This is a translation of a text by John Brown, originally published on his site, Iohannes Maurus, Monday 3rd March.
the strategic adversary is fascism (whereas Anti-Oedipus’ opposition to the others is more of a tactical engagement). And not only historical fascism, the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini — which was able to mobilize and use the desire of the masses so effectively — but also the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.
Michel Foucault, Introduction to the Non-Fascist Life.
1. A short while ago, we heard Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, speak on La Sexta*, presenting herself as “the voice of truth”, and defending, against immigrants, Europe and globalisation, “national preference”. There are people, in sectors of the left, who were fascinated by this discourse, and found it difficult to oppose it. We have to be very wary of this discourse and with the channels that can connect certain left discourses with this one. Either we single out, as the object of our antagonism, the relations of production instead of a more or less defined group of humans, or we are headed for disaster and racism. If one singles out “the rich”, or the “financiers” as the enemy, this can always give rise to a metonymic displacement onto other categories: this can move from financiers to Jews, Arabs, gypsies, communists, etc. Fascism, as death drive, is a master of metonymy. It is very dangerous to use the friend-enemy logic, which belongs to sovereignty, to represent class struggle. Class struggle as such is unrepresentable: it can only be thought as a relation. As such, it does not depend on its poles, it generates them. We need to be able to move away from war metaphors if we want to achieve a non-fascist politics. Antagonism must be thought as the widening of one’s own potency and not as self-definition from and by the enemy. If we define ourselves, not from within our own potency and our own desire but only with regard to the enemy, we become, as Carl Schmitt rightly points out, the mirror image of our “enemy”. We must be able to get out of this imaginary fight between oneself and one’s own mirror and address reality, the materiality of the relations of production, of the relations of appropriation and expropriation.
2. To act upon the real of the relations of production does not entail abandoning either ideology or imagination, but a politics open onto the relations of production and class struggle develops a different imaginary, one that is not warlike, not fascist. Class struggle is not a fight of mirror opposites, but the result of a social relation that constitutes its own poles. Faced with an entification of the enemy that opens the doors to fascism both outside and within ourselves, we have to explain the relations in which we are involved, not from abstract and complicated positions, but in a way that is accessible to ordinary mortals. If we are unable to make people understand -and we ourselves do not understand- that there is a continuity between the deaths from hunger, suicide and illness within the Spanish State and the deaths on its borders, and that both kinds of death correspond to the same social relations and the same slavery, we will have lost. They will make us oppose “immigrants”, “foreigners”, but not the social relations that exploit and enslave the vast majority. When one speaks of “our people”, and of a popular patriotism, among these one must unequivocally include the Ceuta 15, and the entire people in exodus of the undocumented and all those who set sail in dinghies, without there being the slightest doubt in this regard. Every perspective of xenophobic sovereigntist closure carries the germ of this barbarism. Our problem is not “abroad”, Europe or emigration, but the relations of exploitation and domination that reign on a European and global level and that have no remedy by means of a withdrawal behind borders that are as cruel and as barbarous as they are useless. Sovereignty today is mere gesticulation that is at once lying and bloodthirsty. Right now we have an extraordinary opportunity to overcome it with a clear commitment to a federal and democratic European constituent process that breaks the closure of member states and Europe itself.
3. There is undoubtedly a contradiction between this openly universalist stance and the calls for the designation of an ‘enemy’ but this is not an unsalvageable contradiction: it is a necessary contradiction that arises from the reality of human societies. The predominant form of all politics is, like that of every knowledge, imaginary. Now, an imaginary politics is necessarily substantialist and Schmittian: it is based upon the friend-enemy opposition as an originary and irreducible fact. Schmitt is right about the symptom, but he does not hit on the cause. Naturally we must take into account the symptom and its own effect, but at the same time, a politics of liberation must explore the underlying causes of this opposition and intervene upon them, it must reduce the symptom. Class struggle is not a friend-enemy dialectic, it must not be contemplated under the misleading fascist metaphor of war, but rather from the perspective of liberation and the potency of the multitude. In this case, once the causes have been investigated on the terrain of the relations of production, enmity will no longer be a substantial and permanent element, but the effect of a relatively unstable relation which a variation in the correlation of forces can modify or destroy.
4. No worth can come of wallowing in the effects, even the imaginary and ideological effects, that a particular social relation might have on us. To know truly is to know by the causes (Verum gnoscere est gnoscere per causas, as the Aristotle latinised by the scholastics would say)…In politics, knowledge of the causes allows us to know the symptoms in their genesis and their effects, but never the other way round. To know a constitutive relation allows us both to know its reality and the imaginary effects that it produces, but by proceeding from the imaginary effects of this relation upon us, nothing sure can be concluded. To conclude with another Latinism from the maestro Spinoza: verum index sui et falsi (what is true is an indicator of itself and what is false). This inseparability of the true and the false is the starting point of every materialist theory of ideology, but also, of every authentic politics of liberation.