Internationale Situationniste #7

Cover of Internationale Situationiste #7

central bulletin published by the sections of the situationist international

April 1962

Director: G.-E. Debord

Mail: 32, rue de la Montagne-Geneviève, Paris 5e

This bulletin is edited by the Central Council of the SI: Debord, Kotányi, Lausen, Vaneigem.

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

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

Geopolitics of Hibernation


From Internationale Situationniste #7 (April 1962).

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

The "balance of terror" between two rival groups of states -- the most visible basic aspect of global politics at the present moment -- is also a balance of resignation: the resignation of each antagonist to the permanence of the other; and within their frontiers, the resignation of people to a fate that escapes them so completely that the very existence of the planet is far from certain, hinging on the prudence and skill of inscrutable strategists. This in turn reinforces a more general resignation to the existing order, to the coexisting powers of the specialists who organize this fate. These powers find an additional advantage in this balance since it permits the rapid liquidation of any original liberatory experience arising on the margin of their systems, particularly within the current movement of the underdeveloped countries. It was through the same method of neutralizing one menace with another -- regardless of who the particular victorious protector may be -- that the revolutionary impetus of the Congo was crushed by sending in the United Nations Expeditionary Corps (two days after their arrival in early July 1960 the Ghanaian troops, the first on the scene, were used to break a transportation strike in Leopoldville) and that of Cuba by the formation of a one-party system (in March 1962 General Lister, whose role in the repression of the Spanish revolution is well known, was named Assistant Chief of Staff to the Cuban Army).

In reality the two camps are not actually preparing for war, but for the indefinite preservation of this balance, which mirrors the internal stabilization of their power. It goes without saying that this will entail an enormous mobilization of resources, since it is imperative to continually escalate the spectacle of possible war. Thus Barry Commoner, head of the scientific committee assigned by the United States government to estimate the destruction that would result from a thermonuclear war, announces that after one hour of such a war 80 million Americans would be killed and that the survivors would have no hope of living normally afterwards. The Chiefs of Staff, who in their projections now count only in megabodies (one megabody = one million corpses), have admitted the impossibility of calculating beyond the first half day since experimental evidence is lacking to make any meaningful estimates at such a level of destruction. According to Nicolas Vichney (Le Monde, 5 January 1962), one extremist faction of American defense doctrine has gone so far as to argue that "the best deterrent would consist of the possession of an enormous thermonuclear bomb buried underground. If the enemy attacked, the bomb would be detonated and the Earth would be blown apart."

The theorists of this "Doomsday System" have certainly found the ultimate weapon for enforcing submission; they have for the first time translated the refusal of history into precise technical powers. But the rigid logic of these doctrinaires only responds to one aspect of the contradictory needs of the society of alienation, whose indissoluble project is to prevent people from living while it organizes their survival (see the opposition of the concepts of life and survival described by Vaneigem in Basic Banalities). Thus the Doomsday System, through its contempt for survival -- which is still the indispensable condition for the present and future exploitation of human labor -- can only play the role of last resort for the ruling bureaucracies: the insane proof of their seriousness. But in order to be fully effective in reinforcing people's submission, the spectacle of a war to come must henceforth extend its sway over the organization of our present peacetime existence, while simultaneously accommodating itself to the basic requirements of that organization.

In this regard the extraordinary development of fallout shelters during 1961 is certainly a decisive turning point in the Cold War, a qualitative leap that will one day be seen as of immense importance in the formation of a cybernetized totalitarian society on a global scale. It began in the United States, where Kennedy in his State of the Union Address last January was already able to assure the Congress: "The nation's first serious civil defense shelter program is under way, identifying, marking and stocking fifty million spaces; and I urge your approval of federal incentives for the construction of public fallout shelters in schools and hospitals and similar centers." This state-controlled organization of survival has rapidly spread, more or less secretly, to other major countries of the two camps. West Germany, for example, was first of all concerned with the survival of Chancellor Adenauer and his team (the disclosure of the plans to this end led to the seizure of the Munich magazine Quick). Sweden and Switzerland are at the point of installing collective shelters under their mountains, where workers buried with their factories will be able to continue to produce without interruption until the grand finale of the Doomsday System. But the launching pad of the civil defense policy is the United States, where a number of flourishing companies, such as the Peace o' Mind Shelter Company (Texas), the American Survival Products Corporation (Maryland), Fox Hole Shelter, Inc. (California) and the Bee Safe Manufacturing Company (Ohio), are advertising and installing countless individual shelters built as private property to ensure the survival of each family. This fad is giving rise to a new interpretation of religious morality, certain clergymen expressing the opinion that one's duty will clearly consist of refusing entry to friends or strangers, even by means of arms, in order to guarantee the salvation of one's own family. Morality had to be adapted to this process of intensifying the terrorism of conformity that underlies all the publicity of modern capitalism. It was already hard, faced with one's family and neighbors, not to have the given model of automobile which a given salary level enables one to buy on credit (a salary level always recognizable in the American-type urban housing developments because the location of the dwelling is precisely determined by the level of salary). It will be even more difficult not to guarantee one's family's survival status once that commodity is on the market.

It is generally estimated that in the United States since 1955 the relative saturation of the demand for "durable goods" has led to an insufficiency of the consumer stimulus necessary for economic expansion. Hence the enormous vogue for trendy gadgets of all sorts, which represent an easily manipulable development in the semidurable goods sector. It is easy to see the shelters' important role in this necessary boost of expansion. With the installation of shelters and their foreseeable offshoots and by-products, all the appurtenances of life on the surface will need to be duplicated for the new duplicate life underground. These investments in subterranean strata as yet unexploited by the affluent society are boosting the sale both of semidurable goods already in use on the surface (as with the boom in canned foods, of which each shelter needs a huge supply) and of particular new gadgets, such as plastic bags for the bodies of people who will die in the shelter and, naturally, continue to lay there with the survivors.

It is easy to see that these (already widespread) individual shelters could not possibly work, if only because of such gross technical oversights as the absence of an independent oxygen supply; and that even the most perfected collective shelters would offer only the slightest possibility for survival if a thermonuclear war was actually accidentally unleashed. But here, as in every racket, "protection" is only a pretext. The real purpose of the shelters is to test -- and thereby reinforce -- people's submissiveness, and to manipulate this submissiveness to the advantage of the ruling society. The shelters, as a creation of a new consumable commodity in the society of abundance, prove more than any previous commodity that people can be made to work to satisfy highly artificial needs, needs that most certainly "remain needs without ever having been desires" (Preliminaries Toward Defining a Unitary Revolutionary Program) and that do not have the slightest chance of becoming desires. The power of this society, its formidable automatic genius, can be measured by this extreme example. If this system were to go to the point of bluntly proclaiming that it imposes such an empty and hopeless existence that the best solution for everyone would be to go hang themselves, it would still succeed in managing a healthy and profitable business by producing standardized ropes. But regardless of all its capitalist wealth, the concept of survival means suicide on the installment plan, a renunciation of life every day. The network of shelters -- which are not intended to be used for a war, but right now -- presents a bizarre caricatural picture of existence under a perfected bureaucratic capitalism. A neo-Christianity has revived its ideal of renunciation with a new humility compatible with a new boost of industry. The world of shelters acknowledges itself as an air-conditioned vale of tears. The coalition of all the managers and their various types of priests will be able to agree on one unitary program: mass hypnosis plus superconsumption.

Survival as the opposite of life, if rarely voted for so clearly as by the buyers of shelters in 1961, can be found at all levels of the struggle against alienation. It is found in the old conception of art, which stressed survival through one's works, an admission of a renunciation of life -- art as excuse and consolation (principally since the bourgeois era of aesthetics, that secular substitute for the religious otherworld). And it is found just as much at the level of the most basic needs, those of food and shelter, with the "blackmail of utility" denounced in the "Basic Program of Unitary Urbanism" (Internationale Situationniste #6), the blackmail that eliminates any human critique of the environment "by the simple argument that one needs a roof over one's head."

The new habitat that is now taking shape with the large housing developments is not really distinct from the architecture of the shelters; it merely represents a less advanced level of that architecture. (The two are closely related and the direct passage from one to the other is already envisaged: the first example in France is a development presently being built in Nice, the basement of which is designed to serve as an atomic shelter for its inhabitants.) The concentration-camp organization of the surface of the earth is the normal state of the present society in formation; its condensed subterranean version merely represents that society's pathological excess. This subterranean sickness reveals the real nature of the "health" at the surface. The urbanism of despair is rapidly becoming dominant on the surface, not only in the population centers of the United States, but also in those of much more backward countries of Europe and even, for example, in the Algeria of the neocolonialist period proclaimed since the "Constantine Plan." At the end of 1961 the first version of the national plan for French territorial development (whose formulation was later toned down) complained in its chapter on Paris of "an inactive population's stubborn insistence on living in the capital" despite the fact that the authors of the report, licensed specialists of happiness and practicality, pointed out that "they could live more agreeably outside Paris." They therefore urged the elimination of this distressing irrationality by the enactment of legal measures to "systematically discourage this inactive population from living in Paris."

Since the main worthwhile activity in this society obviously consists in systematically discouraging the plans made by its managers (until such point as the latter are concretely eliminated), and since those managers are much more constantly aware of this danger than are the drugged masses of executants, the planners are erecting their defenses in all the modern projects of territorial organization. The planning of shelters for the population, whether in the normal form of dwellings or in the "affluent" form of family tombs for preventive habitation, in reality serves to shelter the planners' own power. The rulers who control the architectural incarceration and isolation of their subjects also know how to entrench themselves for strategic purposes. The Haussmanns of the twentieth century no longer stop at facilitating the deployment of their repressive forces by partitioning the old urban clusters into manageable city blocks divided by wide avenues. At the same time that they disperse the population over a vast area in the new prefabricated cities which represent this partitioning in its purest state (where the inferiority of the masses, disarmed and deprived of means of communication, is sharply increased compared with the continually more technically equipped police), they erect inaccessible capital cities where the ruling bureaucracy, for greater security, can constitute the whole of the population.

Different stages of development of these government-cities can be noted. The "Military Zone" of Tirana is a section cut off from the city and defended by the army, wherein are concentrated the homes of the rulers of Albania, the Central Committee building, and the schools, hospitals, stores and diversions for this autarkic elite. The administrative city of Rocher Noir, which was built in a single year to serve as the capital of Algeria when it became evident that the French authorities were no longer capable of maintaining themselves normally in a large city, has exactly the same function as the "Military Zone" of Tirana, though it was erected in open country. Finally, there is the supreme example, Brasilia, the bureaucratic capital that is also the classic expression of functionalist architecture. Parachuted into the center of a vast desert, its inauguration came just at the moment when President Quadros was dismissed by his military and there were premonitions of civil war in Brazil.

Things having gone this far, many specialists are beginning to denounce a number of disturbing absurdities. This is due to their having failed to comprehend the central rationality (the rationality of a coherent delirium) that governs these partial, apparently accidental absurdities, to which their own activities inevitably contribute. Their denunciations of the absurd are thus themselves inevitably absurd, both in their forms and in their means. What is one to think of the naïveté of the nine hundred professors of all the universities and research institutes of the New York-Boston region who in the New York Herald Tribune (30 December 1961) solemnly addressed themselves to President Kennedy and Governor Rockefeller -- a few days before Kennedy proudly issued an initial order for fifty million shelter spaces -- in order to convince them of the perniciousness of "civil defense" development? Or of the horde of sociologists, judges, architects, policemen, psychologists, teachers, hygienists, psychiatrists and journalists who never cease gathering in congresses, conferences and committee meetings of all sorts, all urgently seeking some way to humanize the housing developments? Humanizing housing developments is as ridiculous a notion as humanizing atomic war, and for the same reasons. The shelters reduce not war but the threat of war to "human proportions" -- "human" in modern capitalist terms: marketable human consumption. This sort of investigation of possible humanization strives quite explicitly for a joint working out of the most effective lies for the repression of people's resistance. While boredom and total lack of social life characterize the suburban housing developments in a way as immediate and tangible as a Siberian cold wave, some women's magazines now go to those new suburbs to photograph their fashion models and interview satisfied people. Since the stupefying power of such environments is discernable in the intellectual underdevelopment of the children, their maladjustment is blamed on their previous slum upbringing. The latest reformist theory places its hopes in a sort of culture center -- though without using that particular term so as not to frighten anyone away. In the plans of the Seine Architects Union (Le Monde, 22 December 1961) the prefabricated "bistro-club" that will everywhere humanize their work is presented as a cubic "plastic cell" (28 x 18 x 4 meters) comprising "a stable element: the bistro, which will sell tobacco and magazines, but not alcohol; the remainder will be reserved for various craft activities. . . . It should become a seductive showcase. Hence the aesthetic conception and the quality of the materials will be carefully designed to give their full effect night and day. The play of lights should in fact communicate the life of the bistro-club."

