Internationale Situationiste #11

Submitted by libcom on September 1, 2005

Setting Straight Some Popular Misconceptions About Revolutions in the Underdeveloped Countries

Mustapha Khayati on revolutions in colonised countries.

Submitted by libcom on September 1, 2005


The eminently revolutionary role of the bourgeoisie consists in having introduced the economy into history in a decisive and irreversible way. As the faithful master of this economy, the bourgeoisie has since its appearance been the real (though sometimes unconscious) master of "universal history." For the first time universal history ceased to be some metaphysical fantasy or some act of the World Spirit and became a material reality as concrete as the trivial existence of each individual. Since the emergence of commodity production, nothing in the world has escaped the implacable development of this neo-Fate, the invisible economic rationality: the logic of the commodity. Totalitarian and imperialist in essence, it demands the entire planet as its terrain and the whole of humanity as its servants. Wherever the commodity is present there are only slaves.


To the bourgeoisie's oppressive coherence in keeping humanity in prehistory, the revolutionary movement -- a direct and unintended product of bourgeois capitalist domination -- has for more than a century counterposed the project of a liberatory coherence that is the work of each and everyone, the free, conscious intervention in the creation of history: the real abolition of all class divisions and the suppression of the economy.


Wherever it has penetrated -- that is, almost everywhere in the world -- the virus of the commodity never stops toppling the most ossified socioeconomic structures, enabling millions of human beings to discover through poverty and violence the historical time of the economy. Wherever it penetrates it spreads its destructive character, dissolving the vestiges of the past and pushing all antagonisms to their extreme. In a word, it hastens social revolution. All the walls of China crumble in its path, and scarcely has it established itself in India when everything around it disintegrates and agrarian revolutions explode in Bombay, in Bengal and in Madras. The precapitalist zones of the world accede to bourgeois modernity, but without its material basis. There also, as in the case of the proletariat, the forces that the bourgeoisie has contributed toward liberating, or even creating, are now going to turn against the bourgeoisie and its native servants: the revolution of the underdeveloped is becoming one of the main chapters of modern history.


If the problem of revolution in the underdeveloped countries poses itself in a particular way, this is due to the very development of history: In these countries the general economic backwardness -- fostered by colonial domination and the social strata that support it -- and the underdevelopment of productive forces have impeded the development of socioeconomic structures that would have made immediately practicable the revolutionary theory elaborated in the advanced capitalist societies for more than a century. As they enter the struggle none of these countries have any significant heavy industry, and the proletariat is far from being the majority class. It is the poor peasantry that plays that role.


The various national liberation movements emerged well after the rout of the workers movement resulting from the defeat of the Russian revolution, which right from its victory was turned into a counterrevolution in the service of a bureaucracy claiming to be communist. They have thus suffered -- either consciously or with false consciousness -- from all the defects and weaknesses of that generalized counterrevolution; and with the additional burden of their generally backward conditions, they have been unable to overcome any of the limits imposed on the defeated revolutionary movement. And it is precisely because of this defeat that the colonized and semicolonized countries have had to fight imperialism by themselves. But because they have fought only imperialism and on only a part of the total revolutionary terrain, they have only partially driven it out. The oppressive regimes that have installed themselves wherever national liberation revolutions believed themselves victorious are only one of the guises by which the return of the repressed takes place.


No matter what forces have participated in them, and regardless of the radicalism of their leaderships, the national liberation movements have always led the ex-colonial societies to modern forms of the state and to pretensions of modernity in the economy. In China, father-image of underdeveloped revolutionaries, the peasants' struggle against American, European and Japanese imperialism ended up, because of the defeat of the Chinese workers movement in 1925-1927, by bringing to power a bureaucracy on the Russian model. The Stalino-Leninist dogmatism with which this bureaucracy gilds its ideology -- recently reduced to Mao's red catechism -- is nothing but the lie, or at best the false consciousness, that accompanies its counterrevolutionary practice.


Fanonism and Castro-Guevaraism are the false consciousness through which the peasantry carries out the immense task of ridding precapitalist society of its semifeudal and colonialist leftovers and acceding to a national dignity previously trampled on by reactionary colonists and ruling classes. Ben-Bellaism, Nasserism, Titoism and Maoism are the ideologies that signal the end of these movements and their takeover by petty-bourgeois or military urban strata: the reconstitution of exploitive society with new masters and based on new socioeconomic structures. Wherever the peasantry has fought victoriously and brought to power the social strata that marshaled and directed its struggle, it has been the first to suffer their violence and to pay the enormous cost of their domination. Modern bureaucracy, like that of antiquity (in China, for example), builds its power and prosperity on the superexploitation of the peasants: ideology changes nothing in the matter. In China or Cuba, Egypt or Algeria, everywhere it plays the same role and assumes the same functions.


In the process of capital accumulation, the bureaucracy fulfills what was only the unrealized ideal of the bourgeoisie. What the bourgeoisie has taken centuries to accomplish "through blood and mud," the bureaucracy wants to achieve consciously and "rationally" within a few decades. But the bureaucracy cannot accumulate capital without accumulating lies: that which constituted the original sin of capitalist wealth is sinisterly referred to as "socialist primitive accumulation." Everything that the underdeveloped bureaucracies present as or imagine to be socialism is nothing but a realized neo-mercantilism. "The bourgeois state minus the bourgeoisie" (Lenin) cannot go beyond the historical tasks of the bourgeoisie, and the most advanced industrial countries show to the less developed ones the image of their own development to come. Once in power, the Bolshevik bureaucracy could find nothing better to propose to the revolutionary Russian proletariat than to "follow the lessons of German state-capitalism." All the so-called "socialist" powers are nothing but underdeveloped imitations of the bureaucracy that dominated and defeated the revolutionary movement in Europe. Whatever the bureaucracy is able to do or is forced to do will neither emancipate the laboring masses nor even substantially improve their social condition, because those aims depend not only on the productive forces but also on their appropriation by the producers. In any case, what the bureaucracy will not fail to do is create the material conditions to realize both. Has the bourgeoisie ever done less?


In the peasant-bureaucratic revolutions only the bureaucracy aims consciously and lucidly at power. The seizure of power is the historical moment when the bureaucracy lays hold of the state and declares its independence vis-Ã -vis the revolutionary masses before even having eliminated the vestiges of colonialism and achieving effective independence from foreign powers. Upon entering the state, the new class suppresses all autonomy of the masses by pretending to suppress its own autonomy and devote itself to the service of the masses. Exclusive owner of the entire society, it declares itself the exclusive representative of that society's superior interests. In so doing, the bureaucratic state is the fulfillment of the Hegelian State. Its separation from society sanctions at the same time the society's separation into antagonistic classes: the momentary union of the bureaucracy and the peasantry is only the fantastic illusion through which they jointly accomplish the immense historical tasks of the absent bourgeoisie. The bureaucratic power built on the ruins of precapitalist colonial society is not the abolition of class antagonisms; it merely substitutes new classes, new conditions of oppression and new forms of struggle for the old ones.


The only people who are really underdeveloped are those who see a positive value in the power of their masters. The rush to catch up with capitalist reification remains the best road to reinforced underdevelopment. The question of economic development is inseparable from the question of who is the real owner of the economy, the real master of labor power. Everything else is nothing but the babble of specialists.


So far the revolutions in the underdeveloped countries have only tried to imitate Bolshevism in various ways. From now on the point is to go beyond it through the power of the soviets.


Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version in the Situationist International Anthology entitled "Contributions Toward Rectifying Public Opinion Concerning the Revolution in the Underdeveloped Countries").

The explosion point of ideology in China

The Situationists analyse the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. The Maoist regime was confronted with both faction fighting within its ruling bureaucracy and with a massive wave of class struggle challenging its power. Written with an unfulfilled optimism typical of its times.

Submitted by libcom on September 1, 2005

The international association of totalitarian bureaucracies has completely fallen apart. In the words of the Address published by the situationists in Algiers in July 1965, the irreversible “collapse of the revolutionary image” that the “bureaucratic lie” counterposed to the whole of capitalist society, as its pseudonegation and actual support, has become obvious, and first of all on the terrain where official capitalism had the greatest interest in upholding the pretense of its adversary: the global confrontation between the bourgeoisie and the so-called “socialist camp.” This camp had in any case never been socialist; now, in spite of all sorts of attempts to patch it up, it has ceased even to be a camp.

The disintegration of the Stalinist monolith is already manifested in the coexistence of some twenty independent “lines,” from Rumania to Cuba, from Italy to the Vietnamese-Korean-Japanese bloc of parties. Russia, having this year become incapable of holding a joint conference of merely all the European parties, prefers to forget the era when Moscow reigned over the Comintern. Thus the Izvestia of September 1966 blames the Chinese leaders for bringing “unprecedented” discredit to “Marxist-Leninist” ideas, and virtuously deplores the confrontational style “in which insults are substituted for an exchange of opinions and revolutionary experiences. Those who choose this method confer an absolute value on their own experience and reveal a dogmatic and sectarian mentality in their interpretation of Marxist-Leninist theory. Such an attitude is inevitably accompanied by interference in the internal affairs of fraternal parties.” In the Sino-Soviet polemic, in which each power is led to impute to its opponent every conceivable antiproletarian crime, being only obliged not to mention the real crime (the class power of the bureaucracy), each side can only arrive at the sobering conclusion that the other’s revolutionariness was only an inexplicable mirage, a mirage which, lacking any reality, has now reverted to its old point of departure. Thus in New Delhi last February the Chinese ambassador described Brezhnev and Kosygin as “new czars of the Kremlin,” while the Indian government, an anti-Chinese ally of this Muscovy, discovered that “the present masters of China have donned the imperial mantle of the Manchus.” This denunciation of the new Middle Kingdom dynasty was further refined the following month in Moscow by the modernist state poet Voznesensky, who, evoking the menace of a new invasion of “the hordes of Kuchum,” counts on “eternal Russia” to build a rampart against the Mongols who threaten to bivouac among “the Egyptian treasures of the Louvre.”

The accelerating decomposition of bureaucratic ideology, as evident in the countries where Stalinism has seized power as in the others where it has lost every chance of seizing it, naturally began around issues of internationalism; but this is only the beginning of a general and irreversible disintegration. For the bureaucracy, internationalism could be nothing but an illusive proclamation in the service of its real interests, one ideological justification among others, since bureaucratic society is the total opposite of proletarian community. Bureaucratic power is based on possession of a nation-state and it must ultimately obey the logic of this reality, in accordance with the particular interests imposed by the level of development of the country it possesses. Its heroic age passed away with the ideological golden age of “socialism in a single country” that Stalin was shrewd enough to maintain by destroying the revolutions in China in 1927 and Spain in 1937. The autonomous bureaucratic revolution in China — as already shortly before in Yugoslavia — introduced into the unity of the bureaucratic world a dissolutive germ that has broken it up in less than twenty years. The general process of decomposition of bureaucratic ideology is now attaining its supreme stage in the very country where that ideology was most necessary, the country where, because of its general economic backwardness, the remaining ideological pretensions of revolution had to be pushed to their extreme: China.

The crisis that has continually deepened in China since the spring of 1966 constitutes an unprecedented phenomenon in bureaucratic society. The bureaucratic state-capitalist ruling class of Russia and East Europe, continually and necessarily exerting terror over the exploited majority, has of course often been torn apart by rivalries and antagonisms stemming from the objective problems it runs into as well as from the subjectively delirious style that a totally mendacious power is led to assume. But up till now the bureaucracy — which must be centralized due to its mode of appropriation of the economy, since it must draw from itself the hierarchical guarantee to all participation in its collective appropriation of the social surplus production — has always made its purges from the top down. The summit of the bureaucracy has to remain fixed, for the whole legitimacy of the system depends on a fixed summit. It must keep its dissensions to itself (as it always has from the time of Lenin and Trotsky). Those who hold office may be replaced or liquidated, but the office itself must always retain the same indisputable majesty. The unexplained and unanswerable repression can then normally descend to each level of the apparatus as a mere implementation of what has been instantaneously decided at the top. Beria(1) must first be killed; then judged; then his faction can be hunted down; or in fact anybody can be hunted down because the power that is doing the liquidating thereby defines who and what that faction consists of and at the same time redefines itself as the sole power. This is what is not happening in China. The persistency of the declared adversaries, in spite of the fantastic raising of bids in the struggle for total power, clearly shows that the ruling class has split in two.

