Dialectical materialism and the onion-shaped universe as a contradiction of uneven development and difference

Every contrast is a difference, every difference a contradiction. If things do not develop simultaneously, then there is already difference.

This is also true if things already exist in different ways: different things developing in different ways go hand in hand with the existence of contradictions between these things, by virtue of their difference.

One mistake that has been made in the past is this:

– since there is difference, there is independence of the contradiction of a thing, because it is different ;

– if there is independence of contradiction, then its development is its own;

– if it has its own development, then it is particular;

– if it is particular, then there is negation of negation within that particular;

– if there is a negation of the negation within this particular, then we can force the existence of this negation of the negation because it is itself particular.

This is the mistake that was made in the USSR in the early 1950s, and which allowed the revisionists to gain the upper hand.

A well-known error was that of Trofim Lyssenko, who believed that he could modify the development of agriculture by ‘forcing’ changes in the reaction of plants, for example by planting several seeds in the same hole.

This was an idealistic reading in terms of isolated things, based on the ‘negation of negation’ applied to one thing in particular; the exact counterpart of this approach is the reading of the genetic whole which, similarly, takes things in isolation by fixing them unilaterally on the basis of DNA. In agriculture and for living organisms in general, this is particularly true of Genetically Modified Organisms.

What we have here is a misunderstanding of the relationship between the particular and the general, a reduction of the process of movement to an isolated thing, based on a ‘negation of negation’.

Another well-known example is the campaign against the ‘four pests’ in People’s China, targeting rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows. This campaign, which began in 1958, was stopped in 1960, because it was clear that the ecological imbalances caused by the campaign were leading us into a corner.

It is easy to understand why the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution produced intense research into cosmology, into the links between the different layers of the universe, while Mao Zedong rejected the concept of negation of negation.

Mao Zedong praised the efforts of Japanese physicist Shoichi Sakata, who sought to formulate the links between the different ‘layers’ of matter, which can be summed up in the image of an onion-shaped universe.

Shoichi Sakata wrote in Theoretical Physics and the Dialectics of Nature, in June 1947:

“Current science has found that in nature there exist qualitatively different “levels » — the form of motion — for example, a series of the levels such as elementary particles — nuclei — atoms — molecules — masses — heavenly bodies — nebulae.

These levels form various nodal points which restrict the various qualitative modes of existence of matter in general.

And thus they are not merely related in a straightforward manner as described above.

The “levels” are also connected in a direction such as molecules — colloids — cells — organs — individuals — societies. Even in the same masses, there exist “levels” of states corresponding to solids – liquids – gases.

Metaphorically speaking, these circumstances may be described as having a sort of multi-dimensional structure of the fish net type, or it may be better to say that they have the onion-like structure of successive phases.

These levels are by no means mutually isolated and independent, but they are mutually connected, dependent and constantly “transformed” into each other.

For example, an atom is constructed from elementary particles and a molecule is constructed from atoms, and conversely the decompositions of a molecule into atoms, an atom into elementary particles can be made.

These kinds of transformations occur constantly, with the creation of new quality and the destruction of others in ceaseless changes.”

There are, of course, two aspects here.

The first is the uneven development that characterizes all movement and implies differences within this onion-shaped universe.

The second is difference, because each layer is different, which is already a contradiction. So we have a contradiction both within the movement and between the layers of the movement.

The Covid-19 crisis is thus the product of a contradiction between two layers, humanity and the Biosphere; to give an example of the uneven development of the movement, we can take the emergence of sexuality in adolescents, which appears as a qualitative break/jump in the movement of personal development.

Ultimately, all this appears to be a contradiction between the general and the particular.

This contradiction is universal, it requires us to grasp the differences between the layers of the universe, and it appears as the contradiction of unequal development and difference.

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