Notes on the SI's direction - Raoul Vaneigem

Raoul Vaneigem
Raoul Vaneigem

Written by Raoul Vaneigem in March 1970 this text critiqued the movement of the SI towards pure councilism and sought to reaffirm the group's connection with the working class by applying the tactics of the Strasbourg scandal to the workplace.

Submitted by Malva on March 21, 2012

FOR TEN YEARS, our strength of consciousness essentially took hold where history gave us reason. Since 1968, however, when we began to impose our reasons on history, it seems to have been enough for situationism to be everywhere and situationists nowhere. In order to resume our place in the real movement, we have to return to our tactical tradition of positive scandal, that is to say, to the immediate practical affirmation of who we are and what we want to be: not just any old revolutionaries, but situationists. Contrary to the implicit tendencies manifesting themselves among us (toward pure councilism, for example), I would hope that our specificity could be reinforced.
TOWARD THE END of the 1950s, the SI gave the earlier contestations of the dadaists a "Marxist" continuation, which social and economic conditions enabled to appear more clearly. By defending the project of realizing art from the beginning of its existence, the SI showed that the malaise in culture had socioeconomic causes, that it was a malaise of culture. Those who could not comprehend this — mainly artists who could only understand the critique of art within the limits of their possible survival as artists — were driven off, and their readership was practically refused. For some time, artists have stopped reading our journal, and perhaps even collecting it.
BY EXTENDING the critique of culture to the critique of ideology, we attracted the interest of critical intellectuals, all of them prepared to put themselves into question in order to survive as pure critics of ideology. Students were therefore the first to approve of our contempt for students. With the exception of a handful who had already resolved to spit on everything that the university and the system in general represented, the majority of these fine readers had nothing better to do than to study the end of the student, or to play the role of the last student.
TODAY WE CAN wave goodbye to those tormented artists and intellectuals, pathetic detritus conscious of their advanced decomposition, splashing about hopelessly in our wake. While their enthusiasm was not unfamiliar to us when the first cracks in the spectacle commodity society appeared in May 1968, we should reaffirm that we have nothing in common with those who are content to remain on the scrapheap of non-supersession.
IN MOST CASES, the fate of our readers has been to meet with our refusal: first of all, these were eccentrics who quickly become conscious of the price of new ideas on the market of traditional novelty; then, in the same spirit, they were followed by specialized thinkers and shameful intellectuals. Having a majority of readers on whom we turn our backs — making the reasons for our contempt clear enough for our positive project to be communicated only to a select few, sometimes directly, but more often than not through the mediation of imbeciles who are seduced by us all the more because we reject them — is the straitjacket from which we must now escape as soon as possible. To see what situationist ideas are in practice, we can affirm that until now we have had many of our readers in spite of ourselves. We are now going to push this coherence further, to rid ourselves of the readers who do not interest us — all those who are content to realize one of our partial objectives of 1967, for instance the end of the university. From now on, we want to address ourselves to people who will be more than just readers; and we want the practice of those who address themselves to us to first of all prove that we are right, or that they will disappear.
BY DENOUNCING what detracts from the real struggle from the start, the SI has never stopped clarifying the project of the classless society, the end of the commodity and the spectacle, and the liquidation of the proletariat by proletarians themselves. At the same time, we have experimented with a language that carries out its own critique. In the period that we are about to enter, it will be necessary for our language to carry out its critique in acts. While we are not workers ourselves, we must now become equal to the best of them, to those who are prepared to reject their roles as workers by operating their machines outside of alienation, and against it. This also means that they will become our equals in consciousness.
AN INTELLECTUAL IS not necessarily any more of a moron by trade than any other moronic worker. But in order to stop being stupid, that is to say in order to stop being an intellectual, the former must travel a long and dangerous road. The road of the latter is much more direct: in order to leave mindless labor behind and no longer be a worker, it is enough for him to become aware of his power, for he holds the fate of the commodity in his hands — his positivity is immediate. The intellectual is at best the negative of this; his road is labyrinthine, and the taste for the labyrinth is precisely the old Minotaur who awaits him at the turning. Our proof is the incapacity in which those too traumatized by the factory to even think can always be found when it comes to forming autonomous revolutionary groups. For us, it is clear enough that we have entered and left the labyrinth by breaking down its walls. Those still lost in it haven't the least excuse — and above all not the SI. Our critique must now be carried out on the worker milieu, the motor of the proletariat. It is now necessary to ignore the gelatinous section of the revolution — those who slowly spread everywhere, decomposing themselves and everything that they touch — in order to strike the hard core by preparing a Strasbourg style coup in the factories. It's a disgrace that those who have the real means of revolution at their disposal do not make adequate use them, or at the very least use them so badly; this is what we are going to need to prove repeatedly, right up until the point when the situationist critique penetrates the masses. But in contrast to the critique of the intellectual milieu, the critique of the worker milieu can only be associated with the diffusion of agitational techniques directly linked to a meaningful theory.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. Original source: Situationist International Online.