A social disaster of such magnitude obviously cannot be explained, in the anecdotal style of bourgeois observers, as being the result of dissensions over foreign policy (on the contrary, the Chinese bureaucracy is quite unified in the docility with which it tolerates the insult of the crushing of Vietnam on its own doorstep). Neither could personal quarrels over succession to power have caused so much to be put at stake. When certain leaders are accused of having “kept Mao Tse-tung from power” since the end of the 1950s, everything leads one to believe that this is one of those retrospective crimes frequently fabricated during bureaucratic purges — Trotsky conducting the civil war on orders from the Mikado, Zinoviev supporting Lenin in order to work for the British Empire, etc.(2) The man who could have taken power from someone as powerful as Mao would not have slept as long as Mao was still around to come back. Mao would have died that very day, and nothing would have prevented his faithful successors from attributing his death to, say, Khrushchev. If the rulers and polemicists of the bureaucratic states certainly have a much better understanding of the Chinese crisis, their statements cannot for all that be taken any more seriously, for in talking about China they have to guard against revealing too much about themselves. The most deluded are the leftist debris of the Western countries, who are always the willing dupes of moldy sub-Leninist propaganda. They solemnly evaluate the role in Chinese society of the continuation of allowances to the capitalists who rallied to the “Communist” regime, or scrutinize the fray trying to figure out which leader represents genuine radicalism or workers’ autonomy. The most stupid among them thought there was something “cultural” about this affair, until January when the Maoist press pulled the dirty trick on them of admitting that it had been “a struggle for power from the very beginning.” The only serious debate consists in examining why and how the ruling class could have split into two hostile camps; and any investigation of this question is naturally impossible for those who don’t recognize that the bureaucracy is a ruling class, or who ignore the specificity of this class and reduce it to the classical conditions of bourgeois power.

On the why of the breach within the bureaucracy, it can be said with certainty only that it was a matter in which the ruling class’s very domination was at stake since in order to settle it each side remained unyielding and neither hesitated to immediately risk their joint class power by jeopardizing all the existing conditions of their administration of the society. The ruling class must thus have known that it could no longer govern as before. There is no question that the conflict involved the management of the economy, and that the collapse of the bureaucracy’s successive economic policies is the cause of that conflict’s extreme acuteness. The failure of the “Great Leap Forward” — mainly because of the resistance of the peasantry — not only put an end to the prospect of an ultravoluntarist takeoff of industrial production, but led to a disastrous disorganization whose effects were felt for several years.(3) Even agricultural production has scarcely increased since 1958 (the increase of food supplies does not even match the rate of population growth).

It is less easy to say over what specific economic options the ruling class split. Probably one side (consisting of the majority of the Party apparatus, the union leaders and the economists) wanted to continue, or increase more or less considerably, the production of consumer goods and to sustain the workers’ efforts with economic incentives; this policy would imply making some concessions to the peasants and especially to the factory workers, as well as increasing a hierarchically differentiated consumption for a good part of the bureaucracy. The other side (including Mao and a large segment of the higher-ranking army officers) probably wanted to resume at any price the effort to industrialize the country through an even more extreme recourse to terror and ideological energy, an unlimited superexploitation of the workers, and perhaps an “egalitarian” sacrifice in consumption for a considerable segment of the lower bureaucracy. Both positions are equally oriented toward maintaining the absolute domination of the bureaucracy and are calculated in terms of the necessity of erecting barriers against any class struggles that threaten that domination. In any case, the urgency and vital character of this choice was so evident to everyone that both camps felt they had to run the risk of immediately aggravating the conditions in which they found themselves by the disorder of their very schism. It is quite possible that the obstinacy on both sides is justified by the fact that there is no satisfactory solution to the insurmountable problems of the Chinese bureaucracy; that the two options confronting each other were thus equally unfeasible; and that some choice nevertheless had to be made.

As for figuring out how a division at the summit of the bureaucracy was able to descend from level to level — recreating at every stage remote-controlled confrontations which in turn incited or exacerbated oppositions throughout the Party and the state, and finally among the masses — it is probably necessary to take into account the survival of aspects of the ancient manner of administering China by provinces tending toward semiautonomy. The Peking Maoists’ denunciation in January of “independent fiefs” clearly suggests this reality, and the development of the disturbances over the last few months confirms it. It is quite possible that the phenomenon of regionally autonomous bureaucratic power, which during the Russian counterrevolution was manifested only weakly and sporadically by the Leningrad organization, found firm and multiple bases in bureaucratic China, resulting in the possibility of a coexistence within the central government of clans and constituents holding entire regions of bureaucratic power as their personal property and bargaining with each other on this basis. Bureaucratic power in China was not born out of a workers movement, but out of the military regimentation of peasants during a 22-year war. The army has remained closely interlinked with the Party, all of whose leaders have also been military chiefs, and it remains the principal training school of the peasant masses from which the Party selects its future cadres. It seems, moreover, that the local administrations installed in 1949 were largely based on the regions traversed by the different army regiments moving from the north to the south, leaving in their wake at every stage men who were linked to those regions by geographical origin (or by family ties: the propaganda against Liu Shao-ch’i and others has fully exposed this nepotistic factor in the consolidation of bureaucratic cliques). Such local bases of semiautonomous power within the bureaucratic administration could thus have been formed by a combination of the organizational structures of the conquering army with the productive forces it found to control in the conquered regions.

When the Mao faction began its public offensive against the entrenched positions of its adversaries by dragooning and indoctrinating students and schoolchildren, it was in no way for the purpose of directly initiating a “cultural” or “civilizing” remolding of the mass of workers, who were already squeezed as tightly as possible into the ideological straitjacket of the regime. The silly diatribes against Beethoven or Ming art, like the invectives against a supposed occupation or reoccupation of positions of power by a Chinese bourgeoisie that has obviously been annihilated as such, were only presented for the benefit of the spectators — though not without calculating that this crude ultraleftism might strike a certain chord among the oppressed, who have, after all, some reason to suspect that there are still several obstacles in their country to the emergence of a classless society. The main purpose of this operation was to make the regime’s ideology, which is by definition Maoist, appear in the street in the service of this faction. Since the adversaries could themselves be nothing other than officially Maoist, imposing a struggle on this terrain immediately put them in an awkward position. It forced them to make “self-critiques,” the insufficiency of which, however, expressed their actual resolution to hold on to the positions they controlled. The first phase of the struggle can thus be characterized as a confrontation of the official owners of the ideology against the majority of the owners of the economic and state apparatus. But the bureaucracy, in order to maintain its collective appropriation of society, needs the ideology as much as it does the administrative and repressive apparatus; the venture into such a separation was thus extremely dangerous if it was not quickly resolved.

The majority of the apparatus, including Liu Shao-ch’i himself despite his shaky position in Peking, resisted obstinately. After their first attempt to block the Maoist agitation at the university level by setting up effectively anti-Maoist “work groups” among the students, that agitation spread into the streets of all the large cities and everywhere began to attack, by means of wall posters and direct action, the officials who had been designated as “capitalist-roaders” — attacks that were not without errors and excesses of zeal. These officials organized resistance wherever they could. It is likely that the first clashes between workers and “Red Guards”(4) were in fact initiated by Party activists in the factories under orders from local officials. Soon, however, the workers, exasperated by the excesses of the Red Guards, began to intervene on their own. When the Maoists spoke of “extending the Cultural Revolution” to the factories and then to the countryside, they gave themselves the air of having decided on a movement which had in fact come about in spite of their plans and which throughout autumn 1966 was totally out of their control. The decline of industrial production; the disorganization of transportation, irrigation and state administration (despite Chou En-lai’s efforts); the threats to the autumn and spring harvests; the halting of all education (particularly serious in an underdeveloped country) for more than a year — all this was the inevitable result of a struggle whose extension was solely due to the resistance of the sector of the bureaucracy in power that the Maoists were trying to make back down.

The Maoists, who have virtually no experience with struggles in urban environments, will have had good occasion to verify Machiavelli’s precept: “One should take care not to incite a rebellion in a city while imagining that one can stop it or direct it at will” (History of Florence). After a few months of pseudocultural pseudorevolution, real class struggle has appeared in China, with the workers and peasants beginning to act for themselves. The workers cannot be unaware of what the Maoist perspective means for them; the peasants, seeing their individual plots of land threatened, have in several provinces begun to divide among themselves the land and equipment of the “People’s Communes” (these latter being merely the new ideological dressing of the preexisting administrative units, generally corresponding to the old cantons). The railroad strikes, the Shanghai general strike (denounced, as in 1956 Budapest, as a favored weapon of the capitalists), the strikes of the great Wuhan industrial complex, of Canton, of Hupeh, of the metal and textile workers in Chungking, the peasants’ attacks in Szechwan and Fukien — these movements came to a culmination in January, bringing China to the brink of chaos. At the same time, following in the wake of the workers who in September 1966 in Kwangsi had organized themselves as “Purple Guards” in order to fight the Red Guards, and after the anti-Maoist riots in Nanking, “armies” began to form in various provinces, such as the “August 1st Army” in Kwangtung. The national army had to intervene everywhere in February and March in order to subdue the workers, to direct production through “military control” of the factories, and even (with the support of the militia) to control work in the countryside. The workers’ struggles to maintain or increase their wages — that famous tendency toward “economism” denounced by the masters of Peking — was accepted or even encouraged by some local cadres of the apparatus in their resistance to rival Maoist bureaucrats. But the main impetus of the struggle was clearly an irresistible upsurge from the rank-and-file workers — the authoritarian dissolution in March of the “professional associations” that had formed after the first dissolution of the regime’s labor unions, whose bureaucracy had been deviating from the Maoist line, is a good demonstration of this. In Shanghai that same month the Jiefang Ribao condemned “the feudal tendencies of these associations, which are formed not on a class basis (i.e., not on the basis of a Maoist total monopoly of power) but on the basis of trades and which struggle for the partial and immediate interests of the workers in those trades.” This defense of the real owners of the general and permanent interests of the collectivity was also distinctly expressed on February 11 in a joint directive from the Council of State and the Military Commission of the Central Committee: “All elements who have seized or stolen arms must be arrested.”

While the settlement of this conflict — which has certainly cost tens of thousands of lives and involved fully equipped regiments and even warships — is being entrusted to the Chinese army, that army is itself divided. It has to ensure the continuation and intensification of production at a time when it is no longer in a position to ensure the unity of power in China. Moreover, the army’s direct intervention against the peasants would present the gravest risks because it has been recruited largely from the peasantry. The truce sought by the Maoists in March and April, when they declared that all Party personnel were redeemable with the exception of a “handful” of traitors, and that the principal menace was now “anarchism,” expressed not merely the anxiety over the difficulty of reining in the liberatory desires that the Red Guard experiences had awakened among the youth; it expressed the ruling class’s anxiety at having arrived at the brink of its own dissolution. The Party and the central and provincial administration were falling apart. “Labor discipline must be reestablished.” “The idea of excluding and overthrowing all cadres must be unconditionally condemned” (Red Flag, March 1967). A month earlier New China declared: “You smash all the officials . . . but when you have taken over some administrative body what do you have besides an empty room and some rubber stamps?” Rehabilitations and new compromises are following one another erratically. The very survival of the bureaucracy has ultimate priority, pushing its diverse political options into the background as mere means.

By spring 1967 it was evident that the “Cultural Revolution” was a disastrous failure and that this failure was certainly the most colossal of the long line of failures of the bureaucratic regime in China. In spite of the extraordinary cost of the operation none of its goals has been attained. The bureaucracy is more divided than ever. Every new power installed in the regions held by the Maoists is dividing in its turn: the “Revolutionary Triple Alliance” — Army-Party-Red Guard — has not ceased falling apart, both because of the antagonisms between these three forces (the Party, in particular, tending to remain aloof, getting involved only to sabotage the other two) and because of the continually aggravated antagonisms within each one. It seems as difficult to patch up the old apparatus as it would be to build a new one. Most importantly, at least two-thirds of China is in no way controlled by the regime in Peking.

Besides the governmental committees of partisans of Liu Shao-ch’i and the movements of workers’ struggles that continue to assert themselves, the warlords are already reappearing in the uniforms of independent “Communist” generals, negotiating directly with the central power and following their own policies, particularly in the peripheral regions. General Chang Kuo-hua, master of Tibet in February, after street fighting in Lhasa used armored cars against the Maoists. Three Maoist divisions were sent to “crush the revisionists.” They seem to have met with limited success since Chang Kuo-hua still controlled the region in April. On May 1 he was received in Peking, with negotiations ending in a compromise: he was entrusted to form a Revolutionary Committee to govern Szechwan, where in April a “Revolutionary Alliance” influenced by a certain General Hung had seized power and imprisoned the Maoists; since then, in June, members of a People’s Commune seized arms and attacked the army. In Inner Mongolia the army, under the direction of Deputy Political Commissar Liu Chiang, declared itself against Mao in February. The same thing happened in Hopeh, Honan and Manchuria. In May, General Chao Yungshih carried out an anti-Maoist putsch in Kansu. Sinkiang, where the atomic installations are located, was neutralized by mutual agreement in March, under the authority of General Wang En-mao; the latter, however, is reputed to have attacked “Maoist revolutionaries” in June. Hupeh was in July in the hands of General Chen Tsai-tao, commander of the Wuhan district, one of the oldest industrial centers in China. In the old style of the “Sian Incident,”(5) he arrested two of the main Peking leaders who had come to negotiate with him. The Prime Minister had to go there in person, and his obtaining the release of his emissaries was announced as a “victory.” During the same period 2400 factories and mines were paralyzed in that province following an armed uprising of 50,000 workers and peasants. At the beginning of summer the conflict was in fact continuing everywhere: in June “conservative workers” of Honan attacked a textile mill with incendiary bombs; in July the coal miners of Fushun and the oil workers of Tahsing were on strike, the miners of Kiangsi were driving out the Maoists, there were calls for struggle against the “Chekiang Industrial Army” (described as an “anti-Marxist terrorist organization”), peasants threatened to march on Nanking and Shanghai, there was street fighting in Canton and Chungking, and the students of Kweiyang attacked the army and seized Maoist leaders. The government, having decided to prohibit violence “in the regions controlled by the central authorities,” seems to be having a hard time of it even there. Unable to stop the disorders, it is stopping the news of them by expelling most of the rare foreigners in residence.

