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In Part II we take up separately the various component parts of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. This will help us to understand various aspects of MLM in greater depth. It will also help us to grasp MLM in the continuity and the process of development of its various parts.


Chapter  X


Philosophical Materialism


The Materialist Conception of History

Lenin's Contribution to the Development of Marxist Philosophy

Mao's Contribution to the Development of Marxist Philosophy


We have seen in the foregoing pages how the working class had emerged as a class-for-ifself by the mid 19th century – as a consolidated fighting force and a new motive force of history. The bourgeoisie, that had been until then a motive force for social development, began to be transformed into an obsolete force that is doomed to disappear from the centre stage of history.

Marx and Engels recognised that the proletariat has to emerge as the most revolutionary social class and a motive force for social development. Besides, they also recognised that the proletariat in the course of liberating itself from wage slavery, will also liberate the entire society from all class exploitation and oppression and advance towards a classless society.

The division of society into two great classes; the continuous deterioration of the living conditions of the working classes; the ever increasing impoverishment of the masses; the recurrent crises in capitalist production – all these shattered the illusion that capitalism and its product, liberal bourgeois ideology, are the summation of the human achievements. The gigantic task of overthrowing capitalism and advancing towards a classless society has been thrust upon the shoulders of the working class by history. Marx and Engels recognised the necessity for the working class to have its own world outlook if it has to become conscious of its historic task and fulfill it.

The proletariat is a class that has no private property and that can break its chain of wage slavery only through the abolition of private property. However, other class ideology had a dominant influence over the working class and the working class movement at that time. Which ever class has control over the means of production in society will also be in a position to dictate the intellectual life. The ruling class ideology that arises on the basis of private property and serves the interests of the private property will only serve as intellectual chains of slavery and can never contribute to working class liberation. Marx and Engels recognised that the working class can overthrow capitalism only by developing its own new ideology that represents its class interests, i.e., which works for the abolition of private property. The development of a new, scientific world outlook that can represent the interests of the working class, come to the fore as the immediate historic necessity for the working class movement at that juncture. Marx and Engels carried out this historic task most ably and Marxist philosophy emerged in that course. Marxist philosophy is the world outlook of the proletariat; it is the world outlook of the advanced detachment of the working class, the communist party. The basis for the proletarian party’s theoritical understanding in any sphere is Marxist philosophy. Marxist philosophy is known as dialectical and historical materialism.

Marxism is the revolutionary theory of the working class. Its basis is dialectical and historical materialism. Hence the aim of Marxist philosophy is to transform this world in a revolutionary way. As Marx had stated: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it."1

We have seen that in the given concrete historical conditions of that time, German classical philosophy had reached the peak of its development. Dialectics became manifest in the most revolutionary manner in classical German philosophy, particularly in the Hegelian philosophy. The uninterrupted dialectical unity and dialectical motion and development in nature, society and human thought were reflected in Hegelian dialectics. But, being an objective idealist, Hegel thought that this dialectical unity and development are reflection of the dialectical unity and development of the absolute idea. Thus the dialectical laws that are a reflection in human consciousness of the objective processes that are taking place in the real world were turned "upside down" by Hegel. Marx and Engels made them stand "upright" on their feet. And in this process, they reconstructed dialectics totally on materialist basis.

Feuerbach rejected both Hegelian idealism as well as his dialectics. Marx and Engels not only reconstructed dialectics with a materialistic outlook, but also made materialism scientific by making the scientific knowledge as the basis of it. Hence Marxist philosophical materialism and materialist dialecstic are different from all earlier philosophies. Marxist philosophical materialism had liberated materialism once for all from the speculations of philosophers. Rooted firmly in sciences, it has developed into the most consisting and scientific materialist outlook.

Philosophical Materialism

"The great basic question of all philosophy, especially of modern philosophy, is that concerning the relation of thinking and being ...spirit to nature..which is primary, spirit or nature..The answers which the philosophers gave to this question split them into two great camps. Those who asserted the primacy of spirit to nature, and therefore, in the last analysis, assumed world creation in some form or another.. comprised the camp of idealism. The others, who regarded nature as primary, belong to the various schools of materialism."2 — Engels.

"Idealism considers spirit (consciousness, concepts, the subject ) as the source of all that exists on earth, and matter (nature and society, the object ) as secondary and subordinate. Materialism recognises the independent existence of matter as detached from spirit and considers spirit as secondary and subordinate."3 — Mao.

