Internationale Situationniste #10


Issue ten of the journal of the Situationist International.

March 1966
Director: Debord
Mail: B.P. 307-03 Paris
Editorial Committee: Michèle Bernstein, Théo Frey, Mustapha Khayati, J.V. Martin, Raoul Vaneigem.

All texts published in Internationale Situationniste may be freely reproduced, translated or adapted, even without indication of origin.

Submitted by libcom on September 5, 2005

The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy - Guy Debord


Debord on the Watts riots in LA. From International Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by libcom on September 5, 2005

August 13-­16, 1965, the blacks of Los Angeles revolted. An incident between traffic police and pedestrians developed into two days of spontaneous riots. Despite increasing reinforcements, the forces of order were unable to regain control of the streets. By the third day the blacks had armed themselves by looting accessible gun stores, enabling them to fire even on police helicopters. It took thousands of police and soldiers, including an entire infantry division supported by tanks, to confine the riot to the Watts area, and several more days of street fighting to finally bring it under control. Stores were massively plundered and many were burned. Official sources listed 32 dead (including 27 blacks), more than 800 wounded and 3000 arrests.

Reactions from all sides were most revealing: a revolutionary event, by bringing existing problems into the open, provokes its opponents into an unhabitual lucidity. Police Chief William Parker, for example, rejected all the major black organizations' offers of mediation, correctly asserting: "These rioters don't have any leaders." Since the blacks no longer had any leaders, it was the moment of truth for both sides. What did one of those unemployed leaders, NAACP general secretary Roy Wilkins, have to say? He declared that the riot "should be put down with all necessary force." And Los Angeles Cardinal McIntyre, who protested loudly, did not protest against the violence of the repression, which one might have supposed the most tactful policy at a time when the Roman Church is modernizing its image; he denounced "this premeditated revolt against the rights of one's neighbor and against respect for law and order," calling on Catholics to oppose the looting and "this violence without any apparent justification." And all those who went so far as to recognize the "apparent justifications" of the rage of the Los Angeles blacks (but never their real ones), all the ideologists and "spokesmen" of the vacuous international Left, deplored the irresponsibility, the disorder, the looting (especially the fact that arms and alcohol were the first targets) and the 2000 fires with which the blacks lit up their battle and their ball. But who has defended the Los Angeles rioters in the terms they deserve? We will. Let the economists fret over the $27 million lost, and the city planners sigh over one of their most beautiful supermarkets gone up in smoke, and McIntyre blubber over his slain deputy sheriff. Let the sociologists bemoan the absurdity and intoxication of this rebellion. The role of a revolutionary publication is not only to justify the Los Angeles insurgents, but to help elucidate their perspectives, to explain theoretically the truth for which such practical action expresses the search.

In Algiers in July 1965, following Boumédienne's coup d'état, the situationists issued an Address to the Algerians and to revolutionaries all over the world which interpreted conditions in Algeria and the rest of the world as a whole. Among other examples we mentioned the movement of the American blacks, stating that if it could "assert itself incisively" it would unmask the contradictions of the most advanced capitalist system. Five weeks later this incisiveness was in the streets. Modern theoretical criticism of modern society and criticism in acts of the same society already coexist; still separated but both advancing toward the same realities, both talking about the same thing. These two critiques are mutually explanatory, and neither can be understood without the other. Our theory of "survival" and of "the spectacle" is illuminated and verified by these actions which are so incomprehensible to American false consciousness. One day these actions will in turn be illuminated by this theory.

Until the Watts explosion, black civil rights demonstrations had been kept by their leaders within the limits of a legal system that tolerates the most appalling violence on the part of the police and the racists -- as in last March's march on Montgomery, Alabama. Even after the latter scandal, a discreet agreement between the federal government, Governor Wallace and Martin Luther King led the Selma marchers on March 10 to stand back at the first police warning, in dignity and prayer. The confrontation expected by the demonstrators was reduced to a mere spectacle of a potential confrontation. In that moment nonviolence reached the pitiful limit of its courage: first you expose yourself to the enemy's blows, then you push your moral nobility to the point of sparing him the trouble of using any more force. But the main point is that the civil rights movement only addressed legal problems by legal means. It is logical to make legal appeals regarding legal questions. What is irrational is to appeal legally against a blatant illegality as if it was a mere oversight that would be corrected if pointed out. It is obvious that the crude and glaring illegality from which blacks still suffer in many American states has its roots in a socioeconomic contradiction that is not within the scope of existing laws, and that no future judicial law will be able to get rid of this contradiction in the face of the more fundamental laws of this society. What American blacks are really daring to demand is the right to really live, and in the final analysis this requires nothing less than the total subversion of this society. This becomes increasingly evident as blacks in their everyday lives find themselves forced to use increasingly subversive methods. The issue is no longer the condition of American blacks, but the condition of America, which merely happens to find its first expression among the blacks. The Watts riot was not a racial conflict: the rioters left alone the whites that were in their path, attacking only the white policemen, while on the other hand black solidarity did not extend to black store-owners or even to black car-drivers. Martin Luther King himself had to admit that the revolt went beyond the limits of his specialty. Speaking in Paris last October, he said: "This was not a race riot. It was a class riot."

The Los Angeles rebellion was a rebellion against the commodity, against the world of the commodity in which worker-consumers are hierarchically subordinated to commodity standards. Like the young delinquents of all the advanced countries, but more radically because they are part of a class without a future, a sector of the proletariat unable to believe in any significant chance of integration or promotion, the Los Angeles blacks take modern capitalist propaganda, its publicity of abundance, literally. They want to possess now all the objects shown and abstractly accessible, because they want to use them. In this way they are challenging their exchange-value, the commodity reality which molds them and marshals them to its own ends, and which has preselected everything. Through theft and gift they rediscover a use that immediately refutes the oppressive rationality of the commodity, revealing its relations and even its production to be arbitrary and unnecessary. The looting of the Watts district was the most direct realization of the distorted principle: "To each according to their false needs" -- needs determined and produced by the economic system which the very act of looting rejects. But once the vaunted abundance is taken at face value and directly seized, instead of being eternally pursued in the rat-race of alienated labor and increasing unmet social needs, real desires begin to be expressed in festive celebration, in playful self-assertion, in the potlatch of destruction. People who destroy commodities show their human superiority over commodities. They stop submitting to the arbitrary forms that distortedly reflect their real needs. The flames of Watts consummated the system of consumption. The theft of large refrigerators by people with no electricity, or with their electricity cut off, is the best image of the lie of affluence transformed into a truth in play. Once it is no longer bought, the commodity lies open to criticism and alteration, whatever particular form it may take. Only when it is paid for with money is it respected as an admirable fetish, as a symbol of status within the world of survival.

Looting is a natural response to the unnatural and inhuman society of commodity abundance. It instantly undermines the commodity as such, and it also exposes what the commodity ultimately implies: the army, the police and the other specialized detachments of the state's monopoly of armed violence. What is a policeman? He is the active servant of the commodity, the man in complete submission to the commodity, whose job it is to ensure that a given product of human labor remains a commodity, with the magical property of having to be paid for, instead of becoming a mere refrigerator or rifle -- a passive, inanimate object, subject to anyone who comes along to make use of it. In rejecting the humiliation of being subject to police, the blacks are at the same time rejecting the humiliation of being subject to commodities. The Watts youth, having no future in market terms, grasped another quality of the present, and that quality was so incontestable and irresistible that it drew in the whole population -- women, children, and even sociologists who happened to be on the scene. Bobbi Hollon, a young black sociologist of the neighborhood, had this to say to the Herald Tribune in October: "Before, people were ashamed to say they came from Watts. They'd mumble it. Now they say it with pride. Boys who used to go around with their shirts open to the waist, and who'd have cut you to pieces in half a second, showed up here every morning at seven o'clock to organize the distribution of food. Of course, it's no use pretending that food wasn't looted. . . . All that Christian blah has been used too long against blacks. These people could loot for ten years and they wouldn't get back half the money those stores have stolen from them over all these years. . . . Me, I'm only a little black girl." Bobbi Hollon, who has sworn never to wash off the blood that splashed on her sandals during the rioting, adds: "Now the whole world is watching Watts."

How do people make history under conditions designed to dissuade them from intervening in it? Los Angeles blacks are better paid than any others in the United States, but they are also the most separated from the California superopulence that is flaunted all around them. Hollywood, the pole of the global spectacle, is right next door. They are promised that, with patience, they will join in America's prosperity, but they come to see that this prosperity is not a fixed state but an endless ladder. The higher they climb, the farther they get from the top, because they start off disadvantaged, because they are less qualified and thus more numerous among the unemployed, and finally because the hierarchy that crushes them is not based on economic buying power alone: they are also treated as inherently inferior in every area of daily life by the customs and prejudices of a society in which all human power is based on buying power. Just as the human riches of the American blacks are despised and treated as criminal, monetary riches will never make them completely acceptable in America's alienated society: individual wealth will only make a rich nigger because blacks as a whole must represent poverty in a society of hierarchized wealth. Every witness noted the cry proclaiming the global significance of the uprising: "This is a black revolution and we want the world to know it!" Freedom Now is the password of all the revolutions of history, but now for the first time the problem is not to overcome scarcity, but to master material abundance according to new principles. Mastering abundance is not just changing the way it is shared out, but totally reorienting it. This is the first step of a vast, all-embracing struggle.

The blacks are not alone in their struggle, because a new proletarian consciousness (the consciousness that they are not at all the masters of their own activities, of their own lives) is developing in America among strata which in their rejection of modern capitalism resemble the blacks. It was, in fact, the first phase of the black struggle which happened to be the signal for the more general movement of contestation that is now spreading. In December 1964 the students of Berkeley, harassed for their participation in the civil rights movement, initiated a strike [the FSM] challenging the functioning of California's "multiversity" and ultimately calling into question the entire American social system in which they are being programmed to play such a passive role. The spectacle promptly responded with exposés of widespread student drinking, drug use and sexual immorality -- the same activities for which blacks have long been reproached. This generation of students has gone on to invent a new form of struggle against the dominant spectacle, the teach-in, a form taken up October 20 in Great Britain at the University of Edinburgh during the Rhodesian crisis. This obviously primitive and imperfect form represents the stage at which people refuse to confine their discussion of problems within academic limits or fixed time periods; the stage when they strive to pursue issues to their ultimate consequences and are thus led to practical activity. The same month tens of thousands of anti­Vietnam war demonstrators appeared in the streets of Berkeley and New York, their cries echoing those of the Watts rioters: "Get out of our district and out of Vietnam!" Becoming more radical, many of the whites are finally going outside the law: "courses" are given on how to hoodwink army recruiting boards (Le Monde, 19 October 1965) and draft cards are burned in front of television cameras. In the affluent society disgust is being expressed for this affluence and for its price. The spectacle is being spat on by an advanced sector whose autonomous activity denies its values. The classical proletariat, to the very extent to which it had been provisionally integrated into the capitalist system, had itself failed to integrate the blacks (several Los Angeles unions refused blacks until 1959); now the blacks are the rallying point for all those who refuse the logic of this integration into capitalism, which is all that the promise of racial integration amounts to. Comfort will never be comfortable enough for those who seek what is not on the market, what in fact the market specifically eliminates. The level attained by the technology of the most privileged becomes an insult, and one more easily grasped and resented than is that most fundamental insult: reification. The Los Angeles rebellion is the first in history to justify itself with the argument that there was no air conditioning during a heat wave.

The American blacks have their own particular spectacle, their own black newspapers, magazines and stars, and if they are rejecting it in disgust as a fraud and as an expression of their humiliation, it is because they see it as a minority spectacle, a mere appendage of a general spectacle. Recognizing that their own spectacle of desirable consumption is a colony of the white one enables them to see more quickly through the falsehood of the whole economic-cultural spectacle. By wanting to participate really and immediately in the affluence that is the official value of every American, they are really demanding the egalitarian actualization of the American spectacle of everyday life -- they are demanding that the half-heavenly, half-earthly values of the spectacle be put to the test. But it is in the nature of the spectacle that it cannot be actualized either immediately or equally, not even for the whites. (The blacks in fact function as a perfect spectacular object-lesson: the threat of falling into such wretchedness spurs others on in the rat-race.) In taking the capitalist spectacle at its face value, the blacks are already rejecting the spectacle itself. The spectacle is a drug for slaves. It is designed not to be taken literally, but to be followed from just out of reach; when this separation is eliminated, the hoax is revealed. In the United States today the whites are enslaved to the commodity while the blacks are negating it. The blacks are asking for more than the whites -- this is the core of a problem that has no solution except the dissolution of the white social system. This is why those whites who want to escape their own slavery must first of all rally to the black revolt -- not, obviously, in racial solidarity, but in a joint global rejection of the commodity and of the state. The economic and psychological distance between blacks and whites enables blacks to see white consumers for what they are, and their justified contempt for whites develops into a contempt for passive consumers in general. The whites who reject this role have no chance unless they link their struggle more and more to that of the blacks, uncovering its most fundamental implications and supporting them all the way. If, with the radicalization of the struggle, such a convergence is not sustained, black nationalist tendencies will be reinforced, leading to the futile interethnic antagonism so characteristic of the old society. Mutual slaughter is the other possible outcome of the present situation, once resignation is no longer tolerable.

The attempts to build a separatist or pro-African black nationalism are dreams giving no answer to the real oppression. The American blacks have no fatherland. They are in their own country and they are alienated. So are the rest of the population, but the blacks are aware of it. In this sense they are not the most backward sector of American society, but the most advanced. They are the negation at work, "the bad aspect that makes history by setting the struggle in motion" (The Poverty of Philosophy). Africa has no special monopoly on that.

The American blacks are a product of modern industry, just like electronics or advertising or the cyclotron. And they embody its contradictions. They are the people that the spectacle paradise must simultaneously integrate and reject, with the result that the antagonism between the spectacle and human activity is totally revealed through them. The spectacle is universal, it pervades the globe just as the commodity does. But since the world of the commodity is based on class conflict, the commodity itself is hierarchical. The necessity for the commodity (and hence for the spectacle, whose role is to inform the commodity world) to be both universal and hierarchical leads to a universal hierarchization. But because this hierarchization must remain unavowed, it is expressed in the form of unavowable, because irrational, hierarchical value judgments in a world of irrational rationalization. It is this hierarchization that creates racisms everywhere. The British Labour government has come to the point of restricting nonwhite immigration, while the industrially advanced countries of Europe are once again becoming racist as they import their subproletariat from the Mediterranean area, developing a colonial exploitation within their own borders. And if Russia continues to be anti-Semitic it is because it continues to be a hierarchical society in which labor must be bought and sold as a commodity. The commodity is constantly extending its domain and engendering new forms of hierarchy, whether between labor leader and worker or between two car-owners with artificially distinguished models. This is the original flaw in commodity rationality, the sickness of bourgeois reason, a sickness which has been inherited by the bureaucratic class. But the repulsive absurdity of certain hierarchies, and the fact that the entire commodity world is directed blindly and automatically to their protection, leads people to see -- the moment they engage in a negating practice -- that every hierarchy is absurd.

The rational world produced by the Industrial Revolution has rationally liberated individuals from their local and national limitations and linked them on a global scale; but it irrationally separates them once again, in accordance with a hidden logic that finds its expression in insane ideas and grotesque values. Estranged from their own world, people are everywhere surrounded by strangers. The barbarians are no longer at the ends of the earth, they are among the general population, made into barbarians by their forced participation in the worldwide system of hierarchical consumption. The veneer of humanism that camouflages all this is inhuman, it is the negation of human activities and desires; it is the humanism of the commodity, the solicitous care of the parasitical commodity for its human host. For those who reduce people to objects, objects seem to acquire human qualities and truly human manifestations appear as unconscious "animal behavior." Thus the chief humanist of Los Angeles, William Parker, could say: "They started acting like a bunch of monkeys in a zoo."

When California authorities declared a "state of insurrection," the insurance companies recalled that they do not cover risks at that level -- they guarantee nothing beyond survival. The American blacks can rest assured that as long as they keep quiet they will in most cases be allowed to survive. Capitalism has become sufficiently concentrated and interlinked with the state to distribute "welfare" to the poorest. But by the very fact that they lag behind in the advance of socially organized survival, the blacks pose the problems of life; what they are really demanding is not to survive but to live. The blacks have nothing of their own to insure; their mission is to destroy all previous forms of private insurance and security. They appear as what they really are: the irreconcilable enemies, not of the great majority of Americans, but of the alienated way of life of the entire modern society. The most industrially advanced country only shows us the road that will be followed everywhere unless the system is overthrown.

Certain black nationalist extremists, to show why they can accept nothing less than a separate nation, have argued that even if American society someday concedes total civil and economic equality, it will never, on a personal level, come around to accepting interracial marriage. This is why this American society itself must disappear -- in America and everywhere else in the world. The end of all racial prejudice, like the end of so many other prejudices related to sexual inhibitions, can only lie beyond "marriage" itself, that is, beyond the bourgeois family (which has largely fallen apart among American blacks) -- the bourgeois family which prevails as much in Russia as in the United States, both as a model of hierarchical relations and as a structure for a stable inheritance of power (whether in the form of money or of social-bureaucratic status). It is now often said that American youth, after thirty years of silence, are rising again as a force of contestation, and that the black revolt is their Spanish Civil War. This time their "Lincoln Brigades" must understand the full significance of the struggle in which they are engaging and totally support its universal aspects. The Watts "excesses" are no more a political error in the black revolt than the POUM's May 1937 armed resistance in Barcelona was a betrayal of the anti-Franco war. A revolt against the spectacle -- even if limited to a single district such as Watts -- calls everything into question because it is a human protest against a dehumanized life, a protest of real individuals against their separation from a community that would fulfill their true human and social nature and transcend the spectacle.


Newly translated and reissued July 1992 (in the aftermath of the second Los Angeles riot) by Ken Knabb. Reprinted from Public Secrets (1997). This translation supersedes the version in the Situationist International Anthology (1981).


The Class Struggles in Algeria

One might almost think that the new Algerian regime's sole aim has been to confirm the brief analysis the SI made of it in the Address to Revolutionaries that we issued in Algiers soon after its inaugural putsch.

Submitted by libcom on September 5, 2005

Liquidating self-management is the total content of Boumédienne's regime, its only real activity; and that project began the very moment the state, through the deployment of the military force that was the only crystallization it achieved under Ben Bella, its only solid structure, declared its independence vis-Ã -vis Algerian society. The state's other projects -- the technocratic reorganization of the economy, the social and juridical extension of its power base -- are beyond the capacities of the present ruling class in the real conditions of the country. The mass of undecided, who had not been enemies of Ben Bella but who were disappointed by him and who waited to judge the new regime by its actions, can now see that it is ultimately doing nothing but establishing an autonomous state dictatorship and thereby declaring war on self-management. Even to formulate specific accusations against Ben Bella or to destroy him publicly seems to be beyond its power for a long time to come. The only remnant of "socialism" professed in Algeria is precisely that core of inverted socialism, that product of the general reaction within the workers movement itself which the defeat of the Russian revolution bequeathed as a positive model to the rest of the world, including Ben Bella's Algeria: the big lie of the police state. Under such a regime the political enemy is not condemned for his real positions, but for the opposite of what he was; or else he suddenly fades into an organized silence -- he never existed, either for the tribunal or for the historian. And Boumédienne, from the beginning one of those most responsible for the fact that Algerian self-management is only a caricature of what it needs to be, officially calls it "a caricature" in order to reorganize it authoritarianly. In the name of an essence of self-management ideologically backed by the state, Boumédienne rejects self-management's actual fledgling manifestations.

The same inversion of reality determines the Boumediennist critique of the past. What Ben Bella is reproached for having done, or for having gone too far in, is precisely what he did not do and what he scarcely pretended to strive for -- the liberation of the women or real support for the liberation struggles in Africa, for example. The present regime lies about the past because of its own profound unity with that past. The Algerian ruling class has not changed, it is reinforcing itself. It reproaches Ben Bella for having done poorly what he had in fact only pretended to do; for a revolutionariness that it itself has now ceased even simulating. The Algerian ruling class, before June 19 as well as after, is a bureaucracy in formation. It is pursuing its consolidation by partially changing the way its political power is shared out. Certain strata of this bureaucracy (military and technocratic) are predominating over others (political and unionist). The basic conditions remain the weakness of the national bourgeoisie and the pressure from the poverty-stricken peasant and worker masses, a part of which took over the self-managed sector when the former (European) ruling class fled the country. The merging of the Algerian bourgeoisie with the state bureaucracy is easier with the new ruling strata that Boumédienne represents; moreover, this evolution harmonizes better with the region of the global capitalist market to which Algeria is linked. In addition, the bureaucratic strata that ruled with Ben Bella were less capable of an open struggle against the demands of the masses. Ben Bella and the unstable social balance of power, which was the temporary result of the struggle against France and the colonists, were overthrown at the same time. When they saw themselves supplanted, the previously predominant bureaucratic strata (the leaders of the FLN Federation of Greater Algiers and the General Union of Algerian Workers) hesitated, then rallied to the new regime because their solidarity with the state bureaucracy as a whole was naturally stronger than their ties to the mass of workers. The agricultural workers union, whose congress six months before had adopted the most radical positions on self-management, was the first to come over.

Among the bureaucratic forces in the lobbies of power around Ben Bella, two mutually antagonistic but related groupings had a special status: the Algerian Communist Party and the foreign leftists -- nicknamed "pieds-rouges" -- who had put themselves at the service of the Algerian state. They were not so much in power as pretenders to power. Poor relative of power, waiting to inherit it, this extreme left wing of the bureaucracy acquired its credentials as representative of the masses through its connection with Ben Bella: it drew its mandate not from the masses but from him. It dreamed of one day getting a monopoly on this power over the masses, this power that Ben Bella still shared on all sides. Since Ben Bella was personally its only access to present power and its main promise for the future, its only guarantee of being tolerated (its Sukarno),1 the bureaucratic left demonstrated in his defense, but in an uncertain manner. Just as it respectfully flocked around the state, it placed itself on the terrain of the state to oppose the unfavorable shift of the relation of forces within the state. Here again the Boumediennist critique of these elements, lumped together as "foreigners," in the name of a specifically Algerian Socialism, is entirely false. Far from "making theory for theory's sake" (El Moudjahid, 22 September 1965), the pieds-rouges represented an exhausted mixture of complete theoretical nullity and of unconscious or consciously hidden counterrevolutionary tendencies. Far from wanting to make adventurous utopian "experiments" in Algeria, they possessed nothing but mistakes or lies that had been revealed as such a thousand times. The best revolutionary ideas of the pieds-rouges were unsuitable not because they came from too far away, but because they were repeated much too late. It was a matter of history, not geography.

More radical and more isolated, at the extreme left of the Ben Bella regime, Mohammed Harbi was the thinker of self-management, but only by grace of the prince, in the bureaus of power. Harbi rose to the highest point reached by Algerian revolutionary thought: up to the idea of self-management, but not at all up to its consistent, effective practice. He understood its notion, but not its being. He occupied the self-contradictory position of governmental theorist of self-management. More accurately, he might be considered its court poet: soaring above practice, he eulogized self-management more than he theorized it. The self-management state, that logical monstrosity, had in Harbi its celebrator and its guilty conscience. Boumédienne's tanks in the streets meant a rationalization of the state, a state that wanted henceforth to free itself from the ridiculous self-contradictions of the Ben-Bellaist balance of power and from any guilty conscience and to simply be a state. It then became clear that Harbi, the unarmed prophet of self-management, had not envisaged self-management's self-defense, its defense on its own terrain, but only its defense through the mediation of Ben Bella. But if Harbi counted on Ben Bella alone to defend self-management, who did he count on to defend Ben Bella? The thinker of self-management was protected by Ben Bella, but who was going to protect his protector? He believed that Ben Bella, the incarnation of the state, would remain universally accepted in Algeria, although Harbi himself only accepted his "good side" (his token recognition of self-management). But the real process advanced by way of his bad side: the forces that followed the opposite line of argument on Ben Bella were more capable of intervention. Ben Bella was not the resolution of the Algerian contradictions, he was only their temporary cover. History has shown that Harbi and those who thought like him were mistaken. They will now have to radicalize their ideas if they want to effectively fight the Boumediennist dictatorship and realize self-management.

The fall of Ben Bella is a landmark in the collapse of global illusions regarding the "underdeveloped" version of pseudosocialism. Castro remains its last star, but he, who could previously argue with some plausibility that elections were unnecessary because the people were armed, is now demanding that all arms be turned in, and his police are rounding them up (Reuters, 14 August 1965). His second in command, Guevara, has already disappeared without any explanation being given to the masses from whom these leaders had demanded a blind personal confidence. Meanwhile the Algerians who are experiencing the fragility of Ben-Bellaist socialism are also discovering the value of all the so-called socialist camp's concern for their cause: the Chinese, Russian and Cuban states, along with Nasser, are naturally rushing to outdo each other in fraternal greetings to Boumédienne's regime. Revolutions in the underdeveloped countries will continue to fail miserably as long as they recognize and emulate any existing model of socialist power, since they are all manifestly false ones. The disintegrated official Sino-Soviet version of this socialism and the "underdeveloped" version of it mutually admire and reinforce each other and both lead to the same outcome. The first underdevelopment we have to get beyond is the worldwide underdevelopment of revolutionary theory.

The internal struggles of the Algerian bureaucracy, both during the war of independence and in the postwar 1962-1965 period, took the form of clan struggles, personal rivalries, inexplicable disputes among the leaders, obscure shifts of alliances. This was a direct continuation of the conditions prevailing around Messali Hadj since before the Algerian revolt. Not only was all theory absent, even ideology was only summarily improvised and confused; everything remained centered around superficial, abstract political questions. Since June 19 another period has begun: that of the confrontation between the ruling class and the workers, and this is the real movement that creates the conditions and need for a theory. As early as July 9, at a meeting of delegates from 2500 self-managed enterprises held at Algiers and chaired by Minister of Industry Boumaza, the delegates expressed to the latter their insistence on self-management as an inviolable principle and made a series of critiques concerning the state's role in limiting this principle. The delegates "questioned the multiplicity of overseers (prefectures, ministries, party) and denounced the heavy taxation and the state's nonpayment of debts; some delegates also brought up the problem of layoffs, the 'draconian' demands of the foreign suppliers and the paralyzing role of the customs department" (Le Monde, 10 July 1965).

Those delegates knew what they were talking about. Since [Boumédienne's] June 19th Declaration -- in which the term "self-management" is not even mentioned once -- the regime has been preparing the "stabilization" of the economic situation through the strengthening of state control and the accelerated training of "cadres." It aimed to start collecting installment payments as soon as possible for the more than 100,000 squatted lodgings; to recover money "stolen from the state" in the self-managed enterprises; to reduce the wearing out of poorly maintained equipment; and to regularize all the illegal seizures carried out by the masses upon the departure of the French. Since then, in spite of the fact that self-management is the very form through which the paralyzing respect for property (private or state), which has been such an obstacle in the workers movement, can be overcome, the workers in the self-managed sector, awaiting their several-months-overdue wages, are continually reproached for having stolen a large part of what they have produced. The most urgent goal of the Algerian state, which already has enough soldiers and police, is to train 20,000 accountants a year.

