Thus Spoke Lenin: How to Encircle the “Law of Non-Contradiction”

The School of Athens. My Philosophy, personified as Diogenes, is lounging on the steps in front of Plato and Aristotle at the center of the foreground.
Here is Diogenes.
Michelangelo being Heraclitus is arguably the most relevant aspect of this painting. Why is Heraclitus being depicted by Michelangelo of the Renaissance?

If anyone wants to know the secret to how I am able to arrive at my conclusions in The Third Place, it requires achieving a Unity of Opposites and overcoming Plato and Aristotle at the Law of Non-Contradiction (aka the “Law of Contradiction”). There are multiple instances of me doing exactly that, the most obvious example being my actual political-economic ideology, “American Conservative Socialism.” Now, to most American Conservatives and most American Socialists, an ideology like “Conservative Socialism” makes zero sense. How is that possible? Is there anything from the works of men like Vladimir Lenin where foreknowledge of the Law of Non-Contradiction is mandatory for anyone trying to follow my movements on the Third World Ideologies Diagram?

Nobody will understand how I arrived at my conclusions without some background information on the “Law of Non-Contradiction.” Here are the details surrounding the concept according to Aristotle:

  • “There are three versions in Aristotle’s Metaphysics: an ontological, a doxastic and a semantic version. The first version concerns things that exist in the world, the second is about what we can believe, and the third relates to assertion and truth.”
  • It is impossible for the same thing to belong and not to belong at the same time to the same thing and in the same respect’ (with the appropriate qualifications) (Metaph IV 3 1005b19–20).
  • It is impossible to hold (suppose) the same thing to be and not to be (Metaph IV 3 1005b24 cf.1005b29–30).”
  • The third version is that “opposite assertions cannot be true at the same time” (Metaph IV 6 1011b13–20).

Aristotle would have me believe that contemporary US politics is an EITHER/OR topic. Now, going by his particular logic, he will insist that:

  1. EITHER “I can be a Conservative, but not a Socialist” OR “I can be a Socialist, but not a Conservative.”  
  2. NEITHER “can I be a Conservative Socialist” NOR “Is it possible for me to be a Social Conservative.”  

Breaking down these two statements, my options are limited to two–“Conservative” or “Socialist.” Missing from the discussion altogether are “Conservative Socialist” and “Social Conservatism.” The Explicit Intent of the Law of Non-Contradiction, in the hands of a Liberal Capitalist, is to prevent me from finding potential allies and sympathizers to my ideology of choice. Every ideology on the Third World Ideologies Diagram is vulnerable to the Law of Non-Contradiction in some form or another.  

The problem arises when plenty of people in political-economic discourse find it permissible to deem “being a Conservative alone” and “being a Socialist alone” as my only options.  A Liberal Capitalist can then cite plenty of examples in US History where it is allegedly ‘impossible’ for me to achieve a Unity of Opposites between American Conservatism and American Socialism. Most Americans still treat this topic as a given. It does not have to be this way, but I am forced to pursue the roles that I have been assigned to in this Life.

Mao Zedong playing Ping Pong

Fortunately, Mao Zedong was thinking about these same questions in On Contradiction in 1937.

“The Law of Contradiction in things, that is, the Law of the Unity of Opposites, is the basic law of materialist dialectics. Lenin said, ‘Dialectics in the proper sense is the study of contradiction in the very essence of objects.’ Lenin often called this law the essence of dialectics; he also called it the kernel of dialectics. In studying this law, therefore, we cannot but touch upon a variety of questions, upon a number of philosophical problems. If we can become clear on all these problems, we shall arrive at a fundamental understanding of materialist dialectics. The problems are: The two world outlooks, the universality of contradiction, the particularity of contradiction, the principal contradiction and the principal aspect of a contradiction, the identity and struggle of the aspects of a contradiction, and the place of antagonism in contradiction.

Throughout the history of human knowledge, there have been two conceptions concerning the law of development of the universe, the metaphysical conception and the dialectical conception, which form two opposing world outlooks. Lenin said:

‘The two basic (or two possible? or two historically observable?) conceptions of development (evolution) are: development as decrease and increase, as repetition, and development as a unity of opposites (the division of a unity into mutually exclusive opposites and their reciprocal relation).’

