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Question and Response

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This item is in response to a thoughtful question by a comrade on the principal contradiction as defined by Mao in China. The response also sets out the CPA (M-L) position on principal and non-principal contradictions in Australia.

Question: I understand that before the Japanese invasion, Mao characterized the principal contradiction in china between imperialism, comprador bureaucratic capitalism and feudalism on the one hand and the Chinese people on the other. But after the invasion he said that the principal contradiction has become Japanese imperialists vs. the Chinese nation and the stage of revolution had changed from New Democratic Revolution into a National revolution. My question: as the target of Chinese Revolution was the same in both periods, then what was the main difference between the two?

As a whole, when imperialism has no direct presence in a country, how could it constitute the principal contradiction? Through its lackeys? Then again what differences would be between this and when the country is occupied?

Response drafted by Nick G. for the Central Committee, CPA (M-L):
Thanks for your query regarding identification of the principal contradiction in different periods of development of the class struggle and the fight against imperialism.

You will no doubt be familiar with Mao’s On Contradiction and particularly Chapter 4: The Principal Contradiction and the Principal Aspect of a Contradiction.  In this chapter Mao states: In a semi-colonial country such as China, the relationship between the principal contradiction and the non-principal contradictions presents a complicated picture. When imperialism launches a war of aggression against such a country, all its various classes, except for some traitors, can temporarily unite in a national war against imperialism. At such a time, the contradiction between imperialism and the country concerned becomes the principal contradiction, while all the contradictions among the various classes within the country (including what was the principal contradiction, between the feudal system and the great masses of the people) are temporarily relegated to a secondary and subordinate position.

In the conditions of semi-feudal China, the key components of the feudal system were the reactionaries, the landlords and the bureaucrat-capitalists (compradors).  These people were dependent on imperialism generally.  Various imperialist powers had carved extra-territorial enclaves or concessions out of China in the middle and late 19th Century, and continued to bully and oppress China through their various local lackeys until the Japanese decided to bring China under its exclusive control through a war of aggression.

Prior to that war, the main enemy of the Chinese people were “all those in league with imperialism--the warlords, the bureaucrats, the comprador class, the big landlord class and the reactionary section of the intelligentsia attached to them” (Mao, from Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society written in March 1926).  However, with the Japanese invasion some of those who were formerly in league with other imperialist powers, including several notable warlords and Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-Shek) could be united with as allies (however temporary and vacillating) against the Japanese.  That is why Mao identified a change in the principal contradiction.  It was no longer imperialism in general, and the feudal system tied to it, but a particular imperialism to which a much narrower component of the feudal system owed its allegiance.  Mao also identifies the Opium War of 1840, the Sino-Japanese War of 1894 and the Yi Ho Tuan (“Boxer”) War of 1900 as occasions when particular imperialisms and coalitions of imperialisms became the main enemies and when broader alliances of the people and some feudal and reactionary elements existed.

I hope this clarifies the fact that from Mao’s perspective, the target of the Chinese Revolution was different prior to and during the Japanese invasion and not the same as you claim in your query.  Mao’s Analysis of the Classes hopefully also answers your second query in so far as the principal contradiction prior to the Japanese invasion was between imperialism generally and its dependent social forces on one hand, and the Chinese people on the other.  Although imperialism features in the principal contradictions in the two periods we are discussing, it is not the same imperialism and the alignment of class forces is also different.

As far as the Australian situation is concerned, the principal contradiction has always been between the Australian people and colonialism (in the pre-monopoly era of capitalism) and then imperialism.  

However, the main imperialist power has changed three times. Prior to WW2 it was British colonialism and subsequently British imperialism; German and Japanese imperialisms became the focus of the principal contradiction during WW2; US imperialism became the main component after WW2.  There were and are complexities and nuances within this as there are many contradictions in the development of a complex social and historical process.  There were contradictions between the Australian people and imperialisms other than those defined as the principal enemy during the three periods just mentioned; contradictions within the broad ranks of the people; contradictions between the people and different sections of the ruling class; and contradictions within the ruling class itself.  

All of this requires careful analysis and thoughtful consideration if we are to properly identify our tactics and strategy in a given situation.

Thanks again for raising this question.  It is always useful for us to be required to revisit key elements of Marxism-Leninism and to offer what we hope are clear explanations to our readers.



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