A poster for Nixon's inauguration by the American section of the Situationist International, which also announces their journal.
The only good politician is a dead politician says the wonderful old adage, but it has been drained of its real content and turned against itself when the Kennedys continue to campaign from the grave. (We have seen earrings that at one angle show an image of Christ and, at another, an image of Bobby Kennedy: under the political economy, a shot in the head is worth two in the hands.) Having no future, the world as it is now organized must peel backward in time seeking an image that meets the needs of a greater medium and the greater message. From the moment the image of the Emperor suits them well. The Emperor: a distant creature, reputedly of the flesh although descended from the gods, who reigns over the people while the actual administration of the Empire is "decentralized." Feudalism returns with corporations and commodities and computers and committees — all by the thousands — competing to be the local princes in the hierarchies of the mind.
Since it is no longer safe to physically seek the audience for the show, the President-as-Emperor surrenders to the dictatorship of other specialists and gives audience in everyone's home through the wonders of television. Nixon announcing his cabinet in a "TV spectacular" (his words: we agree). The show must go on — on to the inauguration of another chief bureaucrat. A cheap pageant, this time for double your money. (They have doubled his salary.) And, yes, Nixon's the One. Which makes [him] Richard the First. In many (little) ways. The first US President to be programmed. Formerly, candidates and officials were briefed by their advisors. Briefing is a military term — it does not convey the proper image; this is the age of the computer, the cybernetic system, the New Nixon. And Richard the first president to say "Sock it to me" on television. Could that be a challenge? Hardly. Only more of the show.
The adjustments facing the image called the Nixon Administration are interesting, but the workings of the process which summons that apparition into existence also deserve comment.
The NAACP advertized on the radio (in its best boss militant voice), saying that voting is beautiful, man, be beautiful, bop on down there and pull that lever. And Lee, Your Leader, a New York City disc jockey, calls for "his people" to "get involved," "parti-ci-pate" in voting for a record (you have three choices) the station will play. All during Election Day, the TV and radio told us that it looked like a record voter turnout. It was days before the papers admitted that it had been, on the contrary, a rather small showing. It had all been a cheap "follow the herd" advertizing gimmick, and it hadn't worked. All this must be assumed when the show goes on.
Meanwhile, a miniature farce was going on in the "Leftwing." All those anemic little companies sang the praises of their appointed saviors, competing for votes, waiting for the returns. And, even in blackface, the showing was miserable. Those creeps might do well to join their brothers in power in a campaign for compulsory election "participation" as practiced in (other) nations. Perhaps private industry is in the lead, as Nixon and McLuhan are fond of saying, and telephone polling methods might prove more satisfactory. And maybe giving a prize with every vote for a given candidate with a bonus if he wins. They could call it "participation incentives" to get around any archaic laws on the subject.
The most thoroughgoing deceit becomes unwitting honesty. The biggest show reveals the reality it tries to conceal.
The function of the electoral process becomes clearer the more the heroes and villains and clowns dance around it. Electoral politics is a ritual screwing. The winning candidate is the man who (for four years) will sacrifice himself in the name of the people. He will crusade for them, worry for them, perhaps die for them (only to achieve eternal life) and ultimately be betrayed by them as they cast him out of office. Johnson's fate with be Nixon's, barring the slug. The democracy of the myth penetrates the myth of democracy, and the show goes on. To the real sacrifice of just about everyone corresponds the mythical sacrifice of the chosen leader. Through myth, he assumes all our sins including the great sin of ultimately rejecting him for another. When the feudal returns, you know that the corpse of the religious is being propped up close by. The spectacle has yet to project the smell of all the rotting old forms into our living rooms, but in moments of reflection it chokes us just the same.
George Wallace, mouthy little toad that he is, was alone among the major candidates (after Bobby's exit) to grasp the myth that could postpone everything coming unglued. In his leaflet addressed to workers, he says that they (the particular bureaucrats he opposes) are looking down their noses at the worker and "saying to him, 'Since you do not know how to get up in the morning or go to bed at night, we are going to write some guidelines,' and I say to you that people in all walks of life in these United States are tired of a bunch of pseudo-intellectuals writing guidelines telling them what to do. I don't think they need anybody telling them what to do." He would appropriate, with his little flatteries, the only power that can oppose and destroy the commodity show he would maintain.
The spectacle is so woven that every fragment, every partial thought or deed, eventually comes to dance in its chorus line and the maintenance of its survival. Kennedy and Oswald dance side-by-side; each in his own way is a star. Two little known historical incidents point to a suppression of the politician who stands outside the spectacle and in mortal opposition to it:
(1) General Santa Anna took the Mexican Presidency and fled from it many times. As one regime prior to the war with the US collapsed around him, he, as usual, headed for exile. "He was caught by some barbaric Indians who thought it would be a huge joke to boil him, wrap his remains in banana leaves, and present them to the nation as a great tamale" (Latin America, J.E. Fagg). The ultimate practical joke. Unfortunately, these inspired men were dissuaded (by the new regime).
(2) During 1951, American, French and British papers reported that "suspicion [is] mounting in the lobbies of the French Senate that M. Victor Bioka Boda, member for the Ivory Coast had been eaten by his constituents." He had been missing for over a year, his two wives were said to have filed a complaint, and the bones had been found. Such poetry the national bureaucrats of "emerging Africa" are not about to appreciate.
All this is not to point to a gastronomical solution to electoral politics, although it is tempting. One thought of the chemically-fed, electronically stimulated bureaucrats of modern capitalism is enough to dismiss that aspect of the cited incidents. We must, however, note that these were social situations, creativity conceived with an understanding of human play that implicitly negates "politics" as well as politicians.
What then is the organization of men that can realize the permanent reign of free play, that unleashes the power Wallace (among others) wishes to keep in chains? This organization begins with the individual and ends with the elimination of everything that exists independently of individuals. When everyday working man [sic] comes to realize that he is powerless over his own life and knows why, he is a proletarian. This proletarian consciousness has found itself in social practice with the spontaneous organization of councils (Russia in 1905, Spain 1936, Hungary 1956, etc.) The slogan remains "All power to the Workers Councils," translated into daily life, and this time without amendment or afterthought. To create the situation that makes turning back impossible, the power of councils is defined by: the dissolution of all external (separate) power; direct and total democracy; the practical unification of decision and execution; the delegate, strictly mandated, subject to immediate recall; the abolition of all hierarchies and independent specializations; the GESTION AND CONSCIOUS TRANSFORMATION OF ALL ASPECTS OF LIBERATED LIFE; the permanent, creative participation of individuals; international extension and coordination. So that the last laugh will never be heard, the celebration must never end.
Comrades, the above text is issued (January 10, 1969) as a supplement to the first issue of SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL, the imminent publication which it announces.
Situationist International, Box 491, Cooper Station, New York, New York, 10003