Marx and Engels founded Marxist philosophy firmly in the camp of materialism. "Marx decidedly rejected not only idealism, which is always connected in one way or another with religion, but also the views,...of..agnosticism, criticism and positivism in their various forms, regarding such a philosophy as a ‘reactionary’ concession to idealism"4. While rejecting idealism, Marx and Engels also rejected the ‘old’ materialism of Feuerbach and others, because 1) it was ‘predominantly mechanical’; 2) it was non-historical, non-dialectical and did not apply the standpoint of development consistently and comprehensively; 3) it regarded the ‘human essence’ abstractly and not as the ensemble of all ‘social relations’ and it therefore did not understand the importance of ‘revolutionary, practical activity.’ Thus the ‘new’ materialism-Marxist materialism-was a materialism rid of all these defects; it was dialectical materialism.

They defined matter as material reality existing objectively and that it gets reflected in human consciousness. The way in which matter was defined by Marxist philosophical materialism resolved fundamental question in philosophy with a consistent materialist outlook. Marx and Engels affirmed that matter is the most general category expressing the universal essence of all concrete forms and parts of matter. Hence with the growth of knowledge regarding matter, the concept of matter gets even broader but does not become obsolete.

Marx and Engels also proved most scientifically the second aspect in the fundamental question in philosophy, viz, can human consciousness properly reflect objective reality? Marxist theory of knowledge totally rejects agnosticism and skepticism. Engels explain that the world will remain as a "thing-in-itself" as presumed by Kant but transform into "thing-for-us". He clarified that some things which are not known at a given time may be known after sometime but there can never be anything which remains forever as "thing-in-itself". Marxist theory of knowledge affirms that man is capable of knowing anything in this world.

Marxist theory of knowledge asserts that social practice is the source of knowledge. It also states that social practice is the measure of truth. It completely rejects rationalist and empiricist trends.


Hegelian idealist dialectics was reconstructed into the most consistent and scientific materialist dialectics in Marxist philosophy. Not believing in the permanence of anything in this world, the materialist dialectics proclaimed that capitalism is bound to be negated and that human society will inevitably advance towards communism. No wonder, Marxist dialectics has remained a threat to bourgeoisie even today.

"According to Marx, dialectics is ‘the science of the general laws of motion, both of the external world and of human thought.’"5

"(The general nature of dialectics [is]..the science of inter-connections, in contrast to metaphysics.)"

"It is, therefore, from the history of nature and human society that the laws of dialectics are abstracted. For they are nothing but the most general laws of these two aspects of historical development, as well as of thought itself. And indeed they can be reduced in the main to three:

The law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa;

The law of the interpenetration of opposites;

The law of the negation of the negation." 6 — Engels

This act of Marx of discovering the rational kernel of Hegel’s dialectics changed it radically from being a philosophy of the status quo into a philosophy of revolution. In the words of Marx, "In its mystified form, dialectics became the fashion in Germany, because it seemed to transfigure and to glorify the existing state of things. In its rational form it is a scandal and abomination to bourgeoisdom and its doctrinaire professors, because it includes in its comprehension and affirmative recognition of the existing state of things, at the same time also, the recognition of the negation of that state, of its inevitable breaking up; because it regards every historically developed social form as in fluid movement, and takes into account its transient nature not less than its momentary existence; because it lets nothing impose upon it, and is in its essence critical and revolutionary." 9

The Materialist Conception of History

Marx and Engels gave to philosophy the revolutionary task of changing the world. As society is the immediate field of activity of the working class, the revolutionary transformation of the society naturally finds primacy of place in Marxist philosophy. The materialists prior to Marx and Engels, including Feurbach, failed to adopt a consistent materialist outlook towards social phenomenon. On the hand, they applied dialectical materialism to the history of society and developed historical materialism. The basis for the materialist conception of history of Marx is that social being determines the social consciousness. Marx discovered the dialectical laws of motion of social development on this basis of most consistent materialist outlook with regard to society.

Historical materialism asserts that, the basis for is the production of necessities of life and that is on this basis the superstructure is built. In Marx’s view the relation between the base and superstructure is not one sided. Marxism fully recognises that while the mode of production is the determining element, it also recognises the influence of superstructure on the base and interaction between them.