The central struggle, veiled and open, immediately broke out between the ruling class representatives and the workers precisely over the issue of self-management. The "reassuring" declarations of Boumaza and Boumédienne didn't fool anyone. The "labor unrest" alluded to by Le Monde on October 3 is a euphemism for the resistance of the sole bastion of socialist revolution in Algeria -- the self-managed sector -- against the most recent maneuvers of the ruling bureaucratic-bourgeois coalition. The union leaders themselves could not remain silent: their official status as representatives of the workers vis-Ã -vis the state and their social status as left wing of the ruling class were at stake. The September articles in Révolution et Travail -- in which genuine workers' demands ("when workers are reduced to poverty, self-management is violated") are mixed with expressions of the union leaders' increasing alarm ("agreement with the June 19th Declaration's analyses," but denunciation of the technocrats and economists) -- exactly reflect this situation of overlapping vertical and horizontal struggles. The increasing reference to "economic anarchy" (which always really means self-management), the judicial measures against the self-managed sector (e.g. forcing the self-managed enterprises to pay back-taxes), which the newspapers talk about less, and the restitution of the Norcolor factory to its former owner -- all this shows these "labor" leaders that soon they will no longer have a place in the ruling apparatus. The new pretenders are already there: the "scramble for power of dubious elements" that outrages Révolution et Travail expresses the ruling class's swing to the right. The techno-bureaucrats and the military have no possible allies but the representatives of the traditional bourgeoisie. At the same time that the officers, in the style of South American armies, are attaining bourgeois status (everyone knows about their BMWs, duty-free and 30% discounted), a multitude of Algerian bourgeois, following in the footsteps of the Norcolor owner, are returning to the country in the expectation of recovering their property, seized "in completely illegal conditions by unscrupulous persons" (Boumaza). Added to these challenges is the rapid increase in food prices. The workers, thoroughly aware of this process, are resisting on the spot: the repeated strikes in the Renault factories, the strikes of the press and parcel distributors and of the telephone and insurance workers, the demonstrations of the unpaid workers of Mitidja -- these are the first steps of a movement of rage which, if it asserts itself effectively, is capable of sweeping aside the whole present regime.

Incapable of mastering a single one of their problems, the rulers react with constant delirious conferences, constant torture in their prisons, and denunciations of the "slackening of moral standards." El Moudjahid (7 December 1965) attacks "the erotic sentimentalism of a young generation without political commitment" and the (accurate) views of those who "are tempted to reject religion as being a restraint on their taste for pleasure and on their liberation, which they take simply to mean their possibilities for pleasure, and who consider the contributions of Arab civilization as a step backward." The tone is no different from that used by the rulers in Washington or Moscow when they regretfully announce their lack of confidence in the young generation. And after a few months the new regime is emulating Ben Bella in its most ludicrous Islamic manifestation: the prohibition of alcohol.

The present opposition to the Boumediennist dictatorship is twofold: On one side, the workers are defending themselves in the enterprises (self-managed or not); they are the real contestation implied in the facts. On another side, the leftists of the FLN apparatus are trying to re-form a revolutionary apparatus. The first effort of the Organisation de la Résistance Populaire, led by Zahouane and supported by the French Stalinists, was a hollow declaration that only appeared six weeks after the coup, a declaration that analyzed neither the present regime nor the means to oppose it. Its second appeal was addressed to the Algerian police, from whom it anticipated revolutionary support. This strategy proved to be somewhat of a miscalculation since by the end of September those police had arrested Zahouane and broken up his first clandestine network (Harbi himself had already been arrested in August). The ORP is continuing its activity, beginning to collect contributions "for Ben Bella" from Algerian workers in France and winning over the majority of the student leaders. This apparatus (underground or in exile) is counting on an economic-political crisis in Algeria in the near future to reestablish its influence with the struggling Algerian workers. In this Leninist perspective it will present itself, with or without the banner of Ben Bella, as the solution for a replacement of the Boumediennist regime.

What is nevertheless going to prevent the establishment of a Bolshevik-type apparatus, striven for by so many militants? The time passed since Lenin and his failure, and the continued and evident degradation of Leninism, which is directly expressed by these leftists' allying with and fighting each other in every sort of variant -- Khrushchevo-Brezhnevists, Maoists, sub-Togliattists, pure and semi-Stalinists, all the shades of Trotskyism, etc. All of them refuse, and are forced to refuse, to clearly face the essential problem of the nature of the "socialism" (i.e. of the class power) in Russia and China, and consequently also in Algeria. Their main weakness during the struggle for power is also the main guarantee of their counterrevolutionary role if they were to accede to power. These leftists will present themselves as a natural continuation of the personalized political confusion of the preceding period; but the real class struggle in Algeria has now brought that period to a close. Their doubts about Ben Bella overlapped with their doubts on the world (and on socialism) and will continue after Ben Bella. They don't say all they know and they don't know all they say. Their social base and their social perspective is that bureaucratic sector which came out worst in the power reshuffle and which wants to regain its old position. Seeing that they can no longer hope to dominate the regime, they turn toward the people in order to dominate the opposition. Nostalgic bureaucrats or would-be bureaucrats, they want to counterpose "the people" to Boumédienne, whereas Boumédienne has already revealed to the masses the real focus of opposition: state bureaucrat versus worker. But the most despicable aspect of their bolshevism is this glaring difference: the Bolshevik Party did not know the sort of bureaucratic power it was going to end up establishing, whereas these leftists have already been able to see, in the world and among themselves, that bureaucratic power which they wish to restore in a more or less purified form. The masses, if they have the chance to choose, will not choose this corrected version of a bureaucracy whose essential elements they have already had the opportunity of experiencing. The Algerian intellectuals who don't rally to the regime still have the choice between participating in this apparatus or seeking a direct linkup with the autonomous movement of the masses. As for the Algerian petty bourgeoisie (storekeepers, lower functionaries, etc.), it will naturally tend to support the new technocratic-military bureaucracy rather than the bureaucratic leftists.

The only road to socialism, in Algeria as everywhere else, passes through "an offensive and defensive pact with the truth," as a Hungarian intellectual put it in 1956. People in Algeria who got the SI's Address understood it. Wherever practical revolutionary conditions exist, no theory is too difficult. Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, a witness to the Paris Commune, noted, "For the first time one can hear the workers exchanging their opinions about problems that until now have been considered only by philosophers." The realization of philosophy, the critique and reconstruction of all the values and behavior imposed by alienated life -- this is the maximum program of generalized self-management. The leftist militants of the bureaucratic groups tell us that these theses are correct but that the time has not yet come when one can tell the masses everything. Those who argue in such a perspective never see this time as having come, and in fact they contribute toward making sure that it never does come. It is necessary to tell the masses what they are already doing. The specialized thinkers of revolution are the specialists of its false consciousness, who afterwards come to realize that they have done something entirely different from what they thought they were doing. This problem is aggravated here by the particular difficulties of underdeveloped countries and by the persistent theoretical weakness in the Algerian movement. Although the strictly bureaucratic fringe within the present opposition is extremely small, its very existence as a "professional leadership" is a form that weighs on and determines the content of that opposition. Political alienation is always related to the state. Self-management can expect nothing from revived Bolsheviks.

Self-management must be both the means and the end of the present struggle. It is not only what is at stake in the struggle, but also its adequate form. It is its own tool. It is itself the material it works on, and its own presupposition. It must totally recognize its own truth. The state power proposes the contradictory and absurd project of "reorganizing self-management"; it is in fact self-management that must organize itself as a power or disappear.

Self-management is the most modern and most important tendency to appear in the struggle of the Algerian movement, and it is also the one that is the least narrowly Algerian. Its meaning is universal. In contrast to the Yugoslavian caricature that Boumédienne wants to emulate, which is only a semi-decentralized instrument of state control ("We have to decentralize in order better to control the self-managed enterprises," Boumédienne openly admits in Le Monde, 10 November 1965), a subordinate level of central administration; and in contrast to the Proudhonian mutualism of 1848, which aimed at organizing on the margins of private property, real self-management -- revolutionary self-management -- can be won only through the armed abolition of the titles of existing property. Its failure in Turin in 1920 was the prelude to the armed domination of Fascism. The bases for a self-managed production in Algeria were spontaneously formed -- as in Spain in 1936, as in Paris in 1871 in the workshops abandoned by the Versaillese -- wherever the owners had to flee following their political defeat: on vacant property. These takeovers are a vacation from property and oppression, a temporary break from alienated life.

Such self-management, by the simple fact that it exists, threatens the society's entire hierarchical organization. It must destroy all external control because all the external forces of control will never make peace with it as a living reality, but at most only with its label, with its embalmed corpse. Self-management cannot coexist with any army or police or state.

Generalized self-management, "extended to all production and all aspects of social life," would mean the end of the unemployment that affects two million Algerians, but it would also mean the end of all aspects of the old society, the abolition of all its spiritual and material enslavements and the abolition of its masters. The present fledgling effort toward self-management can be controlled from above only because it consents to exclude below it that majority of the workers who don't participate in it or who are unemployed; and because even within its own enterprises it tolerates the formation of dominating strata of "directors" or management professionals who have worked their way up from the base or been appointed by the state. These managers are the state virus within that which tends to negate the state; they are a compromise. But the time for compromise is past, both for the state power and for the real power of the Algerian workers.

Radical self-management, the only kind that can endure and conquer, refuses any hierarchy within or outside itself. It must also reject in practice any hierarchical separation of women (an oppressive separation openly accepted by Proudhon's theory as well as by the backward reality of Islamic Algeria). The self-management committees, as well as all the delegates in the federations of self-managed enterprises, should be revocable at any moment by their base, this base obviously including all the workers, without any distinctions between permanent and seasonal ones.

The only program for the Algerian socialist elements consists in the defense of the self-managed sector, not only as it is but as it must become. This defense must therefore counter the purge carried out by the state with another purge within self-management: a purge carried out by its rank and file against everything that negates it from within. A revolutionary assault against the existing regime is only possible with a continued and radicalized self-management as its point of departure. By putting forward the program of quantitatively and qualitatively increased workers' self-management, one is calling on all the workers to directly take on the cause of self-management as their own cause. By demanding not only the defense of self-management but its extension to the point of dissolving all specialized activity not answerable to self-management, Algerian revolutionaries can show that this defense is the concern not only of the workers of the temporarily self-managed sector, but of all the workers, as the only way toward a definitive liberation. In this way they will demonstrate that they are struggling for the liberation of everyone and not for their own future domination as specialists of revolution; that the victory of "their party" must at the same time be its end as a separate party.

As a first step, it is necessary to envisage linking up self-management delegates with each other and with the enterprise committees that are striving for self-management in the private and state sectors; to disseminate and publish all information on the workers' struggles and the autonomous forms of organization that emerge out of them, and to extend and generalize these forms as the sole path for a profound contestation. At the same time, through the same clandestine relations and publications, it is necessary to develop the theory of self-management and its requirements, within the self-managed sector itself and before the masses of Algeria and the world. Self-management must become the sole solution to the mysteries of power in Algeria, and it must know that it is that solution.

Algiers, December 1965 (circulated clandestinely)

Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version in the Situationist International Anthology). Translator’s note below.

  • 1 Sukarno (president of Indonesia 1945-1967) "reigned à la Ben Bella, by basing his power on the obvious antagonism between the army and the most powerful Stalinist party of Asia" (Internationale Situationniste #10, p. 44) -- until the army carried out a coup (1965) in which hundreds of thousands of Communists were massacred, and shortly afterwards removed Sukarno from power.


The SI and the Incidents in Randers


On the arrest of J.V. Martin on fabricated charges of terrorism in Denmark following a firebomb detonating in his apartment. From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 20, 2023

Early in 1965, quite a stir was made when J.V. Martin was brought up on charges in Denmark in relation to the publication of "subversive comics," three examples of which were included in the preceding issue of this journal (pages 21, 36 and 37). As he was responsible for the SI in that country, Martin found himself personally prosecuted following a complaint by the Danish branch of the "Moral Rearmement" movement, the famous American capitalist shock ideological organization, essentially concerning tracts clandestinely distributed by us in Spain. These tracts were formal détournements of comics, with naked girls expressing various truths in favor of moral and political freedom, which were inscribed in the traditional "speech balloons." This allowed Moral Rearmement to express their condemnation of the SI, starting with Martin, for crimes against morality and good custom, as well as eroticism, pornography, anti-social activity, outrages against the State, and so on.

Along with these documents, the celebrated image of Christine Keeler, declaring her obvious superiority to the Danish princess who had consented to marry King Constantin (rightly described as a fascist before he proved it himself, last summer, turning against almost everyone in Greece) drew the additional accusation of injury to the Danish royal family. The ridiculous proceedings pursued by Moral Rearmement were closely followed by the entire Danish press. In a public statement, Martin immediately agreed that the situationists were indeed enemies of all the values defended by Moral Rearmement, and were actively employed in the moral disarmement of society as we know it. He also admitted, "It's certainly possible that the photos of the naked girls might have some erotic effect. Fortunately." He pointed out that while the question of the publication of pornography had nothing to do with our tracts, it certainly had a lot to do with the repressive morality they provoked, and moreover generally tolerated it. After all, the supression of publications injurious to the Francoist order by the social democratic authorities of a country officially opposed to Francoism was somewhat paradoxical. In the end, the judge decided not to take the case against Martin any further, dismissing the charges rather than dragging on a process that has proved instructive to say the least.

Not long after, NATO decided to move German troops into Denmark on two occasions, to participate in joint exercises with the Danish army. This was the first time that the German army had been allowed into that country since the end of its occupation in 1945. The fact aroused the usual hollow protests from across the Left, with their stock standard complaints and petitions. Naturally, no-one took any notice. The first German units were due to arrive in Randers, Jutland, on March 16th, where Martin happened to be living at that time.

The notoriety stemming from his recent charges reinforced the liaison that his previous situationist activity had created with various avant-garde elements. Besides Martin, a few students from the University of Aarhus, local dockers, and old partisans of the armed struggle against the Nazis formed a committee to oppose the entry of the troops into their city, by force if necessary. Their declaration was plastered on posters and written on walls, drawing people from all over Denmark. Journalists from every Sandinavian newspaper — and even a few from Germany — converged on Randers to witness the encounter.

With the aid of important police reinforcements, the Danish army surrounded the city on March 16th. Their plan was to smuggle the German motorized column under cover of darkness to the barracks where they were due to be stationed. But the committee had organized surveillence of every route, so that it could be warned as soon as the approaching troops were seen. These small groups were able to slow the convoy's passage, giving the rest of the protesters enough time to assemble by the barracks at the point where the column was due to be shown in. The German vehicles arrived in the middle of a violent clash between the protesters and Danish soldiers and police. Rocks were thrown at the vehicles, and tyres were slashed. A jeep was even stolen. After some time, the troops managed to enter the barracks, where they spent the night, only to leave again in light of this symbolic victory. Shortly afterwards, a spokesman for Bonn denied that they had ever intended to send a secind detachment of German troops into Denmark, and declared that the accomplishment of first manuever was perfectly satisfactory.

Two days later, on the evening of 18 March, while Martin and the rest of the group responsible for the demonstration were leaving his house at 16 Slodsgade — from which all ongoing action was organized, and which was therefore known to all as "riot headquarters" — a powerful firebomb ripped through the room that they had just exited, injuring his young daughter Morton, who was fortunately on another storey. In next to no time, the house was consumed by fire. While initial suspicions focused on an attack by the extreme Right, it was Martin who was arrested, police accusing him of terrorist activity that this "accident" had revealed quite opportunely.

The following day, however, the police retracted their completely groundless theory. They easily located the bomber, a demonstrator by the name of Kanstrup, who had left a second bomb in a taxi, in luggage bearing his name. Kanstrup has had a rather colorful career: leader of the Young Communists, he infiltrated a neo-nazi organization in the German Democratic Republic in order to blow the cover of their agents , whom he denounced to the authorities in East Berlin. He was subsequently arrested by the Copenhagen police for spying. After this mysterious turn of events, Kanstrup became a Troskyite, before secretly obtaining dual membership of a Left socialist group. It was on this account that he participated in the Randers demonstration, without revealing, of course, that he had brought two bombs along with him.

According to Kanstrup's statements to the police, his bomb, which he had only ever considered putting to symbolic use, was accidentally detonated by Martin. It soon became evident that Kanstrup was a provocateur. It could not be established, however, whether the explosion was intended to actually kill the people who happened to be in the room a few moments earlier, or merely to destroy the building. Kanstrup could have activated the detonator himself, or an accomplice might even have triggered the bomb by throwing a grenade through the window (Kanstrup himself put this hypothesis forward then retracted it several times, considering the unlikeliness of the coincidence, and his own affirmation that he was the only person who knew of the bomb). We can't be bothered trying to figure out if Kanstrup was acting on behalf of the political police in Copenhagen — who have had a hold over him since his espionage affair — or the Stalinists — regardless of whether they are the insignificant Danish party or even his bosses in East Berlin. Indeed, in this instance, the goals of both institutions are the same. It is first of all a matter of brutally intimidating a protest group; and then worsening the situation by giving the impression that the organizers can be linked to a terrorist conspiracy with Eastern Bloc bureaucrats. While it is the Danish political police who have more to gain in manipulating Kanstrup in such a way (which they continue to demonstrate clearly enough), the Stalinists could only have found themselves dealt a rather telling blow by an autonomous organization which had just shown its capacity for powerful action.

J.V. Martin, variously treated by the German press at the time as an anarchist and a pro-Stalinist, and in any case as anti-German (although posters in Germany underline that the reception in Randers was only aimed at German militarism), affirmed that his opposition to the Warsaw pact was equal to his opposition to NATO, and that the situationists were certainly not anti-German, to the point of naming one of their journals Der Deutsche Gedanke (German Thought).

The Swedish police and the Scandinavian press then uncovered a small nazi group in Sweden, which was trying to promote an image of systematic extremism by possessing a number of weapons and sending a few threatening letters in the post. At the beginning of Kanstrup's trial, and to the visible surprise of his lawyer — the Stalinist Madsen — the prosecuter suddenly and without explanation abandoned the charge of bombing an inhabited building, and limited himself to call for two months imprisonment without remission, which he obtained, for "possession of explosives and participation in an illegal protest"! It's not hard to figure out that Denmark has the judiciary leniency of the Wild West, for a short while later a young comrade who had thrown a simple teargas grenade into a mass conducted by the repugnant pastor Billy Graham was condemned to three months prison. The police laboratory in Copenhagen then concluded that the bomb could have gone off because of an extremely high temperature was reached in its vicinity (but without taking into account the fact that it exploded into unheated pieces). Finally, in December, the lawyer Madsen demanded that a new inquiry be opened, precisely accusing the police in Randers of having been aware of Kanstrup's attack on Martin's house twenty-four hours in advance; and therefore of at the very least having let him accomplish it. He also accused the army of having provided the explosives. His accusations were reported by the entire Danish press, including the Stalinist daily Land og Folk (1-1-66). Thus, the Stalinists only revealed Kastrup's shady role as a provocateur in the service of the police after a long delay whose uncertainty served their purposes.

This whole affair is interesting, as a sign of the general mounting of violence under the comfort of Scandinavian democracy; and the movement that carries this violence towards its transformation into contestation of society, here attempting methods best demonstrated by the Japanese avant-garde. It appears in the same current as the quite recent example of hundreds of young Amsterdam Provos who took to the streets on 10 March, completely sabotaging the wedding ceremony of a local princess to an ex-Nazi. It is remarkable that, from the day after the confrontation in which the SI's practice showed its excellence, a separate demonstration of peaceful protest called by various non-violent organizations, found itself attacked by teenage street gangs. Another notable detail is that with the complete destruction of the principle depot of SI publications in Northern Europe, most of the paintings completed eighteen months earlier by Martin and Bernstein for the exhibition "Destruction of RSG 6" (cf. I.S. #9, page 32 1 ) were also destroyed: here we have a supression of artistic negation without its realization! The "blanket" of art now finds itself burnt. It is also very significant that the proceedings celebrated in America or in Spain, or in the unity of action of the Moroccan and French police, can find their application in the army and police of social-democratic Denmark, where it is a matter of standing in the way of a movement that makes them anxious.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From


Contribution to a Councilist Program in Spain

Cover of Accion Communista journal

The SI on the spanish journal Acción Comunista. From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 20, 2023

A new current of social critique is developing in Spain, with which we are in considerable agreement. This current is not only faced with the task of opposing that particular retrograde form of power, the Franco regime. It has to oppose all the forms of global power, because it is preparing to confront the next Spanish form of capitalist power. Its aim is to form an alternative at the moment (which will not be long in coming) when the Franco regime comes to an end — so that a choice is presented between modern capitalism, as it exists in the European Common Market, and genuine socialism, i.e. workers’ power, which exists nowhere in the world. This current is opposed to all the old organizations of the Spanish left, which are hostile to a struggle for such objectives. But there is also a struggle within this current, between a lucid critique of existing conditions and tendencies that still confusedly cling to fragments of old revolutionary ideologies. The difficulties of underground activity and the numerous forms of censorship imposed by the Franco regime complicate the work of clarification and objective discussion that is needed. The collapse of old leftist politics outside Spain provides the Spanish comrades with negative object lessons about what they must avoid. But the positive experience that could be provided by a new radical critique has been limited by the extremely restricted base of such a critique.

The first attempt of this current to express itself in Spain was the formation of the FLP (Frente de Liberación Popular). The FLP experience proved disappointing because (like the Algerian FLN in 1954) it consisted of groups issuing from the various traditional parties which decided to put aside the question of a program in order to engage in joint action. This coexistence of antagonistic perspectives was soon recognized by the radical wing as the main cause for a stagnation in the FLP’s initial activity (reflected in insufficient linkups with striking workers) and for its inability to clarify the forthcoming crisis of Spanish society. The most advanced tendency that has emerged during the ensuing public discussion over the last few years has published the journal Acción Comunista, of which four issues have appeared since January 1965. According to the opening declaration of this journal: “The editorial committee of Acción Comunista, composed of revolutionary Marxist members of diverse workers organizations, is beginning with these collective articles to elaborate the political platform of a socialist revolution in Spain.” The editors go on to say that this platform will need to be deepened and concretized, “counting on the contributions and critiques of all those who are in agreement with us on the two fundamental points of our platform: the necessity and possibility of a socialist alternative to the current development of capitalism in Spain, and the need for the formation of a genuine revolutionary workers party.” We have been encouraged to make the present contribution to this discussion by the radical and staunchly internationalist perspectives that have been expressed by the Acción Comunista comrades, particularly in Lorenzo Torres’s article “From Workers’ Commissions to Workers Councils” (in issue #2).

The theoretical discussion initiated by Acción Comunista has already addressed four main issues: (1) how to characterize the economy and society of present-day Spain; (2) the general goal of a radical current in Spain; (3) the evaluation of the present state of the global revolutionary movement; and (4) the question of revolutionary organization. On the first two issues we are in complete agreement with the positions they have adopted. The discussion of the last two has been less extensive, and the arguments and ideas that have emerged have been less clear. In this context we are going to offer some observations which we hope will prove useful.

Acción Comunista has shown that Spain can no longer be considered an economically backward country — a dogma which continues to be maintained by all the traditional workers parties. The development of capitalism under Franco during the last decade (part of a global process) has transformed all the conditions in Spain. The ruling class no longer has its main base in a land-owning bourgeoisie, as was the case in the 1930s, but in an industrial bourgeoisie closely interlinked with international capital. This transformation is reflected in the scale of current expansion, in the rapid decrease of the agricultural proletariat (which is being channeled into the new factories), and in the success of Spanish manufactured goods on the international market (in Cuba, for example). It is this development, which has also been provoking a resurgence of worker struggles since 1962, that is leading the ruling class to seek more modern “European forms of exploitation” to replace the old Francoist forms. The neo-capitalist solution to the Franco regime has organized its political force, with the support of the Church, in a pseudo-underground Christian-Democratic party which seeks to unify the oppositional Catholics. This party, due to the influence of the professors who belong to it, has up till now largely controlled the student opposition, and has taken particular care to prevent any juncture between workers’ and students’ actions (the recent episode in which students were surrounded by the police in a Barcelona convent that had granted them asylum illustrates this point). Being aware, however, that the Catholic labor unions will not suffice to guarantee a painless birth of the new regime they envision, the Christian Democrats are seeking other “workers organizations” capable of lulling the workers to sleep during the transition. They will find such elements in the Spanish Socialist Party, particularly among those who are calling for a technocratic renewal of this reformism, such as T. Galvan. The “national reconciliation” advocated by the Stalinist party is completely in favor of such collaboration (though the Spanish bourgeoisie’s mistaken but ingrained fear of “reds” may cause it to reject this sincere offer of collaboration and assistance). The recent negotiations between the CNT and the Falangist unions are yet another reflection of this same tendency toward submission to bourgeois evolution.

The Acción Comunista comrades accept the present struggle for democratization while simultaneously pointing out its inevitable limits and putting forward their own perspectives. Specifically, they advocate participating in the workers commissions and factory committees that already exist illegally or semilegally, in order to work toward a local, regional and national coordination of these commissions to the point of transforming them into workers councils. This change of function and unification of sovereign workers assemblies would constitute a classic dual-power situation, concretely revealing the alternative between capitalism and workers’ power. Acción Comunista does not present this outcome as a probability, but as a possibility which will depend on the consciousness of the masses and on the programmatic formulations that revolutionary elements will have been able to develop among those masses. None of the organized political groups have any conception of this sort of activity — as was shown by the example of the Madrid steelworkers’ struggle, which was organized by a workers commission outside the influence of any of those groups. Supporting the power of workers councils, Acción Comunista advocates a model of socialist society incompatible with any bureaucratic domination, whether economic or political: “When a class has gone through the practical apprenticeship of struggle against a union bureaucracy (in this case the Falangist bureaucracy), it becomes easy for it to understand the dangers of any bureaucracy and the need for a genuine workers democracy, within its own organizations as well as outside them . . . and the need for direct election of all its delegates, at the shopfloor, enterprise and national level” (Acción Comunista #2, p. 22). If there is a significant bureaucratic danger at the moment of victory, it is even more obvious that the mere reconstitution of a “Popular Front” safeguarding the capitalist order, as sought by so many of the oppositional forces, amounts to the defeat of any post-Franco socialist perspective.

Although they are preparing to support in their country a total struggle against modern capitalism, and against the bureaucratic organizations whose inevitably reactionary role they denounce, not all of the Acción Comunista comrades seem to completely recognize the implications of this capitalist modernism or the role of this bureaucratic power in the world, or the interaction between the two (their simultaneous rivalry and solidarity). The theory of revolutionary organization is clearly inseparable from such a consistent analysis. In issue #1 (pp. 26-27), Acción Comunista declares itself in favor of “a total freedom of criticism concerning the numerous and increasingly evident negative aspects” of the so-called socialist countries (whose global crises have had the salutary effect of undermining some of the illusions held by the bureaucratically influenced underground organizations in Spain) and calls for “a scientific analysis of the social system of those countries.”
But this analysis is not sufficiently developed. The lack of precision regarding the nature of the oppression in Russian or China is still greater in the case of Cuba, Castro’s “antidogmatism” seeming to have at least temporarily impressed some of the Acción Comunista editors. Similarly, the Marxian critique of ideology has as yet been taken up only vaguely in Acción Comunista; and without the foundation of that critique it is not possible to understand and effectively combat the bureaucracy of professional leaders. And in fact the democratic workers organization that Acción Comunista evokes seems to be insufficiently distinguished from Leninism: the proposal that “permanent” members be limited to a minority in its “Central Committee” is certainly an inadequate precaution against the bureaucratization of the party itself. In another place Acción Comunista seems to accept the project of one big nonbureaucratic labor union, only to admit a few lines later that the predictable union divisions and the examples of coopted trade unionism in the modern capitalist countries render such a project very dubious (since the unitary enterprise committees must maintain their sovereignty, there will be an inevitable open struggle between those assemblies and any union).

