Transgressions: A Journal of Urban Exploration

Transgressions covers

Online archive of this post-situationist/psychogeographical journal published from 1995-2001. Five issues were published.

Submitted by Fozzie on March 29, 2024

Transgressions #1 (1995)

transgressions 1 cover

Partial contents of the debut issue of this post-situationist/psychogeographical journal.

Submitted by Fozzie on March 29, 2024

Contents of PDF

  • Situationist Poise, Space and Architecture - James Burch
  • An Account of Some Experimental Dérive in Newcastle - James Burch
  • The Transmaniacs: Reports from Italy's Situationauts - Roberto Bui, Riccardo Paccosi
  • Document: Narrowcasting in Fibrespace - Institute of Fatuous Research

List of full contents available here. If you are able to help with scans of articles not yet here, please leave a comment.


Transgressions #2/3 (1996)

A photography of Canary Wharf at night

Double issue of this psychogeographical journal, including debates on primitivism and the Race Traitor journal.


  • Editorial - Alastair Bonnett
  • Two Walking Days - Jean MacRae
  • Ralph Rumney's Revenge and Other Scams: an account of the psychogeographical warfare conducted during the 1995 Venice Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary Arts - Luther Blissett
  • The Transgressive Geographies of Daily Life: Socialist pathways within everyday urban spatial creativity - Alastair Bonnett
  • Shopping for Principles: Writing about Stoke on Trent's "Festival Park" - Martin Parker
  • Old Gotland, New Babylon: Peoples and places in the work of Jorn and Constant - Graham Birtwistle

Debate 1:

  • A response from Race Traitor
  • Race Traitor and the Myth of the “Mulatto" - Fabian Tompsett

Debate 2:

  • City Primeval: Fredy Perlman, Primitivism and Detroit - John Moore
  • From Socialisme ou Barbarie to Communism or Civilisation - Luther Blissett


  • Notes from a “Post-colonial“ State by Amanda Araba Ocran
  • Where's Wally? A personal account of a multiple-use-name entanglement by Nigel Ayers
  • Sleeve Notes: TechNet by Howard Slater and Jason Skeet
  • Transport of Delight, Motorways of Blood by the Roads Advisory Committee
  • Dislocation on the Isle of Dogs by Fabian Tompsett

Review Articles:

  • Detained and Detourned by Peter Suchin (Situationist conference in Manchester)
  • Neutral and Commercial... Just like Everyone by Howard Slater (Club Cultures by Sarah Thornton)
  • Academic Architectures: The Strangely Familiar by Simon Sadler and Benjamin Franks


Guy Debord is Really Dead by Luther Blissett, London Psychogeographical Association newsletter & Manchester Area Psychogeographic, Inventory, Stelarc, Oblivion, Days Between Stations, The Book of Sodom by Paul Hallam, Vermeer II by Stewart Home, Return to the Duplex Planet, Association of Autonomous Astronauts, Break/Flow, Man in a Suitcase, Landranger 168 map, Melancholic Troglodyte, Equi-Phallic Alliance.




1 month 1 week ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on April 12, 2024

Thanks for posting this Fozzie and for the countless hours of labour you devote to this archive.

As a parting glass, let's lift this from the dark web:

...The critique of civilisation emerged internationally within this famework, a key protagonist being Jacques Camatte and his comrades in the review Invariance. They developed out of the left communists' insistence on the centrality of the realisation of Gemeinwesen, the human community, as the goal of communism. It was a matter of establishing a society where people treated each other as humans rather than as things. Far from being “post-Marxist“ Camatte is developing themes already addressed by Marx:

'Communism is the positive supersession of private property as human self-estrangement and hence the true appropriation of the human essence through and for Man; it is the complete restoration of man to himself as a social i.e. human being, a restoration which has become conscious and which takes place within the entire wealth of previous periods of development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between Man and nature, and between human and human, the true resolution of the conflict between existence and being, between objectification and self-affirmation, between freedom and necessity, between individual and species. It is the solution to the riddle of history and knows itself to be that solution.'...

The overthrow of civilisation is the task of communism.

Transgressions #4 (1998)

Transgressions 4 cover

Partial contents of the fourth issue of this post-situationist journal.

Submitted by Fozzie on March 30, 2024

Contents available on Libcom

  • Critique of Economic Policy - Asger Jorn (with introduction by Alastair Bonnett)
  • Moving Mountains: "Shamanic" rock art and the international of experimental artists - Simon Crook


  • Glasgow 1997, South Africa 1900: The event of the year: Psychogeographers in sensational coincidence - The Urban Research Group
  • Darton, Pontefract and Beyond: An exploration by rail - Roger Doyle
  • Mondo Mitomane 1994-6: Notes on multiple name mythopoiesis as the cutting edge of psychogeography - Luther Blissett
  • Traffic Derive - D. Fasio, Nottingham Psychogeographical Unit

Review Articles:


The City of Collective Memory by M. Christine Boyer, Irene's Cunt by Louis Aragon, Robinson in Space by Patrick Keiller, Mind Invaders by Stewart Home (ed), Three psychogeographical websites, Dreamtime is upon us! by the Association of Autonomous Astronauts, Situationists: art, politics, urbanismo by Andreoti L & Costa X.

Full contents on page 2 of the PDF. If you are able to assist with scans of other articles, please leave a comment.


Critique of Economic Policy - Asger Jorn

Asger Jorn painting

Originally appeared in a series called "Rapports presentes a l'Internationale Situationniste". Translated by Fabian Tompsett and taken from Transgressions No.4. 1998.

Submitted by Fozzie on March 30, 2024

Introduction by Alastair Bonnett

Transgressions is not in the habit of publishing lengthy pieces on Marxist theory but, for Asger Jorn we're going to make an exception. In this introduction I'll first outline. who Asger Jorn was before detailing the importance of his article.

Asger Jorn, in brief. The Danish painter, Asger Jorn (1914-1973) is best known outside Scandinavia for his participation in the Situationist International from its foundation (1957) to his departure in 1961. This reflects the marginalisation of scandanavian culture within classically derived constructions of European society, a process that was to become a major concern of Jorn in his later years. It is ironic, therefore, that someone who will, perhaps one day be judged as a more crucial social critic than fellow situationist Guy Debord has remained a marginal figure, constrained to a role of artist, with only a fraction of his Danish language theoretical texts available in other languages.

The depoliticisation of Jorn belies his participation in the Danish resistance. He helped produce Helhesten during the war years, and in the post-war years declared "We shan't see Danish art through Parisian eyes any more." The growth of so-called 'critical studies' of the situationists which have emerged over the last ten years has followed precisely the 'classicistic mentality' that Jorn warned against and which in so many ways Debord exemplified. In this essay Jorn takes up a position on political economy and, indeed, art, which makes little sense within a classicistic framework. We may, of course, be criticised for publishing this piece out of the context of his other texts which remain unavailable to an English speaking readership. Our defence is that by publishing an English translation, we hope to undercut the restriction of Jorn to the role of dumb artist whose work can only be understood through a Debordist prism and to expediate the eventual translation and publication of his other writings.

Jorn first attracted international attention with his inauguration of, and participation within, the network of revolutionary European artists called COBRA (1947-1951). This group was concerned to provoke, disorient and renew creative activity, especially within the arenas of painting and architecture. The latter area was central to the concern of another group Jorn played a pivotal role within, the International Movement for an Imagist Bauhaus, which itself merged with the Situationist International (SI) in 1957. Although Jorn bankrolled the SI through the sale of his paintings, his insistence on the value of artistic activity eventually placed him at odds with the movement's unofficial leader, Guy Debord. Nevertheless, between 1957 and his resignation in 1961, Jorn was central to the situationists' attempts to practise and theorise revolutionary creativity. In 1958 he produced the textual drift that is Memoirs with Debord and had his earlier essays published by the SI as Pour la forme: Ebauche d' une methodologie des arts.

Jorn's departure from the Paris based SI saw him becoming increasingly involved with the Second Situationist International based in Sweden. Although both internationals were financially dependent upon him, the Second International, which proved less dogmatic on a number of questions than its rival, provided a more conducive environment for Jorn to continue to develop his ideas on the nature and form of revolutionary creativity. Joni died of cancer in 1973

Value and Jorn: The following essay, which appears here for the first time in English, was originally published in 1960 by the Situationist International (although this version includes a structurally iconoclastic forward penned in the early 1970s) as Critique de la politique economique in a series called "Rapports presente a L'Internationale Situationniste". In it Jorn, as always, displays his profound contempt for existing socialist and capitalist politics and social movements. He characterised both as bureaucratic and authoritarian. By contrast, he sought a communist society that enabled everyday creativity: "The realisation of communism will be the transformation of the work of art into the totality of everyday life." This sentiment may be regarded as a stock cliché of the political and artistic world inhabited by Jorn. However, Jorn wanted to think through its implications for the theoretical conventions of both Marxism and, by extension, his situationist comrades. More specifically, he wanted to rescue the concept of social value, of shared, communal, creative and natural value, as opposed to what he saw as the individualistic, privatised and alienated conception of value found within both capitalism and socialism. The radicality of social value is, for Jorn, found in its excess, in its prodigality. And for Jorn the value of art lies in its ability to release these energies and to provoke and disturb more conservative logics.

