From Worker to Partisan – Part III
In the final segment of his essay, applying the concepts of Jünger, Schmitt, and Heidegger to the postmodern world, Eugene Montsalvat offers his vision of the world to come, in which the technological partisan will dominate in a world of superfluous men.
In response to these massive dislocations of men and material, a new economic paradigm must arise in the partisan age. In an age of artificial intelligence, it seems to me that the price mechanism as the sole arbiter of resource allocation can easily be rendered obsolete. Imagine a computer network linking every source of resources and every consumer of resources. A point can be both a source and a consumer, as for instance where a factory is both a consumer of raw materials and a source of consumer goods. Each consumer will be given a weight, depending on its importance in the national strategic plan. An arms factory will be given more weight than a toy factory, and an arms factory in a strategically vital region will be given more weight than an arms factory in a strategically unimportant one. This can be extended to households: a household with many children will be given more weight than a household with none. The household of a soldier will be given more weight than the household of a toy maker. When resources are needed, the consumer point sends a request to the nearest source of the needed resources. In deciding who gets the resources first, the consumer with the most weight will be given the resources. In the event of a tie, a local committee will decide who gets the resources. In the event where two regions are tied, a national committee will decide which one is more important. AI and machine learning can adjust the weights of the system on the fly. Certainly, we can expect a certain amount of hacking. A hacker may try to give his own company or household a higher weight in the system. This can be dealt with by the criminal code, in which such hacking will be penalized most severely. The political police will be tasked with monitoring the committees tasked with breaking ties for corruption, and punish them as well when needed.
In this age of total automation, we have now the total demobilization of man. However, it is man’s nature to seek out adventure. The natural will of a man seeks danger and violence. Man does not do well psychologically when he is living in total anomie. The rise of the school shooting phenomenon shows that, in an age of anonymous mass consumption, the primal need for male violence erupts in an aimless and horrifying way. The male drive for violence and power must be recognized, seized upon, and utilized by the state. Today, we see Islamists exploiting the aimless unemployed and underemployed young men in the ghettos of Europe. If there is no alternative offered to renegade youth, they will take matters into their own hands, or become the partisans of a rival state that offers them an escape from the crushing tedium of a demobilized life. In an age of total automation, most men have no aim in life and no meaning derived from a vocation. The only thing they can offer in the political arena is to become instruments of destruction in the form of the partisan. They can become a tool of the technological state that can be used to seize the machinery of rival states. They can become weapons fully, nothing more than a technical instrument of the state. Schmitt realized this in The Theory of the Partisan:
Technical-industrial development has made human weapons into pure means of destruction. A tempting misconception of protection and obedience is produced in this way: one half of mankind is taken hostage by the other half, armed with weapons of absolute annihilation. These require an absolute enemy lest they should be absolutely inhuman. Indeed, it is not in fact the means of destruction that annihilate, but men who kill other men by these means. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes grasped the heart of the process in the seventeenth century already (De Homine IX, 3) and formulated it in full precision, though at that time (1659) weapons were still comparatively harmless. Hobbes says: the man who believes himself endangered by others is as much more dangerous than any animal, as his weapons are much more dangerous than the so-called natural weapons of animals, such as teeth, claws, horns, or poison. And the German philosopher Hegel adds: weapons are the very being of fighters.
This means concretely that the supra-conventional weapon supposes the supra-conventional man. It presupposes him not merely as a postulate of some remote future; it intimates his existence as an already existent reality. The ultimate danger lies then not so much in the living presence of the means of destruction and a premeditated meanness in man. It consists in the inevitability of a moral compulsion. Men who turn these means against others see themselves obliged/forced to annihilate their victims and objects, even morally. They have to consider the other side as entirely criminal and inhuman, as totally worthless. Otherwise they are themselves criminal and inhuman. The logic of value and its obverse, worthlessness, unfolds its annihilating consequence, compelling ever new, ever deeper discriminations, criminalizations, and devaluations to the point of annihilating all of unworthy life [lebensunwerten Lebens]. (p. 66-67)1
What we see is a technological nihilism, a will towards the complete obliteration of the enemy by any means possible, driven by the fact that we have developed the means to totally destroy the enemy. In the age of technological nihilism, the partisan embodies its active form: a pure force of destruction. War will become two competing currents of total destruction. These new tools we see emerging in the age of the technology call upon a new, harder breed of man, one who is capable of enduring and delivering intense pain. In many ways, the figure of the Worker from Jünger’s book shares this superhuman quality with the partisan. In the terrorism we witness today, we have a preview of the dominant tactic of war in the partisan age and its soldier. The ideological fanatic armed with the latest tools, ready for mobilization anywhere across the face of the Earth, is the soldier of the future. He has no mercy, nor does he expect it. We may ask why anyone would give up the comforts of postmodern society for such a path, and yet given the choice between the weak horse of liberal consumerist anomie and consumption and the strong horse of ideological partisanship in its most violent form, there will be some young men who will choose the latter. Human nature is still present in the technological era. Unless genetic engineering is used to intervene, it cannot be changed, only utilized. Moreover, this choice will only become starker as more and more vocations are closed off to humans as a result of automation.