Devoting itself to a concrete discussion under difficult conditions, and having to begin by creating some of the very bases of information that need to be discussed, Acción Comunista has presented to its readers a number of classic texts of the workers movement. This presentation suffers from a certain empiricism, because it is not criticized by the editors from any specific perspective. Documents that are well worth reading — on the program of the Spartakus League, Christian Rakovsky’s Letter to Valentinov, some texts from the First International, a forthcoming text from Lukács’s History and Class Consciousness — are presented alongside Trotsky’s 1936 analyses of the bureaucracy. Marx’s Address of the Central Council to the Communist League (March 1850), reproduced in issue #4, is appropriate in the part where it urges the workers not to give up their political autonomy and warns them of the consequences of tagging behind the petty bourgeoisie, but very dangerous in the final section which advocates the most Jacobin sort of statist centralism. The first part is precisely applicable to Spain and its coming crisis. The latter has been disproved by the experience of all the proletarian revolutions of our time; and was already inapplicable to the situation of Spain in 1936, where regional autonomy was the basis enabling the expression of the most radical tendencies. The present position of Acción Comunista calls rather for a study of a party such as the Kommunistische Arbeiter Partei in 1920 Germany. Moreover, the rich experience of the Spanish revolution has been strangely neglected by Acción Comunista. The problem of revolution can only be posed in a global and total form. Just as it must not forget the scope of its terrain of struggle, revolution must not forget its own past. Acción Comunista is aware of this when it states that its militants are “at the forefront of all the fronts of struggle.” The fundamental theoretical critique of politico-economic power, the understanding of the profound tendencies of modern society in its production of culture and its regimentation of everyday life, the cohesion of all the positions taken at the international level — these are fronts of the same unitary struggle. In this context, it seems to us that Eduardo Mena’s article “Political Regression in Algeria” (issue #3) somewhat underestimates the bureaucratic factor in its condemnation of Boumédienne’s reactionary coup. More disappointing is the reprinting in issue #4 of a particularly stupid and superficial article on the Los Angeles uprising by Bertrand Russell, and of another article by the Trotskyist economist Mandel, whose book (currently fashionable among the Parisian intelligentsia) Treatise on Marxist Economics by its title alone contradicts the whole revolutionary method of Marx, who limited himself to criticizing political economy as a discipline reflecting a society dominated by the logic of the commodity.

The first role of revolutionary organization, the very price of its right to existence, is certainly its coherence, the ruthless critique which must smash the “force of habit,” the most powerful force of the old world among the masses. And the most important habits to smash are the “habits of the left” during a revolutionary situation. At such a moment, if you don’t disarm Noske he will kill you. For forty years this red police role has primarily been been carried out under the “communist” label, whether in Barcelona in 1937 or more recently in Athens or Budapest.

Revolutionary coherence must also be concretized. It is necessary to make the workers aware of what they are capable of doing, and of the consequences of following a revolutionary strategy, whether it ends in victory or in defeat. When workers councils appear, there can be no moderation on either side. A councilist program has everything to gain and nothing to lose from recognizing and facing all its implications. The old principle of battle — “Don’t put your fate at stake without engaging all your forces” — is its principle, and its forces are precisely the awareness of, and desire for, what is possible. The enemies of workers councils are quite justified in fearing the worst from councilist power, just as the councilists must fear the worst from the inevitable retaliation their agitation will provoke, whatever they do or don’t do. The bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy are forced by all their interests (whether as established ruling class or as ruling class in the process of formation) to totally combat the aims of the councils. So you might as well express those aims to those who can recognize them as their program and their life.

Councilist power is the total enemy of existing “survival.” It therefore cannot itself survive for very long without staking and winning its bet on the total transformation of all existing conditions and the immediate liberation of life. From the very beginning it must bring about the fundamental transformation of what is produced and how it is produced, reorienting people’s needs and abolishing the whole commodity production system. It must transform the organization of the environment, the methods and goals of education, the implementation of justice and the very definition of crimes. It must eliminate all hierarchies and the morality and religion that go with them. The deepening, the defense and the illustration of such a program are the first tasks of any organization that proposes to unleash such forces. But the same program can be expressed by its other side: concrete methods of popular agitation. Acción Comunista is well aware that what will unify the present “opposition” in the immediate aftermath of the Franco regime will be respect for the capitalist order, organized into some sort of democratic national front. The way to make a clear break with this pseudo-opposition is to expropriate the foreign and domestic capital that owns the means of production. This project seems rather abstract, and many people will be unable to imagine any solution to such a complex problem except some form of statist nationalization. To cut through this apparent complexity, let us propose a concrete example.

Advanced European capitalism’s present organization of consumption is leading its privileged strata to buy houses in Spain. An article in France-Soir (11 November 1965) notes that “there are now kilometers of villas, whole strings of vacation-villages which have sprung up in six months on previously vacant beaches. For Spain this is an economic godsend; for the middle classes of France, Germany and England it’s a discovery of paradise — at only ten thousand francs apiece.” The article goes on to quote a representative of the “Constructores Ibericos” real estate company: “Our buildings have been approved by ‘Securitas,’ which verifies construction quality throughout the world, and are also guaranteed for ten years by a Swiss insurance company.” But the insurance companies of Europe could be upset in Spain as they were in 1905 by the “economic declaration” of the St. Petersburg Soviet, which announced that loans contracted by the Czarist government to fight the Russian people would in no case be honored by that people once they had liberated themselves. Those who take advantage of the low price of local labor power by investing in construction in Spain are economically supporting the regime that is responsible for that condition, as well as littering the countryside with “second homes” that will remain empty nine-tenths of the year. To this new form of exploitation, reflecting a contemptuous indifference toward the Spanish proletariat, a councilist program could respond by declaring right now that all foreign real estate investments will be seized without compensation the moment workers councils come to power. The Spanish workers would be able to recognize the highest moments of their past in this project of direct expropriation; while the forces that strive for the democratization of capitalism will see it as the most intolerable action imaginable. But the international impact of this measure would be just as considerable. Everyone knows that the feeble, years-long anarchist campaign urging tourists to boycott Spain has completely failed. This campaign was carried on in the name of political issues that the masses have clearly forgotten. It went against the whole general development of modern society — the same development that has caused the 1936 revolution to be largely forgotten. This development is resulting in poor people going on vacations (eight million French people visited Spain during the summer of 1965) and no political voluntarism evoking some seemingly incomprehensible detail is going to have any notable effect on this trend. In contrast, a threat against the property of people capable of investing in Spain, in apartments that bring them 10,000 francs apiece, has the interest of bringing glaringly into view a wealthy class whose existence has been completely hidden in Europe since modern sociology’s discovery that classes no longer exist. The European ruling class has been just as forgotten as the Spanish revolution: television never talks about it, and the Left only talks about what is talked about on television. Thus, this scientific demonstration of the existence of a privileged class could have the greatest practical effect, and not only on sociologists.

According to a report of the National Institute of Statistics published in June 1965, half the wage laborers in France still have a monthly paycheck of less than 750 francs (for 27% of them, less than 562 francs). It is quite obvious that these workers would not be harmed by the decision of their Spanish comrades. On the contrary, this example, by revealing both the disease and the appropriate remedy, could have the most salutary influence in their own country. A workers power in Spain would need such support from the masses of Europe, because it would immediately face the active hostility of all the European rulers and “middle classes.” That sector’s investment in “durable goods” in Spain reflects their confidence in the capitalist future of Spain. Our business is to create, against all present appearances, a totally opposite confidence.

Translated by Ken Knabb. From


Perspectives for a Generation - Théo Frey

On power, urbanism and technology. From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 21, 2023

An insane society proposes to manage its future by spreading the use of technically improved and collective straightjackets (houses, cities, real-estate developments), which it imposes on us as a remedy for its ills. We are invited to accept and to recognize this prefabricated "non-organic body" as our own; Power intends to enclose the individual in another, radically different self. In order to accomplish this task, a vital one for itself as well as its flunkies (urbanists, real-estate developers), it can count on the misguided souls currently working overtime in the so-called social sciences. Servants, in particular, of an "anthropology" that is no longer speculative but structural and operational, they busy themselves in extricating one more "human nature," but this time a directly usable one, like the police register, for various conditioning techniques. The final result of the process thus undertaken (assuming that the rising strength of the new opposition that everywhere accompanies it gives it enough leisure) henceforth appears as the modernized version of a solution that has proven itself, the concentration camp, here deconcentrated all over the planet. People in it will be absolutely free, especially to come and go, to circulate, while being total prisoners of that futile freedom to come and go in the byways of Power.

The dominant society, which has nowhere been mastered (eliminated) by us, can only master itself by dominating us. The convergence of present forms of development for living space little by little makes this domination concrete. A room, an apartment, a house, a neighborhood, a town, a whole territory can and must be developed step by step or simultaneously: with no transition from "how to live happily in a large housing project" (Elle) to how "to make this society agreeable for everyone" (Le Monde). Present-day society, in its proclaimed desire, as sick as it is ingenious, to survive, falls back entirely on a growth that can do nothing but develop in a dull way the ridiculous potentialities that are the only ones permitted by its own rationale, the logic of the market. Which means that political economy, as the "logical conclusion of the denial of humanity," pursues its destructive work. Everywhere there is a spectacular clash between divergent economic theories and policies, but nowhere are the absurd imperatives of political economy itself challenged and bourgeois economic categories abolished in practice for the benefit of a free (post-economic) construction of situations, and therefore of all life, on the basis of the currently concentrated and squandered powers in "advanced" societies. This colonization of the future in the name of a past that deserves to be so utterly abandoned that the memory of it be lost presupposes the systematic reduction of any possible radical alternative, though such are quite present in all manifestations of our oppressive society, so much so that things seem to persist in "going off the tracks," when they are forced to.

This miserable feat of prestidigitation reveals its trademark from the start: ideology, albeit an upside-down, mutilated reflection of the real world and Praxis, but an ideology the practice of which makes what appears to be upside-down and distorted, and not just in the heads of intellectuals and other ideologues, enter into reality: the world turned upside-down in earnest. This modern process of reducing the gap between life and its representation for the benefit of a representation that turns back on its assumptions is merely an artificial, caricatured, spectacular resolution of real problems posed by the widespread revolutionary crisis of the modern world, a "simulacrum" of resolution that will fall at the same time as the greater number of illusions that continue to foster it.

Power lives by our incapacity to live, it maintains splits and separations infinitely multiplied, while at the same time planning occasions that are allowed to happen almost the way it likes. Its masterstroke is still its successful dissociation of everyday life as space-time, individual and social, from the presently possible indissoluble reconstruction of ourselves and the world, for the purpose of separately and jointly controlling time and space and ultimately reducing both one and the other, the one by the other. The progress of these operations visibly betrays the seriousness of an effort in which the sinister vies with the burlesque. The aim is the constitution of a "homogenous," perfectly "integrated" space, formed by the addition of "homologous" functional blocks, structured hierarchically (the famous "hierarchical network of towns, innervating and coordinating a region of a given size, and common to all societies"), so that in the agglomerate thus achieved the gaps, segregations, and multiple conflicts born of separation and the division of labor will be buried in conflict: the conflict between classes, the conflict between city and countryside, the conflict between society and the State, classical ones since Marx, and to which one might add the many interregional "disparities" of which the current conflict between developed and underdeveloped countries is only the pathological exaggeration. The "ruse of history" is nevertheless such that the apparent early successes of this policing arrangement, an attenuation of the class struggle (in the former sense) and of the antagonism between city and countryside, disguise less and less the radical and hopeless proletarianization of the huge majority of the population, condemned to "live" in the uniform conditions that constitute the bastardized and spectacular "urban" milieu born of the break-up of the city, one that, combined with the antagonism between State and society, thereby reinforced and so alarming to the sociologists ("We must establish new channels of communication between the authorities and the population" — Chombart de Lauwe, Le Monde, July 13, 1965), betrays the literally "unreasonable" nature of the process of "rationalizing" the reification in progress, while assuring it all sorts of problems, perfectly "irrational" ones from its bureaucratic and alienated point of view, but no less well-founded from the standpoint of the dialectical reasoning inherent in all living reality, all Praxis. As Hegel clearly saw, if only to congratulate himself on it, in the rule of modern States, the State allows the pseudofreedom of the individual to develop, while maintaining the coherence of the whole, and it draws from this antagonism an infinite strength, which normally turns out to be its Achilles' heel when a new coherence, radically antagonistic to such an order of things, is established and strengthened. Moreover, any coherent and "successful" arrangement must be imposed all over the planet in a widespread urbanism that means reducing the phenomenon of underdevelopment, as potentially disturbing to the impossible equilibrium being pursued. But, as though inadvertently, and in a fatal fidelity to itself, capitalism finds itself making war on underdeveloped countries instead of its touted war on underdevelopment, caught as it is in the trap of contradictory, but for it equally vital, demands, and thereby destroying its own claims to survival: all its technocratic-cybernetic "programmings." Such a dialectic promises a rude awakening to the rulers of the present prehistoric world who dreamed of putting themselves beyond reach while burying us under a wall of cement that will surely end by being our own tomb.

The arrangement, in this perspective, should also be seen as the death throes of communication in the old limited, but real, sense, the residue of which is everywhere hunted down by Power for the benefit of information. Henceforth a "universal communications network" radically suppresses the distance between things while indefinitely increasing the distance between people. Circulation in such a network ends by neutralizing itself, in such a way that the future solution will consist in making people circulate less and information circulate more. People will stay home, transformed into mere audiovisual "receivers" of information: an attempt to perpetuate in practice the current — i.e., bourgeois — economic categories, in order to create the conditions for a permanent and automatic functioning of the present alienated society, "a more smoothly running machine" (Le Monde, 4 June 1964). The economists' "perfect market" is impossible, especially from the fact of distance: a perfectly rational economy would have to be concentrated at a single point (instantaneous Production and Consumption); if the market is not perfect, that would be due to the imperfection of the world itself, causing the developers to work hard to make the world perfect. Real-estate development is a metaphysical enterprise in search of a neo-feudal space. The planners' Grand Oeuvre, their search for the philosophers' stone, means the situation of a space without surprises, where the map would be everything and the territory nothing, because it has been completely effaced and is no longer important, justifying too late the "architecture" of those imbecile semanticists who claim to deliver you from the tyranny of Aristotle, from "A is not Not-A," as though it had been established for centuries that "A becomes Not-A."

This is so true today that one no longer "consumes" space, which tends to become uniform, but time. the American who goes around the world from one Hilton hotel to another without ever seeing any variation in setting, except superficially as imitation local color, thus integrated and reduced to a gimmick, clearly prefigures the itineraries of the multitude. The conquest of space, as an "adventure" reserved for an "elite" and resounding spectacularly all over the planet, will be organized and foreseeable compensation. But, through the expedient colonization of space, Power intends to "draw on the future," to "take a long-term view," which means emptying time of its substance (our achievements in the course of a History) in order to cut it up into perfectly inoffensive slices, devoid of any unforeseeable "future" not programmed by its machines. The aim is the constitution of a gigantic contrivance designed to "recycle" linear time for the benefit of an expurgated and "shrunken" time, the mechanical time of machines, without history, and which would combine the pseudocyclical time of the quotidian with a universalized neo-cyclical time, the time of passive acceptance and forced resignation to the permanence of the present order of things.

It must be said: "alienation and oppression in society cannot be arranged, according to any of their variation, but only rejected totally along with that society itself" (I.S. 4, p.36) 1 . The task of reunifying time and space in a free construction of the individual and social time-space belongs to the coming revolution: the overthrow of the "developers" will coincide with a decisive transformation of everyday life, and it will be that transformation.

Translated by John Shepley. From


The Root Structures of Reification - Jean Garnault

From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 21, 2023

As though old Marx directed everything from his grave, the commodity form has contributed, by the logic of its real development, to enlightening and deepening the critique of political economy. As bourgeois and bureaucrats, the heirs of this critique have, of course, done everything theoretically and practically to conceal or maintain the confusion about the subject by drowning it under a load of metaphysical subtleties and theological arguments. But the world has gone on without them. Marx transcribed with a blinding clarity into the mundane everyday the analyses the bourgeois and the bureaucrats do all they can to dissimulate. He gave to the theory of fetishism of commodity an objective truth and an experienced banality which brought it within the understanding of everyone.

The commodity has maintained itself as a form despite the minor setbacks it has suffered since Marx. A form that masks the products of creative activity (of the praxis) that wage labor has deprived of all humanity. A form that — as a faithful heir to the old Judeo-Christian God — has acquired an autonomous existence and created man and world in its image. A form that gave birth to the anthropology of an isolated individual who remained deprived of the ruches of his social relationships. The commodity is the praxis of power: not only the dissolutive principle of the old peasant-religious civilization (the remains of which it is still tracking down) but a mode of representation of the world and a form of action upon it. It has acquired the totality of social reality to the quantifiable and installed the totalitarian domination of the quantitative, even extending it to those areas of life that have not yet been dominated.

What seemed to be the most concrete was in fact the most abstract; a formal rationalization, an illusion. But such an illusion (once it has acquired its autonomy) acts unlike a revolutionary idea by inciting to submission in the real world.

The prevailing society always advances and reaches new heights in the escalation of repression and alienation. By combining the fetishism of the commodity with the fetishism of the work of art, the "cybernated state" has summoned a fetishism at its own level: the commodity spectacle which is a projection of all life into a hypostasized and crystallized essence, ghost and scaled-down model of life itself. The concentration of alienations has developed parallel to the concentration of capital. Competitive capitalism was satisfied with crushing social man with a host of partial alienations. Bureaucratic capitalism, by reducing the old separate spheres to one reification, and on the road to a rapid cybernation, deep-freezes social man and puts him in the shop-window.

Such a process and the prospective of its end could only be unforeseeable for bourgeois thought and still-born structuralist thought. In fact a structural analysis could have deduced from the commodity form the totality of the society it produces and which reproduces it, including the ideology it contains. This ideology was incapable of going through such an analysis since it only unconsciously expressed the structures of the reification processes underway and erected them into an ahistorical absolute.

Undertaken during the Renaissance, the bourgeoisie's old work of negation was accomplished haphazardly and always on time. The unitary society dissolved long ago is replaced by emptiness, an emptiness presented as the only possible. To this micro-society that organized itself around unities real enough though limited in quantity and quality (village, family, guild, etc.), emptiness has substituted a cohort of reified abstractions: the individual, the state, the consumer, the market et. al. that drew their apparent reality from the appearance of reality they have assume din our lives.

The principles of formal logic (which penetrated the City with the first merchants) find their full realization in the commodity-spectacle. The principle of identity is to the commodity what the category of totality is to the revolutionary movement. In the structure of the commodity form — prior to its overwhelming expansion — the general identity of commodities was only obtainable by subverting the fictitious identification into a general abstract equivalent. This illusory identity, assumed daily, succeeded in penetrating the identity of all needs and therefore of all consumers, and in this way achieves a certain degree of reality. The full realization — the complete identity — of the old abstract equivalence would be the climax of this process. Due to this dilation, the area of cultural production, or publicity, has more and more trouble differentiating between products and so prophesizes the great tautology to come.

The commodity, like the bureaucracy, is a formalization and a rationalization of praxis: its reduction to some thing that can be dominated and manipulated. In the end, social reality under this domination reduces itself to two contradictory meanings: a bureaucratic-commodity meaning (which on another level corresponds to exchange value) and a real meaning. The bureaucratization of capitalism does not mean an inner qualitative transformation, but on the contrary is an extension of the commodity form. The commodity was always bureaucratic.

The spectacular-commodity form parodies the revolutionary project of the mastery of the environment, natural and social, by a humanity become master of itself and its history. The spectacular-commodity presides over the domination of an isolated and abstract individual in an environment organized by power. If it is true that men are the products of their conditions, it is sufficient to create inhuman conditions to reduce them to the state of things. In the organization of the commodity atmosphere, as in the principles of communicating vessels, "Man" is reduced to the state of things, and things in return assume human qualities. The magazine Elle can use the publicity title: "These furnishings live" — yes, off our very lives. Man is the world of man.

Nietzsche notes that a "predominance of rice in diet leads to the use of opium and narcotics. As a predominance of potatoes leads to the use of alcohol. Which agrees with the fact that pushers of narcotic thought-fashions as well as Hindu philosophers advocate a purely vegetarian diet. They want to make of this diet a law for the masses. Seeking thus to awaken needs they alone could satisfy, they and not others." But in a society that can only secrete the need for another life, the opium of commodity-spectacle is but a mock realization of this sole real want. Through the commodity form and its shows, the society of the spectacle tends to crumble this sole want by giving it a host of illusory and partial satisfactions. In exchange for the surrender of the possible — in other words, another society — it generously grants us all the possibilities of being other in this one.

The commodity-spectacle colonizes the possible by delineating with police methods the practical and theoretical horizon of the time. In the Middle Ages, the religious framework seemed to be the insurmountable horizon within which all class struggles had to take place. The spectacular-commodity form tends to create for itself a similar framework in the midst of which all struggles — already lost — for total emancipation would take place.

Even though the commodity form, while monopolizing reality, only lived in the 19th century bourgeois mind, this nightmare of a society is but a lived — an outlived — ideology, an organization of appearances that only rises to an appearance of organization. In fact, the spectacle is but the fantastic realization of the commodity because the commodity never had a true reality. The commodity's mysterious characteristic rests simply on the fact that it mirrors the characteristics of men's lives, but reflects these characteristics back to men as objective. Power thus projects the image of survival as power allows it and adds elements to it that sometimes contain a liberatory potential, always opening on the possible. Through this operation, these elements pass into the service of repression, in making alienation more palatable after it's been adorned by the flowers of criticism.

The reveries of the dominant classes are far more and more revealing to those who can decipher the social context of the period. Nothing less than the construction of an abstract society (abstract from society) where abstract spectators would abstractly consume abstract things. Thus, the highly desired conjunction between ideology and reality would be achieved: its portrayal becoming an image of the world, and in the end substituting the image for the world to build the mirror-world created by power and sold on the market. The conscious representation of one's life as a product of one's own activity would then disappear from the consumer-spectator's mind who could then watch the spectacle of his own consumption.

The cybernetician's conception of going beyond philosophy agrees with the conception's dream of reconstructing, on the basis of the society of the spectacle, the lost paradise of the unitarian societies by pouring into it 2000 years of development in social alienation. By the way, those dreams reveal the slyly concealed and mystified character of these societies: they only drew their unity from repression. In a reality reduced to the quantifiable, thoroughly dominated by the principle of identity and without the slightest dissent to threaten its balance, the old economico-philosophical babble would be useless.

These fantasies sometimes find an embryo of practical realization unsurpassed in what they reveal. A hospital, in Richmond, Virginia, perfected an "Isle of Life: For the Critically Burned." The thing itself is a gigantic plastic bubble kept completely free of germs. The burned, after being de-contaminated, are placed inside this bubble in a pre-sterilized atmosphere — "No claustrophobia: the isle of life is transparent." Awaiting the nuclear conflict that will provide this philanthropic organization with the customers it deserves, this society builds the images of the conditions it imposes: survival in controlled isolation.

Though the commodity-spectacle tends to install this flat and disincarnated positivity, it suckles negation, and like all historical reality produces itself the seeds of its own destruction. An old socio-economic commonplace, the development of the mass consumer goods industry produces and overproduces overproduction. Some sociologists even get to understand that with overproduction of goods, the objective differences between objects disappear. The only differentiation that can be introduced is merely subjective. But it is beyond a sociologist to discover the latent tendencies to self-destruction that such a process gestates. With the disappearance of use-value, the general identity between things passes from experienced fancy to fantasmagorical realization. Yet, the use-value is the kernel of reality which is indispensable to the breeding and survival of exchange value. The commodity itself suppresses its own conditions. When the system can dispense with reality, it is because reality can do without the system. Modern society is already so big [pregnant] with a revolution that it parodies its own destruction. Gadgets work for the doomsday of the commodity. The latest gadgets are nothing-gadgets: the purposeless machine, the self-destructive machine, the phony dollar to be burned in the fireplace.

But the commodity is also producing its own gravediggers who would not know how to limit themselves to the spectacle of its destruction since their objective is the destruction of the spectacle. We can't refute the conditions of existence, we can only liberate ourselves from them.

Gestures appear in outline at all levels of practical contest, ready to transform themselves into revolutionary acts. But in the absence of a revolutionary movement, these practical contests remain at the individual level. Theft in department stores, labeled "unknown proceedings" by the psycho-sociologists of the owners, is of a qualitatively different essence. In the spectacle of abundance, the so-called consumer goods cease being objects for pleasure to become objects for contemplation, more and more radically foreign to those whose needs they are supposed to satisfy. Theft at that point seems to be the only mode of appropriation for pleasure, contrary to the "known proceedings" that appear for contemplative use, which is a way of being possessed by things without getting pleasure from them.

Some sociologists in their police-method investigations have announced as a discovery the relationship that exists between gangs of Hell's Angels and archaic societies. Yet it is only simply and obviously the real relationship between a society which is within the commodity and gangs that are beyond it. The voluntary destruction of commodities, breaking of shop-windows, recalls the sumptuous destructions of pre-capitalist societies (with the restriction that the extent — the revolutionary reach — of such gestures is limited in a society where there is overproduction). Some Hell's Angels avoid this ambiguity by stealing commodities in order to give them away. They reproduce on a higher level the practice of giving that dominated archaic societies but which exchange — because it was a formalization of social relationships on the basis of a low level of productive forces — came to ruin. They — the Angels — in this way find a pattern of behavior even better adapted to a society that defines itself as a society of plenty (by beginning practically to go beyond).

The most spontaneous gestures of past insurrections, those called blind by the antennae of power, were finally the most revolutionarily lucid. To cite only one example from the recent past, the insurgents of L.A. directly attacked the spectacular exchange value serving as decor to their bondage: they stormed the heavens the spectacle. As they destroyed the shop-windows and burned down supermarkets, they sketched out on the spot a restitution of use-value: a black carrying a stolen refrigerator in a wheelbarrow, opens it and takes out steaks and bottles of whiskey.

If it is true that until now revolutions have generally lost their time donning the rags of ancient celebrations, the enemy has always known how to remind the revolutions of the gestures that should have been accomplished long before. What has been taken for gestures of despair only expressed the despair of not having accomplished them sooner. Future revolutions will rediscover these gestures immediately and perform them without delay. As destruction of the commodity spectacle, the gestures carry the hope of a free construction of life. It will be time then to claim as man's own all treasures stolen for the benefit of the heaven of the spectacle, to return them toward real life. We will be called the destroyers of the commodity world, we will only be the builders of ourselves.