But at the beginning of August the fractures in the army have become so dangerous that the official Peking publications are themselves revealing that the partisans of Liu are “trying to set up an independent reactionary bourgeois kingdom within the army” and that “the attacks against the dictatorship of the proletariat in China have come not only from the higher echelons, but also from the lower ones” (People’s Daily, August 5). Peking has gone so far as to openly admit that at least a third of the Army has declared itself against the central government and that even a large part of the old China of eighteen provinces is out of its control. The immediate consequences of the Wuhan incident seem to have been very serious: an intervention of paratroopers from Peking, supported by gunboats ascending the Yangtze from Shanghai, was repulsed after a pitched battle; arms from the Wuhan arsenal are also reported to have been sent to the anti-Maoists of Chungking. It should be noted, moreover, that the Wuhan troops belonged to the army group under the direct authority of Lin Piao, the only one considered completely loyal. Toward the middle of August the armed struggles have become so widespread that the Maoist government has come around to officially condemning this sort of continuation of politics by means that are turning against it, stating its firm conviction that it will win out by sticking to “struggle with the pen” instead of the sword.(6) Simultaneously it is announcing distribution of arms to the masses in the “loyal zones.” But where are such zones? Fighting has broken out again in Shanghai, which had been presented for months as one of the rare strongholds of Maoism. In Shantung soldiers are inciting the peasants to revolt. The leaders of the Air Force are denounced as enemies of the regime. And as in the days of Sun Yat-sen,(7) Canton, toward which the 47th Army is moving in order to reestablish order, stands out as a beacon of revolt, with the railroad and transit workers in the forefront: political prisoners have been liberated, arms destined for Vietnam have been seized from freighters in the port, and an undetermined number of individuals have been hung in the streets. Thus China is slowly sinking into a confused civil war, which is both a confrontation between diverse regions of fragmented state-bureaucratic power and a clash of workers’ and peasants’ demands with the conditions of exploitation that the fragmented bureaucratic leaderships have to maintain everywhere.

Since the Maoists have presented themselves as the champions of absolute ideology (we have seen how successfully), they have so far naturally met with the most extravagant degree of respect and approbation among Western intellectuals, who never fail to salivate to such stimuli. K.S. Karol, in the Nouvel Observateur of February 15, learnedly reminds the Maoists not to forget that “the real Stalinists are not potential allies of China, but its most irreducible enemies: for them, the Cultural Revolution, with its antibureaucratic tendencies, is suggestive of Trotskyism.” There were, in fact, many Trotskyists who identified with it — thereby doing themselves perfect justice! Le Monde, the most unreservedly Maoist paper outside China, day after day announced the imminent success of Monsieur Mao Tse-tung, finally taking the power that had been generally believed to have been his for the past eighteen years. The sinologists, virtually all Stalino-Christians — this combination can be found everywhere, but particularly among them — have resurrected the “Chinese spirit” to demonstrate the legitimacy of the new Confucius. The element of silliness that has always been present in the attitude of moderately Stalinophile leftist bourgeois intellectuals could hardly fail to blossom when presented with such Chinese record achievements as: This “Cultural Revolution” may well last 1000 or even 10,000 years. . . . The Little Red Book has finally succeeded in “making Marxism Chinese.” . . . “The sound of men reciting the Quotations of Chairman Mao with strong, clear voices can be heard in every Army unit.” . . . “Drought has nothing frightening, Mao Tse-tung Thought is our fertilizing rain.” . . . “The Chief of State was judged responsible . . . for not having foreseen the about-face of General Chiang Kai-shek when the latter turned his army against the Communist troops” (Le Monde, 4 April 1967; this refers to the 1927 coup, which was foreseen by everyone in China but which had to be awaited passively in order to obey Stalin’s orders).(8) . . . A chorale sings the hymn entitled One Hundred Million People Take Up Arms To Criticize The Sinister Book “How To Be A Good Communist” (a formerly official manual by Liu Shao-ch’i). . . . The list could go on and on; we can conclude with this gem from the People’s Daily of July 31: “The situation of the Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China is excellent, but the class struggle is becoming more difficult.”

After so much ado the historical conclusions to be drawn from this period are simple. No matter where China may go from here, the image of the last revolutionary-bureaucratic power has shattered. Its internal collapse is added to the continuing disasters of its foreign policy: the annihilation of Indonesian Stalinism;(9) the break with Japanese Stalinism; the destruction of Vietnam by the United States; and finally Peking’s proclamation in July that the Naxalbari “insurrection” was the beginning of a Maoist-peasant revolution throughout India (this a few days before it was dispersed by the first police intervention). By adopting such a delirious position Peking broke with the majority of its own Indian partisans — the last large bureaucratic party that remained loyal to it. At the same time, China’s internal crisis reflects its failure to industrialize the country and make itself a credible model for the underdeveloped countries.

Ideology, pushed to its extreme, shatters. Its absolute use is also its absolute zero: the night in which all ideological cows are black. When, amidst the most total confusion, bureaucrats fight each other in the name of the same dogma and everywhere denounce “the bourgeois hiding behind the red flag,” doublethink has itself split in two. This is the joyous end of ideological lies, dying in ridicule. It is not just China, it is our whole world that has produced this delirium. In the August 1961 issue of Internationale Situationniste we said that this world would become “at all levels more and more painfully ridiculous until the moment of its complete revolutionary reconstruction.” This process now seems to be well on its way. The new period of proletarian critique will learn that it must no longer shelter from criticism anything that pertains to it, and that every existing ideological comfort represents a shameful defeat. In discovering that it is dispossessed of the false goods of its world of falsehood, it must understand that it is the specific negation of the totality of the global society. And it will discover this also in China. The global breakup of the Bureaucratic International is now being reproduced at the Chinese level in the fragmentation of the regime into independent provinces. Thus China is rediscovering its past, which is once again posing to it the real revolutionary tasks of the previously vanquished movement. The moment when Mao is supposedly “recommencing in 1967 what he was doing in 1927” (Le Monde, 17 February 1967) is also the moment when, for the first time since 1927, the intervention of the worker and peasant masses has surged over the entire country. As difficult as it may be for them to become conscious of their autonomous objectives and put them into practice, something has died in the total domination to which the Chinese workers were subjected. The proletarian “Mandate of Heaven” has expired.(10)

16 August 1967



1. Lavrenti Beria, head of Soviet secret police, was arrested and executed immediately after Stalin’s death in 1953.

2. Accusations fabricated during the Moscow Trials of 1936-1938 in which Stalin eliminated virtually all the former Bolshevik leaders except himself.

3. Great Leap Forward (1958-1962): Mao’s pet scheme for ultrarapid industrialization, which resulted in economic chaos and famines killing millions of people. Its failure caused Mao to be replaced as president of China by Liu Shao-chi (though he retained the powerful post of Chairman of the Communist Party).

4. Red Guards: youth enlisted by the Mao faction to attack the rival “revisionist” bureaucrats. Some groups of Red Guards, however, were actually set up and controlled by the anti-Mao faction. Others, though originally pro-Mao, ended up overflowing the control of the Maoist bureaucracy by taking the Maoist radical rhetoric seriously.

5. Sian Incident: In 1936 Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-chek was imprisoned in Sian (Xi’an) by one of his own generals, who was in favor of an alliance with the Communist Party against the Japanese invaders. On Stalin’s insistence Chiang was turned loose in exchange for his agreement to the united front between the CP and the Kuomintang that was effected a few months later.

6. Reference to Clausewitz’s maxim, “War is a continuation of politics by other means,” with perhaps also an ironic allusion to Mao’s saying, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

7. Sun Yat-sen: leader of the Chinese nationalist movement until his death in 1925.

8. On the advice of the Chinese Communist Party, the workers who had revolted and taken over Shanghai in 1927 welcomed Chiang Kai-chek’s army into the city and allowed themselves to be disarmed; after which they were massacred. See Harold Isaacs’s The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution.

9. “None of these disasters, however, are so gross as the bloody downfall of Indonesian Stalinism, whose bureaucratic mania blinded it to the point of expecting to seize power only by way of plots and palace revolution, although it was in control of an immense movement — a movement it led to annihilation without ever having led it into battle (it is estimated that there have been over 300,000 executions)” (Internationale Situationniste #10, p. 65).

10. The “Mandate of Heaven” is the traditional right of Chinese emperors to rule. When this mandate is lost — as revealed by inauspicious signs expressing the disfavor of Heaven — it is time for a revolution to establish a new dynasty.

General notes:

For simplicity’s sake I have left all the Chinese proper names in the Wade-Giles system of romanization that was used in the original SI article, instead of the now-standard Pinyin system. (Peking is now Beijing, Mao Tse-tung is now Mao Zedong, etc.) A few of the alternative forms are indicated in the Index.

For an excellent later and more detailed account of the Cultural Revolution, see Simon Leys’s The Chairman’s New Clothes: Mao and the Cultural Revolution.


“Le point d’explosion de l’idéologie en Chine” was originally published as a pamphlet August 1967, then reprinted in Internationale Situationniste #11 (Paris, October 1967). This translation by Ken Knabb is from the Situationist International Anthology (Revised and Expanded Edition, 2006). [] No copyright.

Minimum Definition of Revolutionary Organizations

Submitted by libcom on September 1, 2005

Since the only purpose of a revolutionary organization is the abolition of all existing classes in a way that does not bring about a new division of society, we consider any organization revolutionary which consistently and effectively works toward the international realization of the absolute power of the workers councils, as prefigured in the experience of the proletarian revolutions of this century.

Such an organization makes a unitary critique of the world, or is nothing. By unitary critique we mean a comprehensive critique of all geographical areas where various forms of separate socioeconomic powers exist, as well as a comprehensive critique of all aspects of life.

Such an organization sees the beginning and end of its program in the complete decolonization of everyday life. It thus aims not at the masses' self-management of the existing world, but at its uninterrupted transformation. It embodies the radical critique of political economy, the supersession of the commodity and of wage labor.

Such an organization refuses to reproduce within itself any of the hierarchical conditions of the dominant world. The only limit to participating in its total democracy is that each member must have recognized and appropriated the coherence of its critique. This coherence must be both in the critical theory as such and in the relation between this theory and practical activity. The organization radically criticizes every ideology as separate power of ideas and as ideas of separate power. It is thus at the same time the negation of any remnants of religion, and of the prevailing social spectacle which, from news media to mass culture, monopolizes communication between people around their one-way reception of images of their alienated activity. The organization dissolves any "revolutionary ideology," unmasking it as a sign of the failure of the revolutionary project, as the private property of new specialists of power, as one more fraudulent representation setting itself above real proletarianized life.

Since the ultimate criterion of the modern revolutionary organization is its totalness, such an organization is ultimately a critique of politics. It must explicitly aim to dissolve itself as a separate organization at its moment of victory.


Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version in the Situationist International Anthology).

The Situationists and the New Forms of Action Against Politics and Art

Submitted by libcom on September 1, 2005

Up to now our subversion has mainly drawn on the forms and genres inherited from past revolutionary struggles, primarily those of the last hundred years. I propose that we round out our agitational expression with methods that dispense with any reference to the past. I don't mean that we should abandon the forms within which we have waged battle on the traditional terrain of the supersession of philosophy, the realization of art and the abolition of politics; but that we should extend the work of the journal onto terrains it does not yet reach.

Many proletarians are aware that they have no power over their lives; they know it, but they don't express it in the language of socialism and of previous revolutions.

