The Freedom to Read What? Some Nonsense.

A short text from Internationale Situationniste #1.

Submitted by Fozzie on November 23, 2022

Translated by Ian Thompson, February 2015. Proofread and Edited by Anna O’Meara & Mehdi el H. From:

The escape into art and literature, along with the overvaluing of these activities (in accord 1 with the old bourgeois perspective) seem to be widespread notions in the Workers’ States of Europe. There, disillusioned intellectuals, reacting to the police détournements 2 of an undertaking to make real change in the world, have come to demonstrate a naïve indulgence for the by-products and repetitions of a decomposing Western culture. In a concurrent delusion they have rediscovered the subject of Parliamentary Democracy. The young Polish writer Marek Hlasko, in an interview in “L’Express” (17 April 1958), justified his intention to return to Poland (where, according to his own confidently expressed opinions, life is unbearable – with no possibility of improvement) by using this stunning rationale: “Poland is an extraordinary country for a writer, and it is worth enduring all the consequences in order to live in this country, and to observe it.”

We have no regrets about the decline of the Zhdanov Doctrine despite the senseless interest one comes across in Czechoslovakia or Poland in the more wretched aspects of the end of Western culture: expressions which are no longer at the extreme of formal decomposition, but which have reached a total neutrality (e.g. Sagan-Drouet, or the artistic motivations of the journal “Phases”). We understand the need to oppose the still powerful doctrine of Social Realism by demanding total freedom of information and creation. But this freedom should in no instance become confused with an allegiance to the “modern” culture now found in Western Europe. This culture is historically the opposite of creation: a series of forged repetitions. To call for freedom of creation, is to recognise the necessity for the better construction of environments. Real freedom will be the same both here and in the Workers’ States, as will its foes.

Translator's Note: As this new translation was being produced, I cross-referenced it to an existing translation made by Reuben Keehan, available on-line here. I would like to acknowledge the work done by Reuben Keehan, and the real assistance his translation provided. However all final decisions (for better or worse – which is for the reader to decide) in this translation are mine alone.

  • 1“définies selon” – literally “defined in accordance with”
  • 2“détournement” – literally “diversion/misappropriation”, I have retained the original French here to denote it’s very specific use by the SI (as specified later in this issue in “Definitions”)