Translated by Tony Verlaan. From


The independence of the commodity

"capital pants southern style" advert

A short text on "Capital pants" from Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on March 24, 2023

The autonomy of the commodity is at the root of the dictatorship of appearance; of the fundamental tautology of the spectacle, where importance is always presupposed and defined by the staging of importance. The prefabricated pseudo-event which dominates and orients the real is an event that is no longer visible for what it contains, but which has no other content than to be visible. For example, what is the most grand claim made for Capital pants, strengthened by the submission of thousands of their surveyed citizens (a submission which, the poster does not fail to note, they “themselves have chosen” the details)? Precisely what these fetishes proclaim: they are “the very expression of their own fashion”. The slavish Southernism of these commodities obviously appears as indisputable before the human cattle that it has branded. Rarely has an advertisement of such concertedly weak inventiveness so ably expressed unconsciously the split between men and their objectification; [thus] the insolent rebellion of their own actions return against them as an alien power. All the desires of the era are suspended until our victory in this War of Secession.

And a translation of the advert above:
Translated from the French by Anthony Hayes, September 2012. Thanks to NOT BORED! and Alastair Hemmens.



Some Theoretical Topics That Need To Be Dealt With Without Academic Debate or Idle Speculation - Raoul Vaneigem

From International Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by libcom on September 5, 2005

What can be dealt with by radical theory must be prevented from being dealt with by speculation. As the situationist analysis of reality prepares the way for the practical realization of our project, this demand tends to become more widely applicable.

Knowledge is inseparable from the use that is made of it. The agitation that our irrefutable theories are beginning to foment in varying degrees in all the sectors of the old world is going to see to the improvement and correction of our good use of ideas and things. This is why, in a society of guaranteed abundance, we are the only ones who are not frightened by that abundance.

How to use theory is never problematical. The specialists of idle speculation -- from Socialisme ou Barbarie to Planète -- are only concerned with concealing who profits from their ideology of confusion. The situationists work in the opposite perspective. We pose only the questions to which the will to subversion of the greatest number can respond. Our aim is to give this will its maximum effectiveness.

The topics to consider listed briefly below will have the interest of shedding light on the revolutionary worth of whoever deals with them, and on the importance that must be accorded to them in current struggles.

Critique of political economy -- Critique of the social sciences -- Critique of psychoanalysis (in particular: Freud, Reich, Marcuse) -- Dialectics of decomposition and supersession in the realization of art and philosophy -- Semiology: contribution to the study of an ideological system -- Nature and the ideologies of nature -- The role of playfulness in history -- History of theories and theories of history -- Nietzsche and the end of philosophy -- Kierkegaard and the end of theology -- Marx and Sade -- The structuralists.

The romantic crisis -- The Preciosity movement -- The baroque -- Artistic languages -- Art and everyday creativity -- Critique of dadaism -- Critique of surrealism -- Society and pictorial perspective -- Self-parodying art -- Mallarmé, Joyce and Malevich -- Lautréamont -- Primitive arts -- On poetry.

The Mexican revolution (Villa and Zapata) -- The Spanish revolution -- Asturias 1934 -- The Vienna insurrection -- The Peasant War (1525) -- The Spartakist revolution -- The Congolese revolution -- The Jacqueries -- Unknown revolutions -- The English revolution -- The communalist movements -- The Enragés -- The Fronde -- Revolutionary songs (study and anthology) -- Kronstadt -- Bolshevism and Trotskyism -- The Church and the heresies -- The different currents of socialism -- Socialism and underdevelopment -- Cybernetics and power -- The state -- The origins of Islam -- Theses on anarchy -- Theses for a final solution of the Christian problem -- The world of the specialists -- On democracy -- The Internationals -- On insurrection -- Problems and theory of self-management -- Parties and labor unions -- On the organization of revolutionary movements -- Critique of civil and penal law -- Nonindustrialized societies -- Theses on utopianism -- Homage to Charles Fourier -- Workers councils -- Fascism and magical thought.

On the repetitive in everyday life -- Dreams and dreamlike ambiances -- Treatise on the passions -- The moments and the construction of situations -- Urbanism and popular construction -- Manual of subversive détournement -- Individual adventure and collective adventure -- Intersubjectivity and coherence in revolutionary groups -- Play and everyday life -- Personal fantasies -- On the freedom to love -- Preliminary studies toward the construction of a base -- Madness and entranced states of mind.


Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version entitled "Some Theoretical Questions To Be Treated Without Academic Debate or Speculation" in the Situationist International Anthology).


Address to Revolutionaries of Algeria and of All Countries

Houari Boumedienne (1966) by Erling Mandelmann

"Proletarian revolutions . . . pitilessly scoff at the hesitations, weaknesses and inadequacies of their first efforts, seem to throw down their adversary only to see him draw new strength from the earth and rise again formidably before them, recoil again and again before the immensity of their tasks, until a situation is finally created that goes beyond the point of no return."

--Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte

Submitted by libcom on September 5, 2005


The collapse of the revolutionary image presented by the international Communist movement is taking place forty years after the collapse of the revolutionary movement itself. This time gained for the bureaucratic lie -- that supplement to the permanent bourgeois lie -- has been time lost for the revolution. The history of the modern world pursues its revolutionary course, but unconsciously or with false consciousness. Everywhere there are social confrontations, but nowhere is the old order destroyed, not even within the very forces that contest it. Everywhere the ideologies of the old world are criticized and rejected, but nowhere is "the real movement that suppresses existing conditions" liberated from one or another "ideology" in Marx's sense of the word: ideas that serve masters. Revolutionaries are everywhere, but nowhere is there any real revolution.

The recent collapse of the Ben-Bellaist image of a quasi-revolution in Algeria is a striking example of this general failure. The superficial power of Ben Bella represented the moment of rigid balance between the movement of the Algerian workers toward the management of the entire society and the bourgeois bureaucracy in the process of formation within the framework of the state. But in this official balance the revolution had nothing with which to further its objectives -- it had already become a museum piece -- whereas those in possession of the state controlled all power, beginning with that fundamental repressive instrument, the army, to the point of finally being able to throw off their mask, i.e. Ben Bella. Two days before the putsch, at Sidi Bel Abbes, Ben Bella added the ridiculous to the odious by declaring that Algeria was "more united than ever." Now he has stopped lying to the people and the events speak for themselves. Ben Bella fell as he had reigned, in solitude and conspiracy, by a palace revolution. He was ushered out by the same forces that had ushered him in: Boumédienne's army, which had opened the road to Algiers for him in September 1962. Ben Bella's regime ratified the revolutionary conquests that the bureaucracy was not yet able to repress: the self-management movement. The forces so well hidden behind the "Muslim Brother" Boumédienne have this clear goal: to eliminate all self-management. The June 19th Declaration sums up the policy of the new regime with a mixture of Western technocratic jargon and bombast about enforcing Islamic moral values: "We must put a stop to the current stagnation, which is already manifesting itself in lowered productivity, decreasing profitability and a disturbing withdrawal of investments," while "keeping in mind our faith, our convictions and the secular traditions and moral values of our people."

The astonishing acceleration of practical demystification must now serve to accelerate revolutionary theory. The same society of alienation, of totalitarian control (here the sociologist predominates, there the police), and of spectacular consumption (here the cars and gadgets, there the words of the venerated leader) reigns everywhere, despite the diversity of its ideological and juridical disguises. The coherence of this society cannot be understood without an all-encompassing critique, illuminated by the inverse project of a liberated creativity, the project of everyone's control of all levels of their own history. This is the demand in acts of all proletarian revolutions, a demand until now defeated by the specialists of power who take over revolutions and turn them into their own private property.

To revive and bring into the present this inseparable, mutually illuminating project and critique entails appropriating all the radicalism borne by the workers movement, by modern Western poetry and art (as preface to an experimental research toward a free construction of everyday life), by the thought of the period of the supersession and realization of philosophy (Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx), and by the liberation struggles from the Mexico of 1910 to the Congo of today. To do this, it is first of all necessary to recognize, without holding on to any consoling illusions, the full extent of the defeat of the entire revolutionary project in the first third of this century and its official replacement, in every region of the world and in every domain of life, by delusive shams and petty reforms that camouflage and preserve the old order. The domination of bureaucratic state-capitalism over the workers is the opposite of socialism -- this is a fact that Trotskyism has refused to face. Socialism exists wherever the workers themselves directly manage the entire society. It therefore exists neither in Russia nor in China nor anywhere else. The Russian and Chinese revolutions were defeated from within. Today they provide the Western proletariat and the peoples of the Third World with a false model which actually serves as a mere counterbalance to the power of bourgeois capitalism and imperialism.

A resumption of radicality naturally requires a considerable deepening of all the old attempts at liberation. Seeing how those attempts failed due to isolation, or were converted into total frauds, enables one to get a better grasp of the coherence of the world that needs to be changed. In the light of this rediscovered coherence, many of the partial explorations of the recent past can be salvaged and brought to their true fulfillment (the liberating content of psychoanalysis, for example, can be neither understood nor realized apart from the struggle for the abolition of all repression).(1) Insight into this reversible coherence of the world -- its present reality in relation to its potential reality -- enables one to see the fallaciousness of half-measures and to recognize the presence of such half-measures each time the operating pattern of the dominant society -- with its categories of hierarchization and specialization and its corresponding habits and tastes -- reconstitutes itself within the forces of negation.

Moreover, the material development of the world has accelerated. It constantly accumulates more potential powers; but the specialists of the management of society, because of their role as guardians of passivity, are forced to ignore the potential use of those powers. This same development produces widespread dissatisfaction and objective mortal dangers which these specialized rulers are incapable of permanently controlling. The fundamental problem of underdevelopment must be resolved on a worldwide scale, beginning with the revolutionary overcoming of the irrational overdevelopment of productive forces in the framework of the various forms of rationalized capitalism. The revolutionary movements of the Third World can succeed only on the basis of a lucid contribution to global revolution. Development must not be a race to catch up with capitalist reification, but a satisfaction of all real needs as the basis for a genuine development of human faculties.

New revolutionary theory must move in step with reality, it must keep abreast with the revolutionary praxis which is starting up here and there but which yet remains partial, mutilated and without a coherent total project. Our language, which will perhaps seem fantastic, is the very language of real life. History continues to present ever more glaring confirmations of this. If in this history the familiar is not necessarily known, it is because real life itself only appears in a fantastic form, in the upside-down image imposed on it by the modern spectacle of the world: in the spectacle all social life, including even the representation of sham revolutions, is written in the lying language of power and filtered by its machines. The spectacle is the terrestrial heir of religion, the opium of a capitalism that has arrived at the stage of a "society of abundance" of commodities. It is the illusion actually consumed in "consumer society."

The sporadic explosions of revolutionary contestation are countered by an international organization of repression, operating with a global division of tasks. Each of the blocs, or of the spinoff splinters of blocs, ensures the lethargic sleep of everyone within its sphere of influence, contributing toward maintaining a global order that remains fundamentally the same. This permanent repression ranges from military interventions to the more or less complete falsification practiced today by every constituted power: "The truth is revolutionary" (Gramsci) and all existing governments, even those issuing out of the most liberatory movements, are based on lies inside and out. It is precisely this repression that constitutes the most resounding verification of our hypotheses.

Revolutionary endeavors of today, because they have to break all the rules of false understanding imposed by the "peaceful coexistence" of reigning lies, begin in isolation, in one particular sector of the world or in one particular sector of contestation. Possessing only the most rudimentary conception of freedom, they attack only the most immediate aspect of oppression. As a result, they meet with the minimum degree of aid and the maximum of repression and slander (they are accused of rejecting one existing order while necessarily approving of an existing variant of it). The more difficult their victory, the more easily it is confiscated by new oppressors. The next revolutions can find aid in the world only by attacking this world as a whole. The freedom movement of the American blacks, if it can assert itself incisively, will call into question all the contradictions of modern capitalism; it must not be sidetracked by the "black nationalism" and "black capitalism" of the Black Muslims. The workers of the United States, like those in England, are engaging in "wildcat strikes" against the bureaucratized unions that aim first of all at integrating them into the concentrated, semiregulated capitalist system. It is with these workers and with the students who have just won their strike at the University of California in Berkeley that a North American revolution can be made; and not with the Chinese atom bomb.

The movement drawing the Arab peoples toward unification and socialism has achieved a number of victories over classical colonialism. But it is more and more evident that it must finish with Islam, an obviously counterrevolutionary force as are all religious ideologies. It must grant freedom to the Kurdish people. And it must stop swallowing the Palestinian pretext that justifies the dominant policy in the Arab states -- a policy that insists on the destruction of Israel and thereby perpetuates itself since this destruction is impossible. The repressive forces of the state of Israel can be undermined only by a model of a revolutionary society realized by the Arabs. Just as the success of a model of a revolutionary society somewhere in the world would mean the end of the largely sham confrontation between the East and the West, so would end the Arab-Israel confrontation which is a miniature version of it.

Revolutionary endeavors of today are abandoned to repression because it is not in the interest of any existing power to support them. So far, no practical organization of revolutionary internationalism exists to support them. We passively watch their combat and only the delusory babble of the UN or of the specialists of "progressive" state powers accompanies their death throes. In Santo Domingo US troops dared to intervene in a foreign country in order to back up fascist army officers against the legal government of the Kennedyist Caamano, simply for fear that he would be overwhelmed by the people he had had to arm. What forces in the world took retaliatory measures against the American intervention? In the Congo in 1960 Belgian paratroopers, UN expeditionary forces and the Mining Association's tailor-made state [Katanga] broke the impetus of the people who thought they had won independence, and killed Lumumba and Mpolo. In 1964 Belgian paratroopers, American transport planes, and South African, European and anti-Castroist Cuban mercenaries pushed back the second insurrectional wave of the Mulelists. What practical aid was provided by "revolutionary Africa"? A thousand Algerian volunteers, victors of a much harder war, would have been enough to prevent the fall of Stanleyville. But the armed people of Algeria had long been replaced by a classical army on lease to Boumédienne, who had other plans.

The next revolutions are confronted with the task of understanding themselves. They must totally reinvent their own language and defend themselves against all the forms of cooption prepared for them. The Asturian miners' strike (virtually continuous since 1962) and all the other signs of opposition that herald the end of Francoism do not indicate an inevitable future for Spain, but a choice: either the holy alliance now being prepared by the Spanish Church, the monarchists, the "left Falangists" and the Stalinists to harmoniously adapt post-Franco Spain to modernized capitalism and to the Common Market; or the resumption and completion of the most radical aspects of the revolution that was defeated by Franco and his accomplices on all sides -- the revolution that realized truly socialist human relationships for a few weeks in Barcelona in 1936.

The new revolutionary current, wherever it appears, must begin to link up the present contestatory experiences and the people who bear them. While unifying such groups, it must at the same time unify the coherent basis of their project. The first gestures of the coming revolutionary era embody a new content, both visible and hidden, of the critique of present societies, and new forms of struggle; and also the irreducible moments of all the old revolutionary history that has remained in abeyance, moments which reappear like ghosts. Thus the dominant society, which prides itself so much on its constant modernization, is going to meet its match, for it is at last beginning to produce its own modernized negation.

Long live the comrades who in 1959 burned the Koran in the streets of Baghdad!

Long live the workers councils of Hungary, defeated in 1956 by the so-called Red Army!

Long live the dockers of Aarhus who last year effectively boycotted racist South Africa, in spite of their union leadership and the judicial repression of the Danish social-democratic government!

Long live the "Zengakuren" student movement of Japan, which actively combats the capitalist powers of imperialism and of the so-called "Communist" bureaucracies!

Long live the workers' militia that defended the northeastern districts of Santo Domingo!

Long live the self-management of the Algerian peasants and workers! The option is now between the militarized bureaucratic dictatorship and the dictatorship of the "self-managed sector" extended to all production and all aspects of social life.

Algiers, July 1965 (circulated clandestinely)


1. "The discoveries of psychoanalysis have, as Freud suspected, turned out to be unacceptable for the ruling social order -- or for any society based on repressive hierarchy. But Freud's 'centrist' position, stemming from his absolute, ahistorical identification of 'civilization' with repression by exploitation of labor, and thus his carrying out of a partially critical research within an uncriticized overall system, led psychoanalysis to become officially 'recognized' in all its degraded variants without being accepted in its central truth, namely its potential critical use. This failure is of course not exclusively attributable to Freud himself, but rather to the collapse in the 1920s of the revolutionary movement, the only force that could have brought the critical findings of psychoanalysis to some fulfillment. The subsequent period of extreme in reaction in Europe drove out even the partisans of psychoanalytic 'centrism.' The psychoanalytic debris who are now in fashion (in the West, at least) have all developed out of this initial capitulation, in which an unacceptable critical truth was turned into acceptably innocuous verbiage. By surrendering its revolutionary cutting edge, psychoanalysis exposed itself both to being used by all the guardians of the present Sleep and to being disparaged for its insufficiencies by run-of-the-mill psychiatrists and moralists." (Internationale Situationniste #10, p. 63.) "Cardan [Cornelius Castoriadis], who here as elsewhere seems to think that it suffices to speak of something in order to have it, vaguely blathers on about 'imagination' in an attempt to justify the gelatinous flabbiness of his thought. He latches onto psychoanalysis (just as does the official world nowadays) as a justification of irrationality and of the profound motivations of the unconscious, although the discoveries of psychoanalysis are in fact a weapon -- as yet unused due to obvious sociopolitical reasons -- for a rational critique of the world. Psychoanalysis profoundly ferrets out the unconscious, its poverty and its miserable repressive maneuvers, which only draw their force and their magical grandeur from a quite banal practical repression in daily life." (Internationale Situationniste #10, p. 79.)

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


The concentrated spectacular

The concentrated spectacular image

A short text on Indonesia from Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on March 24, 2023

In the under-developed zones of the world market, gathered together in the ideology and – at the extreme – in a single man, all that is guaranteed by the state as indisputably admirable must be applauded and consumed passively. The feeble quality of these actually available commodities tends to reduce this consumption to the pure gaze. The image of power, in which this gaze must find all its happiness, is thus a grab-bag of socially recognized qualities. Sukarno had to be both a genial conductor of the people and an irresistible seducer of cinema. [As] philosopher, he concentrated in the concept of “Nasakom” nationalism, religion and Stalinist “communism”; and he has ruled, like Ben Bella, by founding his authority on the evident antagonism of the army and the most powerful Stalinist party in Asia. He wants to continue to hold his “unique role” of perpetual representative of this hybrid perfection even though his army massacred, according to him, at least 97,000 of his communists, and that it continues. “Our ability to round off the corners is such,” wrote the official Indonesian Herald after the failed coup of 1 October [1965], “that if Moscow and Peking had adopted the Indonesian system for ‘resolving’ problems, the current ideological conflict between the two countries would never have become public.”

Translated from the French by Anthony Hayes, September 2012. From

Translator's notes:

More on the diffuse and concentrated forms of the spectacle can be found in Chapter 3: Unity and Division Within Appearances in Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle, in particular theses 63, 64, 65 and 70.

Another English translation of this article was made by Paul Hammond under the title ‘The concentrated spectacle’. It is available in the book Theory of the Dérive and other situationist writings on the city edited by Libero Andreotti & Xavier Costa, and published in 1996 as an accompaniment to the exhibition Situationists: Art, Politics, Urbanism at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. As far as I can tell it is not available to read online.


The diffuse spectacular

diffuse spectacle image

A short text from Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on March 24, 2023

Newly arrived at the stage of commodity abundance, capitalism disperses its representations of happiness – and thus of hierarchical success – in an infinity of objects and gadgets expressing, really and deceptively, so many appendages to the stratifications of consumer society; and all these objects are outmoded and replaced according to the necessities of the flow of expanding production. The spectacle of manifold objects that are for sale invites the taking of manifold roles because it aims to oblige everyone to recognize and to realize them-self in the effective consumption of this production spread everywhere. Being only a response to a spectacular definition of needs, such consumption itself remains essentially spectacular insofar as it is pseudo-use: it has an effective role only as an economic exchange necessary for the system. Thus the real need is not seen; and what is seen has almost no reality. The object is first of all displayed so that one wants to possess it; then, in response, it is possessed to be displayed. Collections of worthy objects are thus constituted, which have the function of signifying a specific social status, and even a pseudo-personality exactly identical to the objects which represent it. Here, on display in the magazine Lui of January 1964, the collection of purchases equivalent to the “business man” personality contains an edition of the “economic works” of Marx.

Translated from the French by Anthony Hayes, September 2012. From:

Translator's notes:

More on the diffuse and concentrated forms of the spectacle can be found in Chapter 3: Unity and Division Within Appearances in Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle, in particular theses 63, 64, 65 and 70.

Another English translation of this article was made by Paul Hammond under the title ‘The concentrated spectacle’. It is available in the book Theory of the Dérive and other situationist writings on the city edited by Libero Andreotti & Xavier Costa, and published in 1996 as an accompaniment to the exhibition Situationists: Art, Politics, Urbanism at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. As far as I can tell it is not available to read online.


Captive Words: Preface to a Situationist Dictionary - Mustapha Khayati

phtoto of SI meeting in Paris 1966

Preface to a Situationist Dictionary. From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by libcom on September 5, 2005

Popular assumptions, due to what they conceal, work for the dominant organization of life. One such assumption is the notion that language is not dialectical, thereby implying that all use of dialectics should be rejected. But in fact nothing is more clearly subject to dialectics than language, since it is a living reality. Thus, every critique of the old world has been made in the language of that world, yet directed against it and therefore automatically in a different language. Every revolutionary theory has had to invent its own terms, to destroy the dominant sense of other terms and establish new meanings in the "world of meanings" corresponding to the new embryonic reality needing to be liberated from the dominant trash heap. The same reasons that prevent our adversaries (the masters of the Dictionary) from definitively fixing language, today enable us to assert alternative positions that negate existing meanings. But we already know that these same reasons also prevent us from proclaiming any definitive certitudes. A definition is always open, never definitive. Ours have a historical value, they are applicable during a specific period, linked to a specific historical practice.

It is impossible to get rid of a world without getting rid of the language that conceals and protects it, without laying bare its true nature. As the "social truth" of power is permanent falsification, language is its permanent guarantee and the Dictionary its universal reference. Every revolutionary praxis has felt the need for a new semantic field and for expressing a new truth; from the Encyclopédistes to the Polish intellectuals' critique of Stalinist "wooden language" in 1956, this demand has continually been asserted. Because language is the house of power, the refuge of its police violence. Any dialogue with power is violence, whether passively suffered or actively provoked. When power wants to avoid resorting to its material arms, it relies on language to guard the oppressive order. This collaboration is in fact the most natural expression of all power.

From words to ideas is only a step -- a step always taken by power and its theorists. All theories of language, from the simple-minded mysticism of Being to the supreme (oppressive) rationality of the cybernetic machine, belong to the same world: the discourse of power considered as the sole possible frame of reference, as the universal mediation. Just as the Christian God is the necessary mediation between two souls and between the soul and the self, the discourse of power establishes itself at the heart of all communication, becoming the necessary mediation between self and self. This is how it is able to coopt oppositional movements, diverting them onto its own terrain, infiltrating them and controlling them from within. The critique of the dominant language, the détournement of it, is going to become a permanent practice of the new revolutionary theory.

Since any new interpretation is called a misinterpretation by the authorities, the situationists are going to establish the legitimacy of such misinterpretation and denounce the fraudulence of the interpretations given and authorized by power. Since the dictionary is the guardian of present meaning, we propose to destroy it systematically. The replacement of the dictionary, that master reference of all inherited and tamed language, will find its adequate expression in the revolutionary infiltration of language, in the détournement extensively used by Marx, systematized by Lautréamont, and now being put within everyone's reach by the SI.

Détournement, which Lautréamont called plagiarism, confirms the thesis, long demonstrated by modern art, that word are insubordinate, that it is impossible for power to totally coopt created meanings, to fix an existing meaning once and for all; that it is objectively impossible to create a "Newspeak." The new revolutionary theory cannot advance without redefining its fundamental concepts. "Ideas improve," says Lautréamont. "The meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress depends on it. It sticks close to an author's phrase, uses his expressions, deletes a false idea, replaces it with a true one." To salvage Marx's thought it is necessary to continually make it more precise, to correct it and reformulate it in the light of a hundred years of reinforcement of alienation and of the possibilities of negating alienation. Marx needs to be detourned by those who are continuing on this historical path, not moronically quoted by the thousand varieties of coopters. On the other hand, power's own thought is becoming in our hands a weapon against power. Ever since it came to power the bourgeoisie has dreamed of a universal language, a language which the cyberneticians of today are trying to implement electronically. Descartes dreamed of a language (a forerunner of Newspeak) in which thought would follow thought with mathematical rigor: the mathesis universalis or perpetuity of bourgeois categories. The Encyclopédistes, dreaming (under feudal power) of "definitions so rigorous that tyranny could not tolerate them," paved the way for an eternal future power that would be the ultimate goal of history.

The insubordination of words, during the experimental phase from Rimbaud to the surrealists, has shown that the theoretical critique of the world of power is inseparable from a practice that destroys it. Power's cooption of all modern art and its transformation of it into oppressive categories of its reigning spectacle is a sad confirmation of this. "Whatever doesn't kill power is killed by it." The dadaists were the first to express their distrust in words, a distrust inseparable from the desire to "change life." Following Sade, they asserted the right to say everything, to liberate words and "replace the Alchemy of the Word with a real chemistry" (Breton). The innocence of words is henceforth consciously refuted and language is revealed as "the worst of conventions," something that should be destroyed, demystified, liberated. Dada's contemporaries did not fail to stress its will to destroy everything, the danger it represented to the dominant sense. (Gide uneasily referred to it as a "demolition job.") After Dada it has become impossible to believe that a word is forever bound to an idea. Dada realized all the possibilities of language and forever closed the door on art as a specialty; it posed once and for all the problem of the realization of art. Surrealism was of value only insofar as it carried on this project; in its literary productions it was reactionary. The realization of art -- poetry in the situationist sense -- means that one cannot realize oneself in a "work," but rather realizes oneself, period. Sade's inauguration of "saying everything" already implied the abolition of literature as a separate domain (where only what is literary may be said). But this abolition, consciously asserted by the dadaists after Rimbaud and Lautréamont, was not a supersession. There is no supersession without realization, one cannot supersede art without realizing it. In fact, there has not even been any actual abolition, since even after Joyce, Duchamp and Dada a new spectacular literature continues to thrive. This is because there can be no "saying everything" without the freedom to do everything. Dada had a chance for realization with the Spartakists, with the revolutionary practice of the German proletariat. Their failure made the failure of Dada inevitable. With its cooption (including that of virtually all its original protagonists) into subsequent artistic movements, Dada has become the literary expression of the nothingness of poetic activity, the art of expressing the nothingness of everyday freedom. The ultimate expression of this art of "saying everything" deprived of any doing is the blank page. Modern poetry (experimental, permutational, spatialist, surrealist or neodadaist) is the antithesis of poetry, it is the artistic project coopted by power. It abolishes poetry without realizing it, living off its own continual self-destruction. "What's the point of saving language," Max Bense asks resignedly, "when there is no longer anything to say?" Confession of a specialist! Muteness or mindless chatter are the sole alternatives of the specialists of permutation. Modern thought and art, guaranteeing power and guaranteed by it, move in the realm of what Hegel called "the language of flattery." Both contribute to the eulogy of power and its products, perfecting reification while banalizing it. Asserting that "reality consists of language" or that "language can only be considered in and for itself," the specialists of language arrive at the concepts of "language-object" and "word-thing" and revel in the panegyrics of their own reification. The thing becomes the dominant model and once again the commodity finds its realization and its poets. The theory of the state, of the economy, of law, of philosophy, of art -- everything now has this apologetic character.