Thus the importance of the following essay lies in its attempt to chart a revolutionary trajectory that departs from the orthodoxies of Marxism and thinks through the implications of 'situationism'. Its reading of Marxism is certainly controversial and, at least to my eyes, not always reliable. However, Jorn's central claims — that Marxism obscures the nature and origin of value; that value should not be conflated with exchange value, that the Marxist concept of use value is meaningless; that Marxism participates in the process of devalorisation inaugurated by capitalism; that production of surplus value is inherent to all societies — mark a significant shift towards a less instrumental revolutionary theory.

In The Radical Tradition: A Study in Modern Revolutionary Thought (1978),Richard Gombin accords Jorn's essay the central place in post-Second World War revolutionary critiques of Marxism. It constitutes, he suggests, a key theoretical elaboration of Marxist reification.

Following Jorn, Gombin notes that

Right from the first paragraph [of Capital] Marx confuses two absolutely different notions: that of value and that of object, by identifying the one with the other. The object of utility, for Marx, becomes 'use-value' and the object of exchange (or commodities) 'exchange-value'. By arbitrarily identifying an object with its value, the object thereby metamorphoses into value. By confusing two distinct notions, Marx idealized the object while at the same time supplying the first example of reification of language by reducing an ideal notion, a concept, to the designation of a purely material reality. (p.121)

Gombin goes on to argue that

the identification of value with commodity amounts to identifying value in itself with the form of value. The passage from the one to the other constitutes, as Jorn puts it, the process or substance. For Capital to have had a scientific value, it would have had to have been a critique of the form of value, that is of commodities, and not of abstract value in itself. The critique of form called for a theory of form, and Marx had developed no such theory. Jorn proposes one that apprehends form as form of matter. He shows that matter (in the sense of raw materials) takes the form of its content, but that as soon as it is transformed, substance and form cease to coincide. (p.122)

Jorn's work suggests a shift towards what might be called a more naturalistic approach, one that accords nature both a primordial and a privileged position. Thus Jorn identified devalorisation with a movement away from nature. Through the following essay there exists a barely disguised critique of the Marxist and, I would suggest, the Debordist situationist, inability to conceive of value as anything other than exchange value and the denigration of the revolutionary role of art. This essay is, in summary, a plea for the value of value, an attempt to theoretical ground Jorn's life-long believe in the possibility of a world of 'open creation'.

Further Reading:

ATKINS, G. (1968) Jorn in Scandinavia, 1930-1953 New York, George Wittenbom
ATKINS, G. (1977) Asger Jorn: The Crucial Years, 1954-1964 New York, George Wittenbom
ATKINS, G. (1980) Asger Jorn: The Final Years, 1965-1973 London, Lund Humphries
BIRTWISTLE, G. (1986) Living Art: Asger Jorn's Comprehensive Theory of Art Between Helhesten and Cobra (1946-1949) Utrecht, Reflex
BIRTWISTLE, G. (1996) 'Old Gotland, New Babylon: peoples and places in the work of Jorn and Constant' Transgressions 2/3, pp. 55-67
GOMBIN , R. (1978) The Radical Tradition: A Study in Modern Revolutionary Thought London, Methuen
HANSEN, P. (1988) A Bibliography of Asger Jorn's Writings Silkeborg, Silkeborg Kuntmuseum (1994)
JORN, A. Open Creation and its Enemies, with Originality and Magnitude London, Unpopular Books

Critique of Economic Policy - Asger Jorn


The badly understood form is precisely the most general, and, at a certain level of social development, it lends itself to a general usage.

Marx, Letter to Lassalle

I dedicate this study to Christian Christensen, who had been at the forefront of the workers struggles in my country. He suffered a long imprisonment for the cause, and then had to pass the rest of his life marginalised in a movement which had been partitioned by Stalinist and reformist bureaucrats. In my youth I leamt the libertarian content of social revolution from him. He shall not be forgotten.


The 'Marxism' which is questioned here, is of that dogmatic and restrictive kind - such as pure economism - associated with social democratic and soviet bureaucrats. Global revolutionary thought - particularly that of Marx - has always been freer and richer. It is the task of the workers themselves, as creators, to transform the world.

In 1958, Aksel Larsen, the Secretary-General... of the Danish Communist Party (D.K.P.) left the party, and simultaneously publishing a tract titled Den Levende Vej (The Living Path) in which he accused Moscow of having betrayed socialism. My present study could be considered as a reply to Aksel Larsen. A reply by someone who had been a member of the D.K.P. since 1933. However, its content, which is a critique of a particular theory and practice of Marxism, comes from a viewpoint completely opposed to that of Larsen, and may be briefly summed up thus: 'As you exit stage right, I exit stage left'.

This publication was the second in the series of Reports Presented to the Situationist International. It has been reproduced by the Unitary International on the occasion of Asger Jom's exhibition 'The Luxury of Aesthesia'. Abandoning the search for radicality, he has given himself up to spectacular integration and the commodity.


The 'Marxism' which is put in question here is of that dogmatic and restrictive kind - such as pure art - associated with fashionable idiots and recuperators. Global revolutionary thought particularly that of Marx has always been freer and richer. And it is the task of the workers themselves, as creators, to transform the world.

From December to February 1970, the former Situationist, Asger Jorn, held an exhibition of a series of paintings titled 'The Luxury of Aesthesia' in which he repudiated the situationist claim that art was dead. This present detournement can be considered as a reply to Asger Jom. A reply by someone who for a certain time has followed his own destiny. However, its content, which is a critique of a particular theory and practice of Marxism, comes from a viewpoint completely opposed to that of Larsen, and may be briefly summed up thus: 'As you exit stage right, glance stage left; anaesthesia is watching you'.

Value-in-itself and the Forms of Value

Both socialists and communists have always recognised that the true basis for the verification of socialist and anti-capitalist politics is the analysis and critique of the capitalist form of value, the commodity, the elementary form of wealth in the societies governed by the capitalist mode of production.

This analysis was made by Marx in his critique of political economy, Capital. Marx stated that the capitalist form of wealth is the commodity - a statement that implies that wealth and value are identical. Since wealth exists as the contradiction of poverty, socialism sets out to eliminate the contradiction between rich and poor. But a contradiction can only be resolved with the elimination or neutralisation of its two opposed components. Either wealth is eliminated with poverty or, should wealth continue to exist, there can be no socialism. The idea of socialist wealth isn't even utopian, it's absurd.

To a great extent the veritable crisis of socialism arises from the fact that the Marxist conflation of commodity, wealth and value implies the elimination of value as the aim of socialism. Thus the very concept of value becomes absurd, and socialist politics becomes a politics of permanent devalorisation, heading towards the elimination of all value. There is nothing in Marxist theory which seriously contradicts this goal. Indeed, it appears inevitable if the definition of value imposed by Marx is established as the basis of socialism, justifying all the conclusions for action taken from his analysis.

It is, however, possible to accept Marx's analysis and critique of the commodity, the capitalist form of value, without accepting the identification between this form and value-in-itself. In other words, it is possible to accept the scientific side of Capital without automatically accepting the political conclusions which have been drawn from it. This would imply that Marx's critique is considered as a critique of a form of value rather than of value-in-itself. To reach this new critique, first we must have a new concept of value, one which is better, more universal, more objective than Marx's definition. Then we must have a purer concept of form, and so undertake a critique of 'objective quality', the somewhat magical notion found in the theory of dialectical materialism. These are the aims of this study.

In order to avoid a serious argument on this question, Marx evaded the entire problem by maintaining that value is not a concept but a real fact - the commodity, exchange value. He must have forgotten that he had himself defined value as a supernatural fact, purely social or conventional, and hence nothing but a concept.

But this refusal even to speak of the concept does not avoid the increasing devalorisation which socialism entails. On the contrary, as the goal of socialism is the practical elimination of exchange value, socialism is not simply a movement towards the absence of new theories of value, but towards conditions bereft of the real object of such new theories, a condition without real values.

Marx was the first to see and confirm this development by claiming that Marxism was the last philosophical theory, thus replacing his own economic philosophy with an extreme economy of philosophical effort. His aim was to render all philosophy useless, even Marxism. Thus the progressive devalorisation of everything, even of Marxism, was not an unforeseen development. It is as much the conscious as the unconscious goal of socialism.