Thus is presented to us, in profoundly revealing terms, a discovery that "could facilitate social integration on a level that would forge the spirit of a small city." The absence of alcohol will be little noticed: in France youth gangs no longer need alcohol to inspire them to go on rampages. The French delinquents seem to have broken with the French tradition of mass alcoholism, which is still so important in the "hooliganism" of the Eastern bloc, while not having yet come around, like American youth, to the use of marijuana or stronger drugs. Though stuck in such an empty transitional period, between the stimulants of two distinct historical stages, they are nevertheless expressing a sharp violence in response to this world we are describing and to the horrible prospect of occupying their dismal niche in it. In any case, if we leave aside the factor of revolt, the unionized architects' project has a certain coherence: their glass bistros are intended as a means of supplementary control on the way to that total surveillance of production and consumption that actually constitutes the famous integration they aim at. The candidly avowed recourse to the aesthetics of the show-window is perfectly illuminated by the theory of the spectacle: in these nonalcoholic bars the consumers themselves become as spectacular as the objects of consumption, for lack of any other attraction. Totally reified man has his place in the show-window as a desirable image of reification.

The internal defect of the system is that it cannot totally reify people; it also needs to make them act and participate, without which the production and consumption of reification would come to a stop. The reigning system is thus in conflict with history -- including its own history, which is at once the history of its reinforcement and the history of the opposition to it.

Today (after a century of struggles and after the traditional or newly formed rulers' liquidation, between the two world wars, of the entire classical workers movement which represented the force of general contestation), in spite of certain appearances, the dominant world more than ever presents itself as permanent on the basis of an enrichment and an infinite extension of an irreplaceable model. We can comprehend this world only by contesting it. And this contestation is neither true nor realistic except insofar as it is a contestation of the totality.

This explains the astonishing lack of ideas evident in all the acts of culture, of politics, of the organization of life, and in everything else -- the lameness of the modernist builders of functionalist cities is only a particularly glaring example. The intelligent specialists are intelligent only in playing the game of specialists; hence the timid conformity and fundamental lack of imagination that make them grant that this or that product is useful, or good, or necessary. The root of the prevailing lack of imagination cannot be grasped unless one is able to imagine what is lacking -- that is, what is missing, hidden, forbidden, and yet possible, in modern life.

This is not a theory without links to the way people see their own lives; it is, on the contrary, a reality in the minds of people as yet without links with theory. Those who really "cohabit with the negative" (in the Hegelian sense) and explicitly recognize this lack as their platform and their power will bring to light the only positive project that can overthrow the wall of sleep; and the measures of survival; and the doomsday bombs; and the megatons of architecture.


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


The Bad Days Will End

From Internationale Situationniste #7 (April 1962).

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

As the world of the spectacle extends its reign it approaches the climax of its offensive, provoking new resistances everywhere. These resistances are very little known precisely because the reigning spectacle is designed to present an omnipresent hypnotic image of unanimous submission. But they do exist and are spreading.

Everyone talks about the youth rebellion in the advanced industrial countries, though without understanding much about it (see "Unconditional Defense" in issue #6 of this journal1 ). Militant publications like Socialisme ou Barbarie (Paris) and Correspondence (Detroit) have published well-documented articles on workers' continual on-the-job resistance to the whole organization of work and on their depoliticization and their disillusionment with the unions, which have become a mechanism for integrating workers into the society and a supplementary weapon in the economic arsenal of bureaucratized capitalism. As the old forms of opposition reveal their ineffectiveness, or more often their complete inversion into complicity with the existing order, an irreducible dissatisfaction spreads subterraneanly, undermining the edifice of the affluent society. The "old mole" that Marx evoked in his "Toast to the Proletarians of Europe" is still digging away, the specter is reappearing in all the nooks and crannies of our televised Elsinore Castle, whose political mists are dissipated as soon as workers councils come into existence and for as long as they continue to reign.

Just as the first organization of the classical proletariat was preceded, during the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth, by a period of isolated "criminal" acts aimed at destroying the machines of production that were depriving people of their work, we are presently witnessing the first appearance of a wave of vandalism against the machines of consumption that are just as certainly depriving us of our life. In both cases the significance obviously does not lie in the destruction itself, but in the rebelliousness which could potentially develop into a positive project going to the point of reconverting the machines in a way that increases people's real power over their lives. Leaving aside the havoc perpetrated by groups of adolescents, we can point out a few examples of actions by workers that are in large part incomprehensible from the classical "protests and demands" perspective.

On 9 February 1961 in Naples factory workers coming off the day shift found that the streetcars that ordinarily took them home were not running, the drivers having launched a lightning strike because several of them had just been laid off. The workers demonstrated their solidarity with the strikers by throwing various projectiles at the company offices, and then bottles of gasoline which set fire to part of the streetcar station. They then burned several buses while successfully holding off police and firemen. Several thousand of them spread through the city, smashing store windows and electric signs. During the night troops had to be called in to restore law and order, and armored cars moved on Naples. This aimless and totally spontaneous demonstration was obviously a direct revolt against commuting time, which is such a burdensome addition to wage slavery time in modern cities. Sparked by a chance minor incident, this revolt immediately began to extend to the whole consumer-society decor (recently plastered over the traditional poverty of southern Italy): the store windows and neon signs, being at once its most symbolic and most fragile points, naturally drew the first attacks, just as happens during the rampages of rebellious youth.

On August 4 in France striking miners at Merlebach attacked twenty-one cars parked in front of the management buildings. All the commentators pointed out dumbfoundedly that nearly all these automobiles belonged to the workers' fellow employees at the mine. Who can fail to see in this action -- over and beyond the innumerable reasons that always justify aggression on the part of the exploited -- a gesture of self-defense against the central object of consumer alienation?

The strikers of Liège [Belgium] who attempted to destroy the machinery of the newspaper La Meuse on 6 January 1961 attained one of the peaks of consciousness of their movement in thus attacking the means of information held by their enemies. (Since the means of transmitting information are jointly monopolized by the government and the leaders of the socialist and union bureaucracies, this is precisely the crucial point of the struggle, the barrier that continues to bar workers' "wildcat" struggles from any perspective of power and thus condemns them to disappear.) Another symptom, though less interesting because more contingent on the de Gaulle regime's clumsy propagandistic excesses, is nevertheless worth noting in the following communiqué of the unions of French journalists and radio and television technicians last February 9: "Our fellow reporters and technicians who were covering the demonstration Thursday evening were attacked by the crowd merely because they were bearing the 'Radio-Télévision Francaise' insignia. This fact is significant. This is why the SJRT and SUT unions consider themselves justified in stressing in all seriousness that the lives of our fellow reporters and technicians depend on the respect in which their reports are held." Of course, along with the first concrete reactions against the forces of conditioning we cannot close our eyes to the extent to which this conditioning continues to prove successful, even within very combative workers' actions. Thus, when at the beginning of the year the Decazeville miners delegated twenty of their number to go on a hunger strike, they were fighting on the spectacular terrain of the enemy by relying on the tear-jerking potential of twenty stars. They thus inevitably lost, since their only chance of success would have been to do whatever was necessary to extend their collective intervention beyond their limited sector (the only industry they were blocking having already been losing money anyway). Capitalist social organization and its oppositional by-products have so effectively propagated parliamentary and spectacular ideas that revolutionary workers often tend to forget that representation must always be kept to the essential minimum and used as little as possible. But it isn't only industrial workers who are fighting against brutalization. The Berlin actor Wolfgang Neuss perpetrated a most suggestive act of sabotage in last January by placing a notice in the paper Der Abend giving away the identity of the killer in a television detective serial that had been keeping the masses in suspense for weeks.

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 movement must be precisely delineated in time. The classical workers movement can be considered to have begun a couple decades before the official formation of the International, with the first linkup of communist groups of several countries that Marx and his friends organized from Brussels in 1845. And it was completely finished after the failure of the Spanish revolution, that is, after the Barcelona May days of 1937.

We need to rediscover the whole truth of this period and to reexamine all the oppositions between revolutionaries and all the neglected possibilities, without any longer being impressed by the fact that some won out over others and dominated the movement; for we now know that the movement within which they were successful was an overall failure. Marx's thought is obviously the first which must be rediscovered -- a task that should not present much difficulty in view of the extensive existing documentation and the crudeness of the lies about it. But it is also necessary to reassess the anarchist positions in the First International, Blanquism, Luxemburgism, the council movement in Germany and Spain, Kronstadt, the Makhnovists, etc. Without overlooking the practical influence of the utopian socialists. All this, of course, not with the aim of scholarship or academic eclecticism, but solely in order to contribute toward the formation of a new, profoundly different revolutionary movement, a movement of which we have seen so many premonitory signs over the last few years, one of which is our own existence. We must understand these signs through the study of the classical revolutionary project and vice versa. It is necessary to rediscover the history of the very movement of history, which has been so thoroughly hidden and distorted. It is, moreover, only in this enterprise (and in a few experimental artistic groups generally linked to it) that seductive modes of behavior have appeared -- modes that enable one to take an objective interest in modern society and the possibilities it contains.

There is no other way to be faithful to, or even simply to understand, the actions of our comrades of the past than to profoundly reconceive the problem of revolution, which has been increasingly deprived of thought as it has become posed more intensely in concrete reality. But why does this reconception seem so difficult? Starting from an experience of free everyday life (that is, from a quest for freedom in everyday life) it is not so difficult. It seems to us that this question is quite concretely felt today among young people. And to feel it with enough urgency enables one to rediscover lost history, to salvage and rejudge it. It is not difficult for thought that concerns itself with questioning everything that exists. It is only necessary not to have abandoned philosophy (as have virtually all the philosophers), not to have abandoned art (as have virtually all the artists), and not to have abandoned contestation of present reality (as have virtually all the militants). When they are not abandoned, these questions all converge toward the same supersession. The specialists, whose power is geared to a society of specialization, have abandoned the critical truth of their disciplines in order to preserve the personal advantages of their function. But all real researches are converging toward a totality, just as real people are going to come together in order to try once again to escape from their prehistory.

Many people are skeptical about the possibility of a new revolutionary movement, continually repeating that the proletariat has been integrated or that the workers are now satisfied, etc. This means one of two things: either they are declaring themselves satisfied (in which case we will fight them without any equivocation); or they are identifying themselves with some category separate from the workers, such as artists (in which case we will fight this illusion by showing them that the new proletariat is tending to encompass virtually everybody).

There are related misconceptions about the Third World. Apocalyptic fears or hopes regarding the movements of revolt in the colonized or semicolonized countries overlook this central fact: the revolutionary project must be realized in the industrially advanced countries. Until it is, the movements in the underdeveloped zone seem doomed to follow the model of the Chinese revolution, which began just as the classical workers movement was being destroyed and whose entire subsequent evolution has been dominated by the mutation it suffered due to that destruction. It remains true that the existence of these anticolonialist movements, even if they are polarized around the bureaucratic Chinese model, creates a disequilibrium in the external confrontation of the two great counterbalanced blocs, destabilizing any division of the world by their rulers and owners. But the security of the stakes in the planetary poker game is threatened just as much by the internal disequilibrium that still prevails in the factories of Manchester and East Berlin.

The radical minorities that in obscurity managed to survive the crushing of the classical workers movement (whose force the ruse of history transformed into state police) have handed down the truth of that movement, but only as an abstract truth of the past. Their honorable resistance to force has succeeded in preserving a maligned tradition, but not in redeveloping it into a new force. The formation of new organizations depends on a deeper critique, translated into acts. There must be a complete break with ideology, in which revolutionary groups think they possess official titles guaranteeing their function (that is, we must resume the Marxian critique of the role of ideologies). It is thus necessary to leave the terrain of specialized revolutionary activity -- the terrain of the self-mystification of "serious politics" -- because it has long been seen that such specialization encourages even the best people to demonstrate stupidity regarding all other questions; with the result that they end up failing even in their merely political struggles, since the latter are inseparable from all other aspects of the overall problem of our society. Specialization and pseudoseriousness are among the primary defensive outposts that the organization of the old world occupies in everyone's mind. A revolutionary association of a new type will also break with the old world by permitting and demanding of its members an authentic and creative participation, instead of expecting a participation of militants measurable in attendance time, which amounts to recreating the sole control possible in the dominant society: the quantitative criterion of hours of labor. A genuine enthusiastic participation on the part of everyone is necessitated by the fact that the classical political militant, who "devotes himself" to his radical duties, is everywhere disappearing along with classical politics itself; and even more by the fact that devotion and sacrifice always engender authority (even if only purely moral authority). Boredom is counterrevolutionary. In every way.

The groups that recognize the fundamental (not merely circumstantial) failure of the old politics must also recognize that they can claim to be an ongoing avant-garde only if they themselves exemplify a new style of life, a new passion. There is nothing utopian about this lifestyle criterion: it was constantly evident during the emergence and rise of the classical workers movement. We believe that in the coming period this will not only hold true to the extent it did in the nineteenth century, but will go much further. Otherwise the militants of these groups would only constitute dull propaganda societies, proclaiming quite correct and basic ideas but with virtually no one listening. The spectacular unilateral transmission of a revolutionary teaching -- whether within an organization or in its action directed toward the outside -- has lost all chance of proving effective in the society of the spectacle, which simultaneously organizes a completely different spectacle and infects every spectacle with an element of nausea. Such specialized propaganda thus has little chance of leading to timely and fruitful intervention during situations when the masses are compelled to wage real struggles.