Whenever separate power replaces the autonomous action of the masses, whenever bureaucracy seizes control of all aspects of social life, it attacks language and reduces its poetry to the vulgar prose of its information. Bureaucracy appropriates language for its own use, just as it does everything else, and imposes it on the masses. Language -- the material support of its ideology -- is then supposed to communicate its messages and reflect its thought. Bureaucracy represses the fact that language is first of all a means of communication between people. Since all communication is channeled through bureaucracies, people no longer even need to talk to each other: their first duty is to play their role as receivers in the network of informationist communication to which the whole society is reduced, receivers of orders they must carry out.

This language's mode of existence is bureaucracy, its becoming is bureaucratization. The Bolshevik order born out of the failure of the soviet revolution imposed a whole series of more or less magical and impersonal expressions in the image of the bureaucracy in power. "Politburo," "Comintern," "Cavarmy," "Agitprop" -- mysterious names of specialized agencies that really are mysterious, operating in the nebulous sphere of the state (or of the Party leadership) without any relation to the masses except insofar as they reinforce their subjection. Language colonized by bureaucracy is reduced to a series of blunt, inflexible formulas in which the same nouns are always accompanied by the same adjectives and participles. The noun governs; each time it appears the other words automatically fall in around it in the correct order. This "regimentation" of words reflects a more profound militarization of the whole society, its division into two basic categories: the caste of rulers and the great mass of people who carry out their orders. But the same words are also called on to play other roles, invested with the magic power to reinforce the oppressive reality, to cloak it and present it as the only possible truth. Thus there are no more "Trotskyists" but only "Hitlero-Trotskyists"; one never hears of Marxism but only of "Marxism-Leninism," and the opposition is automatically "reactionary" in the "Soviet regime." The rigidity with which these ritual formulas are sacralized is aimed at preserving the purity of this "substance" in the face of obviously contradictory facts. In this way the language of the masters is everything, reality nothing, or at most the shell of this language. People are required in their acts, their thoughts and their feelings to behave as if the state was that reason, justice and freedom proclaimed by the ideology. The ritual (and the police) are there to ensure conformity to this behavior (see Marcuse's Soviet Marxism).

The decline of radical thought considerably increases the power of words, the words of power. "Power creates nothing, it coopts" (Internationale Situationniste #8). Words forged by revolutionary criticism are like partisans' weapons: abandoned on the battlefield, they fall into the hands of the counterrevolution and like prisoners of war are subjected to forced labor. Our most direct enemies are the proponents and established functionaries of false critique. The divorce between theory and practice provides the central basis for cooption, for the petrification of revolutionary theory into ideology, which transforms real practical demands (for whose realization the premonitory signs are already appearing in the present society) into systems of ideas, into demands of reason. The ideologues of every variety, the watchdogs of the reigning spectacle, carry out this task, emptying the content from most corrosive concepts and putting them back into circulation in the service of maintaining alienation: dadaism in reverse. They become advertising slogans (see the recent Club Med prospectus). Concepts of radical critique suffer the same fate as the proletariat: they are deprived of their history, cut off from their roots. They become grist for power's thinking machines.

Our project of liberating words is historically comparable to the Encyclopédiste enterprise. The Enlightenment's language of "tearing apart" (to continue the Hegelian image) lacked the conscious historical dimension; it was a real critique of the decrepit feudal world, but it had no idea of what would emerge from it (none of the Encyclopédistes were republicans). It was, rather, an expression of the bourgeois thinkers' own internal tearing apart. Our language aims first of all at a practice that tears the world apart, beginning with tearing apart the veils that cloak it. Whereas the Encyclopédistes sought a quantitative enumeration, the enthusiastic description of a world of objects in which the bourgeoisie and the commodity were already victorious, our dictionary will express the qualitative, the possible but still absent victory, the repressed of modern history (the proletariat) and the return of the repressed. We propose the real liberation of language because we propose to put it into a practice free of all constraints. We reject any authority, linguistic or otherwise: only real life allows a meaning and only praxis verifies it. Debates over the reality or unreality of the meaning of a word, isolated from practice, are purely academic. We place our dictionary in that libertarian region which is still beyond the reach of power, but which is its only possible global successor.

Language remains the necessary mediation for comprehending the world of alienation (Hegel would say: the necessary alienation), the instrument of the radical theory that will eventually seize the masses because it is theirs. Only then will it find its own truth. It is thus essential that we forge our own language, the language of real life, against the ideological language of power, the terrain of justification of all the categories of the old world. From now on we must prevent the falsification or cooption of our theories. We use specific concepts already used by the specialists, but we give them a new content, turning them against the specialists that they support and against future salaried thinkers who might be tempted to besmear situationist theory with their own shit (as Claudel did with Rimbaud and Klossowski with Sade). Future revolutions must invent their own language. Concepts of radical critique will be reexamined one by one in order to rediscover their truth. The word alienation, for example, one of the key concepts for the comprehension of modern society, must be disinfected after having passed through the mouths of people like Axelos [editor of Arguments]. All words have the same relation with power as does the proletariat: they are both its present servants and the instruments and agents of future liberation from it. Poor Revel! There are no forbidden words; in language, as it will be in every other domain, everything is permitted. To deny ourselves the use of a word is to deny ourselves a weapon used by our adversaries.

Our dictionary will be a sort of code book enabling one to decipher information and rend the ideological veils that cover reality. We will give possible translations that will enable people to grasp the different aspects of the society of the spectacle, and show how the slightest signs and indications contribute to maintaining it. In a sense it will be a bilingual dictionary, since each word has an "ideological" meaning for power and a real meaning that we think corresponds to real life in the present historical phase. Thus we will be able at each step to determine the various positions of words in the social war. If the problem of ideology is how to descend from the heaven of ideas to the real world, our dictionary will be a contribution to the elaboration of the new revolutionary theory where the problem is how to effect the transition from language to life. The real appropriation of the words that work cannot be realized outside the appropriation of work itself. The inauguration of free creative activity will at the same time be the inauguration of true communication, freed at last. The transparency of human relations will replace the poverty of words under the old regime of opaqueness. Words will not cease to work until people do.


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


Alienation - An Examination of Several Concrete Aspects:

abolition du travail aliene graffiti

A series of short texts on alienation from Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 21, 2023

Communication Colonized

a female white hand with painted nails holds a computer punch card

A short text on computer alogrithms for dating. Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966)

Submitted by Fozzie on February 22, 2023

In 1965, a new technique for matching up prospective spouses was developed in the United States. The tastes and aspirations of each individual are exhaustively defined by their responses to seventy questions, then a computer determines their maximum compatibility, representing it on a punch card. According to Le Monde (25-11-65):

As the years go by, tendencies as unavoidable as they are irreversible develop and begin assert themselves: a computer's job is to be good at everything... They've been introduced into education, taking on the role of tutors. They participate in the development of elaborate "strategies," both military and commercial. As perfect performers in constant demand, they are expected to bear fruit... Each and every soul in search of another fills out a form describing what they are and to what they aspire. Their offers and wishes are then transformed by a perforator into a series of holes, judiciously arranged on a card. One could go so far as to say that with the state of the market, the discovery of what satisfies the one's desires lies but a systematic investigation away; all the better, of course, if the market is larger... The experience, as it happens, is not expensive: a mere three dollars. In less than three months, more than 7000 students from colleges and universities in New England entrusted their personal prospects and leisure time to a computer... Is it not true that there are computers which, working "in real time," can follow the development of events progressively? Why not extend the idea to optimizing matchmaking?

The society that has realized the optimum of separation between humans and their activity and between humans themselves unilaterally distributes images of their own world back to them as information monopolized by economic and State power. To reach a new stage of submission and equivalence to the machinery of progress, this society dreams of going beyond its fabrication of information as substitute for the deprivation of reality; it experiments with the positive fabrication of the reality of individual existence as the carrying out of existing information. Individuals must agree to recognize themselves — and, in a romantic relationship, each other — according to the inevitability of a supposedly free and objective code. But the programmers have themselves been programmed. The criteria of the questionnaires they create for matchmaking are the very social criteria that create separation everywhere. If one seeks another only to discover in this relationship the representation of their own reality, the condom of electronic computation guarantees the reciprocal discovery of the same lie.

The systematic expropriation of intersubjective communication, the colonization of everyday life by authoritarian mediation, does not necessarily have to be the product of technological development. On the contrary, this autonomization of social potential makes it necessary for all possible techniques to be deferred to the specific outcome of a self-regulated existence. In the last ten years, all over the world, radio transmitters and receivers once permitted open dialogue at any wavelength have been silenced by absolute judicial control. Those who use them, selected on the basis of this very obligation to be silent, do not have the right to exchange messages concerning their technique, or meteorological conditions, or even an SOS for survival. The technology of basic communication is evidently forbidden on account of its possible wealth of subversive uses.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From


Culture, Leisure and the Police

a crowd of paris police in front of a cinema

A short text on the police and urbanism. From International Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 22, 2023

It would only be stating the obvious to say that urbanism aids the police; and that the police, in the age of concentrated capitalism, are quite readily urbanist. Maintaining close relations with these two specializations — relations that have barely been brought to light — is the significant domain of leisure. In 1965, to avoid the threat of teenagers on school vacation being driven to delinquency by their boredom, the French police opened "28 recreation centers, 14 controlled by the CRS1 and 14 by municipal police, reaching a total of more than 5,000 adolescents. And it seems that this is only the beginning" (Le Monde, 2 September 1965). The author of the article added that the CRS eventually intend "to minimize their role as the force of order. . . . The creation of recreation centers for teenagers has been something of a public relations campaign, a sort of demystification of the traditional role of the police." You have to admire the complete inversion of the term "demystification" in this passage, an inversion whose way has been paved by its long-standing sociological fashionability. The mystification would therefore be the studied, baroque, utopian, incomprehensible — situationist, as it were — image of the policeman operating as a member of the force whose job is to maintain order. To a demystified consciousness, then, a policeman would appear as what he was in essence: an entertainer, a psychologist, a humanist. And that's not all: "Police stations should be equppied with hostesses to greet and provide information to the public. This revolutionary proposal was made yesterday by the police themselves at a press conference given by the 'Joint Union Committee for the Police and Sûreté Nationale2 '... For the Joint Union Committee would like to make the relationship between the police and the public less intimidating." (France-Soir, 12 June 1965). And in the editorial of its 97th issue (6 September 1965), the police prefecture's information bulletin, Liaisons, notes that "since ancient times, the police have been identified with the City," and describes the consequent magnitude of their task:

Apart from exceptional circumstances when national cohesion is the instinctive response to a seemingly adverse fate, communication between different social groups proves to be difficult. Each group has a tendency to shut itself off, to think and react according to its preoccupations, its aspirations, and its own language, to a point where words themselves sometimes take on meanings particular to whomever is using them. The individual does not always spontaneously open up to those who do not directly share his concerns, and he often tends to identify with those who do share them, establishing a system of solidarities, partial in that they are limited to but one of the elements of the "self." Contact, in the philosophical sense of the term, becomes more difficult, and so what is supposed to be dialogue is often only a confrontation between two monologues. The Police have to take these partial solidarities in account. . . .

This research into police transparency, into a language of cybernetic consent, into a spontaneous solidarity beyond all real social separations, is capable of directing its conclusion toward an eminently concrete perspective:

To speak of civilization is certainly to speak of material organization, but also of moral concepts, order, security. The developments of urbanization cannot be considered without at the same time taking into consideration the means of putting it at the disposal of the police so that it can face up to its heavy responsibilities. Once again, one cannot content oneself with what is: it is necessary to envisage what will be, and this future is already known.

In this already known future, which is therefore only the spatial extension of the present order, the megapolice will possess the means of meeting their heavy responsibilities. According to an AFP dispatch from New York (1 December 1965), "A custom built television camera was unveiled in New York yesterday: it can operate in complete darkness thanks to a helium laser that projects an infra-red beam. The device could be used in police surveillence operations, as well as for scientific purposes." But if the police are always the priority when it comes to application of scientific development, their function has expanded from a strictly repressive role to a role of preventative integration. It is here that the specialized forces of sociological Sûreté are beavering away. How can the atomized, television addicted mob in the grands ensembles of the new urbanism be led to this "contact, in the philosophical sense of the term," from which the police anticipate the delicate extirpation of any "particular meaning"? This is the role of culture, the new leading commodity in the age of the consumption of leisure. In France, a state run organization is being set up for this very prupose, and the drugstore that has it on display is called a "community arts center": the era that has manufactured the most gaping cultural void is precisely that which is beginning to introduce the museum into everyday life, to tautologically fill the same void. In June 1965, a "Colloquy for grands ensembles Community Leaders" was held, as would be expected, in Sarcelles. Their Official Journal of 30 November published a decree constituting "artistic councillors delegated to artistic creation" divided across "regional action districts."

All that the spectacle spreads is general devaluation: it recuperates the gold of the old contestation and turns it into lead; in the spectacle's universe, all possible value is invisible. Its leaders are therefore so comical that we can depart joyously from the old cultural world, a simple facade maintained by the manipulators of a son et lumière show that lights up the entire surface of society with the same factitious poverty. On his 15 May 1965 visit to Bourges, known in the press as "the capital of cultural leisure" because of the promising results of early surveys ("63,000 inhabitants, 63,000 spectators in eight months" according to the formula in France-Soir, 15 November 1964), de Gaulle declared: "Culture, in our modern world, is not only a refuge and a consolation in the midst of a time that is essentially mechanical, materialist and altogether hectic. It is also the prerequisite for our civilization. As modern as it can be and more modern than it should be, it will be always be guided by spirit."

Spirit often seems to have forgotten and lost itself, but inwardly opposed to itself, it is inwardly working ever forward (as when Hamlet says of the ghost of his father, "Well said, old mole! canst work i' th' ground so fast?") until grown strong in itself it bursts asunder the crust of earth which divided it from the sun, its Notion, so that the earth crumbles away.

— Hegel

The Social Space-Time of Crime

COLOGNE, Tuesday: Criminolgists meeting in Cologne have arrived at the conclusion that most murderers attack members of their family and that most of them kill on the weekend, that is, between Friday evening and first mass on Sunday morning.

France-Soir (9 December 1965)

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From

  • 1Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, the State Security Police.
  • 2France's federal criminal investigation bureau.


The Role of Godard


From International Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by libcom on September 5, 2005

In cinema Godard presently represents formal pseudofreedom and the pseudocritique of manners and values -- the two inseparable manifestations of all fake, coopted modern art. Everyone does everything to present him as a misunderstood and unappreciated artist, shockingly audacious and unjustly despised; and everyone praises him, from Elle magazine to Aragon-the-Senile.1 Despite the absence of any real critiques of Godard, we see developing a sort of analogy to the famous theory of the increase of resistances in socialist regimes: the more Godard is hailed as a brilliant leader of modern art, the more people rush to his defense against incredible plots. Repetitions of the same clumsy stupidities in his films are automatically seen as breathtaking innovations. They are beyond any attempt at explanation; his admirers consume them as confusedly and arbitrarily as Godard produced them, because they recognize in them the consistent expression of a subjectivity. This is true, but it is a subjectivity on the level of a concierge educated by the mass media.

Godard's "critiques" never go beyond the innocuous humor typical of nightclub comics or Mad magazine. His flaunted culture is largely the same as that of his audience, which has read exactly the same pages in the same drugstore paperbacks. The two most famous lines from the most read poem of the most overrated Spanish poet ("Terrible five o'clock in the afternoon -- the blood, I don't want to see it" in Pierrot-le-Fou) -- this is the key to Godard's method. The most famous renegade of modern art, Aragon, in Les Lettres Françaises (9 September 1965), has rendered an homage to his younger colleague which, coming from such an expert, is perfectly fitting: "Art today is Jean-Luc Godard . . . of a superhuman beauty . . . of a constantly sublime beauty. . . . There is no precedent to Godard except Lautréamont. . . . This child of genius." Even the most naaive can scarcely be taken in after such a testimonial from such a source.

Godard is a Swiss from Lausanne who envied the chic of the Swiss of Geneva, and then the chic of the Champs-Elysées, and his successful ascent up from the provinces is most exemplary at a time when the system is striving to usher so many "culturally deprived" people into a respectful consumption of culture -- even "avant-garde" culture if nothing else will do. We are not referring here to the ultimately conformist exploitation of any art that professes to be innovative and critical. We are pointing out Godard's directly conformist use of film.

To be sure, films, like songs, have intrinsic powers of conditioning the spectator: beauties, if you will, that are at the disposition of those who presently have the possibility of expressing themselves. Up to a point such people may make a relatively clever use of those powers. But it is a sign of the general conditions of our time that their cleverness is so limited, and that the extent of their ties with the dominant ways of life quickly reveals the disappointing limits of their enterprises. Godard is to film what Lefebvre or Morin is to social critique: each possesses the appearance of a certain freedom in style or subject matter (in Godard's case, a slightly free manner in comparison with the stale formulas of cinematic narration). But they have taken this very freedom from elsewhere: from what they have been able to grasp of the advanced experiences of the era. They are the Club Med of modern thought (see in this issue "The Packaging of 'Free Time' "). They make use of a caricature of freedom, as marketable junk, in place of the authentic. This is done on all terrains, including that of formal artistic freedom of expression, which is merely one sector of the general problem of pseudocommunication. Godard's "critical" art and his admiring art critics all work to conceal the present problems of a critique of art -- the real experience, in the SI's phrase, of a "communication containing its own critique." In the final analysis the present function of Godardism is to forestall a situationist use of the cinema.

Aragon has been for some time developing his theory of the collage in all modern art up to Godard. This is nothing other than an attempt to interpret détournement in such a way as to bring about its cooption by the dominant culture. Laying the foundations for a Togliattist variant of French Stalinism, Garaudy and Aragon are setting up a "completely open" artistic modernism, just as they are moving "from anathema to dialogue" with the priests. Godard could become their artistic Teilhardism.2 In fact the collage, made famous by cubism during the dissolution of plastic art, is only a particular case (a destructive moment) of détournement: it is displacement, the infidelity of the element. Détournement, originally formulated by Lautréamont, is a return to a superior fidelity of the element. In all cases, détournement is dominated by the dialectical devaluing-revaluing of the element within the development of a unifying meaning. But the collage of the merely devalued element has been widely used, well before being constituted as a Pop Art doctrine, in the modernist snobbism of the displaced object (making a spice bottle out of a chemistry flask, etc.).

This acceptance of devaluation is now being extended to a method of combining neutral and indefinitely interchangeable elements. Godard is a particularly boring example of such a use without negation, without affirmation, and without quality.


Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version in the Situationist International Anthology). Translator's notes below.

  • 1Aragon-the-Senile: popular designation for the surrealist Louis Aragon after he became a Stalinist. During his surrealist days he had once made a contemptuous reference to "Moscow-the-Senile."
  • 2artistic Teilhardism: i.e. a modernist artistic-Stalinist synthesis, by analogy to the modernist scientific-Catholic synthesis of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.


Decomposition and Recuperation

a coke bottle in an op art advert

From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 23, 2023

The decomposition of the values and forms of traditional one-way artistic communication (in the plastic arts as well as all aspects of language) is accompanied by what is vaguely known as "the crisis of communication" in society, and which is at the same time the monopolistic concentration of one-way communication (of which the mass media is but a technological expression) and the dissolution of all common and communicable values, a dissolution produced by exchange value's crushing victory over use value on the battlefield of the economy.

The revolutionary sense that has dominated all truly modern art (and whose absence marks the qualitative end of modern art) can only understood in the context of the struggle against dominant conditions, that is to say, the project of a new communication. The victims of the various mystifications of this project — neo-dadaism and Stalino-Sartrism — all allow notions of originality and repetition to enter modern intellectual production, because they do not have enough foresight; they are cooled by the air of familiarity. But this familiarity is about as good as that of Atrides. When a certain [Georges] Pérec, the consumer of Les Choses, writes in Partisans, the journal of "open Stalinism," that "the crisis of language is a refusal of the real," he is ignoring the reality of refusal. The "refusal of the real" that he sees quite unimaginatively in the form of an artist who refuses reality, is in a totally different sense the refusal of the artist by reality: the radiography of a refusal that socially fabricated "reality" places in opposition to the tendencies of real life. If, in modern art, "the inexpressible is a value and the indescribable a dogma" (Pérec), it is because it is a matter of a world in which there is nothing that can be said. This rebellious contestation of modern art is reprised in the new literature of Robbe-Grillet without a hint revolt — even admiringly. This is just one sign among many of the generalized resignation in critical intelligence that led to the collapse of the revolutionary movement of the 1920's. One Sartre, at the October 1965 Congress of the "European Community of Writers" in Rome, did his best to shake off the problem of the cultural avant-garde, which was too complicated for him by asserting that it is conceivable only in a decolonized country. And during a "confrontation" — clearly stage-managed from the start — between believers and non-believers, at the 17th Catholic Intellectuals Week (closely related to the so-called Marxist "Thought" Weeks of the red priest [Roger] Garaudy), which gathered around a Jesuit such names as P.H. Chombart de Louwe and Ricouer, Philonenko and Balandier: "All agreed to recognize that unlike what took place last century, the human sciences have discovered their limits in the consideration of religious phenomena."

But already the industrial recuperation of artistic neo-decomposition is organized on the grandest of scales. Op Art, for example, turned into decoration almost immediately — current clothing styles represent the point when an art that was no more than a fashion directly became the art of fashion. You can read it for yourself in the 16 September 1965 issue of Elle: "The 1966 Elle style suits Op Art to a T. They're made for each other. The Elle style is a way of moving with the times, of getting into the new when it's serious and the reasonable when it's a little crazy. . . . Let this delightful little bug bite you, too. Get into the Op-timism of Op Art."

In fact, Pop Art and Op Art are one and the same: Prop Art, the propaganda art that forces you to survive with your times. Spreading everywhere, a machine named Abraham Moles1 hopes to have a creative function acknowledged by supporting a theory of "machines for creating."

To the delight of robots, combinatory writing can electronically compose a suite of poetry, sculpture, music, painting and so on. One can just as easily appreciate its mastery in Revue d'esthétique (no. 2, 1965) as in yet another Week, held in Bordeaux in October, where "Even [Jacques] Chaban-Delmas could be persuaded to take an interest it" (L'Express, 3-11-65). And in [André] Malraux's last Biennale — "the most successful," according to him — the goals of this integrated recuperation of the devalued fragment appeared at their best. According to Le Monde (30-9-69), always naïve and easily pleased: "These gatherings of the world's youth show that to some degree, artistic preoccupations even themselves out. There is no fundamental difference between the offerings of French, the Italians, the Japanese, the Swiss or the Turks. They are the same painted forms, the same collages, the same metal assemblages: today's modern art is truly international. Another observation: today's artists not only preoccupy themselves with pictures, but also with art in the city. Sculptors, painters and architects are combining their efforts to build "ideal cities," churches, youth hostels. . . . If you want to stay in step with the latest in young art, you need to go down the Avenue de President-Wilson."

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From

  • 1Abraham Moles is the subject of Correspondence with a Cybernetician in I.S #9. He was also a "collaborator" with the journal Arguments which received scathing criticism in previous issues.


Afterlife Holdings Inc.

"communism is the answer to the worlds problems it will bring you heaven on earth in which everyone will be happy

A very short article which is simply a paragraph from a newspaper, from Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 23, 2023

A colloquium on the question of life after death took place in Paris on 2 March. It was organized by the International Institute of Humanist Studies and the Theological College of Paris, headed by Mrs Amédée Ponscue and Pastor Marchal respectively. During the course of this meeting, whose participants included Monsignor Jobit, the philosopher [Kostas] Axelos, and Professors [Henri] Birault and [Paul] Ricoeur, Germaine Lafaille read texts by Nietzsche, Simone Weil, Kierkegaard and Saint John of the Cross.

Le Monde (6 March 1966)

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From


The packaging of “free-time”

From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on March 27, 2023

Through the art of advertising’s reuse of all the scraps of partial critical conclusions, our epoch will teach to those who are more accommodating that those who speak more or less [about] the same questions, and who employ almost the same formulas, are not for all that “close” [to us], and can [even] express rigorously antagonistic orientations. An “advertising enquiry” on “vacation sickness” (inserted into diverse publications, among them Le Nouvel Observateur of 1-4-[19]65) shows this marvellously. “Club Méditerranée” is praised in terms likely to attract an “educated” stratum to it, badly represented in its first years.1 In the customary style of Planète — “We are on the verge of a metamorphosis”; “it is here that it is necessary to come and decipher the civilisation of tomorrow” — the smooth-talking salesman [bonimenteur] promises that we will be introduced there “to thought and the arts, to history and the sciences”, and that “friendship is born from all the gestures” in “the leading organisation of leisure in Europe, the laboratory of the vacations of the future”.2 This institution has, however, the sensitivity to leave “to the politicians, the thinkers, the artists, the educators, even to the heroes” the task of “building a new morality, promoting a freer morality or reforming industrial society”, because “its role is limited to one-twelfth [i.e. one month] of life”.

An organisation of vacations is what the existing organisation of work takes for its point of departure, and arranges to treat the waste of this work industrially — it’s pseudo-freedom, [which] is the time reserved for the spontaneity of robots. How can they meet? On the basis of their fundamental alienation. The principle of their one-twelfth of friendship is the contrary of Montaigne’s remark: “because it was not he, because it was not I”.3 But the organisers of the vacation industry strongly criticise the artisans of “conventional vacations”, denouncing everywhere else a real “levelling by mediocrity”, for which they alone produce a remedy: “Today, man’s Sunday invades all of the week little by little. What will he make of this freedom? To create still more obligations, addictions, [and] alienations? And what if the great fair of vacations was only a drug, a new opium of the people?”

Thus is created — waiting [for] its integration into the State: “there is still no country in the world with a coherent politics of leisure” — a business for the sale of the most recent opium of the masses: the freedom-commodity. All other forms of slavery combine to furnish it with clients, and its advertising has taken notice of this: “Urban life, in which everyone is one’s own guardian, spy and teacher, and which has cut time into slices in order to compartmentalise men, their hearts, their strength, still exists …” The Club Méditerranée would be ungracious to not to let this happen, since it sucks up a concession on nothing less than a global slice of a twelfth of the year. “Henceforth, thanks to the promises of automation and to the new psychology of business relations, work will abandon more and more of time and space to leisure.” This perspective does not frighten managers who henceforth know how to keep people in the cracks of work; as a result of which they can admit that “though much degraded, it [work] has even become a sign of frustration. For many, it is no more than a necessary nightmare, an alibi which makes vacations possible… In the underdeveloped countries, the unions begin to demand time instead of demanding money”.

And for these vacations, which will be taken to provide so much consolation and value, the faith-healers of Club Méditerranée already present an ambitious ideology, which must naturally recuperate, in a combinatorial style, the maximum echo of modern critical theory. For the purchaser of freedom-commodities, “if only he lets his age-old taste for play and festivals return (which consists of improvising, as one goes along, rules that are used only once), he will re-establish broken communication with other people… We speak highly of the play of vacations, but not to confuse it with childish play. This is the play that, the further we go back in civilisation, gave birth to ceremonies, to sports, to theatre, to the circus, to the imaginings of art — in a word, to intelligence. To restore this play is to wager that anyone, facing strangers who offer themselves to him openly, will be able to cease being the suspicious and docile spectator of his own life and, on the contrary, become the creator of it.”

