War politics, politics war—each ‘continues’ the other: ‘After several decades, the victory of the Chinese people’s democratic revolution, viewed in retrospect, will seem like only a brief prologue to a long drama.’footnote1

Every strategy, even a generalized one, is a limited instrument. He who sets this limit distinguishes a time of war from a time of peace and masters their inter-connection, the two-way traffic relating one to the other. Strategy is a particular but exemplary case of the theory of struggle, of ‘contradiction’, in which Mao Tse-tung thinks the entire life of society.

Thermonuclear weapons have proved ‘non-decisive’ in the framework of classical strategy. This could indicate either the subordinate character of the use of the atomic threat, or the end of classical strategy. To exclude this second alternative it is necessary to show that the ‘ultimate’ weapon is not the foundation for a political decision that might simply be substituted for the strategic decision.

War is thought with the aid of a particular instrument: a matrix in which ‘objective’ factors only intervene as a function of the ‘reciprocal action’ of the opponents, the intersection of their strategies. Mathematicians note that this model is valid not only for armed conflict; they extend it for example to the economy, especially to conflict between monopolies.footnote2 Thus we find a principle of intelligibility that is valid for every relation of forces in general. Forces cannot be defined in isolation; each is not in itself a (physical or statistical) quantity, and cannot be considered separately at first and added to the others later (non-additivity). To analyse forces is always to relate them together.

Consideration of the relation logically precedes every inquiry bearing on observable reality, because the former organizes the latter. For reasons of method, when he proceeds to an ‘analysis of the classes in Chinese society’,footnote3 Mao Tse-tung starts with the question ‘Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?’: the inter-relation of forces governs every analysis of concrete forces. This method opposes ‘external’ causality and ‘internal’ causality: ‘The fundamental cause of the development of a thing is not external but internal; it lies in the contradictoriness within the thing . . . Social development is due chiefly not to external but to internal causes’.footnote4 Strategy offers an example of such a pre-eminence of the relation over the forces it connects together: the various factors producing strength and weakness only act within the ‘contradiction’ between the opponents. ‘In war, offence and defence, advance and retreat, victory and defeat are all mutually contradictory phenomena. One cannot exist without the other. The two aspects are at once in conflict and in interdependence, and this constitutes the totality of a war, pushes its development forward and solves its problems’.footnote5