A Lover’s Thoughts on the Militant
The first task of any politics of enmity is to explicate the distance between itself and a politics of “pure” love. What is that distance? We could say very simply it is that of an othering, the existence of the enemy. There are both antagonisms and ruptures with enemies and in love, but love knows no enemies!
To this, many, particularly those of a monogamous disposition, might take issue. Ah, they say, but is there not an enemy in love brought forth by jealousy? Badiou preempts this type of criticism,
“…what about my rival? The person my lover prefers to me? Well, that is an entirely totally different matter… The enemy forms part of the essence of politics. Genuine politics identifies its real enemy. However, the rival remains absolutely external, he isn’t part of the definition of love.” (In Praise of Love 59)1
As Badiou goes on to point out, the threat to love that must be combated is not so simple as an identifiable enemy. It is instead the selfishness and approach from identity that manifests in those visceral feelings of jealousy. This is, however, not to say that love is not turbulent.
Before we delve into these conflicts, and even violences, I would like to go deeper into the understanding of a distance between politics and love, or rather, the parallel relation between the two in their most genuine sense. Badiou notes that the family fulfills the role of the state for love. That is, in genuine revolutionary politics the point is never power itself or a reproduction of the existing social order, and in any worthwhile conception of love the point is never to continue the family or reproduce, but to experience a romantic world of difference and creativity. Politics has a similar capacity for opening a creative space of possibility and difference, a revolutionary space where the figure of the militant begins with both transformation and bringing to the forefront the elaboration of civil war.2
With any opening of such a space or world of difference always comes with a kind of turbulence, a series of ruptures and changes of intensity that constitute events. On a political register, this manifests in the entire front of militancy, terrorism, and even the creation of any kind of community past the social order. This can easily be seen in love’s constant re-sparking, the age old sentiment of “falling in love all over again.” This eternal return within love is a constant change of intensity and spits in the face of the eternal return of the same. Even in cases where this is not so explicit as a falling in love, it never reverts to a stagnation. This is, of course, not to mention the fights, breaks, and pains that often come with love.
These events are particularly important for any use of difference. Here, Deleuze comes in force to destroy any chance of conceiving a liberalized difference without conflict and rupture,
“The greatest danger is that of lapsing into the representations of a beautiful soul: there are only reconcilable and federative differences, far removed from bloody struggles. The beautiful soul says: we are different, but not opposed…. The notion of a problem, which we see linked to that of difference, also seems to nurture the sentiments of the beautiful soul: only problems and questions matter…. Nevertheless, we believe that when these problems attain their proper degree of positivity, and when difference becomes the object of a corresponding affirmation, they release a power of aggression and selection which destroys the beautiful soul…” (Difference and Repetition xx)3
Keeping all of this in mind, what enemy is marked out in this politics of enmity? Precisely it is the hatred of the entire social order, that enmity for domestication, the family, the city, or the car, that reveals our enemy. Our enemy is Civilization.
Another intervention one may take here is to say, “but can it not be said that the social, which regulates love and queer desire through things like the family, is the enemy in love?” Here I will posit that love continues past the death of the social order, and that the abolition of the present state of things does away with politics but not with love as a whole. This is not, however, to say that the social as put forth here is not a threat to love. The civilized apparatuses that bring love into monogamy, heterosexuality, and cisnormativity pose a threat to a genuine creative love, but love does not require any enemy to march on. Contrary, a politics continues only to the death of the political itself.
In this enmity lies a central part of our radicalism. As Baedan has pointed out, “Over and over again anarchists and other revolutionaries offer their allegiance to society by denying the reality or possibility of their enmity with the social order” (Baedan 8).4 The denial of enmity with Civilization is a liberalism, an impotent politics that serves the division of labor and class society. A politics of “pure” love is made impossible for the radical, there is no militancy in the beautiful soul. It is an empty signification devoid of any sense of struggle.
To position a politics in enmity with Civilization poses a particular challenge insofar as it must involve a decoupling from the law. Such a decoupling necessarily involves the killing of the Kantian subject, that point of control that seems to sprout back up in radical spaces time and time again, despite it being declared dead after Foucault. The idea that the subject should regulate itself5 is not a key to freedom (if such a thing can even be intelligible), because liberation involves the destruction of self-regulation. Going beyond fealty is not enough to escape the law. Where this subject dies the figure of the militant stands bloody and tall.
