Internationale Situationniste #6

cover of IS #6

central bulletin published by the sections of the situationist international

August 1961

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, Nash, Sturm.

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

Instructions for an insurrection

A critique of revolutionary organisations and the role of the 'militant'.

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

If it seems somewhat ridiculous to talk of revolution, this is obviously because the organized revolutionary movement has long since disappeared from the modern countries where the possibilities of a decisive social transformation are concentrated. But all the alternatives are even more ridiculous, since they imply accepting the existing order in one way or another. If the word "revolutionary" has been neutralized to the point of being used in advertising to describe the slightest change in an ever-changing commodity production, this is because the possibilities of a central desirable change are no longer expressed anywhere. Today the revolutionary project stands accused before the tribunal of history -- accused of having failed, of having simply engendered a new form of alienation. This amounts to recognizing that the ruling society has proved capable of defending itself, on all levels of reality, much better than revolutionaries expected. Not that it has become more tolerable. The point is simply that revolution has to be reinvented.

This poses a number of problems that will have to be theoretically and practically overcome in the next few years. We can briefly mention a few points that it is urgent to understand and resolve.

Of the tendencies toward regroupment that have appeared over the last few years among various minorities of the workers movement in Europe, only the most radical current is worth preserving: that centered on the program of workers councils. Nor should we overlook the fact that a number of confusionist elements are seeking to insinuate themselves into this debate (see the recent accord among "leftist" philosophico-sociological journals of different countries).

The greatest difficulty confronting groups that seek to create a new type of revolutionary organization is that of establishing new types of human relationships within the organization itself. The forces of the society exert an omnipresent pressure against such an effort. But unless this is accomplished, by methods yet to be experimented with, we will never be able to escape from specialized politics. The demand for participation on the part of everyone often degenerates into a mere abstract ideal, when in fact it is an absolute practical necessity for a really new organization and for the organization of a really new society. Even if militants are no longer mere underlings carrying out the decisions made by masters of the organization, they still risk being reduced to the role of spectators of those among them who are the most qualified in politics conceived as a specialization; and in this way the passivity relation of the old world is reproduced.

People's creativity and participation can only be awakened by a collective project explicitly concerned with all aspects of lived experience. The only way to "arouse the masses" is to expose the appalling contrast between the potential constructions of life and the present poverty of life. Without a critique of everyday life, a revolutionary organization is a separated milieu, as conventional and ultimately as passive as those holiday camps that are the specialized terrain of modern leisure. Sociologists, such as Henri Raymond in his study of Palinuro, have shown how in such places the spectacular mechanism recreates, on the level of play, the dominant relations of the society as a whole. But then they go on naïvely to commend the "multiplicity of human contacts," for example, without seeing that the mere quantitative increase of these contacts leaves them just as insipid and inauthentic as they are everywhere else. Even in the most libertarian and antihierarchical revolutionary group, communication between people is in no way guaranteed by a shared political program. The sociologists naturally support efforts to reform everyday life, to organize compensation for it in vacation time. But the revolutionary project cannot accept the traditional notion of play, of a game limited in space, in time and in qualitative depth. The revolutionary game -- the creation of life -- is opposed to all memories of past games. To provide a three-week break from the kind of life led during forty-nine weeks of work, the holiday villages of Club Med draw on a shoddy Polynesian ideology -- a bit like the French Revolution presenting itself in the guise of republican Rome, or like the revolutionaries of today who define themselves principally in accordance with how well they fit the Bolshevik or some other style of militant role. The revolution of everyday life cannot draw its poetry from the past, but only from the future.

The experience of the empty leisure produced by modern capitalism has provided a critical correction to the Marxian notion of the extension of leisure time: It is now clear that full freedom of time requires first of all a transformation of work and the appropriation of this work in view of goals, and under conditions, that are utterly different from those of the forced labor that has prevailed until now (see the activity of the groups that publish Socialisme ou Barbarie in France, Solidarity in England1 and Alternative in Belgium). But those who put all the stress on the necessity of changing work itself, of rationalizing it and of interesting people in it, and who pay no attention to the free content of life (i.e. the development of a materially equipped creative power beyond the traditional categories of work time and rest-and-recreation time) run the risk of providing an ideological cover for a harmonization of the present production system in the direction of greater efficiency and profitability without at all having called in question the experience of this production or the necessity of this kind of life. The free construction of the entire space-time of individual life is a demand that will have to be defended against all sorts of dreams of harmony in the minds of aspiring managers of social reorganization.

The different moments of situationist activity until now can only be understood in the perspective of a reappearance of revolution, a revolution that will be social as well as cultural and whose field of action will right from the start have to be broader than during any of its previous endeavors. The SI does not want to recruit disciples or partisans, but to bring together people capable of applying themselves to this task in the years to come, by every means and without worrying about labels. This means that we must reject not only the vestiges of specialized artistic activity, but also those of specialized politics; and particularly the post-Christian masochism characteristic of so many intellectuals in this area. We don't claim to be developing a new revolutionary program all by ourselves. We say that this program in the process of formation will one day practically oppose the ruling reality, and that we will participate in that opposition. Whatever may become of us individually, the new revolutionary movement will not be formed without taking into account what we have sought together; which could be summed up as the passage from the old theory of limited permanent revolution to a theory of generalized permanent revolution.

SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL (1961)

Translated by Ken Knabb (slightly modified from the version entitled "Instructions for Taking Up Arms" in the Situationist International Anthology).

  • 1TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: A later issue of Internationale Situationniste has the following note on Solidarity: "The majority of the British Solidarity group that is apparently demanding this boycott of the situationists are very combative revolutionary workers. We feel confident in stating that its shop-steward members have not yet read the SI, certainly not in French. But they have an ideological shield, their specialist of nonauthority, Dr. C. Pallis, a well-educated man who has been aware of the SI for years and who has been in a position to assure them of its utter unimportance. His activity in England has instead been to translate and comment on the texts of Cardan [Cornelius Castoriadis], the thinker who presided over the collapse of Socialisme ou Barbarie in France. Pallis knows quite well that we have for a long time pointed out Cardan's undeniable regression toward revolutionary nothingness, his swallowing of every sort of academic fashion and his ending up becoming indistinguishable from an ordinary sociologist. But Pallis has brought Cardan's thought to England like the light that arrives on Earth from stars that have already long burned out -- by presenting his least decomposed texts, written years before, and never mentioning the author's subsequent regression. It is thus easy to see why he would like to prevent this type of encounter." (Internationale Situationniste #11, p. 64)

Comments

banzaijoe

11 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by banzaijoe on July 26, 2012

thumbs up. The link between theory and practice is something that the occupy movement is missing. The reason being is they have no theory i e vision of a new world. That aside they have no relevance to the day to day survival issues faced by the working class.

One tool Im using to point this out to them is a blog. come and lend a hand lets have a laugh or two making fun of the liberals

Confusion To Our Enemies;

Mike
admin: spam link removed

Critique of Urbanism

The town of Mourenx

Editorial Note, from International Situationniste #6 (August 1961).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 24, 2023

The town of Mourenx. The 12,000 inhabitants are housed in horizontal blocks if they are married, tower blocks if they are single. To the right of the image extends the small neighorhood for middle management, consisting of identical residences sharde equally by two families. Beyond, in the neighborhood for upper management, another type of single-family residence has been created. The management who really control the work done at Lacq live in Pau, Toulouse and Paris.

The situationists have always said that "unitary urbanism is not a doctrine of urbanism but a critique of urbanism" (Internationale Situationniste 3 1 ). The project of a more modern, more progressive urbanism, conceived as a corrective to the present urbanist specialization, is as false as, for example, in the revolutionary project, the overestimation of the moment for seizing power, which is a specialist's idea that immediately involves forgetting, indeed repressing, all the revolutionary tasks posed, at each and every moment, by the whole inseperable combination of human activites. Until it merges with a general revolutionary praxis, urbanism is necessarily the first enemy of all possibilities for human life in our time. It is one of those fragments of social power that claim to represent a coherent whole, and which tend to impose themselves as a total explanation and organization, while doing nothing except to mask the real social totality that has produced them and which they preserve.

By accepting this specialization of urbanism, one puts oneself at the service of the prevailing social and urbanist lie of the State, in order to carry out one of the many possible "practical" urbanisms. But the only practical urbanism for us, the one we call unitary urbanism, is thereby abandoned, since it requires the creation of quite different conditions of life.

Over the past six or eight months, we have seen a number of moves, chiefly among West German architects and capitalists, to launch a "unitary urbanism" immediately, at least in the Ruhr. Some poorly informed entrepeneurs, carried away by thoughts of success, saw fit to announce, in February, the imminent opening of a Unitary Urbanism laboratory in Essen (as a conversion of the Van de Loo art gallery). They published a disgruntled denial only when faced with our threat to reveal publicly the watered-down nature of the plan. The former situationist Constant, whose Dutch collaborators had been excluded from the S.I. for having agreed to build a church, now himself shows factory models in his catalogue published in March by the Municipal Museum in Bochum. This shrewd operator frankly offers himself, along with two or three plagiarized and misconstrued Situationist ideas, as public relations for the integration of the masses into capitalist technological civilization, and reproaches the S.I. for having abandoned his whole program for overturning the urban milieu, he himself being the only one still concerned with it. Under such conditions, yes! Moreover, one might do well to recall that in April 1959 this same group of former members of the Dutch section of the S.I. was firmly opposed to the S.I. adopting an "Appeal to Revolutionary Artists and Intellectuals," and stated: "For us, these perspectives do not depend on a revolutionary overthrow of present-day society, for which the conditions are lacking" (for this debate, see Internationale Situationniste 3, pp. 23 and 24 2 ). They have thus continued logically on their path. What is more curious is that there should be people who still try to seduce a few Situationists in order to involve them in this kind of enterprise. Are they betting on the taste for glory or the lure of gain? On April 15, Attila Kotányi replied to a letter from the director of the Bochum museum proposing a collaboration with the Bureau d'Urbanisme Unitaire in Brussels: "If you have some knowledge of the original, we do not think you can confuse our critical view with the apologetic view hidden behind a copy with the same label." And he cut off any further discussion.

