The Question of Parasitism Letter (edited) to Ingram of March 1996 recalling the ICC 1981 burglaries against oppositionists

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Joined: 9-06-09
Feb 9 2010 06:43

I wrote:

the quote about the SI - utterly out of context - was from their article after the Watts uprising in 1965, which claimed that the SI, like the rest of the modernists, had said that the working class was integrated into capitalism

The pedantic English language teacher in me thinks I may have confused people here by expressing myself a bit badly; I should have said:
" the quote from the SI, from their article after the Watts uprising in 1965, was utterly out of context; the icy sea mis-quote (in an article about "situationists" iirc, claimed that the SI, like the rest of the modernists, had said that the working class was integrated into capitalism..."

mikail firtinaci's picture
mikail firtinaci
Joined: 16-12-06
Feb 9 2010 09:20


As long as there is no original article, you are still wasting carbon....

Joined: 3-12-09
Feb 9 2010 17:02

Reply to Samotnaf's previous 33/34

It is true that Modernism -- From Leftism to the Void in World Revolution n.3, pp 29-43, 1975, contains a few diatribes against Situationism. The relevant passage, not lie as you still call it, is in footnote 9, p.43: "In The Decline and Fall of the 'Spectacular' Commodity Economy (1965) the Situationists had already begun to talk about 'the integration of the classical proletariat" to the 'society of the spectacle'. The Watts black riots were supposedly 'negating' commodities, while the US whites were being 'enslaved' by them."

The article in WR used single quotations (not always successfully because the author didn't type and correct the final manuscript), to emphasise or ridicule concepts the author disagreed with. When there was an actual quotation, double signs were used and the source given, even if folio numbers not always because of the many editions of some works (like Marx's). In this case, the author was not pretending to quote an actual statement from the Situationist piece (unsigned, but apparently by Debord), and this should have been obvious from the editorial style in the article.

You cite the alluded passage in The Decline and Fall... but below is the complete quote after the semicolon:

The classical proletariat, to the very extent to which it had been provisionally integrated into the capitalist system, had itself failed to integrate the blacks (several Los Angeles unions refused blacks until 1959); now the blacks are the rallying point for all those who refuse the logic of this integration into capitalism, which is all that the promise of racial integration amounts to.

This is relevant too:

The spectacle is a drug for slaves. ... In the United States today the whites are enslaved to the commodity while the blacks are negating it. The blacks are asking for more than the whites — this is the core of a problem that has no solution except the dissolution of the white social system. This is why those whites who want to escape their own slavery must first of all rally to the black revolt — not, obviously, in racial solidarity, but in a joint global rejection of the commodity and of the state. The economic and psychological distance between blacks and whites enables blacks to see white consumers for what they are [integrated slaves? ... this would follow], and their justified contempt for whites develops into a contempt for passive consumers in general.

It's not clear why you say that the Situationists claim of proletarian integration into the capitalist system (provisional and to whatever extent) was cited

... utterly out of context; the icy sea mis-quote (in an article about "situationists" iirc, claimed that the SI, like the rest of the modernists, had said that the working class was integrated into capitalism...

From the SI quote above it is logical to deduce that the SI (or Debord if he wrote the piece) thought that the US white proletariat was becoming integrated into capitalism, if not already, and that the whites, including, we assume, the white proletarians, were slaves to the commodity. In the context of the WR article, this was relevant, so why do you say out of context?

To WR, the idea that the proletariat, of any 'colour', could -- even provisionally -- be integrated (or enslaved) into the capitalist system/society of the spectacle, was rejected out of hand as a bourgeois mystification or an unconscious ideological attack. To have said that the US white proletariat had been provisionally integrated, to whatever extent, was still saying that it had been, so the to the very extent and provisional caveats appeared irrelevant. Of course the need to counter-attack by denunciation and slinging (inept) theoretical arguments, was imperative. Lies don't have to come into this, Bolshevik paroxysms will do. This wasn't only an individual work, it was a corporate position paper.

What if Debord had claimed consistently and openly that the proletariat had been permanently integrated? If this is what he genuinely believed, would it be a crime? Yet issues raised by 'modernists' are important to understand our epoch. It should be said that the true-believer position in Leftism to the Void wasn't interested in addressing any nuances of reality. The amalgam 'modernism', like 'parasitism', became a catch-all against any 'other' who thought different.

Still, this thread is not about Situationism's views of the proletariat. This post is a rebuttal of your claim of my 'lying'. I hope that is clear, but if you insist on seeing lies where there was something more blinding in tone and content, let's leave it at that.

Alf's picture
Joined: 6-07-05
Feb 9 2010 21:20

The author of the Modernism article in WR 3, published in 1975, should indeed not be blamed for the sectarian and 'catch all' element of the text. It expressed a weight of sectarianism which hung heavy over the re-emerging communist movement, affected all of its expressions,and has yet to be thrown off today.

Joined: 25-11-06
Feb 9 2010 23:00

It may seem strange but I would defend both the Situationist International and the "thin red line" to an extent.

It would be absurd to claim that any groups on the "communist left" or whatever one would call it are uniquely influential at the moment.

I just think there are going to be two important aspects communist activity in those situations it becomes relevant again:

1) Rejecting capitalism as a whole (unions, wage labor, nationalism, self-management, conspiratorial parties, etc)

2) Calling for activity of the proletariat as whole. Don't engage in the councilist-minimalism and/or syndicalist-minimalism that calls for doing nothing till everyone agrees, looks for merely the extension of democratic forms and increased formal democratization. Do call for the proletariat to take active measures to centralize it's collective power and destroy the power of the bourgeois.

The present era is certainly a long, miserable march through the domination of capitalist relations. That shouldn't distract us from realizing that when things begin to move, it will be more like a sprint. Thus having coherence on how and why to intervene seems like it will be important.

Alf's picture
Joined: 6-07-05
Feb 9 2010 23:38

No doubt the situationists held a number of erroneous or inedequate positions, including on the nature of the proletariat. This is noted in the article in WR 3, but it draws wholly negative conclusions from it, and thus misses the fact that the situationists did express something of the resurgence of the proletariat at the end of the 1960s. Marc Chirik, for one, certainly recognised this in May 68 because he tried to engage them in discussion.