Marx himself summarise as follows:

"In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or – what is but a legal expression for the same thing – with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as our opinion of an individual, is not based on what he thinks of himself, so we can not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive forces and the relations of production. No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that the task itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation."26 During later years however there was a tendency among followers of Marxism to overstress the economic aspect and thus arrive at a distorted understanding in practice. Engels therefore clarified, "According to the materialist conception of history, the ultimately determining element in history is the production and reproduction of real life. More than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence if somebody twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure……….also exercise their influence on the course of the historical struggle, and in many cases preponderate in determining their form." 27

The theory of class struggle of Marx emerged out of this materialist conception of history. He also recognised that the contradiction between productive forces and relations of production in class society manifests itself as a class contradiction and it is this class struggle which serves as the driving force of society. Hence described the history of class society as a history of a class struggle.

As historical materialism is an inseparable, living organic part of Marxist philosophy, it has evolved into a comprehensive, consistent and scientific outlook.

Marxist philosophy is not a product of a philosophical urge to create a great philosophical system. It has evolved in the course of fighting the ruling class ideology that stood as an obstacle to the immediate political struggle of the proletariat. That is why Marx and Engels had not prepared dialectical and historical materialism as a text book. It was founded and developed in the course of resolving the problems and challenges faced by the working class movement in the diverse social, economic, political and historical contexts. It means Marxist philosophy had taken birth and developed only as a science of revolutionary practice. Marx and Engels showed utmost interest in applying their dialectical and historical materialism to formulate various tactics to be adopted by the working class in diverse conditions. From Communist League to Second International they used Marxist philosophy as an ideological weapon to fight the wrong trends in the international working class movements particularly against anarchism. The tactics which they formulated for the working class movement from time to time with this scientific world outlook have been vindicated by history. Particularly, Paris Commune has incontrovertibly proved that the Marxist understanding regarding party, state, proletarian dictatorship and such other aspects is fully correct. Thus Marxism stood the test of time by basing itself on social practice. Hence Marxist philosophy found worldwide acceptance as the scientific world outlook of the proletariat.

Lenin’s Contribution to the Development of Marxist Philosophy

Marx and Engels gave leadership to the international working class movement at a time when bourgeoisie was still a progressive class. On the other hand Lenin led the international communist movement when capitalism was in the stage of imperialism. With the help of Marxist philosophy that emerged as creative science of revolutionary practice Lenin analysed the particularities of the economic political and social conditions of his time. Kautsky and other opportunist leaders of Second International tried to transform Marxism into a dogma. For instance they tried to apply assesments and tactics formulated by Marx and Engels which were suitable to the concrete conditions of their time to imperialist stage in a dogmatic manner. Lenin creatively analysed the historical, political, social and economic conditions of his time from a dialectical and historical materialistic perspective. He also affirmed that Marx and Engels too had adopted the same method and to consider assesments and tactics formulated by them to suit the then existing concrete conditions as universally applicable ones irrespective of the historical conditions would amount to a rejection of the essence of Marxist philosophy as a creative science of revolutionary practice.

In the ideological and political struggle carried out by Lenin against left and right opportunists in Russia as well as international communist movement, Marxist philosophy served as the sharpest theoretical weapon. In the course of the development of the working class movement Lenin further deepened the Marxist theoretical understanding regarding party, state, dictatorship of proletariat etc., (these aspects will be dealt in the later chapters) thereby enriching Marxist theory as a whole.

Lenin elaborated all aspects of Marxist philosophy and particularly his contribution to theory of knowledge and historical materialism have enriched them further.

In particular, his criticism on emprio-criticism which came to the fore as a revisionist trend in philosophy is of fundamental importance. From then on until today it has served as Marxist critique of the modern bourgeois philosophical trends. He considered the attack on Marxism in the name of "New" philosophical trends based on modern scientific discoveries as a manifestation of the class struggle in the philosophical front. He proved that all the "New" philosophical theories were no different from the old subjective idealism of Berkely and Hume. Lenin thus defeated most ably this attack on Marxism in the philosophical front. In this process he creatively developed Marxist philosophy.

His creative contribution to Marxist philosophical materialism is of utmost importance. The empiricists argued that the concept of the matter itself had become obsolete as a result of the latest discoveries in modern science. Lenin realised that the attack on the category of matter – very basis of Marxist philosophical materialism – was not at all the revision of Marxism in the light of new scientific advances, but actually an attack on the very foundations of Marxist philosophy. He incontrovertibly proved that the latest discoveries in modern science had only further vindicated the Marxist definition of matter. He also showed that it was physics, which confined definition of matter to one of its specific forms, that was in crisis but not Marxism.

