Essays on Solidarity

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By ANTONINO INFRANCA*

Considerations on the essays of Enrique Dussel and Jacques Derrida

The short essay by Enrique Dussel, From fraternity to solidarity, is dedicated to the analysis of a work by Jacques Derrida, friendship policies, appears, therefore, a little less than thirty years ago. The problem of solidarity is more current than ever in times of immigration, that is, the wave of return following the European colonialist aggression of previous centuries. There is a heated debate in civilized Europe about whether or not to receive immigrants who, deep down, are the consequence of European colonialism, that is, they are the victims – to use a term from Enrique Dussel’s lexicon – of that European colonialism that tragically disturbed the order world since five centuries ago and which, with that bloodthirsty turnaround, constituted the beginning of Modernity, giving it, however, a connotation of savage exploitation and violent exclusion that continues today.

Italy, Greece and Spain are the nations with the first impact of this immigration; in fact, most immigrants, however, do not want to stay in Italy or Greece – nations that currently have considerable problems of economic sustainability – but continue towards the richer nations of northern Europe, which, in the case of France and England, are precisely the former colonial powers, whose language immigrants share in particular. Spain receives immigrants from Latin America due to obvious linguistic and cultural affinities. This essay, therefore, is, I would say, dramatically topical, given that these victims of former colonialism continue to be victims of the refusal to receive them on the part of European civilians. Eurocentric politics still reproduces victims today.

Jacques Derrida was a prestigious exponent of French philosophy and Eurocentric philosophy in general. It is undeniable that French philosophy was at the origin of the birth of modern culture at the time of the Enlightenment and one of the fundamental values ​​of this Enlightenment and modern culture is “fraternity”, along with freedom and equality. To tell the truth, only in the countries of the Center there is ample, but not complete, freedom and equality, however fraternity is still far from being realized, even within the various countries that are part of the Center of the world. There is an appreciable fraternity in the relations between the countries of the Center, but in the relations between the countries of the Center and the countries of the Periphery, fraternity is almost absent and the issue of immigration demonstrates this clearly and daily.

The values ​​of the Enlightenment and the consequent revolutions, such as the American and French ones, were imposed because they were considered universal values. The imposition also took place with violence, substantially denying the emancipatory value of these values. In reality, the value of the universal was limited to the European world or to those who considered themselves European even without having been born on the continent. Think Latin American Creoles or North American settlers.

Indeed, when considering the so-called American Revolution, the universal values ​​of liberty, equality and fraternity were not extended to non-Europeans, i.e. indigenous and African. The former were almost completely exterminated and the latter made slaves for ninety years after independence from England and segregation continued for another century after the end of the Civil War, or it would be better to call it the War for the Liberation of Slavery. . Even today, however, there is no diffuse brotherhood among whites, blacks, and browns in the United States. The movement Black Lives Matter demonstrates this even today.

France was no less contradictory in its praxis outside Europe: slavery was not abolished in the colonies. In Haiti, in 1804, African slaves, in the name of the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity, rebelled against France and gained independence. Thus, the first truly free, equal and fraternal country in history was born: the condition of such complete freedom, equality and fraternity was the fact that all whites were massacred. There remained only the disparity in status between man and woman. It was, however, significant that liberty, equality and fraternity could only be achieved to a large extent by breaking free from the control of Europe, that is, from the Center and away from it.

Enrique Dussel analyzes the issue of fraternity based on his reading of Derrida's work and its Nietzschean origin. In fact, Jacques Derrida, based on the resumption of the friend/enemy theme addressed by Friedrich Nietzsche, proposes a reading of fraternity as friendship. Enrique Dussel considers that Derrida tried to overcome the abstraction of the fundamental principles of the Enlightenment to replace them with friendship, which is an affective bond, from which the material political condition of human relations arises; however, he warns that friendship can also be born in a gang of thieves, therefore it is a relative value, while fraternity is a total value, that is, it is valid in any social complex. He warns, however, that fraternity has a complement: hostility. There is no fraternity without hostility: recognizing one another as brothers means seeing those who are not brothers as hostile, as enemies.

Closely linked to the theme of friendship is that of life. The Nietzschean citation already brings together friendship and enmity, madness and wisdom, life and death, and Jacques Derrida continues on this path. But since death is the absolute, which does not admit of sequence and continuation, there remains only the sphere of life in which a discourse or an action on friendship and fraternity can develop. However, for Enrique Dussel, life is always and above all a material life, without material life there is death, the absolute and, from material life, his critical analysis of Derrida's work is developed. Thus, Enrique Dussel begins to contrast the being-for-life with the being-for-death dear to Heidegger, Schmitt and Derrida. A limit, therefore, to enmity and, consequently, to friendship, is the increase in material life: a friendship that does not increase the material life of the friend is disguised enmity, that is, it is openness to the absolute, which is death. .