It is necessary to recall and revive the nineteenth-century social war of the poor. The word can be found everywhere, in songs and in all the declarations of the people who worked for the objectives of the classical workers movement. One of the most urgent tasks confronting the SI and other comrades now advancing along convergent paths is to define the new poverty. Certain American sociologists over the last few years have played a role in the exposure of this new poverty analogous to that played by the first utopian philanthropists vis-a-vis workers' action in the previous century: The problem is revealed, but in an idealist and artificial way; because since understanding resides in praxis alone, one can really comprehend the nature of the enemy only in the process of fighting it (this is the terrain on which are situated, for example, G. Keller's and R. Vaneigem's projects of introducing the aggressiveness of the delinquents onto the plane of ideas).

Defining the new poverty also entails defining the new wealth. To the image propagated by the dominant society -- according to which it has evolved (both on its own and in response to acceptable reformist pressure) from an economy of profit to an economy of needs -- must be counterposed an economy of desires, which could be defined as: technological society plus the imagination of what could be done with it. The economy of needs is falsified in terms of habit. Habit is the natural process by which fulfilled desire is degraded into need and is confirmed, objectified and universally recognized as need. The present economy is directly geared to the fabrication of habits, and manipulates people by forcing them to repress their desires.

Complicity with the world's false opposition goes hand in hand with complicity with its false wealth (and thus with a retreat from defining the new poverty). Sartre's disciple Gorz is a good case in point. In Les Temps Modernes #188 he confesses how embarrassed he is that, thanks to his career as a journalist (which indeed is nothing to write home about), he can afford the good things of this society; among which he respectfully mentions taxis and trips abroad -- at a time when taxis inch forward behind the mass of cars that everyone has been forced to buy; and when foreign travel presents us with the same boring spectacle of the same alienation endlessly duplicated around the world. He also waxes enthusiastic -- like Sartre did once upon a time about the "total freedom of criticism in the USSR" -- about "the youth" of the only "revolutionary generations," those of Yugoslavia, Algeria, Cuba, China and Israel. The other countries are old, says Gorz, in order to justify his own senility. He thus relieves himself of the necessity of making any more precise analyses of, or distinctions among, "the youth" of those or other countries, where not everyone is so old or so visible, and where not every revolt is so Gorz.

Fougeyrollas, the latest thinker to have "gone beyond" Marxism, is somewhat disconcerted over the fact that while all previous major stages of historical development were characterized by a change in the mode of production, the communist society heralded by Marx, if it were to come about, would seem to be no more than a continuation of the society of industrial production. Go to the back of the class, Fougeyrollas. The next form of society will not be based on industrial production. It will be a society of realized art. The "absolutely new type of production supposedly in gestation in our society," whose absence Fougeyrollas asserts in Marxisme en question, is the construction of situations, the free construction of the events of life.


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


The Role of the SI

A faked photograph of a firing squad. Following France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the fall of Napoleon III, thousands of Parisians revolted against the new royalist-leaning government and declared Paris an independent commune. Weeks of fighting ensued, during which Versailles troops attacked the city while the Communards threw up barricades, shot hostages, and burned government buildings. Soon afterward, Appert, a Parisian portrait photographer, issued “Crimes of the Commune,” a tendentious ser

From Internationale Situationniste #7 (April 1962).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 3, 2023

We are completely popular. We only take into consideration problems that are already in present in the general population. Situationist theory is in people like fish are in the sea. To those who think the SI is constructing a speculative fortress, we assert the contrary: we are going to dissolve ourselves into the population, which lives out our project at every moment; living first of all, of course, in a world of emptiness and repression.

Anyone who can't understand this ought to go back to studying our program. Publishing the provisional report of a supersession, Internationale Situationniste is one of those rare journals where after having read the most recent issue, one discovers how necessary it is to go back and read the first.

The specialists flatter themselves with the illusion that they control certain fields of knowledge and practice, but none of them escapes our omniscient criticism. We recognize that at this point we still lack the means, and that our lack of such means is due first of all to our lack of information (as much with regard to the inaccessibility of essential documents already in existence as to the absence of any document on the most important problems we can point out). But all the same, it should not be forgotten that the technocratic rabble also lacks this information. Even where it has, by its own standards, the most extensive information at its disposal, they only need to deny us 10% of it. This possibility is a purely stylistic clause, as the ruling bureaucracy, by its very nature, can only do so much with the quantitative, even when information is at hand (it inevitably ignores how the workers work, how people really live); therefore it has no hope of grasping the qualitative. On the other hand, the quantitative is all we really we lack, and soon it too will be ours, for we control the qualitative, which multiplies the quantity of the information we have at our disposal. This example can be extended to the understanding of the past: there is certainly a need for a more thorough evaluation of certain historical periods, even without a general accession to the scholarship of the historians.

The naked truth, familiar to every specialist, contradicts the current organization of reality (the decor of Sarcelles, say, or the lifestyle of Tony Armstrong-Jones), in making an implaccable and immediate critique. The specialists have congratulated themselves for too long on not only representing these facts, but all present reality. How they tremble! Their good times are over. We'll bring them down, along with every hierarchy they protect.

We are capable of bringing about a contestation in every discipline. No specialist remain will master of a single specialty. We are ready to provisionally handle the forms within which assessments and calculations can be made; we already know the margin of error of such calculations. The factor of error introduced by the use of categories that we know are false can thus be reduced. It's easy for us to choose the battlefield each time. If it is necessary to confront the "models" that are today the converging points of technocratic thought (total concurrence or total planning), our "model" is total communication. We can no longer be called utopian. An hypothesis should be recognized here that will possibly never be realized exactly in reality, no more than anything else. But with the theory of the potlatch as irreversible expression, we alone hold its complimentary factor. "Utopia" is no longer possible because the conditions of its realization already exist. It has been diverted [détourné] to serve the perpetuation of the current order, whose absurdity is so terrible that it is realizing its utopia first, at any cost, without anyone daring to formulate its theory, even after the fact. It is the inverse utopia of repression: it has every power at its disposal, and nobody wants it.

We are leading a study of "the positive pole of alienation," more exact than that of its negative pole. In addition to our diagnosis of the poverty of wealth, we are capable of redrawing the map of the extreme wealth of poverty. These maps that speak of a new topography will in fact be the first realization of "human geography." We will replace oil deposits with layers of untapped proletarian consciousness.

In such conditions, it is easy to understand the general tone of our relationship with an impotent intellectual generation. We make no concessions. It is clear that the masses who spontaneously think as we do must exclude the intellectuals unanimously, that is to say the people who, holding the lease on contemporary thought, must necessarily content themselves with their own thinking about thinkers. Accepted as such, and therefore as impotent, they then question the impotence of thought in general (see the editorial clowns of Arguments #20, devoted precisely to these intellectuals).

Right from the start of our common action, we have been clear. But now, our game is becoming so important that we no longer have to talk with the self-appointed orators. Our partisans are everywhere, and we have no intention of deceiving them. We will provide their weapons.

As for those who might well be worthwhile orators, they should know very well that their relations with us cannot be inoffensive. We are at a decisive point, and although we are aware of the proportion of our errors, we can all still oblige these possible allies a total choice. We can only be accepted or rejected as a whole; never subdivided.

There is nothing surprising about these truths. What is surprising is rather that the specialists of opinion polls cannot recognize how soon this anger will rise to breaking point. One day soon, they will have the shock of seeing their architects chased down and hanged in the streets of Sarcelles.

The failure of other groups, who have more or less seen the necessity of the coming change, is their positivity. When these groups try to be an avant-garde or the newest political formation, they believe that everyone should know something about the old praxis, and here they fall short.

Those who want to constitute a political positivity too soon depend entirely on traditional politics. In the same way, many people have urged the situationists to constitute a positive art. But our strength is in never having done that. Our dominant position in modern culture has never been shown better than by the decision made at the Göteborg Conference to refer from now on to all artistic production by members of the SI in the present framework as anti-situationist, so that they will contribute to a simultaneous destruction and consolidation.

The interpretation that we defend in culture can be regarded as a simple hypothesis, and we expect that it will very soon be verified effectively and transcended; but in every way it possesses the essential characteristics of rigorous scientific verification in the sense that it explains and arranges a number of phenomena that are, for others, incoherent and unexplainable — which are therefore sometimes even hidden by other forces; and in that it makes it possible to foresee several facts that will be controllable later. We do not deceive ourselves for an instant on the so-called objectivity of various researchers in culture or what is conveniently known as the human sciences. On the contrary, the rule seems to be to hide in this objectivity as many problems as responses. The SI must expose what is hidden, thereby exposing itself as the possibility "hidden" by its enemies. Picking up on the contradictions that others have chosen to forget, we will succeed in transforming ourselves into the practical force laid out in the Hamburg Theses, as established by Debord, Kotányi, Trocchi and Vaneigem in the summer of 1961.

The irreducible project of the SI is total freedom made concrete in acts and in the imagination, for freedom is not easy to imagine in the existing oppression. We will be victorious, identifying ourselves in the most profound desires that exist in all, giving them every license. The "motivational researchers" of modern advertising find in peoples' subconscious the desire for objects; we find only the desire to break the hindrances of life. We are the representatives of the mind-power of the great majority. Our first principles must be beyond dispute.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From


Priority Communication

a black and white cartoon of a white woman on a beach "Tanning lotion, a good book, my transistor, and... above all... I have absolutely nothing to do!"

From Internationale Situationniste #7 (April 1962).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 3, 2023

The question of power is so well hidden in sociological and cultural theory that the experts can blacken thousands of pages on communication — or the means of mass communication in modern society — without ever mentioning that the communication of which they speak is unilateral, that the consumers of communication have no way of responding. Within this false communication, there is a rigorous division of labor that ends up confirming the more general division between organizers and consumers in the era of industrial culture (which integrates and formulates the unity of work and leisure). Those who are not disturbed by the tyranny exerted on life at this level have no understanding of contemporary society; and thus find themselves perfectly qualified to add their brushstrokes to the frescos of sociology. All those who display wonder or amazement at this mass culture, which cultivates the masses and at the same time "massifies high culture" through a globally unified mass media, forget that culture, even high culture, is now buried in museums; and that this includes manifestations of revolt and self-destruction. They also forget that the masses — of whom, in the final analysis, we are all a part — are excluded from life (from participation in life), excluded from liberated action: condemned to mere subsistence in spectacular style. The present law is that everyone has to consume the greatest possible quantity of nothingness, even the respectable nothingness of traditional culture, which has been perfectly severed from its original significance (progressive cretinism is always moved when it sees the theater of Racine on television, or Balzac being read in Yakut; to be sure, it envisaged no other human progress).

The revealing notion of the bombardment of information must be understood in its broadest sense. Today's population is permanently subjected to a bombardment of rubbish that is in no way dependent on the mass media. And above all, nothing could be more misguided, more typical of the antediluvian Left, than imagining that the mass media competes with other spheres of modern social life where people's real problems are seriously posed. The university, the church, and the conventions of traditional politics and architecture strongly express the morass of incoherent trivialities that tend, anarchically yet imperatively, to shape every attitude of daily life (how to dress, who to meet, how to be content). The foremost sociologists of "communication" inevitably contrast the satisfaction of the artist, identified in and justified by his work, to the alienation employed by the mass media, thus demonstrating little more than their euphoric incapacity to conceive of artistic alienation for what it really is.

The theory of information immediately neglects the main power of language, which is its combativeness and supersession at a poetic level. A literature that touches the void, the perfect neutrality of form and content, can only be deployed as a function of a mathematical experiment (like the "potential literature" that is the final full stop on the long white page written by [Raymond] Queneau). In spite of the superb hypotheses of an "informational poetic" (Abraham Moles) — the moving assurance of their misinterpretation of Schwitters and Tzara — the technicians of language never understand the language of technology. They have no idea who judges all this.

Considered in all its richness — with regard to the entirety of human praxis and not to the use of punch cards to hasten the arrival of pay-cheques — communication can only exist in communal action. The most striking excesses of incomprehension are therefore linked to the excess of non-intervention. No example can be clearer than that of the long and pathetic history of the French Left in the face of the popular insurrection in Algeria. The death of traditional politics in France has been proven not only by the abstention of almost all of the workers, but further, without a doubt, by the political imbecility of the minority who resolved to act: thus the militant illusions of the extreme Left of the Popular Front can be described as second rate, initially because this formula is rigorously impractical in the current period, but also because since 1936, it has largely proven to be something of a counter-revolutionary army. While the mystifications of the old political organizations have now revealed their collapse, a new politics has failed to appear. Indeed, the Algerian problem appears as one of France's archaisms, to the extent that the principle tendency in France is to accede to modern capitalism as it stands. The still unofficial 'savage' phenomena of deception and refusal that accompany this development have nothing to do with the struggle of developing Algerians. For what is not distinguished is the future reality of a common radical contestation, a community of interests that today seem so different, a community no longer founded on the imperative of memories (of what could be — and, more often, of what could have been — in the old workers' movement's support for the exploited in the colonies). The only solidarity considered would consist of a few reflexes that are themselves becoming archaic, and therefore abstract: waiting for the mythic and eternal French Left of the PC [Communist Party], PSU [Unified Socialist Party] and SFIO [French Section of the Workers' International] to perform alongside the GPRA [Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic] as a section of the 3rd International (taking into account their various 'blunders' and 'betrayals'). Yet everything that has happened since 1920 demonstrates that a fundamental critique of these solutions is inevitable everywhere; and that it is posed powerfully and directly in the armed struggle of the Algerians. The only truly internationalist solidarity — as long as it is not degraded by Leftist Christian moralism — can be a solidarity between the revolutionaries of both countries; supposing, of course, that such revolutionaries can be found in France; and that the Algerians can sufficiently distinguish their interests when the current national front is faced with the choice on the nature of its power in the near future.