Let us spit in passing on those students who have become militants in the tiny would-be mass parties, who sometimes have the nerve to claim that the workers are incapable of reading Internationale Situationniste, that its paper is too slick to be put in their lunchbags and that its price doesn't take into account their low standard of living. The most consistent of these students accordingly distribute the mimeographed image they have of the consciousness of a class in which they fervently seek stereotypical Joe Worker recruits. They forget, among other things, that when workers read revolutionary literature in the past they had to pay relatively more than for a theater ticket; and that when they once again develop an interest in it they won't hesitate to spend two or three times what it costs for an issue of Planète. But what these detractors of typography forget most of all is that the rare individuals who read their bulletins are precisely those who already have the minimal background necessary to understand us right away; and that their writings are completely unreadable for anyone else. Some of them, ignoring the immense readership of bathroom graffiti (particularly in cafés), have thought that by using a parody of gradeschool writing, printed on paper pasted on gutters like notices of apartments for rent, they could make the form correspond to the content of their slogans; and in this at least they have succeeded. All this serves to clarify what must not be done.

What we have to do is link up the theoretical critique of modern society with the critique of it in acts. By detourning the very propositions of the spectacle, we can directly reveal the implications of present and future revolts.

I propose that we pursue:

1. Experimentation in the détournement of photo-romances and "pornographic" photos, and that we bluntly impose their real truth by restoring real dialogues [by adding or altering speech bubbles]. This operation will bring to the surface the subversive bubbles that are spontaneously, but only fleetingly and half-consciously, formed and then dissolved in the imaginations of those who look at these images. In the same spirit, it is also possible to detourn any advertising billboards -- particularly those in subway corridors, which form remarkable sequences -- by pasting pre-prepared placards onto them.

2. The promotion of guerrilla tactics in the mass media -- an important form of contestation, not only at the urban guerrilla stage, but even before it. The trail was blazed by those Argentinians who took over the control station of an electronic bulletin board and used it to transmit their own directives and slogans. It is still possible to take advantage of the fact that radio and television stations are not yet guarded by troops. On a more modest level, it is known that any amateur radio operator can at little expense broadcast, or at least jam, on a local level; and that the small size of the necessary equipment permits a great mobility, enabling one to slip away before one's position is trigonometrically located. A group of Communist Party dissidents in Denmark had their own pirate radio station a few years ago. Counterfeit issues of one or another periodical can add to the enemy's confusion. This list of examples is vague and limited for obvious reasons.

The illegality of such actions makes a sustained engagement on this terrain impossible for any organization that has not chosen to go underground, because it would require the formation within it of a specialized subgroup -- a division of tasks which cannot be effectual without compartmentalization and thus hierarchy, etc. Without, in a word, finding oneself on the slippery path toward terrorism.(1) We can more appropriately recall the notion of propaganda by deed, which is a very different matter. Our ideas are in everybody's mind, as is well known, and any group without any relation to us, or even a few individuals coming together for a specific purpose, can improvise and improve on tactics experimented with elsewhere by others. This type of unconcerted action cannot be expected to bring about any decisive upheaval, but it can usefully serve to accentuate the coming awakening of consciousness. In any case, there's no need to get hung up on the idea of illegality. Most actions in this domain can be done without breaking any existing law. But the fear of such interventions will make newspaper editors paranoid about their typesetters, radio managers paranoid about their technicians, etc., at least until more specific repressive legislation has been worked out and enacted.

3. The development of situationist comics. Comic strips are the only truly popular literature of our century. Even cretins marked by years at school have not been able to resist writing dissertations on them; but they'll get little pleasure out of reading ours. No doubt they'll buy them just to burn them. In our task of "making shame more shameful still," it is easy to see how easy it would be, for example, to transform "13 rue de l'Espoir [hope]" into "1 blvd. du Désespoir [despair]" merely by adding a few elements; or balloons can simply be changed. In contrast to Pop Art, which breaks comics up into fragments, this method aims at restoring to comics their content and importance.

4. The production of situationist films. The cinema, which is the newest and undoubtedly most utilizable means of expression of our time, has stagnated for nearly three quarters of a century. To sum it up, we can say that it indeed became the "seventh art" so dear to film buffs, film clubs and PTAs. For our purposes this age is over (Ince, Stroheim, the one and only L'Age d'or, Citizen Kane and Mr. Arkadin, the lettrist films), even if there remain a few traditional narrative masterpieces to be unearthed in the film archives or on the shelves of foreign distributors. We should appropriate the first stammerings of this new language -- in particular its most consummate and modern examples, those which have escaped artistic ideology even more than American "B" movies: newsreels, previews and, above all, filmed ads.

Although filmed advertising has obviously been in the service of the commodity and the spectacle, its extreme technical freedom has laid the foundations for what Eisenstein had an inkling of when he talked of filming The Critique of Political Economy or The German Ideology.

I am confident that I could film The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy in a way that would be immediately understandable to the proletarians of Watts who are unaware of the concepts implied in that title. Such adaptations to new forms will at the same time undoubtedly contribute to deepening and intensifying the "written" expression of the same problems; which we could verify, for example, by making a film called Incitement to Murder and Debauchery before drafting its equivalent in the journal, Correctives to the Consciousness of a Class That Will Be the Last. Among other possibilities, the cinema lends itself particularly well to studying the present as a historical problem, to dismantling the processes of reification. To be sure, historical reality can be apprehended, known and filmed only in the course of a complicated process of mediations enabling consciousness to recognize one moment in another, its goal and its action in destiny, its destiny in its goal and action, and its own essence in this necessity. This mediation would be difficult if the empirical existence of the facts themselves was not already a mediated existence, which only takes on an appearance of immediateness because and to the extent that consciousness of the mediation is lacking and that the facts have been uprooted from the network of their determining circumstances, placed in an artificial isolation, and poorly strung together again in the montage of classical cinema. It is precisely this mediation which has been lacking, and inevitably so, in presituationist cinema, which has limited itself to "objective" forms or re-presentation of politico-moral concepts, whenever it has not been merely academic-type narrative with all its hypocrisies. If what I have just written were filmed, it would become much less complicated -- it's all really just banalities. But Godard, the most famous Swiss Maoist, will never be able to understand them. He might well, as is his usual practice, coopt the above -- lift a word from it or an idea like that concerning filmed advertisements -- but he will never be capable of anything but brandishing little novelties picked up elsewhere: images or star words of the era, which definitely have a resonance, but one he can't grasp (Bonnot, worker, Marx, made in USA, Pierrot le Fou, Debord, poetry, etc.). He really is a child of Mao and Coca-Cola.

The cinema enables one to express anything, just like an article, a book, a leaflet or a poster. This is why we should henceforth require that each situationist be as capable of making a film as of writing an article (cf. the "Anti-Public Relations Notice" in Internationale Situationniste #8). Nothing is too beautiful for the blacks of Watts.



1. "From the strategical perspective of social struggles it must first of all be said that one should never play with terrorism. But even serious terrorism has never in history had any desirable effect except in situations where complete repression made impossible any other form of revolutionary activity and thereby caused a significant portion of the population to side with the terrorists." (Internationale Situationniste #12, p. 98.)

Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version in the Situationist International Anthology).

Aiming for Practical Truth

Submitted by libcom on September 1, 2005

Striving to present to the new revolutionary forces a model of theoretico-practical coherence, the SI must be ready at any moment to sanction, by exclusion or break, the failings, inadequacies and compromises of those making of it -- or recognizing in it -- the most advanced experimental stage of their common project. If the insurgent generation that is determined to found a new society manifests an alertness, based on indisputable first principles, to smash every attempt at cooption, this is not because of a taste for purity, but out of a simple reflex of self-defense. In organizations prefiguring in their essential features the type of social organization to come, the least of requirements consists in not tolerating those people whom the established powers are able to tolerate quite well.

In its positive aspect, the practice of "exclusions" and "breaks" is linked to the question of membership in the SI and of alliance with autonomous groups and individuals. In its Minimum Definition of Revolutionary Organizations, the 7th Conference stressed among other things the following point: "A revolutionary organization refuses to reproduce within itself any of the hierarchical conditions of the dominant world. The only limit to participating in its total democracy is that each member must have recognized and appropriated the coherence of its critique. This coherence must be both in the critical theory as such and in the relation between this theory and practical activity. The organization radically criticizes every ideology as separate power of ideas and as ideas of separate power."

The coherence of the critique and the critique of incoherence are one and the same movement, condemned to decay and to rigidify into ideology the moment separation is introduced between different groups of a federation, between different members of an organization or between the theory and practice of an individual member. In the total struggle in which we are engaged, to yield an inch on the front of coherence is to allow separation to gain the upper hand all the way down the line. This is what spurs us to the greatest vigilance: to never take our coherence for granted, to remain alert to the dangers that threaten it in the fundamental unity of individual and collective behavior, and to anticipate and avoid these dangers.

The fact that a secret fraction(1) was able to form among us, but also that it was rapidly exposed, sufficiently indicates our rigor and our lack of rigor in transparency in intersubjective relations. Put another way, this means that the SI's influence stems essentially from this: it is capable of setting an example, both negatively, by showing its weaknesses and correcting them, and positively, by deriving new requirements from these corrections. We have often reiterated the importance of our not being mistaken in judging individuals; we have to prove this continually and thereby at the same time make it more impossible for people to be mistaken about us. And what goes for individuals goes for groups as well.

We recall the words of Socrates to one of the young men he was talking to: "Speak a little so I can see what sort of person you are." We are in a position to avoid this kind of Socrates and this kind of young man if the exemplary character of our activity ensures the radiating force of our presence in and against the reigning spectacle. To the Mafiosi of cooption and to the petty impotents who concoct rumors about our supposed "elitism," we should counterpose the antihierarchical example of permanent radicalization. We must not dissimulate any aspect of our experiences, and we must establish, through the dissemination of our methods, critical theses and agitational tactics, the greatest transparency concerning the collective project of liberating everyday life.

The SI should act like an axis which, receiving its movement from the revolutionary impulses of the entire world, precipitates in a unitary manner the radical turn of events. In contrast to the backward sectors that strive for tactical unity above all else (common, national and popular fronts), the SI and allied autonomous organizations will meet each other only in the search for organic unity, considering that tactical unity is effective only where organic unity is possible. Group or individual, everyone must live in pace with the radicalization of events in order to radicalize them in turn. Revolutionary coherence is nothing else.

We are certainly still far from such a harmony of progression, but we are just as certainly working toward it. The movement from first principles to their realization involves groups and individuals, and thus their possible retardations. Only transparency in real participation cuts short the menace that weighs on coherence: the transformation of retardation into separation. The hostility of the old world we live in is at the root of everything that still separates us from the realization of the situationist project; but awareness of these separations already contains the means to resolve them.

It is precisely in the struggle against separations that retardation appears in various degrees; it is there that unconsciousness of retardation obscures consciousness of separations, thereby introducing incoherence. When consciousness rots, ideology oozes out. We have seen Kotányi keep the results of his analyses to himself, communicating them drop by drop with the tightfisted superiority of a water clock over time; and others (the most recently excluded [the Garnautins]) keeping to themselves their deficiencies in all respects, strutting like peacocks while lacking the tail. Mystical wait-and-see-ism and egalitarian ecumenicalism had the same odor. Vanish, grotesque charlatans of incurable infirmities!

The notion of retardation relates to the realm of play, it is connected with the notion of "game leader." Just as dissimulation of retardation or dissimulation of experiences recreates the notion of prestige, tends to transform the game leader into a boss and engenders stereotyped behavior (roles, with all their neurotic outgrowths, their contorted attitudes and their inhumanity), so transparency enables us to enter the common project with the calculated innocence of Fourier's phalansterian players, emulating each other ("composite" passion), varying their activities ("butterfly" passion), and striving for the most advanced radicality ("cabalist" passion).(2) But lightheartedness must be based on conscious, "heavy" relationships. It implies lucidity regarding everyone's abilities.

We have no interest in abilities apart from the revolutionary use that can be made of them, a use that acquires its sense in everyday life. The problem is not that some comrades live, think, fuck, shoot or talk better than others, but that no comrade should live, think, fuck, shoot or talk so poorly that he comes to dissimulate his retardations, to play the oppressed minority and demand, in the very name of the surplus-value he grants to the others because of his own inadequacies, a democracy of impotence in which he would flourish. In other words, every revolutionary must at the very least have the passion to defend his most precious attribute: his passion for individual realization, his desire to liberate his own everyday life.

If someone gives up engaging (and thus developing) all his abilities in the fight for his creativity, his dreams, his passions, he is in reality giving up on himself. In so doing, he has immediately debarred himself from speaking in his own name, much less from speaking in the name of a group embodying the chances for the realization of all individuals. An exclusion or break only concretizes publicly -- with the logic of transparency he lacked -- his taste for sacrifice and his choice of the inauthentic.