“Here Lenin was referring to these two different world outlooks.

In China another name for metaphysics is hsuan-hsueh. For a long period in history whether in China or in Europe, this way of thinking, which is part and parcel of the idealist world outlook, occupied a dominant position in human thought. In Europe, the materialism of the bourgeoisie in its early days was also metaphysical. As the social economy of many European countries advanced to the stage of highly developed capitalism, as the forces of production, the class struggle and the sciences developed to a level unprecedented in history, and as the industrial proletariat became the greatest motive force in historical development, there arose the Marxist world outlook of materialist dialectics. Then, in addition to open and barefaced reactionary idealism, vulgar evolutionism emerged among the bourgeoisie to oppose materialist dialectics.”

The preceding is an important passage written by Mao wherein he specifically stated that the Law of Non-Contradiction is only relevant in the realm of Mathematics, indicating the presence of the same Positivist logic also forewarned by Carl Schmitt. Here, I can argued that both Mao and Schmitt were critical of Positivism, the belief professed by people like Richard von Mises (the younger and less well-known brother of Ludwig von Mises), that because the Natural Sciences and the Scientific Method are capable of achieving “Objective” results, they ought to reapplied to everyday social relations. Unfortunately, as I pointed out in an earlier Thus Spoke Lenin Post criticizing Positivism, this does not bode well for anyone and the Law of Non-Contradiction is the just the latest example thus far.

Richard von Mises
Familiarity with this phenomenon is as simple as realizing that no human being is capable of thinking purely along quantitative terms. Remember, that is how I am also able to bypass Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek’s “Economic Calculation Problem” with the Political Organization Problem of Martin Heidegger and Ernst Jünger, which is made possible thanks to von Mises and Heidegger sharing the same philosophical point of origin, Edmund Husserl (above). But unlike von Mises, which his older brother Ludwig and even the Austrian School will never deny, Heidegger was no doubt heavily influenced by Husserl in the then-emerging field of Philosophy in the early 20th century known as “Phenomenology,” the study of human expectations and experiences within everyday social relations.

The metaphysical or vulgar evolutionist world outlook sees things as isolated, static and one-sided. It regards all things in the universe, their forms and their species, as eternally isolated from one another and immutable. Such change as there is can only be an increase or decrease in quantity or a change of place. Moreover, the cause of such an increase or decrease or change of place is not inside things but outside them, that is, the motive force is external. Metaphysicians hold that all the different kinds of things in the universe and all their characteristics have been the same ever since they first came into being. All subsequent changes have simply been increases or decreases in quantity. They contend that a thing can only keep on repeating itself as the same kind of thing and cannot change into anything different. In their opinion, capitalist exploitation, capitalist competition, the individualist ideology of capitalist society, and so on, can all be found in ancient slave society, or even in primitive society, and will exist for ever unchanged [Read: Friedrich Nietzsche’s ‘Slave Morality of the Bourgeoisie’].”

“They ascribe the causes of social development to factors external to society, such as geography and climate. They search in an over-simplified way outside a thing for the causes of its development, and they deny the theory of materialist dialectics which holds that development arises from the contradictions inside a thing. Consequently, they can explain neither the qualitative diversity of things, nor the phenomenon of one quality changing into another. In Europe, this mode of thinking existed as mechanical materialism in the 17th and 18th centuries and as vulgar evolutionism at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. In China, there was the metaphysical thinking exemplified in the saying ‘Heaven changeth not, likewise the Tao changeth not’, and it was supported by the decadent feudal ruling classes for a long time. Mechanical materialism and vulgar evolutionism, which were imported from Europe in the last hundred years, are supported by the bourgeoisie.”

Mao went to describe examples in Military Science where the Law of Non-Contradiction falls apart in the face of armed combat. He cited the constant shifting between offensives and defensives, victory and defeat as two obvious examples where Aristotle’s logic deems as Contradictions in themselves.