"It is absolutely unpardonable to confuse, as the Machists do, any particular theory of the structure of matter with the epistemological category, to confuse the problem of the new properties of new aspects of matter (electrons, for example) with the old problem of the theory of knowledge, with the problem of the sources of our knowledge, the existence of objective truth, etc." (p. 129)

"The new physics," Lenin wrote, "having found new kinds of matter and new forms of its motion, raised the old philosophical questions because of the collapse of the old physical concepts." (p. 279)

"In its philosophical aspects, the essence of the ‘crisis in modern physics’ is that the old physics regarded its theories as ‘real knowledge of the materialist world,’ i.e., a reflection of the objective reality. The new trend in physics regards theories only as symbols, signs, and marks for practice, i.e., it denies the existence of an objective reality independent of our mind and reflected by it. . . . .. the materialist theory of knowledge, instinctively accepted by the earlier physics, has been replaced by an idealist and agnostic theory of knowledge, which, against the wishes of the idealists and agnostics, has been taken advantage of by fideism ..... The modern physics consists in the latter’s departure from the direct, resolute and irrevocable recognition of the objective value of its theories." (pp. 256-57)

"‘Matter disappears’ means that the limit within which we have hitherto known matter disappears and that our knowledge is penetrating deeper; properties of matter are likewise disappearing which formally seemed absolute, immutable, and primary (impenetrability, inertia, mass, etc.) and which are now revealed to be relative and characteristic only of certain states of matter." (p.260)

"The teachings of the science on the structure of the matter, on the chemical composition of food, on the atom and the electron, may and constantly do become obsolete" (p.185)

"The electron is as inexhaustible as the atom, nature is infinite." (p. 262) This idea of Lenin in effect became the fundamental notion of present day physics, especially the physics of elementary particles.

"The concept matter. . . . . epistemologically implies nothing but objective reality existing independently of the human mind and reflected by it." (p. 261)

"Matter is that which, acting upon our sense-organs, produces sensations; matter is the objective reality given to us in sensation." (p.146) With this understanding he defined matter as follows:

"Matter is a philosophical category denoting the objective reality which is given to man by his sensations, and which is copied, photographed and reflected by our sensations while existing independently of them." (p. 130)

The above definition has not only defined the most general category of matter in a most scientific manner but also irrefutably solved the fundamental question of philosophy from the materialist stand point.

Lenin laid bare the real essence of the "New", "Third line" in philosophy and exposed its fideistic face. This exposition is still relevant today.

"Recent philosophy is as partisan as was philosophy two thousand years ago. The contending parties are essentially – although this is concealed by a pseudo-erudite quackery of new terms or by a weak-minded non-partisanship – materialism and idealism. The latter is nearly a subtle, refined form of fideism." (p. 358)

"Marx and Engels were partisan in philosophy from start to the finish, they were able to detect the deviations from materialism and concessions to idealism and fideism in every one of the ‘recent’ trends." (p. 339)

"The genius of Marx and Engels lies precisely in the fact that during a very long period, nearly half a century, they developed materialism, further advanced one fundamental trend in philosophy. . . . . and showed how to apply . . . . . this same materialism in the sphere of the social sciences, mercilessly brushing aside as rubbish all nonsense, pretentious hotchpotch, the innumerable attempts to ‘discover’ a ‘new’ line in philosophy, to invent a ‘new’ trend and so forth." (p. 336)

"The ‘realists’, etc., including the ‘positivists’, the Machists etc., are all a wretched mush; they are a contemptible middle party in philosophy, who confuse the materialist and idealist trends on every question. The attempt to escape from these two basic trends in philosophy is nothing but ‘conciliatory quackery’." (p. 340)

"The objective class role of emprio-criticism consists entirely in rendering faithful service to fideists in their struggle against materialism in general and historical materialism in particular." (p. 358)

Lenin clearly exposed the real essence of the reconciliation of religion with modern science and called it as "cultural fideism".

"Contemporary fideism does not at all reject science; all it rejects is the ‘exaggerated claims’ of science, to wit, its claim to objective truth." (p. 125)

"Modern, cultural fideism . . . . . does not think of demanding anything more than the declaration that the concepts of natural science are ‘working hypotheses.’ We will, sirs, surrender science to you scientists provided you surrender epistemology, philosophy to us – such is the condition for the cohabitation of the theologians and professors in the ‘advanced’ capitalist countries." (p. 280)

Lenin developed Marxist theory of reflection in a creative way. He explained on the basis of modern scientific discoveries that matter has the property of being reflected and consciousness is the highest form of reflection of matter in the brain.