Enrique Dussel's analysis highlights the paradoxical fact that it is more enmity that unites human beings than friendship: one allies and unites against someone, it is more fear than sympathy that unites and impels to act. Dussel criticizes Nietzsche, Schmitt and Derrida for thinking that politics is born as a will to power, that is, as domination. This is the story so far: friendship and enmity are complementary, in fact, they form an inseparable whole. This is the law of Greek and modern ontology, which is the foundation of Eurocentrism, which became a global conception of the world with the conquest of America, in other words, with the birth of Modernity.

Against this fraternity/enmity dichotomy, Dussel posits solidarity, which comes from the Latin term I soli, which indicated money. In fact, in Roman law one finds the expression in solidum obligari, which indicated the obligation to pay back any amount borrowed in cash. But I want to dwell mainly on the term I soli from which the Italian term “solid” comes from, that is, something corporeal, tangible, concrete. It is no longer about fraternity, which is a condition of being, but about being in its concreteness, in its solidity, therefore, solidarity is the category of solidity. When a concrete action is carried out to help another being, it is carried out in a practical, solid way.

For this reason, solidarity became the moral category of the labor movement, that is, of the political organization of the victims of the dominant capitalist system. The dominant capitalist system has always struggled to break the bonds of solidarity that sustained the labor movement. The class struggle was not for universal brotherhood, but for universal solidarity. The motto that ends Or communist manifesto, “Workers of the whole world, unite”, was an invitation to the solidary unity of the workers. Only this unity of the exploited of the dominant system, of those excluded from the advantages they themselves have produced, will be able to overthrow the existing injustice in the dominant system.

However, if fear were really the foundation of community, then community, that is, life in common, would be a natural fact, a necessity or a habit, as the Greeks thought. On the contrary, the community is born from the will to be together and, in fact, gives rise to justice, to “respect for the other”, to “knowing the being of things” as the Greeks intended the meaning of justice, that is, knowing what that the Other is in its otherness, that is, it recognizes the other's corporeality and the needs related to this corporeality.

Based on this, it is possible to establish an equitable distribution of common goods to the members of the community, but also a fair recognition of the Other in his particularity, in his needs and desires, which are, obviously, needs and desires that create community and not division or exclusion. , if not, even that they produce victims. The reproduction of life is, therefore, the fundamental condition for the constitution of a community, therefore, it is the condition of material politics. The satisfaction of needs and desires and the achievement of happiness – to remember Enlightenment values, the foundation of Modernity – are the objectives of the political community and its practical action, that is, of justice.

This “knowledge of the being of things” is complemented by the “madness of the dying sage”, as Nietzsche affirms. “Knowing the being of things” is knowing the totality, the past that is reproduced in the present, knowing history. It is also critical knowledge, it is madness in relation to the dominant system, because it is knowing that there is a universal law of life that is superior to the law of the system, therefore, as critical knowledge, it is liberation from the law of the system. It is a knowledge that derives from the experience of the system's exteriority, as the excluded are outside the dominant system. Enrique Dussel takes the position of Karl Marx who, although a son of the German bourgeoisie, sided with the victims of the capitalist system, the workers, whose workforce was integrated into the system, but their vital needs were excluded from the satisfaction that the system guaranteed to them. your friends. The excluded is always the enemy of the system.

Enrique Dussel cites key characters from Latin American culture and history, little known at the time from the Eurocentric system: Bartolomeu de las Casas and Miguel Hidalgo. The first questioned the authority of the King of Spain, because he did not prevent the holocaust of the Indians in America, the second that, as a priest, therefore, an exponent of the dominant system, he positioned himself in favor of the liberation of Mexico from Spanish colonial rule. Las Casas puts the consent of the peoples before royal authority, which is the true source of legitimacy for any authority. Miguel Hidalgo recognizes that the justice of the authentic Jesus impelled him to support the cause of the victims of Spanish rule.

The relationship that Enrique Dussel proposes is a bodily relationship, a “face to face” relationship, therefore, a direct look into the eyes of the Other, the “antagonistic” enemy, the internal enemy of the people itself. It is not a question of the enemy to death, which, on the contrary, Schmitt is talking about, but of an enemy constitutive of enmity. It is, then, about proximity, a close enemy, neighbor, a kind of insurmountable limit and, therefore, constitutive of an identity. It is an enemy who takes sides in favor of the Other's life.