It is not easy to know the Situationist theses on unitary urbanism in their original version. In June, our German comrades published a special issue of their journal (Spur, no. 5), bringing together texts on unitary urbanism over several years in the S.I. or the trends leading to its formation. Many of these texts were unpublished or had appeared in now accessible publications, and none of them had ever been published in German. The measures taken in Germany against the Situationists to prevent the appearance of these texts, or at least to have them altered, were immmediately apparent: from a forced delay of three weeks for the whole edition at the printers to loud threats of prosecution for immorality, pornography, blasphemy, and incitement to riot. The German Situationists have obviously weathered these various attempts at intimidation, and today the managers of respectable unitary urbanism in the Ruhr should begin to wonder if this label is a profitable way to launch their operation.

Confrontation with the whole of present-day society is the sole criterion for a genuine liberation in the field of urban architecture, and the same goes for any other aspect of humanity. Otherwise, "improvement" or "progress" will always be designed to lubricate the system and perfect the conditioning that we must overturn, in urbanism and everywhere else. Henri Lefebvre, in the Revue française de sociologie (no. 3, July-September 1961), criticizes a number of inadequacies in the plan that a team of architects and sociologists have just published in Zurich, Die neue Stadt, eine Studie für das Fürttal. But it seems to us that this criticism does not go far enough, precisely because it does not clearly challenge the actual role of this team of specialists in a social framework whose absurd imperatives it accepts without discussion. This means that Lefebvre's article still valorizes too many works that certainly have their utility and their merits, but in a perspective radically inimical to ours. The title of this article, "Experimental Utopia: For a New Urbanism," already contains the whole ambiguity. For the method of experimental utopia, if it is truly to correspond to its project, must obviously embrace the whole, and carrying it out would lead not to a "new urbanism" but to a new way of life, a new revolutionary praxis. It is also the lack of a connection between the project for an ardent overthrow of architecture and other forms of conditioning, and its rejection in terms of the whole society, that constitutes the weakness of Feuerstein's theses, published in the same issue of the journal of the German section of the S.I., despite the interest of several points, in particular his notion of erratic block, "representing chance and also the smallest organization of objects comprised by an event." Feuerstein's ideas, which follow the S.I. line on "accidental architecture," can only be understood in all their consequences, and carried out precisely by overcoming the separate problem of architecture and the solutions that would be reserved for it in the abstract.

Henceforth the crisis of urbanism is all the more concretely a social and political one, even though today no force born of traditional politics is any longer capable of dealing with it. Medico-sociological banalities on the "pathology of housing projects," the emotional isolation of people who must live in them, or the development of certain extreme reactions of denial, chiefly in young people, simply betray the fact that modern capitalism, the bureaucratic consumer society, is here and there beginning to shape its own environment. This society, with its new towns, is building the sites that accurately represent it, combining the conditions most suitable for its proper functioning, while at the same time translating into spatial terms, in the clear language of the organization of everyday life, its fundamental principle of alienation and constraint. It is likewise here that the new aspects of its crisis will be manifested with the greatest clarity.

Relief representation of the elliptical modular function

In April, a Paris exhibition of urbanism entitled "Tomorrow Paris" offered in reality a defense of large housing complexes, those already built or planned for the far outskirts of the city. The future of Paris would all lie outside of Paris. The first part of this didactic presentation sought to convince the public (mainly working people) that decisive statistics had shown Paris to be more unhealthy and unlivable than any other known capital. They would thus do well to transport themselves elsewhere, and indeed the happy solution was thereupon offered, failing only to mention the now necessary price for the construction of these regroupment zones: for instance, how many years of outright economic slavery the purchase of an apartment in these complexes entails, and what a lifetime of urban seclusion this acquired ownership will come to represent.

Still, the very necessity for this faked propaganda, the need to present this explanation to the interested parties after the administration had quite made up its mind, reveals an initial resistance by the masses. This resistance will need to be sustained and clarified by a revolutionary organization truly determined to know and combat all the conditions of modern capitalsim. Sociological surveys, whose most stultifying defect is to present options only between the dismal variations of what already exists, indicate that 75 percent of the inhabitants of large housing projects dream of owning a house with a garden.

It is this mystic image of ownership, in the old-fashioned sense, that led Renault workers, for example, to buy the small houses that dropped in their laps in June, in a whole quarter of Clamart. It is not by returning to the archaic ideology of a discarded stage of capitalism that the living conditions of a society now becoming totalitarian can ever be truly replaced, rather by freeing an instinct for construction presently repressed in everyone: a liberation that cannot go forward without the other elements in the conquest of an authentic life.
Debates in progressive inquiries today, on politics as well as art or urbanism, lag considerably behind the reality taking shape in all industrialized countries, namely, concentration-camp organization of life.

The degree of conditioning imposed on working people in a suburb like Sarcelles, or still more clearly in a place like Mourenx (a company town in the petrochemical complex of Lacq), prefigures the conditions with which the revolutionary movement will everywhere have to struggle if it is to re-establish itself on a level with the real crises, the real demands of our time. In Brasilia, functional architecture reveals itself to be, when fully developed, the architecture of functionaries, the instrument and microcosm of the bureaucratic Weltanschauung. One can already see that wherever bureaucratic capitalism has already planned and built its environment, the conditioning has been so perfected, the individual's margin of choice reduced to so little, that a practice as essential for it as advertising, which corresponds to a more anarchic stage of competition, tends to disappear in most of its forms and props. You might think that urbanism is capable of merging all former forms of advertising into a single advertisement for itself. The rest will be gotten for nothing. It is also likely that, under these conditions, the political propaganda that has been so strong in the first half of the twentieth century will almost totally disappear, to be replaced by an instinctive aversion for all political issues. Just as the revolutionary movement will have to shift the problem far away from the old field of politics scorned by everyone, the powers that be will rely more on the simple organization of the spectacle of objects of consumption, which will only have consumable value illusorily to the extent to which they will first of all have been objects of spectacle. In Sarcelles or Mourenx, the showrooms of this new world are already being put to the test — atomized to the limit around each television screen, but at the same time extended to cover the whole town.

Decor and its usage. Four historians and many hundreds of millions, it is said, have been employed this year to reconstruct part of the town of Alexandira on a moor in England. It was all for Elizabeth Taylor to play Cleopatra in. The actress falling ill, the film could not be shot, nor the terrain put to further use. Finally Alexandria was delivered to the flames.

If unitary urbanism designates, as we would like it to, a useful hypothesis that would allow present humanity to construct life freely, beginning with its urban environment, it is absolutely pointless to enter into discussion with those who would ask us to what extent it is feasible, concrete, practical, or carved in stone, for the simple reason that nowhere does there exist any theory or practice concerning the creation of cities, or the kind of behaviour that relates to it. No one "does urbanism," in the sense of constructing the milieu required by this doctrine. Nothing exists but a collection of techniques for integrating people (techniques that effectively resolve conflicts while creating others, at present less known but more serious). These techniques are wielded innocently by imbeciles or deliberately by the police. And all the discourses on urbanism are lies, just as obviously as the space organized by urbanism is the very space of the social lie and of fortified exploitation.

Those who discourse on the powers of urbanism seek to make people forget that all they are doing is the urbanism of power. Urbanists, who present themselves as the educators of the population, have had to be educated themselves — by this world of alienation that they reproduce and perfect as best they can.
The notion of a center of attraction in the chatter of urbanists is quite the opposite of the reality, exactly as the sociological notion of participation turns out to be. The fact is that there are disciplines that come to terms with a society where participation can only be oriented toward "something in which it is impossible to participate" (point 2 of the Programme Elémentaire) — a society that must impose the need for unappealing objects, and would be unable to tolerate any form of genuine attraction. To understand what sociology never understands, one need only envisage in terms of aggressivity what for sociology is neutral.

The "foundations" in preparation for an experimental life, of which the S.I. program of unitary urbanism speaks, are at the same time the places, the permanent elements of a new kind of revolutionary organization that we believe to be inscribed in the order of the day for the historical period we are entering. These foundations, when they come to exist, cannot be anything but subversive. And the future revolutionary organization will not be able to rely on instruments less complete.

Consumerism and its presentation as spectacle

"But of course. . . they're drinking Cidre Doux"

Within the current framework of consumerist propaganda, the fundamental mystification of advertizing is to associate ideas of fulfillment with objects (televisions, or garden furniture, or automobiles, etc.) and furthermore by destroying the natural link these objects may have with other objects, so as to have them above all become a material environment with "status."

Translated by John Shepley. From https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/critique.html

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Once Again, on Decomposition

A text on artists real and imagined. From Internationale Situationniste #6 (August 1961).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 27, 2023

How goes cultural production? All our calculations are confirmed when one compares the phenomena of the last twelve months with the analysis of decomposition published a few years ago by the S.I (c.f. "Absence and Its Costumers,"1 in Internationale Situationniste 2, December 1958). In Mexico, last year, Max Aub writes a thick book on the life of an imaginary cubist painter, Campalans, while demonstrating how well-founded his praises are with the help of paintings whose importance is immediately established. In Munich, in January, a group of painters inspired by Max Strack arranges simultaneously for the biography, as sentimental as could be wished, and the exhibition of the complete oeuvre of Bolus Krim, a young Abstract Expressionist painter prematurely deceased — and just as imaginary. Television and the press, including almost all the German weeklies, express their enthusiasm for so representative a genius, until the hoax is proclaimed, leading some to call for legal proceedings against the tricksters. "I though I had seen everything," the dance critic for Paris-Presse writes in November 1960, concerning Bout de la Nuit by the German Harry Kramer, "ballets without subject and ballets without costumes, others without sets, finally others without music, and even ballets simultaneously devoid of all these elements. Well, I was wrong. Last night the unheard-of, the unexpected, the unimaginable: a ballet without choreography. I mean it: without the slightest attempt at choreography, a motionless ballet." And the Evening Standard, of September 28 of the same year, reveals to the world one Jerry Brown, painter from Toronto, who means to demonstrate in both theory and practice "that in reality there is no difference between art and excrement." In Paris, this spring, a new gallery, founded on this Torontological aesthetic, exhibits the rubbish assembled by nine "new realist" artists, determined to redo Dada, but at "40° above," and who have nevertheless made the mistake of being too legibly introduced and justified by a sententious critic several degrees below, since he has found nothing better than to have them "consider the World as a Painting," calling even more upon sociology "to aid consciousness and chance," in order stupidly to rediscover "emotion, sentiment, and finally, once more, poetry." Indeed. Niki de Saint-Phalle fortunately goes further, with her target-paintings painted with a carbine. In the courtyard of the Louvre, a Russian disciple of Gallizio executes, last January, a roll of painting seventy meters long, capable of being sold by the piece. But he spices things up by taking lessons from Mathieu, since he does it in only twenty-five minutes and with his feet.

