(The following is a guest post by Nate Hawthorne, who authors the blog, What in the hell...?)
In 1972 Mario Tronti presented a paper dealing with Carl Schmitt at the University of Turin. Whether beginning or example, this presentation is of a conceptual turn in which "Schmittian elements became part of a thoroughgoing 'Marxist critique of Marxism' which sought (...) to put a practical theory of power squarely at the centre of revolutionary theorizing." (Muller, A Dangerous Mind, 179.) The Marxisti Schmittiani exemplify the problematic relationship of "Karl und Carl" which Tronti later characterizes, albeit not critically enough, as foundational to political theory.
There are several aspects in Schmitt's Theory of the Partisan resonant with the sensibility of operaismo and subsequent developments which take Tronti's early work as a touchstone. One such similarity is the relationship posited between resistance and constituted power wherein the former forces the latter to attempt to render resistance productive of innovation in the forms of power-over. In response to the partisan's irregularity, there are produced "new concepts of warfare (...) along with a new doctrine of war and politics" (3), such as that embodied in the Prussian Landsturm edict of 1813. A similar point can be seen in the chapter on the working day in volume one of Capital, concepts and law are produced in response to working class struggle. Technology as well. "The partisan too participates in the development - in the progress - of modern technology and its science." (54.) Again there is a Marxian parallel: "It would be possible to write quite a history of the inventions, made since 1830, for the sole purpose of supplying capital with weapons against the revolts of the working-class.” (Capital v1, ch15.)
Both legal and technological responses to - or innovations developed by - the partisan are deployed in Napoleon's army. The Napoleonic force, “partisanship on a large scale” (3), is analogous to the re-inscription of examples of and techniques for rupture within value production. For one example of this sensibility applied to recent developments, although not unproblematically, see the first of Paolo Virno's "Ten Theses on the Multitude and Post-Fordist Capitalism," in his Grammar of the Multitude. (The sense in which constituted power has little autonomous productive capacity, only reacting, should of course not be hypostatized into an ontological principle. Doing so repeats the worst of vulgar cultural studies, wherein everything expresses resistance, the mirror image of a vulgar Situationist and Frankfurt School perspective capable only of ever seeing further encroaching domination in all phenomena. The point, rather, is methodological. Developments are addressed in attempt in understand the active role of resistance in their constitution, and to see them as political maneuvers in a war of position.)
The Napoleonic army, or any army for that matter, embodies an important point by its having both technical and legal components. That is, within the sphere of political theory both law and technology should be seen as political, as opposed to the inverse - politics reduced to technical or legal. This is not to say that technology is always political. Saying so would fly in the face of one of the most important insights in Schmitt's Political Theology, that setting the boundaries of what is and is not political can itself be a powerful political maneuver. Rather, the political is not technologically determined, and technology is only politically interesting insofar as it functions politically, that is, insofar at it is both politically determined and made use of politically in attempt to determine some outcome in some conflict.
Karl und Carl passed on a trait, recessive in neither parent, which makes the problem of the partisan for Schmitt still a pressing issue for the inheriting Marxisti Schmittiani. This trait is a predilection for a type of unity. For Schmitt, a political entity its an aggregation of individuals capable of sacrificing one of its members, specifically in the order to kill and thus to risk being killed by someone declared enemy and declared so based upon a threat to "our" way of life, someone who differs from us in nature, "existentially something different and alien" (Concept of the Political 27). As Peter Hallward writes, Schmitt's emphasis on real combat with a real enemy "presumes and reinforces the social homogeneity of the combatants." ("The Politics of Prescription," 774.) Marx displays a similar view when he writes in the 1844 Manuscripts: "The more [workers] wish to earn, the more must they sacrifice their time and carry out slave-labour, completely losing all their freedom, in the service of greed. Thereby they shorten their lives. This shortening of their life-span is a favourable circumstance for the working class as a whole, for as a result of it an ever-fresh supply of labour becomes necessary. This class has always to sacrifice a part of itself in order not to be wholly destroyed." For the operaisti and their continuers, the focus on unity, on social synthesis, is visible in the continual search for - the simultaneous and obfuscated attempt to produce - a hegemonic subject capable of uniting the class in order to seize the machinery of the state.