Bolstering Mao’s arguments therein, I must state that Aristotle would also have us believe that it is impossible for somebody like Erich von Manstein to pull off his legendary “Schlag aus der Nachhand” (Backhand Blow) during the “Third Battle of Kharkov” in February 1943. To Aristotle (and most people operating on Law of Non-Contradiction), it is somehow ‘illogical’ and ‘irrational’ for von Manstein to be attacking the Soviets from two directions south of Kharkov. How is it possible for Mao (by word) and von Manstein (by action) to be disproving the Law of Non-Contradiction?
Erich von Manstein

“Contradiction is present in the process of development of all things; it permeates the process of development of each thing from beginning to end. This is the universality and absoluteness of contradiction which we have discussed above. Now let us discuss the particularity and relativity of contradiction.

This problem should be studied on several levels.”

“The sciences are differentiated precisely on the basis of the particular contradictions inherent in their respective objects of study. Thus the contradiction peculiar to a certain field of phenomena constitutes the object of study for a specific branch of science. For example, positive and negative numbers in mathematics; action and reaction in mechanics; positive and negative electricity in physics; dissociation and combination in chemistry; forces of production and relations of production, classes and class struggle, in social science; offence and defense in military science; idealism and materialism, the metaphysical outlook and the dialectical outlook, in philosophy; and so on–all these are the objects of study of different branches of science precisely because each branch has its own particular contradiction and particular essence.
“First, the contradiction in each form of motion of matter has its particularity. Man’s knowledge of matter is knowledge of its forms of motion, because there is nothing in this world except matter in motion and this motion must assume certain forms. In considering each form of motion of matter, we must observe the points which it has in common with other forms of motion. But what is especially important and necessary, constituting as it does the foundation of our knowledge of a thing, is to observe what is particular to this form of motion of matter, namely, to observe the qualitative difference between this form of motion and other forms. Only when we have done so can we distinguish between things. Every form of motion contains within itself its own particular contradiction. This particular contradiction constitutes the particular essence which distinguishes one thing from another. It is the internal cause or, as it may be called, the basis for the immense variety of things in the world. There are many forms of motion in nature, mechanical motion, sound, light, heat, electricity, dissociation, combination, and so on. All these forms are interdependent, but in its essence each is different from the others. The particular essence of each form of motion is determined by its own particular contradiction. This holds true not only for nature but also for social and ideological phenomena. Every form of society, every form of ideology, has its own particular contradiction and particular essence.”
Of course, unless we understand the universality of contradiction, we have no way of discovering the universal cause or universal basis for the movement or development of things; however, unless we study the particularity of contradiction, we have no way of determining the particular essence of a thing which differentiates it from other things, no way of discovering the particular cause or particular basis for the movement or development of a thing, and no way of distinguishing one thing from another or of demarcating the fields of science.”

Later, Mao went on to write:

“There are still two points in the problem of the particularity of contradiction which must be singled out for analysis, namely, the principal contradiction and the principal aspect of a contradiction.

There are many contradictions in the process of development of a complex thing, and one of them is necessarily the principal contradiction whose existence and development determine or influence the existence and development of the other contradictions.”

What did Mao was trying to suggest in relation to the aforementioned example involving von Manstein’s Backhand Blow? Personally, I found the Military Science analogy to be the most effective way to get Mao’s point across. Where there is an apparent Synchronicity between theoretical postulation and historical practice, as in the case of the Backhand Blow, there is an underlying Metaphysics governing von Manstein’s decision-making process as a Field Marshal that is distinctly Hegelian. And while I can make the same argument regarding Mao’s two analogies, an Imperial Japanese invasion of Mainland China (historical practice) and the Liberal Capitalist Market/Mixed Economy (theoretical postulations), “actions speak louder than words.”  

In the context of von Manstein’s situation, he knew the Soviets had regained the initiative due to the failure of “Unternehmen Wintergewitter” (Operation Winter Storm), which was to relieve the encircled 6. Armee at Stalingrad in late 1942. Once it became clear that Stalingrad could no longer be captured, it became clear to von Manstein that he needed to act quickly as the Soviets were rolling across Eastern Ukraine. With the Backhand Blow, the rest of Mao’s logic flows as naturally as the decision to bludgeon the Soviet counteroffensive.    