On questions of membership or alliance, the example of real participation in the revolutionary project is the deciding factor. Consciousness of retardations, struggle against separations, passion to attain greater coherence -- this is what must constitute the basis of an objective confidence among us, as well as between the SI and autonomous groups and federations. There is every reason to hope that our allies will rival us in radicalizing revolutionary conditions, just as we expect those who will join us to do so. Everything allows us to suppose that at a certain point in the extension of revolutionary consciousness each group will have attained such a coherence that the "game-leading" level of all the participants and the negligibility of retardations will enable individuals to vary their options and change organizations according to their passional affinities. But the momentary preeminence of the SI is a fact that must also be recognized and taken into account: a gratifying disgrace, like the ambiguous smile of the Cheshire Cat of invisible revolutions.

Because the International has today a theoretical and practical richness that only increases once it is shared, appropriated and renewed by revolutionary elements (up to the point when the SI and the autonomous groups in turn disappear into the revolutionary richness), it must welcome only those wanting to take part in it who fully know what they are doing; that is, anyone who has demonstrated that in speaking and acting for himself, he speaks and acts in the name of many, whether by creating through the poetry of his praxis (leaflet, riot, film, agitation, book) a regroupment of subversive forces, or by his turning out to be the only one to maintain coherence in the process of the radicalization of a group. The advisability of his entry into the SI then becomes a tactical question to be debated: either the group is strong enough to cede one of its "game leaders," or its failure is such that the game leaders are the only ones to have a say in the matter, or the game leader, due to unavoidable objective circumstances, has not succeeded in forming a group.

Wherever the new proletariat experiments with its liberation, autonomy in revolutionary coherence is the first step toward generalized self-management. The lucidity that we are striving to maintain concerning ourselves and the world teaches us that in organizational practice there's no such thing as too much precision or alertness. On the question of freedom, an error of detail is already a truth of state.



1. The "Garnautins." See Our Goals and Methods in the Strasbourg Scandal.

2. composite, butterfly, cabalist: Fourier's three "distributive passions." See The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier (Beacon, 1971; ed. Beecher & Bienvenu), pp. 216-220.

Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version entitled "To Have as Goal Practical Truth" in the Situationist International Anthology).

Six Postscripts to the Previous Issue (excerpts)

Submitted by libcom on September 1, 2005

It seems to us that the insurrections of the blacks in Newark and Detroit have indisputably confirmed our 1965 analysis of the Watts riot [The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy]. In particular, the participation of numerous whites in the looting demonstrates that in its deepest sense Watts really was "a revolt against the commodity," an elemental reaction to the world of "commodity abundance." On the other hand, the danger represented by the leadership that is trying to constitute itself above the movement is now taking more definite shape: the Newark Conference has adopted the essential features of the Black Muslim program of black capitalism. Stokely Carmichael and the other "Black Power" stars are walking the tightrope between the vague and undefined extremism necessary to establish themselves at the head of the black masses (Mao, Castro, power to the blacks and we don't even have to say what we're going to do about the 9/10 of the population who are white) and the actual unavowed paltry reformism of a black "third party," which would auction off its swing vote in the American political marketplace and which would eventually create, in the person of Carmichael and his colleagues, an "elite" like those that emerged out of the other American minorities (Poles, Italians, etc.), an elite that has so far never developed among the blacks.

In Algeria, too, Boumédienne has unfortunately proved the correctness of our analysis of his regime [The Class Struggles in Algeria]. Self-management there is now completely dead. We have no doubt we will eventually see it return under more favorable conditions. But for the moment no revolutionary network has succeeded in forming on the basis of the offensive resistance of the self-managed sector; and our own direct efforts toward this goal have been extremely inadequate. [...]

Daniel Guérin wrote to us to say that our note about him [The Algeria of Daniel Guérin, Libertarian] was unfair and that he wanted to explain himself. We met him. He had to admit that we gave a correct account of his analysis of Algeria, which is at the opposite pole from ours. He complained only of having been presented as a sort of agent of Ben Bella. We stated that our note in no way suggests such an idea. Guérin explained his admiration for Ben Bella by psychological arguments whose sincerity we don't question: He had found Ben Bella very likable, particularly after thirty years of disappointments with his other militant anticolonialist North African friends, who have generally ended up becoming government officials. Ben Bella remained a man of the people, that was his good side. He became President of the Republic, that was his failing. Guérin already found Ben Bella's Algeria "miraculous" and reproached us for demanding a succession of additional miracles. We replied that such a succession was precisely our conception of revolution; that any single "miracle" that remains miraculous (i.e. isolated and exceptional) will quickly disappear. We proposed to Guérin that he publish a text in response to our article; but he considered that his oral explanation was sufficient. [...]


Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version in the Situationist International Anthology).

Our Goals and Methods in the Strasbourg Scandal

Submitted by libcom on September 1, 2005

The various expressions of shock and outrage in response to the situationist pamphlet On the Poverty of Student Life, which was published at the expense of the Strasbourg chapter of the French National Student Union [UNEF], although having the salutary effect of causing the theses in the pamphlet itself to be rather widely read, have inevitably given rise to numerous misconceptions in the reportage and commentary on the SI's role in the affair. In response to all kinds of illusions fostered by the press, by university officials and even by a certain number of unthinking students, we are now going to specify exactly what the conditions of our intervention were and explain the goals we were pursuing with the methods that we considered consistent with them.

Even more erroneous than the exaggerations of the press or of certain opposing lawyers concerning the amount of money the SI supposedly took the opportunity of pillaging from the treasury of the pitiful student union is the absurd notion, often expressed in the newspaper accounts, according to which the SI sunk so low as to campaign among the Strasbourg students in order to persuade them of the validity of our perspectives and to get a student government elected on such a program. We neither did this nor attempted the slightest infiltration of the UNEF by secretly slipping SI partisans into it. Anyone who has ever bothered to read us is aware that we have no interest in such goals and do not use such methods. What actually happened is that a few Strasbourg students came to us in the summer of 1966 and informed us that six of their friends -- and not they themselves -- had just been elected as officers of the Bureau of the local Student Association (AFGES), although they had no program whatsoever and were widely known in the UNEF as extremists who were in complete disagreement with all the factions of that decomposing body, and who were even determined to destroy it. The fact that they were elected (quite legally) was a glaring demonstration of the total apathy of the mass of students and of the total impotence of the Association's remaining bureaucrats. These latter no doubt figured that the "extremist" Bureau would be incapable of finding any adequate way to implement its negative intentions. Conversely, this was the fear of the students who had sought us out; and it was mainly for this reason that they themselves had declined to take part in this "Bureau": for only a coup of some scope, and not some merely humorous exploitation of their position, could save its members from the air of compromise that such a pitiful role immediately entails. To add to the complexity of the problem, while the students we were meeting with were familiar with the SI's positions and declared themselves in general agreement with them, those who were in the Bureau were for the most part ignorant of them, and counted mainly on those we were seeing to figure out what action would best correspond to their subversive intentions.

At this stage we limited ourselves to suggesting that all of them write and publish a general critique of the student movement and of the society as a whole, such a project having at least the advantage of forcing them to clarify in common what was still unclear to them. In addition, we stressed that their legal access to money and credit was the most useful aspect of the ridiculous authority that had so imprudently been allowed to them, and that a nonconformist use of these resources would have the advantage of shocking many people and thus drawing attention to the nonconformist aspects of the content of their text. These comrades agreed with our recommendations. In the development of this project they remained in contact with the SI, particularly through the SI's delegate, Mustapha Khayati.

The discussion and the first drafts undertaken collectively by those we had met with and the members of the AFGES Bureau -- all of whom had resolved to see the matter through -- brought about an important modification of the plan. Everyone was in agreement about the basic critique to be made and the main points that Khayati had suggested, but they found they were incapable of effecting a satisfactory formulation, especially in the short time remaining before the beginning of the term. This inability should not be seen as the result of any serious lack of talent or experience, but was simply the consequence of the extreme diversity of the group, both within and outside the Bureau. Having originally come together on a very vague basis, they were poorly prepared to collectively articulate a theory they had not really appropriated together. In addition, personal antagonisms and mistrust arose among them as the project progressed. The only thing that still held them together was the shared concern that the coup attain the most far-reaching and incisive effect. As a result, Khayati ended up drafting the greater part of the text, which was periodically discussed and approved among the group of students at Strasbourg and by the situationists in Paris -- the only (relatively few) significant additions being made by the latter.

Various preliminary actions announced the appearance of the pamphlet. On October 26 the cybernetician Moles (see Internationale Situationniste #9, page 44), having finally attained a professorial chair in social psychology in order to devote himself to the programming of young functionaries, was driven from it during the opening minutes of his inaugural lecture by tomatoes hurled at him by a dozen students. (Moles was subsequently given the same treatment in March at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, where this certified robot was to lecture on urbanistic methods for controlling the masses -- this latter refutation being carried out by two or three dozen young anarchists belonging to groups that want to bring revolutionary criticism to bear on all modern issues.) Shortly after this inaugural class -- which was at least as unprecedented in the annals of the university as Moles himself -- the AFGES began publicizing the pamphlet by pasting up André Bertrand's comic strip "The Return of the Durruti Column," a document that had the merit of stating in no uncertain terms what his comrades were planning on doing with their positions: "The general crisis of the old union apparatuses and leftist bureaucracies was felt everywhere, especially among the students, where activism had for a long time had no other outlet than the most sordid devotion to stale ideologies and the most unrealistic ambitions. The last squad of professionals who elected our heroes didn't even have the excuse that they had been misled. They placed their hopes for a new lease on life in a group that didn't hide its intentions of scuttling this archaic militantism once and for all."

The pamphlet was distributed point-blank to the notables at the official opening ceremony of the university. Simultaneously, the AFGES Bureau announced that its only "student" program was the immediate dissolution of that Association, and convoked a special general assembly to vote on that question. This prospect immediately horrified many people. "This may be the first concrete manifestation of a revolt aiming quite openly at the destruction of society," wrote a local newspaper (Dernières Nouvelles, 4 December 1966). L'Aurore (November 26) referred to "the Situationist International, an organization with a handful of members in the chief capitals of Europe -- anarchists playing at revolution, who talk of 'seizing power,' not in order to keep it, but in order to sow disorder and destroy even their own authority." And even in Turin the Gazetta del Popolo of the same date expressed excessive concern: "It must be considered, however, whether repressive measures . . . may risk provoking disturbances. . . . In Paris and other university cities in France the Situationist International, galvanized by the triumph of its adherents in Strasbourg, is preparing a major offensive to take control of the student organizations." At this point we had to take into consideration a new decisive factor: the situationists had to defend themselves from being coopted as a mere "news item" or intellectual fad. The pamphlet had ended up being transformed into an SI text: we had not felt that we could refuse to help these comrades in their desire to strike a blow against the system, and it was unfortunately not possible for this help to have been less than it was. This involvement of the SI gave us, for the duration of the project, a position as de facto leaders which we in no case wanted to prolong beyond this limited joint action: as anyone can well imagine, the pitiful student milieu is of no interest to us. Here as in other situations, we had simply tried to act in such a way as to make the new social critique that is presently taking shape reappear by means of the practice without concessions that is its exclusive basis. The unorganized character of the group of Strasbourg students had prevented the carrying out of an orderly dialogue, which alone could have ensured a minimal equality in decisionmaking, and had thus made necessary our direct intervention. The debate that normally characterizes a joint action undertaken by independent groups had scarcely any reality in this agglomeration of individuals, who showed more and more that they were united in their approval of the SI and separated in every other regard.

It goes without saying that such a deficiency in no way constituted for us a recommendation for this group of students as a whole, who seemed more or less interested in joining the SI as a sort of easy way of avoiding having to express themselves autonomously. Their lack of homogeneity was also revealed, to a degree we had not been able to foresee, on an unexpected issue: at the last minute several of them got cold feet at the idea of aggressively distributing the pamphlet at the university's opening ceremony. Khayati had to explain to these people that one must not try to make scandals half way; that it is absurd to commit yourself to such a coup and then hope to reduce the risk by toning down its repercussions; that on the contrary, the success of a scandal is the only relative safeguard for those who have deliberately triggered it. Even more unacceptable than this last-minute hesitation on such a elementary tactical point was the possibility that some of these individuals, who had so little confidence even in each other, might at some point come to make statements in our name. Khayati was thus charged by the SI to have the AFGES Bureau declare that none of them was a situationist. This they did in their communiqué of November 29: "None of the members of our Bureau belongs to the Situationist International, a movement which for some time has published a journal of the same name, but we declare ourselves in complete solidarity with its analyses and perspectives." On the basis of this declared autonomy, the SI then addressed a letter to André Schneider, president of the AFGES, and Vayr-Piova, vice-president, to affirm its total solidarity with what they had done. The SI's solidarity with them has been maintained ever since, both by our refusal to dialogue with those who tried to approach us while manifesting a certain envious hostility toward the Bureau members (some even having the stupidity to denounce their action to the SI as being "spectacular"!) and by our financial assistance and public support during the subsequent repression (see the declaration signed by 79 Strasbourg students at the beginning of April in solidarity with Vayr-Piova, who had been expelled from the university; a penalty that was rescinded a few months later). Schneider and Vayr-Piova stood firm in the face of penalties and threats; this firmness, however, was not maintained to the same degree in their attitude toward the SI.

