The Political Year 1965: An Anthology of Pointless Acts

A round up from International Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 28, 2023

1965, with the odd finishing touch added here and there in the first weeks of 1966, was something of a complete review of the failures of every variety of the existing power, as well as those of the solutions presented by its oppositional alternatives. While the current order has seen no threat of any kind of negation whatsoever, it has, through its own functioning, accumulated false starts, paralyses and setbacks everywhere. In its economy and in its repressive imperatives, the present world is already a unity; none of the powers that currently control it will ever be capable of truly dominating it, nor of sharing it in a completely satisfactory manner, nor will they even be able to impose on it any kind of supposedly rational direction. At the same time, in spite of the price it is capable of paying — and, indeed, of making others pay — no power has understood how to bring any of its projects to a successful conclusion.

The myth of the "socialist camp" has ended up degenerating into public rows among its governments, which now includes the exchange of insults between Cuba and China. From China on down, all its subdivisions have shown their incapacity to respond effectively to the all out attack by the United States in Vietnam and elsewhere. The "sense of history," served with a Mao and Stalin sauce, has been ridiculed by America's general offensive since the Cuban missile crisis, "a complete ruin — opening a new period in the division of the world," as we wrote in I.S. in January 1963 [Situationist News], going on to show that the game "shared by Russia and America of not waging thermo-nuclear war but 'continually escalating the spectacle of possible war'" caused Russia to suffer the consequences of its "bad calculations in the theater of global strategy." The dissolution of the international bureaucratic union continues to accelerate, as much on a military and political level as it does on an ideological level.

More profoundly, the internal difficulties of the bureaucratic states never cease revealing themselves. These difficulties, which have their source in the administration of industry, and even more prominently in that of agriculture, appear everywhere in the sphere of the political control of every aspect of life. In Russia, clandestine intellectual opposition is spreading. In Cuba, "homosexuals" are being purged from the University of Havana; the panic created by the attempts to assassinate Castro is a good indication of just how "socialist" a regime that depends on a single man really is; and the forced self-criticism of the accused Cubela, the revolutionary who "gave himself over to debauchery" and who "has no idea" how he managed to end up plotting against the Castro that he loves, was a replay of the Bukharin trial in Moscow. In August, the People's Daily admitted that there is "an inevitable gap between the level of consumers that is really necessary in socialist society and that which is actually permitted" (the ideology of the extension of classes to the benefit of the bureaucratic distribution of surplus-value). And the Supreme Court of the Federal Republic in Russia has decided to fight juvenile delinquency by laying charges against the parents (Associated Press, Moscow, 2-6-65), that is to say by holding families legally responsible for the direct use of their authority, which is so necessary to the state.

With the most powerful resources at its disposal, and finding itself in a position to unleash them in an ever widening zone, the United States has suffered the least definitive failures; but nowhere, however, have they led to any kind of success. While black riots and the revolt of young university students — who, at this stage of the country's economic development, represent a considerably large social strata (numerically around five million) — are beginning to clear the way for a new kind of crisis at home, the massive military intervention overseas has failed to break the resistance of Vietnamese fighters, nor even to reestablish order in favor of the generals of Santo Domingo. As a consequence, guerilla warfare has broken out across an enormous part of Latin America. In order to meet the responsibility of its influence, the United States has enlisted itself in a number of interminable conflicts: the down side of its politics is that it must always oppose change precisely where change is most necessary and urgent, from where none of their psychologists' calculations can deliver them.

The leaders of the rest of Western capitalism (the model of socializing reformism) have only attempted to prove themselves once again: for Germany, this is by not coming to power; in England, it is by doing just that. German ex-Social Democracy was dismissed in the September elections, almost by accident. The "engaged writer" Günther Grass was perhaps the only person not to notice that the rallying to Christian Democratic principles had been perfected to such a point that no-one could figure out what they actually were. According to Le Monde (14-9-65), this caused a member of Willy Brandt's staff to declare: "Even if we don't win, we have achieved something of a triumph this year. No-one, or almost no-one, has taken us for reds." Without taking Wilson for a red, one might be struck by the sense of humor he has shown since the electoral victory of the English left. The workerist government unanimously applauded the American war in Vietnam. Against the racist secessionists in its colony Rhodesia, it was markedly worse than de Gaulle, despite the fact that it had not been brought to power by a plot hatched by settlers in Salisbury. Its principle domestic duty was to give the unions complete control over the government's economic decisions; and above all to reduce the workers to the role of mere executors of union orders by means of laws against "wildcat strikes." And yet Wilson's election brought with it classical reprisals of the "wall of silver" that every analyst of "industrial society" has thought impossible since 1924; Le Monde was even driven to this terrible conclusion: "The great lesson to be learnt from the current British crisis is that Western society is still dominated by capitalism."

As for what the papers call the "Third World," it has come to know a fantastic accumulation of failures, from which not one of its pretensions or deceptive expectations has recovered. The fragments of power that are all that remain from the collapse of the Arab world's "progressive camp" are as fragile as the powers of the reactionary camp in the service of the West. In Egypt, the bureaucratic military leadership formulates the failures and exposes the plots of even the most obscure forces. Things are no better elsewhere: certainly not in Yemen, where the young republic has sold out to Saudi Arabia; nor in Iraq, where the recognition of "Right-wing Nasserism" has ended up legitimating the power of the real right and the return of pre-1958 ministers. The Ba'th, driven from Iraq and restricted to its "Syrian province," has torn itself into putschist factions. Soldiers and civilians, "extremists" and moderates, follow one another just as vainly into power, while all the party's personalities and all their chances are exhausted. Ben-Bellaism is ruined in a night.

The crumbling of the foundations for a "revolutionary" regrouping of the African states is also complete. The almost nonexistent Organization of African Unity, abandoning all hope after the declaration of independence in Rhodesia, failed to take the risk of an armed intervention in that country. It even admitted that it was incapable of breaking with England, after having announced it to the world in an extremely short lived ultimatum. In Ghana, Nkrumah "the Redeemer" and his unique party vanished when faced with a simple military plot, just like six other regimes on the continent had in the preceding days. These facts are just supplementary failures for Peking's extravagent political outsider.

Nothing has been more dramatic, however, than the bloody collapse of Indonesian Stalinism, whose bureaucratic habits blinded it to the point of having no anticipation whatsoever of the seizure of power, let alone the conspiracy or the coup, while leading the immense mass movement under its control to complete annihilation without calling on it to fight (the total number of executions now exceeds 300,000). Though the imperturbable Sukarno still hovers above his faithful subalterns, the already impossible "Second Bandung" for unification with Algeria has lost its biggest stars. India's neutralist "socialism" has run headlong into the war in Punjab, military repression of minorities and workers' demonstrations, and famine. By perishing in this way, torn apart by the pressures of rival imperialisms, the spectacular fraternization of the Afro-Asiatic states reveals that it only ever existed as an illusion.

Just as all repressions currently under way everywhere are also beginning to falter, this cascade of failures characterizes a lamentable world where no-one achieves their ends; where the course of events is completely different to that conceived by those who think they control them; where the ruse of the commodity continues to lead human history astray. This hilarious succession of gags in the comedy of power is just the political expression of the universal divorce between all systems and all realities.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From