Marx's confusion around these terms was greatest when, as it were, he drew back in relation to time. A star observed forty light years away is as old as the distance. Observation based upon time, and that based upon space, are not necessarily complimentary. Marx speaks of "two factors of the commodity: use value (the substance of value) and exchange value or value properly speaking (the magnitude of value)". Marx, therefore, seems to identify value with its magnitude. But he then divides use value into two new factors by saying: "Each useful thing can be considered from a double point of view, that of quality and that of quantity". It is even more astonishing that Marx cannot explain the commodity by these same classical aspects of dialectical materialism. The matter is quite clear: considerations of value cannot be encompassed either within quantitative or qualitative considerations even by the greatest dialectical materialist.

Substance as Process

To understand Marx's concept of substance, we must link it to what Marx called form. When we speak of matter as good materialists, we can broadly agree that matter, considered as substance, is normally seen in its aspect as primary matter or basic matter. However, the form of matter is its aspect as differentiated or determined matter, as object, a body where particulars are united. Thus we can speak of different forms of energy, etc.

But Marx never speaks in this way of the concept of form in relation to the concept of substance. He prefers to use another expression, the concept of content. Thus he speaks of the form content of value. The content is that which is locked up within the form. Marx frequently said that the content of value was work and added that the true form is the form of the content. He said: "We now know the substance of value, it is labour". Thus, according to Marx, substance and content are identical. But he also said that use value is the substance of (exchange) value and, nevertheless, explained that "Labour is therefore not the only source of material wealth, i.e. of the use values it produces. [As William Petty says] labour is the father of material wealth, the earth is its mother". For use value to become exchange value it is, therefore, necessary to eliminate a magnitude, its terrestrial character, or, if you like, to repudiate the mother, the true source of its birth. Thus the passage from use value to exchange value can only be achieved by the devalorisation of an aspect of use value, its material reality.

This is explained even more clearly by looking at the Marxist concepts of form. Whilst announcing that use value is the natural form of commodities, Marx added that it possessed a particular value form which contrasted in a striking way with its various natural forms: i.e. the money form. As much as use value is simultaneously the real form of the commodity and its substance, so use-value is never a natural form in itself. In the case of a table, its natural form is that of a tree. It is clear that, here, Marx does not see it as either a use-value nor an object of use. It is this lack of understanding of the particular character of the contrivance and wealth located in the use object which reduces the range of Marx's study to an historically determined subject.

We can accept that the use object represents the substance or primary matter of commodities, but the use object is more than the substance of the commodity, it is in itself a form of value, devalorised in its conditions as a commodity but whose value is restored when the exchange process is over. Once a use object has been bought by a customer, it becomes a use object once again. This is necessary for every commodity except money.

The producer of use objects makes them for the boss. By making too many for her or his own use, she or he creates surplus-value in terms of useless use objects. It is this use object - if someone else can make use of it and if it is not offered to them as a gift - devalorised for its producer, which becomes a commodity. Thus the producer sells this commodity to get some money, and when they buy another commodity with this money, because of need or desire, the value returns as another commodity, which in turn becomes a use object.

Yet this whole process, even the creation of use objects, is artificial, invented by man. The substance of the use object is found in nature. But nature is no longer substance in itself. It is only substance for the man-made use object. Nature is not simply a means. It is the first condition of production. Nature shows itself as natural forms or qualities. Natural objects must be consumed, destroying their natural form, to produce use objects, and once consumed and exhausted by mankind they return to nature, becoming new natural values, albeit at an inferior level. There is a consumption of nature prior to all production, and a loss of energy at each passage from one form to another. This a primary and universal devalorisation.

Forms only become substance in the process which transforms them into other forms. In reality, the substance of a form is another form, which, in its very character, is located outside the process, and is different from that which in its turn it serves as a substance. The concept of substance thus points to nothing but a process, or the passage between forms. Substance is the process. Substance is the material reality of the transformation, of change.

Marx declared that the exchange of commodities implied the following change of forms:

Commodity - Money - Commodity

C - M - C

But this very exchange necessarily implies other changes of form:

Use Object - Commodity - Use Object

U - C - U

And the use of use objects implies these changes of form:

Natural Form - Use Object - Natural Form

N - U - N

The whole process necessary for the creation of capital is thus a cycle of changes of form which can be written like this:

N - U - C - M - C - U - N

Only through studying this cycle in all its phases can we get a scientific view of production and consumption.

By avoiding delving into a study of the entire process of production and consumption, and limiting his considerations of value strictly to a matter of exchange value, Marx produces an extremely primitive theory. However such considerations are valid where the commodity reigns, in capitalist society.

This effectively shows that use value does not exist, that what is called use value is simply a use object and nothing more. To apply the term 'value' to a use object is thus meaningless. It is prescientific, much like the alchemical use of the term salt which was applied to sugar, as well as salts, because of the external resemblance between sugar and salt.

What we have here is not a scientific argument, but a legalistic outburst. If Marx really believed in what he posited here, he would have changed the expression each time he used 'use value' in his book. But he was wary of doing so, and every subsequent Marxist has continued to swallow his argument. Such discussion is carefully avoided. When Marx says that "use values can only be realised in use or consumption", it wouldn't be very sensible to imagine that he is talking of use objects. A loaf isn't realised by being eaten.

The use value of bread is realised in digestion, its decomposition in the digestive process, that's all. Use value is thus exactly contrary to the use object. It is its negation, that is the dissolution of its reality as an object or form.

Marx insisted: "As use value, commodities are above all different qualities, as exchange value they can only be different quantities". Here we are taken back to the concepts of quantity and quality. We are going to see that it is not use value which is the use object, and if a use object is consumed it cannot be sold. The object must remain intact, and it is thus this intact object which Marx calls quality.

In this way, despite the views of certain pseudo-Marxists, use value is not a quality of an object. Quality is simply the object in itself, its body, its extension and its durability. Basically this is the same thing: its state.

If I buy a pair of shoes, their use or consumption cannot be their quality. The proper quality is their permanence, their constancy as objects, their resistance to destruction. It is clear that these shoes would better preserve their quality if they are never used, if they were shut away in a vault. The merchants treat them in this way, if they want to sell them. The slightest use lowers their price in a way that no Marxist law can explain. However, if I do not use my shoes, they are of no use to me. Value is created in usage but not in wear and consumption. I look for good quality when I shop to avoid wear, which I could not avoid if the shoes must serve me. Thus usage and consumption - or wear - are not identical. Even for the consumption of bread the problem is more complex. I do not eat bread in order to destroy it, but to produce energy in myself. Only that part of the bread which serves this productive purpose has value for me.

The commodity is quality as a use object and quantity as an exchange value. This formula, which is considered as a renewal of scientific concepts by dialectical materialism, would be purely static and useless if it did not deal with the passage of quality into quantity and vice versa. However, this perpetual process does not have a scientific formula, and is only treated by Marxism in a very superficial and non-scientific way.

What Marx claims for exchange value is no more value than use-value is an object this is what eludes the Marxists. The Marxian pseudo-exchange-value is only the neutralisation of two values by equivalence, and this equivalence is expressed in that quality which is called money. Money is no more a value than a pair of shoes. It is a use object. It is a form.

The market value of use objects does not reside in their quality but in their qualitative difference, that is to say their variability. Thus the exchange value of two commodities is not their equivalence but their difference in price, a difference uniquely quantitative. If everything had the same price, pricing would not exist. The exchange value is the change of price, or its variability. The day all prices are fixed, the market no longer has value and commodities no longer exist.

It is thus logical to suggest that value and process are the same thing, that what Marx called the substance of value is value in itself and not the magnitude of value, as is assured by the fact that magnitude is nothing but the quantity of a quality. However, value is a quantity of changing qualities in process.

Variability and Stability

What are the consequences of this new definition of latent value? All objects are things, if man is capable of making them so. Thus value does not exist as objects. Values cannot be possessed, but objects with a latent value can be possessed. All objects can have value as long as man is capable of extracting it. In another way, everything is value as everything is process. All matter is perpetually flowing in and out of being. Value is thus an objective quality of matter, its dynamism. The value of a form, or a quality, depends thus on the ease with which it can be dissolved and its latent energies liberated. The ease of changing from one quality to another is its value. The socialist attack on private property arises from the desire to break a system which blocks values and renders them private, in other words deprives society of their use.

There is no such thing as fixed value. If value were fixed that would be effectively to say it was no longer a value but a quality. From this easily proved scientific fact, Marx showed how capital transformed variable capital into constant capital, from value into quality, to establish the inescapable necessity of transforming capitalist society into socialist society. Value, as a process can only be progressive or regressive. Hence value cannot exist without surplus value or the liberation of value, or even devalorisation or loss of value. The fixation of value in an object as identical reproduction is its neutralisation, is transformation as quality - or its reification.

For example, Marx remarked that constant capital was the productive apparatus. This apparatus is in itself incapable of any process, of creating wealth or surplus value. It can only repeat the same production at the same rhythm. The more industrial production develops its technical abilities, the less it injects value into the commodity.

We might say that Marx proved that machines did not create value (above all surplus-value). Surplus-value is created by variable capital, by human intervention.