The judicial repression immediately initiated in Strasbourg -- and which has been followed by a series of proceedings in the same vein that are still going on -- concentrated on the supposed illegality of the AFGES Bureau, which was, upon the publication of the situationist pamphlet, suddenly considered to be a mere "de facto Bureau" that was usurping the union representation of the students. This repression was all the more necessary since the holy alliance of bourgeois, Stalinists and priests against the AFGES had even less support among the city's 18,000 students than did the Bureau. It began with the court order of December 13, which sequestered the Association's offices and administration and prohibited the general assembly that the Bureau had convoked for the 16th for the purpose of voting on the dissolution of the AFGES. This ruling (resulting from the mistaken belief that a majority of the students were likely to support the Bureau's position if they had the opportunity to vote on it), by freezing the development of events, meant that our comrades -- whose only goal was to destroy their own position of leadership without delay -- were obliged to continue their resistance until the end of January. The Bureau's best practice until then had been their treatment of the mob of reporters who were flocking to get interviews: they refused most of them and insultingly boycotted those who represented the worst institutions (French Television, Planète), thereby pressuring one segment of the press into giving a more exact account of the scandal and into reproducing the AFGES communiqués less inaccurately. Since the fight was now taking place on the terrain of administrative measures and since the legal AFGES Bureau was still in control of the local section of the National Student Mutual, the Bureau struck back by deciding on January 11, and by implementing this decision the next day, to close the "University Psychological Aid Center" (BAPU), which depended financially on the Mutual, "considering that the BAPUs are the manifestation in the student milieu of repressive psychiatry's parapolice control, whose obvious function is to maintain . . . the passivity of all exploited sectors, . . . considering that the existence of a BAPU in Strasbourg is a disgrace and a threat to all the students of this university who are determined to think freely." At the national level, the UNEF was forced by the revolt of its Strasbourg chapter -- which had previously been held up as a model -- to recognize its own general bankruptcy. Although it obviously did not go so far as to defend the old illusions of unionist liberty that were so blatantly denied its opponents by the authorities, the UNEF nevertheless could not accept the judicial expulsion of the Strasbourg Bureau. A Strasbourg delegation was thus present at the general assembly of the UNEF held in Paris on January 14, and at the opening of the meeting demanded a preliminary vote on its motion to dissolve the entire UNEF, "considering that the UNEF declared itself a union uniting the vanguard of youth (Charter of Grenoble, 1946) at a time when labor unionism had long since been defeated and turned into a tool for the self-regulation of modern capitalism, working to integrate the working class into the commodity system, . . . considering that the vanguardist pretension of the UNEF is constantly belied by its subreformist slogans and practice, . . . considering that student unionism is a pure and simple farce and that it is urgent to put an end to it." The motion concluded by calling on "all revolutionary students of the world . . . to join all the exploited people of their countries in undertaking a relentless struggle against all aspects of the old world, with the aim of contributing toward the international power of workers councils." Only two delegations, that of Nantes and that of the convalescent-home students, voted with Strasbourg to deal with this preliminary motion before hearing the report of the national leadership. (It should be noted, however, that in the preceding weeks the young UNEF bureaucrats had succeeded in deposing two other bureaus that had been spontaneously in favor of the AFGES position, those of Bordeaux and Clermont-Ferrand.) The Strasbourg delegation consequently walked out on a debate where it had nothing more to say.

The final exit of the AFGES Bureau was not to be so noble, however. Around this same time three situationists [the "Garnautins"] were excluded from the SI for having jointly perpetrated -- and been forced to admit before the SI -- several slanderous lies directed against Khayati, whom they had hoped would himself be excluded as a result of this clever scheme (see the January 22 tract "Warning! Three Provocateurs"). Their exclusion had no connection with the Strasbourg scandal -- in it as in everything else they had ostensibly agreed with the conclusions reached in SI discussions -- but two of them happened to be from the Strasbourg region. In addition, as we mentioned above, some of the Strasbourg students had begun to be irritated by the fact that the SI had not rewarded them for their shortcomings by recruiting them. The excluded liars sought out an uncritical audience among them and counted on covering up their previous lies and their admission of them by piling new lies on top of them. Thus all those who had been rejected by the SI joined forces in the mystical pretension of "going beyond" the practice that had condemned them. They began to believe the newspapers, and even to expand on them. They saw themselves as masses who had actually "seized power" in a sort of Strasbourg Commune. They told themselves that they hadn't been treated the way a revolutionary proletariat deserves to be treated, and that their historic action had superseded all previous theories. Forgetting that their only discernable "action" in this affair was to have made a few meager contributions to the drafting of a text, they collectively compensated for this deficiency by inflating their illusions. This amounted to nothing more ambitious than collectively fantasizing for a few weeks while continually upping the dose of constantly reiterated falsifications. The dozen Strasbourg students who had effectively supported the scandal split into two equal parts. This supplementary problem thus acted as a touchstone. We naturally made no promises to those who remained "partisans of the SI" and we clearly stated that we would not make any: it was simply up to them to be, unconditionally, partisans of the truth. Vayr-Piova and some of the others became partisans of falsehood with the excluded "Garnautins" (although certainly without knowledge of several excessive blunders in Frey's and Garnault's recent fabrications, but nevertheless being aware of quite a few of them). André Schneider, whose support the liars hoped to obtain since he held the title of AFGES president, was overwhelmed with false tales from all of them, and was weak enough to believe them without further investigation and to countersign one of their declarations. But after only a few days, independently becoming aware of a number of undeniable lies that these people thought it natural to tell their initiates in order to protect their miserable cause, Schneider immediately decided that he should publicly acknowledge his mistake: in his tract "Memories from the House of the Dead" he denounced those who had deceived him and led him to share the responsibility for a false accusation against the SI. The return of Schneider, whose character the liars had underestimated and who had thus been privileged to witness the full extent of their collective manipulation of embarrassing facts, struck a definitive blow in Strasbourg itself against the excluded and their accomplices, who had already been discredited everywhere else. In their spite these wretches, who the week before had gone to so much trouble to win over Schneider in order to add to the credibility of their venture, proclaimed him a notoriously feeble-minded person who had simply succumbed to "the prestige of the SI." (More and more often, recently, in the most diverse situations, liars end up in this way unwittingly identifying "the prestige of the SI" with the simple fact of telling the truth -- a connection that certainly does us honor.) Before three months had gone by, the association of Frey and consorts with Vayr-Piova and all those who were willing to maintain a keenly solicited adhesion (at one time there were as many as eight or nine of them) was to reveal its sad reality: based on infantile lies by individuals who considered each other to be clumsy liars, it was the very picture, involuntarily parodic, of a type of "collective action" that should never be engaged in; and with the type of people who should never be associated with! They went so far as to conduct a ludicrous electoral campaign before the students of Strasbourg. Dozens of pages of pedantic scraps of misremembered situationist ideas and phrases were, with a total unawareness of the absurdity, churned out with the sole aim of holding on to the "power" of the Strasbourg chapter of the MNEF, the minibureaucratic fiefdom of Vayr-Piova, who was eligible for reelection April 13. As successful in this venture as in their previous maneuvers, they were defeated by people as stupid as they were -- the Stalinists and Christians, who were more naturally deft at electoral politics, and who also enjoyed the bonus of being able to denounce their deplorable rivals as "fake situationists." In the tract "The SI Told You So," put out the next day, André Schneider and his comrades were easily able to show how this unsuccessful attempt to exploit the leftovers of the scandal of five months before for promotional purposes revealed itself as the complete renunciation of the spirit and the declared perspectives of that scandal. Finally Vayr-Piova, in a communiqué distributed April 20, stated: "I find it amusing to be at last denounced as a 'nonsituationist' -- something I have openly proclaimed ever since the SI set itself up as an official power." This is a representative sample of a vast and already forgotten literature. That the SI has become an official power -- this is one of the typical theses of Vayr-Piova or Frey, which can be examined by those who are interested in the question; and after doing so they will know what to think of the intelligence of such theoreticians. But this aside, the fact that Vayr-Piova proclaims (whether "openly," or even "secretly," in a "proclamation" reserved for the most discreet accomplices in his lies) that he has not belonged to the SI since whenever was the date of our transformation into an "official power" -- this is a boldfaced lie. Everyone who knows him knows that Vayr-Piova has never had the opportunity to claim to be anything but a "nonsituationist" (see what we wrote above concerning the AFGES communiqué of November 29).

The most favorable results of this whole affair naturally go beyond this new and opportunely much-publicized example of our refusal to enlist anything that a neomilitantism in search of glorious subordination might throw our way. No less negligible is the fact that the scandal forced the official recognition of the irreparable decomposition of the UNEF, a decomposition that was even more advanced than its pitiful appearance suggested: the coup de grace was still echoing in July at its 56th Congress in Lyon, in the course of which the sad president Vandenburie had to confess: "The unity of the UNEF has long since ended. Each association lives (SI note: this term is pretentiously inaccurate) autonomously, without paying any attention to the directives of the National Committee. The growing gap between the rank and file and the governing bodies has reached a state of serious degradation. The history of the proceedings of the UNEF has become nothing but a series of crises. . . . Reorganization and a revival of action have not proved possible." Equally comical were some side-effects stirred up among the academics, who felt that this was another current issue to petition about. As can be well imagined, we considered the position published by the forty professors and assistants of the Faculty of Arts at Strasbourg, which denounced the fake students behind this "tempest in a teacup" about false problems "without the shadow of a solution," to be more logical and socially rational (as was, for that matter, Judge Llabador's summing up) than that wheedling attempt at approval circulated in February by a few decrepit modernist-institutionalists gnawing their meager bones at the professorial chairs of "Social Sciences" at Nanterre (impudent Touraine, loyal Lefebvre, Maoist Baudrillart, cunning Lourau).

In fact, we want ideas to become dangerous again. We cannot be accepted with the spinelessness of a false eclectic interest, as if we were Sartres, Althussers, Aragons or Godards. Let us note the wise words of a certain Professor Lhuillier, reported in the Nouvel Observateur (21 December 1966): "I am for freedom of thought. But if there are any Situationists in the room, I want them to get out right now." While not entirely denying the effect that the dissemination of a few basic truths may have had in slightly accelerating the movement that is impelling the lagging French youth toward an awareness of an impending more general crisis in the society, we think that the distribution of On the Poverty of Student Life has been a much more significant factor of clarification in some other countries where such a process is already much more clearly under way. In the afterword of their edition of Khayati's text, the English situationists wrote: "The most highly developed critique of modern life has been made in one of the least highly developed modern countries -- in a country which has not yet reached the point where the complete disintegration of all values becomes patently obvious and engenders the corresponding forces of radical rejection. In the French context, situationist theory has anticipated the social forces by which it will be realized." The theses of On the Poverty of Student Life have been much more truly understood in the United States and in England (the strike at the London School of Economics in March caused a certain stir, the Times commentator unhappily seeing in it a return of the class struggle he had thought was over with). To a lesser degree this is also the case in the Netherlands -- where the SI's critique, reinforcing a much harsher critique by events themselves, was not without effect on the recent dissolution of the "Provo" movement -- and in the Scandinavian countries. The struggles of the West Berlin students this year have also picked up on some aspects of the critique, though in a still very confused way.

But revolutionary youth has no alternative but to join with the mass of workers who, starting from their experience of the new conditions of exploitation, are going to take up once again the struggle to control their world and to do away with work. When young people begin to know the current theoretical form of this real movement that is everywhere spontaneously bursting forth from the soil of modern society, this is only a moment of the progression by which this unified theoretical critique (inseparable from an adequate practical unification) strives to break the silence and the general organization of separation. It is only in this sense that we find the result satisfactory. In speaking of revolutionary youth, we are obviously not referring to that alienated and semiprivileged fraction molded by the university -- a sector that is the natural base for an admiring consumption of a fantasized situationist theory considered as the latest spectacular fashion. We will continue to disappoint and refute that kind of approbation. Sooner or later it will be understood that the SI must be judged not on the superficially scandalous aspects of certain manifestations through which it appears, but on its essentially scandalous central truth.


Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version in the Situationist International Anthology).

Two Local Wars

The Arab-Israel war was a dirty trick pulled by modern history on the good conscience of the Left, which was communing in the great spectacle of its protest against the Vietnam war. The false consciousness that saw in the NLF the champion of "socialist revolution" against American imperialism could only get entangled and collapse amidst its insurmountable contradictions when it had to decide between Israel and Nasser. Yet throughout all its ludicrous polemics it never stopped proclaiming that one side or the other was completely in the right, or even that one or another of their perspectives was revolutionary.