Antonioni, whose recent mode has been confirmed, explains in October 1960 in the journal Cinéma 60:

"In recent years, we have examined and studied the emotions as much as possible, to the point of exhaustion. That is all we've been able to do. . . But we have not been able to find anything new, nor even glimpse a solution to this problem. . . First of all, I'd say that one starts with a negative fact: the exhaustion of current techniques and means."

Do they look for other cultural means, new forms of participation? Since March, special posters have been put up along the platforms of the New York subway for the sole purpose of being spray-painted by vandals. Moreover, the electronic gang, at least after this summer, will offer us, for the "Forme et Lumière" spectacle in Liège, a spatio-dynamic tower fifty-two meters high by the usual Nicolas Schoeffer, who this time will have at his disposal seventy "light brewers" to project abstract frescoes in color on a giant screen 1,500 square meters in size, with musical accompaniment. Will this splendid effort be integrated, as he hopes, "with the life of the city"? To find out, we will have to wait for the next strike movement in Belgium, since the last time the workers has a chance to express themselves in Liège, on January 6, the Schoeffer Tower did not yet exist, and they had to vent their fury on the headquarters of the newspaper La Meuse.

Tinguely, more inspired, has unveiled, in full operation in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, a machine skillfully programmed to destroy itself. But it has been left to an American, Richard Grosser, to perfect, already several years ago, the prototype of a "useless machine," rigorously designed to serve no purpose whatsoever. "Built of aluminium, small in size, it includes neon lighting that goes on and off by chance." Grosser has sold more than five hundred of them, including one, it is said, to John Foster Dulles.

The truth is that even when they exhibit a certain sense of humor, all these inventors get quite excited, with an air of discovering the destruction of art, the reduction of a whole culture to onomatopoeia and silence like an unknown phenomenon, a new idea, and which was only waiting for them to come along. They all dig up corpses to kill them again, in a cultural no-man's-land beyond which they can imagine nothing. Yet they are precisely the artists of today, though without seeing how. They truly express our time of obsolete ideas solemnly proclaimed to be new, this time of planned incoherence, of isolation and deafness assured by the means of mass communication, of higher forms of illiteracy taught in the university, of scientifically guaranteed lies, and of overwhelming technical power at the disposal of ruling mental incompetence. The incomprehensible history that they incomprehensibly translate is indeed this planetary spectacle, as ludicrous as it is bloody, and whose program, in a crowded six months, has included: Kennedy hurling his cops into Cuba to find out whether the armed populace would spontaneously take their side; French shock troops embarking on a putsch and collapsing under the blow of a televised speech; de Gaulle resorting to gunboat diplomacy to reopen an African port to European influence; and Khrushchev coolly announcing that in another nineteen years communism will have essentially been achieved.

All this old stuff is of a piece, and all these mockeries cannot be overcome by a return to this or that form of "seriousness" or noble harmony of the past. This society is on its way to becoming, at all levels, more and more painfully ridiculous, until the time comes for its complete revolutionary reconstruction.

Translated by John Shepley. From https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/decomposition.html

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Unconditional Defense

Black and white photo of a French youth gang in leather jackets

The SI on youth gangs, from Internationale Situationniste #6 (August 1961).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 27, 2023

The youth crisis is becoming a topic of concern for the authorities of all modern countries, leading even the most gullible of dupes to cast doubt upon the prospects the assimilation of humans into the society of consumption. The extreme case of the appearance of teenage gangs in high-rise housing estates is easily verifiable, especially in relatively late developing countries like France and Italy, where access to less noticeable conditions of life under modern capitalism turns out to be experienced clearly as soon as it is exacerbated by the particular factor of the new types of housing. The gangs are formed in the wastelands, the vanishing point of the "planned environment," which can be considered as a basic representation, at a primitive stage of destitution, of these empty zones of occupation that our program of unitary urbanism designates with a détournement of the idea of "black holes" from physics.

More profoundly, and even apart from the extreme phenomena of these gangs, we are witnessing this society's total failure to supervise its young. And despite the fortunate collapse of domestic supervision and the previously acceptable reasons to live, as well as the disappearance of the minimum common conventions between people — and more importantly between generations — older generations continue to buy into the fragmentary of illusions of the past; they are especially hypnotized by the routine of work, accepted "responsibilities," and habits that come down to the habit of having nothing more to expect from life. In contrast to the gangs of wayward children of the Russian civil war that were formed out of famine and the physical destruction of their parents, today's gangs could be considered as products both of a new kind of peacetime dislocation of families and of the heightened status of consumption. Meanwhile, following in the footsteps of traditional political groups, political supervision is reduced to virtually nothing. A document on youth, drawn up this year for a PSU Student Conference, observed that in France

"the era when youth movements functioned as effective examples to the mass of youth is well past; less than 10% of youths participate in these movements, and of this 10%, the majority consists of members of more or less openly religious organizations."

Indeed, it is naturally the weakest part of youth that continues to submit to the most retrograde conformisms — also the most coherent — that sustain the maximum of recruitment possibilities for educators of every stripe. Thus, in England, the success of the snobbery of "Young Conservative" clubs has troubled Labour Party bureaucrats, who now go to great lengths to organize balls on the same model, with added Labour chic. It only goes to show that the great artillery of strictly cultural supervision has fizzled out: an era when the constant augmentation of schooling causes the majority of youth to accede to some dose of culture is also an era when this culture no longer believes in itself; it no longer fools or interests anyone.

The society of free time and consumption is lived as a society of empty time, as consumption of emptiness. The violence that it produces, leading police in numerous American cities to institute curfews for under eighteens, puts the use of life so radically into question that it can only be recognized, defended or saved by a revolutionary movement explicitly bringing about a program of demands that relate to this use of life in all its aspects.

"I need to find someone to talk to. What happened to everyone I knew? I have so much to ask them!"

It's going to become more and more difficult to hide the redoubtable reality of youth behind the pathetic teams of professional actors who, under the names "beatniks", "angry young men" and — even more watered down — "nouvelle vague," represent the expurgated parody of this crisis on the cultural stage. The fact that something which was a feature of the "avant-garde" for a mere ten years can now be seen everywhere is a major embarrassment to the good people of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (who, as anti-artists risking recuperation into culture, are nowhere near divorced enough from traditional artistic bohemianism). On 14 May, Le Journal du Dimanche tolled the death knell of provincial French honesty, recounting the fortuitous meeting between two people "transporting a heavy case containing several dozen bottles of stolen fine wines in the dead of night" and a police patrol in Melun: "the two thieves confessed that the wine was in fact to be consumed at a large 'party' in the usually unoccupied apartment of one of their grandmothers. They added that these surprise parties were attended exclusively by 15 to 18 year old boys and girls in various states of undress. These gatherings were so licentious that eight young men and women from the Melun region who had participated in one had been arrested for offense to good taste, as well as for theft and complicity. Three youths, a boy of 15, and a boy and girl each aged 17, have been incarcerated. The other five were released on probation."

It goes without saying that the situationists support the absolute refusal of the extremely limited range of lawful activities. The SI is heavily based on extensive experiments within the empty spaces of everyday life and the search for a supersession. It will not stray from this line, and any official success (in the broadest sense of the word: any success within the dominant cultural mechanisms) that might be met by either its theses or its members should therefore be considered extremely suspect. With the systems of information and punishment entirely in the hands of our enemies, very few details of the repression of real life's clandestinity (known as "scandal" in current conditions) ever see the light of day. Despite the complete policing of the air-conditioned emptiness, the SI intends to confront this world with more violent and more complete scandals from the position of clandestine freedom that asserts itself everywhere before the pompous social face of dead time. We know the possibilities. Order reigns and does not govern.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/defense.html

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Basic Program of the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism - Raoul Vaneigem & Attila Kotányi

Basic Program of the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism

Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

1. NOTHINGNESS OF URBANISM AND NOTHINGNESS OF THE SPECTACLE

Urbanism1 doesn't exist; it is only an "ideology" in Marx's sense of the word. Architecture does really exist, like Coca-Cola: though coated with ideology, it is a real production, falsely satisfying a falsified need. Urbanism is comparable to the advertising about Coca-Cola -- pure spectacular ideology. Modern capitalism, which organizes the reduction of all social life to a spectacle, is incapable of presenting any spectacle other than that of our own alienation. Its urbanistic dream is its masterpiece.

2. CITY PLANNING AS CONDITIONING AND FALSE PARTICIPATION

The development of the urban milieu is the capitalist domestication of space. It represents the choice of one particular materialization, to the exclusion of other possibilities. Like aesthetics, whose course of decomposition it is going to follow, it can be considered as a rather neglected branch of criminology. What characterizes it at the "city planning" level -- as opposed to its merely architectural level -- is its insistence on popular consent, on individual integration into its bureaucratic production of conditioning.

All this is imposed by means of a blackmail of utility, which hides the fact that this architecture and this conditioning are really useful only in reinforcing reification. Modern capitalism dissuades people from making any criticism of architecture with the simple argument that they need a roof over their heads, just as television is accepted on the grounds that they need information and entertainment. They are made to overlook the obvious fact that this information, this entertainment and this kind of dwelling place are not made for them, but without them and against them.

The whole of urban planning can be understood only as a society's field of publicity-propaganda, i.e. as the organization of participation in something in which it is impossible to participate.

3. TRAFFIC CIRCULATION, SUPREME STAGE OF URBAN PLANNING

Traffic circulation is the organization of universal isolation. As such, it constitutes the major problem of modern cities. It is the opposite of encounter, it absorbs the energies that could otherwise be devoted to encounters or to any sort of participation. Spectacles compensate for the participation that is no longer possible. Within this spectacular society one's status is determined by one's residence and mobility (personal vehicles). You don't live somewhere in the city, you live somewhere in the hierarchy. At the summit of this hierarchy the ranks can be ascertained by the degree of mobility. Power is objectively expressed in the necessity of being present each day at more and more places (business dinners, etc.) further and further removed from each other. A VIP could be defined as someone who has appeared in three different capitals in the course of a single day.