Those wishing to carry out avant-garde action in France in this period have been torn between, on the one hand, the fear of cutting themselves off completely from the old political communities (which are in a state of advanced glaciation), or in any case their language; and on the other, a certain contempt for the real fear in some sectors interested in the struggle against colonialist extremism — the students, for example — because of the complacency that they demonstrate toward an anthology of political archaisms (unity of inclusive action against fascism, etc.).

JOHANNESBURG, 18-1-62: Minister for defense M. François Fouché announced last year that South Africa is going to intensify its arms manufacturing in order to become self-sufficient. (Reuters)

The failure of any group to take this opportunity to link, in an exemplary manner, the maximum program of potential revolt in capitalist society to the maximum program of the current revolt of the colonized, is naturally explained by the weakness of such groups; but this weakness itself must never be considered an excuse: on the contrary, it is the defeat of functioning and rigor. Even under the harshest repression, it is inconceivable for an organization that represents people's real contestation to remain weak.

The complete separation of the workers of France and Algeria — which should be understood as not principally spatial, but temporal — has led to this frenzy of information, even 'from the Left'; thus, the morning after killing of eight French protesters by the police on February 8th, to papers spoke of the bloodiest clash on record in Paris since 1934, without mentioning that less than four months previously, on October 18th, Algerian demonstrators had been massacred in their dozens. Or that the "Anti-Fascist Committee of Saint-Germain-des-Prés" were permitted to write on a poster in March: "The People of France and Algeria have imposed the negotiation. . . ." without being killed by the ridicule of the enumeration of these two forces, and in this order.

At a time when the reality of communication is so deeply rotten, it is not surprising that a mineralogical study of petrified communication is developing in sociology. Nor that in art, the neo-dadaist rogues are discovering the importance of the dada movement as a formal positivity to exploit yet again, after having already adopted what they could from so many other modernist currents since the twenties. They work hard to forget the authentic dadaism of Germany and its involvement in the rise of the German revolution after the armistice of 1918. For those who produce a new cultural position today, the necessity of such a liaison has by no means diminished. Put simply, the new must be discovered in the art and politics of its time.

The simple anti-communication currently borrowed from dadaism by the most reactionary defenders of the established lies has no value in an era where the most urgent thing is the creation, at the most basic and complex levels of practice, of a new communication. The worthiest continuation of dada, its legitimate successor, arose elsewhere, in the summer of 1960. The spontaneous revolt of a people took hold, more than anywhere else, in its children; at the very moment when rationality's exploitation faltered, this people knew immediately how to détourn the language of its masters as poetry, as mode of action. The Congolese expression of this period (cf. the role of the poet Lumumba) warrants further investigation, for the recognition of the greatness and effectiveness of the only communication possible, whose intervention in events nonetheless paves the way for the transformation of the world.

Although the public has been strongly led to believe the opposite — and not only by the mass media — the coherency of the Congolese action, as long as they do not abolish their avant-garde, and the excellent use they have made of the rare means at their disposal, is the exact opposite of the fundamental incoherence of the social organization of every developed country and its dangerous incapacity to find an acceptable use for its technological powers. Sartre, who is so representative of his misguided generation that he has succeeded in being duped by all the mystifications that his contemporaries merely choose between, decided recently, in a note in Médiations #2, that it is impossible speak of a disappearing artistic language that corresponds to a time of disappearance, as "this era constructs far more than it destroys." The scales may well appear to be tipped in favor of the former, but only when construction is confused with production. Sartre must notice that despite all the torpedoes, there are more boats on the sea today than there were before the war; and that in spite of all the fires and collisions there are still more and more buildings and cars. There are also more books, as Sartre should know only too well. And yet the reasons for living in a society are being destroyed. The variations that present a change of face only last as long as any other chief of police would, after which they rejoin the general disappearance of the old world. The only useful thing left to do is to reconstruct society and life on other foundations, foundations unknown to the various neo-philosophers who have ruled the desert of so-called modern and progressive thought for so long. These "great men" are not even fit for the museum, because theirs is a period that even museums would find too hollow. They are all the same — products of the immense defeat of the movement for human emancipation in the first third of the century. They accept this defeat; it defines them exhaustively. And these specialists of error defend their specialization to the last. But now that the climate is changing, these dinosaurs of pseudo-explanation no longer have anywhere left to graze. The sleep of dialectical reason has begotten monsters.

All unilateral ideas of communication are in fact ideas of unilateral communication. They correspond to the worldview and interests of sociology, traditional art and politics. This is what we will change. We are aware of "the incompatibility of our program, as expression, with the available means of expression and reception" (Kotányi "The Next Stage" [also in this issue]). It is a question of simultaneously seeing what can be of use in communication and what can be of use to it. The existing forms of communication, and their present crisis, can be understood and justified only in the perspective of their supersession. One should not respect art or literature so much that one would want to surrender completely. And one should not have so much contempt for the history of art or modern philosophy that one would want to go on as if nothing has happened. Our judgment is has no illusions because it is historical. For us, any use of permitted modes of communication must therefore be the refusal of this communication and at the same time not: a communication containing its refusal; a refusal containing communication, that is to say the reversal of this refusal into a positive project. All this has to lead somewhere. Communication will now contain its own critique.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From:


The Fifth SI Conference in Göteborg

The Fifth SI Conference in Göteborg, Sweden. From Internationale Situationniste #7 (April 1962).

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

Göteborg and surrounding waters

The 5th conference of the Situationist International was held in Göteborg, Sweden, 28-30 August 1961, eleven months after the London Conference. The situationists of nine countries were represented by Ansgar-Elde, Debord, J. de Jong, Kotányi, D. Kunzelmann, S. Larsson, J.V. Martin, Nash, Prem, G. Stadler, Hardy Strid, H. Sturm, R. Vaneigem, Zimmer.

At the first session, with Ansgar-Elde chosen as chairman, news is exchanged on the state of the SI's various sections, and on how people who approach the situationist movement should be treated. The common opinion is that all applications for membership ought subjected to strict examination, especially where already existing artistic groups are involved (as in England and Germany). Prem then proposes that it should be the relevant national sections alone who judge the quality of the situationist within their own country; this would apply not only to evaluating the intentions of newcomers, but also to the circumstances and the potential participation of those already belonging to the SI. This demand meets with several protests in the name of the situationists' very unity and internationalism. The situationists of Prem's tendency obviously call for this exorbitant power of control because their theses, which are a minority within the SI (cf. the debates at the IVth conference), still hold the majority in Germany, after having ruled there uncontested for so long. They propose the exclusion from the German section of opponents within it who support the SI's policies. The decision of the Conference is that the entire SI should be the judge for all countries — with this responsibility going to the CC between Conferences — after information and well-reasoned advice has been submitted to it by each particular section in the case of admissions and, more importantly, any dissent within a country.

Nash declares that the Scandinavians decided to amalgamate into a single section, at least for a year, because of their great geographical dispersion across four states with similar cultural conditions (one of them is even in Iceland). They then considered re-establishing the autonomy of the Danish section, which they initially attempted to maintain, but which found too little local support.

Cutting back just a liter of wine per day or one liter of liqueur for every fifteen frees up an amount corresponding to the cost of a refrigerator within a year. After three months, the savings already allow for the purchase of a vacuum cleaner, a record player or a radio. . . . Every year, the French drink the price of building a city the size of Arras or Brive.
— Elle, 15 September 1961

Next the Conference hears an orientation report by Vaneigem, who says notably:

The Situationist International finds itself, through present historical circumstances as much as its internal evolution, at such a level of development that the activity it considers itself in a position to deploy in a bureaucratic and reified world is predicated on the critical rigor it is capable of maintaining as a cohesive force. Its weakness in the face of the tasks to come, and the expected repression, can only become a strength if every one of its members becomes conscious of what endangers it and what endangers them, that is to say, of what the SI is and what it intends to be. The price of this is the autonomy of individual sections.

The organization of life in capitalist and supposedly anti-capitalist society takes the form of the spectacle. The point is not to elaborate the spectacle of refusal, but to refuse the spectacle. In order for their elaboration to be artistic in the new and authentic sense defined by the SI, the elements of the destruction of the spectacle must precisely cease to be works of art. There is no such thing as situationism, or a situationist work of art, or a spectacular situationist. Once and for all.

Such a perspective means nothing if it is not linked directly to revolutionary praxis, to the will to change the employment of life (an act that can in no way be reduced to merely changing the employers of existing works). The possibility of a new type of critical action, independent of current revolutionary movements, depends, furthermore, on the following.

Indeed, the above is the only context in which the situationists can even talk of a freedom of action. With this accomplished, everything remains to be done: a) to grasp, as an integrated group, the totality (the refusal of reformism) in an insufficient world (where every fragment is a totality, where there is only a fragmentary totality); b) to construct situationist bases in preparation for a unitary urbanism and a free life; c) to return real life to its pre-eminence, for a way of life opposed to all mythical, immutable and quantified worlds; d) to redefine desires in the meticulously explored field of real possibilities; e) to seize control of every technological means that is likely to assure the domination of every possibility.

These interrelated activities provide a preliminary sketch of the project of a permanent revolution.

Our position is that of combatants between two worlds — one that we don’t acknowledge, the other that does not yet exist. We must precipitate the crash; hasten the end of the world, the disaster in which the situationists will recognize their own.

This discourse meets no opposition. In the ensuing discussion on the degree to which this project might be realized in the near future, Vaneigem proposes, in the short term, the project of a potlatch of destruction of selected artistic values; and in the longer term, intervention against UNESCO and the foundation of a first situationist base (the "Château de Silling"). The primitive accumulation of means is a matter of "convincing artists that the SI defends the best of what they have to offer. This will reassure them, both as hostages and as refugees from the enemy camp." The SI, for whom "the refusal of reformism and the impossibility of creation ex nihilo delimit the field of action," aims to locate "bases of support in contemporary society likely to strengthen its future bridgehead, creating an opening from which the conquest of enemy territory may proceed. We will be the shop stewards of cultural production, in the broadest sense of the term."

The second session begins with reports from various sections, mainly on the publication and translation of SI texts. The Scandinavian section poses the additional problem of the production of experimental films in Sweden, in which several of its members have been collectively involved. The Swedes present in Göteborg discuss among themselves which of these films meet situationist requirements, then put the question to the conference. Debord responds that he himself has never made a situationist film, and thus cannot serve as a judge. Kunzelmann expresses a strong skepticism as to the powers the SI can muster in order to act on the level envisaged by Vaneigem.

Kotányi responds to Nash and Kunzelmann: "Since the beginning of the movement there has been a problem as to what to call artistic works by members of the SI. It was understood that none of them was a situationist production, but what to call them? I propose a very simple rule: to call them ‘antisituationist.’ We are against the dominant conditions of artistic inauthenticity. I don’t mean that anyone should stop painting, writing, etc. I don’t mean that that has no value. I don’t mean that we could continue to exist without doing that. But at the same time we know that such works will be coopted by society and used against us. Our impact lies in the elaboration of certain truths which have an explosive power whenever people are ready to struggle for them.

At the present stage the movement is only in its infancy regarding the elaboration of these essential points. The degree of purity characteristic of modern explosives has yet to be attained by the movement as a whole. We cannot count on the effects of our attitudes to everyday life, to the critique of everyday life, to be explosive until everyone has achieved this purity, that is to say, the necessary degree of clarity. Don't forget that this is a matter of anti-situationist production. The clarity that comes with this point is indispensable to the project of further clarification. If this principle is sacrificed, then Kunzelmann will be right, but in a negative sense: the SI will not even be able to attain a mediocre amount of power."

The responses to Kotányi’s proposal are all favorable. It is noted that would-be avant-garde artists are beginning to appear in various countries who have no connection with the SI but who refer to themselves as adherents of "situationism" or describe their works as being more or less situationist. This tendency is obviously going to increase and it would be hopeless for the SI to try to prevent it. While various confused artists nostalgic for a positive art call themselves situationist, antisituationist art will be the mark of the best artists, those of the SI, since genuinely situationist conditions have as yet not at all been created. Admitting this is the mark of a situationist.

With one exception, the Conference unanimously decides to adopt this rule of antisituationist art, binding on all members of the SI. Only Nash objects, his spite and indignation having become sharper and sharper throughout the whole debate, to the point of uncontrolled rage.

