Sunday, December 19, 2004

Under the mask of humanity

Yet another program about U.S. violation of human rights in the “war against terrorism” was aired by Swedish radio today. The details are of little importance although it should be noted that the violations were described as systematic, not isolated events, conducted not by individual grunts, but sanctioned and encouraged by president Bush and secretary of defense Rumsfeld.

The most fascinating thing is that each new information is greeted with a sense of surprise. Fascinating not because of the considerable amount of atrocities previously known, but because of the premises under which the “war against terrorism” is fought. Of course it is always interesting to see liberals cling on to their illusions. History has proved the so called “realist” school of international relations if not right, at least fairly correct over and over the last century.

When it comes to wars fought in the name of humanity, or to protect human rights, they tend to be more brutal then wars not fought under that kind of justification because it necessarily dehumanizes the enemy. Carl Schmitt realized this more then 70 years ago, the relevance of the passages below from
The concept of the political today is almost frightening. Of course all this should not be seen as some sort of defense of the liberal metaphysic conception of rights. The notion of rights are, as Schmitt rightly argues, despite liberal claims of the opposite, political to the extreme. Spöknippet disapproves all notions of transcendent “rights”.

At some later point there will hopefully be a text dedicated exclusively to establishing Spöknippets standpoint on rights. For now it is sufficient to establish that there has never been a crime to great to not be committed under the mask of humanity. Indeed many of the most gruesome atrocities has been committed under the mask of humanity. Let us now look upon what Schmitt has to say about war and humanity:
Humanity as such cannot wage war because it has no enemy, at least not on this planet. The concept of humanity excludes the concept of the enemy, because the enemy does not cease to be a human being – and hence there is no specific differentiation in that concept. That wars are waged in the name of humanity is not a contradiction of this simple truth; quite the contrary, it has an especially intensive political meaning. When a state fights its political enemy in the name of humanity, it is not a war for the sake of humanity, but a war wherein a particular state seeks to usurp a universal concept against its military opponent. At the expense of its opponent, it tries to identify itself with humanity in the same way one can misuse peace, justice, progress, and civilization in order to claim these as one’s own and to deny the same to the enemy.

The concept of humanity is especially useful ideological instrument of imperialist expansion, and in its ethical-humanitarian form it is a specific vehicle of economic imperialism. Here one is reminded of a somewhat modified expression of Proudhon’s: whoever invokes humanity wants to cheat. To confiscate the word humanity, to invoke and monopolize such a term probably has certain incalculable effects, such as denying the enemy the quality of being human and declaring him to be an outlaw of humanity; and a war can thereby be driven to the most extreme inhumanity.*
p 54
Schmitt adds in a note:
* Pufendorf quotes approvingly Bacon’s comment that specific peoples are “prescribed by nature itself,” e.g., the Indians, because they eat human flesh. And in fact the Indians of North America were then exterminated. As civilization progresses and morality rises, even less harmless things than devouring human flesh could perhaps qualify as deserving to be outlawed in such a manner. Maybe one day it will be enough if a people were unable to pay its debts.
It follows from the above that a war sanctioned by the United Nations has all the more potential to be exceedingly brutal then a bi-lateral conflict. What can possibly be a stronger argument to present a war as fought on behalf of humanity then one formally sanctioned by the “international community”? It is hard not to think on the sanctions imposed on Iraq, and also the annihilation of Iraqi troops retreating from Kuwait.

Schmitt finishes The concept of the political with some observations regarding terminology, perhaps even more corret today then when first written.
An imperialism based on pure economic power will naturally attempt to sustain a worldwide condition which enables it to apply and manage, unmolested, its economic means, e.g., terminating credit, embargoing raw materials, destroying the currencies of others, and so on. Every attempt of a people to withdraw itself from the effects of such “peaceful” methods is considered by this imperialism as extra economic power.
p 78

For the application of such means, a new and essentially pacifist vocabulary has been created. War is condemned but executions, sanctions, punitive expeditions, pacifications, protections of treaties, international police, and measures to assure peace remains. The adversary is thus no longer called an enemy but a disturber of
peace and is thereby designated to be an outlaw of humanity. A war waged to protect or expand economic power must, with the aid of propaganda, turn into a crusade and into the last war of humanity. This is implicit in the polarity of ethics and economics, a polarity astonishingly systematic and consistent. But this allegedly non-political and apparently even antipolitical system serves existing or newly emerging friend-and-enemy groupings and cannot escape the logic of the political.
p 79

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Reflections on “Where we stand"

Unser Standort is perhaps not the best choice of text when it comes to introducing Ernst Niekisch. As stated before it can be labeled as “proletarian nationalism” and in that capacity contributes little positive knowledge. Of course it is not only of biographical and historical interest as some parts of it connects to the age in which we live today.

What Niekisch basically says in Unser Standort is first Versailles, then the capitalists. When we look at Niekisch' later work we se that Hitler is condemned as “West”, “Versailles” and “bourgeoisie” at the same time. (And for the later Niekisch these three was more or less the same.) We have there the insight that the “treaty” of Versailles and the bourgeoisie can't be separated.

As can be seen, Niekisch' position in Unser Standort has striking resemblances to various forms of “two-step-revolutions” in marxist thought. First national liberation, together with the “progressive bourgeoisie”, then socialism. First democratic revolution, then socialist revolution. Those who advocate various forms of two step models today should have little problem with Niekisch. Still, many of those who, for example, support popular fronts between islamists and socialists in Iraq slander Niekisch as “reactionary” or even “fascist”.

