On the fallout from the exclusion of the "Garnautins" (Strasbourg students) from the S.I. From Internationale Situationniste #11 (October 1967).
The Alsatian Ideology
The thousands of lines accumlated by the Garnautins1 in the several dozen circulars and tracts that they have published since their exclusion, which are filled with peremptory affirmations that have been surreptitiously taken from previous situationist publications and that are completely beneath comment here, have only pursued a single goal: to hide behind an ideological smoke-screen the simple, trivial, small, direct and brutal fact that Frey, Garnault and Holl have been excluded for having lied as a team, in the hope of obtaining the exclusion of Khayati,2 by trying to obtain this "success" by doing whatever they could, up to the last minute, to convince an assembly of the SI [Situationist International] that, over the hours, treated them more and more clearly as suspect.
On our side, with the exception of a report3 immediately sent to all of the members of the SI absent from this assembly and to only four other people engaged, at that moment, in a practical action with us (only Vayr-Piova4 will prefer not to understand), we have only published a single text [on the subject], "Be Careful! Three Provocateurs,"5 which was sufficient and definitive. But in their many documents the Garnautins haven't even thought that it might be useful (because they are obviously no longer living a lie) to reject this truly sufficient and central accusation, once and for all. They have not realized that this silence judges them in the eyes of all unbiased people. They have evaded, issued counter-truths, spoken of other things, made allusions to the heart of the subject with modest embarassment: "Khayati lies: he reports the details inexactly and, even if these details had been 'exactly' reported, he could not have lied less about the totality of the situation . . ." (Garnautin tract dated 19 January .) One will admire the half-confession of their "even if." This was indeed what had happened [Khayati reported the "details" exactly] and the "detail" was, to tell the truth, as big as what they lack.
The rapid exposure [mise au jourdu] of their lie pushed their tendency to the ideological reversal of the real, which led them to the conspiratorial lie, to the extreme by making it a necessity. From that moment no enormity stopped them in their course of misinterpretations. They have found "cop-like" [flicard] the SI's tract that denounced their utterly classic, police-like procedure of producing several false witnesses to dishonor and eliminate a troublesome adversary in the best tradition of the "Taschereau Document."6 They shelter themselves behind Hegel so as condemn the "so-called psychological reflections" that want to disparage "great historical figures" with small explications from the private sphere.7 Thus, the Garnautins postulate with crashing naivete that they are historical men. Thus they "want and [will] accomplish a great thing, not imaginary and presumed, but quite exact and necessary." These heros have simply forgotten that all they have ever wanted -- if not accomplished -- was the success of a fake as vile as it was meaningless, and that, if we have had to advance several specifications of their psychological poverty, it was because we had to explain the surprising pettiness of their action. The majority that rejected them -- in fact, all those who did not figure in their exposed [secret] faction -- is transformed into a dictatorship by [Guy] Debord and his fanatical partisans. The Garnautins invented this personal power within the SI so as to attach [reappliquer] to it the master/slave dialectic. They believed that they have been slaves serving the ends of Guy Debord, and that they are thus summoned to become masters. But, as always, they are ignorant of the essential when it comes to a "supercession of the SI." Perhaps they were slaves due to their personal tastes. We don't know. But, in this case, they were, rest assured, slaves who did not work. Thus,8 they did not alienate by usage that which was their work, since it did not exist; nor did it become strong from the practical function to which it was submitted, since there wasn't any. It was precisely their own non-participation in the collective activity of the SI, their firmness -- despite their engagements [with the SI] -- in dwelling in a "student-y," provincial life devoted to quiet speculations, that created their inferiority, their contemplative knowledge of the SI.9 This admiring contemplation normally changes into rancor. Their faction was secretly constituted on the theme of the equality to be established within the SI, and these ideologues of pure equality were quite blind for not seeing [sentir] that their constitution of a secret faction (even before their recourse to organized calumny) placed them above the totality of the SI and constituted the first objective inequality ever created and institutionalized in the relations between situations.