The theory of reflection of matter developed by Lenin, the definition he gave to matter further strengthend the foundations of Marxist philosophical materialism, making them impregnable to any attacks from any form of idealism.

The revolutionary dialectics was further carried ahead by Lenin who particularly made a deep study of contradictions. He "called contradiction ‘the salt of dialectics’ and stated that the division of the One and the knowledge of its contradictory parts is the essence of dialectics." 10 He further asserted, "In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics, but it requires explanations and development."11 These ‘explanations and development’ was done some twenty years later by Mao.

Lenin elaborated and explained the esence of historical materialism and enriched it by analysing the concrete historical phenomena with brilliance.

"Marx deepened and developed philosophical materialism to the full, and extended the congnition of nature to include the cognition of human society. His historical materialism was a great achievement in scientific thinking. The chaos and arbitrariness that had previously reigned in views on history and politics were replaced by a strikingly integral and hormonious scientific theory, which shows how, in consequence of the growth of productive forces, out of one system of social life another and higher system develops – how capitalism, for instance, grows out of feudalism.

"Just as man's knowledge reflects nature (i.e., developing matter), which exist independently of him, so man's social knowledge (i.e., his various use and doctrines– philosophical, religious, political and so forth) reflects the economic system of society. Political institutions are a superstructure on the economic foundation." (Marx, Engels Marxism, p. 64)

He explained the organic relationsthip between dialectical materialism and historical materialism in this way,"materialism in general recognises objectively real being (matter) as independent of the social consciousness of humanity. In both cases consciousness is only the reflection of being, at best an approximately true (adequate, perfectly exact) reflection of it. From these Marxist philosophy, which is cast from a single piece of steel, you can not eliminate one basic premise, one essential part, without departing from objective truth, without falling a prey to bourgeois-reactionary falsehood." (p. 326)

Mao’s Contribution to the Development of Marxist Philosophy

Mao too like Lenin, adopted the method of creatively applying Marxist Philosophy to the analysis of the concrete historical, economic, political and social conditions and in this course he elaborated all aspects of Marxist philosophy. The manner in which he took the scientific world outlook to the proletariat of the oppressed masses in a backword semi-feudal, semi-colonial country comprising the peasantry as the major component, stands as a model even today. He continued the legacy of Lenin, waged consistent struggle against all types of revisionism and dogmatic interpretations of Marxism, and analysed the concrete conditions of China with the scientific world outlook of the proletariat. He thereby developed the general line and theory of New Democratic Revolution for the colonial and semi-colonial countries.

Like Lenin, Mao also made fundamental contribution to the development of Marxist philosophy. His works such as On Contradiction, On Practice, Where do the correct ideas come from, On the handling of contradictions among the people in particular have contributed greatly to the development of Marxist philosophy.

Mao’s analysis of contradictions is a fundamental contribution to the Marxist philosophy. The method he adopted for studying various contradictions, the relations between the contradictions, and the various aspects of the contradiction is the most scientific. He developed dialectics, as described by Lenin, as a science of study of opposing aspects of contradictions. On the whole dialectical motion and development were reflected in the analysis of contradiction by Mao.

Mao made a phenomenal leap in the understanding of contradictions. He summarised his discoveries in the following manner,

"The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the fundamental law of nature and of society and therefore also the fundamental law of thought.....According to dialectical materialism, contradiction is present in all processes of objectively existing things and of subjective thought and permeates all these processes from beginning to end; this is the universality and absoluteness of contradiction. Each contradiction and each of its aspects have their respective characteristics; this is the particularity and relativity of contradiction. In given conditions, opposites possess identity, and consequently can coexist in a single entity and can transform themselves into each other; this again is the particularity and relativity of contradiction. But the struggle of opposites is ceaseless, it goes on both when the opposites are coexisting and when they are transforming themselves into each other, and becomes especially conspicuous when they are transforming themselves into one another; this again is the universality and absoluteness of contradiction. In studying the particularity and relativity of contradiction, we must give attention to the distinction between the principal contradiction and the non-principal contradictions and to the distinction between the principal aspect and the non-principal aspect of a contradiction; in studying the universality of contradiction and the struggle of opposites in contradiction, we must give attention to the distinction between the different forms of struggle." 12 "...forms of struggle, differ according to the differences in the nature of the contradictions. Some contradictions are characterised 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." 13

Mao continued always to develop the theory of contradictions in practice. Particularly during the period of socialist construction, Mao gave further clarity on the nature and handling of social contradictions, particularly regarding contradictions among the people. He stressed that despite the victory of the revolution it was wrong to think that contradictions no longer existed in Chinese society. He stated,

"We are confronted with two types of social contradictions – those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people. The two are totally different in nature..."

