Schmitt's lecture, "The Theory of the Partisan," is given in March, 1962. What was the status of the figure of the 'partisan' at that moment? Castro was active as early as 1953. The Algerian War of Independence took place 1953-1962. Schmitt has been invited to the capital of the basque region in the far north of Spain, Navarra, by the Estudio General de Navarra. This 'estudio' has long-time links with Opus Dei; the estudio itself was founded by the Church in 1960.
For me the substance of the preface is very hard to make out. He seems to say that a mistake has been made concerning this essay, that it's not really linked to The Concept of the Political (CP) at all. But then what's with the subtitle? The subtitle, he writes, is "explained by the specific date of the publication. " The publishers, Schmitt goes on, "are making the text of my essay of 1932 (that is, CP -jsr) accessible again at this time. In recent decades several corollaries to this theme have emerged. " Corollaries to what theme? Are we still talking about the subtitle or now is it CP? "The present treatment of the subject is not one of these" – that is, not one of these corollaries of an indefinite theme. No, The Theory of the Partisan (TP) "is a freestanding work." And this free-standing work, what does it do? In a sketchy way – and here I quote precisely (as always!) – "issues unavoidably in the problem of the distinction between friend and enemy." Either that's a typo or an infelicitous translation -- which is easy to do with German. The problem is at the word 'issues.' TP can't "issues unavoidably" in any problem. A plausible rephrasing: "The Theory of the Partisan is not one of these more recent corollaries to CP, but a free-standing work that nevertheless unavoidably touches on the friend-enemy distinction." But at the end of the paragraph he tells us he has decided to make TP available in the interests of "all those who have been following so far the difficult earlier discussion of the concept of the political." I end this paragraph not being sure how to assess the 'free-standing work' line. The comment about the publisher is also unclear to me.
The historical illustration that Schmitt chooses for his discussion of the partisan is the popular, reactionary Spanish resistance to Napoleon. A choice of historical backdrop that doubtless provoke a wolf-like grin of approval from Schmitt's masters in Opus Dei. (Okay, that last sentence was a joke. But Schmitt does choose a "Spanish civil war" and one that was also – in large part, no reductionism here – marked by the battle between Enlightenment and Reaction. He also does not choose the other, twentieth century Spanish civil war, with its different sentimental attachments. No Ernest Hemingway is going to show up in Schmitt's spanish civil war.)
How does Schmitt characterize the five-year long Spanish battle against French foreign occupation? "In this war, for the first time, a people – a pre-bourgeois, pre-industrial, and pre-conventional people – clashed with a modern army." So not just any people clashed with a modern army. No, they have special characteristics that mark them out, and point in fact to their historical fate. After all, isn't the "pre-bourgeois, pre-industrial, and pre-conventional" populous a rapidly vanishing European demographic? But then we hear a little 'ding.' It's sounds just like a bicycle bell! Does everyone hear it? Oh my God! Bin Laden is pre-bourgeois and pre-industrial and like so pre-conventional that it hurts! Get out of my way, I have to write a graduate school paper! I'm going to get such an 'A'. This time, I'm serial. You know, with a little luck, I could end up like Paul Berman. All right, a lot of luck."
So Schmitt's historical illustration is more apt than a first glance might reveal. What's interesting about the popular war against the French in 1808-1813 Spain? That "New spaces of/for war emerged in the process, and new concepts of warfare were developed along with a new doctrine of war and politics." I'm sorry I have to complain here: what's with the "of/for" thing. Is this supposed to be a translation or a springboard for the translator to 'intervene' and tell us about how she just can't decide -- "is it 'new spaces *of*' war or is it 'new spaces *for*' war? Well, if we read the abulative 'ick' as a prehensile inflective, then it's 'of' war, but if we emphasize the reflexive participle 'ak' then it's 'for' war! So many voices! So many possibilities! Oh the levels . . . so dizzy . . . I am blinded by the differance! I cannot be faithful to the reader if I just say 'of' or 'for.' Choose? But on what ground? The nihil nihilates! I can't impose my interpretation of the reflexive participle 'ak,' not and sleep at night too! And so I 'll 'mark' the 'differance' between these possible ways-of-interpreting with the 'mark' of an '/', the being-as-inbetween of which marks the irruption" of the translator's ego into the text.
But the translator's unwelcome traces aside, Schmitt tells us that a lot came out of that first Spanish Civil War! New spaces 'of' war (I have always preferred the prehensile inflective), new concepts of warfare, along with doctrines of war and of politics too. That was one fruitful civil war. Civil wars these days aren't anywhere near as productive. Lots of civil wars today will get tenure with one-fifth as many new concepts of war and politics as the 1808-1813 Spanish Civil War racked up.
Still on p. 3, Schmitt turns from characterizing the first Spanish Civil war to constructing a conceptual model of the 'partigiano.' (I really think the Italian captures it better. Just my quirk.) The first sentence of this paragraph is a model of clarity: "The partisan fights irregularly." Would we want to say that this is the 'leading' or 'primary' or 'determinative' feature of the partisan? the one that leads the way in the formation of the type? or is it the voluntarism – the compulsion, on a mass scale, to turn into Antigone; to cast away with disgust the small-minded utilitarianism of the day-to-day and replace it with a 'great awakening' of resistance and full-tilt devotion to a cause and ideal?
The sentences that follow on this page are pretty bad. After the admirable, "The partisan fights irregularly," setence there immediately comes: "But the distinction between regular and irregular battle depends on the degree of regularity. [Präzision des Regulären]." Well, no it doesn't. The distinction between 'regular' and 'irregular' 'battle' – a word we'll look at in its turn – does not 'depend on the degree of regularity.' The distinction between regular and irregular 'battle' (wait, I'm about to discuss that word) is not found in the degree of regularity. Either there's a problem with the translation or Schmitt has written a really bad sentence. And second why, if Schmitt starts the paragraph talking about the partisan, does he all of sudden switch to 'battle' and the degree of irregularity that is needed in order for a distinction between the notions of regular and irregular 'battle' can be arrived at? The translation continues:
Only in modern forms of organization – stemming from the wars of the French Revolution – does this distinction find its concrete manifestation and with it also its conception. (3)
Only in modern forms of organization does *what* distinction find its concrete manifestation? It can only be 'the distinction between regular and irregular battle.'
No doubt, Schmitt points out, there have been all sorts of times, prior to the modern forms of organization, where resistance and warfare have taken on partisan-esque features. Just think what the Russians did to the poor retreating French army in Russia in 1812-1813. The American minutemen against the British, the battles between half-dissolved armies during the Thirty Years War, and really in any civil or colonial war you can think of, there has been partisan-like activity. But all that is in the pre-napoleonic, pre-'modern forms of organization' period. It follows then that Schmitt wants us to focus in on the uniqueness of the 'modern' partisan. Then comes this sentence:
"It has to be taken into account, however, that for a theory of the partisan as a whole, the force and significance of his irregularity is determined by the force and significance of the regular that is challenged by him." (3)
Okay! This comment seems useful. It's an abstraction from all possible specifics. We look at the phenomenon 'partisan.' In relation to what variable does it wax and wane? The 'method' of his comment is 'relational.' That is, irregularity is determined by the force and significance of the regular that is challenged by him.
I got an irregularity? It's significance is determined by the regular that confronts it.
Partisanship is a more or less phenomenon among humans. In a certain sense, Mary Tyler Moore was a partisan. But as soon as we grant that 'partisanship' or 'partigianismo' is a matter of degree, of more and less, do we arrive at a flexible understanding of the idea or do we undermine it altogether? There's mary tyler moore, and then there's antigone, or electra. Can they be usefully compared?