In all three there is a certain depoliticalization operating. A prior given unity is posited - the people, the class in itself, the technical and political composition of the class - which undergoes a fiery baptism such that it becomes capable of acting together. This prior unity, the precondition for the political entity, is placed outside the bounds of the political, such that it can not be decided upon, in an operation that at the same time serves to produce unity as the goal, again in a way that can not be decided upon or contested. That is to say, politics is circumscribed within the state and nation, or a sphere which is state-like/nation-like.
The partisan problematizes this sphere. Hallward writes that Schmitt's understanding of the political "is not prescriptive enough," because in Hallward's understanding of politics as prescriptive, "[p]olitics divides, but not between friends and enemies (via the mediation of the state). Politics divides the adherents of a prescription against its opponents." (774.) Adherent, of course, is the term which Schmitt uses for the partisan: parteiganger, someone who adheres to a party. Schmitt does not want to allow a possibility for the production of divisions and unities not rigidly managed by a single central power. Schmitt's preference for the telluric (ie, nationalist and defensive) partisan helps ease the breakdown of the monopoly of the political by the state or state-like entity: the telluric partisan has as its goal a stable nation and state.
Schmitt fears the revolutionary partisan, the figure of absolute enmity who would challenge the possibility of containment by the state, the monopolized power to enforce homogeneity - to produce an entity called or like the people - by selecting people inside and out to be eliminated. Ironically, probably due to a shared blindspot, Lenin is not the figure of absolute enmity which Schmitt poses him to be. Furthered the homogeneity of the class in itself conceptually and even more so via the practical brutality of war communism (for instance), Lenin produced not an uncontained enmity but a reconfigured containment. Tronti reflects this in his characterization of revolution as the act of the workers' state existing already within capitalist society, and in his call for the circulation of a "proud and menacing" photograph of the worker (an attempt via aesthetic means to produce a unified class subject and which demonstrates the need for inquiry into the modes of subjectification bound up with the theoretical and political positions in contest here).
Schmitt's primary fear is the practice and what he sees as the trend of the "shattering of social structures." It is this political component, more than the technical challenge of policing partisan war and its possibilities, that makes the partisan such a troubling figure. "Commonality exists as res publica, a public sphere, and it is called into question when a non-public space forms within it, one that actively disavows this publicness." (51.) The partisan indicates a political potential not appropriated or exhausted by the state, one which works toward the dissolution of the monopoly which constitutes Schmitt's political entity as such. The partisan is evidence of a power to act and produce in common, to produce social relations which are not of the people but rather introduce a disunity that challenges the workings of the people as an entity. This is what Schmitt is most opposed to and fearful of, to such a degree that his work can barely recognize it: the existence of a power to dissolve the res publica and sovereignty. (Schmitt comes close in his polemic against Scelle's methodological individualism in the paper translated as War/Nonwar.) It also should be noted that this power is what makes the partisan an important figure, not the reverse.
It is worth comparing whether and how what Schmitt takes as opposed to his own views actually replicates or shares an affinity with Schmitt's project. In this sense, then, in the use of Schmitt as solvent for the Marxist critique of Marx the method is not to valorize from a left wing perspective what Schmitt dislikes from the right. Any positive elements in common between the Schmittian perspective and the Marxist are to be rejected, or at least vigorously criticized. Instead of Marxisti Schmittiani, then, one wants a rigorously anti-Schmittian Marxism, and not merely "anti-" at the level of moral denunciation (the "anti" in many "anti-war" and "anti-capitalist" circles). An emergent quality here is a dissolutionary power, the self-positing centrifugal force that threatens to overcome the centripetal force constitutive of the unities produced by and productive of the figure of the people, the class for itself, the universalized vanguard class fraction. This power is not monopolizable, at least not exhaustively, legitimately, and sustainably so. Walter Benjamin referred to this power as "the right to use force," which is partisan against the political as delimited to the level of unitary entities, and serves as part of the theoretical armature in process of producing Marxism, perhaps by the cultivation of its recessive traits against its Schmittian moments, "as a rigorous individualism: thus, as a theory of individuation." (Virno, 80.) That said, the point is insufficient at the level of theoretical assertion. It must be verified by its practical assertion in declarations of selfpositing power, and by research into the forms and modes of subjectification accomplished via this type of assertion across history and across the planet.