"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 as well as an antagonistic aspect."14 Mao further gave a detailed exposition of the methods of handling the contradictions among the people in a socialist society.

During the Cultural Revolution too Mao placed constant stress on the correct handling of contradictions as he saw this as the only guarantee for the success of socialism. Thus it was warned at the Ninth CPC Congress in 1969, "We must correctly understand and handle class contradictions and class struggle, distinguish the contradictions between ourselves and the enemy from those among the people, and handle them correctly. Otherwise a socialist country like ours will turn into its opposite and degenerate, and a capitalist restoration will take place." 15

He enriched the Marxist theory of knowledge in the course of elaborating the relations of production and knowledge. He vividly explained the dialectical relations between the perceptual and conceptual stages of knowledge. He elaborated the process of development of knowledge through two stages on the basis of practice.

It was however Mao who elaborated and refined the Marxist theory of knowledge particularly with regard to the relation between knowledge and practice , between knowing and doing. He detailed the process of cognition from lower to higher levels and its transformation of reality through practice.

"Discover the truth through practice, and again through practice verify and develop the truth. Start from perceptual knowledge and actively develop it into rational knowledge; then start from rational knowledge and actively guide revolutionary practice to change both the subjective and the objective world. Practice, knowledge, again practice, and again knowledge. This form repeats itself in endless cycles, and with each cycle the content of practice and knowledge rises to a higher level. such is the whole of the dialectical-materialist theory of knowledge, and such is the dialectical-materialist theory of the unity of knowing and doing."24

Bourgeois intellectuals distort Marxism alleging that it is nothing but economic determinism. But Marx and Engels had very clearly explained the dialectical relations between base and superstructure. Mao clearly pointed out in his analysis of contradictions the dialectical relations between these and also the decisive role that superstructure play in some situations.

"The principal aspect is the one playing the leading role in the contradiction. The nature of a thing is determined mainly by the principal aspect of a contradiction, the aspect which has gained the dominant position.

"But this situation is not static; the principal and the non-principal aspects of a contradiction transform themselves into each other and the nature of the thing changes accordingly………

"Some people think that this is not true of certain contradictions. For instance, in the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production, the productive forces are the principal aspect; in the contradiction between theory and practice, practice is the principal aspect; in the contradiction between the economic base and the superstructure, the economic base is the principal aspect; and there is no change in their respective positions. This is the mechanical materialist conception, not the dialectical materialist conception. True, the productive forces, practice and the economic base generally play the principal and decisive role; whoever denies this is not materialist. But it must also be admitted that in certain conditions, such aspects as the relations of the production, theory and the superstructure in turn manifest themselves in the principal and decisive role."28

Throughout the period of socialist construction and particularly during the Cultural Revolution, Mao always tried to maintain the correct dialectical balance in approach between economic base and superstructure, economics and politics. He tried to correct Stalin’s incorrect approach of totally neglecting the superstructure and concentrating only on technology, by emphasising the linking of planning with politics-in-command, by looking not only at production relations, but also at the superstructure, at politics, at the role of people. This was the essence of the slogan, ‘Grasp Revolution, Promote Production.’

Thus the Report of the Ninth CPC Congress in 1969 said,

"‘Grasp revolution, promote production’ – this principle is absolutely correct. It correctly explains the relationship between revolution and production, between consciousness and matter, between the superstructure and the economic basis, and between the relations of production and the productive forces...Politics is the concentrated expression of economics. If we fail to make revolution in the superstructure, fail to arouse the broad masses of the workers and peasants, fail to criticise the revisionist line, fail to expose the handful of renegades, enemy agents, capitalist-roaders in power and counter-revolutionaries, and fail to consolidate the leadership of the proletariat, how can we further consolidate the socialist economic base and further develop the socialist productive forces? This is not to replace production by revolution, but to use revolution to command production, promote it and lead it forward."29

This, therefore, was, under Mao’s guidance, the correct dialectical application of the materialist conception of history.



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