At the beginning of the third session, Jacqueline de Jong raises the issue of publishing an English language journal, The Situationist Times, approved during the CC's first session in November 1960, but about which nothing has been done. It is noted that the SI's finances are not sufficient to support so many journals at once, especially in terms of the foreseeable difficulty of the numerous translations that would be involved; and that the translation work done by the SI comrades when it comes to ensuring communication between section is itself not up to scratch. The argument for the sustainable publication of such a journal is repeated, but only the development of the British section's activity is going to create conditions that are healthy and natural enough for such an undertaking. The discussion returns to the realization of a situationist base. Sturm declares that he has no idea what sort of process is being discussed in terms of realizing this project. He sees in Kotányi's speech "abstract consciousness and pure didacticism." Prem resumes in more detail the objections of his friends to Kotányi’s perspectives. He agrees with calling our art antisituationist; and also with organizing a situationist base. But he does not think the SI’s tactics are good. There is talk of people’s dissatisfaction and revolt, but in his view, as his tendency already expressed it at London, "Most people are still primarily interested in comfort and conveniences." He believes that the SI systematically neglects its real chances in culture. It rejects favorable occasions to intervene in existing cultural politics, whereas, in his view, the SI has no power but its power in culture — a power which could be very great and which is visibly within our reach. The majority in the SI sabotages the chances for effective action on the very terrain where it is most possible. It castigates artists who would otherwise be able to succeed in doing something; it throws them out the moment they get the means to make a difference. Because of this, we are constantly being driven into the ground. This leads Prem to believe that "theoretical power these days is sterile, without the capacity to change things practically." Kotányi responds that "we have never for an instant given the impression that we accept such a peculiar theory of modern times," and that the situationist movement's importance lies entirely in the opposite principle. Prem adds that situationist theory is incomprehensible to say the least. Several comrades ask him what he's doing there. Debord quotes Mayakovsky: "No-one calls themselves intelligent simply because they don't understand mathematics or French; but anyone seems to be able to prove their intelligence by not understanding futurism in the least." Our advance on Mayakovsky is marked by the fact that while he was referring to the bourgeois audience, the SI is the first avant-garde whose theory has been found incomprehensible by one of its participants — a participant, moreover, who makes this admission after having been a member for over two years.

Other German situationists strongly oppose Prem, some of them accusing him of having expressed positions in their name that they do not share (but it seems, rather, that Prem simply had the frankness to clearly express the line that dominates in the German section). Finally the Germans come around to agreeing that none of them conceives of theory as separate from its practical results. With this the third session is adjourned in the middle of the night, not without violent agitation and uproar. (From one side there are shouts of “Your theory is going to fly right back in your faces!” and from the other, “Cultural pimps!”).

The fourth session begins with the reading of communications sent to the Conference by two absent situationists, George Keller1 and Uwe Lausen.

On behalf of several members of the German section, Lausen denounces the conformism of life, and even the limitation of the concept of artistic experimentation to a few traditional areas. Instead, he propounds the total freedom demanded by the situationist experiment, aware of how much this is conditioned by the methods of combat against society. "Everyday life," he concludes, "is the last chance for the art of the future. That is where the radical allies we seek are to be found. The old guard say they were radical in their youth, and who can deny it? But they're living in the past. They've forgotten what they wanted. They've fallen asleep. They've had it. We have to rally the waking, wake the sleeping, bury the dead — we have to get going."

Keller writes: "No-one can deny that any new invention is situationist. New inventions belong to us alone, not only because they can be of service to us, but because we are the new inventions in all their multiplicity. This is our world." He requests "a mastery of the dynamic unity of the dérive and a complete knowledge of equivalents for the creation of real disequilibriums, the point of departure for all games." He also suggests unifying the SI's publications where there are divergences that end up developing into specializations — the central journal, in French, being theoretical to the point of studying absolute boredom, while publications in Italy, Scandinavia and Germany generally content themselves with a primarily ludic character. In terms of the SI, this conventional division between seriousness and play is a weakness.

Declaring that the ongoing divergences and undeniable retardations that made themselves known the previous day confirm its currency, the Belgian section supports Keller's proposal in the form of the unified publication of a journal in four editions: English, French, German and Swedish. The German situationists who publish the journal Spur agree to the project in principle, but prefer to postpone its implementation until the time is right; such that the majority of the Conference abstains from voting on a question rejected by the situationists most directly concerned. They stress the urgency, already made evident by the Conference, for them to unify their positions and projects with the rest of the SI. Kunzelmann declares that this discussion could advance quickly on the basis of Vaneigem's report, which would be studied more closely in Germany.

Nonetheless, the Germans commit themselves to propagating and elaborating situationist theory as soon as possible, as they have begun doing with issues 5 and 6 of Spur. On their request, the Conference adds Attila Kotányi and J. de Jong to the editorial committee of Spur in order to verify this process of unification. (But in January this decision is flouted by their putting out, without Kotányi and de Jong’s knowledge, an issue #7 marking a distinct regression from the preceding ones — which leads to the exclusion of those responsible.)

The new Central Council elected by the Conference is composed of Ansgar-Elde, Debord, Kotányi, Kunzelmann, Lausen, Nash and Vaneigem. Meanwhile, Zimmer is assigned to the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism in Brussels. It is voted to hold the 6th Conference at Anvers, after the rejection of the Scandinavian proposal to hold it secretly in Warsaw. The Conference does decide, however, to send a delegation of three situationists to Poland to develop our contacts there.

At the close of the last session, the Conference ends with a far more constructive celebration, for which, unfortunately, no minutes are taken. This celebration turns into a dérive from The Sound crossing all the way to the port of Frederikshavn; and, for others, continues on to Hamburg.

The situationists fraternize with Swedish workers at the conclusion of the Göteborg Conference

Edited from translations by Ken Knabb and Reuben Keehan. From

  • 1Pseudonym of Asger Jorn, who had officially resigned from the SI four months earlier.


Basic Banalities (Part 1) - Raoul Vaneigem

A cheesy advert for a fallout shelter featuring illustrations of stereotypical white suburban american family above a fallout shelter

From Internationale Situationniste #7 (April 1962).

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005


Bureaucratic capitalism has found its legitimation in Marx. I am not referring here to orthodox Marxism's dubious merit of having reinforced the neocapitalist structures whose present reorganization is an implicit homage to Soviet totalitarianism; I am stressing the extent to which crude versions of Marx's most profound analyses of alienation have become generally recognized in the most commonplace realities -- realities which, stripped of their magical veil and materialized in each gesture, have become the sole substance of the daily lives of an increasing number of people. In a word, bureaucratic capitalism contains the tangible reality of alienation; it has brought it home to everybody far more successfully than Marx could ever have hoped to do, it has banalized it as the reduction of material poverty has been accompanied by a spreading mediocrity of existence. As poverty has been reduced in terms of survival, it has become more profound in terms of our way of life -- this is at least one widespread feeling that exonerates Marx from all the interpretations a degenerate Bolshevism has made of him. The "theory" of peaceful coexistence has accelerated this awareness and revealed, to those who were still confused, that exploiters can get along quite well with each other despite their spectacular divergences.


"Any act," writes Mircea Eliade, "can become a religious act. Human existence is realized simultaneously on two parallel planes, that of temporality, becoming, illusion, and that of eternity, substance, reality." In the nineteenth century the brutal divorce of these two planes demonstrated that power would have done better to have maintained reality in a mist of divine transcendence. But we must give reformism credit for succeeding where Bonaparte had failed, in dissolving becoming in eternity and reality in illusion. This union may not be as solid as the sacraments of religious marriage, but it lasts, which is the most the managers of coexistence and social peace can ask of it. This is also what leads us to define ourselves -- in the illusory but inescapable perspective of duration -- as the end of abstract temporality, as the end of the reified time of our acts; to define ourselves -- does it have to be spelled out? -- at the positive pole of alienation as the end of social alienation, as the end of humanity's term of social alienation.


The socialization of primitive human groups reveals a will to struggle more effectively against the mysterious and terrifying forces of nature. But struggling in the natural environment, at once with it and against it, submitting to its most inhuman laws in order to wrest from it an increased chance of survival -- doing this could only engender a more evolved form of aggressive defense, a more complex and less primitive attitude, manifesting on a higher level the contradictions that the uncontrolled and yet influenceable forces of nature never ceased to impose. In becoming socialized, the struggle against the blind domination of nature triumphed inasmuch as it gradually assimilated primitive, natural alienation, but in another form. The struggle against natural alienation gave rise to social alienation. Is it by chance that a technological civilization has developed to such a point that this social alienation has been revealed by its conflict with the last areas of natural resistance that technological power hadn't managed (and for good reasons) to subjugate? Today the technocrats propose to put an end to primitive alienation: with a stirring humanitarianism they exhort us to perfect the technical means that "in themselves" would enable us to conquer death, suffering, discomfort and boredom. But to eliminate death would be less of a miracle than to eliminate suicide and the desire to die. There are ways of abolishing the death penalty than can make one miss it. Up till now the particular uses that have been made of technology -- or more generally the socio-economic context in which human activity is confined -- while quantitatively reducing the number of occasions of pain and death, have allowed death itself to eat like a cancer into the heart of each person's life.


The prehistoric food-gathering age was succeeded by the hunting age during which clans formed and strove to increase their chances of survival. Hunting grounds and preserves were staked out from which outsiders were absolutely excluded -- the welfare of the whole clan depended on it. As a result, the freedom gained by settling down more safely and comfortably within the natural environment engendered its own negation outside the boundaries laid down by the clan and forced the group to modify its customary rules in organizing its relations with excluded and threatening groups. From the moment it appeared, socially engendered economic survival implied the existence of boundaries, restrictions, conflicting rights. It should never be forgotten that until now both history and our own nature have developed in accordance with the development of private appropriation: the seizing of control by a class, group, caste or individual of a general power over an socio-economic survival whose form remains complex, ranging from ownership of land, territory, factories or capital to the "pure" exercise of power over people (hierarchy). Beyond the struggle against regimes whose vision of paradise is a cybernetic welfare state lies the necessity of a still vaster struggle against a fundamental and initially natural state of things, in the development of which capitalism plays only an incidental, transitory role; a state of things that will only disappear with the disappearance of the last traces of hierarchical power -- along with the "swine of humanity," of course.


To be an owner is claim a good one prevents others from using -- while at the same time acknowledging everyone's abstract, potential right to ownership. By excluding people from a real right of ownership, the owner extends his dominion over those he has excluded (absolutely over nonowners, relatively over other owners), without whom he is nothing. The nonowners have no choice in the matter. The owner appropriates and alienates them as producers of his own power, while the necessity of ensuring their own physical existence forces them despite themselves to collaborate in producing their own exclusion and to survive without ever being able to live. Excluded, they participate in ownership through the mediation of the owner, a mystical participation characterizing from the outset all the clan and social relationships that gradually replaced the principle of obligatory cohesion in which each member was an integral part of the group ("organic interdependence"). Their guarantee of survival depends on their activity within the framework of private appropriation; they reinforce a property right from which they are excluded. Due to this ambiguity each of them sees himself as participating in ownership, as a living fragment of the right to possess, and this belief in turn reinforces his condition as excluded and possessed. (Extreme cases of this alienation: the faithful slave, the cop, the bodyguard, the centurion -- creatures who, through a sort of union with their own death, confer on death a power equal to the forces of life and identify in a destructive energy the negative and positive poles of alienation, the absolutely submissive slave and the absolute master.) It is of vital importance to the exploiter that this appearance is maintained and made more sophisticated; not because he is especially Machiavellian, but simply because he wants to stay alive. The organization of appearance depends on the survival of the owner and his privileges, which in turn depend on the physical survival of the nonowner, who can thus remain alive while being exploited and excluded from being a real person. Private appropriation and domination are thus originally imposed and felt as a positive right, but in the form of a negative universality. Valid for everyone, justified in everyone's eyes by divine or natural law, the right of private appropriation is objectified in a general illusion, in a universal transcendence, in an essential law under which everyone individually manages to tolerate the more or less narrow limits assigned to his right to live and to the conditions of life in general.


In this social context the function of alienation must be understood as a condition of survival. The labor of the nonowners is subject to the same contradictions as the right of private appropriation. It transforms them into possessed beings, into producers of their own expropriation and exclusion, but it represents the only chance of survival for slaves, for serfs, for workers -- so much so that the activity that allows their existence to continue by emptying it of all content ends up, through a natural and sinister reversal of perspective, by taking on a positive appearance. Not only has value been attributed to work (as a form of self-sacrifice during the old regime, and in its most mentally degrading forms in bourgeois ideology and in the so-called People's Democracies), but very early on to work for a master, to alienate oneself willingly, became the honorable and scarcely questioned price of survival. The satisfaction of basic needs remains the best safeguard of alienation; it is best dissimulated by being justified on the grounds of undeniable necessities. Alienation multiplies needs because it can satisfy none of them; nowadays lack of satisfaction is measured in the number of cars, refrigerators, TVs: the alienating objects have lost the ruse and mystery of transcendence, they are there in their concrete poverty. To be rich today is to possess the greatest quantity of poor objects.