Submitted by libcom on September 1, 2005

In immigrating into underdeveloped regions, the revolutionary struggle was subjected to a double alienation: that of an impotent Left facing an overdeveloped capitalism it was in no way capable of combating, and that of the laboring masses in the colonized countries who inherited the remains of a mutilated revolution and have had to suffer its defects. The absence of a revolutionary movement in Europe has reduced the Left to its simplest expression: a mass of spectators who swoon with rapture each time the exploited in the colonies take up arms against their masters, and who cannot help seeing these uprisings as the epitome of Revolution. At the same time, the absence from political life of the proletariat as a class-for-itself (and for us the proletariat is revolutionary or it is nothing) has allowed this Left to become the "Knight of Virtue" in a world without virtue. But when it bewails its situation and complains about the "world order" being at odds with its good intentions, and when it maintains its poor yearnings in the face of this order, it is in fact attached to this order as to its own essence. If this order was taken away from it, it would lose everything. The European Left is so pitiful that, like a traveler in the desert longing for a single drop of water, it seems to aspire for nothing more than the meager feeling of an abstract objection. From the little with which it is satisfied one can measure the extent of its poverty. It is as alien to history as the proletariat is alien to this world. False consciousness is its natural condition, the spectacle is its element, and the apparent opposition of systems is its universal frame of reference: wherever there is a conflict it always sees Good fighting Evil, "total revolution" versus "total reaction."

The attachment of this spectator consciousness to alien causes remains irrational, and its virtuous protests flounder in the tortuous paths of its guilt. Most of the "Vietnam Committees" in France split up during the "Six Day War" and some of the war resistance groups in the United States also revealed their reality. "One cannot be at the same time for the Vietnamese and against the Jews menaced with extermination," is the cry of some. "Can you fight against the Americans in Vietnam while supporting their allied Zionist aggressors?" is the reply of others. And then they plunge into Byzantine discussions . . . Sartre hasn't recovered from it yet. In fact this whole fine lot does not actually fight what it condemns, nor does it really know much about the forces it supports. Its opposition to the American war is almost always combined with unconditional support of the Vietcong; but in any case this opposition remains spectacular for everyone. Those who were really opposed to Spanish fascism went to fight it. No one has yet gone off to fight "Yankee imperialism." The consumers of illusory participation are offered a whole range of spectacular choices: pacifist demonstrations; Stalino-Gaullist nationalism against the Americans (Humphrey's visit was the sole occasion the French Communist Party has demonstrated with its remaining faithful); the sale of the Vietnam Newsletter or of publicity handouts from Ho Chi Minh's state . . . Neither the Provos (before their dissolution) nor the Berlin students have been able to go beyond the narrow framework of anti-imperialist "action."

The antiwar movement in America has naturally been more serious since it finds itself face to face with the real enemy. Some young people, however, end up by simplistically identifying with the apparent enemies of their real enemies; which reinforces the confusion of a working class already subjected to the worst brutalization and mystification, and contributes to maintaining it in that "reactionary" state of mind from which one draws arguments against it.

Guevara's critique seems to us more important since it has its roots in real struggles, but it falls short by default. Che is certainly one of the last consistent Leninists of our time. But like Epimenides, he seems to have slept for the last fifty years to be able to believe that there is still a "progressive bloc," which for some strange reason is "lapsing." This bureaucratic and romantic revolutionary only sees in imperialism the highest stage of capitalism, struggling against a society that is socialist in spite of its imperfections.

The USSR's embarrassingly evident defects are coming to seem more and more "natural." As for China, according to an official declaration it remains "ready to accept all national sacrifices to support North Vietnam against the USA" (in lieu of supporting the workers of Hong Kong) "and constitutes the most solid and secure rear guard for the Vietnamese people in their struggle against imperialism." In fact, no one doubts that if the last Vietnamese were killed, Mao's bureaucratic China would still be intact. (According to Izvestia, China and the United States have already concluded a mutual nonintervention pact.)

Neither the manichean consciousness of the virtuous Left nor the bureaucracy are capable of seeing the profound unity of today's world. Dialectics is their common enemy. Revolutionary criticism begins beyond good and evil; it is rooted in history and operates on the totality of the existing world. In no case can it applaud a belligerent state or support the bureaucracy of an exploiting state in the process of formation. It must first of all lay bare the truth of present struggles by putting them back into their historical context, and unmask the hidden ends of the forces officially in conflict. The arm of critique is the prelude to the critique by arms.

The peaceful coexistence of bourgeois and bureaucratic lies ended up prevailing over the lie of their confrontation. The balance of terror was broken in Cuba in 1962 with the rout of the Russians. Since that time American imperialism has been the unchallenged master of the world. And it can remain so only by aggression since it has no chance of seducing the disinherited, who are more easily attracted to the Sino-Soviet model. State capitalism is the natural tendency of colonized societies where the state is generally formed before the historical classes. The total elimination of its capital and its commodities from the world market is the deadly threat that haunts the American propertied class and its free-enterprise economy -- this is the key to its aggressive rage.

Since the great crisis of 1929, state intervention has been more and more conspicuous in market mechanisms; the economy can no longer function steadily without massive expenditures by the state, the main "consumer" of all noncommercial production (especially that of the armament industries). This does not save it from remaining in a state of permanent crisis and in constant need of expanding its public sector at the expense of its private sector. A relentless logic pushes the system toward increasingly state-controlled capitalism, generating severe social conflicts.

The profound crisis of the American system lies in its inability to produce sufficient profits on the social scale. It must therefore achieve abroad what it cannot do at home, namely increase the amount of profit in proportion to the amount of existing capital. The propertied class, which also more or less possesses the state, relies on its imperialist enterprises to realize this insane dream. For this class, pseudocommunist state capitalism means death just as much as does authentic communism; that is why it is essentially incapable of seeing any difference between them.

The artificial functioning of the monopolistic economy as a "war economy" ensures, for the moment, that the ruling-class policy is willingly supported by the workers, who enjoy full employment and a spectacular abundance: "At the moment, the proportion of labor employed in jobs connected with national defense amounts to 5.2% of the total American labor force, compared with 3.9% two years ago. . . . The number of civil jobs in the national defense sector has increased from 3,000,000 to 4,100,000 over the last two years." (Le Monde, 17 September 1967.) Meanwhile, market capitalism vaguely feels that by extending its territorial control it will achieve an accelerated expansion capable of balancing the ever-increasing demands of non-profit-making production. The ferocious defense of regions of the "free" world where its interests are often trifling (in 1959 American investments in South Vietnam did not exceed 50 million dollars) is part of a long-term strategy that hopes eventually to be able to write off military expenditures as mere business expenses in ensuring the United States not only a market but also the monopolistic control of the means of production of the greater part of the world. But everything works against this project. On one hand, the internal contradictions of private capitalism: particular interests conflict with the general interest of the propertied class as a whole, as with groups that make short-term profits from state contracts (notably arms manufacturers), or monopolistic enterprises that are reluctant to invest in underdeveloped countries, where productivity is very low in spite of cheap labor, preferring instead the "advanced" part of the world (especially Europe, which is still more profitable than saturated America). On the other hand, it clashes with the immediate interests of the disinherited masses, whose first move can only be to eliminate the indigenous strata that exploit them, which are the only strata able to ensure the United States any infiltration whatsoever.

According to Rostow, the "growth" specialist of the State Department, Vietnam is for the moment only the first testing ground for this vast strategy, which, to ensure its exploitative peace, must start with a war of destruction that can hardly succeed. The aggressiveness of American imperialism is thus in no way the aberration of a bad administration, but a necessity for the class relations of private capitalism, which, if not overthrown by a revolutionary movement, unrelentingly evolves toward a technocratic state capitalism. The history of the alienated struggles of our time can only be understood in this context of a still undominated global economy.

The destruction of the old "Asiatic" structures by colonial penetration gave rise to a new urban stratum while increasing the pauperization of a large portion of the super-exploited peasantry. The conjuncture of these two forces constituted the driving force of the Vietnamese movement. Among the urban strata (petty bourgeois and even bourgeois) were formed the first nationalist nuclei and the skeleton of what was to be, from 1930 on, the Indochinese Communist Party. Its adherence to Bolshevik ideology (in its Stalinist version), which led it to graft an essentially agrarian program onto the purely nationalist one, enabled the ICP to become the leading force of the anticolonial struggle and to marshal the great mass of peasants who had spontaneously risen. The "peasant soviets" of 1931 were the first manifestation of this movement. But by linking its fate to that of the Third International, the ICP subjected itself to all the vicissitudes of Stalinist diplomacy and to the fluctuations of the national and state interests of the Russian bureaucracy. After the Seventh Comintern Congress (August 1935) "the struggle against French imperialism" vanished from the program and was soon replaced by a struggle against the powerful Trotskyist party. "As for the Trotskyists, no alliances, no concessions; they must be unmasked for what they are: the agents of fascism" (Report of Ho Chi Minh to the Comintern, July 1939). The Hitler-Stalin Pact and the banning of the Communist Party in France and its colonies allowed the ICP to change its line: "Our party finds it a matter of life or death . . . to struggle against the imperialist war and the French policy of piracy and massacre" (i.e. against Nazi Germany), "but we will at the same time combat the aggressive aims of Japanese fascism."

Toward the end of World War II, with the effective help of the Americans, the Vietminh was in control of the greater part of the country and was recognized by France as the sole representative of Indochina. It was at this point that Ho preferred "to sniff a little French shit rather than eat Chinese shit for a lifetime" and signed, to make the task of his colleague-masters easier, the monstrous compromise of 1946, which recognized Vietnam as both a "free state" and as "belonging to the Indochinese Federation of the French Union." This compromise enabled France to reconquer part of the country and, at the same time the Stalinists lost their share of bourgeois power in France, to wage a war that lasted eight years, at the end of which the Vietminh gave up the South to the most retrograde strata and their American protectors and definitively won the North for itself. After systematically eliminating the remaining revolutionary elements (the last Trotskyist leader, Ta Tu Thau, was assassinated by 1946) the Vietminh bureaucracy imposed its totalitarian power on the peasantry and started the industrialization of the country within a state-capitalist framework. Improving the lot of the peasants, following their conquests during the long liberation struggle, was, in line with bureaucratic logic, subordinated to the interests of the rising state: the goal was to be greater productivity, with the state remaining the uncontested master of that production. The authoritarian implementation of agrarian reform gave rise in 1956 to violent insurrections and bloody repression (above all in Ho Chi Minh's own native province). The peasants who had carried the bureaucracy to power were to be its first victims. For several years afterwards the bureaucracy tried to smother the memory of this "serious mistake" in an "orgy of self-criticism."

But the same Geneva agreements enabled the Diem clique to set up, south of the 17th parallel, a bureaucratic, feudal and theocratic state in the service of the landowners and compradore bourgeoisie. Within a few years this state was to nullify, by a few suitable "agrarian reforms," everything the peasantry had won. The peasants of the South, some of whom had never laid down their arms, were to in the grip of oppression and superexploitation. This is the second Vietnam war. The mass of the insurgent peasants, taking up arms once more against their old enemies, also followed once again their old leaders. The National Liberation Front succeeded the Vietminh, inheriting both its qualities and its grave defects. By making itself the champion of national struggle and peasant war, the NLF immediately won over the countryside and made it the main base of armed resistance. Its successive victories over the official army provoked the increasingly massive intervention of the Americans, to the point of reducing the conflict to an open colonial war, with the Vietnamese pitted against an invading army. Its determination in the struggle, its clearly antifeudal program and its unitary perspectives remain the principal qualities of the movement. But in no way does the NLF's struggle go beyond the classical framework of national liberation struggles. Its program remains based on a compromise among a vast coalition of classes, dominated by the overriding goal of wiping out the American aggression. It is no accident that it rejects the title "Vietcong" (i.e. Vietnamese communists) and insists on its national character. Its structures are those of a state-in-formation: in the zones under its control it already levies taxes and institutes compulsory military service.

These minimal qualities in the struggle and the social objectives that they express remain totally absent in the confrontation between Israel and the Arabs. The specific contradictions of Zionism and of splintered Arab society add to the general confusion.