“When we understand the universality and the particularity of contradiction, we must proceed to study the problem of the identity and struggle of the aspects of a contradiction.”
“Identity, unity, coincidence, interpenetration, interpermeation, interdependence (or mutual dependence for existence), interconnection or mutual co-operation–all these different terms mean the same thing and refer to the following two points: first, the existence of each of the two aspects of a contradiction in the process of the development of a thing presupposes the existence of the other aspect, and both aspects coexist in a single entity; second, in given conditions, each of the two contradictory aspects transforms itself into its opposite. This is the meaning of identity.”

Lenin said: ‘Dialectics is the teaching which shows how opposites can be and how they happen to be (how they become) identical—under what conditions they are identical, transforming themselves into one another, —why the human mind should take these opposites not as dead, rigid, but as living, conditional, mobile, transforming themselves into one another.’
Note to Reader: Those are Waffen-SS paramilitaries, not Wehrmacht personnel! Can you, the one reading this, tell the difference between the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS?

“The contradictory aspects in every process exclude each other, struggle with each other and are in opposition to each other. Without exception, they are contained in the process of development of all things and in all human thought. A simple process contains only a single pair of opposites, while a complex process contains more. And in turn, the pairs of opposites are in contradiction to one another.
Hence, if in any process there are a number of contradictions, one of them must be the principal contradiction playing the leading and decisive role, while the rest occupy a secondary and subordinate position. Therefore, in studying any complex process in which there are two or more contradictions, we must devote every effort to funding its principal contradiction. Once this principal contradiction is grasped, all problems can be readily solved. This is the method Marx taught us in his study of capitalist society. Likewise Lenin and Stalin taught us this method when they studied imperialism and the general crisis of capitalism and when they studied the Soviet economy. There are thousands of scholars and men of action who do not understand it, and the result is that, lost in a fog, they are unable to get to the heart of a problem and naturally cannot find a way to resolve its contradictions.
“As we have said, one must not treat all the contradictions in a process as being equal but must distinguish between the principal and the secondary contradictions, and pay special attention to grasping the principal one. But, in any given contradiction, whether principal or secondary, should the two contradictory aspects be treated as equal? Again, no. In any contradiction the development of the contradictory aspects is uneven. Sometimes they seem to be in equilibrium, which is however only temporary and relative, while unevenness is basic. Of the two contradictory aspects, one must be principal and the other secondary. 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. In a given process or at a given stage in the development of a contradiction, A is the principal aspect and B is the non-principal aspect; at another stage or in another process the roles are reversed—a change determined by the extent of the increase or decrease in the force of each aspect in its struggle against the other in the course of the development of a thing.”

What do these passage mean?

Simply put, what Mao was trying to argue here can now be reapplied to the “American Conservative Socialism” analogy I brought up earlier. If I were to conduct a Unity of Opposites between Conservativism and Socialism, two new ideologies emerge. I now have the choice of choosing between Social Conservatism and Conservative Socialism, the two combinations denoting the prevalence of “American Conservatism” in the first choice and “American Socialism” in the second choice. Since I stated earlier that I wanted to achieve a Unity of Opposites to yield “American Conservative Socialism,” I am obviously going to discard the Social Conservatism.

For the Backhand Blow, we also encounter the exact same phenomenon in accordance with what Mao was describing in On Contradiction. The most obvious are the Wehrmacht (Non-Hitlerist) and Waffen-SS (Pro-Hitlerist) military formations that von Manstein chose to repel the Soviet counteroffensive. The II. SS Panzerkorps (“Pro-Hitlerist”) attacked from the north whilst “1. Wehrmacht Panzerarmee” and “4 Panzerarmee” (“Anti-Hitlerist”) attacked from the south.  The results of that pincer maneuver and the reversal of fortunes by the following month can be described by the rest of what Mao had to say:

“We often speak of ‘the new superseding the old’. The supersession of the old by the new is a general, eternal and inviolable law of the universe. The transformation of one thing into another, through leaps of different forms in accordance with its essence and external conditions–this is the process of the new superseding the old. In each thing there is contradiction between its new and its old aspects, and this gives rise to a series of struggles with many twists and turns. As a result of these struggles, the new aspect changes from being minor to being major and rises to predominance, while the old aspect changes from being major to being minor and gradually dies out. And the moment the new aspect gains dominance over the old, the old thing changes qualitatively into a new thing. It can thus be seen that the nature of a thing is mainly determined by the principal aspect of the contradiction, the aspect which has gained predominance. When the principal aspect which has gained predominance changes, the nature of a thing changes accordingly.