Up till now surviving has prevented us from living. This is why much is to be expected of the increasingly obvious impossibility of survival, an impossibility that will become all the more obvious as the glut of conveniences and elements of survival reduces life to a single choice: suicide or revolution.


The sacred presides even over the struggle against alienation. As soon as the relations of exploitation and the violence that underlies them are no longer concealed by the mystical veil, there is a breakthrough, a moment of clarity -- the struggle against alienation is suddenly revealed as a ruthless hand-to-hand fight with naked power, power exposed in its brute force and its weakness, a vulnerable giant whose slightest wound confers on the attacker the infamous notoriety of an Erostratus. Since power survives, the event remains ambiguous. Praxis of destruction, sublime moment when the complexity of the world becomes tangible, transparent, within everyone's grasp; inexpiable revolts -- those of the slaves, the Jacques, the iconoclasts, the Enragés, the Fédérés, Kronstadt, the Asturias, and -- promises of things to come -- the hooligans of Stockholm and the wildcat strikes. Only the destruction of all hierarchical power will allow us to forget these. We intend to make sure that it does.1

The deterioration of mythical structures and their slowness in regenerating themselves, which make possible the awakening of consciousness and the critical penetration of insurrection, are also responsible for the fact that once the "excesses" of revolution are past, the struggle against alienation is grasped on a theoretical plane, subjected to an "analysis" that is a carryover from the demystification preparatory to revolt. It is at this point that the truest and most authentic aspects of a revolt are reexamined and repudiated by the "we didn't really mean to do that" of the theoreticians charged with explaining the meaning of an insurrection to those who made it -- to those who aim to demystify by acts, not just by words.

All acts contesting power call for analysis and tactical development. Much can be expected of:

a) the new proletariat, which is discovering its destitution amid consumer abundance (see the development of the workers' struggles presently beginning in England, and the attitudes of rebellious youth in all the modern countries);

b) countries that have had enough of their partial, sham revolutions and are consigning their past and present theorists to the museums (see the role of the intelligentsia in the Eastern bloc);

c) the Third World, whose mistrust of technological myths has been kept alive by the colonial cops and mercenaries, the last, over-zealous militants of a transcendence against which they are the best possible vaccination;

d) the force of the SI ("our ideas are in everyone's mind"), capable of forestalling remote-controlled revolts, "crystal nights"2 and sheepish resistance.


Private appropriation is linked to the dialectic of particular and general. In the mystical realm where the contradictions of the slave and feudal systems are resolved, the nonowner, excluded as a particular individual from the right of ownership, strives to ensure his survival through his labor: the more he identifies with the interests of the master, the more successful he is. He knows the other nonowners only through their common plight: the compulsory surrender of their labor power (Christianity recommended voluntary surrender: once the slave "willingly" offered his labor power, he ceased to be a slave), the search for the optimum conditions of survival, and mystical identification. Struggle, though born of a universal will to survive, takes place on the level of appearance where it brings into play identification with the desires of the master and thus introduces a certain individual rivalry that reflects the rivalry between the masters. Competition develops on this plane as long as the exploitive relations remain dissimulated behind a mystical veil and as long as the conditions producing this veil persist; or to put it another way, as long as the degree of slavery determines the slave's consciousness of the degree of lived reality. (We are still at the stage of calling "objective consciousness" what is in reality the consciousness of being an object.) The owner, for his part, depends on the general acknowledgment of a right from which he alone is not excluded, but which is seen on the plane of appearance as a right accessible to each of the excluded taken individually. His privileged position depends on such a belief, and this belief is also the basis for the strength that is essential if he is to hold his own among the other owners; it is his strength. If he seems to renounce exclusive appropriation of everything and everybody, if he poses less as a master than as a servant of the public good and defender of collective security, then his power is crowned with glory and to his other privileges he adds that of denying, on the level of appearance (which is the only level of reference in the world of one-way communication), the very notion of personal appropriation. Denying that anyone has this right, he repudiates the other owners. In the feudal perspective the owner is not integrated into appearance in the same way as the nonowners, slaves, soldiers, functionaries and servants of all kinds. The lives of the latter are so squalid that the majority can live only as a caricature of the Master (the feudal lord, the prince, the major-domo, the taskmaster, the high priest, God, Satan). But the master himself is also forced to play one of these caricatural roles. He can do so without much effort since his pretension to total life is already so caricatural, isolated as he is among those who can only survive. He is already one of our own kind (with the added grandeur of a past epoch, which adds a poignant savor to his sadness); he, like each of us, was anxiously seeking the adventure where he could find himself on the road to his total perdition. Could the master, at the very moment he alienates the others, see that he has reduced them to dispossessed and excluded beings, and thus realize that he is only an exploiter, a purely negative being? Such an awareness is unlikely, and would be dangerous. By extending his dominion over the greatest possible number of subjects, isn't he enabling them to survive, giving them their only chance of salvation? ("What would become of the workers if the capitalists weren't kind enough to employ them?" the high-minded souls of the nineteenth century liked to ask.) In fact, the owner officially excludes himself from all claim to private appropriation. To the sacrifice of the nonowner, who through his labor exchanges his real life for an apparent one (thus avoiding immediate death by allowing the master to determine his variety of living death), the owner replies by appearing to sacrifice his nature as owner and exploiter; he excludes himself mythically, he puts himself at the service of everyone and of myth (at the service of God and his people, for example). With an additional gesture, with an act whose gratuitousness bathes him in an otherworldly radiance, he gives renunciation its pure form of mythical reality: renouncing the common life, he is the poor man amidst illusory wealth, he who sacrifices himself for everyone while all the other people only sacrifice themselves for their own sake, for the sake of their survival. He turns his predicament into prestige. The more powerful he is, the greater his sacrifice. He becomes the living reference point of the whole illusory life, the highest attainable point in the scale of mythical values. "Voluntarily" withdrawn from common mortals, he is drawn toward the world of the gods, and his more or less recognized participation in divinity, on the level of appearance (the only generally acknowledged frame of reference), consecrates his rank in the hierarchy of the other owners. In the organization of transcendence the feudal lord -- and through association with him the other owners of power or means of production, in varying degrees -- is led to play the principal role, the role that he really does play in the economic organization of the group's survival. As a result, the existence of the group is bound on every level to the existence of the owners as such, to those who, owning everything because they own everybody, force everyone to renounce their lives on the pretext of the owners' unique, absolute and divine renunciation. (From the god Prometheus, punished by the gods, to the god Christ, punished by men, the sacrifice of the Owner becomes vulgarized, it loses its sacred aura, becomes humanized.) Myth thus unites owner and nonowner, enveloping them in a common form in which the necessity of survival, whether mere physical survival or survival as a privileged being, forces them to live on the level of appearance and of the inversion of real life, the inversion of the life of everyday praxis. We are still there, waiting to live a life less than or beyond a mystique against which our every gesture protests while submitting to it.


Myth -- the unitary absolute in which the contradictions of the world find an illusory resolution, the harmonious and constantly harmonized vision that reflects and reinforces the reigning order -- is the sphere of the sacred, the extrahuman zone where an abundance of revelations are manifested but where the revelation of the process of private appropriation is carefully suppressed. Nietzsche saw this when he wrote "All becoming is a criminal revolt from eternal being, and its price is death." When the bourgeoisie claimed to replace the pure Being of feudalism with Becoming, all it really did was to desacralize Being and resacralize Becoming to its own profit. It elevated its own Becoming to the status of Being, no longer that of absolute ownership but rather that of relative appropriation: a petty democratic and mechanical Becoming, with its notions of progress, merit and causal succession. The owner's life hides him from himself; bound to myth by a life-and-death pact, he cannot see himself in the positive and exclusive enjoyment of any good except through the lived experience of his own exclusion. (And isn't it through this mythical exclusion that the nonowners will come to grasp the reality of their own exclusion?) He bears the responsibility for a group, he takes on the burden of a god. Submitting himself to its benediction and its retribution, he swathes himself in austerity and wastes away. Model of gods and heroes, the master, the owner, is the true reality of Prometheus, of Christ, of all those whose spectacular sacrifice has made it possible for "the vast majority of people" to continue to sacrifice themselves to the extreme minority, to the masters. (Analysis of the owner's sacrifice should be examined more carefully: isn't the case of Christ really the sacrifice of the owner's son? If the owner can never sacrifice himself except on the level of appearance, then Christ stands for the real immolation of the owner's son when circumstances leave no other alternative. As a son he is only an owner at an early stage of development, an embryo, little more than a dream of future ownership. In this mythic dimension belongs Maurice Barrès's famous remark in 1914, when war had arrived and made his dreams come true at last: "Our youth, as is proper, has gone to shed torrents of our blood.") This rather distasteful little game, before it became transformed into a symbolic rite, knew a heroic period when kings and tribal chiefs were ritually put to death according to their "will." Historians assure us that these august martyrs were soon replaced by prisoners, slaves or criminals. The penalty was delegated, but the rulers kept the halo.


The concept of a common fate is based on the sacrifice of the owner and the nonowner. Put another way, the notion of a "human condition" is based on an ideal and tormented image whose purpose is to try to resolve the irresolvable opposition between the mythical sacrifice of the minority and the really sacrificed life of everyone else. The function of myth is to unify and eternalize, in a succession of static moments, the dialectic of "will-to-live" and its opposite. This universally dominant factitious unity attains its most tangible and concrete representation in communication, particularly in language. Ambiguity is most manifest at this level, it leads to a lack of real communication, it puts the analyst at the mercy of ridiculous phantoms, at the mercy of words -- eternal and changing instants -- whose content varies according to who pronounces them, as does the notion of sacrifice. When language is put to the test, it can no longer dissimulate the misrepresentation and thus it provokes the crisis of participation. In the language of an era one can follow the traces of total revolution, unfulfilled but always imminent. They are the exalting and terrifying signs of the upheavals they foreshadow, but who takes them seriously? The discredit striking language is as deeply rooted and instinctive as the suspicion with which myths are viewed by people who at the same time remain firmly attached to them. How can key words be defined by other words? How can phrases be used to point out the signs that refute the phraseological organization of appearance? The best texts still await their justification. When a poem by Mallarmé becomes the sole explanation for an act of revolt, then poetry and revolution will have overcome their ambiguity. To await and prepare for this moment is to manipulate information not as the last shock wave whose significance escapes everyone, but as the first repercussion of an act still to come.


Born of man's will to survive the uncontrollable forces of nature, myth is a public welfare policy that has outlived its necessity. It has consolidated its tyrannical force by reducing life to the sole dimension of survival, by negating it as movement and totality.

When contested, myth homogenizes the diverse attacks on it; sooner or later it engulfs and assimilates them. Nothing can withstand it, no image or concept that attempts to destroy the dominant spiritual structures. It reigns over the expression of facts and of lived experience, on which it imposes its own interpretive structure (dramatization). Private consciousness is the consciousness of lived experience that finds its expression on the level of organized appearance.

Myth is sustained by rewarded sacrifice. Since every individual life is based on its own renunciation, lived experience must be defined as sacrifice and recompense. As a reward for his asceticism, the initiate (the promoted worker, the specialist, the manager -- new martyrs canonized democratically) is granted a niche in the organization of appearances; he is made to feel at home in alienation. But collective shelters disappeared with unitary societies, all that's left is their later concrete embodiments for the use of the general public: temples, churches, palaces... memorials of a universal protection. Shelters are private nowadays, and even if their protection is far from certain there can be no mistaking their price.


"Private" life is defined primarily in a formal context. It is, to be sure, engendered by the social relations created by private appropriation, but its essential form is determined by the expression of those relations. Universal, incontestable but constantly contested, this form makes appropriation a right belonging to everyone and from which everyone is excluded, a right one can obtain only by renouncing it. As long as it fails to break free of the context imprisoning it (a break that is called revolution), the most authentic experience can be grasped, expressed and communicated only by way of an inversion through which its fundamental contradiction is dissimulated. In other words, if a positive project fails to sustain a praxis of radically overthrowing the conditions of life -- which are nothing other than the conditions of private appropriation -- it does not have the slightest chance of escaping being taken over by the negativity that reigns over the expression of social relationships: it is coopted like an inverted mirror image. In the totalizing perspective in which it conditions the whole of everyone's life, and in which its real and its mythic power can no longer be distinguished (both being both real and mythical), the process of private appropriation has made it impossible to express life any way except negatively. Life in its entirety is immersed in a negativity that corrodes it and formally defines it. To talk of life today is like talking of rope in the house of a hanged man. Since the key of will-to-live has been lost we have been wandering in the corridors of an endless mausoleum. The dialogue of chance and the throw of the dice3 no longer suffices to justify our lassitude; those who still accept living in well-furnished weariness picture themselves as leading an indolent existence while failing to notice in each of their daily gestures a living denial of their despair, a denial that should rather make them despair only of the poverty of their imagination. Forgetting life, one can identify with a range of images, from the brutish conqueror and brutish slave at one pole to the saint and the pure hero at the other. The air in this shithouse has been unbreathable for a long time. The world and man as representation stink like carrion and there's no longer any god around to turn the charnel houses into beds of lilies. After all the ages men have died while accepting without notable change the explanations of gods, of nature and of biological laws, it wouldn't seem unreasonable to ask if we don't die because so much death enters -- and for very specific reasons -- into every moment of our lives.