4. DISTANCIATION FROM THE URBAN SPECTACLE

The spectacle system that is in the process of integrating the population manifests itself both as organization of cities and as permanent information network. It is a solid framework designed to secure the existing conditions of life. Our first task is to enable people to stop identifying with their surroundings and with model patterns of behavior. This is inseparable from making possible free mutual recognition in a few initial zones set apart for human activity. People will still be obliged for a long time to accept the era of reified cities. But the attitude with which they accept it can be changed immediately. We must encourage their skepticism toward those spacious and brightly colored kindergartens, the new dormitory cities of both East and West. Only a mass awakening will pose the question of a conscious construction of the urban environment.

5. AN INDIVISIBLE FREEDOM

The main achievement of contemporary city planning is to have made people blind to the possibility of what we call unitary urbanism, namely a living critique of this manipulation of cities and their inhabitants, a critique fueled by all the tensions of everyday life. A living critique means setting up bases for an experimental life where people can come together to create their own lives on terrains equipped to their ends. Such bases cannot be reservations for "leisure" activities separated from the society. No spatio-temporal zone is completely separable. The whole society exerts continual pressure even on its present vacation "reservations." Situationist bases will exert pressure in the opposite direction, acting as bridgeheads for an invasion of everyday life as a whole. Unitary urbanism is the contrary of a specialized activity; to accept a separate urbanistic domain is already to accept the whole urbanistic lie and the falsehood permeating the whole of life.

Urbanism promises happiness. It shall be judged accordingly. The coordination of artistic and scientific means of denunciation must lead to a complete denunciation of existing conditioning.

6. THE LANDING

All space is already occupied by the enemy, which has even reshaped its basic laws, its geometry, to its own purposes. Authentic urbanism will appear when the absence of this occupation is created in certain zones. What we call construction starts there. It can be clarified by the positive void concept developed by modern physics. Materializing freedom means beginning by appropriating a few patches of the surface of a domesticated planet.

7. THE ILLUMINATION OF DÉTOURNEMENT

The basic practice of the theory of unitary urbanism will be the transcription of the whole theoretical lie of urbanism, detourned for the purpose of de-alienation. We have to constantly defend ourselves from the poetry of the bards of conditioning -- to jam their messages, to turn their rhythms inside out.

8. CONDITIONS OF DIALOGUE

Functional means practical. The only thing that is really practical is the resolution of our fundamental problem: our self-realization (our escape from the system of isolation). This and nothing else is useful and utilitarian. Everything else is nothing but by-products of the practical, mystifications of the practical.

9. RAW MATERIAL AND TRANSFORMATION

The situationist destruction of present conditioning is already at the same time the construction of situations. It is the liberation of the inexhaustible energies trapped within a petrified daily life. With the advent of unitary urbanism, present city planning (that geology of lies) will be replaced by a technique for defending the permanently threatened conditions of freedom, and individuals -- who do not yet exist as such -- will begin freely constructing their own history.

10. END OF THE PREHISTORY OF CONDITIONING

We are not contending that people must return to some stage previous to the era of conditioning, but rather that they must go beyond it. We have invented the architecture and the urbanism that cannot be realized without the revolution of everyday life -- without the appropriation of conditioning by everyone, its endless enrichment and fulfillment.

ATTILA KOTÁNYI, RAOUL VANEIGEM (1961)

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

  • 1Translator's note: The French word urbanisme usually means "city planning," but it also refers to the general policy and ideology of urban development.

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Perspectives for Conscious Changes in Everyday Life - Guy Debord

Perspectives for Conscious Changes in Everyday Life

Author
Submitted by libcom on September 8, 2005

To study everyday life would be a completely absurd undertaking, unable even to grasp anything of its object, if this study was not expressly for the purpose of transforming everyday life.

The lecture (a speaker's exposition of certain intellectual considerations to an audience), being an extremely commonplace form of human relations in a rather large sector of society, is itself part of the everyday life that must be criticized.

Sociologists, for example, are only too inclined to exclude from everyday life things that happen to them every day, and to transfer them to separate and supposedly superior spheres. In this way habit in all its forms -- beginning with the habit of handling a few professional concepts (concepts produced by the division of labour) -- masks reality behind privileged conventions.

It is thus desirable to demonstrate, by a slight alteration of the usual procedures, that everyday life is right here. These words are being communicated by way of a tape recorder, not, of course, in order to illustrate the integration of technology into this everyday life on the margin of the technological world, but in order to take the simplest opportunity to break with the appearance of pseudocollaboration, of artificial dialogue, between the "in person" lecturer and his spectators. This slight discomforting break with accustomed routine may serve to bring directly into the field of questioning of everyday life (a questioning otherwise completely abstract) the conference itself, as well as any number of other forms of using time or objects, forms that are considered "normal" and not even noticed, and which ultimately condition us. With such a detail, as with everyday life as a whole, alteration is always the necessary and sufficient condition for experimentally bringing into clear view the object of our study, which would otherwise remain uncertain -- an object which is itself less to be studied than to be changed.

I have just said that the reality of an observable entity designated by the term "everyday life" stands a good chance of remaining hypothetical for many people. Indeed, the most striking feature of the present "Group for Research on Everyday Life" is obviously not the fact that it has not yet discovered anything, but the fact that the very existence of everyday life has been disputed from its very inception, and increasingly so with each new session of this conference. Most of the talks we have heard so far have been by people who are not at all convinced that everyday life exists, since they haven't encountered it anywhere. A group for research on everyday life with this attitude is comparable in every way to an expedition in search of the Yeti, which might similarly come to the conclusion that its quarry was merely a popular hoax.

To be sure, everyone agrees that certain gestures repeated every day, such as opening doors or filling glasses, are quite real; but these gestures are at such a trivial level of reality that it is rightly objected that they are not of sufficient interest to justify a new specialized branch of sociological research. A number of sociologists seem disinclined to recognize any aspects of everyday life beyond these trivialities. They thus accept the definition of it proposed by Henri Lefebvre -- "whatever remains after one has eliminated all specialized activities" -- but draw a different conclusion: that everyday life is nothing. The majority of sociologists -- and we know how much they are in their element in specialized activities, in which they generally have the blindest faith! -- recognize specialized activities everywhere and everyday life nowhere. Everyday life is always elsewhere. Among others, somewhere in the nonsociologistic classes of the population. Someone said here that it would be interesting to study the workers as guinea pigs who have probably been infected with this virus of everyday life because they, having no access to specialized activities, have no life except everyday life. This condescending manner of investigating the common people in search of an exotic primitivism of everyday life -- and above all this ingenuously avowed self-satisfaction, this naïve pride in participating in a culture whose glaring bankruptcy no one can dream of denying, and this radical inability to understand the world that produces this culture -- all this never ceases to astonish.

This attitude clearly reveals a desire to hide behind a development of thought based on the separation of artificial, fragmentary domains so as to reject the useless, vulgar and disturbing concept of "everyday life." Such a concept covers an uncatalogued and unclassified residue of reality, a residue some people don't want to face because it at the same time represents the standpoint of the totality and thus implies the necessity of a holistic political judgment. Certain intellectuals seem to flatter themselves with an illusory personal participation in the dominant sector of society through their possession of one or more cultural specializations, though those specializations have put them in the best position to see that this whole dominant culture is moth-eaten. But whatever one's opinion of the coherence of this culture or of the interest of one or another of its fragments, the particular alienation it has imposed on these intellectuals is to make them imagine, from their lofty sociological position, that they are quite outside the everyday life of the common people, or to give them an exaggerated idea of their sociopolitical rank, as if their lives were not as fundamentally impoverished as everyone else's.

Specialized activities certainly exist; they are even put to certain general uses which should be recognized in a demystified manner. Everyday life is not everything -- although its overlapping with specialized activities is such that in a sense we are never outside of everyday life. But to use a somewhat simplistic spatial image, we still have to place everyday life at the center of everything. Every project begins from it and every accomplishment returns to it to acquire its real significance. Everyday life is the measure of all things: of the (non)fulfilment of human relations; of the use of lived time; of artistic experimentation; and of revolutionary politics.

It is not enough to recall that the old stereotypical image of the detached scientific observer is fallacious in any case. It must be stressed that disinterested observation is even less possible here than anywhere else. What makes for the difficulty of even recognizing a terrain of everyday life is not only the fact that it has already become the ostensible meeting ground of an empirical sociology and a conceptual elaboration, but also the fact that it presently happens to be the stake in any revolutionary renewal of culture and politics.

To fail to criticize everyday life means accepting the prolongation of the present thoroughly rotten forms of culture and politics, forms whose extreme crisis is expressed in increasingly widespread political apathy and neoilliteracy, especially in the most modern countries. On the other hand, a radical critique in acts of prevailing everyday life could lead to a supersession of culture and politics in the traditional sense, that is, to a higher level of intervention in life.

"But," you may ask, "how does it happen that the importance of this everyday life, which according to you is the only real life, is so completely and directly underrated by people who, after all, have no direct interest in doing so -- many of whom are even far from being opposed to some kind of renewal of the revolutionary movement?"

I think this happens because everyday life is organized within the limits of a scandalous poverty, and above all because there is nothing accidental about this poverty of everyday life: it is a poverty that is constantly imposed by the coercion and violence of a society divided into classes, a poverty historically organized in line with the evolving requirements of exploitation.

The use of everyday life, in the sense of a consumption of lived time, is governed by the reign of scarcity: scarcity of free time and scarcity of possible uses of this free time.

Just as the accelerated history of our time is the history of accumulation and industrialization, so the backwardness and conservative tendencies of everyday life are products of the laws and interests that have presided over this industrialization. Everyday life has until now resisted the historical. This represents first of all a verdict against the historical insofar as it has been the heritage and project of an exploitive society.

The extreme poverty of conscious organization and creativity in everyday life reflects the fundamental necessity for unconsciousness and mystification in a society of exploitation and alienation.

Henri Lefebvre has extended the idea of uneven development so as to characterize everyday life as a lagging sector, out of joint with the historical but not completely cut off from it. I think that one could go so far as to term this level of everyday life a colonized sector. We know that underdevelopment and colonization are interrelated at the level of global economy. Everything suggests that the same thing applies at the level of socioeconomic structure, at the level of praxis.