Since its origins the Zionist movement has been the contrary of the revolutionary solution to what used to be called the "Jewish question." A direct product of European capitalism, it did not aim at the overthrow of a society that needed to persecute Jews, but at the creation of a Jewish national entity that would be protected from the anti-Semitic aberrations of decadent capitalism; it aimed not at the abolition of injustice but at its transfer. The original sin of Zionism is that it has always acted as if Palestine were a desert island. The revolutionary workers movement saw the answer to the Jewish question in proletarian community, that is, in the destruction of capitalism and "its religion, Judaism"; the emancipation of the Jews could not take place apart from the emancipation of humanity. Zionism started from the opposite hypothesis. As a matter of fact, the counterrevolutionary development of the last half century proved it right, but in the same way as the development of European capitalism proved right the reformist theses of Bernstein. The success of Zionism and its corollary, the creation of the state of Israel, is merely a miserable by-product of the triumph of world counterrevolution. To "socialism in a single country" came the echo "justice for a single people" and "equality in a single kibbutz." It was with Rothschild capital that the colonization of Palestine was organized and with European surplus-value that the first kibbutzim were set up. The Jews recreated for themselves all the fanaticism and segregation they had been victims of. Those who had suffered mere toleration in their society were to struggle to become in another country owners disposing of the right to tolerate others. The kibbutz was not a revolutionary supersession of Palestinian "feudalism," but a mutualist formula for the self-defense of Jewish worker-settlers against the capitalist exploitative tendencies of the Jewish Agency. Because it was the main Jewish owner of Palestine, the Zionist Organization defined itself as the sole representative of the superior interests of the "Jewish Nation." If it eventually allowed a certain degree of self-management, it is because it was sure that this would be based on the systematic rejection of the Arab peasant.

As for the Histadrut [the Israeli labor union], it was since its inception in 1920 subjected to the authority of world Zionism, that is, to the direct opposite of workers' emancipation. Arab workers were statutorily excluded from it and its activity often consisted of forbidding Jewish businesses to employ them.

The development of the three-way struggle between the Arabs, the Zionists and the British was to be turned to the profit of the Zionists. Thanks to the active patronage of the Americans (since the end of World War II) and the blessing of Stalin (who saw Israel as the first "socialist" bastion in the Middle East, but also as a way to rid himself of some annoying Jews), it did not take long before Herzl's dream was realized and the Jewish state was arbitrarily proclaimed. The cooption of all the "progressive" forms of social organization and their integration within the Zionist ideal allowed even the most "revolutionary" to work in good conscience for the building of the bourgeois, militaristic, rabbinical state that modern Israel has become. The prolonged sleep of proletarian internationalism once more brought forth a monster. The basic injustice against the Palestinian Arabs came back to roost with the Jews themselves: the State of the Chosen People was nothing but one more class society in which all the anomalies of the old societies were recreated (hierarchical divisions, tribal opposition between the Ashkenazi and the Sephardim, racist persecution of the Arab minority, etc.). The labor union assumed its normal function of integrating workers into a capitalist economy, an economy of which it itself has become the main owner. It employs more workers than the state itself, and presently constitutes the bridgehead of the imperialist expansion of the new Israeli capitalism. ("Solel Boneh," an important building branch of the Histadrut, invested 180 million dollars in Africa and Asia from 1960 to 1966 and currently employs 12,000 African workers.)

And just as this state could never have seen the light of day without the direct intervention of Anglo-American imperialism and the massive aid of Jewish finance capital, it cannot balance its artificial economy today without the aid of the same forces that created it. (The annual balance of payments deficit is 600 million dollars, that is, more for each Israeli inhabitant than the average earnings of an Arab worker.) Since the settling of the first immigrant colonies, the Jews have formed a modern, European-style society alongside the economically and socially backward Arab society; the proclamation of the state of Israel only completed this process by the pure and simple expulsion of the backward elements. Israel forms by its very existence the bastion of Europe in the heart of an Afro-Asian world. Thus it has become doubly alien: to the Arab population, permanently reduced to the status of refugees or of colonized minority; and to the Jewish population, which had for a moment seen in it the earthly fulfillment of all egalitarian ideologies.

But this is due not only to the contradictions of Israeli society. From the outset this situation has been constantly maintained and aggravated by the surrounding Arab societies, which have so far proved incapable of any contribution toward an effective solution.

Throughout the British Mandate period the Arab resistance in Palestine was completely dominated by the propertied class: the Arab ruling classes and their British protectors. The Sykes-Picot Agreement put an end to the hopes of the Arab nationalism that was just beginning to develop, and subjected the skillfully carved up area to a foreign domination that is far from being over.(1) The same strata that ensured the Ottoman Empire's domination over the Arab masses turned to the service of the British occupation and became accomplices of Zionist colonization (by the sale, at very inflated prices, of their land). The backwardness of Arab society did not yet allow for the emergence of new and more advanced leaderships, and every spontaneous popular upheaval ran into the same coopters: the "bourgeois-feudal" notables and their commodity: national unity.

The armed insurgence of 1936-1939 and the six-month general strike (the longest in history) were decided and carried out in spite of opposition from the leadership of all the "nationalist" parties. They were widespread and spontaneously organized; this forced the ruling class to join them so as to take over the leadership of the movement. But this was in order to put a check on it, to lead it to the conference table and to reactionary compromises. Only the victory of the fullest, most radical implications of that uprising could have destroyed both the British Mandate and the Zionist goal of setting up a Jewish state. Its failure heralded the disasters to come and ultimately the defeat of 1948.

That latter defeat signaled the end of the "bourgeois-feudality" as the leading class of the Arab movement. It was the opportunity for the petty bourgeoisie to come to power and constitute, with the officers of the defeated army, the driving force of the present movement. Its program was simple: unity, a vaguely socialist ideology, and the liberation of Palestine (the Return). The Tripartite aggression of 1956(2) provided it with the best opportunity to consolidate itself as a dominant class and to find a leader-program in the person of Nasser, who was presented for the collective admiration of the completely dispossessed Arab masses. He was their religion and their opium. But the new exploiting class had its own interests and goals. The slogans used by the bureaucratic military regime of Egypt to win popular support were already bad in themselves; in addition, the regime was incapable of carrying them out. Arab unity and the destruction of Israel (invoked successively as the liquidation of the usurper state or as the pure and simple driving of the Israeli population into the sea) were the core of this propaganda-ideology.

What ushered in the decline of the Arab petty bourgeoisie and its bureaucratic power was first of all its own internal contradictions and the superficiality of its options (Nasser, the Baath Party, Kassem(3) and the so-called "Communist" parties have never ceased fighting each other and compromising and allying with the most dubious forces).

Twenty years after the first Palestinian war, this new stratum has just demonstrated its total inability to resolve the Palestinian problem. It has lived by delirious bluff, for it was only able to survive by permanently raising the specter of Israel, being utterly incapable of effecting any radical solution whatsoever to the innumerable internal problems. The Palestinian problem remains the key to the Arab power struggles. It is everyone's central reference point and all conflicts hinge on it. It is the basis of the objective solidarity of all the Arab regimes. It produces the "Holy Alliance" between Nasser and Hussein, Faisal and Boumédienne, Aref and the Baath.

The latest war has dissipated all these illusions. The total rigidity of "Arab ideology" was pulverized on contact with an effective reality that was just as hard but also permanent. Those who spoke of waging a war neither wanted it nor prepared for it, while those who spoke only of defending themselves actually prepared the offensive. Each of the two camps followed their respective propensities: the Arab bureaucracy that for lying and demagogy, the masters of Israel that for imperialist expansion. The most important lesson of the Six Day War is a negative one: it has revealed all the secret weaknesses and defects of what was presented as the "Arab Revolution." The "powerful" military bureaucracy of Egypt crumbled to dust in two days, disclosing all at once the secret reality of its achievements: the fact that the axis around which all the socioeconomic transformations took place -- the Army -- has remained fundamentally the same. On one hand, it claimed to be changing everything in Egypt (and even in the Arab world as a whole); on the other, it did everything to avoid any transformation in itself, in its values or its habits. Nasser's Egypt is still dominated by pre-Nasser forces; its bureaucracy is an agglomeration without coherence or class consciousness, united only by exploitation and the division of the social surplus-value.

As for the politico-military machine that governs Baathist Syria, it is entrenching itself more and more in the extremism of its ideology. But its phraseology takes in no one anymore (except Pablo!).(4) Everyone knows that it did not fight and that it gave up the front without resistance because it preferred to keep its best troops in Damascus for its own defense. Those who consumed 65% of the Syrian budget to defend the territory have definitively unmasked their own cynical lies.

Finally, the war has shown, to those who still needed showing, that a Holy Alliance with someone like Hussein can only lead to disaster. The Arab Legion [Jordanian Army] withdrew on the first day and the Palestinian population, which has suffered for twenty years under its police terror, found itself unarmed and unorganized in the face of the Israeli occupation forces. Since 1948 the Hashemite throne had shared the colonization of the Palestinians with the Zionist state. By deserting the West Bank it gave the Israelis the police files on all the Palestinian revolutionary elements. But the Palestinians have always known that there was no great difference between the two colonizations, and the blatancy of the new occupation at least makes the terrain of resistance clearer.

As for Israel, it has become everything that the Arabs had accused it of before the war: an imperialist state behaving like the most classic occupation forces (police terror, dynamiting of houses, permanent martial law, etc.). Internally a collective hysteria, led by the rabbis, is developing around "Israel's inalienable right to its Biblical borders." The war put a stop to the whole movement of internal struggles generated by the contradictions of this artificial society (in 1966 there were several dozen riots, and there were no fewer than 277 strikes in 1965 alone) and provoked unanimous support for the objectives of the ruling class and its most extremist ideology. It also served to shore up all the Arab regimes not involved in the armed struggle. Boumédienne could thus, from 3000 miles away, enter the chorus of political braggadocio and have his name applauded by the Algerian crowd before which he had not even dared to appear the day before, and finally obtain the support of a totally Stalinized ORP ("for his anti-imperialist policy"). Faisal, for a few million dollars, obtained Egypt's withdrawal from North Yemen and the strengthening of his throne. Etc., etc.

As always, war, when not civil, only freezes the process of social revolution. In North Vietnam it has brought about the peasantry's support, never before given, for the bureaucracy that exploits it. In Israel it has killed off for a long time any opposition to Zionism; and in the Arab countries it is reinforcing -- temporarily -- the most reactionary strata. In no way can revolutionary currents find anything there with which to identify. Their task is at the other pole of the present movement since it must be its absolute negation.

It is obviously impossible at present to seek a revolutionary solution to the Vietnam war. It is first of all necessary to put an end to the American aggression in order to allow the real social struggle in Vietnam to develop in a natural way; i.e. to allow the Vietnamese workers and peasants to rediscover their enemies at home: the bureaucracy of the North and the propertied and ruling strata of the South. Once the Americans withdraw, the Stalinist bureaucracy will seize control of the whole country -- there's no getting around this. Because the invaders cannot indefinitely sustain their aggression; ever since Talleyrand it has been a commonplace that one can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it. The point is not to give unconditional (or even conditional) support to the Vietcong, but to struggle consistently and uncompromisingly against American imperialism. The most effective role is presently being played by those American revolutionaries who are advocating and practicing insubordination and draft resistance on a very large scale (compared to which the resistance to the Algerian war in France was child's play). The Vietnam war is rooted in America and it is from there that it must be rooted out.

Unlike the American war, the Palestinian question has no immediately evident solution. No short-term solution is feasible. The Arab regimes can only crumble under the weight of their contradictions and Israel will be more and more the prisoner of its colonial logic. All the compromises that the great powers try to piece together are bound to be counterrevolutionary in one way or another. The hybrid status quo -- neither peace nor war -- will probably prevail for a long period, during which the Arab regimes will meet with the same fate as their predecessors of 1948 (probably at first to the profit of the openly reactionary forces). Arab society, which has produced all sorts of dominant classes caricaturing all the classes of history, must now produce the forces that will bring about its total subversion. The so-called national bourgeoisie and the Arab bureaucracy have inherited all the defects of those two classes without ever having known the historical accomplishments those classes achieved in other societies. The future Arab revolutionary forces that will arise from the ruins of the June 1967 defeat must know that they have nothing in common with any existing Arab regime and nothing to respect among the established powers that dominate the present world. They will find their model in themselves and in the repressed experiences of revolutionary history. The Palestinian question is too serious to be left to the states, that is, to the colonels. It is too close to the two basic questions of modern revolution -- internationalism and the state -- for any existing force to be able to provide an adequate solution. Only an Arab revolutionary movement that is resolutely internationalist and anti-state can both dissolve the state of Israel and have on its side that state's exploited masses. And only through the same process will it be able to dissolve all the existing Arab states and create Arab unity through the power of the Councils.



1. British Mandate: British protectorate over Palestine (1920-1948). Sykes-Picot agreement: a secret agreement made between England, France and Russia in 1916 to divide up the former Ottoman Empire possessions among themselves after the end of World War I. In 1917 the Bolsheviks discovered the document in the Russian state archives and publicly divulged and repudiated it, much to the embarrassment of the French and British governments.

2. Tripartite aggression: joint attack on Egypt by England, France and Israel during the 1956 "Suez crisis."

3. Baath Party: Pan-Arabic party, rival factions of which currently rule Iraq and Syria. Kassem: head of Iraqi government 1958-1963.

4. Pablo: leader of a Trotskyist tendency.

Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version in the Situationist International Anthology).


8 years ago

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