Military Strategy Magazine - Volume 8, Issue 1

Volume 8, Issue 1, Summer 2022 7 The Concept of Universal Struggle In contrast, Mao sought control of the mind collectively and individually for the purposes of creating revolution. His strategic novelty in this respect resides in the challenge posed to notions of finality and completion in Western strategic discourse. For Mao, there was no endpoint, no single decisive victory, only endless struggle; a condition embodied in the phrase often ascribed to Mao (and Leon Trotsky) of ‘permanent revolution’. Mao elaborated his thinking about the ceaseless nature of struggle in On Contradiction (1937). He asserted that the ‘interdependence of the contradictory aspects present in all things and the struggle between these aspects determine the life of all things and push their development forward’. For Mao, ‘contradiction exists universally and in all processes, whether in the simple or in the complex forms of motion, whether in objective phenomena or ideological phenomena’.[viii] The implication of Mao’s ideas were that the interior realm of thought and belief was a site of contestation, and constituted the key to revolutionary progress because ‘Contradiction is universal and absolute, it is present in the process of development of all things, and permeates every process from beginning to end’. ‘The old unity with its constituent opposites’, Mao continued, ‘yields to a new unity with its constituent opposites, whereupon a new process emerges to replace the old. The old process ends and the new one begins. The new process contains new contradictions and begins its own history of the development of contradictions’.[ix] Mao’s thinkingabout theuniversal struggleof contradictions confronts Western strategic understandings about the separation of the physically observable from the intangible. Mao was not, however, the first to make the connection between the material and the intangible elements of strategy. Did Clausewitz Get There First? Carl von Clausewitz is perhaps the one figure in theWestern strategic tradition to challenge the notion of strategic completion. Clausewitz’s notion of the trinitarian theory is often associated far more with the ‘passions’ than the mind.[x] However, there are intimations, albeit somewhat inchoate, that he intuitively grasped the inherent power of the interior realm. In a short and under-analysed passage in On War, he observed: ‘The result in war is never final’. He continued: ‘even the outcome of a war is not always to be regarded as final. The defeated state often considers the outcome merely a transitory evil, for which a remedy may still be found in political conditions at some later date’.[xi] What Clausewitz may or may not have meant by this passage is rendered opaque by the lack of much in the way of further elucidation. Consequently, we are, like quite a lot of Clausewitz’s incomplete thoughts, left to infer what he might have been hinting at or ‘read in’ what we – that is, Clausewitz’s modern interpreters – wish to see. Clearly, he was writing about his own experiences in the Napoleonic wars where the defeat of his beloved Prussia in 1806, did not turn out to be final. Likewise, the defeat of Napoleon in 1814 following the Battle of Paris did not turn out to be conclusive but arguably was in 1815 after the Battle of Waterloo. Nevertheless, Clausewitz’s theoretical point is that the seeds of resistance are always present that might one day disturb or overturn the status quo. This holds true even in instances where no further attempt is made to violently contest the political conclusion in war. For example, the defeat and dismemberment of Germany after 1945 may have been categorical, but it did not stop Germany from re-uniting in 1990. In politics, all is change: and the political conditions wrought even by resounding victories or defeats are always, and can only be, provisional. Thus, although Clausewitz did not enlarge upon his observation, it intimated that he, like Mao, considered that the conduct ofwarwas not reducible tophysical phenomena, but entailed an interior dimension that is obscured by the strategic focus upon the construction of visible means to reach a terminating point where fighting stopped, and peace began. Clausewitz’s other famous aphorism, that ‘war is a continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means’,[xii] also implied that war is simply the overt expression of different interests generated by the internal clash of popular passions. Politics, in this rendition, is the sublimation of a continuous struggle made manifest. In stating that the result in war is never final, Clausewitz contests conventional expectations that war and strategy is only about clinical endings and beginnings. War begins in themind and does not necessarily ceasewith declarations of victoryordefeat. Clausewitz infers that decisive outcomes in war are, in fact, inherently uncertain, unstable, and indeed may contain unresolved contradictions that could see war recur as a consequence of continued mindful resistance to the status quo. Internal resistance may at some point break out into open physical violence once more. For that reason, the results in war remain impermanent because they create, to paraphrase Mao, new conditions and therefore new contradictions in which conflict can arise. Political Power Grows Out of the Mind, Not the Gun Clausewitz’s reflections on the philosophical origins and purposes of war present intriguing parallels with Mao’s writings on the unity of opposites and the perpetual struggle between contradictions. It may be of some interest that there remains a continuing historical debate as to whether Mao might have read and been influenced by Clausewitz. The Strategy of the Mind: Maoism and Culture War in the West David Martin Jones and M.L.R. Smith