As soon as the Garnaults were understood by the SI, and treated accordingly, the ideology of pure equality was proclaimed loudly and used to assemble [around the Garnautins] several students who themselves had been scorned the day before, and not without reason. Within several weeks, they would equate [the scandal at] Strasbourg with a fury and extremism that made the demands of the Levelers10
and the bare-armed workers [les bras-nus], the millenarianists11
and the Babouvists,12
look like childrens' games. The Garnautins would proclaim that the fault of the SI was that it was only an avant-garde; that avant-gardes only exist due to the delay of other developments; that the delay had been abolished by Garnault; that it was thus necessary to have "a revolutionary organization capable of acting on a vast scale in the world" (L'Unique et sa propriete);13
and that he thus become that organization. With a stroke of the pen, the global proletariat -- come forth from diverse degrees of delay as if it were one man -- is there, rigorously equal in consciousness and capacity to Garnault and anyone else. And this is the supercession of the SI, which is so desirable for his position. Naturally, all this takes place in pure thought.
The product of "this enthusiasm that, like a pistol shot, immediately begins with absolute learning" (Hegel) appeared for the dazzled astonishment of the world, which will not soon see it again, on 13 April 1967.14 Here the "revolutionary organization capabale of acting on a vast scale in the world" was crushed by the Strasbourg section of the M.N.E.F.15 And to have been defeated in this electoral epic, this does not diminish the glorious memory of its total praxis in Garnault sauce 16 (thus no one will be surprised if our ideologues then went on to condemn the abuse of the requirement in the SI for coherence between what one says and what one does).
The highest production of this Alsatian ideology17 was printed in the pamphlet The Unique and its Property. Here Debord replaced Khayati as the object of envy and hate. The Garnautins total incoherence, which even affected the text, led to this development. The SI's theory had great qualities. It had a serious fault: it was Debordist. With the result that it was worth nothing, not even as theory. Because only praxis . . . (see above).
To support his joke -- Debord alone has always directed and done everything -- the stupidest procedures were employed among a dozen obvious lies: thus the idea that there has never been opposition in the SI,18 whereas our Garnautins were, in fact, the first of these oppositions that, cowardly, remained secret. The pamphlet attributes one remark to Debord (in which one feigns to believe that the concept of "communication" isn't employed in the SI's sense, but in the unilateral sense of O.R.T.F.,19 for example), and two quotations presented without attribution that are, in fact, written by Raoul Vaneigem: all the situationists, and all the attentive readers of our publications, know quite well that certain of Vaneigem's conceptions concerning the qualities of the situationist organization present important personal nuances. As leader, Debord is identified with Cardinal de Retz,20 who, in return, sees himself endowed with a quite bizarre class-consciousness: "watching oneself play the aesthetic game of a struggle that is hopeless in the face of the bureaucratic-bourgeois machine"). Our ideologues should read Retz: they will learn from him that "in incidents of calumny, everyone who is not harmed serves he who was attacked."
The height of the Garnautins' analysis is the discovery, made in the "Marxist" style of L'Humanite Dimanche,21 of the facts that the journal Internationale Situationniste is published legally and that Debord, its [official] editor, finds himself personally responsible for our debts at the printer, who has the temerity to have confidence in us. Here, in these facts, we have the basis for an economic power that would explain the inevitability [fatalite] of a Debordist power over the entire SI and the fact that the heroes of equality did not for even a minute try to oppose that power and were in fact always nice to it.
The facts, for example, that all of our publications outside of France have always and everywhere been published on completely autonomous financial bases, by the comrades of these respective countries, and with other "directors" and other printinghouse workers, have not been considered in this narrowly Alsatian optic.