It is this fact which led Marx to believe that the workers created surplus-value. Whence comes this surplus-value which Marx showed to be exploited in the worker? Where is the variable which allows this increase in profit?

It cannot reside in the exploitation of the professional ability and the individual gifts of the worker. This takes no account of industrial production. Workers are not exploited through the quality of their work, but simply through the quantity.

Labour is measured in labour-hours. It is in the exploitation of man that profit and wealth are created. The content of value is work and its measure is an hour of human labour according to both capitalist and socialist theories.

In Marx's day it was possible to imagine that profit increased because the workers worked more and more. But after the workers reduced their hours of work, there was still no decline in profits. What is the Marxist explanation of this point? It is simple.

A person has a right to that which they produce. But the worker produces more than they need to maintain their life, and with technical development less and less time is used to produce what is sufficient for their own needs. As their work time is no way shortened, they are more and more exploited.

Thus it is the development of machinery which provokes this increasing exploitation of the workers labour, accelerating production. But where does this variability come form? Not from the workers with the constancy of habit. Nor from the machines, which work with the constancy of a clock. Nor from the capitalist who always lets the production process proceeded at the greatest possible speed. These changes are caused by the inventors of quicker, new machines. It is their idea which is exploited and which creates surplus-value: a new invention has lost its value, or its capacity to create surplus-value from the moment when it has become the industry standard.

What can be proved is that it is not labour which creates profit, or surplus-value, but variability. This is a little known truth. The alteration, the change of price creates profit, not its magnitude.

Labour and Value

In capitalist as much as socialist industry, work is a process without any human quality. It is a quantitative and mechanical process which is performed less and less by human beings as they are replaced by machines. In this way the mechanical concept of work is perfectly applicable to industrial labour.

The mechanical concept of labour is that labour is the product of tension and quantity. To treat labour as Quantity, the intensity must be constant. For the measure of labour to be an hour of labour, all the workers must work at the same tension, use the same energy. But an hour of human work as the basis of value leads to the elimination of intensity as a variable in human labour. This elimination is made by means of machinery which control the general rhythm of production, and constitutes the constant which eliminates surplus-value. Thus machinery represent inertia and resistance to change in production. But as the transfer of energy can only be achieved by a fall of tension, by a change of tension, and as this transfer which gives energy its value, industrial labour cannot create value: it is without value, thanks to the constancy of its tension. If one hour of human labour is identical to another hour of human labour, human labour is without value. This is the weakness of the Marxist labour theory of value, because as industrial work is without value, the worker who does it does not represent a human value superior to other classes on account of their work. If the worker possesses such value, it is for other reasons.

If there is any truth in the Marxist labour theory of value, it is not in labour, but in labour time or, in other words, time. Value must be time not work. For the human being, time is nothing but a succession of phenomena from a spatially determined place, since space is the order of coexistence of phenomena in time or process.

Time, which is change that is only conceivable under the form of progression within space, as much as space is stability which can only be conceived with the participation of movement. Neither space nor time possess a reality or value outside change, or process, that is to say outside the active combination of space-time. The action of space-time is process and this process is itself the change of space into time and of time into space.

We thus see the increase of quality, or resistance to change, is thanks to the increase in quantity. They work in unison. This is the development which is the aim of socialist progress: the increase of quality through the increase in quantity. And this double increase must be identical to the diminution of value, of space-time. This is reification.

But value is the world, reality, the space-time relationship, the instant. This disappearance of reality is what has been called reification since the days of Hegel. This reification is the black sheep of socialism because people are made to believe that socialism is capable of gobbling up value at the same time as preserving it - which is unfortunately the equivalent of trying to achieve what is called the impossible. This viewpoint only leads to another way of saying what we have already pointed out, that the change of time into space is the change of quality into quantity, and the change of space into time is the change of quantity into quality.

Rigidity, inertia, constancy or material quality arise from the speed of movement, which within an object is tension, but which, once freed, is transformed into speed. Speed is itself an inertia, a quality, and value is only found in the change of speed, in acceleration. Yet as the acceleration diminishes the possibility of change, the liberation of value is at the same time a devalorisation. This cannot be repeated, the process is irreversible, it's progress.

The magnitude which determines value is space-time, the instant or the event. The space-time which is reserved for the existence of the human species on the earth manifests its value as events. No events, no history. The space-time of a human life is their private property. This was Marx's great discovery from the viewpoint of human liberation, but at the same time the kick off point of the errors of the Marxists, because a property only becomes value by being realised, being freed, being used and what gives the space-time of a human life its reality is its variability. And what gives the individual a social value is their variability of behaviour in relation to other people. If this variability becomes individualised, excluded from social valorisation, as is the case in authoritarian socialism, the space-time of the individual becomes unrealisable. Hence the individualised character of human qualities ('hobbies') has become an even greater devalorisation of human life than the private ownership of the means of production, as, under the socialist scheme, waste doesn't exist. Instead of abolishing the private nature of property, socialism has done nothing but increase it to the extreme, making mankind itself useless and socially non-existent.

The aim of artistic development is the liberation of human values, through the transformation of human qualities into real values. And it is here that the artistic revolution opens up against socialist development, the artistic revolution which is linked to the communist project.

Prodigality and Economy

Marxism is the first philosophy which shows economic problems as essential, conditioning human behaviour. There's a good reason for this. Since industrialisation the economy plays an ever greater role in human affairs. But what is the cause ofthis increasingly important new phenomena?

The origins of economic reflection may be seen in the management of household expenses. It is only later that the meaning of the term is changed and indicates savings obtained from these expenses. The economic problem of income was not studied. It was called wealth, and once the relationship between income, savings and expenses was established a science called political economy came into being, dealing with the production, distribution and consumption of wealth.

But it's not wealth, the phenomenon with which we have started our analysis, which turns out to be a necessity, but abundance, surplus, surplus-value or variety.

If this wealth was spent in a natural way: squandered, blown, wasted, in a profuse way, there would never be economic problems. These only arise when wealth is stockpiled, amassed or saved up, taking the form of a reserve - of an accumulation of wealth, for which economies are made. This is simply a question of consumption or non-consumption (saving). This is the economic question which takes first place in people's preoccupations.

By suggesting that the accumulation of savings has been the source of all human misery since antiquity, and that a balance between production and consumption would be the formula for happiness, Marx focused economic interest around income and productive resources.

In this way he created a perfectly balanced economy, and a new economic science which no longer revolved around wealth, but only the harmony of different parts of the whole, of unity or quality. Human and social economy were identified with ecology, biological economy. The biological or socialist economy of harmonious equilibrium thus replaced political economy which ignored the sources of wealth.

To understand this development, politics must be traced objectively from its origins in the Greek cities. Here politics was the name given to the actions of a community founded in complete ignorance of economic thought. It was a prodigal community whose actions were those of a social unit, anti-economic and variable in the behaviour of that unit. Politics was, therefore, the general way to introduce new and unforeseen elements into the behaviour of the entire group.

Capital, The Critique of Political Economy, did not really criticise the economy, but the fact that economics had been transformed into politics. Marx proposed how to remedy the consequences of politics (uncertainty, instability, social and productive insecurity) with a socialist politics or a truly economic politics, or more precisely an economic system which would necessarily finally eliminate all possibility of making politics.

Seeing that the State is used as an instrument to make politics, the movement of socialist thought pushes for dissolving the state by eliminating the class which dominates politics.

The political goal of Marxism is to replace the state with an automatic and inoffensive administration of all matters pertaining to the common interest. And this administration, in the socialist language, will be managed by an apparatus through which everyone makes decisions. Robot-statisticians, guided by public opinion surveys, will calculate according to the desire or non-desire of the greatest number, and so ensure a perfect and effective dictatorship of the majority in future society, without any possibility of trickery, that is to say politicking, the domination of man by man.

But the fact that this technical administration, which is being formed across the whole world, eliminates all possibility of political manoeuvres, does not eliminate the state. On the contrary it becomes the state. It's just that the state is not a political instrument. On the contrary, it is an instrument to avoid or lessen the damage of politics. The state is made to establish stability for the ruling class, and this stability is precisely economic stability. The statesperson does not take the form of an emperor, a king, a noble or a capitalist. They bear the lineaments of a 'majordomo' of the economy, the bureaucrat, the ideal model of the robot-statistician.

The pure state is what we have already described as quality, unity or the perfect form, form without value, an unchanging constant. This socialist goal is in striking contradiction to the progressive politics of the working class.

Interest is Value

We must now consider the economy as the neutralisation of the variable, which oscillates between poverty and wealth. The economy is the constant (or quality) which connects consumption and production.

To the extent that the social economy finds its equilibrium and its autonomy, it replaces politics which looses importance. Politics is concerned with the importance of social relations, economics with necessary relations.

Something which Marxists willingly ignore is that everything which becomes necessary loses importance and is no longer interesting as it is no longer a problem. It is no longer important, it's indispensable. It no longer has to be considered. The absence of importance or interest attached to a thing is evidence that it is necessary. Yet it is the useless which catches our attention, nothing else.

