Antagonistic Contradiction


From M. Rozental, Materialist Dialectics: A Popular Outline of the Basic Laws of Materialistic Dialectics, Moscow: Party Publisher of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), 1937, pp. 55, 64, and 65.


             From the beginning of capitalism, from its earliest stages, all its contradictions have had an antagonistic—that is, irreconcilable—character. But its contradictions develop, they have their lower and higher stages….

The class of landowners was liquidated as a result of the victory in the civil war. In the further developments of the transitional period [from capitalism to socialism] the capitalist elements in the villages were liquidated—the kulaks and private capital in trade goods.  It is understandable that this overcoming of contradictions between the proletariat and these exploiting classes could occur only in the form of the liquidation of these classes which are hostile to the proletariat.

            The remaining two classes are the working class and the peasant class, in addition to the intelligentsia. Because of historically established circumstances, contradictions existed among all these classes and social strata. But these contradictions were resolved by various methods and ways. Under the leadership of the proletariat and with its help, the peasantry is on the path of the socialist economy, and the intelligentsia has changed because its membership is 80 to 90% regenerated by recruitment from the working class, the peasantry, and other working strata. Now, however, it serves the people, not the exploiting classes. But why did the result turn out this way?


“What do these changes signify?

            First they signify that the dividing lines between the working class and the peasantry, and between these classes and the intelligentsia, are being obliterated, and that the old class exclusiveness is disappearing. This means that the distance between these social groups is steadily diminishing.

            Secondly they signify that the economic contradictions between these social groups are declining, become obliterated.

            And lastly, they signify that the political contradictions between them are also declining and becoming obliterated.” (J. V. Stalin, On the Draft Constitution of the U.S.S.R., Moscow: Party Publisher, 1936, p. 13. See J. V. Stalin, Leninism: Selected Writings, New York: International Publishers, 1942, p. 384)


            We see that the movement of contradictions now has a character and tendency completely opposed to that which could be observed in the analysis of capitalism.

            Due to their absolutely antagonistic character, the contradictions of capitalism show themselves with greater and greater force in the processes of its development. The unity of opposites is split apart, and forms two extremes whose struggle leads not to life but to death. In the same way, contradictions develop between Bolshevism and Menshevism.

            Because of their non-antagonistic character, and thanks to the correct politics of the party, the contradictions between the working class and the laboring peasantry are being abolished and are disappearing.

            In this way, there are before us examples of two completely opposite types of contradictions. They are different in their content, in their form, in the tendencies of their development, and finally, in the character of their resolution.

            It should be kept in mind that the second type of contradiction, an example of which is the contradiction between the proletariat and the peasantry, has nothing in common with the reconciliation of opposites. Reconciliation of a contradiction cannot in general be a source of development. On the contrary, in the best case it can mean spinning your wheels, and as a rule, it means moving backwards.

            Reconciliation of the contradictions between the proletariat and the peasantry would mean a petty bourgeois utopia and illusory, but not real movement for socialism. What is more, it would mean an unavoidable return to capitalism.

            Struggle for the destruction of these contradictions, for the revolutionary overcoming of them, for the transformation of petty bourgeois private owners into socialist collectivists allows real resolution of these contradictions and means real movement forward.

            Such, too, is the universal principle of development – the struggle of opposites, the struggle between the new, the progressive, and the old, the reactionary, moves forward. Powerful sources of all development are guaranteed in this struggle.

            With Lenin we find words which beautifully expresses this principle. “Unity … of opposites,” he wrote, “is conditional, temporary, transient, relative. The struggle of mutually excluding opposites is absolute, as absolute development, movement.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Russian edition, volume 13, p. 302)

            All history of the development of the non-organic and organic world, and all history of social development confirms this law of movement.



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