Reasons for a reprint

On the supposed influence of Henri Lefebvre on May '68. From Internationale Situationniste #12 (September 1969).

Submitted by Fozzie on April 24, 2023

Since May [1968], the erroneous claim that, perhaps, has been repeated the most in the books and newspaper articles on the subject concerns with the influence that the "thought" of Henri Lefebvre has had on revolutionary students, thanks to his widely-read book La Proclamation de la Commune. We will limit ourselves to several examples. In The ideas that have shaken France, Anzieu-Epistemon writes: "The work by Henri Lefebvre, published three years previously, that no doubt has had the most influence on the students of Nanterre sees the demonstration of an creative working-class spontaneity in the Paris Commune of 1871, etc." A note in Chapter VII of the book by Schnapp and Vidal-Naquet advances the idea that "the book by Henri Lefebvre, La Proclamation de la Commune (Paris: Gallimard, 1967)" -- it actually came out in 1965 -- "which defines the revolution as a festival, has exercised an unquestionable influence." And, in Le Monde on 8 March 1969, J.-M. Palmier declares: "One of the books that has most influenced the students is the work by Henri Lefebvre on the Paris Commune. In it, he shows the complete power of working-class spontaneity." In addition to all this, all kinds of commentators have believed it necessary that they advance the idea that the situationists owe "much" to Lefebvre. In Le Monde on 26 June 1968, one reads praise from the original minds who, in the journal called Utopie, have just now begun the revolutionary critique of urbanism, and have taken the basic idea from their master Lefebvre, who wrote in Metaphilosophy (1965): "What could what one currently calls 'urbanism' be other than an ideology?"

If Lefebvre, who is a kind of giant of thought in comparison with the nasty little people at Utopie, has mixed urbanism in with all the questions that he has asked, in a disordered fashion, in the many thick volumes that he has produced in the last five or six years, this is only because he heard it spoken of it in Internationale Situationniste. He himself said so in Introduction to Modernity (Editions de Minuit, 2d trimester, 1962, p. 336). And yet it doesn't often happen that this particular author reveals sources of this kind. For example, the phrase cited above modestly derives from the first sentence in an essay in I.S. #6, August 1961, p. 16: "Urbanism doesn't exist: it is simply an ideology, in Marx's sense of the word. . . "

As for the theses on the Commune, which have had such a great influence, few commentators do not know that they came from the SI, but these commentators hope that their readers will not. Long before the publication of his historic work, Lefebvre published his fundamental positions [on the Commune] in the last issue of the journal Arguments, which came out early in 1963. At the time, the SI distributed the tract Into the Trashcan of History, which revealed his truly excessive plagiarism.

We note that this tract was never contradicted by anyone. Lefebvre has personally confessed that he thought he could make use of our text, even [publish it] in Arguments, and that he regretted the "misunderstanding." As this document has been impossible to find for a long time -- not because it was forgotten: [in March 1968] the Enrages in Nanterre began to sabotage the courses offered by [Edgar] Morin and Lefebvre with the cry "into the trashcan of history!" -- we think that it would be good to put it back into circulation today. It is reproduced here as a fac-simile. By reading the two texts side by side, the reader will easily see the tricks [truquages] employed at every instant by the specialists in power to hide the revolutionary thought that, in this circumstance, was articulated by the SI.

Published as a preface to a reprint of the text of "Aux poubelles de l’histoire!" which was first published in February 1963. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! January 2010. From