Some contemplate this in the Club Méditerranée; as do we, but quite otherwise, as we sometimes say.

[The following détournements & comment originally appeared at the top of page 61]

“For better productivity in the factory, put on a play for bosses and workers”

the specialists of psychodrama, meeting in congress in Paris, recommend4 .


“M. Georges Lapassade is a cunt”

Situationist International no. 9, August 1964

“Was there ever a century in which the thinkers better merited the motto: What do I know? They all fall into a pleasant error: in every science, they forget the fundamental problem, which is the pivot of the entire science… It is a methodical carelessness, until it regularly bears upon essential questions.”

Charles Fourier, The Theory of the Four Movements

First published in Internationale Situationniste no. 10, March 1966, pp. 60-61. Translated from the French by Anthony Hayes, October 2013. Thanks to Not Bored! for help with the translation. Translator's footnotes below. From

  • 1An early ‘package-tour’ organisation for overseas holidays. Founded in 1950 Club Méditerranée (aka “Club Med”), underwent considerable expansion after being bought by Baron Edmond de Rothschild in 1961. Initially the Club offered communal accommodations in ‘exotic’ locals for mostly young, single, French speaking tourists.
  • 2‘The journal Planète often incurred the criticism of the S.I. […] Planète, a magazine that combined science fiction stories with articles on speculative ‘science’, is perhaps the progenitor of such English language magazines as Omni and Wired, and is indeed the forerunner of the ideological function of such magazines. In their article Ideologies, Classes, and the Domination of Nature from I.S. no. 8, the Situationists compared Planète’s function to that of the journal Arguments. Whereas Arguments, under the guise of being a journal of ‘eclectic’ and ‘critical’ Marxist theory, was criticized for producing ‘the futile questioning of pure speculation’ (and thus played an important role in the spectacle of criticism), Planète was criticized for haranguing ‘ordinary people with the message that henceforth everything must be changed — while at the same time taking for granted 99% of the life really lived in our era.’ Thus the similarity of function – both journals were mouthpieces of the ideology of ‘progressive’ change (a central tenant of bourgeois ideology in its ‘free market’ and ‘state capitalist’ variants), whilst operating within and by virtue of the parameters of the bourgeois market. Their function as commodities that offered non-threatening change was central to the Situationist critique of them. Thus it was this appearance of modernity that was effectively non-threatening vis-à-vis capitalist modernity that was most egregious in the eyes of the Situationists, whose alternative was encapsulated in their conception of a coherent revolutionary project. Such an appearance would soon be shifted into the spectacle of post-modernism; the babble of ultra-modern theoretical radicalism that apparently interrogated everything all the better to hide the unitary nature of capitalist exploitation and alienation.’ (from fn. 5, Well Said S.I.! (I.S. No. 9)
  • 3“Si on me presse de dire pourquoi je l’aimais, je sens que cela ne se peut exprimer qu’en répondant : «Parce que c’était lui, parce que c’était moi.»” Montaigne, De l’Amitié (“If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because he was he, and I was I.”)
  • 4See “controlled froth” (I.S. no. 9).


The production of decadence

From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on March 28, 2023

“There are already machines specially constructed to serve no useful purpose. Here is the best: on sale in New York, for a dollar, [there is] a self-eating machine. As soon as you press on a particular red button, a noisy mechanism starts and, slowly, ineluctably, the bits composing the machine get stuck, break, [and] fall. At the end of a quarter of an hour, there remains only a dismal pile of rods, springs, pulleys and disassembled gears! Supreme luxury: the advertising to make you buy this machine promises in large print, that the assembly — as soon as one has played with [it] once — is beyond repair!”

(Elle, of 2-9-65)

In America, the automobile, the proliferation of which progressively reduces its use-value until it tends toward the status of a gadget (those responsible for the circulation of traffic in New York begin to envisage the necessity of a local prohibition of its use), has in 1965 spread to two cars for a quarter of American families (11 million). According to a survey by the Wall Street Journal, the motivation of the buyers is “to possess those that are better”, and to arouse the admiration of their neighbours: an enterprise worthy of Sisyphus, since the neighbours inevitably do the same. Far beyond the social sector whose riches permit such accumulation, these purchases are provoked through the facilitation of credit, the repayment of which can be extended to 42 months, and the guarantees to provide [such credit] reduced to a minimum. New gadgets appear that propel part of the considerable growth in crime. In New York an attempted rape is recorded every six hours, and someone is attacked every 12 minutes. According to a report by Michel Gordrey, who observes in this city a previously unknown “obsessive fear of crime” (France-Soir of 27-7-65), store fronts and newspaper advertisements offer “gadgets intended to strike assailants with an electro-shock of 4,000 volts, pocket sprays that cover them in an indelible colour and perfume them with an identifiable odour for a long time (to facilitate police searches”. One thousand two hundred special police officers have been assigned to surveillance of the subways, where armed attacks and other crimes have risen 52% from 1963 to 1964. “The avenues of the big department stores are now deserts once night has fallen. When I walk alone the rare passers-by who see me from afar start running.” A long film documentary for TV shows the “self-defense of a building” after many burglaries and murders: “The 45 tenants of the building and their families have formed a defense association, the men taking turns guarding the entry hall and the elevators, patrolling the basements and the cellars. At the end of the film, a police commissioner appears on the screen to encourage other buildings to ‘organise themselves’ in a similar fashion and to give advice…” Godrey concludes that we should not “take the psychosis of New York too lightly. What is happening in New York, at a higher level, interests all the large cities in a crisis of growth. Our city-planners who study American urbanism for the Paris of the year 2000 know that analogous sociological crises have suddenly appeared or will emerge in other forms in Europe.”

“Vietnam reveals the permanent violence that hides itself behind the smile and urbanity of the American way”, the Vietnam Day Committee wrote in their October [1965] bulletin.1 Nevertheless the report of the commission of enquiry created by the State of California after the Watts uprising — which admits “the situation is so serious that unless adequate measures are taken, other troubles yet more serious can happen” — accuse the black “extremist” leaders, not only of having encouraged the masses to riot, but also of “delaying the solution of the black problem”. We may even say that, generally, “extremist” men — like us — scandalously delay “the definitive solution of the problem of man” in the concentration camps programmed by the cyberneticians of power. If the contradictions of the barbarism of abundance constrain all the groups of society to self-defense, it will solely be necessary to redefine here and there the values and the type of life to defend.

In Encounter, August 1965, Irving Kristol pondered on the incredible revolt of American students.2 He clearly sees that the support of the blacks’ demands has only been an opportunity and that “Viet Nam itself, one may suspect, is as much the occasion as the cause” of the movement begun five years ago. Kristol writes: “Why American students, amidst general prosperity, and under a liberal Administration that is expanding the Welfare State more aggressively and successfully than anyone had thought possible, should ‘go left,’ is a riddle to which no sociologist has as yet come up with an answer. One theory is, simply, that these young people are bored”. For a critique that finds this already paradoxical, “all sorts of paradoxes” result: “For instance, these young American radicals are in the historically unique position of not being able to demand a single piece of legislation from their government”. It is here that we discover the greatest novelty, the originality, of the contestation that is currently brewing in America, measured by the stupefied gauge of Irving Kristol. From on high he judges what remains incomprehensible to him: the appearance of strangers in his country, in his habits. But he shows its importance, which he himself does not see, when he notes, “It is a strange experience to see a radical movement in search of a radical cause — it is usually very much the other way around.”

The transformation of a society is a totally different affair from political struggles concerning a few precise points within a society that is accepted. Here the program precedes the movement; there the movement precedes the program — which will be made in the same process. In this same overdeveloped urban zone of the north-east United States — where the gigantic electrical power failure in November [1965] that paralysed thirty million inhabitants for a few hours showed what guerrilla opportunities can appear in the highly industrialised countries3 — the recent attempt at a Free University in New York falls into the category of research into the formation of such a program.4 The manifesto of the Free University5 declares that it wants “to develop the concepts necessary to comprehend the events of this century” in “response to the intellectual bankruptcy” of the American educational order.6 Oriented from the outset toward an active contestation, this self-managed university — which constitutes itself without any fixation in particular buildings, and declares itself ready for semi-clandestinity by being able to exist scattered throughout the city — “is necessary because, in our conception, American universities have been reduced to institutions of intellectual servitude. Students have been systematically dehumanised, deemed incompetent to regulate their own lives, sexually, politically and academically.” (Address of the Free University of New York, 20 E. 14th Street, New York City).

First published in Internationale Situationniste no. 10, March 1966, pp. 61-62. Translated from the French by Anthony Hayes, October 2013. Thanks to Not Bored! for help with the translation. Translator's footnotes below. From:

  • 1‘Vietnam Day Committee’ in English in the original. The Vietnam Day Committee (VDC) was a coalition of left-wing political groups, student groups, labour organizations, and pacifist religions in the USA that opposed the Vietnam War. The VDC was formed as a result of a 35 hour ‘Vietnam Day teach-in’ organised in and around the Berkley campus of the University of California on May 21 & 22, 1965. It is claimed the teach-in involved 35,000 people. (
  • 2Irving Kristol, ‘Teaching In, Speaking Out: The Controversy over Viet Nam — Letter from New York’, in Encounter, August 1965, pp. 65-70. All of the citations by the S.I. in the following paragraph have been checked against the original article. Available here: Encounter was an Anglo-American literary magazine founded in 1953 and originally associated with the ‘anti–Stalinist’ Left. In 1967 Encounter was revealed to have been in receipt of funding from the C.I.A.: “The magazine received covert funding from the Central Intelligence Agency, after the CIA and MI6 discussed the founding of an ‘Anglo-American left-of-centre publication’ intended to counter the idea of cold war neutralism.” (
  • 3“The Northeast blackout of 1965 was a significant disruption in the supply of electricity on Tuesday, November 9, 1965, affecting parts of Ontario in Canada and Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, and New Jersey in the United States. Over 30 million people and 80,000 square miles (207,000 km2) were left without electricity for up to 13 hours.” (
  • 4The Free University of New York (FUNY) “began as a home for professors dismissed from local universities for protesting the Vietnam War, or for holding socialist views. Course topics included: Black Liberation, Revolutionary Art and Ethics, Community Organization, The American Radical Tradition, Cuba and China, and Imperialism and Social Structure. FUNY opened on July 6, 1965 in a loft at 20 East 14th Street overlooking Union Square. FUNY began as an experimental school for the New Left, built on models such as Black Mountain College (North Carolina), though it became closely aligned with the Maoist Progressive Labor Party. Tuition for the 10 week session was $24 for the first course course, and $8 for each additional course; welfare recipients could attend for free. After the first year, many of the initial collaborators left or were forced to leave, and it shut down a few years later.” (
  • 5English in the original.
  • 6I was able to check the S.I.’s citations against a copy of the FUNY manifesto reproduced in an article of the Peace Times, 29 October, 1965. A scan of this article is available here:


Decor and the Spectators of Suicide

A detourned comic - two women with speech bubbles "everything is fine" "nobody is happy"

Another short text on alienation from Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 24, 2023

Content warning: suicide.

Suicide has now practically reached epidemic proportions in the United States. In 1965, it took tenth place among the causes of death in the country, and third place among those of young people. Setting up "anti-suicide centers," one of them operating on a nationwide level, is now being seriously considered.

Recently, in France, a certain Bernard Durin killed himself — apparently for no reason. He was 37 years old and had been a model employee for the last fifteen of them. Everyone who knew him agreed that "he had everything one needs to be happy." He had "a ten-year-old daughter, Agnes, who got on well at school. A charming wife. A good job at IBM. A salary of 2,500 francs a month. An attractively furnished modern apartment. An automobile. A television, a washing machine, a refrigerator and even an aquarium. . . .

In an article in France-Soir, 24 December 1964, Charles Coron wrote:

The shop where Durin worked was situated in a multi-story glass-fronted building. His section largely consisted of small metal offices. Shelves stretched out of sight. Metal shelves. Metal filing cabinets. It was there that the spare parts Durin sorted out and packaged up were kept. No windows. Neon light. His timetable was irregular. The shop was open from seven in the morning until twelve at night. His shift was changed every two weeks. Sometimes he got up at five-thirty in the morning and finished work at four in the afternoon.

Sometimes he started work at four-thirty in the afternoon and got home at one o'clock in the morning. Durin was a model employee. No one worked harder. Someone suggested he take a correspondence course in English. He did so. He studied in the evening. He studied on Saturday and Sunday. . . . When he left the shop in Vincennes, Durin drove back to his home in Bondy in his 404. He drove in the lines of traffic you all know. He waited in the traffic jams. He saw the lights of the Bondy skyscraper housing estate. The straight lines. The concrete. The shopping center in the middle. He lived in apartment number 1153, 13, rue Leon Blum, FG 3. That was his life: electronics, skyscraper housing estates, cars, refrigerators and televisions. It was also his death.

For several years now, at least in the United States, it hasn't been uncommon to see excited crowds watching someone who has been driven desperate threaten to hurl themselves down from a window ledge or a roof. Whether the public has become blasé, or whether it is attracted by more professional spectacles, it doesn't intend to pay any further attention to these "unofficial stars" unless they get on with it, and jump. So far as we know, it was on 16 April 1964, in Albany, New York State, that for the first time this new attitude came out into the open. While Richard Reinemann, aged 19, prevaricated for the better part of two hours on a twelfth-story ledge, a crowd of some four thousand people watching him chanted "Jump!" A female passersby explained: "I don't want to wait all night. I've already missed my favorite TV show."

Translator unknown. From:


The Adventures of a Partial Analysis

Sigmund Freud at Karl Marx's grave

A short text on psychoanalysis from Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 24, 2023

The discoveries of psychoanalysis, like the thought of Freud, are at the end of the day unacceptable to the dominant social order — for any society founded on a repressive hierarchy. But Freud's "centrist" position, stemming from his absolute and supra-temporal identification of "civilization" with repression through the exploitation of labor, and therefore his handling of a partial critical truth inside a total non-critical system, led psychoanalysis to be officially "recognized" across all the degraded variants that it would inspire, without, however, being accepted in its truth: its potential critical usage. Of course, this failure is not exactly attributable to Freud, but rather to the collapse of the revolutionary movement of the 1920s, the only force that could have brought the critical data of psychoanalysis to its realization. The period of extreme reaction that followed in Europe drove off even the partisans of psychoanalytic "centrism." The psychoanalytic debris that are, in the West at least, currently fashionable, all developed out of this initial resignation, which made acceptable as verbiage that which could not be accepted in its critical authenticity. By agreeing to give up its revolutionary edge, psychoanalysis was gave itself up for use by all the guardians of the existing sleep, and, at the same time, opened itself up to rebuke for its insufficiency by ordinary psychiatrists and moralists.

Thus Professor Baruk, who has been known to boast of working nearly half a century of wonders as the head doctor at Charendon, attracted a lot of attention in the very first session of the Bichat symposium, when he assailed psychoanalysis — thinking he'd found something much better — by reproaching Freud for having sought no other solution than "the satisfaction of the individual to the detriment of society." But at the same time, other defenders of society have for five years conducted experiments, which the Council finds particularly moving, with a systematic psychoanalysis of every Benedictine in a monastery in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Under the volcano,1 the collected rabble of the asylums and neo-Roman Teilhardism2 strive to recuperate the memories of one of the most redoubtable explosions yet to have begun making the moral order tremble. And for the admiration of idiots in the salons of Paris, Lacan reprises Heidegger's formula (which has been so successful lately that even the finest spirits refuse to admit that such a profound thinker could really have been a Nazi). Between them, and with no other motive than that of dazzling the gallery, Heidegger and Lacan carry out the obscure dispersal of language that they discovered in the final phase of modern poetic writing (this is where this dispersal had a deeper meaning). They take on this style at the height of their literary talent, but within their "discipline." It is thus the supposed seriousness of the philosopher or the psychoanalyst that validates the obscurity of recent poetry, which was criticized so much as a gratuitous game detrimental to the comfort of the reader. But the return to obscurity, now truly hollow and pompous, covers the emptiness of their words, and allows both to mount the cultural show of the continuation of those old philosophical forms of separate thought, which have for a long time been separated from thought, petrified, dead. Modernism's new clothes were sewn in Pompeii.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. Translator's notes below. From

  • 1The title of the 1947 novel by Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957), set in Cuernavaca, especially popular with the Lettrist International.
  • 2Theories of Pierre Tailhard de Chardin (1881-1955), a French Jesuit who attempted to blend science and Christianity.


The Political Year 1965: An Anthology of Pointless Acts

A round up from International Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 28, 2023

1965, with the odd finishing touch added here and there in the first weeks of 1966, was something of a complete review of the failures of every variety of the existing power, as well as those of the solutions presented by its oppositional alternatives. While the current order has seen no threat of any kind of negation whatsoever, it has, through its own functioning, accumulated false starts, paralyses and setbacks everywhere. In its economy and in its repressive imperatives, the present world is already a unity; none of the powers that currently control it will ever be capable of truly dominating it, nor of sharing it in a completely satisfactory manner, nor will they even be able to impose on it any kind of supposedly rational direction. At the same time, in spite of the price it is capable of paying — and, indeed, of making others pay — no power has understood how to bring any of its projects to a successful conclusion.

The myth of the "socialist camp" has ended up degenerating into public rows among its governments, which now includes the exchange of insults between Cuba and China. From China on down, all its subdivisions have shown their incapacity to respond effectively to the all out attack by the United States in Vietnam and elsewhere. The "sense of history," served with a Mao and Stalin sauce, has been ridiculed by America's general offensive since the Cuban missile crisis, "a complete ruin — opening a new period in the division of the world," as we wrote in I.S. in January 1963 [Situationist News], going on to show that the game "shared by Russia and America of not waging thermo-nuclear war but 'continually escalating the spectacle of possible war'" caused Russia to suffer the consequences of its "bad calculations in the theater of global strategy." The dissolution of the international bureaucratic union continues to accelerate, as much on a military and political level as it does on an ideological level.

More profoundly, the internal difficulties of the bureaucratic states never cease revealing themselves. These difficulties, which have their source in the administration of industry, and even more prominently in that of agriculture, appear everywhere in the sphere of the political control of every aspect of life. In Russia, clandestine intellectual opposition is spreading. In Cuba, "homosexuals" are being purged from the University of Havana; the panic created by the attempts to assassinate Castro is a good indication of just how "socialist" a regime that depends on a single man really is; and the forced self-criticism of the accused Cubela, the revolutionary who "gave himself over to debauchery" and who "has no idea" how he managed to end up plotting against the Castro that he loves, was a replay of the Bukharin trial in Moscow. In August, the People's Daily admitted that there is "an inevitable gap between the level of consumers that is really necessary in socialist society and that which is actually permitted" (the ideology of the extension of classes to the benefit of the bureaucratic distribution of surplus-value). And the Supreme Court of the Federal Republic in Russia has decided to fight juvenile delinquency by laying charges against the parents (Associated Press, Moscow, 2-6-65), that is to say by holding families legally responsible for the direct use of their authority, which is so necessary to the state.

With the most powerful resources at its disposal, and finding itself in a position to unleash them in an ever widening zone, the United States has suffered the least definitive failures; but nowhere, however, have they led to any kind of success. While black riots and the revolt of young university students — who, at this stage of the country's economic development, represent a considerably large social strata (numerically around five million) — are beginning to clear the way for a new kind of crisis at home, the massive military intervention overseas has failed to break the resistance of Vietnamese fighters, nor even to reestablish order in favor of the generals of Santo Domingo. As a consequence, guerilla warfare has broken out across an enormous part of Latin America. In order to meet the responsibility of its influence, the United States has enlisted itself in a number of interminable conflicts: the down side of its politics is that it must always oppose change precisely where change is most necessary and urgent, from where none of their psychologists' calculations can deliver them.

The leaders of the rest of Western capitalism (the model of socializing reformism) have only attempted to prove themselves once again: for Germany, this is by not coming to power; in England, it is by doing just that. German ex-Social Democracy was dismissed in the September elections, almost by accident. The "engaged writer" Günther Grass was perhaps the only person not to notice that the rallying to Christian Democratic principles had been perfected to such a point that no-one could figure out what they actually were. According to Le Monde (14-9-65), this caused a member of Willy Brandt's staff to declare: "Even if we don't win, we have achieved something of a triumph this year. No-one, or almost no-one, has taken us for reds." Without taking Wilson for a red, one might be struck by the sense of humor he has shown since the electoral victory of the English left. The workerist government unanimously applauded the American war in Vietnam. Against the racist secessionists in its colony Rhodesia, it was markedly worse than de Gaulle, despite the fact that it had not been brought to power by a plot hatched by settlers in Salisbury. Its principle domestic duty was to give the unions complete control over the government's economic decisions; and above all to reduce the workers to the role of mere executors of union orders by means of laws against "wildcat strikes." And yet Wilson's election brought with it classical reprisals of the "wall of silver" that every analyst of "industrial society" has thought impossible since 1924; Le Monde was even driven to this terrible conclusion: "The great lesson to be learnt from the current British crisis is that Western society is still dominated by capitalism."

As for what the papers call the "Third World," it has come to know a fantastic accumulation of failures, from which not one of its pretensions or deceptive expectations has recovered. The fragments of power that are all that remain from the collapse of the Arab world's "progressive camp" are as fragile as the powers of the reactionary camp in the service of the West. In Egypt, the bureaucratic military leadership formulates the failures and exposes the plots of even the most obscure forces. Things are no better elsewhere: certainly not in Yemen, where the young republic has sold out to Saudi Arabia; nor in Iraq, where the recognition of "Right-wing Nasserism" has ended up legitimating the power of the real right and the return of pre-1958 ministers. The Ba'th, driven from Iraq and restricted to its "Syrian province," has torn itself into putschist factions. Soldiers and civilians, "extremists" and moderates, follow one another just as vainly into power, while all the party's personalities and all their chances are exhausted. Ben-Bellaism is ruined in a night.

The crumbling of the foundations for a "revolutionary" regrouping of the African states is also complete. The almost nonexistent Organization of African Unity, abandoning all hope after the declaration of independence in Rhodesia, failed to take the risk of an armed intervention in that country. It even admitted that it was incapable of breaking with England, after having announced it to the world in an extremely short lived ultimatum. In Ghana, Nkrumah "the Redeemer" and his unique party vanished when faced with a simple military plot, just like six other regimes on the continent had in the preceding days. These facts are just supplementary failures for Peking's extravagent political outsider.

Nothing has been more dramatic, however, than the bloody collapse of Indonesian Stalinism, whose bureaucratic habits blinded it to the point of having no anticipation whatsoever of the seizure of power, let alone the conspiracy or the coup, while leading the immense mass movement under its control to complete annihilation without calling on it to fight (the total number of executions now exceeds 300,000). Though the imperturbable Sukarno still hovers above his faithful subalterns, the already impossible "Second Bandung" for unification with Algeria has lost its biggest stars. India's neutralist "socialism" has run headlong into the war in Punjab, military repression of minorities and workers' demonstrations, and famine. By perishing in this way, torn apart by the pressures of rival imperialisms, the spectacular fraternization of the Afro-Asiatic states reveals that it only ever existed as an illusion.

Just as all repressions currently under way everywhere are also beginning to falter, this cascade of failures characterizes a lamentable world where no-one achieves their ends; where the course of events is completely different to that conceived by those who think they control them; where the ruse of the commodity continues to lead human history astray. This hilarious succession of gags in the comedy of power is just the political expression of the universal divorce between all systems and all realities.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From


The Current Means and Goals of Play

From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on March 28, 2023


This translation is a first draft, and has not been independently proofread. However, to the best of my knowledge this text has never been translated into English. Therefore I am making it available in this form with the caveat that there are likely to be mistakes in it. PLEASE APPROACH IT WITH CAUTION!

Draft 0.0 (26 May 2016)

The Current Means and Goals of Play

Marcel Giuglaris (in France-Soir 4 August 1965) has described the construction of a massive area and a series of exercises undertaken (with enormous resources) by the American Army to test the application of its war effort in Vietnam: “If a date is to be chosen to mark the change in the American strategic understanding of the Vietnam War, it’s that of Operation ‘Silver Land’ 1 .” After it, the Americans will no longer improvise. Using every minute detail they know, they rehearse every action to be undertaken in Vietnam, on the west coast of the United States. In spring 1965, over an area covering the entire western United States (from Seattle to the Mexican border – a distance of more than 2000 km, and more than 1000 km inland to just beyond Las Vegas) the Americans set up representations of [a number of] countries: Lancelot (South Vietnam) – covering the South of California – is “a country where guerrillas have harassed government forces so much since 1964, that in December it appealed to the UN for American military assistance.” Merlin (North Vietnam), north of Lancelot, is a country under a dictatorship that inspires, arms, supplies, and aids Lancelot’s guerrillas. Modred (China), is a large country that borders on Merlin, that possesses nuclear weapons, and is of the same political allegiance as Merlin, a country it holds in its sphere of influence. Finally, Neutrala 1 and Neutrala 2 (Laos and Cambodia) are more or less neutral countries which border Merlin and Lancelot. It’s not necessary to be a real expert to recognise the likenesses: but if these aren’t already obvious 2 , six Vietnamese villages (with the smells, hens and black pigs) have been recreated in Lancelot around Camelot, an urban area on the coast. Due to the lack of natives, and in order to ensure the same language problems, people who speak only Spanish (most likely Mexicans) were located there… “Silver Land” brought into play not only 80 vessels ranging from aircraft carriers to nuclear submarines but also tens of thousands of men. The scenario was incredibly intricate. Incidentally the exercise was modified so much, and at such short notice, in its execution, that a number of unit leaders were unable to get any sleep.”

Through its concrete significance, its futility, its alienation from the ludic, and the practical ignominy of its objectives, this American war-game can be seen as a counter-example of our concept of the “constructed situation” – formulated to address the liberating potential of these times.


  • 1The name of the exercise was actually “Operation Silver Lance”.
  • 2au cas où celles-ci échapperaient


Words & their users (cont)

A short text from International Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on March 28, 2023


This translation is a first draft, and has not been independently proofread. However, to the best of my knowledge this text has never been translated into English. Therefore I am making it available in this form with the caveat that there are likely to be mistakes in it. PLEASE APPROACH IT WITH CAUTION!

Draft 0.0 (26 May 2016)

Words & their users (cont)

“While addressing many thousands of students who completed summer internships in various government agencies, President Johnson greeted them as ‘revolutionary comrades’. ‘All my life’, he told them, ‘I have been revolutionary, fighting against bigotry, poverty, and injustice.’ ”

A.P., Washington, 5-8-65.



How Not to Understand the SI

Comments on recent coverage of the Situationist International in the press. From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 28, 2023

According to Le Monde Libertaire in December 1964: "The SI's revolutionary critique of everyday life is incontestably right on the mark. However, there is one domain, far from having lost its importance, that escapes them: work." We, on the other hand, believe that we've more or less never dealt with any problem other than that of work: its conditions, its contradictions, and its consequences. Le Monde Libertaire's error stems perhaps from the habits of undialectical thinking, which isolates an aspect of reality on conveniently recognizable terrain, where it can only ever be treated conventionally.