It seems as if nationalism for marxists is a privilege reserved for “the third world”. Nationalism as privilege because in nationalism, as in socialism, there is an immense source of energy ready to be harvested. The question is if it can be used for post-national goals. However if we listen to Lenin it is no doubt that the Weimarian “Germany” was to be counted among the oppressed nations. Let us repeat what Lenin said on the Third International's second congress: “By means of the Treaty of Versailles, the war imposed such terms upon these countries [Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Bulgaria] that advanced peoples have been reduced to a state of colonial dependence, poverty, starvation, ruin, and loss of rights [...]”

The problem with “second revolutions” is that they are rare indeed. Seldom, if ever, has the national revolution been followed by a socialist revolution. Let us again take a look at what Lenin has to say: “[N]o Versailles treaties will subdue the power of the workers and peasants once they have learnt to deal with the landowners and capitalists.” As Niekisch later realized, the dictate of Versailles was bourgeoisie. Therefore no querfront with the “German” bourgeoisie was possible. On the contrary - socialism is national liberation (as well as liberation from the nation).

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Niekisch, Where we stand

Unser Standort was first published in Widerstand in August 1926. The text is from the period in Ernst Niekisch’ life which Uwe Sauermann labels “proletarian nationalism”. Although Spöknippet considers Niekisch one of the finest thinkers of the twentieth century that is to a large degree based on his later works, foremost Die dritte imperial Figur from 1935.

A warning against Widerstand has been directed at the workers – and how may we have expected anything else? – suggesting that it fosters “nationalistic obscurantism” in the consciousness of the working class with the aim of winning that class over to the socially reactionary aims of the bourgeoisie. Reference has been made to certain terminological similarities as if they offered proof of such assertions; we have made use, it was said, of some expressions that one also hears from social reactionaries. Such terminological similarities might in fact be present; it cannot be helped that such persons also speak of vital national necessities for whom it is more a matter of the pocketbook than a serious consideration of these necessities. Naturally we presume that those who have “identified” these terminological similarities seek intentionally to misunderstand us. For it truly does not take much to grasp the essential tendencies that inform our position. We are wholly rooted in the vital feelings and sentiments of the working people of Germany; their needs and their instincts are our own. We do not want to lead them astray, do not want to betray them; we are flesh of their flesh, blood of their blood; our thoughts, feelings, and aspirations issue exclusively from the ground of their being and the current circumstances of their fate. What moved us most profoundly was this: that the burden of the tributes to which Germany has been subjected weigh most heavily on the working people; that it is the living conditions of precisely the German worker which have been called into question by the collapse of German status in the world. Here the challenges of the German nation coincide with the law if self-preservation of the working class. That to be sure can be truly understood only by those who are more than mere literary figures. So many such literary sorts are busy insinuating to workers what they are supposed to think that they have already diverted workers from many a good course of action.

We speak justifiably of the proletarian situation of Germany: the nation is oppressed and dependent; it slaves for others and lives hand-to-mouth. That signifies the historical moment in which the worker, the personification of the proletarian situation as such, has a national mission to fulfill: he turns against the ultimate causes if his social oppression, the victorious states of the Treaty of Versailles, he also rises up against the chains by which the nation is shackled. Is it not strange that social democracy, which has vainly set itself the goal of “liberating the working class,” continually conceals from the worker the social effects of the policy of acceding to the treaty demands? He is not supposed to know of them. How is this to be explained? Social democracy is vaguely aware that the moment the working class becomes conscious of the equivalence between its social struggle for liberation and the national struggle for liberation, it will become such an element, vehement, and vitally progressive force that no petty little party secretary will be capable of controlling it and no rootlessliteray type of interpreting it. Therefore it is silent on the question of the nation’s task! Therefore if resistance to the yoke of social oppressionmust necessarily take on a national coloration, better that there be no resistance at all, better that the workers patiently resigns themselves to the social yoke. We will have no part in lulling the workers to sleep – that is what characterizes us. This, however, does not convict us of sin against the worker’s livelihood. It is his freedom that we want, even if Mr. [Aristide] Briand and Mr. [Austen] Chaimberlain turn up their noses. To us, contrary to many social-democratic writers, the freedom of the German worker is more important than the welfare of Briand and Chaimberlain. To chase after their welfare – that is truly not the substance of socialism.

That is why we are far from being national socialists in the usual sense of the term. What distinguishes us above all from the latter is this: they are, similar to social democracy, driven almost exclusively by the point of view of domestic politics. They think to much of “hanging the criminals of November”; their intentions are too much dominated by hate, revenge, retaliation. Those are not the means by which one pulls a people together in a struggle for liberation. We are less destructive and negative. We affirm everything that increases the political power of the German people; we are concerned soley with the question of how it can be raised to the highest level. Those who want to hang the “November criminals” partout, will afterward probably have to let the French go free; they will scarcely have sufficient force in reserve to inflict upon the latter the justice they deserve.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Synthesis One: Codreanu - Marx

Under the headline Synthesis Spöknippet will publish various attempts to create some sort of synthesis between persons generally thought to be at opposing ends of the political spectrum. It may take the form of more elaborate analysis or, as is the case below, just some short quotations.

"This country is dying due to lack of men, not lack of programmes: at least this is our opinion. In other words, it is not programmes that we must have, but men, new men."
Corneliu Zelea Codreanu 1903-1938

"Every step of real movement is more important than a dozen programmes."
Karl Marx 1818-1883