'Interest' is that which exists between two things (having in itself the character of quality and quantity), it is the process of value. Marxism's point of departure, as we have said, is how it treats value or interest. And Marxism's weakness is in not having conceived of interest from a scientific point of view. Marxists have however conceived of scientific development as a reflection of interest. But this is due to their failure to distinguish between science and technology.

Our definition lets us clear up the matter of interest which has been deliberately obscured by all politicians. Bourgeois idealism survived in Marxism with the conviction that what is not conceived of by man does not exist. Only its appearance as an object of consciousness confirms the existence of a phenomenon. But only those phenomena which interest people as sensory phenomena can provoke their attention and penetrate their consciousness. In this way it is imagined that ignorance of events is equivalent to their disappearance.

What actually happens is reification. The reification of events is their extension of human attention, the decrease of their interest in relation to mankind. But the process in itself remains unaltered.

Scientific Idealism

Rational determinism is the principle according to which everything is known or knowable. This automatically implies that all production is only reproduction, that what exists is also the future and vice-versa. In our terms this signifies that quality and value are identical.

The identity between what exists and the future is the identity between immobility and progress, between the reversible and the irreversible, which is objectively justified by the fact that inertia is identical to regular movement.

But since it cannot be denied that consciousness can only react to unknown stimuli, and, hence, that consciousness is conditioned by the variability of these conscious reactions, which depend on the diversity of unknown stimuli to which consciousness responds, intelligence as a process is in contradiction with the rational form.

Rationalisation kills awareness, which is the very method of reasoning. Rationalism, as a goal or quality, kills the rational method. Thus rationalism is set up as an ideal absolute, with the obligation to go through the concepts of scientific idealism, by eliminating the creation of ideas (artistic and fantastic action).

The economisation of consciousness is achieved by the systematic control of educational methods. Here, unknown factors are carefully measured out to occupy the whole attention of the subject who is being educated. The educator who controls the dosage, knows these phenomena in advance, and uses them to obtain the desired normal results. This process of manipulating consciousness becomes a social duty, establishing very complex types of comprehension and norms of behaviour which correspond to each individual's capacities for absorption: a weight of inert ideas which excludes any variation in consciousness beyond the established system. The only way to protect one's lucidity in relation to this transformation of an individual into an instrument, is to play the imbecile and avoid being detected. This is getting more and more difficult.

Surplus-Value as Part of the Biological System

We could reach the conclusion that no interest is any more scientifically or objectively justifiable than any other. A process is only valuable in relation to the interests which provoke it. To give importance to one process by suppressing another is only justifiable in relation to an interest for which the process creates a value, creates progress.

The creation of value is always made through the devalorisation of another. It is possible to use a value without, however, creating another from it. It is possible to combine waste with valorisation: this is the experimental system.

The devalorisation of a value can be complete (destruction of the source); or the devalorisation can be economic: its reduction to a unit of necessary expense for a precise and unique effect. The reduction of a process to its economic condition is reification. It is the reduction of value to a functional instrumentation. The valorific development as negated in a stable quality.

Economisation can be justified on the basis of laziness, following the law of minimum effort. Or it could be justified by the need to be able to expend liberated energy in order to intervene in new areas. In the latter case, there is surplus-value. Surplus-value is thus indispensable to all progress.

Surplus-value is not, as the Marxists would have it, a purely capitalist phenomenon. It exists under various forms at all biological and social levels. The elimination of capitalism is not the elimination of surplus-value except in a very specific area.

The economy, although encompassing all the problems of the relationship between income and expense, is not a system which is specifically concerned with capitalism, but with society in general. It is a particular process present throughout biology. Human economy, both socialist and capitalist, cannot be distinguished in its general spirit from the economic principles of all the other biological systems.

The Work of Art as a Source of Counter-Value

There are inorganic sources of energy which form the basis of industry. They are definitively exhausted through their use. Their form is the form of content, or substance, and they are destroyed with that substance.

There are other natural resources which are renewable because they are part of a perpetual return. Such a cycle can be that of nature itself (the sun, rain, wind etc.) and could also be the return of value in human labour, such as agriculture. Here the form seems to anticipate the substance, and also to survive it. And only the invention of forms which are distinguished from that of substance, which are opposed to them have been found usable in such forms. Industry is the exploitation of inorganic matter, but agriculture is the exploitation of nature or biological life.

But if there is a form which yields its content without ever emptying it (by refilling itself on its own), it is art, spiritual creation, which preserves its qualities at the same time it spreads its values. The secret of this property, that some people attribute to supernatural or metaphysical factors, and of which others deny the existence, lies not in some force liberated in the work of art, but in a force which exists within the person who perceives it, if they are capable of so perceiving. Value does not emerge from the work of art, but is liberated from within the spectator. This is the simple and material explanation of the value of artistic works; and all other so-called spiritual values.

The value of art is thus a counter-value in relation to practical values and is measured in an inverse way to them. Art is the invitation to spend energy without any precise goal outside that which the spectators themselves bring to it. It is prodigality. All those who are averse to or incapable of such an effort, detest art. In this way artistic value is at the same time an unreasonable value and the very manifestation of the liberty of the individual. This isn't to say that each spectator can make of the work of art what they will, but that they control how the new energies liberated within themselves are disposed. No-one else controls them. And if someone has no energies to liberate in this field, then they see nothing. This is why art is socially disruptive and politically so important as an object in itself. Although the work of art is nothing but a confirmation, it is still the source of politics and inspiration.

It has been imagined that the value of art lies in its duration, its quality. And it has been believed that gold and precious stones constituted artistic values, that artistic value was an inherent quality in mankind as an essential source of value.

Progress and Gravity

Actually there are many discussions for and against progressive ideas in the cultural domain. Before taking sides as regards its truth or justice, let us peep at the modem content of this concept of progress. The idea of progress is linked to that of ascending a flight of stairs, of moving from a lower level to a higher one.

It is impossible to join in the idealist enthusiasm of certain 'progressives' by identifying this movement as a stable movement, which would be identical to inertia. To speak of progress we must unfortunately speak of non-uniform movements, and more precisely movements which are accelerating. Firstly let's agree with Einstein when he says progress is neither absolute, necessary nor ideal. And let's add that the effect of accelerating movements in outer space, beyond the gravitational field, would give exactly the same effects as gravitation does upon the surface of the earth. It certainly makes you think.

Without acceleration no conscious behaviour is possible, and progress through acceleration harmonises our universal relation without primary conditions. The consequences of this discovery are too broad to be properly examined here. but this shows that even if the ethical-idealist notion of progress is condemned to be put aside, there is still an important question around progress. And it's certain that the discussions upon this subject will in the future take their point of departure in new considerations of movement and gravity, and the problem of the creation of fields of gravity.

This said, we shall pass on to a related problem, that of complementarity. The discovery of quanta or Planck's constant - which we consider to be a terminologically precise quality of extreme importance - has led Niels Bohr to his theory of complimentarity. This appeared to be impossible to reconcile with dialectical materialism, an impossibility that has uncovered a realm of erroneous by-products within dialectical materialism, and was of no consequence to Niels Bohr's central argument.

It seems possible to explain the paradox of complimentary situations as follows. You have a case which you want to put upon a beam. You can never reach the beam without standing on the case. In this way you can never deal with the case and the beam together. But such acts do not merely constitute mutually exclusive situations -they are complimentary. Let's take another example: if I observe a star whether I consider my vision in terms of time and space depends on which factor I choose as instrument and which as object. Bohr did not discover that the instrument is neither subject nor object, but that it was the neutralisation between one and the other.

There is an asymmetry between time and space, and only a new scientific study which deduces the exact relations between symmetry and asymmetry will be capable of giving us a satisfactory view of the relations between quality, quantity and value. But, however that turns out, the concept of dialectic contradiction will envelop and dominate the concept of complimentarity.

The Commodity as the Object of Socialised Use

It would be appropriate to remark in this study, that socialism has never attacked wealth as the debauched consumption of the capitalist class. In this, it shows nothing of the indignation of the bourgeois revolution against the nobility.

This shows why socialist revolution has been preceded by the so-called bourgeois revolution, i.e. the installation of capitalism. There are political reasons for keeping quiet about the question of wealth: the revolution is not made in order to become poor. But the principle reason for this quietness is that the capitalist revolution has essentially been the socialisation of consumption. Capitalist industrialisation takes humanity to a level of socialisation more profound than that proposed by the socialists - that of the means of production. Socialist revolution is the accomplishment of the capitalist revolution. The unique element which arises in the capitalist system is savings, because the wealth of consumption has already been eliminated by the capitalists themselves. It is very rare to find a capitalist today whose consumption goes beyond the meanest necessities. The difference in life-style between a grand seigneur of the seventeenth century and a great capitalist in the age of Rockerfeller is grotesque, and is always increasing.

