First, what is politics? That is, politics as a fact. Politics is activity in relation to power.
Politics is a domain of its own—the domain of power. Thus it is not morality, it is not esthetics, it is not economics. Politics is a way of thinking, just as these others are. Each of these forms of thought isolates part of the totality of the world and claims it for its own. Morality distinguishes between good and evil, esthetics between beautiful and ugly; economics between utile and inutile (in its later purely trading phase these are identical with profitable and unprofitable). The way politics divides the world is into friend and enemy. These express for it the highest possible degree of connection, and the highest possible degree of separation.
Political thought is as separate from these other forms of thought as they are from each other. It can exist without them, they without it. The enemy can be good, he can be beautiful, he may be economically utile, business with him may be profitable—but if his power activity converges on mine, he is my enemy. He is that one with whom existential conflicts are possible. But esthetics, economics, morality are not concerned with existence, but only with norms of activity and thinking within an assured existence.
While as a matter of psychological fact, the enemy is easily represented as ugly, injurious, and evil, nevertheless this is subsidiary to politics, and does not destroy the independence of political thinking and activity. The political disjunction, concerned as it is with existence, is the deepest of all disjunctions and thus, has a tendency to seek every type of persuasion, compulsion, and justification in order to carry its activity forward. The extent to which this occurs is in direct ratio to the purity of political thinking in the leaders. The more their outlooks contain of moral, economic or other ways of thinking, the more they will use propaganda along such lines to further their political aims. It may even happen that they are not conscious that their activity is political. There is every indication that Cromwell regarded himself as a religionist and not as a politician. A variation was provided by the French journal which fanned the war spirit of its readers in 1870 with the expectation that the poilus would bring car-loads of blonde women back from Prussia.
On the other side, Japanese propaganda for the home populace during the Second World War, accented almost entirely the existential i.e., purely political nature of the struggle. Another may be ugly, evil and injurious and yet not be an enemy; or he may be good, beautiful, and useful, and yet be an enemy.
Friend and enemy are concrete realities. They are not figurative. They are unmixed with moral, esthetic or economic elements. They do not describe a private relationship of antipathy. Antipathy is no necessary part of the political disjunction of friend and enemy. Hatred is a private phenomenon. If politicians inoculate their populations with hatred against the enemy, it is only to give them a personal interest in the public struggle which they would otherwise not have. Between superpersonal organisms there is no hatred, although there may be existential struggles. The disjunction love-hatred is not political and does not intersect at any point the political one of friend-enemy. Alliance does not mean love, any more than war means hate. Clear thinking in the realm of politics demands at the outset a strong power of dissociation of ideas.
The world-outlook of Liberalism, here as always completely emancipated from reality, said that the concept enemy described either an economic competitor, or else an ideational opponent. But in economics there are no enemies, but only competitors; in a world which was purely moralized (i.e., one in which only moral contrasts existed) there could be no enemies, but only ideational opponents. Liberalism, strengthened by the unique long peace, 1871-1914, pronounced politics to be atavistic, the grouping of friend-enemy to be retrograde. This of course belongs to politics—a branch of philosophy. In that realm no misstatement is possible; no accumulation of facts can prove a theory wrong, for over these theories are supreme, History is not the arbiter in matters of political outlook, Reason decides all, and everyone decides for himself what is reasonable. This is concerned however only with facts, and the only objection made here to such an outlook in the last analysis is that it is not factual.
