(I’ve had sporadic internet and computer access for a bit here so I’ve written bits of drafts of a few posts over a few days, I’m going to post this stuff all now.)

I don’t know if I will ever do this but I would like to have written a well worked out essay placing stuff by Mao (and if there’s good commentary by Maoists then that too) on the correct handling of contradictions – when they should and shouldn’t be antagonistic – in dialog with the categories of alienation/estrangement in the early Marx (who is again on my mind in part because of the post over at Gathering Forces that I mentioned). If I could do this in a way that also involved a decent overview of writings on, to be a bit flippant, the care and feeding of communist cadre, then so much the better.

As part of this, I was talking with a friend recently about all this. He said of someone else who had been involved in some interpersonal conflict something like “he was right, but he enjoyed it a bit too much.” That strikes me as a good point… it’s not enough to be right, one has to be right in the right way for the right reasons with the right intentions. It struck me in this conversation that we can see political work as a labor of sorts, one that’s productive of some very specific use values, for the most part (bracketing those cases of paid staff and any questions about nonmonetary or quasi-monetary exchanges for labor). There’s a fair bit of writing on labor as an activity that also makes the laborers, as individuals and as collectivities – as subjects, persons, and forms of social being. In a sense the early Marx is all about this. In doing political work I think it’s important to attend closely to what the work makes people into or can make people into, and to have processes in place personally and collectively to manage some of the occupational hazards, so to speak. When we don’t have that, among other things, there’s an easy tendency to become antagonistic in response to contradictions that might not have to be – the experience of antagonistic contradictions feeds that that tendency and that tendency helps create those contradictions, it’s a self-reinforcing condition, in a way analogous to the ways in which estrangement/alienation can be thought of as having both a role as an effect and as a cause of capitalism (though I generally am much more inclined to set aside these categories than to retain them, especially when it comes to considering them as causes).

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