6 Pieces on Contradiction
Three Types of Contradiction
By Jan Makandal
(April 14, 2013)
I will address three types of contradictions.
1) The contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie (on a world scale, and within particular countries):
We are still at this stage, though of course many moments and conjunctures have passed under the bridge since its beginning. This is a universal contradiction that needs to be applied in each particular social formation, based on the interest of the international proletariat — Proletarian Internationalism. Proletarian organizations need to analyze their own social formations, and simultaneously construct their political line to organize for proletarian revolution. The fundamental task of a structured proletarian organization is to organize for revolution in its own social formation, as part of an international revolution. This is obvious if we understand that the fundamental contradiction is the proletariat facing the bourgeoisie, and the principal contradiction is the need to crush the state apparatus of the capitalist class, by the masses under the leadership of the proletariat. It is clear that any deviation from that universal line is revisionism.
Nothing new can come into being independently from or outside the existing objective realities. So to quantify the probability of an international revolution (even more, the probability of a simultaneous international proletarian revolution), is only a real abstract. Historically, no tendencies of class struggle have produced such a dynamic, to even provide any level of perceptual knowledge around such possibilities. Focoism was one of the most recent experiences that demonstrated all the flaws of creating theories in search of an objective reality to fit.
Rather than creating ideas to fit reality into, Proletarian Theory takes the approach of constructing theory based on an interpretation of reality. That’s what makes Proletarian Theory (with Marxist- Leninism as its core) a science. Any attempt to create a theory will give flawed results, when that theory is trying to fit reality.
Materialist theory, dialectical materialism, is an interpretation of objective reality based on the internal contradictions of a phenomenon. Any attempt to construct theory based on its effects (contradictions external to the reality) will also lead to flawed results, and in final analysis will ultimately consolidate bourgeois theory: metaphysics.
The principal and fundamental task of the proletarian revolutionary in any social formation is to concretely organize one of the fundamental aspects of the fundamental contradiction between capital and labor (labor), in order to defeat the primary fundamental aspect of that fundamental contradiction (capital). Labor will have to develop different levels of organization for the sole purpose of defeating capital.
Labor will need to develop a political line. That line will include strategy and tactics. These strategy and tactics are to be developed in a dialectical relation with each other, in which strategy is determinant. Tactics are always condensed versions of the strategy, defined and determined by it. When tactics function in non-dialectical relation with strategy, or are not correspondent to the final goal (strategy), they will always result in opportunism, reformism, populism and revisionism, and serve the consolidation of capital domination.
The struggles against racism, the oppression of women, and for the environment are all tactical struggles. These contradictions, though all extremely urgent and important, are still external to the fundamental contradiction of capitalism. When they are waged without addressing the fundamental contradiction between capital and labor, they will always deviate and be non-correspondent to the strategy of defeating capital. This is what is meant by defining them as “secondary” struggles. It does not mean they are less important in a moral sense. It means that they are secondary (external) contradictions in relation to the fundamental contradiction of capital vs. labor. They do not, in themselves, push forward the fundamental contradiction of capitalism. If they are not waged in relation to capitalism’s fundamental contradiction, they will never be able to damage or defeat capitalism. They cannot, as well, be resolved outside of resolving the fundamental contradiction of capitalism. Proletarian revolution is the order of the day.
2) The contradiction between imperialist countries and their respective ruling classes (the struggle of competition and re-division that gives rise to inter-imperialist rivalry and war):
Although imperialist war is to be defeated, again its defeat must be addressed from the fundamental contradiction.
Even territorial wars, specifically the Palestine /Israel war, must be addressed and articulated from the fundamental contradiction of capital and labor, even if temporarily the fundamental contradiction is overlapped by another phenomenon, such as occupation.
The international radical petit bourgeois “Left” has been totally tailgating feudalism and capitalism in the Palestinian struggle. It should be no surprise, as it is in the nature of the petit bourgeoisie to tailgate. Being against US policies do not automatically bestow upon us the title of progressives or revolutionaries. As Mao well explained, IT’S ALL IN OUR AUTONOMOUS POLITICAL LINE. Supporting the enemy of our enemy is crude mechanical materialism, and also class collaborationist. Nationalism and feudalism are reactionary even if they resist occupation. The weakness of the international proletarian movement has left the proletariat unable to articulate a cohesive proletarian line at the level of that conflict. But it is clear at this time, that both leading camps of that conflict are reactionaries representing, respectively, feudalism and capitalism.
