The Latest Exclusions

The exclusion of English situationists Timothy Clark, Christopher Gray and Donald Nicholson-Smith from the SI, with some harsh words for Black Mask. From Internationale Situationniste #12 (September 1969).

Submitted by libcom on September 1, 2005

On 21 December 1967 Timothy Clark, Christopher Gray and Donald Nicholson-Smith were excluded from the SI, just as they were getting ready to publish a journal in England and begin a group activity there. (Charles Radcliffe had resigned for personal reasons a couple months before.)

The divergences, which had been nonexistent or at least unnoticed in all other regards, suddenly appeared not in regard to their activity in England but on the issue of the SI's relations and possible action in the United States. Vaneigem had gone to New York in November as the delegate of all the situationists and carried out his mandate precisely, notably in discussions with the comrades with whom in everyone's opinion -- including that of the British -- we had the most developed contacts, and who have since formed our American section. Vaneigem refused to meet a certain Ben Morea, publisher of the bulletin Black Mask1 , with whom our American comrades were in conflict on virtually every question concerning revolutionary action and whose intellectual honesty they even challenged. Vaneigem had, moreover, already been obliged to break off a conversation with a certain Hoffman, who was admiringly expounding to him a mystical interpretation of his text "Basic Banalities," and who was currently the main collaborator in Morea's publications: the enormity of this fact naturally led Vaneigem no longer even to want to discuss our other, more general divergences with Morea.2

Everything seemed quite clear upon Vaneigem's return to Europe. But Morea wrote to the London situationists to complain of having been misrepresented to Vaneigem. Upon the insistence of the English comrades, who were concerned about fully clarifying the matter in the unlikely case that Morea himself was under some misapprehension, we wrote a collective letter detailing all the facts of the situation. The English agreed, however, that this would be the last response we would send him. Morea wrote once again to all of us saying that the reasons we had given were false pretexts and that the real dispute lay elsewhere; he insulted our New York friends and this time questioned Vaneigem's testimony. Despite their express commitment, the English responded again to Morea, saying that they no longer understood what was going on and that "someone" must be lying. They showed more and more indulgence toward Morea and more and more mistrust of our American friends; and even of Vaneigem, though refusing to openly admit it. We called on the three English to rectify this outrageous, publicly aired vacillation by immediately breaking with the falsifier and his mystical acolyte. They accepted this demand in principle, but equivocated and finally refused to implement it. We then had to break with them. In three weeks this discussion had given rise to two meetings in Paris and London and to the exchange of a dozen long letters. Our patience had been rather excessive, but what had at first seemed to be merely a surprising slowness in reasoning increasingly began to appear as an intentional (though still inexplicable) obstruction. Up to the moment of their exclusion, however, the discussion had never concerned anything but the details described here and the questions of method it so strangely raised regarding the SI's solidarity and general criteria for breaking (for the English never denied that Morea was teamed up with a mystical idiot).

Gray later passed through New York and sadly recounted, to whoever would listen, that his stillborn group had concerned itself directly with America in order to save the revolutionary project there from a detrimental incomprehension on the part of the continental European situationists (and of the Americans themselves). The English comrades themselves had not felt sufficiently appreciated. They hadn't dared to say so, but they were pained by the Continentals' lack of interest in what they were going to do. They were left isolated in their country -- all surrounded by water. A more "theoretical" reason emerged after the discussion: England being (according to them) much closer to a revolutionary crisis than continental Europe, we "Continental" theorists were supposedly moved by spite at seeing that "our" theories would be realized somewhere else. The value of this historical law of Anglo-American revolutionism was demonstrated only five months later. But leaving aside the comical aspect of their belated self-justification, it has a rather ignoble side: The spite which they attributed to us over the supposedly impending foreign fulfillment of "our" theory would seem to imply that we are seeking revolutions in "our own" countries in order to have the chance to take up governmental positions. Their imputation of sordid motives to us seems rather to be a projection of the English ex-situationists' own hearkening back to the era before America's war of independence, since they seem to want to direct the American revolutionary movement from London. This whole ridiculous geopolitical perspective naturally collapsed the moment they were excluded.

We should mention that during the two years we had known him, Donald Nicholson-Smith was well liked and in every way highly regarded by all of us. Unfortunately, once he returned to London he became less rigorous and less lucid, passing under the influence of two poorly chosen fellow situationists and of various persons outside the SI. When, six months later, he wrote us two letters asking to see us again in order to clear up the "misunderstanding," we regretfully felt obliged to refuse even a personal meeting. The whole affair had been too dubious, and the followup of Gray's activity has continued to be so.

Gray now publishes a rag called King Mob3 which passes, quite wrongly, for being slightly pro-situationist, and in which one can read eulogies to the eternal Morea. Since Morea is all that Gray has left, Gray and his acolytes have gone so far as to conceal certain of Morea's current writings that would be too embarrassing to reveal to the people in their entourage who they want to continue to respect their idol; and they make the amusing contention that Morea had the merit of transferring certain radical positions "from the situationist salon" to street fighting -- they say this a year after the occupations movement! Gray, too, tried to reestablish contact with us, but surreptitiously, through the intermediary of a certain Allan Green, who pretended not to know him but was unmasked at the second meeting. Fine work, and as cleverly conducted as might have been expected! The "unique" Garnautins must be turning over in their university graves in envy of such a worthy successor.

It will be noted that for nearly two years there have been no other exclusions. We must admit that this notable success is not entirely due to the real elevation of consciousness and coherent radicality of individuals in the present revolutionary period. It is also due to the fact that the SI, applying with increasing rigor its previous decisions on the preliminary examination of those wanting to join it, has during the same period refused some fifty or sixty requests for admission -- which has spared us an equal number of exclusions.


New translation by Ken Knabb of the complete article (the version in the Situationist International Anthology is slightly abridged).