Everyday life, policed and mystified by every means, is a sort of reservation for the good natives who keep modern society running without understanding it -- this society with its rapid growth of technological powers and the forced expansion of its market. History (the transformation of reality) cannot presently be used in everyday life because the people who live that everyday life are the product of a history over which they have no control. It is of course they themselves who make this history, but they do not make it freely or consciously.

Modern society is viewed through specialized fragments that are virtually incommunicable; and so everyday life, where all questions are liable to be posed in a unitary manner, is naturally the domain of ignorance.

Through its industrial production this society has emptied the gestures of work of all meaning. And no model of human behaviour has retained any real relevance in everyday life.

This society tends to atomize people into isolated consumers and to prohibit communication. Everyday life is thus private life, the realm of separation and spectacle.

It is thus also the sphere of the specialists' resignation and failure. It is the reason, for example, that one of the rare individuals capable of understanding the latest scientific conception of the universe will make a fool of himself by earnestly pondering Alain Robbe-Grillet's aesthetic theories or by sending petitions to the President in the hope of convincing him to change his policies. It is the sphere of personal disarmament, of an avowed incapability of living.

Thus the underdevelopment of everyday life cannot be characterized solely by its relative inability to put various technologies to good use. This inability is only one consequence (though an important one) of everyday alienation as a whole, which could be defined as the inability to invent a technique for the liberation of everyday experience.

Many techniques do, in fact, more or less markedly alter certain aspects of everyday life -- not only housework, as has already been mentioned here, but also telephones, television, music on long-playing records, mass air travel, etc. These developments arise anarchically, by chance, without anyone having foreseen their interrelations or consequences. But there is no denying that, on the whole, this introduction of technology into everyday life ultimately takes place within the framework of modern bureaucratized capitalism and tends to reduce people's independence and creativity. The new prefabricated cities clearly exemplify the totalitarian tendency of modern capitalism's organization of life: the isolated inhabitants (generally isolated within the framework of the family cell) see their lives reduced to the pure triviality of the repetitive combined with the obligatory consumption of an equally repetitive spectacle.

One can thus conclude that if people censor the question of their own everyday life, it is both because they are aware of its unbearable misery and because sooner or later they sense -- whether they admit it or not -- that all the real possibilities, all the desires that have been frustrated by the functioning of social life, are focused there, and not at all in the various specialized activities and distractions. Awareness of the profound richness and energy abandoned in everyday life is inseparable from awareness of the poverty of the dominant organization of this life. The awareness of this untapped richness leads to the contrasting definition of everyday life as poverty and as prison; which in turn leads to the repression of the whole problem.

In these conditions, repressing the political question posed by the poverty of everyday life means repressing the most profound demands bearing on the possible richness of this life -- demands that can lead to nothing less than a reinvention of revolution. Of course an evasion of politics at this level is in no way incompatible with being active in the Parti Socialiste Unifié, for example, or with reading Humanité [French Communist Party newspaper] with confidence.

Everything really depends on the level at which this problem is posed: How is our life? In what ways are we satisfied with it? In what ways are we dissatisfied with it? Without for a moment letting ourselves be intimidated by the various advertisements designed to persuade us that we can be happy because of the existence of God or Colgate toothpaste or the National Center for Scientific Research.

It seems to me that the phrase "critique of everyday life" could and should also be understood in this reverse sense: as everyday life's sovereign critique of everything that is external or irrelevant to itself.

The question of the use of technological means, in everyday life and elsewhere, is a political question. Out of all the potential technical means, those that actually get implemented are selected in accordance with the goal of maintaining the rule of a particular class. When one imagines a future such as that presented in science-fiction, in which interstellar adventures coexist with a terrestrial everyday life kept in the same old material poverty and archaic morality, this implies precisely that there is still a class of specialized rulers maintaining the proletarian masses of the factories and offices in their service; and that the interstellar adventures are nothing but the particular enterprise chosen by those rulers, the way they have found to develop their irrational economy, the pinnacle of specialized activity.

Someone posed the question, "What is private life [vie privée] deprived [privée] of?" Quite simply of life itself, which is cruelly absent. People are as deprived as possible of communication and of self-fulfillment; deprived of the opportunity to personally make their own history. Positive responses to this question about the nature of the privation can thus only take the form of projects of enrichment; the project of developing a style of life different from the present one (if the present way of life can even be said to have a "style"). Or to put it another way, if we regard everyday life as the frontier between the dominated and the undominated sectors of life, and thus as the terrain of chance and uncertainty, it would be necessary to replace the present ghetto with a constantly moving frontier; to work ceaselessly toward the organization of new chances.

The question of intensity of experience is posed today -- with drug use, for example -- in the only terms in which the society of alienation is capable of posing any question: namely, in terms of false recognition of a falsified project, in terms of fixation and attachment. It should also be noted how much the image of love elaborated and propagated in this society has in common with drugs. A passion is first of all presented as a denial of all other passions; then it is frustrated, and finally reappears only in the compensations of the reigning spectacle. La Rochefoucauld wrote: "What often prevents us from abandoning ourselves to a single vice is that we have several." This can be taken as a very positive observation if we ignore its moralistic presuppositions and put it back on its feet as the basis of a program for the realization of human capacities.

All these questions are now relevant because our time is clearly dominated by the emergence of the project borne by the working class -- the abolition of every class society and the inauguration of human history -- and is thus also dominated by the fierce resistance to this project and by the distortions and failures it has encountered up till now.

The present crisis of everyday life takes its place among the new forms of the crisis of capitalism, forms that remain unnoticed by those who cling to classical calculations of the dates of the next cyclical crises of the economy.

The disappearance in developed capitalism of all the old values and of all the frames of reference of past communication; and the impossibility of replacing them by any others before having rationally dominated, within everyday life and everywhere else, the new industrial forces that escape us more and more -- these facts give rise not only to the virtually official dissatisfaction of our time, a dissatisfaction particularly acute among young people, but also to the self-negating tendency of art. Artistic activity had always been alone in expressing the clandestine problems of everyday life, albeit in a veiled, deformed, and partially illusory manner. Modern art now provides us with undeniable evidence of the destruction of all artistic expression.

If we consider the whole extent of the crisis of contemporary society, I don't think it is possible still to regard leisure activities as a negation of the everyday. It has been recognized here that it is necessary to study "wasted time." But let us look at the recent evolution of this notion of wasted time. For classical capitalism, wasted time was time that was not devoted to production, accumulation, saving. The secular morality taught in bourgeois schools has instilled this rule of life. But it so happens that by an unexpected turn of events modern capitalism needs to increase consumption and "raise the standard of living" (bearing in mind that that expression is completely meaningless). Since at the same time production conditions, compartmentalized and clocked to the extreme, have become indefensible, the new morality already being conveyed in advertising, propaganda and all the forms of the dominant spectacle now frankly admits that wasted time is the time spent at work, the only purpose of which is earn enough to enable one to buy rest, consumption and entertainments -- a daily passivity manufactured and controlled by capitalism.

If we now consider the artificiality of the consumer needs prefabricated and ceaselessly stimulated by modern industry -- if we recognize the emptiness of leisure activities and the impossibility of rest -- we can pose the question more realistically: What would not be wasted time? Or to put it another way, the development of a society of abundance should lead to an abundance of what?

This can obviously serve as a touchstone in many regards. When, for example, in one of those papers where the flabby thinking of "leftist intellectuals" is displayed (France-Observateur) one reads a title like "The Little Car Out To Conquer Socialism" heading an article that explains that nowadays the Russians are beginning to pursue an American-style private consumption of goods, beginning naturally with cars, one cannot help thinking that one need not have mastered all of Hegel and Marx to realize that a socialism that gives way in the face of an invasion of the market by small cars is in no way the socialism for which the workers movement fought. The bureaucratic rulers of Russia must be opposed not in terms of their tactics or their dogmatism, but more fundamentally: because the meaning of people's lives has not really changed. And this is not some obscure, inevitable fate of an everyday life supposedly doomed to remain reactionary. It is a fate imposed on everyday life from the outside by the reactionary sphere of specialized rulers, regardless of the label under which they plan and regulate poverty in all its aspects.

The present depoliticization of many former leftist militants, their withdrawal from one type of alienation to plunge into another, that of private life, represents not so much a return to privacy, a flight from "historical responsibility," but rather a withdrawal from the specialized political sector that is always manipulated by others -- a sector where the only responsibility they ever took was that of leaving all responsibility to uncontrolled leaders; a sector where the communist project was sidetracked and betrayed. Just as one cannot simplistically oppose private life to public life without asking: what private life? what public life? (for private life contains the factors of its negation and supersession, just as collective revolutionary action harboured the factors of its degeneration), so it would be a mistake to assess the alienation of individuals within revolutionary politics when it is really a matter of the alienation of revolutionary politics itself. The problem of alienation should be tackled dialectically, so as to draw attention to 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 (to the philosophy of alienation as a whole, for example) and not to the level of Stalinism, the explanation of which is unfortunately more gross.

Capitalist civilization has not yet been superseded anywhere, but it continues to produce its own enemies everywhere. The next rise of the revolutionary movement, radicalized by the lessons of past defeats and with a program enriched in proportion to the practical potentials of modern society (potentials that already constitute the material basis that was lacked by the "utopian" currents of socialism) -- this next attempt at a total contestation of capitalism will know how to invent and propose a different use of everyday life, and will immediately base itself on new everyday practices and on new types of human relationships (being no longer unaware that any conserving, within the revolutionary movement, of the relations prevailing in the existing society imperceptibly leads to a reconstitution of one or another variant of that society).

Just as the bourgeoisie, in its ascendant phase, had to ruthlessly liquidate everything that transcended earthly life (heaven, eternity), so the revolutionary proletariat -- which can never, without ceasing to be revolutionary, recognize itself in any past or any models -- will have to renounce everything that transcends everyday life. Or rather, everything that claims to transcend it: the spectacle, "historical" acts or pronouncements, the "greatness" of leaders, the mystery of specializations, the "immortality" of art and its supposed importance outside of life. In other words, it must renounce all the by-products of eternity that have survived as weapons of the world of the rulers.