Private appropriation can be defined notably as the appropriation of things by means of the appropriation of people. It is the spring and the troubled water where all reflections mingle and blur. Its field of action and influence, spanning the whole of history, seems to have been characterized until now by a fundamental double behavioral determination: an ontology based on sacrifice and negation of self (its subjective and objective aspects respectively) and a fundamental duality, a division between particular and general, individual and collective, private and public, theoretical and practical, spiritual and material, intellectual and manual, etc. The contradiction between universal appropriation and universal expropriation implies that the master has been seen for what he is and isolated. This mythical image of terror, destitution and renunciation presents itself to slaves, to servants, to all those who can't stand living as they do; it is the illusory reflection of their participation in property, a natural illusion since they really do participate in it through the daily sacrifice of their energy (what the ancients called pain or torture and we call labor or work) since they themselves produce this property in a way that excludes them. The master can only cling to the notion of work-as-sacrifice, like Christ to his cross and his nails; it is up to him to authenticate sacrifice, to apparently renounce his right to exclusive enjoyment and to cease to expropriate with purely human violence (that is, violence without mediation). The sublimity of the gesture obscures the initial violence, the nobility of the sacrifice absolves the commando, the brutality of the conqueror is bathed in the light of a transcendence whose reign is internalized, the gods are the intransigent guardians of rights, the short-tempered shepherds of a peaceful, law-abiding flock of owners and owner wannabes. The gamble on transcendence and the sacrifice it implies are the masters' greatest conquest, their most accomplished submission to the necessity of conquest. Anyone who intrigues for power while refusing the purification of renunciation (the brigand or the tyrant) will sooner or later be tracked down and killed like a mad dog, or worse: as someone who only pursues his own ends and whose blunt disdain for "work" lacks any tact toward others' feelings: serial killers like Troppmann, Landru, Petiot were doomed to defeat because they murdered people without justifying it in the name of defending the Free World, the Christian West, the State or Human Dignity. By refusing to play the rules of the game, pirates, gangsters and outlaws disturb those with good consciences (whose consciences are a reflection of myth); but the masters, by killing the encroacher or enrolling him as a cop, reestablish the omnipotence of the "eternal truth": namely, that those who don't sell themselves lose their right to survive and those who do sell themselves lose their right to live. The sacrifice of the master is the essence of humanism, which is what makes humanism -- and let this be understood once and for all -- the miserable negation of everything human. Humanism is the master taken seriously at his own game, acclaimed by those who see in his apparent sacrifice (that caricatural reflection of their real sacrifice) a reason to hope for salvation. Justice, Dignity, Nobility, Freedom... these words that yap and howl, are they anything but household pets who have continued to reliably return home to their masters since the time when heroic lackeys won the right to walk them on the streets? To use them is to forget that they are the ballast that enables power to rise out of reach. And if we imagine a regime deciding that the mythical sacrifice of the masters should not be promoted in such universal forms, and setting about tracking down these word-concepts and wiping them out, we could well expect the Left to be incapable of combating it with anything more than a plaintive battle of words whose every phrase, invoking the "sacrifice" of a previous master, calls for an equally mythical sacrifice of a new one (a leftist master, a regime mowing down workers in the name of the proletariat). Bound to the notion of sacrifice, humanism is born of the mutual fear of masters and slaves: it is nothing but the solidarity of a shit-scared humanity. But those who reject all hierarchical power can use any word as a weapon to punctuate their action. Lautréamont and the illegalist anarchists were already aware of this; so were the dadaists.

The appropriator thus becomes an owner from the moment he puts the ownership of people and things in the hands of God or of some universal transcendence, whose omnipotence is reflected back on him as a grace sanctifying his slightest gesture. To oppose an owner thus consecrated is to oppose God, nature, the fatherland, the people. In short, to exclude oneself from the whole physical and spiritual world. "We must neither govern nor be governed," writes Marcel Havrenne so neatly. For those who add an appropriate violence to his humor, there is no longer any salvation or damnation, no place in the universal order, neither with Satan, the great coopter of the faithful, nor in any form of myth, since they are the living proof of the uselessness of all that. They were born for a life yet to be invented; insofar as they lived, it was on this hope that they finally came to grief.

Two corollaries of singularization in transcendence:

a) If ontology implies transcendence, it is clear that any ontology automatically justifies the being of the master and the hierarchical power wherein the master is reflected in degraded, more or less faithful images.

b) Over the distinction between manual and intellectual work, between practice and theory, is superimposed the distinction between work-as-real-sacrifice and the organization of work in the form of apparent sacrifice.

It would be tempting to explain fascism -- among other reasons for it -- as an act of faith, the auto-da-fé of a bourgeoisie haunted by the murder of God and the destruction of the great sacred spectacle, dedicating itself to the devil, to an inverted mysticism, a black mysticism with its rituals and its holocausts. Mysticism and high finance.

It should not be forgotten that hierarchical power is inconceivable without transcendence, without ideologies, without myths. Demystification itself can always be turned into a myth: it suffices to "omit," most philosophically, demystification by acts. Any demystification so neutralized, with the sting taken out of it, becomes painless, euthanasic, in a word, humanitarian. Except that the movement of demystification will ultimately demystify the demystifiers.


(Concluded in the next issue)

  • What will become of the totality inherent in unitary society when it comes up against the bourgeois demolition of that society?

  • Will an artificial reconstitution of unity succeed in hoodwinking the worker alienated in consumption?
  • But what can be the future of totality in a fragmented society?
  • What unexpected supersession of this society and of its whole organisation of appearance will finally bring us to a happy ending?


End of Part 1. Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version in the Situationist International Anthology). Footnotes by translator.

  • 1 Erostratus burned down a famous Greek temple in 356 BC so that his name would be remembered for all time. Jacques: French peasants who revolted in the Jacquerie of 1358; by extension, a jacquerie is any particularly violent peasant rebellion. Enragés: extremist current during the French Revolution (1793). Fédérés: insurgents of the Paris Commune (1871), particularly those massacred in its last stand.
  • 2 The "Crystal Night" was a Nazi-orchestrated mass reaction against Jews in Germany in 1938, so called because of the enormous number of store windows broken.
  • 3 Reference to Mallarmé's poem "A Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance." Vaneigem's sense is somewhat obscure (as is the poem), but seems to refer to the inadequacy of indifferent alternation between arbitrary decision and leaving things purely to chance. "Stéphane Mallarmé, in the great poem that expresses and sums up the idea he pursued throughout his life, declares: A Throw of the Dice Will Never Abolish Chance. By the game of dice he symbolized pure thought, which is in essence Number. What he meant by chance is everything that escapes conscious thought and that arises out of its very lapses. He somberly proclaimed the failure of the human spirit, its inability to succeed in mastering itself." (André Rolland de Renéville, Expérience Poétique.)


The Next Stage - Attila Kotányi

From Internationale Situationniste #7 (April 1962).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 6, 2023

What is the most revolutionary element to make its appearance in the SI? The most revolutionary: that is to say the most in touch with the future. And what is the most critical point? To respond to this question, I shall analyze the SI's program as if I were speaking to a philosopher. What an audacious and absurd undertaking! I see the innovative element in the fact that we have begun to better understand the peculiarity of our 'being-in-the-world,' and to better understand the nature of our program: the consequences of the incompatibility of our program, as expression, with the available means of expression and reception.

What is the most embarrassing point in the SI's original program, the one that does most to prevent people from sleeping? Responding to this question in philosophical terms is clearly absurd. And yet, as contemporary philosophy is situated entirely within the theme of 'the abandoning of philosophy' (cf. Thèses de Hambourg), this occasions a certain surprise, and this surprise is recognized by all theoreticians of information as the condition of the transmission of a 'quantity of information.'

From the start, the situationist project was a revolutionary program. It was practical, quasi-political, objective, in favor of transforming of the world; and linked to the present real transformation, reified but general and inter-bureaucratic. On the other hand, this program was intersubjective, nourished by desire, by what is radically anti-alienating in the lives of everyone — a drink mixed by thirst. From the start, we were conscious that the manager, the sociologist and the artist comprise a troika paid to make people believe that desires can be cannibalized, or that the energies of these desires can be converted into 'needs without ever having been desires.' We were equally conscious that a unique historical opportunity allowed the managers to expropriate to their own ends 'all the instruments by which a society thinks and sees itself.' Their effectiveness was multiplied by the underestimation of this power, nourished by the most diverse sources, and was due in part to the ignorance diffused by these very channels of spectacles and 'information.' In short: power enters into a direct grip on the system by which individuals communicate with themselves and with others (the responsibility of everyone in this system is recognized by everyone, except for power).

These elements existed in the SI from the start. Their classic content corresponded with Marx's classic criteria for revolutionary theory: don't let idealists exploit the subjective.

We are now involved in a transcendence of this classic stage. It is becoming clear that other movements — surrealism, Marxism, existentialism, etc. — dropped the chestnut when it got too hot for them (they cannot forget the old Hegelian philosophy, even if they have forgotten that the dialectic was originally the dialectic of the subjective and the objective). I see this transcendence, as I have said, in the fact that we have begun to better understand the peculiarity of our 'being-in-the-world,' the consequences of the incompatibility of our program, as expression, with the available means of expression. And I would add that this is not only about 'our program,' that everyone participates automatically — for or against, but always in this 'infinitely complicated conflict between alienation and the struggle against alienation' (Lefebvre) — in the situationist program.

From the start of the discussions about the implications of the situationist program, we have posed claims in accordance with this program and we have proposed constructions. At the same time, we have recognized the 'chimerical,' 'utopian' character of some of these images and the 'manichean' character of some of these claims. Examples are easy enough to find in our published texts. In spite of this, the approach to this problem remains accidental and we insist on the legitimacy of the momentary utopia, on the revolutionary value of such claims, on the necessity of material means, or completely on the contrary, on the necessity, at a primitive stage, of 'thinking our ideas rigorously enough in common' (Internationale Situationniste #2 1 ).

I believe that though these remarks are accompanied by a certain embarrassment, they are profoundly just. And yet it is here that I see a step already taken in relation to the first programmatic stage, and the possibility of a great evolution to come.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From


Situationist News - April 1962

Police raid on Gruppe Spur, plus exclusions, resignations, reprints, typos., etc. From Internationale Situationniste #7 (April 1962).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 6, 2023

The SI's Central Council gathered in Paris from 10 to 11 February. Apart from the six CC delegates (Ansgar-Elde sent an apology for his absence), eight other situationists present in Paris at the time took part in the discussion. Considering the worsening since the Göteborg conference of the opposition toward the SI from within the German section — particularly the content of issue 7 of Spur; the distrust and hostility that this group holds toward the comrades implementing the SI's directives in Germany and elsewhere; and its now undeniable collusion with the ruling class of European culture — a motion demanding the exclusion of Kunzelmann (one of the two German CC delegates), as well as that of Prem, Sturm and Zimmer, was presented by Debord, Kotànyi, Lausen and Vaneigem. Nash, rebuking those responsible for Spur, was in favor of them publishing a retraction, but stopped short of demanding an exclusion. After a debate on this subject, however, Nash decided on the option of exclusion, which was subsequently settled with a vote of 5 to 1. For his part, Kunzelmann approved of all the CC's critiques, but insisted that he was not personally responsible for any of the incriminating facts. Nevertheless, given the opportunity, he was unable to bring himself to make a definitive break with the others, and thus joined them in their exclusion. This exclusion was immediately made public with the tract Nicht hinauslehnen! The only person present and not implicated to express sympathy for the positions of the excluded was Lothar Fisher, who must therefore be counted among them.

With this affair out of the way, the CC turned to the discussion of a more precise definition of culture and everyday life, of the dialectic of the spectacle and the strike force that we are now capable of assembling. A theoretical discussion has thus been opened, which is expected to culminate in a coherent exposition in the form of a pocket dictionary of situationist concepts within the space of a year. A resolution was made for the creative détournement of the "popular university" in Denmark (cf. Mme E Simon's study Réveil national et culture populaire en Scandinavie, PUF distribution). The CC entrusted the publication of the SI's new German journal Der deutsche Gedanke to Uwe Lausen.

In terms of the exclusions, the CC decided that it would be better to limit numbers in order to exercise stricter control on admission to the SI, which is currently far too easy, by only selecting elements that are completely sound. Various sympathizers seem to think that there is something to gain from pretending to be converted (for example, it is well-known that the SI's Scandinavian section is easier to join than the nouveau roman school). If this is practiced, the SI can hope to accomplish its task with only several dozen more exclusions, that is to say with the least expense.

A reprint of Internationale Situationniste #2 is currently under way. It will be sent to those who have requested it in order to complete their collections.

We should draw attention to the substantial amount of typographical errors marring our previous issue, most of which occurred at the printers. To avoid any contention, note that page 11, first column, line 13 should read: "deliberately by the police"; page 13, second column, line 42: "the vanishing point of the planned environment"; page 14, at the end of the first column: "The society of free time and consumption is lived as a society of empty time, as consumption of emptiness"; page 15, first column, line 15: "a major embarrassment to the good people"; page 16, line 3: "a falsified need"; page 26, at the start of the second column: "the constantly recurring possibilities of alienation arising within the very struggle against alienation; but we should stress that this applies to the highest level of research"; page 30, second column, line 10: "not a religion. This is the conflict"; page 40, line 19: "for those who possess cultural resources."

