Words and Those Who Use Them

A glass office door with the words "Welcome Home. Ooops, We Meant 'Welcome to Work'" printed on it.

From Internationale Situationniste #9 (August 1964).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 9, 2023

"Words work on behalf of the dominant organization of life . . . Power merely provides words with a false identity card . . . It creates nothing, it recuperates" (I.S. #8 1 ). The inversion of words is evidence of the disarming of the forces of the protest that depended on those words. The masters of the world thus seize signs, defuse them, and turn them upside down. Revolution, for instance, is a standard term in advertising vocabulary. This reaches its height in the formulation "Révolution en rouge — révolution avec Redflex" [Revolution in red — revolution with Redflex] cited by the journal Der Deutsche Gedanke. From Kruschev to the priests, socialism as a concept has been given the richest variety of contradictory meanings ever consolidated in one single word. Unions have undergone such transformations that at this point the most effective strikes are those organized by the members of the privileged classes, as evidenced by the Belgian doctors this year. Not even anarchy has been spared, as one can tell from the "anarchist opinions" of the pro-Chinese Mr Siné and, even more so, by the anarchist opinions of Le Monde libertaire.

The Duke of Edinburgh has just become a member of the Labour Party's Congress of British Unions (TUC). In fact, the Screenwriters Guild, one of whose members is Queen Elizabeth's husband, has also just become part of the TUC.

Reuters, 17-4-64.

Since in formal terms the Khmer regime draws upon socialist terminology, its republican sovereign is called "Samdech Sahachivin," which means "comrade-prince."

Le Monde, 27-5-64.

We need to move back from Roman law to Negro-African law, from the bourgeois concept of landed property to the socialist conception of property which is that of traditional black Africa.

Léopold Senghor, speech broadcast in Dakar, May 1964.

Some of the speakers could be heard expressing very serious reservations about the liberation of women. Others asserted in substance that the Algerian woman should be emancipated and reintroduced into the life of the nation, however, she must first be made to understand all of her duties and have a good knowledge of the Qu'ran and of all the religious rules. In the economic and social resolution, one then reads: "A family code consistent with our traditions and our socialist line must be developed as quickly as possible."

Le Monde, 22-4-64.

One will be better able to distinguish the different tendencies that make up the fraction of the "socialist family" brought together on the occasion of conventions. . . The militant Christians participate fully in this family, but not without manifesting some annoyance since, as one of them put it, "they are tired of having to beg endlessly for a certificate of socialist baptism."

France-Observateur, 13-2-64.

He is an anarchist, if one is to take him at his word. He will confide this to you in a whisper and will even add "this is common knowledge" . . . His name is Siné and he has just returned from Cuba . . . "Do the workers have an understanding of the revolution? — No, and it would be best if they never acquired one either . . . Not capitalist prisons but revolutionary prisons. In the latter one is happy, almost too happy and (he adds, speaking to one of his interviewers) it would do you extremely well to go there." These are the anarchist opinions of Mr Siné.

Le Monde libertaire, September 1963.

The inevitable accounts of Ravachol and the Bonnot gang, the standard fare of all the journalists that discovered anarchy in the Ambigu and the Grande-Guignol.

Le Monde libertaire, January 1964.

Translated by Thomas Y. Levin. From https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/words.html