The revolution in everyday life, breaking its present resistance to the historical (and to every kind of change), will create the conditions in which the present dominates the past and the creative aspects of life always predominate over the repetitive ones. We must therefore expect that the side of everyday life expressed by the concepts of ambiguity (misunderstandings, compromises, misuses) will decline considerably in importance in favour of their opposites: conscious choices and gambles.

The present artistic calling in question of language -- appearing at the same time as that metalanguage of machines which is nothing other than the bureaucratized language of the bureaucracy in power -- will then be superseded by higher forms of communication. The present notion of a decipherable social text will lead to new methods of writing this social text, in the direction my situationist comrades are presently seeking with unitary urbanism and some preliminary ventures in experimental behaviour. The central aim of an entirely reconverted and redirected industrial production will be the organization of new configurations of everyday life, the free creation of events.

The critique and perpetual re-creation of the totality of everyday life, before being carried out naturally by everyone, must be undertaken within the present conditions of oppression, in order to destroy those conditions.

An avant-garde cultural movement, even one with revolutionary sympathies, cannot accomplish this. Neither can a revolutionary party on the traditional model, even if it accords a large place to criticism of culture (understanding by that term the entirety of artistic and conceptual means through which a society explains itself to itself and shows itself goals of life). This culture and this politics are both worn out and it is not without reason that most people take no interest in them. The revolutionary transformation of everyday life -- which is not reserved for some vague future but is placed immediately before us by the development of capitalism and its unbearable demands (the only alternative being the reinforcement of the modern slavery) -- this transformation will mark the end of all unilateral artistic expression stocked in the form of commodities, at the same time as the end of all specialized politics.

This is going to be the task of a new type of revolutionary organization, from its inception.

GUY DEBORD

This talk was presented by tape recording 17 May 1961 at a conference of the Group for Research on Everyday Life convened in Paris by Henri Lefebvre.

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

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On Social Repression in Culture - Lothar Fischer, Dieter Kunzelmann, Uwe Lausen, Heimrad Prem, Helmut Sturm & Hans-Peter Zimmer

Supr 4: Die Verfolgung der kunstler

A short text from Internationale Situationniste #6 (August 1961).

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Submitted by Fozzie on January 31, 2023

Individually, the artists of the modern era who do not simply reproduce the permissible mystifications have all clearly been more or less rejected to the fringes of social life. This is because they are obliged to pose — even through illusory or fragmentary means — the question of the meaning of this life: the question of its use; while it remains without meaning, it has no lawful use outside of passive consumption. By its very nature, then, it signals the wretched conditions of an uninhabitable world. And their personal exclusion from the world — by the comfortable or attractive separation of tragic elimination — is produced naturally, so to speak.

On the contrary, avant-garde groups — or individuals among them — who formulate a definitive program for changing all of these conditions come up against a consciously organized social repression. The forms of this repression have changed a lot since, say, forty years ago, with the development of society itself and that of its enemies.

In the Europe of the 1920's, fingers were pointed at whatever scandalized the permissible social and cultural values; the avant-garde was considered accursed. In the society that has developed since the second world war, there are no longer any values whatsoever, and as a result the accusation of not respecting a particular convention can no longer find an audience among the backwards sectors of the public, and remains attached to a rather outmoded system of coherent conventions (much like Christian conception). For those who carry on the project of creating new values, the controllers of culture and information no longer stir up scandal: they tend to be the unshakable organizers of silence.

These new conditions of struggle initially postpone the work of a new revolutionary avant-garde; hindering its formation and then slowing its development. But they also have a very positive sign: modern culture is empty; no solid force can be opposed to the decisions of this avant-garde, from the minute it is successful in making it known as such. The sole task of this avant-garde must be to impose a day of reckoning before it compromises its discipline and its program. This is exactly what the Situationist International intends to do.

This declaration was published in February 1961 in issue 4 of Spur, organ of the German section of the SI.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/repression.html

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The Most Hotly Debated Rebels...

Colin Wilson on some grass reading a book

A short text with two quotes slagging off "angry young man" Colin Wilson from Internationale Situationniste #6 (August 1961).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 31, 2023

The most hotly rebels are also the most willingly spectacular, "the rebels we love to hate." And they're just about useless. After three or four years of all this, you'd have to be pretty dishonest to act as if the evidence of their conformity disappointed you, especially if you'd been smart enough never to have presented them to the public as genuine innovators. Once again, the dominant culture toys with its central contradiction: its simultaneous need for and terror of the novelty that is its death.

The reckless youth of these furious Englishmen was short-lived. . . . The "angry young men" movement rattled the window-panes of the bourgeoisie and filled hearts with hope. It was going to achieve something. Osborne has made it — and he's already settling in. Around 1956-57, word began to spread about these young writers who loudly proclaimed their refusal of every conformity, protesting against the inhuman living conditions forced upon modern man. . . . The group, however, was disparate, the common denominator "angry young men" corresponding more to a journalistic tendency than to a common program. . . . It certainly wasn't sufficient: today, the group no longer seems to have any significance, nor even an existence. The individual talents have extricated themselves from it. . . . Colin Wilson, the self-taught simpleton, has lapsed into a hazy mysticism, and so on. But they've been perfectly integrated into the literary society of their country.
— R. Kanters, L'Express (13 July 1961)

The rotten egg smell exuded by the idea of God envelops the mystical cretins of America’s “Beat Generation” and is not even entirely absent from the declarations of the Angry Young Men (e.g. Colin Wilson). These latter have just discovered, thirty years behind the times, a certain moral subversiveness that England had managed to completely hide from them all this time; and they think they’re being daringly scandalous by declaring themselves antimonarchists. . . . The Angry Young Men are in fact particularly reactionary in attributing a privileged, redemptive value to the practice of literature, thereby defending a mystification that was denounced in Europe around 1920 and whose survival today is of greater counterrevolutionary significance than that of the British Crown.
— Editorial Note,
Internationale Situationniste #1 (June 1958)

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/is6.html

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Pataphysics: A Religion in the Making - Asger Jorn

pataphysical squiggles

From Internationale Situationniste #6 (August 1961).

Author
Submitted by Fozzie on February 1, 2023

The history of religion seems to be made up of three stages — so-called materialist or natural religion, which reached its maturity in the bronze age; metaphysical religion, beginning with Zoroastrianism and developing through Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Reformation of the 16th century; and finally, Jarry's ideology from the turn of the century, which has ended up laying the foundations of a new religion, a third kind of religion that could very well become the most widespread in the world by the 22nd century: pataphysical religion.

Until recently, the pataphysical enterprise has been attributed no religious significance, quite simply because outside the tiny circle of believers who publish the long running private newsletter Cahiers du Collège de Pataphysique, pataphysics has had no significance at all.

The honor of having introduced pataphysics to the world goes to the Americans, with the publication of a special issue of Evergreen Review that lets the great pataphysical satraps speak for themselves. While word "religion" is obviously never openly mentioned in this issue, the enormous success that it has enjoyed for the past year with the American intelligentsia as brought about a period of objective analysis of this new phenomenon, and it won't be long before they realize what's really at stake.

Natural religion was a spiritual confirmation of material life. Metaphysical religion represented the establishment of an ever-widening opposition between material life and spiritual life. The various degrees of this polarization were represented by various metaphysical beliefs, and were intensified and made all the more backward by an attachment natural rites and cults that were more or less successfully transformed into metaphysical rites, cults and myths. The absurdity of this cultural mythology's persistence at a time when scientific metaphysics have already triumphed was demonstrated clearly by Kierkegaard's choice of confirming Christianity: one must believe in absurdity. The next question was: why? And the obvious response was that secular political and social authorities need to maintain a spiritual justification for their power. This, of course, is a purely material, antimetaphysical argument from a time when the radical critique of all traditional mythologies was beginning.

Prehistoric designs for the Brueil Abbey at the College of Pataphysics. The extravagence and subtlety of the method can be measured by comparing it with Zackarie le Rouzic's "Corpus of Serious Signs of the Megalithic Monuments of Morbihan," which presented a sober and schematic version of the same designs that could be understood without the assistance of the imagination.

All sides, however, are calling for a new mythology capable of responding to the new social conditions. It is up this old sidetrack that surrealism, existentialism, and also lettrism have disappeared. The classical lettrists who persevered with this effort have gone even further — further backwards — by carefully assembling all the elements that have actually grown incompatible with a modern and universal belief: the revival of the idea of the messiah, and even of the resurrection of the dead; everything that guarantees the didactic character of belief. Now that politicians possess the means to bring about the end of the world in an instant, anything that has to do with last judgment has become governmental, perfectly secularized. Metaphysical opposition to the physical world has been permanently defeated. The fight has ended in a knockout.

The only winner in this debate is the scientific criterion of truth. A religion can no longer be considered as the truth if it conflicts with what is known as scientific truth; and a religion that does not represent the truth is not a religion. This is the conflict that is about to be overcome by pataphysical religion, which has placed one of most fundamental concepts of modern science at the level of the absolute: the idea that equivalents are constant.

Suitable ground for the theory of equivalents was already prepared with Christianity's introduction of the idea that all men are equal before God. But it was only with the development of science and industry that the principle was imposed in every area of life, culminating, with scientific socialism, in the social equivalence of all individuals.

The fact that the principle of equivalence could not longer be restricted to the spiritual world gave rise to the project of scientific surrealism, already sketched out in the theories of Alfred Jarry. To the Kierkegaardian concept of absurdity, all that was added was the priciple of the equivalence of absurdities (the equivalence of gods among themselves; and among gods, men and objects). Thus, the future religion was founded, the religion that cannot be beaten on its own ground: the pataphysical religion that encompasses all possible and impossible religions of the past, present and future indifferently.

If it were possible for this religion to go into the world completely unnoticed, if pataphysical beliefs were anonymously taught and never criticized, a seemingly irresolvable paradox would not be presented: the problem of pataphysical authority, the consecration of the inconsecrable (that is to say its appearance in social life in the same role as earlier religions). Indeed, this particular religion cannot become a social authority without becoming antipataphysical at the same time, and everything that seeks social recognition finds itself surrounded by this singular fact of social authority. Thus, pataphysical religion could very well be the unconscious victim of its own superiority over every common metaphysical religion, as there is certainly no possible reconciliation between superiority and equivalence.