While all these mistakes were corrected in most copies of Internationale Situationniste #6, this led to the creation of two new ones: on page 10, the caption should end "by destroying the natural link these objects may have with other objects, so as to have them become more than anything else a material environment with a high standing"; and in the second point of the program of unitary urbanism on page 16, it should read: "are really useful only in reinforcing reification" (instead of "reedification"). But if that were the case, Kotànyi and Vaneigem's readers would surely have reified themselves.

Owing to major differences on the political action to take in the wake of the great Belgian strike, André Frankin broke with our SI comrades in Belgium — and therefore with all other situationists — in March 1961, letting us know in a letter of 13 September the same year that he found all the SI's ideas to be total rubbish, fishing in troubled waters, with the exception, however, of the few plagiarized in his own texts (published in issues 3, 4 and 5 of this journal). The least that can be said is that just as we he will no longer have anything to do with us, we will no longer have anything to do with him.

In a circular dated 27 October 1961, Maurice Lemaître and two other relics from the golden age of the lettrist avant-garde, finally conceding that the lettrist group is no more, while at the same time proposing that "lettrism is now beginning to find its rightful place" in esoteric history and major exhibitions, formed themselves into a kind support group whose members "are able to ensure that their names are associated with the phrase: the lettrist movement." Already assured of the adherence of three other well and truly conservative mammoths, the signatories then addressed themselves to four people who had taken various sides in the conflicts of this avant-garde toward the time of its break-up. Finding himself among those solicited, Debord of course chose not to respond. Then, in a letter on 4 November, they tried again, concluding that his extended silence authorized them to report his acceptance in the imminent publication of their poverties. Debord then telegraphed them: "You filthy bastards. I forbid you to use my signature in any way whatsoever. Be warned." They were smart enough to leave it at that. But their gesture was still rather peculiar, given that none of these people had ever shown the least interest in approaching a situationist before.

These particular sort of academics know that they are the SI's sworn enemies, and know it so well that they devoted an entire issue of their interminable review to an almost frenzied denunciation of us (Poésie Nouvelle #13, October 1960); and that we ourselves have said (in issues 4 and 5 of Internationale Situationniste) that we hold their theory in extremely low esteem, to say nothing of what we think of several of their very lives. This incident therefore demonstrates their scorn for all thought, including their own. But they still feel the need to revert to this opportunism. And their talent at cutting and pasting is enough to show their vocation for engagement and reengagement in that wretched legion of arrivistes who haven't even arrived. They're grasping at straws.

In our previous issue, we reported on the threats of seizure that delayed the release of Spur #5, which included a collection of texts on unitary urbanism, and which was finally published in Munich in June 1961. On 9 November, after the publication of issue 6, a series of raids succeeded in confiscating every copy of each issue of the German situationist journal that the police could find; all the situationists were subjected to lengthy interrogations, and four of them were charged. In an initial pamphlet distributed the next day with the signatures of thirty-one people — most of them from the SI — in solidarity with the accused, the German section emphasized that "for the first time since 1945, a search has been carried out on the premises of artists." The pamphlet showed the considerable intimidating moves that constituted the threats to ban publication, prosecution and even imprisonment (the demonstrated subversion appeared to have been mainly directed at religion), and by calling on the support of intellectuals and artists, led initially to additional charges of contempt of court.

But as it turned out, this solidarity was expressed almost immediately in Germany and abroad, and the authorities were left to retract to the point of allowing the return of the confiscated publications. The remainder of the proceedings are at a standstill.

In its February 1962 issue, the German journal Vernissage having insinuated that the exclusion three months later of several German situationists could well have been linked to their problems with the vice squad, or to their drunkenness, a letter by the current German section on 15 March, approved by the rest of the SI to this modern art version of Confidential, affirmed that all the situationists are and remain in solidarity with those concerned with this affair, and pointed out: "the grounds for their exclusion is their refusal to follow the SI in all its extreme conclusions. In any case, we could not have reproached these comrades for the non-conformism of their behavior or their art. We would even go so far as to declare that, from the point of view of the editorship of Vernissage — that is to say from your point of view as lowly shopkeepers, servants and hustlers — we are worse..."

Elsewhere, two German artists on whom the SI had always been able to rely for solidarity protested that on this occasion, they did not want to be counted among those who supported Spur, clearly demonstrating their sympathies with the police.

At the time of the November 1961 ambush at Kindu on Italian pilots serving in the UN's occupying forces in the Congo, just as at the very moment of the execution of nineteen priests in Congolo last January, traces could be found of Colonel Pakassa and his troops from the Western Province Army. Unfortunately, colonel Pakassa was arrested shortly afterwards, at the same time that the Leopoldville government imprisoned the moderate Gizenga — as the start of the same process of liquidation applied to Lumumba — and while the Lumumbist mutiny of troops in Stanleyville was quashed by General Lundula, several units being disbanded and numerous soldiers shot.

The journalists who praised Jean-Louis Bédouin’s Twenty Years of Surrealism either didn’t read it, or were unaware that surrealism effectively continued to exist for the twenty years following Maurice Nadeau’s work.1 It is also difficult to understand the warm reception for a book that describes with such little imagination a period of such little interest. The history of these twenty years is the history of the neglect of twenty years of modern art. And even within the tiny sector to which Bédouin limits himself, the information is really of very little consequence. Why talk, for example, of Asger Jorn’s debt to the collage technique of Max Ernst (p.105), when Jorn has never hidden the fact that all of Ernst’s work has influenced him heavily? Why openly consider the surrealist groups of three continents to be mere spin-offs of a distant headquarters in Paris, where nothing actually happens anymore anyway? Why mention Ça commence bien,2 the 1954 tract “co-signed by the lettrists” on the Rimbaud centenary (p.278), except to gloss over the polemic between the signatories that ensued almost immediately afterwards? It can’t be denied that this was interesting as an extreme case of the ravages of Stalinism on its enemies: the members of this particular lettrist faction, some of whom would later contribute to the founding of the SI, were treated by the surrealists as NKVD henchmen simply for having mentioned class struggle. A surrealist tract entitled Familiers du Grand Truc3 declared that the lettrists would soon embark on carriers as bearers of false-witness at Moscow show trials. It’s a shame the surrealists didn’t stick to automatic writing, foreseeing that such and such a department store would burn down, or finding out what lay ahead for them in 1939. By choosing to attempt rational discourse instead, they made a wildly inaccurate prediction about a few people joining the NKVD (which even at stage was, of course, no longer), and are now completely incapable of seeing the future, let alone the present, of this year’s models: Hantaï and Pauwels.4

Finally, the leitmotif of Bédouin’s prose on almost every page is the credulous “youths,” the “young people” who adhere en masse to surrealist doctrine, the surrealist generations that come and go like clockwork. Every year, there are new young people ready to stand up for the surrealist project, which has to be a good thing, right? And what is it that they've done? On this rather important point, Bédouin’s account remains vague.

In December 1959, The Meaning of Decay in Art, an editorial note in issue 3 of this journal, pointed out that if Lucien Goldmann really wanted to accept, in his Recherches dialectiques, that "art as an independent phenomenon separated from other realms of social life" could be led to disappear in a future where it would be necessary to conceive of an art that would no longer be "separated from life," then he was declaring it from a point of view far removed from reality, because he did so without recognizing its verification in the expression of his time. He was still thinking in terms of the classical/romantic dichotomy, already so unfortunate in Marx. His subsequent progress cannot be ignored. In Mediations #2 (May-August 1961), he conceived "very seriously and only as an hypothesis" (the italics are his), the idea that "in a world where the inauthenticity of objects and people is, to varying degrees, universal, but where radical inauthenticity cannot exist, one would have to expect to discover "at least two structural stages of cultural creation: the thematic expression of absence; and, at a more advanced level, the question of the radical destruction of the object." Even more tentatively, he adds: "It goes without saying that the first characterizes a major movement within modern literature, from Kafka to Robbe-Grillet, and that it was perhaps even already an important part of the works like those of Mallarmé and Valéry, while the second forms the basis of non-figurative painting as well as a number of important currents in modern poetry."
He also discovers, much to his amazement, that people resist reification! Page 153: "The provisional hypothesis that we are formulating today is that reification, which tends toward the complete dissolution and integration of different groups into a single society, has a character so contrary to reality, not to mention biology, that it engenders a more or less strong sense of opposition in all individuals, a resistance which can be more or less general and more or less collective, and which forms the backdrop for creativity."

And thus in 1961, we suddenly see that the world, being what it is, "engenders literature with the absence of art and art with the destruction of the object." It's safe to say that Goldmann ignores this, for he is so enchanted by his discovery that he hasn't yet considered that the desert island on which that unexpected spiritual tempest stranded him might well be as heavily populated as the French concentration camps. The tracks of the Man Friday he is expecting to see there are those of every single cultural revolution of the last one hundred years.

We should quote the rather telling paragraph that makes up Goldmann's cautious conclusion: "These remarks are only hypotheses; naturally, they need to be clarified and verified by in-depth collective research that would take up to several years. Such as they are, they nevertheless appear suggestive enough to us that in the interests of this work itself, formulating and proposing them in the discussion has been extremely useful." You'd have to agree that despite the nobility of such honesty, it says a thing or two about the capacities of the researcher.

In August 1961, the art dealer Otto Van de Loo, brought to task in our previous issue (p.41 5 ), published a long declaration entitled Offene Erklarung zu einem Artikel der Internationale Situationniste, in which he confirmed our entire version of the affair in a highly detailed but excruciatingly embarrassing style, to the point of asserting that no one could doubt the joke constituted by his telegraphed offer of a contract for 1,000 Deutschmarks a month to renew ties with a few artists on whom he had earlier put pressure in decidedly nobler and more sentimental terms. We'll let you be the judge of all those who think that the artistic economy is so extravagant to be so sure that an artist could produce any kind of return on 1,200 New Francs per month (especially when this sum, "unthinkable" in August 1961 because it was so high, has become unthinkable eight months later because it is so low). To bolster his denial, he added that works by these artists were worth nothing and interested no-one. But to judge him by his own criteria, he is either a fool or a liar, because this argument is effectively an admission that he was indeed interested in them as members of the SI, and that he planned to take advantage of their enterism in order exert a level of influence on decisions made by them in their capacity as situationists. He boasted that he had partially succeeded, and even that he was capable of continuing this influence because in the same declaration, he made much of the cordial personal relations he maintained with a few situationists at the time. He went so far as to draw on this argument to throw the seriousness of the information in the SI journal into doubt. We therefore stand by all our remarks in IS #6, underlining that we are not declaring our opposition to a specific art dealer — which would mean that we could investigate alliances with others — but that we are protecting the SI from outside pressures with the most definite measures. And to prove it, and to bring this incident to an end, we will point out that all those whose cordiality formed the basis of Van de Loo's postcards from 30 August have since been forced to leave the SI.

JV Martin organizes the resistance with loyal elements following Nash's putsch.
Translation: "Sabotage! Contact headquarters by space radio!"

In Sweden on 15 March, Jörgen Nash and Ansgar-Elde suddenly declared their opposition to the Situationist International, and set about converting the Scandinavian section into yet another "Bauhaus," hoping to use the seal of situationism to attract a few highly profitable art dealers. The development of this conspiracy was no doubt precipitated by the recent elimination of the SI's right wing, on whose support the Nashists had relied. (In the case of Spur, the project was discovered to be a sort of National Situationism, organized as an autonomous force, seeking to expand into Switzerland and Austria, which found support in Northern Europe). In their declaration, the Nashists did not shy from resorting to the most outrageous lies, going so far as to give the impression that on 10 February, at the SI's last Central Council — in session under some sort of alleged pressure from the streets! — the minority were intimidated by cunning use of the atmosphere of civil war that has apparently been prevalent in Paris for the last two years (alas!). They even thought that they needed to enlarge this miserable minority by bolstering their enterprise with someone else, whom they asserted retrospectively was a member of the CC, when the entire SI knows that this is clearly not true. The Nashist gangsters can expect no reconciliation with us.

On 23 March, the Central Council of the SI delegated the Danish situationist J.V. Martin complete power to represent the Situationist International in the zone covered by the Scandinavian section (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) until the Anvers Conference; to immediately regroup all the authentic situationists; and to co-ordinate every means necessary in the struggle against Nashism.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From

  • 1Historie du surréalisme (1945-48).
  • 2A Good Start. The LI responded to the surrealists' tract with the leaflet, Et Ça finit mal! [And a Bad End!].
  • 3The Great Friends of the Grand Truc: a reference to the bourgeois politicians in Chant de guerre parisien [Parisian War Cry], Rimbaud's poem on the Commune.
  • 4Simon Hantaï (b.1922), Hungarian-French painter, and Louis Pauwels (1920-1997), author and editor of the science fiction journal Planète.
  • 5Situationist News