Enemy, then, does not mean competitor. Nor does it mean opponent in general. Least of all does it describe a person whom one hates from feelings of personal antipathy. Latin possessed two words: hostis for the public enemy, inimicus for a private enemy. Our Western languages unfortunately do not make this important distinction. Greek however did possess it, and had further a deep distinction between two types of wars: those against other Greeks, and those against outsiders of the Culture, barbarians. The former were—and only the latter were true wars. An agon was originally a contest for a prize at the public games, and the opponent was the “antagonist.” This distinction has value for us because in comparison with wars in this age, intra-European wars of the preceding 800 years were agonal. As nationalistic politics assumed the ascendancy within the Classical Culture, with the Peloponnesian Wars, the distinction passed out of Greek usage. 17th and 18th century wars in West-Europe were in the nature of contests for a prize—the prize being a strip of territory, a throne, a title. The participants were dynasties, not peoples. The idea of destroying the opposing dynasty was not present, and only in the exceptional case was there even the possibility of such a thing happening. Enemy in the political sense means thus public enemy. It is unlimited, and it is thus distinguished from private enmity. The distinction public-private can only arise when there is a super-personal unit present. When there is, it determines who is friend and enemy, and thus no private person can make such a determination. He may hate those who oppose him or who are distasteful to him, or who compete with him, but he may not treat them as enemies in the unlimited sense.
The lack of two words to distinguish public and private enemy also has contributed to confusion in the interpretation of the well-known Biblical passage (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27) “Love your enemies.” The Greek and Latin versions use the words referring to a private enemy. And this is indeed to what the passage refers. It is obviously an adjuration to put aside hatred and malice, but there is no necessity whatever that one hate the public enemy. Hatred is not contained in political thinking. Any hatred worked up against the public enemy is non-political, and always shows some weakness in the internal political situation. This Biblical passage does not adjure one to love the public enemy, and during the wars against Saracen and Turk no Pope, saint, or philosopher so construed it. It certainly does not counsel treason out of love for the public enemy.
Every non-political human grouping of whatever kind, legal, social, religious, economic or other becomes at last political if it creates an opposition deep enough to range men against one another as enemies. The State as a political unit excludes by its nature opposition of such types as these. If however a disjunction occurs in the population of a State which is so deep and strong that it divides them into friends and enemies, it shows that the State, at least temporarily, does not exist in fact. It is no longer a political unit, since all political decisions are no longer concentrated in it. All States whatever keep a monopoly of political decision. This is another way of saying they maintain inner peace. If some group or idea becomes so strong that it can effect a friend-enemy grouping, it is a political unit; and if forces are generated which the State cannot manage peace-ably, it has disappeared for the time at least. If the State has to resort to force, this in itself shows that there are two political units, in other words, two States instead of the one originally there.
This raises the question of the significance of internal politics. Within a State, we speak of social-politics, judicial-politics, religious-politics, party-politics and the like. Obviously they represent another meaning of the word, since they do not contain the possibility of a friend-enemy disjunction. They occur within a pacified unit. They can only be called “secondary.” The essence of the State is that within its realm it excludes the possibility of a friend-enemy grouping. Thus conflicts occurring within a State are by their nature limited, whereas the truly political conflict is unlimited. Every one of these internal limited struggles of course may become the focus of a true political disjunction, if the idea opposing the State is strong enough, and the leaders of the State have lost their sureness. If it does—again, the State is gone. An organism either follows its own law, or it becomes ill. This is organic logic and governs all organisms, plant, animal, man) High Culture. They are either themselves, or they sicken and die. Not for them is the rational and logical view which says that whatever can be cogently written down into a system can then be foisted on to an organism. Rational thinking is merely one of the multifarious creations of organic life, and it cannot, being subsidiary, include the whole within its contemplation. It is limited and can only work in a certain way, and on material which is adapted to such treatment. The organism is the whole, however, and does not yield its secrets to a method which it develops out of its own adaptive ability to cope with non-organic problems it has to overcome.
Secondary politics often can distort primary politics. For instance the female politics of petty jealousy and personal hatred that was effective in the court of Louis XV was instrumental in devoting much of French political energy to the less important struggle against Frederick, and little French political energy to the more important struggle against England in Canada and India and on the seas. Frederick the Great was not beloved by the Pompadour, and France paid an empire to chastise him. When private hostility exerts such an effect on public it is proper to speak of political distortion, and of such a policy as a distorted one. When an organism consults or is in the grip of any force outside of its own developmental law, its life is distorted. The relation between a private enmity and a public politics it is circumstanced to distort is the same as that between European petty-Statism and the Western Civilization. The collectively suicidal game of nationalistic politics distorted the whole destiny of the West after 1900 to the advantage of the extra-European forces.