To its credit, pataphysics has confirmed that there is no metaphysical justification for forcing everyone to believe in the same absurdity. The possibilities of art and the absurd are many. The logical conclusion to this principle could be an anarchist thesis: to each his own absurdity. The opposite is expressed by the legal power that forces every member of society to submit completely to the political absurdity of the State.

But it should be said that the acceptance of a pataphysical authority, such as the one currently being instituted, becomes a demagogic new weapon against the spirit of pataphysics. It is the pataphysical program itself that prevents the existence of a pataphysical program, making a Pataphysical Church impossible.

The impossibility of creating a pataphysical situation in social life also prevents the creation of a social situation in the name of pataphysics. The reasons have already been given. Equivalence is the complete elimination of any notion of situation, of event.

At this time, when pataphysics is, on the outside, very much placed in a certain cultural position, the inevitable consequences of this basic definition necessarily lead to the creation of a schism within the followers of pataphysics between pure anti-situationists and those who, on the pataphysical basis of equivalences, are all the same in favor the development of those organized absurdities known as games.

The game is the opening of pataphysics onto the world, and the realization of such games is the creation of situations. There is therefore a crisis caused by the crucial problem encountered by every adept of pataphysics: whether they should apply the situological method of becoming socially active, or flatly refuse to act in any situation whatsoever. It is in this instance that pataphysics well and truly becomes the religion most perfectly suited to the modern society of the spectacle: a religion of passivity, of pure absence.

There is also another problem that is no less serious, which demands a choice from the organization of the anti-organizers, the Situationist International. The SI is capable of completely adapting the pataphysical principle as antimetaphysical method: this occurs directly in the establishment of new games. The absurdity of superiority and absurd superiority are the very key to play, and authority is its essential object. By using the principle of equivalents as its point of departure, the game is free: the situation can completely construct itself, in a pure appearance of superiority and authority. But if, on the contrary, a metaphysical basis is chosen, whatever it may be, situology will automatically fall to the level of an authoritarily directed method of popular distraction, a reprise of the old formula of slavery: bread and circuses.

After a long period of maturation in largely ignored circles, the basic elements of a new game are now appearing. Whether these elements are complementary or hostile, only time will tell.

SI note

Shortly after his resignation from the SI, Asger Jorn committed himself, with this text and several other interventions, to making the situationists aware of the religious leanings of pataphysical ideology, propagated massively in the United States since the conversion of the editors of Evergreen Review.

Pataphysical ideology, which depends on a few aging participants in various activities in modern art, is itself the product of the aging of this "modern art" of the first half of the century. It preserves cold principles in a joke that is static and uncreative in the extreme. It accepts the world and thus follows the lead of all other religious cliques. "The pataphysician," declares B. Vian over the radio (cf. Dossier no. 12 du Collège), "if he truly has no reason to be moral, has none not to be. That is why he remains the only one with the power to be honest, without the decay of conformists."

It goes to show that the possibilities of the conjunction envisaged by Jorn can only be considered within his perspective of a schism, an apostasy of the least ecclesiastical pataphysicians. The SI believes that any religion is as risible as another; and guarantees a hostility to all religiouns, even science fiction.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/pataphysics.html

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Comments Against Urbanism - Raoul Vaneigem

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From Internationale Situationniste #6 (August 1961).

Submitted by Fozzie on February 1, 2023

An expert — Chombart de Lauwe — has argued on the basis of precise experiments that the programs proposed by the planners can sometimes create feelings of discontent and revolt, which could have been partly avoided if we had a more profound knowledge of real behaviour, and above all of the motivations for this behaviour.

The grandeur and servitude of urbanism! Having suspiciously and with insistence sniffed out the urban planner, we are obliged to turn away from a lack of breeding and crudeness such as this. There's no question here of incriminating the popular verdict. The people have already declared themselves, with the same incongruity: 'you architect!' has always been, in Belgium, strong language. But since this particular expert sides today with popular opinion and applies himself, too, to sniffing out the planner, there we are, saved! And so the urbanist is officially convicted of inciting discontent and revolt, of 'almost' being the main provocateur in inciting them. We must hope for a swift reaction from the authorities; it would be unthinkable that hotbeds of revolt be openly stirred up by the very same people whose task it is to put them out. There is, here, a crime against social peace which only a council of war can settle. Will we see justice administered within its own ranks? Not unless the expert was only a wily urbanist after all.

If the planner cannot know the behavioural motivations of those he wishes to house in a way that best suits their nervous equilibrium, then urbanism might as well be integrated right now within criminological research (to deflect the actions of provocateurs — see above — and permit each person to keep his place within the hierarchy); in this case, then the science of criminal repression loses its raison d'être and changes its social rationale: urbanism will suffice to maintain the established order without recourse to the tastelessness of machine guns. Man assimilated to concrete, what a dream or what a blessed nightmare for the technocrats, were they to lose it, what still remains of their Higher Nervous activity and be preserved in the power and the hardness of concrete.

If the Nazis had known the contemporary urbanists they would have transformed the concentrations camps into H.L.M.s [Habitations à loyers modérés: rent-controlled apartment blocks]. But that solution appears too brutal to M. Chombart de Lauwe. The ideal urbanism ought to motivate everyone, without discontent or revolt, toward the final solution of the human question.

Urbanism is the most perfect and concrete realization of a nightmare. A nightmare, according to the Littré, is 'a state of acute anxiety that culminates in a startling awakening.' An awakening from what? Who has force fed us to the point of somnolence? It would be as to execute Eichmann as to hang the urbanists. This is to blame the targets when you find yourself on a rifle-range!

Planning is the big word, the biggest of the lot, some say. The specialists talk of economic planning, and planned urbanism, then they give a knowing wink, and, providing the performance is well rendered, all the world applauds. The high point of the spectacle is the planning of happiness. The manager is already leading his enquiry; precise experiments establish the density of tele-spectators; it is a matter of arranging the territory around them, building for them without distracting them from the preoccupations which nourish them through the eyes and the ears. This means assuring to all a peaceable existence and an equilibrium, with the prudent foresight of the pirate in the comic-strip who says: 'Dead men tell no tales.' Urbanism and information are complementary in capitalist and 'anti-capitalist' societies; they organize silence.

A euphorimeter

Habitation is the 'drink Coca-Cola' of urbanism. The necessity of drinking is replaced by Coca-Cola. To inhabit is to be at home everywhere, says Kiesler, but such a prophetic truth grabs nobody by the throat: it is a scarf against the increasing cold, even if it evokes a noose. We are inhabited; it is from this point that one should begin.

As public relations, the ideal urbanism is the conflict-free projection in space of the social hierarchy. Roadways, lawns, natural flowers and artificial forests lubricate the gears of subjection, render it lovable. In an Yves Touraine novel the State even offers an electronic masturbator to retired workers; economy and happiness both profit here.

A certain urbanism of prestige is necessary, claims Chombart de Lauwe. The spectacle he offers us makes Haussmann, the man who couldn't conceive of prestige of prestige outside of a rifle-range, seem positively quaint. This time it is a matter of scenically organizing the spectacle around everyday life, to let each person live within the bounds which correspond to the role capitalist society imposes on him, to further isolate him by educating him like a blindman to illusively recognize himself in a materialization of his own alienation.

The capitalist education of space is nothing other than education in a space where one loses one's shadow, where one ends up getting lost by dint of seeking to find oneself in what one is not. What a fine example of tenacity for all those teachers and other licensed organizers of influence.

The layout of a town, its streets, walls and neighbourhoods, form so many signs of a strange conditioning. What sign is recognizable there that could be ours? A few graffiti, words of refusal or unusual gestures inscribed in haste, whose interest does not register with learned positions, if not on the walls of Pompeii, a fossil city. But our cities are more fossilized still. We wish to live in countries of knowledge, among signs as alive as the friends we see every day. The revolution will also be the perpetual creation of signs which belong to all.

There is an incredible leadenness in everything related to urbanism. The word 'to construct' sinks straight to the bottom in a water where other possible words stay afloat. Wherever bureaucratic civilization has spread, the anarchy of individual contruction has been officially consecrated and taken over by the competent organs of power, in such a way that the instinct for construction extirpated like a vice and hardly survives except among children and primitives (irresponsible people, in administrative terminology). And among all those who, for want of changing their own lives, spend them all demolishing and rebuilding their hovels.

Urbanism is the art of reassuring, which it knows how to practise in its purest form: the ultimate courtesy of a power on the point of assuring total control of our minds.

Maximum and normal work surfaces in the horizontal plane

God and the City: Urbanism is the only abstract and non-existent force that can claim to exceed God in the post of porter left vacant by his death. With its ubiquity, its immense goodness, and, perhaps someday, its sovereign power, urbanism (or its project) would indeed have what it takes to frighten the Church, if ever there was the slightest doubt concerning the orthodoxy of power. But not to worry: the Church was 'urbanism' long before power; what has it to fear from a lay St Augustine?

There is something admirable to have coexist in the word 'habitation' some thousands of souls from whom even the hope of a last judgement is taken away. In this sense, the admirable caps the inhumane.

To industialize private life: 'Make your life a business,' such will be the new slogan. To suggest to each person that he organize his environment as a small factory to be run as a miniature enterprise, with its substitutes for machines, its top-quality products, its fixed capital of walls and furnishing, is not the best way for conveying the concerns of those gentlemen who possess a factory for real, a big one, which itself must also produce?

To make the horizon uniform: walls and artificial corners of vegetation assign new limits to the dream and to thought, since to know where it ends is, despite everything, to poeticize the desert.

The new towns will obliterate all trace of the battles traditional towns fought against the people they wanted to oppress. To root out from memory the truth that all quotidian life has its history and, through the myth of participation, to question the irreducible character of the lived, it is in these terms that the urbanists might express the objectives they pursue, if they deigned to set aside for a moment the spirit of seriousness which clouds their thinking. When the spirit of seriousness disappears the sky brightens, everything becomes clearer, or almost; thus, as the humorists well know, to destroy your adversary with H bombs is to condemn yourself to die a long, drawn-out death. How much longer must we make fun of the urbanists before they recognize in their premeditated acts of aggression against us that they are premeditating the plan of their own suicide?

