Civil war abolishes the condition of social peace. It reveals the paradox of sovereignty. It liberates the contingencies of a population’s governability and replaces them with the possibilities of a free play between forms of life. Consequently civil war is what that dick-beard Hobbes was attempting to prevent with his theory of sovereignty and the modern State. civil war is also objectively what was realized by the War of Religions in Europe in the 1540s that only ended with suppression of all the sects by the modern State. civil war is governmental apparatuses’ maximum antagonism.
Slavery was abolished by civil war, not by its historical victors (the union army of the North). The famed Emancipation Proclamation amounted to kind words, as are often given by politicians. The self-organization of slaves in 1863 amounted to a diffuse general strike.
Elaborated by the armed hostilities of the Party of northern capital, the underground railroad, insurrectional murders, and plantation revolts, a Hobbesian nightmare spread across the southern Confederacy, quickly making its territories ungovernable, and shattering social order. Following the surrender of Robert E. Lee, the radical wing of the Republican Party imposed a series of policies on the South which came to be known as the period of Reconstruction. What followed was in many ways the recuperation of the intensity of antagonism that gave birth to the civil war and the self-suppression of autonomous practices that made the Confederacy fall. Sojourner Truth Organization argues that by 1871 in South Carolina, a virtual “dictatorship of the proletariat” convened to write a new state constitution. Half former slaves, the other half so poor that they paid no taxes. Considering the legislation passed by these officials—child labor laws, free public education, women’s property rights, credit structures to enable the poor to obtain land—it wouldn’t have been a far push that a struggle could have emerged that called property itself into question. However, nothing of the sort happened. STO argue that this was a fundamental failure on the part of the white Left and the union movement,
So it was that New York in 1871 witnessed a march of 20,000, demonstrating solidarity with the workers of Paris. 20,000 radicals who were able to took across the ocean to the Paris Commune but were unable to look five hundred miles to the South to the South Carolina commune! (Introduction to the US, Sojourner Truth Organization)
Trapped in the web of bureaucracy, and confronted by the Klu Klux Klan and militant white-supremacist organizing, Reconstruction efforts were soon called off, Northern troops were called back (and redeployed against railroad workers in 1877), and had it not been for W.E.B. Debois, the so-called South Carolina Commune would have been erased from history.
Whereas the official line of Ignatiev and the anti-racist Left would have us believe the decisive moment was in 1871, I can’t help but see the failure already taking place through the programmatic seizure of power. Which is to say the catastrophe, in which a new racial apparatus is born and legal white-supremacy is reconfigured, is the moment the self-organization of slaves and former-slaves is reduced to an ordered hierarchy under the rule of the Party of northern capital.
This is for two reasons. First, the figure of civil war as insurrection never took on its essential political character; the content that made it up was directed toward existing democratic forms subordinated to law and norm, when its content was almost wholly anti-democratic—especially in the south. Struggles that enunciate the grammar of the State (e.g, Law), already dig their own mass-grave, and had white proletarians in the north saw their desire for social equality in that of former slaves, the history books would have been drastically different, but the ultimate racial outcome would have prevailed, because blackness in 1871 as today, is figured outside of enlightenment concepts of the social and Marxist progressive concepts of history and revolutionary subjectivity. Marxist political-economy, and pre-marxist leftism in the US fail to arrive at a theory capable of undermining the force of subjectivation. Economic thought could only position white workers in the US antagonistic to the potential of former-slaves and abolition, and even with a more ambitious strategy of workerism (the self-valorisation of the working class), the proletarian operation (abolishing class society) is limited to be defined by those operations of government that made “worker” a subject valuable enough to exploit—unlike the “slave” who could be erased for pleasure. Through this strategy the former slave could not be approached as a potential comrade in the war against capital—a partisan or similar form of life—only as a competition.
On the other hand, Had white proletarians, refused the economism of their leaders, had the 1863 Draft Riots been directed at white workers condition as proletarians, culminating in occupations of territory and expropriation of wealth, a rupture with racial order could have been precipitated by 1871 because the means with which to speak against capital and the state would have been established. The Maroon Commune, communities of the indigenous and escaped slaves, offer the most provocative example for how race antagonisms in 1863 could have been rethought. Obviously still missing the mark, northern white labor never encountered the Seminole or other Maroon communes as comrades, but Maroon communities offered a swerve in 19th century politics. Had it been possible for white workers, through their own unique Blanquism—if propaganda of the deed and the barricades via radical abolitionism had emerged within the US workers movement in the 19th century—to locate dispositions to resist their subjectivation, their condition as workers, a tigers leap outside the confines of liberal politics might have been possible. And by 1865 a different civil war might have come into play between the capitalist form of life and the communist. Only communes could abolish the property of race. Second, the catastrophic moment was the result of an ontological failure to abolish race. The legal subject of a black-citizen (an African American) provokes a crisis in the previous racial order, but it does not complete the abolition of race as category or a property. On the contrary, the subjectivation of black bodies as citizens produces a paradox in the racial order of power—because the race apparatus must have licit and illicit users—and an ontological impasse for blackness. If to be black, even after the war, means a referent to slavery and capture (and reduction of a previous form of life), then there is no program, even if power is seized, that can liberate the black body from ontological terror of blackness. In a word, the apparatus that subjectivizes the black body—the racial apparatus that attaches itself to police, to medicine, to the state,to publicity, to academia, to entertainment—all must be rendered inoperable. Without the destruction of the world that produced the condition of blackness as slave, and the world that reproduces the condition of blackness as excess, there is no emancipation from slavery. Not in 1863, not in 2011.