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Title: contradiction

Nil - March 15, 2009 04:03 PM (GMT)
Can anyone help me understand better what is meant in communist theory when people talk of social/economic 'contradiction' and especially 'principal contradiction'?

References to readings are welcome, although targetted small accessible readings are especially appreciated. You can recommend the entirety of Capital if you want, but it won't be a very useful recommendation to me.

New Day - March 16, 2009 01:29 AM (GMT)
I would guess it's being used in the Maoist sense (although I'm not sure if those are Eddy's politics). So, probably "On Contradiction" by Mao would be a good place to start.

I've heard the "principal" contradiction described as "the contradiction that gives all other contradictions their context". In other words, why major events are happening cannot be understood without taking that contradiction into account. Although, it may not be directly causal, things would not be the same without it's existence.

mike ely - March 20, 2009 02:32 PM (GMT)
Contradiction refers to the way processes are defined by the struggle of opposites within them. Processes consist of a "unity of opposites" the struggle of which determine how things develop.

Often in real life, things are rather complex, with many contradictions interacting (both internal and external contradictions). Mao developed a theory of examining the relative influence of contradictions on each other -- identifying the principal and secondary contradictions at various stages of development.

Nil - March 22, 2009 09:31 PM (GMT)
Thanks. I have a basic understanding of 'contradiction' in the dialectical sense. It's this 'primary contradition' and 'fundamental contradiction' stuff that I'm more lost with. What do thes terms mean, and why is it important to identify them? I'll start with that essay by Mao, thanks. I may return here with more questions after reading it. :)

Jaroslav O. - April 2, 2009 07:44 PM (GMT)
'fundamental contradiction' - all other contradictions (in the given system) flow from this; traditional MLM considers this to be the contradiction of proletariat vs big bourgeoisie, under capitalism

'principal contradiction(s)' - the main or most important contradiction(s) in given system or subsystem; traditional MLM considers there to be 4: fundamental (see above), oppressed vs oppressor nationalities, between imperialist big bourgeoisies, & socialist vs capitalist blocs; NB fundamental may or may not be principal at any given time

mike ely - April 4, 2009 09:43 PM (GMT)
the fundamental contradiction of capitalism is not "bourgeoisie and proletariat"

The fundamental contradiction is the contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation. It is a contradiction within the base.

The manifestations of that contradiction in the superstructure come in two main forms:

a) the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and proletariat over the nature of society
b) the anarchy of production (the contradiction between anarchy and organization) meaning: the manyness of capital, competition between blocks of capital, and the war rivalries of different imperialists and imperialist blocs.

In other words, the class struggle is one manifestation of the fundamental contradiction, but not its only one. And it is not always the principal manifestation either. Right now the crisis (the depression of the global capitalist economy) is pretty clearly the principal manifestation of the fundamental contradiction.

ShineThePath - April 17, 2009 11:08 AM (GMT)
Mike, I wonder if there is an alternative reading to this at all, since I think the base-superstructure dichotomy is an essentially wrongly valued analogy taken up by Communists.

I do agree with the point that fundamentally the the contradiction within Capitalism is rooted in a contradicton between socialized production and private accumulation.

But I disagree with how you read its manifestation within the so-called "super-structure." To begin, I don't think you can call these examples you give aspects of the "super-structure" at all. It is in fact the very essence of the capitalist system which is naturally has class relationships and competition of blocs of capital. A super-structure would be considered relatively autonomous relationships outside of the economic base, i.e. ideological-political formations and institutions, like the State, government, or academia.

I think secondly, and mainly, that in fact the contradiction between socialized production and private accumulation is indeed very much embodied holistically as the class struggle between the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie. This manifestation is mainly important because the Proletariat represents the embodied class that is the rupture already immanent in capitalism itself. This is simply to make a dialectical (or maybe critiqued as Hegelian) point the antithesis is embodied in capitalism.

The anarchy in Capitalism is not actually,in a proper way, a contradiction at all and is really its thesis. It maybe embodied social antagonisms - which I am delineating here from the idea of contradiction (there maybe really two senses we mean in this word) - The competition of blocs of capital in capitalism do not lead to transformation of capitalism itself, but its own necessary self-revolutionizing capacity and necessity.

So I actually wanted to make an indeed distinct point that maybe we should talk about. I think there is a really distinct difference between the Marxist sense of contradiction and the Maoist sense of it, in fact they seem so different in how these terms are used that it really spawned a completely different epistemology in radical thought that was initially shaped by Althusser, inspired by Mao, and his students that is influenced by the implicit materialism of Spinoza.

Marxist understanding of the dialectic, and its logic, seems to me inexplicably at some form rooted in the Hegelian understanding of Negation of Negation and transformation. While as Maoist understanding of the dialectic initially upholds this in the the thought of a fundamental contradiction - i.e. upholding some form of historical transformations, but implicitly criticizes this with the concept of principal contradictions or in other words the nearly inescapable contingency of most of political life, or at the very least its "relative autonomy" from the base.

All this is to say very much - because I am still figuring it through altogether myself - this dialectical business is not so clear cut in Marxism.

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