Wealth in the variability of consumption has been economised by capitalism, because the commodity is nothing more than a socialised use object. This is why socialists avoid dealing with the use object.

The socialisation of the use object which allows it to be considered as a commodity, has three principle aspects:

a) Only a use object which is desired by enough people maintains a common interest and can serve as a commodity. The ideal commodity is the object desired by everyone. So-called 'formalism', as the idea of individual and artisanal production must be destroyed if the capitalist is to push industrial production towards such socialisation.

b) In order to speak of a commodity, it is necessary to have a quantity of objects which are exactly alike. Industry concentrates on producing a series of objects, in greater and greater quantities.

c) Capitalist production is characterised by propaganda for popular consumption which attains incredible volume and power. Propaganda for socialist production is only the logical consequence of advertising for a socialised economy.

Money is the completely socialised commodity, indicating the extent of common value to everyone. In this way money is only able to measure social values. Value under its individual aspect cannot be measured by money: and the value of money -since we've come off the gold standard - purely resides in social convention, and has become this convention itself. This is the use of money in a socialised society.

But what is this social convention which money measures? It's not work, and it's no longer the usefulness of objects. Everything points to money as the measure of time in social space.

The Anglo-Saxons say that time is money. But only time which has been inscribed within a social ambience can be measured by money. Outside such time, money has absolutely no value. Money is the means of imposing the same speed on a given space, i.e. that of society. From the moment when society has spread right across the planet, there is no longer any possibility of distinguishing between time and space, and history is no longer possible.

The invention of money is the basis for 'scientific' socialism, and the supercession of money will be the basis of the supercession of socialism. Money is the work of art transformed into a cypher. The realisation of communism will be the transformation of the work of art into the totality of daily life.

The Principle of the Receptacle

We have seen that socialism extracts the system of consumption and production from capitalism by eliminating waste. This is more a propagandist pose than something achieved in reality, because socialisation is really a system based on absolute waste.

Let us now turn to the use object. We have suggested that at the moment the use object becomes a commodity, it immediately becomes useless, as the causal link between consumption and production is broken. A use object can only become a commodity when it is hoarded and put in a warehouse, and even then only when it joins a quantity of use objects in the warehouse. This system of warehousing is not eliminated by socialism, on the contrary: the socialist system is founded on organising all production through warehouses before being distributed, thus ensuring perfect control of its distribution.

Hitherto accumulation - the warehouse or hoard - has not been studied in its proper form which is that of the receptacle. The warehouse works as a function of the relation between the receptacle and its contents. We have already pointed out that substance, often given the name of content, is nothing but process. Under the form of content it signifies a latent force, the matter in the warehouse. But we have always considered it separately from its own stable form. The form of the receptacle is a form contrary to the form of its content: its function is to hinder the content entering into the process, except under controlled and limited conditions. The receptacle-form is therefore something quite different from the form matter in itself, where there is nothing but the form of content: here one of the terms is found placed in absolute contradiction to the other. It is only in the biological domain that the receptacle becomes an elementary function. The entire biological life has evolved by opposing the receptacle forms to the forms of matter. And technical development proceeds in a similar way; and all the systems of measurement and scientific control are interrelationships between objective forms with their receptacle forms.

The receptacle forms have been established as contradiction of the measured forms. The receptacle form normally conceals the form of the content, and hence possesses a third form: that of appearance. These three forms are never clearly distinguished in discussions of form. All three are real forms producing an integrating part of our perception of matter and establishing a level of contradiction which allows us to distinguish between the world of inorganic matter, that of biological nature, and finally the world of our sensations. But to these forms, which are described as real, are added the imaginary forms established by thought - the symbolic forms.

Scientific and philosophical systems are distinct from those which follow the fashion of confounding forms which have nothing to do with each other as forms, if this word is understood in a clear way without internal contradiction.

Just as the form can be said to be unity, and the quantity equalised, and that there is a complete contradiction between these two aspects of matter, the receptacle is equally the apparatus which allows - at least in appearance - the elimination of the contradictions between unity and equality by the unity of the form (of the receptacle) and by the equalisation of the content, and the neutralisation of the forms of contents through their number; these contradictions are neutralised through the increase according to the laws of probability. This is the principle of the warehouse, of the container, that of hoarding just as that of insurance or even that of jars of jam. To approach more and more equalised unities, it is sufficient to develop a unified receptacle, increasing the receptacle so that the form of the receptacle can change independently of the content, because the form of a receptacle has nothing to do with its content. This is the principle of both capitalist and socialist development, and all their theories on the relation between form and content are only a matter of putting things in boxes.

The New Spirit

In order to seize power, the socialists have elaborated their political programmes. They have thus been led to accept the political concept of the state, which is absolutely in opposition to Marx's viewpoint, which was founded on the rapid withering away of the state. By using the state they do the opposite of what they claim to be doing.

We must once again study the First International to discover the possible richness of a future workers movement, alongside the study of certain utopian currents such as Fourrierism and re-examining the attempts of Ruskin and Kristen Kold from this perspective. In the International Workers' Association, the differences around the state and authority quickly developed into absolute oppositions. The division of the workers movement has continued without a break since then, neither with the Second International, which was truly socialist, in the way in which we have been using the term, nor with the Third International which tried to be 'communist' without being able to separate itself from socialist goals. Plenty of contradictions have been put off to a vague future, by blandly saying that the socialist society will be transformed into a communist society. But this passage was foreseen without taking account of the fact that it is a qualitative leap, which when it takes place will reveal that communism is antithesis of socialism, according to the laws of the dialectic.

The big names of Russian history never pretended that such a change would appear as something linear, evolutionary and idyllic, as is done by their promoters. Now that the forms of socialisation which have developed in the east as well as the west have disabused the revolutionaries, it is time to take up the communist project full on, negating this socialisation, with a single supercession of these alienations.

The realisation of counter-revolutionary socialisation appears across rival sectors of the world through bureacratism, whether it takes the form of capitalism, reformism or in the so-called communist powers. The bureaucracy is the receptacle-form of society: it blocks process, the revolution. In the name of controlling the economy, the bureaucracy economises without control (for its own ends, in order to conserve existing conditions). It sequesters all power except the power to change things. And every change starts of by opposing itself to this bureaucracy. At the present moment the construction of sputniks is in itself contrary to the avenue that leads to the production of nuclear bombs. But their social justification remains the same.

Real communism will be a leap into the domain of liberty, of values, of communication. Artistic value, contrary to utilitarian value (ordinarily called material value) is the progressive value because it is the valorisation of mankind itself, through a process of provocation.

Since Marx's day, political economy has shown its weaknesses and its set backs. A hyper-politics must tend towards the direct realisation of human nature. The goal of economy would then be the realisation of art. It is a matter of recognising these goals passionately enough for the masses, in deciding to strive for these goals, in taking matters sufficiently in hand. It is necessary to search for new artistic goals, giving life itself a new interest; opening humanity to the joy of even better situations. The need and absence of such perspectives has constituted the back drop of the general mediocrity which has plagued our times. Hitherto there have never been any ideas which have commanded the revolutionary power of Marxism; nor which have lost their spirit so quickly.

The Final Struggle

The dogmatic theoreticians of Marxism are clearly capable of rejecting this whole argument, and to classify it as a formal abstraction. They maintain that a theory only has a real meaning from the moment that the interest it reflects has been found; and so far they have been able to convince themselves with more and more stupid arguments, where logic is replaced by violence of expression, where everything which does not reflect the interests of the proletariat shores up capitalism. Now it is a matter of knowing if they will be able to encompass our reflections in the same category, and if they still believe that they represent the interest of the proletariat.

To understand the original excuse for this Marxist attitude, it is first of all necessary to remember that scientific socialism was not born as a scientific theory but as a defence speech during a trial, as a legal argument where the scientific facts were presented as proofs of the crimes of the capitalist class, in favour of the class without possessions. The lawyer was Karl Marx; and he pleaded the complete innocence of his client, and accused its adversary of theft and rape. The subject of debate was the right to the industrial means of production, which the two adversaries had agreed to consider as a single means of socially justifiable production.

The act of accusation documented against the capitalist class is presented by Marx in Capital. It is overwhelming. The signs and testimonies are irrefutable, and have remained so for more than a hundred years. The defenders of capitalism have found nothing to counter attack it with, apart from sordid excuses. The tool that Marx used has itself been highlighted by the capitalists: scientific exactitude (justesse).

Marx won the trial with arguments analogous to those which, in Shakespeare's play, triumphed over Shylock: the relationship between exactitude - justesse - and justice, the identity between truth and quantity. But the acquittal of the debtor was not an act of justice, it was that of theatre, born from the skill of the lawyer which permitted the judge to allow an injustice through charity without breaking the law.