Enrique Dussel tells a critical and therefore revolutionary narrative: the tale of the good Samaritan. The Samaritan is the “antagonistic” enemy, the insurmountable limit for every Jew. All Westerners remember this evangelical narrative, which is, like evangelical at the origin of Western culture, but it is rare, argues Enrique Dussel, that it is analyzed by political philosophy, not even by revolutionary philosophy. In fact, the victim of the bandits is not rescued either by the man of the same law as the victim, or by the priest of the religion to which the victim belongs, he is a victim who is outside the system. Only those outside the system stop and help, the Samaritan, the “antagonistic” enemy, the only one who feels responsibility for the victim's suffering and offers him concrete, solid help. This is the founding gesture of a true and authentic universal fraternity, that is, the overcoming of the ontological and constitutive limit with the recognition of the suffering otherness of the Other, of the victim of the system.

Enrique Dussel resumes the story of Abraham who, according to a tradition also remembered by Jesus before the Sanhedrin tribunal, substituted his son Isaac for an animal, rebelling against the Law that killed, thus obtaining God's recognition that his action was correct. Jesus is accused of being a “Samaritan”, precisely because he appeals to this tradition. Jesus appeals to a law of life against the law of death. He is now the “wise madman”, not the madman invoked by Nietzsche, practically non-existent, but the liberating madman as narrated in Don Quixote, that frees the inmates from the law of the system.

From this mad-wisdom comes a counter-order of the system, a law that recognizes alterity as superior to the law of the system, superior because it goes beyond it and is no longer the law of the system, of a system, but the universal law. It is the law of universal and, I would say, eternal solidarity, because it is very old, a law that goes back to the first forms of common life of men - Enrique Dussel goes back to the Hammurabi's code –, to the first civil life, therefore, to a very ancient source, which is the foundation of the Gospel narrative itself.

Enrique Dussel, in this way, goes further than São Paulo, he returns to the original source of the evangelical message, to the very Gospel and there he discovers the revolutionary character or, if you prefer, the reverse of Jesus' action. At this point, I go beyond what Enrique Dussel wrote: the Gospel was historically the revolutionary text that challenged the authority of the Church, which claims to be, as an authority, equal to the author of the Gospel, more precisely to the protagonist of the Gospel. The Church, therefore, intends to interpret the Gospel text, the text of the law, from within. Jesus, on the contrary, indicates in whom is in the exteriority of the system the one who acts practically with justice, according to an effectively universal law, not respecting the law of the system and realizing in this act his own liberation. For Enrique Dussel, it is the same method adopted by Marx, a profound connoisseur of the evangelical tradition, indicating in the worker exploited by the capitalist system the victim, but also the just, the one who, acting according to his own law, frees himself from his condition of being oppressed by the system. capitalist.

At this point, it is worth remembering that From fraternity to solidarity was written after ethics of liberation (1998) and before the first volume of liberation politics (2007), therefore, before the political turn based on his ethical reflection. From that moment on, Enrique Dussel's thought became increasingly practical in the Marxist sense of the term, that is, with praxis one descends into social, economic and political reality from the perspective of the Other who, for Enrique Dussel , it is the excluded, the exploited and the oppressed, who practically become the black, the brown, the Indian, the woman, the young, that is, all those who live outside the dominant system, the capitalist system.

We do not find an equally radical reading in the work of Jacques Derrida, mainly due to the different perspectives: Derrida is an academic of the Center, a critic who, however, does not question the constitutive foundations of the dominant system. Enrique Dussel is, yes, an academic, but above all he is a militant intellectual from the Periphery, in constant struggle for the emancipation of the Other. What emancipation was Jacques Derrida fighting for? Obviously, he was not obliged to fight for anything or anyone, but the question serves only to measure the difference in intellectual, moral and cultural condition between the two philosophers.

The Center's intellectual must radically question his belonging to the Center itself, to the culture that informed him and to the culture that he himself reproduces. The intellectual from the Periphery must carry out the same action as the intellectual from the Center, but with the awareness of being substantially excluded. If the intellectual from the Periphery does not make a scathing critique of Eurocentric culture, he ends up being an excluded person who accepts his own exclusion, even if the cultural system gives him the impression of accepting him on an equal footing. But an effective parity, a real equality between Center and Periphery is not possible, because there is never equality between dominators and dominated, between propagandists of a hegemony and recipients of such hegemony.

The reader of From Fraternity to Solidarity must not forget this difference in perspective.

*Antonino Infranca He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Author, among other books, of Work, individual, history – the concept of work in Lukács (Boitempo).

Translation: Juliana Hass.

 

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