has not been carried out,
revisionism would have triumphed in China, capitalism would have
been restored and China would have changed