Cemeteries are the most natural green areas, the only ones to be integrated harmoniously in the limits of future cities, as the lost paradises. Prime costs must cease to obstruct the desire to build, so claims the leftist builder. Let him lose no sleep, for this will be soon, when the desire to build will have disappeared.

France has been developing processes that turn construction into a Meccano game (J.-E. Havel). Even in the best case, a self-service is only ever a place where one serves, in the sense that a fork serves to eat.

In mixing Machiavellianism and reinforced concrete, urbanism has a clear conscience. We enter the reign of police niceties. To enslave with dignity.

Building with confidence: the reality of bay-windows cannot hide the fictive communication, the ambience of public places denounces the despair and isolation of private consciousness, the busy filling up of space is measured in dead time.

Project for a realistic urbanism: replace Piranesi's stairs with lifts, transform tombs into apartment houses, line sewers with trees, turn trash-cans into living rooms, pile up the shanties and design all your cities like museums; make use of everything, even of nothing.

Alienation is within reach: urbanism makes alienation tactile. The starving proletariat experienced alienation as a brutal suffering. We will live it in a blind suffering of things. Gropingly feeling different.

Honest and clear-sighted urbanists have the courage of their stylites. Must we make our lives a desert to legitimate their aspirations?

The keepers of philosophical faith discovered the existence of a working class some twenty years ago. At a time when sociologists are joining forces to decree that the working class no longer exists, they, the urbanists, have waited for neither philosophers nor sociologists to invent the inhabitant. Theirs will be the glory to have been among the first to discern the new dimensions of the proletariat. Their definition was all the more precise and concrete since they were able, through training and flexible methods, to guide towards a less brutal yet radical proletarianization of virtually the whole of society.

"Sure we know what guns are for. . . . Where can you house us?" "Come with me!"

A warning to the builders of ruins: the urbanists will be succeeded by the last troglodytes of shanty-towns and slums. They will know how to build. The privileged folk of the dormitory-towns will be only able to destroy. A lot may expected from such a revolutionary encounter.

The sacred, by devaluing itself, becomes mystery: urbanism is the Great Architect's final fall from grace.

Behind the infatuation with technology hides a revealed truth, indisputable as such: the need of 'habitation.' The down-and-out know very well what the real nature of such a truth is. He better than anyone gauges, among the trashcans where an interdiction on dwelling obliges him to live, how much building his life and building his home are indistinguishable on the only plane of truth there is, the practical one. But the exile in which our policed world maintains him renders his experience so derisory and difficult that the licensed builder would find in this a pretext for justifying himself — supposing, absurdly, that power were to cease safeguarding his existence.

It appears that the working class no longer exists. Today, many ex-proletarians can have access to the comfort formerly reserved for a minority: so goes the familiar tune. But isn't it rather an increasing quantity of comfort which gives them an itch to make demands? And so a certain organization of comfort, it seems, proletarianizes, as by contagion, all those it contaminates through the power of things. Now, the power of things is exercised through the intervention of the ruling administrators, priests of an abstract order whose only privilege will sooner or later be to reign summarily over an administrative center surrounded by ghettos. The last survivor will die of boredom, just as a spider dies of starvation in the middle of its web.

We have to build fast, there are so many people to house, say the humanists of reinforced concrete. We have to dig trenches without delay, say the generals, there's the fatherland to save. Isn't it a bit unfair to laud the first and laugh at the second? In the era of missiles and conditioning the jest of the generals is at least a jest in good taste. But to erect trenches in the air under the same pretext!

Translated by Paul Hammond. From https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/comments.html

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Situationist News - August 1961

a blurry black and white photo which came with the original article

The usual updates, from Internationale Situationniste #6 (August 1961), including the exclusion of Maurice Wyckaert and resignation of Asger Jorn.

Submitted by Fozzie on February 2, 2023

At the beginning of an article published last winter in the review Dissent (volume VIII, number 1), Edwin M. Schur observed with a touch of melancholy:

Regular drug users are inceasingly becoming avant-garde heroes and modern scapegoats at the same time. Jack Gelber, William Burroughs, Alexander Trocchi and others have stimulated interest in the "junky" lifestyle. According to Norman Mailer, these rebels even consider the use of narcotics to be part of a new radicalism, justified somewhat by the futility of current opposition in strictly political terms! In truth, "the end of ideology" has seen its own terrible realization. . . .

Our comrade Alexander Trocchi was fortunately able to return to Europe at the end of May 1961. As there are a number of rumors circulating, the editors of Internationale Situationniste are not in a position to officially confirm whether he escaped the persecutions of the New York police by secretly crossing the Canadian border. In spite of the monstrous imbecility of the accusation, which was clearly demonstrated by two earlier situationist publications, we be can sure that this affair is by no means over.

Modern society is currently based in twenty highly industrialized nations, where every tendency of its transformation and the essential phenomena of its crisis are constituted. The countries in question are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States (this list matches almost exactly that of nations that have sufficient technological capacities to produce nuclear arms). The situationist movement already extends to 11 of these 20 nations — more than half. We have even reached a proportion approaching 2/3 if we discount those countries outside the European majority: indeed the situationist organization, which spreads from this zone, has reached 9 nations out of 14.

In Munich in January, a common declaration by the German and Swedish sections of the SI, "The Avant-garde is Undesirable!", was published on the occasion of a modernist cultural exhibition disrupted by our comrades. This pamphlet, signed by Kunzelmann, Prem, Sturm and Zimmer on the one hand; Steffan Larsson, K. Lindell and J. Nash on the other, and thrown into the crowd at the opening, declared that

"if an avant-garde puts the very meaning of life into question and goes in search of the realization of the claims of this field of operations, it finds itself cut off from all social possibility. The aesthetic by-products of the avant-garde — paintings, films and poems, etc. — instantly become desirable and completely ineffectual. What is undesirable is the program of an entirely new organization of the conditions of life that will alter the very basis of society."

Some time earlier, the German section published a manifesto on the festival, notably declaring:

"Boycott all systems and all conventions in power! They have lost the game. . . . The festival is the unpopular art of the people. Creativity makes its festival with all things through continuous recreation. Just as Marx discovered a scientific revolution, we have discovered a festive revolution. . . . A revolution without festivals is not a revolution. There is no artistic freedom without the power of the festival. . . . Our demand is the most serious of games."

The Central Council of the SI met for the second time in Paris from 6 to 8 January. Most of its work was devoted to the study of the construction of an experimental city, beginning with a few conditions put forth by an Italian cultural center. The SI admitted that they could only pursue these talks in the perspective of recognizing the right of the builders to organize the entire lifestyle of this zone; the permanent arrangement of 20% of the buildings; and the right to destroy the buildings if they became obstacles to rearrangement (this last precondition has since brought an end to the negotiations). Kotányi proposed presenting this project as a city of therapeutic play, emphasizing that "the therapeutic ideas of modern psychology have never been realized in a structure"; and, more precisely, to consider the realization of the architecture described by Sade. He also showed that "the military industry is the present measure of society's total technical capacity. Our projects imply techniques that notoriously supersede the capacities of the construction industry. It must therefore be admitted that more militarily oriented experiments hold a great deal of interest for us" (for example the cyclotron in Geneva, produced with the combined resources of several States). Jorn approved, observing that "for those who possess cultural resources, artists are cave dwellers whose only right is to go in search of metallic industrial debris to use in their sculptures. We will correct this little error! Modestly, we are declaring our right to initiate modern art, that is, to emerge from the caves of artistic civilization." Jörgen Nash specified that "every utopian construction is formulated on the basis of an ideal city. We are against the ideal. We have to critique the idealist perfectionism in the old utopian conception (and thus critique Fourier). We will not settle for what is merely satisfactory." The Council adopted a number of basic hypotheses for the definition of this experimental micro-city, on an uninhabited island off the southern coast of Italy.

H. Prem, in place of Sturm, who was unable to make it to this session, brought the Council's attention to the undignified treatment reserved for Norman Mailer by the American media and police, who had discredited a subversive intellectual under the pretext of assaulting his wife with a knife. The council decided on the publication of a special issue of our German journal on UU; and finalized the plan for Internationale Situationniste #6. Nash submitted a number of questions to the Council, concerning the logistical organization of the Göteborg conference.

The third session of the Central Council took place in Munich from 11 to 13 April. Besides tending to current matters, the council decided to adopt sanctions in response to the pressure exerted two weeks earlier by the art dealer Van de Loo. This person, more or less involved with the Ruhr's bourgeois enterprise of the attempting to reinvent unitary urbanism to their own ends, believed he could resort to economic blackmail toward four German situationists who were financially dependent on his offices, threatening them with dismissal if they did not repudiate certain aspects of the SI's activities (namely Debord). The German situationists instantly chose to break with the dealer. Immediately after, he sent a telegraph promising them a tidy sum if they would only resume relations with him. They did not respond to what they considered a bad joke, thus obliging "the acquirer" to explain later that his clumsy telegram was indeed a joke, pure and simple (this was obviously the first time in his life that he had joked about the question of money). This remarkable affair, unique in the history of the cultural avant-garde, at least by some aspects whose weight is not original in the least, has unfortunately led to the loss of Maurice Wyckaert. Wyckaert, also linked to the dealer, although with a considerably wealthier base, made it known to everyone that he would only break with Van de Loo if the latter broke with the SI first. But the Council found it perfectly unacceptable to even think that the dealer had any freedom to "to break with the SI" when he had absolutely nothing to do with them. He simply had tentative license to mix in SI matters as an art dealer entertaining personal relationships with several situationists; and through threats and promises, had aimed at nothing less than to create a part for himself in the SI, with the intention of weakening its politics. Wyckaert was therefore excluded.

The same session of the Council accepted the resignation of Asger Jorn in view of various personal circumstances that would make his participation in the organized activity of the SI extremely difficult — he has nevertheless demonstrated his complete accord with the SI. The Council, momentarily reduced to four members by these departures, agreed not to reconvene before the next conference of the International, at which it will be redesigned.

On a completely different subject, Mr Jean Cau, in the Express of 27 July, writes that Metz station, "built with somber Germanic delirium, will host the next Conference of the Surrealist International." In fact, the fifth Conference of the Situationist International, which will gather in the days that follow, will convene in the Swedish port of Göteborg on the 28 August.

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From https://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/si/news6.html

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