Contradictions are only one law of dialectics. There are four laws of dialectics:

  1. Motion – dialectics explains how things move, the process through which things change. This is why it would be wrong to say “the more things change, the more they stay the same” because things are not the same.
  2. Reciprocal action – There is reciprocal action between these processes. If we take a volcano for example, it erupts because molten rock (magma) rises to the surface since it’s lighter than solid rock and it has nowhere else to go. But the reason rocks melt is the result of another process (I’ve been told it was because of tectonic plates but no more). The reason tectonic plates move is the result of another process, and so on and so on. But Politzer also notes a very important condition of this law: autodynamism, or the idea that a force must come from the being itself. If we threw a whole lot of steam into a volcano to cause an eruption, then we would have caused change, but the change didn’t come from the volcano itself, it came through outside mechanical force. So this wouldn’t be a dialectical change but a mechanical one.
  3. Contradiction – Everything has an opposite. The opposite of a volcano is, well, just a hole in the surface of the earth the goes deep down. However, things also change into their opposite – the hole in the ground can become a volcano if it produces magma, and it will erupt eventually, turning into its opposite. Politzer also talks about the unity of opposites. We generally think if two things are opposite, then they are not compatible. They either one, or the other. I’ll refer to Mao for the rest of this, who explained contradictions really well: a contradiction appears when two things are fundamentally opposite, but one cannot exist without the other. The proletariat could not exist without the bourgeoisie, and the two evolve as the other evolves.
  4. Progress by leaps – as dialectics build up, it gets resolved all at once. There is peace one day, then a volcano explodes the next. Volcanos don’t really leak a bit of magma every day: they erupt all at once as the pressure builds up to a certain threshold. Basically not much happens before that threshold, then everything happens all at once. This progress can be either good or bad; it can be a communist revolution, or a fascist revolution.

For further reading I recommend Politzer’s book: http://www.readmarxeveryday.org/epop/contents.html, it’s very accessible and thorough. I was also linked www.dialectics4kids.org which has some super accessible examples to illustrate the laws. Mao also wrote about contradictions at length in On Contradiction.

To get back to your question, then it’s not enough to look at the contradictions and think we have analysed the dialectic. We must look at the other laws too, and look at all sides of the issue too (law 1). To understand a problem, we have to understand its dialectic.

Coming back to Politzer’s book, I also like how he threw shade at Proudhon lol:

Proudhon, after having learned of this theory of opposites [rule 3], thought that there was a good and a bad side in everything. So, observing that there is a bourgeoisie and a proletariat in society, he said, “Let’s remove what is bad, the proletariat!” That is how he constructed his system of credits which was to create “parcelled out property,” i.e., to allow the proletarians to become owners. In this way, there would only be the bourgeoisie and society would be good.

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