The Counter-Situationist Campaign in Various Countries (excerpts)

The Situationist International responds to a manifesto written by Jørgen Nash of its Scandinavian section.

Submitted by libcom on September 7, 2005

The declaration published 25 June 1962 by the Situationist International concerning the trial of Uwe Lausen in Munich enumerated three types of negation the situationist movement has met with so far: police, as in Germany1 ; silence, for which France easily holds the record; and widespread falsification, in which northern Europe has provided the most fertile field of study over the last year. [...]

In Internationale Situationniste #7 (pp. 53-54)2 . we mentioned the sort of manifesto in which Jørgen Nash attacked the SI in the name of the Scandinavian section. Reckoning on the considerable geographical dispersion of the Scandinavian situationists, Nash had not even consulted with all of them before his putsch. Surprised at not being unanimously followed and at finding himself countered on the spot by the partisans of the SI majority -- who immediately circulated a definitive repudiation of his imposture -- Nash at first feigned astonishment that things had gone to the point of a complete break with the situationists; as if the fact of launching a public surprise attack full of lies was compatible with carrying on a dialogue, on the basis of some sort of Nashist Scandinavian autonomy. The development of the conspiracy scarcely leaves any doubt as to his real objectives, since his new Swedish "Bauhaus," consisting of two or three Scandinavian ex-situationists plus a mass of unknowns flocking to the feast, immediately plunged into the most shopworn forms of artistic production. [...] In the polemic between Nashists and situationists in Scandinavia, the Nashists resorted, in addition to all the threats and violence they thought feasible, to the systematic spreading of false information (with the active collusion of certain journalists). [...] But all their efforts to gain time and all their petty maneuvers to prolong the confusion could not save the Nashists from appearing for what they are: alien to the SI; much more sociable, certainly, but much less intelligent. [...]

We don't want to attribute some particular perversity to Nash and his associates. It seems to us that Nashism is an expression of an objective tendency resulting from the SI's ambiguous and risky policy of consenting to act within culture while being against the entire present organization of this culture and even against all culture as a separate sphere. (But even the most intransigent oppositional attitude cannot escape such ambiguity and risk, since it still necessarily has to coexist with the present order.) The German situationists who were excluded at the beginning of 1962 expressed an opposition comparable to that of the Nashists -- though with more frankness and artistic capacity -- to the extent that such opposition contains elements of a legitimately arguable position. Heimrad Prem's statement at the Göteborg Conference (see Internationale Situationniste #7) complained about the situationist majority's continued refusal of a large number of offers to sponsor "creations" on the conventional avant-garde artistic plane where many people wanted to involve the SI, so as to bring things back to order and the SI back into the old fold of artistic praxis. Prem expressed the desire of the situationist artists to find a satisfactory field of activity in the here and now. [...] The Nashists have simply gone much further in their bad faith and in their complete indifference to any theory and even to conventional artistic activity, preferring the grossest commercial publicity. But Prem and his friends, though comporting themselves more honorably, had themselves certainly not completely avoided concessions to the cultural market. The SI has thus for a time included a number of artists of repetition incapable of grasping the present mission of the artistic avant-garde; which is not too surprising if one takes into account both the scarcely delineated stage of our project and the notorious exhaustion of conventional art. The moment when the contradictions between them and us lead to these antagonisms marks an advance of the SI, the point where the ambiguities are forced into the open and clearly settled. The point of no return, in our relations with the partisans of a renewal of conventional art under the aegis of a situationist school, was perhaps reached with the decision adopted at Göteborg to refer to artistic productions of the movement as "antisituationist" art. The contradictions expressed in Nashism are quite crude, but the development of the SI may lead to others at a higher level. [...]

adopted by the SI Conference at Anvers
on the motion of J.V. Martin

Nashism (French: Nashisme; German: Nashismus; Italian: Nascismo): Term derived from the name of Nash, an artist who seems to have lived in Denmark in the twentieth century. Primarily known for his attempt to betray the revolutionary movement and theory of that time, Nash's name was detourned by that movement as a generic term applicable to all traitors in struggles against the dominant cultural and social conditions. Example: "But like all things transient and vain, Nashism soon faded away." Nashist: A partisan of Nash or of his doctrine. By extension, any conduct or expression evincing the aims or methods of Nashism. Nashistique: Popular French doublet probably derived by analogy to the English adjective Nashistic. Nashisterie: The general social milieu of Nashism. The slang term Nashistouse is vulgar.