But it is also clear that some other tendencies have emerged in that conflict. There have been instances when Palestinian and Israeli workers stood side by side in marches against neo-liberalism, in protest over wages. Inside both social formations exist antagonistic relations between the masses and their respective dominant classes, even if those antagonistic relationships are overshadowed by reactionary nationalism. The only viable path for peace is proletarian revolution in both social formations. When both the Israeli masses and the Palestinians masses, under the leadership of their respective proletariats, defeat their respective dominant classes—peace will be possible. After more than fifty years of that conflict, we can say with confidence that the orientation of the radical left, by tailgating in a simplistic way the nationalism of the dominant classes, merely serves to exacerbate that conflict in the interest of the dominant classes, and will not lead to their defeat.
The inter-imperialist struggle is a secondary contradiction that can only be resolved if we address it from the fundamental contradiction, and by addressing the principal contradiction (the crushing of the capitalist and dominated capitalist state), under the leadership of the proletariat, in our respective social formations. Imperialist war is not imperialism. Imperialist war is a conjuncture in the development of imperialism for the reproduction of global capitalism. The anti-war movement is not objectively an anti-imperialist movement. Being against war in general is not being anti-imperialist. First, why should the proletariat disapprove of a concept that is in its best interest? Why should we be anti-war? We are against imperialist war, absolutely. But we are for revolutionary war, which is the highest stage of political struggle for POWER.
In the ’70s and ’80s, after the revisionist theory of the three worlds came into play, the RCP launched a campaign of agitation and propaganda to oppose what it argued was an imminent world war 3. This propaganda and agitation was based on the theory that Soviet imperialism, the new imperial power on the block, was as aggressive as the US, and that their rivalry would inevitably reach its extreme conclusion. The RCP argued that this rivalry was the principal contradiction in the world at the time. This orientation was a total flop, since the war didn’t come. And again, as is the common practice of the Left in general, once this orientation was proved obviously to be incorrect, it was simply dropped pragmatically, and a new project was found to keep their hope alive.
3) The contradiction between oppressed countries and imperialism:
We prefer using the concept “domination” rather than “oppression,” since it is more correspondent to the objective realities these social formations are under. The concept “Third World” is merely a bourgeois sociological concept, defining a sort of permanency and inevitability of the conditions of these social formations. In fact most of the dominated social formations weren’t born “Third World.” We became “Third World” due to colonialism and imperialist domination. The Three Worlds theory developed by the CCP is a revisionist theory which laid the initial groundwork for Chinese imperialism. As a reminder, this theory was developed when Mao was still influential in the CCP.
In the relation between imperialism and dominated social formations, there are two sets of contradictions.
The first set has two components:
A) The contradictions inside the imperialist’s social formation.
The level of class struggle inside the imperialist social formation will define and determine the form and type of domination it practices. In the 1900s, the NAACP played a positive role in exposing the US occupation in Haiti.
The forms and types of presence of imperialism have been influenced by the various levels of struggle (or lack thereof) inside the imperialist social formations. We can see this influence in instances such as the student struggle against the Vietnam War, the mainly reformist attitude of the progressive movement against the second occupation of Haiti for the return of Aristide, the exposure of Disney sweatshops in Haiti, and the contradictory attitudes of groups of the left on which sides to support in the Middle East.
B) The inter-imperialist struggle for control.
The relations of power between imperialist states inside the social formations they are dominating, and the constant struggle among them to be hegemonic inside these social formations, have a pertinent effect on the internal contradictions of the dominated social formations.
One example is French and US imperialism in the domination of Haiti, and their constant struggle of each to shift that domination in their own favor, and their “nonbinding agreement” for hegemonic control over particular sorts of concentration of capital at the economic level and the superstructures. Up to 1960, French imperialism in Haiti had hegemonic control over the ideological field: education, media, music. But now with the development of technology, France is rapidly losing that hegemony. US imperialism used the opportunity of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to reinforce and expand its hegemonic grip on Haiti.
The second set is:
The contradictions internal to these dominated social formations, and the pertinent effects that imperialist domination has generated inside these dominated social formations.