To move on to a concrete example, we need look no further than transness. The trans person is made the ideal Kantian subject in the sense that we are made to create our own boundaries, reproduce engendered norms, and cling to a cisnormative authenticity. “Authentic” transness becomes the very thing that regulates the trans subject, by its own volition. This notion of the subject cannot have any revolutionary potential, whether or not it is trans. The queer militant again comes in as a transgressive and political killer of this subject, so long as it is not absorbed within gender. This is echoing a similar sentiment already espoused by Robin Peignot,
“…an accurate description of transness – which is not only something endowed with a positive potential in its rupture with gender normativity, but also forced to contend with processes of subjectivation that seek to produce normative forms of transness – to introduce transness to its own closed system, to reproduce the gender binary and its enforcement mechanisms, to create new trans subjects who autonomously enforce the boundaries of their communities, carving out pockets of self-possessed authenticity even while denied the same authenticity relative to cis society.
All of this raises an incredibly important question, as the “queer community” devours itself and our most potent cultural celebration is inevitably reduced to a handful of corporate floats and over-eager employers. It’s apparent that transness alone is not sufficiently revolutionary to challenge and overturn gender norms, or gender normativity…” (A Short Note on the Negotiation of Gender)6
This all begs the question, can a love be revolutionary? It is not as simple as it seems to write this off in the name of politics. It is easy enough to do away with a politics of pure love, but love has many potentials, including the love for community espoused by many radicals (although this love of community must always be given some skepticism). I will perhaps be echoing Che Guevara7 when I say that a revolutionary cannot have a politics of enmity that doesn’t devolve into compromise politics or an infantile idea of “indiscriminate attack” without having a potent feeling of love. A revolutionary does not leave love at the door, the revolutionary often becomes the lover despite the distance between politics and love.
To establish a theory of the militant on a political register, there is more work to be done. There is no workable theory of the militant without calling attention to pertinent questions of the party form and political economy, made even more urgent by Lenin’s theory of the party militant that defined militancy for the entire 20th century. Here I would like to propose a militant that does not owe any fidelity to the party, a figure that brings the destruction of dogma, power, and the firm. To return to a previous thread in this piece, the figure of the militant does not hold itself to the law and all of its civilized apparatuses. Such a figure sees the velvet-gloved brutality of bourgeois right, however cloaked in ideology, and cuts the hand off.
Thus we come to the theory of partisanship, which Schmitt deems a theory of war and enmity.8 Schmitt will agree with us that a workable politics requires the determination of the enemy, and that liberalism acts to obscure that enemy. There is a problem here, however, in that Schmitt also brings his figure of militancy into the defense of a social order. A militancy that gives recourse to law can be no revolutionary militancy, as it fails to confront domestication. I would like here to echo the theory of domestication layed out by Baedan’s incredible work of Anti-Civilization theory, Against the Gendered Nightmare,
“…domestication is capture. Further, it is the capture of living beings by a dead thing, and the integration of those beings into all the roles and institutions which comprise the dead thing. Furthermore it is all the practices which force those beings to spiritually accede to their capture. And lastly it is the discourse and ideology which justifies that capture. This capture is unending, and the dead thing can only continue its immortal reign if it continues to bring new living beings and commodities within itself.” (Baedan 21)9
Here again we critically return to Badiou. Where Schmitt uses miracle in the interest of the defense of state, Badiou uses event in the service of fighting that state, of interfering with the social as it stands. However, Badiou does not go far enough in that he brings his militancy of event into the enactment of new law, and as such ultimately fails to confront domestication as an integration into civilized order. We could say that our divergence lies in the use of event for an offensive flight that screams “fuck the law.”
There is a possible mistake here that must be avoided, namely equating a setting against the law with being outside the law or an escape from the social order. If there is an obvious lesson from Agamben, it is that none of us are outside the law in the sense that law encompasses and captures all living beings through even its own suspension. Sovereign authority regards all citizens as potential homines sacri.10 So it seems that a simple distancing or escape attempt from the law, manifested in the buying of land and attempted separation from society, is not enough. This is shown not only by the obvious fact that no project like this, whether it be utopian socialist or “anti-civilization”, has produced a potent challenge to the social order, but also by the result of the colonial response from sovereign power. Imperial spatializations work to open up spaces for marking out enemies and deploying violence in particular circumstance, and the spatial production of colonialism crushes communities again and again. This violence causes the appearance of bare life.
The call for the destruction of social order does not imply a pure destruction. Destruction and creative difference are two different registers that are both operated on by our figure of the militant through struggle, however that act of creation does not enact new law, new forms of civilized organization, or anything of the sort. Doing away with the law, the farm, or any civilized apparatus does not preclude creation of new forms of life. At the risk of pissing off anti-communist morons like Landstreicher, Martucci, Zhachev, or any of the many other terrible warzone writers, I will say that to engage in this creative politics is to live communism, to live struggle for the common. This is not a fucking sales pitch, this is a call for war.