The reality of the SI as an "international group of theoreticians" appeared quite beautiful to the Garnautins when they believed that they had their places in it and thus the ability to prove that they, too, were theoreticians, at least. From the day after their exclusion, the Garnautins reproached the SI for only being the SI, that is, for not declaring itself to be the "revolutionary organization capable of acting on a vast scale in the world." It would be quite useless to expect from them the least consciousness of the realities of the practical process that could create this type of modern workers' organization. But, to remain on the emotional and egocentric planes that hold them captive, one might ask oneself what difference it would make for the Garnautins if the new revolutionary current is at the stage of its first liaisons with a new theoretical basis, or if this new theoretical basis has already been lived by the revolutionary workers in struggle, or if the revolutionary current is at the stage of the power of the [Workers'] Councils. Because the Garnautins and their real practice will be condemned at every moment [of such a process]. Revolutionary workers do not amuse themselves with questions of calumny -- unlike the bureaucrats and politicians, who rule by the manipulation of lies. And the proletarian power of the Councils, which is the putting into practice of the truth, must obviously treat instances of lies supported as a team, by secret groups, which pursue their own ends, as one of the rare forms of obstruction that it still has to repress.
Unattributed; probably written by Guy Debord. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! March 2006. From https://www.notbored.org/alsatian-ideology.html
- 1Trans. Collective and apparently arbitrary name (a pun on "to garnish"?) for Theo Frey, Jean Garnault and Herbert Holl, who were excluded from the SI en bloc on 15 January 1967 Active in the SI since 1965, all three lived in Strasbourg, a town in the Alsace.
- 2Trans. Mustapha Khayati, with whom the "Garnautins" had worked since 1965, was the primary author of On the Poverty of Student Life, the publication of which caused a great scandal in Strasbourg in November 1966.
- 3Trans. See letter dated 15 January 1967..
- 4Trans. Bruno Vayr-Piova, a reformist Strasbourgeois student.
- 5Trans. See our translation of Be Careful! Three Provocateurs.
- 6Trans. A police forgery found by a journalist named Tashereau, who used it to defame Blanqui, circa 1848.
- 7Trans. See the last few paragraphs of Be Careful! Three Provocateurs.
- 8Trans. In the following lines, the author (more and more clearly Debord himself?) seeks to demonstrate that, like the Hegel-quoting Garnautins, he, too, has read (but he has also understood) the works of the great German philosopher.
- 9Trans. To our knowledge, this is the first reference to/critique of "contemplative situationists," that is, people within the SI who (merely) admired it as if they were outside of it, contemplating some kind a spectacle. During and in the wake of the orientation debate of 1970, the "contemplative situationist" par excellence would be Raoul Vaneigem.
- 10Trans. Radical democrats during the English Civil War (circa 1645).
- 11Trans. See especially Raoul Vaneigem's The Movement of the Free Spirit (1986).
- 12Trans. Partisans of Gracchus Babeuf during the French Revolution.
- 13Trans. The title of one of the Garnautins' statements, and an attempt to detourne the title of a work by Max Stirner (1845).
- 14Trans. On that day, Bruno Vayr-Piova -- thrown out of the university a few weeks previously -- lost in the university election to a candidate from the UNEF (National Union of French Students).
- 15Trans. The National Mutual Benefit Association of French Students.
- 16Trans. An untranslatable in-joke. For other situ in-jokes that involve the culinary arts, see the letter by Debord dated 15 August 1968.
- 17Trans. A detournement of the title of Karl Marx's The German Ideology (1845).
- 18Trans. Serious splits had already taken place in 1959 (the exclusion of Guiseppe Pinot-Gallizio and the collapse of the Italian section), 1960 (the resignation of Constant and the exclusion of the rest of the Dutch section) and 1962 (the exclusions of the "Nashists" and the entire German section).
- 19Trans. The French Office of Television Broadcasting.
- 20Trans. Jean-Francois-Paul de Gondi was one of the leaders of the aristocratic rebellion known as the Fronde (1648).
- 21Trans. The Sunday edition of the Communist Party's daily newspaper.