The Tragic Community: Friedrich Nietzsche and Mao Tse Tung

The Tragic Community
Friedrich Nietzsche and Mao Tse Tung
James Luchte

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With those two gods of art, Apollo and Dionysus, we link our recognition that in the Greek world there exists a huge contrast, in origins and purposes, between visual (plastic) arts, the Apollonian, and the non-visual art of music, the Dionysian. Both very different drives go hand in hand, for the most part in open conflict with each other and simultaneously provoking each other all the time to new and more powerful offspring, in order to perpetuate for themselves the contest of opposites which the common word “Art” only seems to bridge, until they finally, through a marvelous metaphysical act, seem to pair up with each other and, as this pair, produce Attic tragedy, just as much a Dionysian as an Apollonian work of art.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, 1872

Contradiction is universal and absolute, it is present in the process of development of all things and permeates every process from beginning to end. (II)

By the former we mean that contradiction exists in and runs through all processes from beginning to end; motion, things, processes, thinking — all are contradictions. To deny contradiction is to deny everything. This is a universal truth for all times and all countries, which admits of no exception. (III)

Mao Tse Tung, On Contradiction (1937)

Mao’s Ontology and Early Greek Thought

Contradiction, for Mao, abides at the heart of all things – within each particular being and amidst the universality of the cosmos, or the All. Contradiction is the existence of all things – the birth, life and death of all things, and of the incessant re-birth of all particular kinds of thing, or being. Contradiction consists in, and gains its immense power from, a unity of opposites. Mao describes this disunited, or dialectical, unity of opposites:

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. There is nothing that does not contain contradiction; without contradiction nothing would exist. (Mao Tse Tung, On Contradiction, II)

Contradiction is the modus essendi, modus existendi and modus operandi of all things. It is the reality, actuality and existence of all things. The primary axiomatic  significance of the universality of contradiction, a notion to which Hegel and Marx also ascribed, is that change is ubiquitous to all things, and thus, nothing can or will ever remain the same.

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