At present, regular military forces only retain dominance on the most tenuous basis. The clearest and most powerful threat to guerrillas today is probably air power. However, this can be circumvented. Embed the guerrilla deep within the enemy’s civilian territory and dense population centers, and it will force him to attack his own people if he wants to launch counter-strikes using his air forces. Moreover, we can assume that hand-held anti-aircraft weaponry (MANPADS) will eventually improve to the point where long-range attacks on enemy aircraft are feasible without exposing the attacker to danger. In the realm of sea power, we have already seen how partisan warfare can be utilized to attack large naval vessels. The USS Cole bombing in 2000 showed the vulnerability of conventional naval forces to terrorist attack. Al-Qaeda operatives in a small fiberglass boat managed to detonate explosives that pierced the hull and killed 17 crewmen while the ship was in port. The security of conventional naval forces could be completely undermined if rival great powers trained teams of plainclothes bombers to attack rival fleets in their bases. Given the fact that terrorists can always be written off as lone ideological madmen in the event of failure, and that they are driven more by ideology then pay, they are thus cheaper to train and maintain than the conventional soldier. In the event that conventional forces lose their ability to stop them, which seems to be increasingly the case, all warfare will become terrorism. There will be a transitional phase to the era of pure partisan warfare, the era of hybrid war, where partisan operatives operate with the backing of conventional military forces. These partisans will carry the thrust of the offensive, while the conventional forces will be kept in the rear as advisers, suppliers, or reinforcements.
Certainly, this new world of mass automation and terrorist partisans running amok seems quite grim. However, we must accept its inevitability. When horrific mechanisms of mass destruction were invented, they weren’t abjured. When the machine gun, poison gas, and the atomic bomb were invented, they weren’t rejected as horrifying monstrosities capable of mass killing. Instead, when one nation created such a weapon, the others rushed to build their own and, if possible, to surpass the others. For a nation to allow a rival to achieve technological superiority is akin to national suicide. When one nation or transnational ideological movement masters the concepts underlying technological partisan warfare, it will force all its rivals to do so lest they become its victim. It has been this way since the age of the bronze axe.
Moreover, while the figure of the partisan will be the dominant archetype of the age, it does not imply that everyone will become one. Of course the state will organize itself to foster the partisan’s development and guide his actions, but everyone will not be required to engage in it. Not everyone will be politicized. Many people, perhaps even a majority, will be quite content to live quiet, anonymous lives. The prospect of an easy, technologically coddled life seems quite pleasant to them. Certainly, they will not find meaning through a job or vocation, but perhaps they will find it in their families and friends. Indeed, the age of automation will end the problem of the age of mass mobilization, where work interfered with the lives of people to the extent that their lives with their families and communities suffered. The problem of unemployment will be resolved by the advent of a new socialism that will be established in its place, where resources will be automatically distributed. As a transitional phase to this automated socialism, there can be direct subsidization of the people and industries by an automatic computerized system that deposits funds to each based on responses to changes in prices, along the ideas of Oskar Lange. However, once artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence, the price mechanism will be rendered obsolete as consumer choice is no longer the “most rational,” and thus there can only be a completely automated distribution of resources. Of course, this will eliminate any physical challenges from the life of man, and perhaps leave him aimless, and yet many would be quite content.
For those who are not content, the field of partisan action will be open. Perhaps we can say that the partisan is the last romantic, in a sense. He’s the young man who craves adventure, danger, and action. He is the swashbuckler of the machine age, driven by an unshakable faith in the justice of his cause. In this tool of technology, this mechanized, weaponized partisan, we see the deepest meaning of human greatness. There is an unbreakable thread linking him to the trench soldiers of Jünger, to the Prussian riflemen, to the Knights Templar, to the Roman Legionaries, to the Spartan Hoplites, and to the first man who dared to make a flint arrowhead. The warrior and technology have always existed in a symbiotic relationship. Through technology, the warrior has been called to face ever greater horrors with ever greater self-sacrifice, brotherhood, devotion, and resolve. The partisan is the embodiment of these healthy, eternal, martial virtues, and I can only welcome the rise of the partisan as he sweeps away the decaying world of liberalism with his great revolution.
- Schmitt, Carl. Theory of the Partisan: Intermediate Commentary on the Concept of the Political, translated by G. L. Ulmen (New York: Telos Press, 2007).