So it is this engagement in the ethical and human struggle which gives Marx's work a literary and dramatic quality which places it amongst the master-pieces of human literature, which has given it the quality of a work of art. The consciousness of justice is never re-established without Marx proving that the dominant class is the real criminal; that the official organs of justice, of honour and altruism only exist to justify and protect this criminal; and the innocent, the prince of the future, the human being of tomorrow is the poor tramp, brutalised and dressed in rags, without subsistence, without any possessions: the proletariat. The trial is won, even if all its consequences have not been carried out.

The problem with the Marxist conception which has led to this victory, is this tendency to only see those truths which play a role in the social process as being of importance. However, even a truth without any immediate importance in the social process might later become important, and even a matter which attracts scant public interest may subsequently become of the greatest public interest. This is the case with everything which is completely new. Socialism palms this away on the pretext that there is nothing radically new, that all production is reproduction. Here socialism reveals not only its injustice but also its powerlessness, being as incapable of understanding the new as it is of liberating the masses in the effort for this new authenticity.

The economic theory of Marxism is based on the right of the individual to their own production, and socialist theory is based on the community of consumer needs. That is to say that the elements of everybody's consumer requirements can be produced by everybody in less time thanks to the use of machinery, and then distributed to everyone according to their needs. This implies that everyone is obliged to participate in this necessary production, whose time, already diminished by industrialisation is further reduced by automation.

Thus each individual has at their disposal a continually increasing amount of free time and energy. But socialism has never asked how the individual will be able to freely dispose of this individual energy (it has pushed this problem away into a communist stage conceived as a vague static paradise at the end of history). But on the contrary, in the immediate reality, socialism imposes false necessities and a host of necessities in the productive sector, as much as in that of consumption. Ibis is the point of departure for the new revolt for the liberation of humankind. This superior programme will criticise all ideas about conventional requirements and social pretence, to benefit an open engagement with social games in the creative realm. In the future we shall probably see such games finding their worst enemies in the professional organisations. Up to the point when the specialised professions have clearly entered their process of dissolution, they will prohibit participation on the grounds of the requirements of production and consumption which go irrefutably beyond material and biological necessities; they will gladly ban creative techniques which use industrial means to achieve playful ends.

The working class was, in its purely proletarian epoch, the extreme expression of this aspiration towards human liberation. Today it has become ever more settled in the opposite attitude. The dialectic of this change is very simple, and ignorance of this is socialism's elementary error. The industrial proletariat has held a unique role as the source of inspiration during the last century. It was the dominant force, not thanks to its quantity or through its unity, but thanks to its unique availability to represent the most pure human value, because it was without reserves, without possessions nor responsibilities - save amongst itself.

This availability has given the working class a human surplus-value, in striking contrast with the bourgeoisie preoccupied with their little businesses. It was a class free to reject everything and undertake anything.

What will it undertake? Here the socialist theory promotes the right of the proletariat to the possession of the means of production. With the establishment of the socialist ideology within a fixed geographical system, this value is transformed into a quality, and that quality in turn into a spatial quantity. The vision of the world proletariat passes over into its opposite, that of absolute property with the absolute disappearance of all availability, of all the proletarian values. Behind the screen of this new alienation, the exploitation of the workers continues, the nonsense of social life continues.

In actual fact, the socialist movement embroils mankind in increasingly stupid and futile work, consumerism and social obligations. Is this development avoidable? Must we proclaim: Intellectuals of all countries, kill yourselves! This is the final struggle! Follow the glorious examples of Mayakovsky and Jack London. You have nothing to lose but your chains and nothing to gain. Suicide is no longer one option amongst others, is it the only way to manifest human liberty? Must we go along with Mayakovsky when he responded to Essenine's suicide with the words "But to construct a life is very difficult"? It really is difficult, but we expect nothing less.

When today a human life no longer wants to maintain itself as a human life, only by risking our lives can we assure their value; and the value of life is the only real value for mankind. It is its liberty, which shows itself as risks and in the goals of this very risk. Youth begins to understand that risk is the most precious of all the goals social life has to offer; and society is ready to enrole individuals in a thousand goals without risk - at the same time as making nuclear bombs! In the East as in the West, the increase of the level of life and of time reveals their appalling emptiness; this emptiness is the place where total liberty, which is now possible, will henceforth excel above all contingencies.

The social provocations of youth are the beginning of a revolt which will, from the start, have every chance of being lost, that is to say being criminalised. Which is better than nothing. And we will follow suit, if once again the human will is not capable of overcoming predetermined conditions.


1. Extracts from Capital

(All references to the Penguin edition 1976)

Whatever the social form of the production process, it has to be continuous, it must periodically repeat the same phases. A society can no more cease to produce than it can cease to consume. When viewed, therefore, as a connected whole, and in the constant flux of incessant renewal, every social process of production is at the same time a process of reproduction. The conditions of production are at the same time the conditions of reproduction.
Vol. I, Chapter 23, p711

When at the beginning of this chapter, we said in the customary manner that a commodity is both a use-value and an exchange-value, this was, strictly speaking, wrong. A commodity is a use-value object of utility, and a 'value'. It appears as the twofold thing it really is as soon as its value possesses its own particular form of manifestation, which is distinct from its natural form.
Vol. I, Chapter 1, p152

When examining use-values, we always assume we are dealing with definite quantities, such as a dozen watches, yards of linen or tons of iron.
Vol. I, Chapter 1, p126

In the expression of the weight of the sugar loaf, the iron represents a natural property common to both bodies, their weight; but the expression of value of the linen coat represents a super-natural property: their value which is something purely social.
Vol. I, Chapter 1, p149

That part of capital, therefore, which is turned into means of production, i.e. the raw material, the auxiliary material and the instruments of labour, does not undergo any quantitative alteration of value in the process of production. For this reason I call it the constant part of capital, or more briefly, constant capital.
Vol. I, Chapter 8, p317

2. Extracts from French Letters, cultural weekly of the French Communist Party (directed by Aragon).

The following can be read in issue 813 under the title 'Enough of the Damned ('Assez de maudits')

Femand Léger used to enjoy saying 'If all the idiots flowered, that would make a beautiful bouquet' ... But we have seen enough of Utrillo beside his empties, Rodin courting his floozies in the park, Rousseau's naivete to the point of stupidity, Gaughin getting to grips with the cops, Cézanne injured by the press. Shall we discuss their work a bit?

A word about this adjective 'damned'. Where is the denunciation of Cézanne for his 25,000 franc dowry, or Utrillo (or is it all drunkards who are now crazy!), or Rodin (or would it also cover all the old men who have let themselves be rolled by alluring women). How was Rousseau more damned than in all his retreats from the administration? How much would the denunciation of Gaughin effect all those who have been placed in such far away spots that they cannot make their work known? If Rodin is a damned sculptor, I would like to be shown an artist who isn't.

The bouquet has been made and the idiocy distilled, when the words of Femand Léger are cited, as this man was socially damned all his fife, for his defence of the good conscience of society towards artists, a good conscience which was justified by the most capitalist argument and the meanest petty-bourgeois spirit. He had money, but if the others didn't, this, apparently, was their own fault thanks to certain individual flaws: drunkenness, erotic excess, a hatred of police and contempt for fashionable locations where waves could be made. Could the socialist spirit fall so low? Lower than Aragon?

"Shall we discuss their work a bit?" Rodin, Gauguin and Léger were artists who had a social and universal conscience. Their works could only be fragments of social edifices which were never built. Rodin never had the chance to realise the work for which his sculptures were merely elements. Why? Because society hated him, his work was effectively damned. He had to put his exhibit outside the Exhibition of 1900, just as Le Corbusier was authorised to have a tent in the annex at the Exhibition of 1937. Uger never had a chance to realise an artistic work together with his friend Le Corbusier. However, they did gain recompense and social recognition in their old age. If Gauguin had lived a bit longer, even he might have got a chance to decorate a church.

So this is what is considered as the realisation of all their dreams. At least those of Aragon. But the working class, which is to say the people who make virtually everything - who would have been able to prevent them from collaborating with these artists, at their leisure and for their own satisfaction, to erect unheard of buildings according to their own requirements? Yes, but what held them back from this? Union action? Big business? Their own lack of broadmindedness? Stupidity? Which? Or the treachery of Aragon and all his friends?

Jorn text tidied up from


Review: October 79 - Situationist issue

A very critical review of this MIT Press journal's "Situationist issue" edited by Thomas F. McDonough, by Fabian Tompsett for Transgressions.

Submitted by Fozzie on March 31, 2024

Many readers will no doubt subject this risible anthology of 'criticism'1 to sardonic and even unkind ridicule. But when such a prestigeious organ publishes such complete crap, I feel that we can draw solace from the fact that if this is the best that academica can come up with, the communist movement remains well ahead on a theoretical level. Not that this is any cause for complacency. As William Blake remarked, a man who habitually spends his time in the company of an ape may come to regard himself as highly intelligent, but when once again emersed in the human community, such conceit will readily be seen for the emptiness it is. It matters little if our theorising consistently outstrips the lackeys of the establishment — that is merely as it should be. The proletariat will, however, subject our offerings to a much more intense scrutiny should the social crisis reach such an intensity that they are subjected to any scrutiny at all.