Reporting on an earlier special number of the Times devoted to the avant-garde, Le Figaro Littéraire of 3 September 1964 wrote: "Thus, Michèle Bernstein and Jörgen Nash confront one another from opposing pages. Both extol the virtues of 'international situationism.' Both want art not to be separate from the world, transforming society in such a way that the individual will be free to 'enjoy life.' And yet Nash was excluded by Michèle Bernstein. Here we touch on one of the avant-garde's darkest traits: its taste for the absolute." It seems that the recourse to an absolute "situationism" is completely out of the question when it comes to ridding oneself of a character like Nash. It really isn't that difficult to figure it out comparitively.

In Holland, the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad of 5 December 1964 devoted a page to the study of "Situationist Traits in the Face of Our Era." The face presented by this title was hardly very attractive, because it threw the SI into a stew of Nashism, happenings, and even a photo of the avant-garde royalist Georges Mathieu, ever the wretched pretender. Debord is described as "the movement's great prophet," and they are shocked that he refuses the term "situationism." In this article, the only thing that appears to be undiluted is their stupidity.

We'll pass over the dozens of confusionist articles in the Scandinavian press, hardly any better than their archetypal model that appeared in Politiken on 11 October 1964, earnestly searching for the reasons behind the "Nashist deviation," which has so flattered local patriotism. We are also poorly understood (poorly translated, poorly quoted) in issue 2 of the German bulletin Anschlag, the expression of a rather timid investigation into a radical position. And worse still in the example of the elogious but unintelligent article that the Lapassardist René Lourau thought he should devote to the SI in issue 82 of the journal Tour de Feu.

Nothing, however, can top the bizarre allusion of Paolo Marinotti, director of the International Center for Arts and Customs in Venice, reporting on a retrospective exhibition by Jorn at the Palazzo Grassi in one of the Center's publications. Marinotti writes of Jorn, who figured among the founders of the SI, and has since gone on to many other achievements: "Let's remember that the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus and this 'Situationist International' were both founded by Jorn from 1954 to 1962." What a confused historian!

Is this supposed to mean that the SI came to an end in 1962? We can't be confined to the mausoleum of cultural history just yet. Or perhaps Marinotti means that Jorn founded his first movement in 1954 and the SI in 1962? This certainly makes us look a bit younger. But this meaning shouldn't be read from the phrase; rather, it intends that Jorn took eight years to found the two movements. And if he had to do this all by himself, the time it took to complete this Herculean effort is understandable. But a deeper question is raised, prior to Director Marinotti's lyricism: how do you remember what you don't yet know?

As for the ex- Observateur, shortly before it ceased publication (1-10-64), it was pleased to point out in a little note amusingly titled "Revolution by Geniuses" that our journal deserved "close examination" for its "revolutionary approach to the modern world on every level," and this "in spite of its excesses." On this point, we haven't a clue what they mean. Just like Pancho Villa at the end of Jack Conway's beautiful film, all we can do is ask: "What excesses?"

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From


The Ideology of Dialogue

From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by libcom on September 5, 2005

The situationists' practice of concretely breaking with apologists for any aspect of the present social order (particularly visible with regard to the leading representatives of the culture and politics of submission, and including as its extreme case the exclusion of certain members of the SI) has been subject to the greatest misunderstanding, although it follows quite directly from our basic positions. Certain commentators have propagated the most hostile interpretations of this practice, thereby causing concern among semi-informed people. The reality in this particular case is quite simple. Those who accept one or more variants of the prevailing pseudodialogue become the advocates of a new type of free exchange in the name of an abstract right to dialogue at any price (payable in avowed concessions to falsehood), and they reproach us for interrupting this fake dialogue. It is, however, only in this way that we are able to be the bearers of the reality of dialogue. On the question of exclusion, we believe that through experimentation we have made an advance in determining the requirements for the nonhierarchical organization of joint projects, which projects can be sustained only by the self-discipline of individuals proving themselves in the coherence of the theories and acts through which each member strives to merit his joint responsibility with all the others. The one-sidedness of Stirner's notions on the relations of the egoist with the organization that he enters or leaves at whim (though it does contain a kernel of truth regarding that aspect of freedom) does not allow any independent basis for his passive and defenseless ghost of an "organization." Such an incoherent and undisciplined organization is at the mercy of any individual "egoist," who can cynically exploit it for his own ends while disdaining any social aims it might have (and in fact the Stirnerian individual can just as well enter the most reactionary association for his own personal profit). But a free association -- "a bond, not a power" -- in which several individuals meet on a common basis cannot be passively subject to someone's individual whim. Those who wish neither to judge nor to command must be able to reject any person whose conduct would implicate them. When the SI excludes someone, we are calling him to account not for his life but for ours, for the common project that he would falsify (whether out of hostile intentions or through mere lack of discernment). Each side remains individually free (the fact that this freedom is generally impoverished is another problem, without which there would be no need for undertakings like the SI) and by throwing back on his own an individual who has always remained autonomous we are only expressing the fact that this autonomy was not able to fulfill itself within our common project. In rejecting someone in accordance with the rules of the game that he thought he had accepted, or had pretended to accept, it is our own resignation that we are rejecting.

It may be helpful to elucidate these remarks with excerpts from two letters recently addressed to one of our correspondents in East Europe.

(First letter.) Our theoretical positions (on play, language, etc.) would not only risk becoming mendacious and valueless, they would already be without value if we held them in coexistence with some doctrinal dogmatism, whatever it might be. All of us believe, as you do, that "the freedom to travel all the unaccustomed paths" must be absolute (and not only on the artistic or theoretical plane, but in all aspects of practical life). For a thousand reasons, of which the experience of the Eastern bloc is the most obvious, we know that an ideology in power turns any partial truth into an absolute lie. . . . We are not a power in society, and thus our "exclusions" only express our freedom to distinguish ourselves from the confusionism around us or even among us, which confusionism is much closer to the actual social power and partakes of all its benefits. We have never wished to prevent anyone from expressing their ideas or doing what they want (and we have never sought to be in a position to exert such pressure). We merely refuse to be ourselves mixed up with ideas and acts that run contrary to our convictions and tastes. Note that this is all the more vital in that we have hardly any freedom to express our own convictions and tastes, due to their going so sharply against the mainstream. Our "intolerance" is nothing but a very limited response to the very strict intolerance and exclusion that we run into everywhere, particularly among the "intellectual establishment" (considerably more intense than the hostility the surrealists had to endure), and which we scarcely find surprising. Just as we are in no degree a controlling power in society, we refuse to become one one day by means of some political reshuffling (we are in this regard partisans of radical self-management, of workers councils abolishing all separate state power or even separate "theoretical" power); and we are refusing to transform ourselves into any power whatsoever, even on the small scale that we would be allowed, when we refuse to enlist disciples, who would give us, along with the right of control and direction over themselves, a greater recognized social standing as representatives of one more artistic or political ideology. . . . One should not confuse the practical conditions of free thought here and in the East -- or in Spain, for example. In countries where nothing can be openly expressed, it is obviously necessary to support the right of everyone to express themselves. But in places where everyone can express themselves (though under conditions of enormous inequality) any radical thought -- without of course wishing to suppress this practical freedom -- must first of all clear the way for its own "unaccustomed path," must assert its own right to exist without being "coopted" and distorted by the social order which manifestly reigns behind this visible confusion and complexity and which ultimately possesses the monopoly of appearances (cf. our critique of the "spectacle" in the consumer society of commodity abundance). Finally, the reigning "tolerance" is one-way, and this on a global scale in spite of the antagonisms and complexity of the different types of exploitive societies. What the tolerant people who are in a position to express themselves tolerate, fundamentally, is the established power everywhere. You tell us that you live in X... If you were in Paris you would see how many of these tolerant leftist intellectuals turn out to be undecided, understanding and tolerant toward the established conditions in X... or in Peking. What they call "the sense of history" is their Hegelian adherence to what they read in the daily papers.

(Second letter.) A radically different point of departure in fact first of all restores the truth of the liberatory endeavors of the past. It is necessary to break clearly with the old confusion, and therefore with its partisans, whether they be open, cunning or simply unconscious. We obviously have to bear the negative consequences of the attitude we have chosen, and we have to acknowledge this negativity. . . . We are in complete agreement with you on the interrelation of all aspects of the problem of the present avant-garde. We are in fact trying to initiate dialogue everywhere that that state of mind manifests itself in a radical direction. For that state of mind is itself divided by a struggle between its truth and its organized cooption by the ruling powers.


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


Investigations without a Guidebook

Some book reviews from Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on March 1, 2023

Kurt Wittfogel's Le Despotisme Oriental (Editions de Minuit) is principally an important contribution to Marxist theory, on the central but oft neglected question of the economic importance of the state in history. It is easy to reject the book's numerous errors on account of their very enormity. Wittfogel's entire current direction is based on the identification — a practically geographical identification — of "Oriental" state totalitarianism born of "the hydraulic means of production" with the current bureaucratic zone of the world. He overlooks, on the one hand, the existence in current bureaucratic society of an industrial development which has effectively taken its first great stride toward the conditions enjoyed by the European bourgeoisie of the middle ages, but which must now be adapted and administered in all its aspects. On the other hand, he fails to extend his analogies to the decisive role of the state in the concentrated capitalism of the West. It is nevertheless this perspective neglected by Wittfogel that best reveals the universal actuality of a potential under-estimated in Marx's analyses, on account of the passing economic effacement that it experienced between the middle ages and the 19th century (an effacement that effectively permitted the cumulative "kick start" of the economy, and ultimately the appearance of "economic thought"). Wittfogel's schematization is meant to lead to the conclusion that Western freedom must go to war as soon as possible to drive back the hydraulic slaves that lay siege to it from Moscow and Peking. Wittfogel then concludes his work with a quotation from Herodotus, asserting that when one knows the nature of freedom, one must fight for it, "not just with the spear, but with the hatchet." This peculiar optimism, which is very much like that of Dr Strangelove, is otherwise refuted by the fact that those who fight most for freedom are often those who have never known it, like the Vietnamese, or the masses of Santa Domingo, still battling to make Wittfogel's marines see it. The reader might recognize themself among the mirages in which Wittfogel loses his way. But this is certainly not made any easier by the pedentic preface in which Pierre Vidal-Naquet has authoritatively slipped in his own counter-interpretation of "the Left," without permission of the author. This "critique of the Left," imposed on the reader to mediate before gaining access to the author's own thought — which is most assuredly right wing — is as authoritarian in its content as it is in its presentation. Vidal-Naquet is so prostrate before neo-Stalinism that he contributes to the perpetuation of a division of the world à la Wittfogel. Lie against lie, the choice is yours. As a sufficiently sordid qualitative example, Vidal-Naquet has allowed himself to write in a note on page 41 of his preface: "By Marxists, we mean the majority currents of the worldwide communist movement. It is quite obvious that Stalinist theses have no influence whatsoever on those currents which are, by definition, anti-Stalinist. Studying their position here would be completely beside the point."

[Joseph] Gabel's False Consciousness: an essay on reification (same publisher) is on the whole an excellent parallel between schizophrenia and political ideology, both shown to be related to the loss of the dialectical apprehension of reality. The absence, however, of a corollary critique of the practical functioning of political ideology (Gabel's psychiatric description is far more substantial than his recognition of the interest held by the interaction with ideological alienation) gives rise at the same time to a certain weakness within Gabel toward Stalinist orthodoxy, as it does toward Western academic thought — such as a poorly considered attempt to salvage Bergsonism. False Consciousness, which throws all revolutionary theory and action out with the bathwater of ideology, seems in the end like of a book of "specialization without portfolio," of a specialist without perspective who prefers to ignore what and whom he can serve. The "putting back the dialectic back on its feet" to which Gabel frequently refers — after Marx's treatment of Hegelian method — can in no way be understood in the form of a simple amelioration of dialectical discourse in the same book. As Karl Korsch put it so well in Marxism and Philosophy, the inversion of Hegel goes further than that. A dialectical book in our time is not only a book that presents a reasoning dialectically; it is a book that recognizes and calculates its own relationship with the totality to be actually transformed.

Maurice Pianzola's book Peintres et Vilains (Editions Cercle d'Art, 1962) has the merit of showing the participation of the principle artists of the era in the Peasants' War of 1525, often in a leading role among the insurgents. Unfortunately, this study remains firmly within the traditional framework of the art book.

The pocket book on Les Marxistes (L'Essential collection) produced by Kostas Papaioannou constitutes an excellent choice, with intelligent and honest commentary. The intelligence of the texts is nevertheless limited by its historian's perspective in dealing with a period that is now over. It is indeed strange to restore such texts without any idea of their future. The use of the book escapes its author who even seems to believe that that it doesn't have one. This is an example of the basic character of contemporary mass culture. The contradictions and superficial uncertainties of this culture have allowed a great deal of abstractly utilizable information to enter it, but in a state of practical incoherence. The curiously restrained partial coherency of Papaioannou's work is the most extreme case of this incoherence.

A long way from these books which should still, of course, be read, the book that Françoise Choay has devoted to Urbanisme, utopies et réalités (Seuil) only warrants being pointed out for the achievement that consists of dealing with this subject without ever mentioning a single situationist thesis.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From


Lefebvre the Historian

From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on March 1, 2023

It is well known that by hastily copying fourteen situationist theses, Henri Lefebvre purported to offer a new interpretation of the Paris Commune (see the SI's tract, Into the Trashcan of History from February 1963). His book La Proclamation de la Commune, in which he admires our important conclusions from the end of 1962, was finally published by Gallimard in 1965, leaving a number of points to be made on this largely rethought work, now totally accessible, as well as on the positive reception that it has generally encountered.

The situationist formula "the Commune was the greatest festival of the 19th Century," was adapted as the central idea of this "investigation" into a "total history" (but, of course, without the slightest awareness of the theoretical renewal whose foundations it laid); and was immediately celebrated by 75% of the critics. ". . . what Henri Lefebvre's book calls a 'festival.' Indeed, everything that occurred in the days and nights of the Commune was a festival." (Duvignard, Nouvel Observateur, 22-4-65). "The March 1871 insurrection was first of all a festival . . ." (C. Mettra, L'Express 5-4-65). "With this work, Henri Lefebvre can't be ignored. The Paris Commune was 'an immense, grandiose festival,' 'a revolutionary festival and a festival of revolution.' That's the general tone." (A. Duhamel, Le Monde, 6-9-65). "When Henri Lefebvre, immediately emphasizing the importance of style in great historical events, has reason to describe the style of the Paris Commune, it is as a festival." (J.Julliard, Critique, December 1965). And Michel Winock, in the February 1966 edition of Esprit: "Aside from 'the end of state politics,' what did the Commune offer us? What was its deepest significance? The greatest imaginable: 'the transformation of (everyday) life into an endless festival, into a game whose only limit is the fatality of death. . . .' Lefebvre does not give in to utopian literature: with his attention to the detail of the day to day facts of Paris in 1871 — often seen as less 'historical' — he concludes that the 'festive style' is 'the style proper to the Commune.' The phrase is not forced . . . This leads Lefebvre to see in the Commune 'the only attempt at revolutionary urbanism' . . . From now on, it will be impossible to speak of the Commune without being familiar with Henri Lefebvre's ideas."

There is no reason to believe that Lefebvre's pillaging is confined to yet-to-be-published texts. The following lines come from issue 7 of the journal Internationale Situationniste (page 12 1 ), which appeared in April 1962: "The assault of the first workers movement against the whole organization of the old world came to an end long ago, and nothing can bring it back to life. It failed. Certainly it achieved immense results, but not the ones it had originally intended. No doubt such deviation toward partially unexpected results is the general rule in human actions; but the one exception to this rule is precisely the moment of revolutionary action, the moment of the all-or-nothing qualitative leap. The classical workers movement must be reexamined without any illusions, particularly without any illusions regarding its various political and pseudotheoretical heirs, for all they have inherited is its failure. The apparent successes of this movement are actually its fundamental failures (reformism or the establishment of a state bureaucracy), while its failures (the Paris Commune or the 1934 Asturian revolt) are its most promising successes so far, for us and for the future." This is what became of that paragraph three years later, when it was transfigured by Lefebvrian thought: "Today, we must resume the workers' movement in an entirely new way: at once disillusioned and audacious. Limited to Europe, this movement's first assault against the old world partially failed. The situation has changed dramatically; it has achieved immense results, but not the ones intended by those who undertook its initial theories and actions. Some of the Commune's political and theoretical pseudoheirs hold only the heritage of a failure, whose meaning has been lost precisely because of their belief in its success. Is there not a dialectical movement of history and defeat, of failure and success? The success of the revolutionary movement has in fact concealed its failures; in contrast, its failures — that of the Commune, among others — are at the same time victories that open onto the future . . ." (page 39 of La Proclamation de la Commune).

But, you ask, is it possible for Lefebvre write such an awful book simply by adapting three 'situationist' pages? Of course not. He has read four or five well-timed books in the past few years that he has been capable of tirelessly but unevenly amalgamating into several investigations concerning the unfolding of events (for example, Dautry and Scheller's study, Le Comité Central des Vingt Arondissements de Paris, Editions Sociales, 1960). Finally, no doubt to the delight of his last master Gurvitch, who is still alive, Lefebvre fraudulently and with no apology credited Proudhon with being something like the inventor of the autonomous worker! This is the Proudhon, ever the partisan of order, who wanted to improve the existing order, in the sector of private property (through cooperation) as everywhere else; the apolitical enemy of all violent struggle; the reactionary who, in the middle of the 19th century, neither considered nor tolerated any choice for women other than that between prostitution and motherhood; the man who perfectly summed up every uselessness of the moralist when he decided, precisely against the existing minimum of worker autonomy, that "There is no more right to strike than there is to incest and adultery."

But that's not all. From the very beginning of his book, Lefebvre demonstrates what poor ideas he can make out of festival and revolution. He searches unimaginatively for how literary forms expressed in Paris at the time — lyricism and drama — must, by hypothesis, be rediscovered. He thereby reveals that he has absolutely no understanding of the liberated life that transcends these forms, autonomizing itself as expression and action, to the point of possessing in itself lyricism and drama of an entirely different quality to this resurrection of the artistic masks of the old carnival of separation. Having quite simply misunderstood — at the level of doorman's gossip — our theses' suggestion that the official history of dominant society "brings about the disappearance" of the subversive sense of an era, even in the field of its artistic and poetic manifestations, Lefebvre believes that he can venture to insinuate that Lautréamont was murdered! (page 169). Like the famous Fantômas — where each chapter was written by a different author — Lefebvre's historical monument is composed with the same hypnogogic negligence, a cloak and dagger novel culminating in the stupefying idea that Marx visited the Commune in order to be a purely theoretical partisan of the destruction of the state.

Lefebvre has attempted to exorcise the situationist specter haunting his thought — as well as that of quite a few other small minds of present spectacular culture — by directing an acknowledgment to a mysterious Guy Debud, who would certainly be the type associated with the elaboration and approval of such a book but for his unfortunately chimerical form. Typographically — for want of better means — a prouder correction of historical exactness has not been seen since Stalinaud, who the ever faithful Henri Lelièvre loved so hopelessly for thirty years (or at least preferred to Garaudisque). Vaccinated against ridicule like no-one else in Paris, The Thinker of Nanterre has once again mastered a delicate subject with the handling of his dialoctical brilliance.2

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From

  • 1The Bad Days Will End
  • 2All typographical errors in this paragraph are intentional and appear in the original text. "Henri Lelièvre" is literally "Henri the hare" — trans.


Interview with an Imbecile

a "ye ye" girl with sunglasses frames in the shape of suns

From International Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by libcom on September 5, 2005

Even worse than the old Observateur, the Nouvel Observateur is a veritable Niagara of stupidity (6,810,000 liters per second). A considerable portion of this flow is produced by two of its editors, Katia Kaupp and Michel Cournot, whose writings could serve as excellent historical documents for the study of the supreme phase of spectacular decomposition. Their combination of stupidity and stylistic vulgarity makes them perfect Jean Nochers of the Left (a Left which adheres to the dominant society as fundamentally as does Jean Nocher, apart from a few details concerning the "modernization" of this domination). For its launching, however, this magazine called on some guest celebrities. Its opening issue (19 November 1964) presented a five-page interview with a star thinker. We reproduce here a few of his most extraordinary statements. The parenthetical remarks are obviously ours and not those of the Nouvel Observateur flunky who pretends to dialogue with the oracle.

"The young people I meet," says the imbecile, "are perhaps less hotheaded than in the past, but what I find most striking is that politically they are often at the same point as I am. My point of arrival is their point of departure. . . . And they have a whole lifetime ahead of them to build on the base that is my point of culmination." (The young people who are not at the same point of political degradation would obviously never have been interested in meeting this imbecile. As for those who have the misfortune to be at that point, a hundred successive lifetimes "ahead of them" would never suffice to build anything on the base of his culmination, which has been revealed from every angle as an intellectual dead end.)

"In France the 'yé-yé' phenomenon was used in order to turn the youth into a class of consumers." (A perfect inversion of reality: it is because the youth of the modern capitalist countries has become a very important category of consumers that phenomena of the 'yé-yé' sort appear.)

"You can only be alluding to Marxist ideology. Today I don't know of any other: current bourgeois ideology is more notable for its absence than for its strength." (Those who have read Marx know that his method is a radical critique of ideologies; but he who has only read Stalin can praise "Marxism" for having become the best of ideologies, the ideology that has had the strongest police.)

"Socialism can be pure only as an idea or, perhaps, much later, if it becomes the regime of all societies. In the meantime its incarnation in a particular country implies that it must develop and define itself through innumerable relations with the rest of the world. In the forging of reality, the purity of the idea becomes tainted." (Here is a Marxist ideologue really ideologizing: ideas are pure in the heavens and become rotten when they are incarnated. Since this thinker is himself real and has affirmed the principle that any realization in the world must entail a fundamental corruption, he implicitly both admits his own degradation in his "relations with the rest of the world" and justifies it on the grounds of inevitability. From all this we can appreciate his "advanced" state of decomposition.)

Right after this, the imbecile quotes a Malian's statement which he greatly admires: "Our socialism is conditioned by the fact that we are a country without any outlet to the sea." (Is it not also somewhat conditioned by the absence of an industrial proletariat in Mali? But this is just a trifling detail in the geopolitics of such a profound thinker!)

To the idea that all the industrial societies have many features in common, the imbecile retorts: "To say that, one would have to prove that there is a class struggle in the socialist countries, that is, that the privileges accorded certain people are becoming stratified. Now, this is not at all the case. There are admittedly some very real inequalities; but the money obtained by a factory manager in the USSR cannot be reinvested anywhere: it is spent and cannot be replenished or augmented in his hands to become the basis of a class power." (A basis which lies elsewhere: in the possession of the state. The extra money received by the privileged in the USSR is not the basis of their power, but a clear expression of their power.)

"The Soviets are shocked when one seems to believe that among them money can confer power." (Of course, since it's the other way around!)

"To be sure, these 'high-ranking functionaries' have numerous privileges; but to the very extent that the regime is authoritarian, there is a social instability, intermixing among different strata, demotion of leaders, a constant influx of newcomers from the base to the summit. If any conflicts were to occur in the USSR they would have the aspect of a reformism and not of a revolution." (Thus the very arbitrariness serves to prove that there is no ruling class in the USSR. At this level of insult to one's intelligence, one could just as well argue that the free-enterprise capitalism of Marx's day was also socialist, since its economic laws ruined many industrialists and it sometimes happened that a worker would become a boss; hence the social instability, class intermixing, etc.)

But the idea of a pure imbecile of this dimension would only be a "pure idea." Since such an imbecile actually exists, he must also firmly identify with a repressive power. After the armed revolt of the Hungarian proletariat -- in one of those "socialist countries" where "one would have to prove" that class struggles could now exist -- this same imbecile was so set on defending the interests of the Russian bureaucracy that he took a position to the right of Khrushchev: "The most serious mistake was probably Khrushchev's Report [on Stalin], for the solemn public denunciation, the detailed exposure of all the crimes of a sacred personage who has represented the regime for so long, is a folly when such frankness is not made possible by a previous substantial rise in the standard of living of the population. . . . The result was to reveal the truth to masses who were not ready to receive it."

The thinker we have been talking about is Sartre. And anyone who still wants to seriously discuss the value (whether philosophical or political or literary -- one can't separate the aspects of this hodgepodge) of such a nullity, so puffed up by the various authorities that are so satisfied with him, thereby reveals himself as not worth being taken seriously by those who refuse to renounce the potential consciousness of our time.


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


“Socialism or Planète”

Covers of Planete magazines

Criticisms of the journals Planète and Socialisme ou Barbarie. From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on March 29, 2023

We put forward several apparently risky assertions with the assurance of subsequently seeing an historical display of their undeniable seriousness. The more limited our remarks — for example when we analyse a detail of the pseudo-critique that attempts to cover the [entire] field of the real criticism of the present — the quicker [such] demonstrations naturally follow, even though the same objective limits in such cases lead only to demystification in some restricted milieus, with which we are justly concerned. Such is the result now evident of the boycott launched by the S.I. against the journal Arguments (1956-1962), [a] journal that was also the European concentrate of this pseudo-critique.[1]

Arguments, as we know, had two very big heads, [Kostos] Axelos and Edgar Morin.[2] Since the collapse of their highest undertaking, their careers have been speaking. Starting in July 1964, Axelos threw himself into Planète no. 17, presented by its editorial board as swimming “in a meditation that is ours”, and attempting to promote “an open and multi-dimensional thought, questioning and global”.[3] In the following year, in several issues of Le Monde, Morin seriously examined the doctrines and methods of Planète (this pseudo-impartiality before the void being already unanimity). He had elsewhere concluded rather positively, not before inviting Planète to improve itself by becoming still more “planetary”, and he designated his acolyte, Axelos, as [the] already-present sign of this progress. The rewards for his good offices in “public relations” hardly had to wait. One could read in Le Monde of 28 January 1966: “In the offices of the journal Planète, Louis Pauwels and Claude Planson, the old director of the Theatre of Nations, installed the headquarters of a new association, l’A.R.C. (Association pour la recherche des cultures).[4] In the directorial committee we find the names of Maurice Béjart, Jean Duvignaud, Edgar Morin, Jean Vilar, Jan Kott”.[5] Sub-intellectual manifestations of the Planète type are only the extreme products of the decomposition of the totality of culture. Those who do not know how to refuse the totality of the politico-cultural spectacle — and who do not want to practically break with its numerous defenders — cannot even, finally, refuse the monstrous evidence of the stupidity spread by Planète. The very frontier of this “Planetism” is not evident to [those] who have truly broken with nothing of the organised confusion of today. Such [people], who certainly will not accept all of Planetism, will accept some Planetism, like some Godard, or some psycho-sociology, or some bureaucratic “orthodoxy”. Already, back in the day, it accepted some confused critique from some leftovers. All respectful contestation will end by accepting cohabitation with Planetism, because the many hollow intentions that those people oppose to almost everything [will] not hold them back from practically juxtaposing themselves, with reciprocal support, in an identical framework of spectacular-confusionist thought. This juxtaposition is the same principle of the present intellectual spectacle, the schizophrenic false consciousness of our time (cf. the works of J[oseph] Gabel).[6] The breaking up of Arguments also illuminated its past as the “university of left Planetism” by also revealing the process of contamination by osmosis of all the half-critiques that conceal themselves before a totally clear option, inseparable from acts themselves clearly decided [tranchés] in all areas of activity (including the tastes and encounters of everyday life).