The SI cannot be a massive organization, and it will not even accept disciples, as do the conventional avant-garde groups. At this point in history, when the task is posed, in the most unfavorable conditions, of reinventing culture and the revolutionary movement on an entirely new basis, the SI can only be a Conspiracy of Equals, a general staff that does not want troops. We need to discover and open up the "Northwest Passage" toward a new revolution that cannot tolerate masses of followers, a revolution that must surge over that central terrain which has until now been sheltered from revolutionary upheavals: the conquest of everyday life. We will only organize the detonation: the free explosion must escape us and any other control forever.

One of the classic weapons of the old world, perhaps the one most used against groups delving into the organization of life, is to single out and isolate a few of their participants as "stars." We have to defend ourselves against this process, which, like almost all the usual wretched choices of the present society, has an air of being "natural." Those among us who aspired to the role of stars or depended on stars had to be rejected. [...]

The same movement that would have us accept situationist followers would commit us to erroneous positions. It is in the nature of a disciple to demand certainties, to transform real problems into stupid dogmas from which he derives his role and his intellectual security. And later, of course, to demonstrate his modernity by revolting, in the name of those simplified certainties, against the very people who transmitted them to him. In this way, over a period of time generations of submissive elites succeed one another. We intend to leave such people outside and to resist those who want to transform the SI's theoretical problematics into a mere ideology. Such people are extremely handicapped and uninteresting compared with those who may not be aware of the SI but who confront their own lives. Those who have really grasped the direction the SI is going in can join with it because all the supersession we talk about is to be found in reality, and we have to find it together. The task of being more extremist than the SI falls to the SI itself; this is even the first law of its continuation.

There are already certain people who, through laziness, think they can rigidify our project into a perfect program, one already present, admirable and uncriticizable, in the face of which they have nothing more to do -- except perhaps to declare themselves still more radical at heart, while abstaining from any activity on the grounds that everything has already been definitively said by the SI. We say that, on the contrary, not only do the most important aspects of the questions we have posed remain to be discovered -- by the SI and by others -- but also that the greater portion of what we have already discovered is not yet published due to our lack of all sorts of means; to say nothing of the still more considerable lack of means for the experiments the SI has barely begun in other domains (particularly in matters of behavior). But to speak only of editorial problems, we now think that we ourselves should rewrite the most interesting parts of what we have published so far. It is not a matter of revising certain errors or of suppressing a few deviationist seeds that have since blossomed into gross results3 (e.g. Constant's technocratic concept of a situationist profession -- see Internationale Situationniste #4, pp. 24-25), but of correcting and improving the most important of our theses, precisely those whose development has brought us further, on the basis of the knowledge since gained thanks to them. This will require various republications, although the SI's current difficulties in publishing are far from being resolved.

Those who think that the early situationist thought is already fixed in past history, and that the time has come for violent falsification or rapt admiration of it, have not grasped the movement we are talking about. The SI has sown the wind. It will reap a tempest.


Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version in the Situationist International Anthology).

  • 1Translators' note: In 1961-1962 the German situationists were subjected to a series of police harassments -- searches, confiscation of SI publications, arrests for immorality, pornography, blasphemy, incitement to riot, etc. The SI conducted an international campaign on their behalf, even after the majority of them had been excluded from the SI for moderation and compromises in other regards. Uwe Lausen, who had not been excluded, was the only one to eventually be jailed (for three weeks); the others got fines and suspended sentences. See Internationale Situationniste #6, p. 6; #7, p. 51; #8, p. 64.
  • 2Libcom note: Situationist News
  • 3Translator's note: An example of the gross results: "The ex-situationist Constant, whose Dutch collaborators had already been excluded from the SI for having agreed to construct a church, now himself presents models of factories in his catalogue published in March by the Municipal Museum of Bochum. Apart from plagiarizing two or three poorly understood fragments of situationist ideas, this slippery character has nothing better to propose than to act as a public-relations man in integrating the masses into capitalist technological civilization; and he reproaches the SI for having abandoned his whole program of transforming the urban milieu, which he alone is carrying out. Under these conditions, yes!" (Internationale Situationniste #6, p. 6.) Constant (Constant Nieuwenhuis) resigned from the SI in 1960. He is the same person later mentioned in On the Poverty of Student Life as a member of the Provo hierarchy.