The concrete nature of politics is shown by certain linguistic facts which appear in all Western languages. Invariably the concepts, ideas, and vocabulary of a political group are polemical, propagandistic. This is true throughout all higher history. The words State, class, King, society—all have their polemical content and they have an entirely different meaning to partisans from what they have to opponents. Dictatorship, government of laws, proletariat, bourgeoisie—these words have no meaning other than their polemical one, and one does not know what they are intended to convey unless one knows also who is using them and against whom. During the Second World War, for instance freedom and democracy were used as terms to describe all members of the coalition against Europe, with an entire disregard of semantics. The word “dictatorship” was used by the extra-European coalition to describe not only Europe, but any country which refused to join the coalition.
Similarly, the word “fascist” was used purely as a term of abuse, without any descriptive basis whatever, just as the word “democracy” was a word of praise but not of description. In the American press, for example, both during the 1914 war and the 1939 war, Russia was always described as a “democracy.” The House of Romanov and the Bolshevik regime were equally democratic. This was necessary to preserve the homogeneous picture of these wars which this press had painted for its readers: the war was one of democracy against dictatorship; Europe was dictatorship, ergo, anything fighting Europe was democracy. In the same way, Machiavelli described any State that was not a monarchy as a republic, a polemical definition that has remained to this day. To Jack Cade the word nobility was a term of damnation, to those who put down his rebellion, it was everything good. In a legal treatise, the class-warrior Karl Renner described rent paid by tenant to landlord as “tribute.” In the same way, Ortega y Gasset calls the resurgence of State authority, of the ideas of order, hierarchy and discipline, a revolt of the masses. And to a real class warrior, any navvy is socially valuable, but an officer is a “parasite.”
During the period when Liberalism ruled in the Western Civilization, and the State was reduced, theoretically, to the role of “night-watchman,” the very word “politics” changed its fundamental meaning. From having described the power activities of the State, it now described the efforts of private individuals and their organizations to secure positions in the government as a means of livelihood, in other words politics came to mean party-politics. Readers in 2050 will have difficulty in understanding these relationships, for the age of parties will be as forgotten then as the Opium War is now.
All State organisms were distorted, sick, in crisis, and this introspection was one great symptom of it. Supposedly internal politics was primary.
If internal politics was actually primary, it must have meant that friend-enemy groupings could arise on an internal political question. If this did happen, in the extreme case civil war was result, but unless a civil war occurred, internal politics was still in fact secondary, limited, private, and not public. The very contention that inner politics was primary was polemical: what was meant was that it should be. The Liberals and class-warriors, then as now, spoke of their wishes and hope as facts, near-facts, or potential facts. The sole result of focusing energy onto inner problems was to weaken the State, in its dealings with other States. The law of every organism allows only two alternatives: either the organism must be true to itself, or it goes down into sickness or death. The nature, the essence of the State is inner peace and outer struggle. If the inner peace is disturbed or broken, the outer struggle is damaged.
The organic and the inorganic ways of thinking do not intersect: ordinary classroom logic, the logic of philosophy textbooks, tells us that there is no reason why State, politics and war need even exist. There is no logical reason why humanity could not be organized as a society, or as a purely economic enterprise, or as a vast book club. But the higher organisms of States, and the highest organisms, the High Cultures, do not ask logicians for permission to exist—the very existence of this type of rationalist, the man emancipated from reality, is only a symptom of a crisis in the High Culture, and when the crisis passes, the rationalists pass away with it. The fact that the rationalists are not in touch with the invisible, organic forces of History is shown by their predictions of events. Before 1914, they universally asserted that a general European war was impossible. Two different types of rationalists gave their two different reasons. The class-warriors of the Internationale, said that inter-national class-war socialism would make it impossible to mobilize “the workers” of one country against “the workers” in another country. The other type—also with its center of gravity in economics, since rationalism and materialism are indissolubly wedded—said no general war was possible because mobilization would bring about such a dislocation of the economic life of the countries that a breakdown would come in a few weeks.