Nirvana or ceaseless contradictions?

Chris Burford cburford at
Tue Dec 27 15:15:19 MST 1994

      Socialist nirvana or ceaseless contradictions?

I am enouraged by the amount of overlap between Steve Keen, Ron
Press, and others, to believe that a theoretical attractor is
emerging that might be called "systemic Marxism".

Such a term seems to me preferable because it embraces complexity
theory as well as chaos theory but avoids the one-sided dramatic
connotations of "chaos" theory (Juan Inigo has a point about

In order to reclaim the scientific right to try to change the
structure of human society, it seems we have to accept a
theoretical stance that implies there is no such thing as a
socialist nirvana. I agree with Ron and Steve on this and I think
the price is worth paying.

How then would readers of the forum respond to the following
formulation by Mao (before the tragic experiment of the Cultural
Revolution, and before the abandonment of socialist economic

It comes from "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions among
the People" February 1957. It followed detailed internal
discussion about the Hungarian uprising of 1956, which reinforced
the Chinese Party's view of the distance between it and the
Soviet Party as moulded by Stalin.

"Marxist philosophy holds that the law of the unity of opposites
is the fundamental law of the universe. The law operates
universally, whether in the natural world, in human society, or
in man's thinking. Between the opposites in a contradiction there
is at once unity and struggle, and it is this that impels things
to move and change. Contradictions exist everywhere, but they
differ in accordance with the different nature of different
things. In any given phenomenon or thing, the unity of opposites
is conditional, temporary and transitory, and hence relative,
whereas the struggle of opposites is absolute. Lenin gave a very
clear exposition of this law. In our country a growing number of
people have come to understand it. For many people, however,
acceptance of this law is one thing, and its application in
examining and dealing with problems is quite another. Many dare
not openly admit that contradictions exist among the people of
our country, although it is these very contradictions that are
pushing our society forward. Many do not admit that
*contradictions continue to exist in a socialist society*, with
the result that they are handicapped and passive when confronted
with social contradictions; they do not understand that
*socialist society will grow more united and consolidated through
the ceaseless process of the correct handling and resolving of
contradictions*." (my emphases)

And what can all this have to do with building coalitions between the
oppressed and the exploited in the USA or England? Just, it seems to me, that
if we are no longer confident that one single party is going to be able to
handle these complex contradictions correctly, and if we are not sure of
socialism in one country anymore, then the process of building a democratic
civil society on a world scale merges with the process of building socialism on
a world scale, providing we hold on to the red threads of marxism, of how
under commodity exchange capital is accumulating ever more unevenly and the
most powerful means of production and exchange, socially created, need to be
brought rapidly under social control, for human justice and for the survival
of the planet.

Chris Burford, London.


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