That is how all things in the objective world and all human thought are constituted and how they are set in motion.

This being so, there is an utter lack of identity or unity. How then can one speak of identity or unity?”

“The fact is that no contradictory aspect can exist in isolation. Without its opposite aspect, each loses the condition for its existence. Just think, can any one contradictory aspect of a thing or of a concept in the human mind exist independently?
Without life, there would be no death; without death, there would be no life. Without ‘above’, there would be no ‘below’ without ‘below’, there would be no ‘above’. Without misfortune, there would be no good fortune; without good fortune, these would be no misfortune. Without facility, there would be no difficulty without difficulty, there would be no facility.”
“Without landlords, there would be no tenant-peasants; without tenant-peasants, there would be no landlords. Without the bourgeoisie, there would be no proletariat; without the proletariat, there would be no bourgeoisie. Without imperialist oppression of nations, there would be no colonies or semi-colonies; without colonies or semicolonies, there would be no imperialist oppression of nations.”

[Read: Or in this case, without the infantry, the armor would be easily knocked out; without the armor, the infantry would be easily slaughtered.”]

Between what Chairman Mao wrote and the pictures I am depicting (as von Manstein’s handiwork), it should be obvious:

  • Without II. SS Panzerkorps attacking from the north, the Soviets could have won the Third Battle of Kharkov.
  • Without 1. Wehrmacht Panzerarmee and 4. Wehrmacht Panzerarmee attacking from the south, the Soviets would have been victorious in the Third Battle of Kharkov.
“It is so with all opposites; in given conditions, on the one hand they are opposed to each other, and on the other they are interconnected, interpenetrating, interpermeating and interdependent, and this character is described as identity. In given conditions, all contradictory aspects possess the character of non-identity and hence are described as being in contradiction. But they also possess the character of identity and hence are interconnected. This is what Lenin means when he says that dialectics studies ‘how opposites can be … identical’. How then can they be identical? Because each is the condition for the other’s existence. This is the first meaning of identity.”
“But is it enough to say merely that each of the contradictory aspects is the condition for the other’s existence, that there is identity between them and that consequently they can coexist in a single entity? No, it is not. The matter does not end with their dependence on each other for their existence; what is more important is their transformation into each other. That is to say, in given conditions, each of the contradictory aspects within a thing transforms itself into its opposite, changes its position to that of its opposite. This is the second meaning of the identity of contradiction.”

Does one not realize the implications of what Chairman Mao and von Manstein are both demonstrating here in terms of both word and deed? Vladimir Lenin, it should be recalled, was particularly fond of arguing for “Socialism in Words, Socialism in Deeds!”

  • II. SS Panzerkorps is a “Waffen-SS paramilitary formation.” The Waffen-SS is the paramilitary forces of the NSDAP, distinguishing them from the Wehrmacht, the armed forces of the German Reich.
  • 1. and 4. Panzerarmee are “Wehrmacht military formations.” The Wehrmacht are the German armed forces, distinguishing them from the Waffen-SS, the paramilitary forces of the NSDAP.
  • Conversely, the NSDAP is not the German Reich and the German Reich is not the NSDAP.

NSDAP ≠ German Reich
German Reich ≠ NSDAP

If one happens to be incapable of comprehending such basic logic, how else will World War II historians explain von Manstein’s Backhand Blow later paving the way for the Battle of Kursk for people like Heinz Guderian (pictured center)?

How else am I supposed to explain that it is in fact possible to create an “American Conservative Socialism” as the Unity of Opposites between American Conservatism and American Socialism?

Categories: Philosophy

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