The group associated with the journal Socialisme ou Barbarie have taken over from Arguments. They will end like Arguments. In Socialisme ou Barbarie, no. 39 (March 1965) the same Morin — [who is there] without doubt due to the shortage of more mediocre editors, and in any case he no longer had to fear compromising himself by appearing there — can legitimately feel at home in the entourage of a [Paul] Cardan, theoretician of the bread crumb who wanted, two years ago, “to recommence the revolution”; and who, in fact, accomplished his reconversion to the common culture of middle management particularly badly.[7] [Daniel] Mothé, the exemplary worker of this old revolutionary group, announced in his book Militant chez Renault (Seuil) his joyous membership in the ex-French Confederation of Christian Workers, whose democracy strongly attracts him.[8] As a result, here he is in the journal Esprit (February 1966), which reveals, apropos the presidential election: “It is the privatisation of the citizen and his reduction to a consumer of spectacle that obliges him to transfer the political to the level of household problems.” Here is the usual development of the Argumentist[9]: to circulate in polite society a little diffuse “situationism”, which is to say degraded critical thought, but on a degraded basis — one baseness compensating the other! The ex-Argumentist Yvon Bourdet, in the same issue of Socialisme ou Barbarie, no. 39, unleashes himself [se déchaîne] against the First International, confusing it so much with the bureaucratic powers that dominated the subsequent two Internationals — notwithstanding the differences between them — that he audaciously concludes: “In fact, the three are the same.” Furthermore, for him, closed to all the historical proofs (the place of Poland and of Polish exiles in all the struggles of the 19th century would have in itself been sufficient), the notion of internationalism would never have been “lived, except at the level of the apparatus (the general council) composed principally of émigrés”.[10] We see the two-fold delirium that transfers the modern reality of the apparatus, in the form of a timeless concept eternally rich from all of its crimes, to a time that has not known it[11] and that, on the other hand, succeeds in isolating the quality of émigré from its origin: a struggle spontaneously born in many countries, from similar conditions, and tending toward a community of international action, towards a party in the spontaneous sense that Marx then gave to this term. The measure of internationalism is exactly the measure of the consciousness of the revolutionary reality, a consciousness that has always been weak, repressed by all the mental and morale organisations of the dominant society, by a thousand defeats, and by one hundred thousand Cardan-Bourdets. But the return of what is repressed has its domain in all modern society. It is the end of its spectacle that will reveal it. Meanwhile Socialisme ou Barbarie thinks like the historian [Jacques] Rougerie does in the special number of Mouvement Social on the I.W.A. (April 1965).[12] The prudence of his scholarly conclusion, with one hundred years of hindsight, results in this admirable, involuntary parody, this masterpiece of questioning: “The problem remains open; momentarily, we have for the sole proof of the existence of worker internationalism that of the International itself.”

Similarly we have for the sole proof of the existence of Cardanism the thought of Cardan himself. This is not much! The disorder of current ideas mixed together in an interminable article by Cardan — who always fallaciously announces its end from one number to the next, and who restarts [it] in an incessant flight onward, without having ever commenced — marked the definitive impossibility of the existence of a group tolerating this.[13] The Macedonian Ideology of Cardan is such that ten individuals, themselves very close to mental debility, could not agree on a text whose own author decomposed it into scattered islands.[14] The dissipation of ideas goes so far that Cardan henceforth can no longer be satisfied with a five-year pseudonym; to hide his incoherent variations and the consequences of his poverty, he would need a different pseudonym every five pages.

Cardan, who no doubt believes, here as elsewhere, that it suffices to speak of something in order to possess it, vaguely gargles about “the imaginary”, thus wanting to justify, more or less, his gelatinous inconsistency of thought. He grasps hold of — following the example of the now-official world — psychoanalysis as a justification of the irrational and the profound reasons of the unconscious; whereas in fact the discoveries of psychoanalysis are a reinforcement — still unused, for evident socio-political motives — of the rational critique of the world. Psychoanalysis deeply tracks down the unconscious, its misery and its miserable repressive instances, which only derives their strength and magical pageantry from a very common practical repression in everyday life. Cardan immediately looses himself, before seeing that there is always a constituted imaginary that hides the actual imaginable. The social imaginary never has the pure innocence, the independence, attributed to it by its neophyte Cardan. For example, the greatest political problem of the century is an imaginary affair: we have imagined that the socialist revolution was successful in the U.S.S.R. The imagination is not free in an enslaved society. Without it, why would we imagine not only Planète, [but] so many Cardaneries?[15]

In Socialisme ou Barbarie, no. 40, Cardan sumptuously extended his questioning to “the fabrication of needs” in the advanced capitalist society. Cardan is a questioner of size; he sees far; one does not deceive him with the common idea of “true needs”; he seeks the highest assurance of the fundamental uncertainty of human enterprises. He writes (our emphasis): “It is vain to present this situation exclusively as a ‘replacement response’, as the offer of substitutes for other needs, ‘true’ needs, which the present society leaves unsatisfied. Because, by admitting that such needs exist and that we can define them, it can only become more striking that such a reality can be totally covered by a ‘pseudo-reality’.” Thus the same oppression and all its precisely oriented lies, all its spectacular organisation of the “pseudo-reality”, become problematic for Cardan and are absolved, from the moment that he completely passed from [the side of] critique to the side of the pseudo-reality. In place of trying to explain the astonishing, the “striking” function of social appearance in modern capitalism (key to all new revolutionary attempts), Cardan has the flat positivist self-confidence of the comic bourgeois who says “this would be all the same” [in order] to deny a problem that upsets his great common sense. Not only is he blind here, but he also denies that there is anything to see. However, pseudo-reality itself shows, negatively, what it hides. That all the needs that solicit or could solicit the production of commodities are equally artificial or arbitrary is what belies the dazzling contradiction of advertising in the social spectacle, which speaks of what it does not sell and does not sell that which it speaks of. It is easy, even for sociologists, to see what advertising promises and does not give publicity to — effective for the diffusion of some commodity or another: it promises security and adventure; the novel development of personality and recognition by others; communication and, above all, the fulfilment of erotic desires. For example, after Freud and Reich, we effectively know more than before about what are sexual “true needs,” and their dominant role in advertising imagery is manifestly intended to sell to people the market substitution for what they don’t have, rather than an infinity of equally acceptable imaginary possibilities. The existing imaginary of which Cardan speaks is not beyond some elementary needs, but an obstacle on the same side as them. These needs are still in no way transcended [dépassés] (except simple dietary needs in only a part of the world). But all of these truths that elude Cardan still do not mean that there existed this “essentially unalterable human nature in which the predominant motivation would be the economic motivation” — [an] error that Cardan, in his total ignorance of dialectical thought, believed can be revealed as the “hidden postulate” of Marxism (cf. our citation in S.I. 9, page 18).[16] We think, like Marx, that “the whole of history is only the progressive transformation of human nature”.[17] [And] the whole is understood in the moment of history that is here and now. All those who understand it at the same time understand very well the incomprehension of Morin and Cardan, and their effective fraternization. Even the rout of Socialisme ou Barbarie is nothing original: it faithfully follows Arguments into the dustbin that we have been able, in advance, to assign it.

LAST EDIT: 27 January 2017

First published in Internationale Situationniste no. 10, March 1966, pp. 77-79. Translated from the French by Anthony Hayes, October 2013. Thanks to Not Bored! and Marblepunk for help with the translation. Translator's footnotes below.

[1] This boycott was announced in I.S. no 5 (December 1960), in ‘Renseignements situationnistes’ (‘Situationist News’), p. 13: “the [Central] Council [of the S.I.] has decided to take advantage, without delay, of progress made by the S.I. and the support that it has begun to gain, to make an example of the most representative tendencies of the pseudo-leftist and conformist intelligentsia who have painstakingly organised so far the silence around us; and whose resignation in all fields begins to appear before the eyes of informed people: [i.e.,] the French journal Arguments. The Council has decided that all people who collaborate with the journal Arguments starting from January 1st, 1961, cannot be admitted under any circumstances, now or in the future, among the Situationists. The announcement of this boycott draws its force from the importance that we know the S.I. secures at least in the culture of the years ahead. Interested parties can bet, on the contrary, on the dubious company it will attract.”

[2] Morin and Axelos were the chief editors and animating ‘spirits’ of Arguments during its entire run (1957-62).

[3] “The journal Planète often incurred the criticism of the S.I. […] Planète, a magazine that combined science fiction stories with articles on speculative ‘science’, is perhaps the progenitor of such English language magazines as Omni and Wired, and is indeed the forerunner of the ideological function of such magazines. In their article Ideologies, Classes, and the Domination of Nature from I.S. no. 8, the Situationists compared Planète’s function to that of the journal Arguments. Whereas Arguments, under the guise of being a journal of ‘eclectic’ and ‘critical’ Marxist theory, was criticized for producing ‘the futile questioning of pure speculation’ (and thus played an important role in the spectacle of criticism), Planète was criticized for haranguing ‘ordinary people with the message that henceforth everything must be changed — while at the same time taking for granted 99% of the life really lived in our era.’ Thus the similarity of function – both journals were mouthpieces of the ideology of ‘progressive’ change (a central tenant of bourgeois ideology in its ‘free market’ and ‘state capitalist’ variants), whilst operating within and by virtue of the parameters of the bourgeois market. Their function as commodities that offered non-threatening change was central to the Situationist critique of them. Thus it was this appearance of modernity that was effectively non-threatening vis-à-vis capitalist modernity that was most egregious in the eyes of the Situationists, whose alternative was encapsulated in their conception of a coherent revolutionary project. Such an appearance would soon be shifted into the spectacle of post-modernism; the babble of ultra-modern theoretical radicalism that apparently interrogated everything all the better to hide the unitary nature of capitalist exploitation and alienation.” (from fn. 5, Well Said S.I.! (I.S. No. 9)

[4] Association for the Study of Cultures.

[5] In I.S. no. 9 under the title of ‘Les Mois Les Plus Longs’ (‘The Longest Months’), the names of Jean Duvignaud, Edgar Morin and many others were listed as ‘collaborators of Arguments’.

[6] Joseph Gabel was one of the Argumentists whose name was published in I.S. no. 9 (see footnote 5). Nonetheless his work on false consciousness, which he argued manifested as the non-dialectical ‘schizophrenic’ character of capitalist subjects, was used critically by the SI. See in particular Gabel’s book False Consciousness: An Essay on Reification (translated by Margaret A. Thompson, New York: Harper & Row, 1975), ‘Quelques recherches sans mode d’emploi’ (‘Investigations without a Guidebook’) in I.S. no. 10, p. 73, and Guy Debord The Society of the Spectacle, Chapter 9, ‘Ideology Materialised’, Theses nos. 217-220.

[7] Paul Cardan was one of several pseudonyms used by Cornelius Castoriadis. In Socialisme ou Barbarie, no. 35 (January 1964), Castoriadis’ article ‘Recommencer la révolution’ (‘Recommencing the Revolution’) was published. ‘Recommencing the Revolution’ was written by Castoriadis in the midst of what would shortly become the formalisation of a ‘de facto scission within the group’ in July 1963 — cf. Cornelius Castoriadis ‘Postface to “Recommencing the Revolution”’ in Cornelius Castoriadis, Political and Social Writings, Volume 3, translated and edited by David Ames Curtis, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993, pp. 80-88.

[8] Daniel Mothé, Militant chez Renault (Militant at Renault) published by Seuil, October 1965. In this work Mothé (pseudonym for Jacques Gautrat), detailed his recent membership of the C. F. D. T. (Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail, i.e. French Democratic Confederation of Labour), which had only the year before, in 1964, been immaculately conceived from the C. F. T. C. (Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens, i.e. French Confederation of Christian Workers).

[9] I.e. a member or follower of the journal Arguments.

[10] Solidarity with the Polish uprising of January 1863 – and indeed with the question of Polish freedom throughout the nineteenth century – was instrumental in forging the links between French and English workers that led to the founding of the International Workingmen’s Association: “Henri Tolain, Perrachon, and Limousin visited London in July 1863, attending a meeting held in St. James’ Hall in honour of the Polish uprising. Here there was discussion of the need for an international organisation, which would, amongst other things, prevent the import of foreign workers to break strikes. In September, 1864, some French delegates again visited London with the concrete aim of setting up a special committee for the exchange of information upon matters of interest to the workers of all lands.” (

Indeed attention was drawn to Poland in the Inaugural Address of the International Working Men’s Association written by Marx.

[11] ‘Apparatus’ from the French ‘appareil’. ‘Appareil’ can also denote in French, the ‘machinery of power’ or ‘political machinery’. The point the S.I. are making here is that it is questionable if the General Council of the First International (called an apparatus by Bourdet) can be classified as a part of the ‘machinery of political power’ simply because (and unlike the Second and Third Internationals), it was first of all, so singly opposed to the existence of such political machinery in its own time; secondly even in the 1860s and 70s the bourgeois machinery of power was still primitive in comparison to the political machinery of state of the 20th century — and particularly of the 1960s; and finally the First International, unlike the Second and Third, was never embroiled in the political and economic management and defence of capitalist states (e.g. the leading Second International party, the German S.P.D., and its counter-revolutionary role in saving the German state against the revolutionary wave of 1918-21, and of course the Third International’s role in defending and exporting the state-capitalist dogma of the ‘Soviet’ state).

[12] I.W.A.: the International Workingmen’s Association, aka the First International (1864-1876).

[13] The reference is to Cardan’s/Castoriadis’ article ‘Marxisme et Théorie Révolutionnaire’ (‘Marxism and Revolutionary Theory’) published in no less than 5 issues of the Socialisme ou Barbarie journal between April 1964 and June 1965. This article later formed the first part of Castoriadis’ 1975 work, L’institution imaginaire de la societé (The Imaginary Institution of Society — translated by Kathleen Blamey, 1987). Castoriadis even refers to the original article in his 1974 preface as “itself the never-ending development” of an earlier article. The S.I. also reference the conditions under which this long article was written, i.e. the ‘de facto scission’ of 1963 (cf. footnote 7).

[14] Here the reference must be to the remaining members of Socialisme ou Barbarie. By 1966 the journal had ceased publication the year before, effectively ending the group’s activity even though it was only formally dissolved in 1967. There were, however, several groupuscules influenced by Socialisme ou Barbarie left in its wake.

[15] The S.I.’s joke at the expense of Cardan/Castoriadis, ‘Cardaneries’, is difficult to translate. We assume it means in this case organisations or metaphorical shops peddling the ideas of Cardan, thus ‘Cardaneries’.

[16] Cf. ‘La Contestation en Miettes’ (‘Critique in Shreds’), I.S. no. 9, pp. 17-18. Translated by the Thomas Y. Levin, the citation reads: “The Marxist theory of history . . . is ultimately based on the hidden postulate of an essentially unchangeable human nature whose overriding motivation is an economic one. — Paul Cardan, Socialisme ou Barbarie, no. 37, July 1964.” The SI had briefly commented, in the same section: “[Paul] Cardan, when he is not organizing votes for or against the meaning of the Realm of God, presents to his movement (whose mission is to “recommence the revolution”) the same anti-Marxist and grossly falsifying platform that was proclaimed by the professors of philosophy in 1910” (ibid.).

[17] Cf. Karl Marx, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Third Manuscript under the title ‘Private Property and Communism’. Here is the entire sentence from the 1974 English translation by Gregor Benton: “But since for socialist man the whole of what is called world history is nothing more than the creation of man through human labour, and the development of nature for man, he therefore has palpable and incontrovertible proof of his self-mediated birth, of his process of emergence.” (


The Algeria of Daniel Guérin, Libertarian

cover of guerin pamphlet

Mustapha Khayati responds to Daniel Guerin's writing on Algeria. From International Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by libcom on September 5, 2005

In December 1965 Daniel Guérin published a pamphlet entitled L'Algérie caporalisée? which contains a rather bizarre analysis of Boumédienne's regime. According to Guérin, nothing happened in June. Faithful to an old schema, he sees only a "Bonapartism" in power both before and after the coup d'état, struggling classically on two fronts: against the "counterrevolution of the indigenous propertied classes" and against the threatening enthusiasm of the workers striving for self-management. And in foreign affairs he finds "the same desire on the part of both regimes for an adroit balancing act between capitalist and socialist countries" (p. 6). "None of the declarations of the so-called 'Council of the Revolution' contains any innovations whatsoever or any hints of an original program" (p. 10). However, when he drafted his main text, dated November 5, Guérin thought he detected some potential new developments as the putchists were being pushed, as if despite themselves, to the "right" -- developments that "seem to foreshadow an antisocialist policy" (p. 11, our emphasis). One might suppose that Guérin disregards the considerable differences between the two regimes because he is carried away by the equal contempt that Ben Bella and Boumédienne might well arouse in a revolutionary who is a declared partisan of "libertarian socialism" and self-management. Unfortunately, this is not at all the case! He has no other revolutionary solution to recommend than the restoration of Ben Bella: "To rally a popular opposition to the colonels' regime in Algeria today without reference to Ben Bella, or while making a total political critique of Ben-Bellaism, would be an undertaking doomed to failure" (p. 17). And before June 19 the Ben Bella regime's numerous attacks on the workers, the exploits of its police and army -- the same police and army that are still in place today, in fact -- were for Guérin only "mistakes, weaknesses and omissions" of an acceptable orientation. The king was badly advised or misinformed; never responsible. Since Guérin cannot be unaware of the open struggles of Ben Bella's regime against the masses (he himself provides some excellent documentation of them, notably apropos of the Congress of Agricultural Workers), he has to reconstruct history by totally separating Ben Bella from his regime. Page 12: "The sabotage of self-management, organized, of course, without Ben Bella's knowledge." Page 2: "As we can see more clearly today, Ben Bella never had his hands free: for nearly three years he was the tool, the prisoner, the hostage of Boumédienne." In other words, people thought Ben Bella was in power, but his downfall has shown that he wasn't. Such an astonishing retroactive demonstration could just as well be applied to the Czar, who was believed to be an autocrat before 1917. But Guérin overlooks this question: Who besides Ben Bella made Boumédienne, by hoisting himself into power with the aid of Boumédienne's arms? That Ben Bella later made some half-hearted and very inept attempts to get rid of his tool is another matter. It is because he was above all a bureaucrat that he was at first essentially in solidarity with, and eventually the victim of, bureaucrats more rational than he.

What, then, is the secret of this aberration of one of our famous leftist intellectuals, and one of the most ostensibly "libertarian" among them at that? With him it is no different than with all the others: it is the decisive influence of their vainglorious participation in high society; their common tendency, even more servile than a lackey's, to be swept off their feet with joy because they have spoken with the greats of this world; and the imbecility that makes them attribute such greatness to those who have condescended to talk to them. Whether they are partisans of the self-managing masses or of police-state bureaucracies, the "leftist intellectuals" of the period from which we are just emerging always have the same rapt admiration for power and government. The closer they are to a governmental position, the more the leaders of the "underdeveloped" countries fascinate these ridiculous professors of leftist museology. In Simone de Beauvoir's memoirs, so revealing of the fundamental degradation of a whole generation of intellectuals, her narration of a dinner at the Soviet Embassy exposes a pettiness so irremediable and so shameless that she isn't even aware of it.

So here is the secret: Guérin "knew" Ben Bella. He "listened" to him from time to time: "When I had the privilege, at the beginning of December 1963, of a brief audience at the Villa Joly in order to present to the President a report resulting from my month of traveling around the country observing the self-managed enterprises, I had the impression that he had been prejudiced against my conclusions by Ali Mahsas and the Minister of Industry and Commerce, Bachir Boumaza" (p. 7).

Guérin really is for self-management, but, like Mohammed Harbi, it is in the pure form of its Spirit incarnated as a privileged hero that he prefers to meet it, recognize it and aid it with his sage advice. Daniel Guérin met the Weltgeist of self-management over a cup of tea, and everything else follows.


Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version in the Situationist International Anthology). A postscript to this article appeared in the following issue.


Domenach versus Alienation (excerpts)

From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by libcom on September 5, 2005

"Alienation, that key word for a whole system of politics, sociology, and critical thought -- what does it cover? J.M. Domenach traces the astonishing itinerary of this concept of such diverse meanings, from Hegel to Jacques Berque. Then he takes another look at its content. It seems to him that the moment has come to renounce this 'hospital concept' where all the maladies of the century are lumped together, and to call into question the philosophy that developed it."

This prefatory note from the journal Esprit (December 1965) is not betrayed by the extraordinary impudence of Domenach's article, "Let's Get Rid of Alienation," which opens the same issue. Domenach, prince of that notable province of contemporary confusionism, Christian leftism, reproaches the concept of alienation for being confused, for being used improperly, for having considerably evolved historically, and for having given rise to too many "vague and outmoded" formulas. If everything that was vague was therefore outmoded, religious thought would not have survived the rationalist clarification brought into the world by bourgeois society. But in a materially divided society, vague ideas and the vague use of precise concepts serve definite forces. The history of the concept of alienation, as Domenach recounts it in a few pages, is itself a perfect example of vague thought serving a specific confusionism. [...]

Domenach does not even want to "get rid of" the concept of alienation like that philosopher depicted in The German Ideology who wanted to liberate humanity from the idea of gravity so that there would be no more drownings. Domenach wants people to stop talking about alienation so that they will become resigned to it. [...] The alienation banished from consciousness is to be replaced by the more "precise" concept of exploitation. While it is true that the general alienation in the East and the West is effectively based on the exploitation of the workers, the evolution of modern capitalism -- and still more, bureaucratic ideology -- have largely succeeded in masking the Marxist analyses of exploitation at the stage of free competition and in making the handling of them less precise. In contrast, these parallel evolutions have brought alienation -- which was originally a philosophical concept -- into the reality of every hour of daily life. [...]

To be sure, in a society that needs to spread a mass pseudoculture and to have its spectacular pseudointellectuals monopolize the stage, many terms are naturally rapidly vulgarized. But for the same reasons, perfectly simple and illuminating words tend to disappear: such as the word priest; so that Domenach and his friends come to think that no one will ever again remind them of this embarrassing vulgarity. They are mistaken. Just as the secular efforts of a Revel (En France) to compile a list of words to forbid, a list that mixes a few fashionable trivialities with important contested terms, are ridiculous because one cannot hope to simultaneously suppress the theoretical discoveries of our time and the interested confusion to which they give rise in order to "return" to some simplified rationalism which never had the efficacy the nostalgic liberals now attribute to it. [...]

People like Domenach, being themselves valets of the establishment's cultural spectacle, which wants to quickly coopt for its own use the most crucial terms of modern critical thought, will never want to admit that the truest and most important concepts of the era -- alienation, dialectics, communism -- are precisely marked by the organization around them of the greatest confusions and the worst misinterpretations. Vital concepts are simultaneously subject to the truest and the most false uses, along with a multitude of intermediary confusions, because the struggle between critical reality and the apologetic spectacle leads to a struggle over words, a struggle that is more bitter the more those words are central. The truth of a concept is not revealed by an authoritarian purge, but by the coherence of its use in theory and in practical life. It is not important that a priest at the pulpit renounces the use of a concept that he would in any case never case have known how to use. Let us speak vulgarly since we're dealing with priests: alienation is the point of departure for everything -- providing that one departs from it.


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


The SI's Publications

a photograph of an article in the Times Literary Supplement about the Situationist International

An update on publications of the SI, including the exclusion of Uwe Lausen. From Internationale Situationniste #10 (March 1966).

Submitted by Fozzie on March 1, 2023

Michèle Bernstein's article, The Situationist International, published in September 1964 in a special issue of Times Literary Supplement devoted to the avant-garde, ended as follows:

In a short space it is obviously impossible to develop any argument about situationist principles, or even to explain them with the necessary precision . . . Among the first intellectual groups who have so far had a chance to get to know these theses, the usual reaction is to ask if the situationists are serious, or if they are utterly mistaken and destined for unparalleled depths of stupidity. The situationists can guarantee that none of these doubts about them will be tenable in a hundred years' time.


Upon the appearance in London in fall 1964 of the first publications by Alexander Trocchi's ‘Project Sigma,’ it was mutually agreed that the SI could not involve itself in such a loose cultural venture, in spite of the interest we have in dialogue with certain of the individuals who may be drawn to it, notably in the United States and England. It is therefore no longer as a member of the SI that our friend Alexander Trocchi has since developed this activity, several aspects of which meet our complete approval.


Also in 1964, the notes and texts of three films Guy Debord were collected in the book Contre le Cinéma [Against Cinema], which was published in Aarhus by the Scandinavian Institute of Comparative Vandalism. It should be noted that despite the laudatory character of this edition, no truly sufficient means of cinematic self-expression has ever presented itself to the situationists (it's still the age of Godard, you know).


In Denmark in February 1965, J.V. Martin published his comments — weighed down by worsening conditions — on the proceedings instituted against the SI by the local branch of "Moral Rearmament" (Im Namen des Volkes). Danish translations of these texts were published by the Left socialist journal Aspekt: in its first issue, under the title To Realize Philosophy, To Realize Art, the "response to a questionnaire" from I.S. #9; and in issue 3, Theses on the Paris Commune from the tract Into the Trashcan of History. The same journal published some of the Spanish comics, reproduced many times in the European press, that gave rise to Moral Rearmament's charges.


On 17 March 1965, situationists in Strasbourg interrupted a conference that attempted to honor the cyberneticist [Abraham] Moles and the sculptor [Nicolas] Schöffer. Our comrades used this occasion to distribute the pamphlet The Tortoise in the Window (Dialectic of the Robot and the Signal), as well as a reprinted Correspondence with a Cyberneticist, which featured in I.S. #9. According to the local paper of 28-3-65 (which must have expected an execution), "a tomato thrown in pure wastefulness at the beginning of the evening by a mentally limited situationist commando failed to disrupt the course of the conference . . ."


Also in March, Uwe Lausen was excluded from the SI when he informed us of his intention to organize a happening in Munich.


In July 1965, the SI clandestinely published a mimeographed Address to Revolutionaries, describing Boumedienne's recent putsch.


The SI has not had the material capacities to continue publishing either the German language journal Der Deutsche Gedanke or the Danish Situationistisk Revolution, although a forthcoming issue of the latter is now on the drawing board. The much postponed project of a Dictionary of Situationist Concepts is currently underway in a more expanded form, under the direction of Mustapha Khayati (see his Preface published this issue).


In November, the SI reissued the text of the Address in French, German, Spanish, English and Arabic. The following month, two supplements reprinted in the present issue were produced separately: The Class Struggles in Algeria, distributed in pamphlet form in that country; and an analysis of the Los Angeles riots, the English language brochure The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy.


All correspondence for the journal Internationale Situationniste should now be directed to Boîte Postale 307-03, Paris. For the journal Acción Comunista (cf. our Contribution to a Program . . .): c/o F. Lardinois, 13 rue de Géron, Liège, Belgium. For the Zengukaren Federation: Hirota Building, 2-10 Kandajimbo-cho, Chiyoda Ku, Tokyo, Japan.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From