Chapter 4

The Correct Handling Of Contradictions Among The People Icon

January 28, 2022

We are confronted by 2 types of social contradictions:

  • those between ourselves and the enemy
  • those among the people themselves.

These two are totally different in their nature.

On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People (February 27, 1957), 1st pocket ed… p. 2.

To understand these two different types of contradictions correctly, we must first be clear on what is meant by “the people” and what is meant by “the enemy”… At the present stage, the period of building socialism, the classes, strata and social groups which favour, support and work for the cause of socialist construction all come within the category of the people, while the social forces and groups which resist the socialist revolution and are hostile to or sabotage socialist construction are all enemies of the people.

In the conditions prevailing in China today, the contradictions among the people comprise the contradictions within the working class, the contradictions within the peasantry, the contradictions within the intelligentsia, the contradictions between the working class and the peasantry, the contradictions between the workers and peasants on the one hand and the intellectuals on the other, the contradictions between the working class and other sections of the working people on the one hand and the national bourgeoisie on the other, the contradictions within the national bourgeoisie, and so on. Our People’s Government is one that genuinely represents the people’s interests, it is a government that serves the people.

Nevertheless, there are still certain contradictions between the government and the people.

These include contradictions among the interests of the state, the interests of the collective and the interests of the individual; between democracy and centralism; between the leadership and the led; and the contradiction arising from the bureaucratic style of work of certain government workers in theirrelations with the masses.

All these are also contradictions among the people. Generally, the people’s basic identity of interests underlies the contradictions among the people.

The contradictions between ourselves and the enemy are antagonistic contradictions. Within the ranks of the people, the contradictions among the working people are non-antagonistic, while those between the exploited and the exploiting classes have a non-antagonistic aspect in addition to an antagonistic aspect.

In the political life of our people, how should right be distinguished from wrong in one’s words and actions? On the basis of the principles of our Constitution, the will of the overwhelming majority of our people and the common political positions which have been proclaimed on various occasions by our political parties and groups, we consider that, broadly speaking, the criteria should be as follows:

  1. Words and actions should help to unite, and not divide, the people of our various nationalities.
  2. They should be beneficial, and not harmful, to socialist transformation and socialist construction.
  3. They should help to consolidate, and not undermine or weaken, the people’s democratic dictatorship.
  4. They should help to consolidate, and not undermine or weaken, democratic centralism.
  5. They should help to strengthen, and not discard or weaken, the leadership of the Communist Party.
  6. They should be beneficial, and not harmful, to international socialist unity and the unity of the peace-loving people of the world.

Of these six criteria, the most important are the socialist path and the leadership of the Party.

The question of suppressing counter-revolutionaries is one of a struggle between ourselves and the enemy, a contradiction between ourselves and the enemy. Among the people, there are some who see this question in a somewhat different light.

The Rightists make no distinction between ourselves and the enemy. The Leftists magnify contradictions between ourselves and the enemy. They:

  • take certain contradictions among the people for contradictions with the enemy
  • regard as counter-revolutionaries as not counter-revolutionaries.

Both these views are wrong.

Qualitatively different contradictions can only be resolved by qualitatively different methods. For instance:

  • the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is resolved by socialist revolution
  • the contradiction between the great masses of the people and the feudal system is resolved by democratic revolution
  • the contradiction between the colonies and imperialism is resolved by national revolutionary war
  • the contradiction between the working class and the peasant class in socialist society is resolved by the method of collectivization and mechanization in agriculture
  • the contradiction within the Communist Party is resolved by criticism and self-criticism
  • the contradiction between society and nature is resolved by developing the productive forces

The principle of using different methods to resolve different contradictions is one which Marxist-Leninists must strictly observe.

"On Contradiction" (August 1937), Selected Works, Vol. I, pp. 321-22.

Since they are different in nature, the contradictions between ourselves and the enemy and the contradictions among the people must be resolved by different methods.

