Here’s the abridged version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXQtl0ypU44

A longer, duller version is below.

Some quotes from Mao “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People.” I’m going to play fast and loose with this, and leave out all context.

“The contradictions between ourselves and the enemy are antagonistic contradictions. Within the ranks of the people, the contradictions among the working people are non-antagonistic, while those between the exploited and the exploiting classes have a non-antagonistic as well as an antagonistic aspect. (…) Generally speaking, the fundamental identity of the people’s interests underlies the contradictions among the people. (…) the contradictions between ourselves and the enemy and the contradictions among the people must be resolved by different methods. To put it briefly, the former entail drawing a clear distinction between ourselves and the enemy, and the latter entail drawing a clear distinction between right and wrong. It is of course true that the distinction between ourselves and the enemy is also one of right and wrong. For example, the question of who is in the right, we or the domestic and foreign reactionaries, the imperialists, the feudalists and bureaucrat-capitalists, is also one of right and wrong, but it is in a different category from questions of right and wrong among the people. (…) To elaborate, that means starting from the desire for unity, resolving contradictions through criticism or struggle, and arriving at a new unity on a new basis. In our experience this is the correct method of resolving contradictions among the people. (…) the essential thing is to start from the desire for unity. For without this desire for unity, the struggle, once begun, is certain to throw things into confusion and get out of hand.”

In much of this it can sound like antagonism is entirely structural. In the first sentence, “the enemy” is tied to a structural incompatibility of interests like the contradiction between the working class and the capitalist class. (A quote from “On Contradiction” — “Antagonistic contradictions are interactions between implacably hostile classes, social groups and forces. As a rule, they build up to the point of conflict and are resolved in social and political revolutions. Non-antagonistic contradictions are interactions between classes whose basic interests and aims coincide.”)

But there’s a subjective component here —

“In ordinary circumstances, contradictions among the people are not antagonistic. But if they are not handled properly, or if we relax our vigilance and lower our guard, antagonism may arise.” (Another quote from “On Contradiction” — “we must make a concrete study of the circumstances of each specific struggle of opposites and should not arbitrarily apply the formula discussed above to everything. Contradiction and struggle are universal and absolute, but the methods of resolving contradictions, that is, the forms of struggle, differ according to the differences in the nature of the contradictions. Some contradictions are characterized by open antagonism, others are not. In accordance with the concrete development of things, some contradictions which were originally non-antagonistic develop into antagonistic ones, while others which were originally antagonistic develop into non-antagonistic ones.”)

One factor, and not the only one, in this is tied to mistaken action —

“Quite a few people fail to make a clear distinction between these two different types of contradictions–those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people — and are prone to confuse the two. It must be admitted that it is sometimes quite easy to do so.”

“Between the opposites in a contradiction there is at once unity and struggle, and it is this that impels things to move and change.”

At some point I’d like to link this stuff with some speculation on Marx’s 1844 manuscript categories… not tonight…