Originally written for and published
in Russian in the collected volume of new Russian anarchist movement
"Against All Parties"
(edited by Oleg Kireev, Moscow, 2000)
3. Crisis of party membership and party belonging.
The crisis of representation and ideology leads to the crisis of party politics as they are interdependent. Common goals and principals are failing, dissent is spreading and still seen as something dangerous to ruling ideology; representatives encounter serious objections to their representational claims. Foucaults call for micro-practices to substitute meta-ideology meets considerable fear and anxiety of identity loss and even dissolution of political action as such (The Ticklish Subject by Zizek is to a certain extent revealing this fear of a loss of a political action if its not ground in common shared principals).
Of course, we can carry on and mourn subject, party and its politics, feel abyss when we leave the party, immediately having an identity crisis and presenting it as everyone elses crisis. However, it does not seem to be a virile act to fear loosing a party, isnt it?
"Political parties, after everything is said and done, take upon only those common principals that fit into the Programme, enforcing unity and agreement, or those that suit one or another tactical moment.
But how can we agree that some of the problems are defined as local or distractive only because they do not pass a filter of common goals, accepted and coded into imperatives of political parties". (Foucault, 1991b:166)
Issues of representation and ideology in turn must be supported by the situation of political affiliation that is, of acceptance of some ideology as a basis to become a part of, or on the side of, a party, a group, etc. Sometimes it is phrased as a giving oneself to the party, giving all energy to struggle with fellow party members for the same ideals and goals. Of course, affiliation is directly related to the notion of philia love and friendship that would divide the world into party friends and party enemies.
"Tradition of politics that is rooted in differentiation and careful search for friends and enemies can be traced to Aristotle. Following this tradition, Schmidt makes a conclusion that: Special political distinction (die spezifisch politische Unterscheidung), to which we can reduce all political action and notion, is a distinction (Unterscheidung) between friend and enemy". (Schmidt, cited in Derrida, 1997:85)
Logically it comes that the loss of enemy means the loss of any political struggle. This classic Schmidts idea has been critically analyzed by Derrida in the book "The Politics of Friendship", where he is deconstructing a split fraternal / polemic basis of political sphere. After Shmidt, "
the loss of enemy would imply the loss of political I.
Today it is possible to give a few examples of this disorientation of political field, where the main enemy already seems unclear". (Derrida, 1997:84)
While Derrida offers political alternative based on reformulation of the notion "fraternal friendship" beyond opposition friend / enemy, I would like to trace an alternative that is far from brotherhood (though not unrelated). I call this phenomenon "maternal politics". It is a phenomenon and not a notion or an idea as my analysis is based on the work of existing mothers organization, my personal observations of their work, and especially on the impact of their work on Russian government and Russian military complex.
4. Committee of Soldiers Mothers (CSM)
"Political analysis and critique must still be invented to a large extent", together with strategies to modify lines of force and power relations, transformation of the existing ones into something different. Thats why instead of self-identification in old political terms it is necessary to "imagine and incorporate new schemas of politicization" (Foucault, 1996:211).
Answering a call to such new political inventions, I would argue that Soldiers Mothers are exactly such innovative organization that transcends the crisis of representation, ideology and politics of party affiliation. Founded in 1989, CSM works in several directions, more or less connected to army reforms and military practices. It provides legal support and finds financial help to families of dead soldiers; consults on legal aspects of compulsory national military service, does publications on death cases in the army, and lobbies parliamentary hearings of amnesty laws and military reforms.
CSM was one of the very few organizations, and the most active and visible one to oppose recent Russian wars in Chechnya. Soldiers Mothers carried out direct actions in Chechnya to bring attention to the war and stop certain military offences. In 1995 they were awarded Sean MacBride Peace Prize for their actions during the war.
5. Maternal Politics.
What makes them so unique as political organization, and their "maternal politics" often so effective? First of all, it is political implications and ethical force of the notion of "mother" and "motherhood" in Russia.
The most effective part that Soldiers Mothers absorbed is that that notion of motherhood plays on and breaks apart the logic of separation on "us and "them". The tradition insists that mother comes from "caring and intimate" sphere (ideally, of course). Therefore, for Mother any Other is a potential friend before and after it is other. Through this interesting extrapolation of the intimate, (homely) into public (community), Soldiers Mothers surpass the problem of collaboration with other groups and organizations that are based on manifestos and codes of affiliation. The loss of "enemy" does not limit or produce their political activism as the notion of mother is ambivalent towards such dilemmas every enemy has (had) a motherJ. Maternity and motherhood (though not necessarily connected) allow to care for others without any proof, or need of any confirmation of ones sincerity, ones care, ones philia. The issue of affiliation does not make any sense when one is a mother. Correspondingly, validity of mothers interests and convictions do not need a Programme, a Code, or a Law. By definition in our communal and philosophical tradition, mother is a being for the other, and not for oneself" (Levinas, quoted in Chalier, 1991:126). What matters in motherhood is responsibility for the other (Levinas quoted in Chanter, 1991:135). Though there is no place here to elaborate further, I would note that even when motherhood is about signing a legal paper on "becoming a mother", it is always about care / responsibility for the other(s), that is assumed or clearly defined in such legal papers.
Fact that Levinas discussed this at length how other is a potential friend and not an enemy as such, is supposed to come from his interest in Jewish, pre-Christian discourses. However, what might have been omitted or overlooked (and by Levinas probably too), and that could be offered here as plight of my Russian imagination, is relation between Levinasian "other-as-friend" couple and his Russo-linguistic connections. Russian imperial roots (Levinas lived under the rule of Russian empire and Russian language till his tertiary studies in Germany) could have contributed to his ethical philosophy, where "face of the other" is seen as a situation of potential friendship and love. In Russian language "other" and "friend" are almost the same word, in any case, they flow one into another seamlessly. Idea of care, developed by a friend and early mentor of Levinas Heidegger (especially in Being and Time), was taken up with negative anxious implications by Sartre (in Being and Nothingness), though for Levinas care, based on the maternal, has always been a possibility, a welcoming of positive ethics, of the ethics as such. Obviously, this connection between friend and other without implying other as a potential enemy first, is a possibility of a different kind of politics, that has been developed by Soldiers Mothers in a radically activist and embodied form, and without forgetting the mother (as it is in case of writings by Levinas).
last modified: 20/11/2002 @ 09:21
Category : book