To put it briefly, the former are a matter of drawing a clear distinction between ourselves and the enemy, and the latter a matter of drawing a clear distinction between right and wrong. The distinction between ourselves and the enemy is also a matter of right and wrong.

For example, the question of who is in the right, we or the domestic and foreign reactionaries, the imperialists, the feudalists and bureaucrat-capitalists, is also a matter of right and wrong, but it is in a different category from questions of right and wrong among the people.

On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People (February 27, 1957),1st pocket ed., pp. 5-6.

The only way to settle questions of an ideological nature or controversial issues among the people is by the democratic method, the method of discussion, of criticism, of persuasion and education, and not by the method of coercion or repression.

To be able to carry on their production and studies effectively and to arrange their lives properly, the people want their government and those in charge of production and of cultural and educational organizations to issue appropriate orders of an obligatory nature.

It is common sense that the maintenance of public order would be impossible without such administrative regulations. Administrative orders and the method of persuasion and education complement each other in resolving contradictions among the people. Even administrative regulations for the maintenance of public order must be accompanied by persuasion and education, for in many cases regulations alone will not work.

Inevitably, the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie will give expression to their own ideologies. Inevitably, they will stubbornly express themselves on political and ideological questions by every possible means.

You cannot expect them to do otherwise. We should not use the method of suppression and prevent them from expressing themselves, but should allow them to do so and at the same time argue with them and direct appropriate criticism at them.

We must criticize wrong ideas. Mistakes must be criticized and poisonous weeds fought wherever they crop up. However, such criticism should not be dogmatic.

The dialectical method should be used, not the metaphysical method. What is needed is scientific analysis and convincing argument.

It is necessary to criticize the people’s shortcomings. But we must truly take the stand of the people and speak out of whole-hearted eagerness to protect and educate them. To treat comrades like enemies is to go over to the stand of the enemy.

"Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art" (May 1942), Selected Works, Vol.III, p. 92.

Contradiction and struggle are universal and absolute, but the methods of resolving contradictions, that is, the forms of struggle, differ according to the differences in the nature of the contradictions.

Some contradictions are characterized by open antagonism, others are not. In accordance with the concrete development of things, some contradictions which were originally non-antagonistic develop into antagonistic ones, while others which were originally antagonistic develop into non-antagonistic ones.

"On Contradiction" (August 1937), Selected Works, Vol. I, p 344.

In ordinary circumstances, contradictions among the people are not antagonistic. But if they are not handled properly, or if we relax our vigilance and lower our guard, antagonism may arise.

In a socialist country, a development of this kind is usually only a localized and temporary phenomenon. The reason is that the system of exploitation of man by man has been abolished and the interests of the people are basically the same.

On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People (February 27, 1957), 1st pocket ed., p. 14.

In our country, the contradiction between the working class and the national bourgeoisie belongs to the category of contradictions among the people. By and large, the class struggle between the two is a class struggle within the ranks of the people, because the Chinese national bourgeoisie has a dual character.

In the period of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, it had both a revolutionary and a conciliationist side to its character. In the period of the socialist revolution, exploitation of the working class for profit constitutes one side of the character of the national bourgeoisie, while its support of the Constitution and its willingness to accept socialist transformation constitute the other.

The national bourgeoisie differs from the imperialists, the landlords and the bureaucrat-capitalists.

The contradiction between the national bourgeoisie and the working class is one between the exploiter and the exploited, and is by nature antagonistic. But in the concrete conditions of China, this antagonistic class contradiction can, if properly handled, be transformed into a non-antagonistic one and be resolved by peaceful methods.

However, it will change into a contradiction between ourselves and the enemy if we do not handle it properly and do not follow the policy of uniting with, criticizing and educating the national bourgeoisie, or if thenational bourgeoisie does not accept this policy of ours.

It [the counter-revolutionary rebellion in Hungary in 1956] was a case of reactionaries inside a socialist country, in league with the imperialists, attempting to achieve their conspiratorial aims by taking advantage of contradictions among the people to foment dissension and stir up disorder. This lesson of the Hungarian events merits attention.