In general, except during periods of actual military occupation, the internal contradictions of dominated social formations are the fundamental contradictions that determine all other contradictions. This is the internal dynamic of class struggle inside these social formations, which determine the form that domination takes. Since there is no general theory for a construct of a social formation, there is no general theory for particular forms of domination either (although in both cases, based on historical materialism, it is possible to generate some general guidelines).
As a general guideline, the concept “oppressed nation” only partially explains and pragmatically describes a social formation, by looking at the effects of domination. But these limitations open the door wide for populism, by facilitating the notion that all classes historically constituted inside these dominated social formations are equally oppressed. This is far from the reality.
Additionally, the theory of “oppressed nation” negates the necessity of class struggle, if all classes inside these social formations are equally oppressed. Now even if those classes were all oppressed, it is clear they are not equally oppressed. And if they are all oppressed, class struggle will still manifest itself between these classes. Class struggle existed between free slaves, domesticated slaves and the slaves. Their respective material conditions caused these different classes to define their own conceptions (ideology) on how they envisioned freedom. In reality, the whole social formation is not only oppressed but dominated. Domination is a fundamental aspect in the relations between imperialist social formations and dominated social formations.
The internal conditions of these social formations are the fundamental contradictions allowing domination. Domination needs to be resolved through the internal fundamental contradiction, which is the antagonistic contradiction between labor and capital—therefore proletarian revolution. Any orientation or alternative offered independently from this fundamental contradiction will inevitably lead to the reproduction of capital. Inside most of these social formations classes exist for whom the contradictions with imperialism are secondary (even if they do manifest as antagonistic in their objectives).
The contradiction between imperialism and the feudal classes is antagonistic because imperialism objectively challenges feudalism as incompatible with the form of social relations required for the accumulation of capital. But at the same time, feudalism facilitates, in many ways, the dependence of these social formations on imperialism.
We have the contradictions between imperialism and the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. The bureaucratic bourgeoisie, a fraction of the capitalist class, is one of the most reactionary and parasitic class of the power bloc. The bureaucratic bourgeoisie (BB) is a fraction of the bourgeoisie that is historically constituted in the state apparatus. The principal form of its method of primitive accumulation is corruption. Many of the material conditions for the historical constitution of the bureaucratic bourgeoisie include imperialist domination, the incapacity of the social formation to absorb capital (making it easy for the BB to simply take it), and the contradiction between the feudalist mode of production and capitalism (especially a deformed/dependent/dominated capitalism).
Different but similar to the feudal landlord, the BB expresses a certain form of reactionary nationalism for the reproduction of its class fraction. Since the state apparatus is their material condition for primitive accumulation, they are very protective of state owned enterprises, and are always willing and ready to nationalize private enterprises. This always confuses the populist radical left, who identify this practice as socialism, and identify these governments as progressive.
Because the state apparatus is the principal source of accumulation for the BB, politically they tend to autocratically control the STATE APPARATUS and greatly limit bourgeois democratic rights. Sometimes this is in alliance with feudal landlords, and usually involves leaning on sectors of the masses, based on reactionary nationalist rhetoric.
Imperialism, especially imperialist policies of neo-liberalism, are in contradiction with that fraction of the capitalist class. Imperialists do need them because of their capacity to repress the masses: Duvalier, Noriega, Somoza, Saddam, Kaddafi and now Assad. But at the same time, imperialists would like to bypass them and implement neo-liberalism. If we don’t appropriate that intricate, contradictory process, which imperialism is facing inside these social formations, we will never be able to formulate a correct political line, even at the level of solidarity.
In general, outside of a proletarian-led alternative, most of these struggles will objectively end up benefiting imperialism and their policies of neo-liberalism. Haiti is one of the perfect examples. The 1986 uprising that overthrew Duvalier, because of a lack/nonexistence of a proletarian alternative, ended up reinforcing neo-liberalism.
The Arab Spring will follow the same path. Imperialism is already introducing the textile industry to that part of the world. It is important that we support the struggles of the masses, but it’s crucial that we not do it unilaterally as we have done. We must recognize their objectives historical limitations; if we don’t it will lead to mistakenly defining uprisings as revolutions, and lead to deflation of the movement. The question, from the perspective of a proletarian alternative, is not which side to support—it is the class nature and interests of the people leading the struggle.