McDonough posits this special issue of October within an Anglo-American context. Almost immediately he makes an idiot of himself — "In the wake of May '68, the perpetuation of the group's legacy was undertaken by those labeled 'pro-situs', i.e. those claiming the Situationist project to some degree as their own." Whilst Black & Red, publishers of the first translation of Debord's seminal work Society of the Spectacle (1972), placed themselves resolutely on the terrain of social revolution, their translation was part of a broader movement which did not revolve around the Situationists nor any other groupuscle:

Black & Red is not a new intellectual current, a new 'cultural trend' within the Capitalist University.
Black & Red is a new front in the world anti-capitalist struggle.
It is an organic link between the theory-action of the world revolutionary movement and the action-theory of the new revolutionary front.
Its aim is: 'To create at long last a situation which goes beyond the point of no return' (International Situationists).

— Founding Statement of Black & Red, 1968

There was no `Situationist project' to claim, but rather a recognition that the situationists were a current within a broader movement struggling to overthrow capitalism. In fact, Black & Red had made it very clear that [they] were not pro-situs. When their collaborators Roger Gregoire and Linda Lanphear criticised Black & Red for printing Radical America, Fredy Perlman of B&R responded angrily.

He was disappointed in his friends' willingness to humiliate themselves; it was their past they were denouncing as well as his. He had expected them to carry out autonomous projects in Paris, similar to ones they had creatively defined in Kalamazoo. Their letters made him question if the past activity of these individuals had really been so admirable if they could now be accepting purges and advocating ideological purity.

Outage was another of Fredy's responses to the letters and the one that permeated is reply which began:

Dear Aparatchiki, your recent letters would have meant much more if a carbon of one and the origanal of the other had not been sent to a functionary of the Situationist International as part of an application for membership. The logic of your arguments would be impressive if it had not been designed to demonstrate your orthodoxy in Situationist doctrine. The sincerity of 'rupture with Fredy Perlman and Black & Red' would be refreshing if it had not been calculated to please a Priest of a Church which demands dehumanizing confessions as a condition of adherence. You're a toady. The odor is made more unpleasant by the fact that you chose to approach the Situationist International precisely in its period of great purges (Khayati, Chasse, Elwell, Vaneigem, Etc). Some people joined the Communist Party precisely at the time of Stalin's great purges.

In a later paragraph Fredy turns one of their complaints against him into an attack of the S.I.:

[I]n your letters you refer to my problem of Organization. You're wrong. I avoid being sucked into oganizations of professional specialists in 'revolution'; apparently you desire to be sucked in. We disagreed about this in Kalamazoo as well, but with this difference: you did not at that time demand unanimity for working together. To avoid being sucked into such organizations is not the same as to avoid the problem of being sucked in. Unfortunately, seen through the 3-D glasses you're wearing today I'm again missing the point. I'm talking about all other bureaucratic organizations, not about the Situationist International. Its bureaucrats aren't bureaucrats. Its purges aren't purges. Its ideology is not ideology: it is practice; whose practice? the anti-bureaucratic practice of the proletarians; this is the practice that justifies the intimidations, insults, confessions, purges which are necessary to keep the Coherence coherent. This Organization is unique: unlike all the Stalinist Parties, unlike the Second, Third and Fourth Internationals, the Situationist International is itself the world revolutionary movement, so that one does not apply to Verlaan for membership but for 'an autonomous positive existence within the international revolutionary movement' (your letter to Verlaan).

The break with Linda and Roger made Fredy even more skeptical that a shared ideological perspective was in itself an adequate basis for undertaking common projects, and it made him decidedly unreceptive to alignments with the adherents of Situationism. One Californian, who had been rejected by the west coast American wing of the SI and who was looking elsewhere for comrades with Situationist views, found our apartrnent on Gladstone and knocked on the door, expecting to be welcomed. Extending his hand while introducing himself, he confidently assured Fredy 'We have everything in common!' Had the newcomer said 'I've come to Detroit to learn how to print!' it's likely he would have been welcomed. But Fredy had heard reports about the California milieu from which the man emerged, wanted no part in the ideological squabbles rending it and squelched the visitor's expectations by responding 'Name one thing!'

Ironically, at the time this young man was seeking Situationist comreades in Detroit, the group he wanted to 'Join' had just undertaken a collective project to translate into English the text which was the cornerstone of Situationist theories: Guy Debord's La Societe du Spectacle. The translating sessions, attended by Hannah, Jon, Judy, Don, Fredy and me, usually turned into commentary on the author's observations. We all found examples to illustrate the truth of his theories, frequently citing our experiences in establishing a print shop without recourse to hierarchy or bureaucracy. As a model of collaborative activity, this translating effort had visible flaws. When there were differences on how to formulate a passage, it was usually Fredy's version that was finally accepted.

Fredy's stubbornness occasionally seemed unkind but when he firmly believed that his choice was better, he refused to give way. He felt that accepting an inferior formulation in order to protect another's self-image was doing a disservice to the common project as well as behaving condescendingly to the individual. The disagreements, in fact, were rarely substantive. A typical one centered on the word 'cleavage'. Jon objected to using the word in the context of Debord's analysis because to him 'cleavage' suggested only a feature of a woman's body.

Debord's book was was profoundly understood by all of us who worked first on translating it and then printing it. Although the Situationists' 'coherence of the critique' was viewed skeptically (as a potential rigid ideology) and a photo of the French Situationists was included in the chapter that denounces self-appointed centralized decision-making, translating Debord's book was a rewarding activity for us in the Detroit of 1970.

Of the six of us, none was more determined or more successful in finding creative responses to life in Detroit than Judy Campbell. Extremely sensitive to and resentful of arbitrary authority, she was confident that others in the integrated, vibrant and rebellious Motor City would quickly see through the absurdities that camouflage unjust social relations. She also had great confidence in her ability to define and carry out projects. Judy installed plumbing in the print shop darkroom, she helped typeset the Debord translation and provided excellent halftone negatives of the graphics she chose to accompany the text; she was a good cook, a responsible housemate, a responsive listener. She read very little and never quoted authors to support an argument, but ideas stimulated her and she incorporated new theories into her 'rap. For a year or more she had been a student at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but she rejected the university and scorned people who took academic learning seriously.

McDonough may not have bothered to read this text out of laziness, but I'm not being lazy myself here, using an extensive quote to pad out an article. As I looked through the passage for the few pithy one liners with which to damn McDonough, my attention was drawn to the way Lorraine Perlman moved from discussing how the translation took place to the description of Judy Campbell as someone who "never quoted authors ot to support an argument”, and that really I'm not so much interested in showing up McDonough as the stuffed shirt he clearly is, but trying to recapture some of the excitement I experienced in my early twenties facing the practical and theoretical challenges of the revolutionary movement. Concerning Ken Knabb's Situationist Anthology (1981) McDonough complains that

"The cumulative effect of Knabb's choices is to enforce a misleading construction. of the S.I.'s history: because cultural politics are placed in a decidedly secondary position, the reader is free to see the Situationists as one of the many anarchist 'groupuscules' formed in the wake of the leftist critique of the Stalinist Communist Party (1956-8)."

Aside from McDonough's error in using the appelation 'anarchist', this is precisely what the S.I. were, although it is not all that they were. And it was precisely such groups who studied, discussed and published situationist texts in the seventies, a social fact that is reflected in Knabb's anthology. At that time revolutionaries were assessing what the Situationists had to say in the context of a range of political discussion, which far from being anything to do with Regis Debray, Henri Lefebvre or the New Left Review, was centred around communist politics, particularly currents emerging from Socialisme ou Barbarie.

McDonough's anthology includes 'Why Art Can't Kill the Situationist International' by T.J. Clarke and Donald Nicholson Smith. This effort, if you will excuse such a perjorative term, from two ex- members of the S.I., is no doubt included to lend some 'I was there' authenticity to the entreprise. Indeed, it shines out compared to the lacklustre of the other texts. However, when placed in the context of critical thought going on within the revolutionary milieu, the 'little gem' turns out to be made of paste. It includes extracts from 'Response aux camrades de Rennes — sur l'organisation et l'autonomnie', cited to contradict the claim that "the Situationists were simply 'council communists' whose only answer to the practical questions of revolutionary politics was to hypostasize past experiments with workers' councils as a way of solving all problems of organisation in advance." What is odd is that the text quoted actually confirms that the S.I.'s politics were as much rooted in Council Communism as that of such Dadaists as Franz Jung (who hijacked a ship with Jan Appel to visit Moscow as delegates of the Kommuniat Arbeiter Partei Deutschland). It hardly responds to the criticism levelled in La Banquise #2:

Iconoclasts, free from the problematic of workers' organisations (of which groups like Pouvoir Ouvrier or Information et correspondence ouvrier had not broken free) the S.I. shook up the ultra-left. But their theory of the spectacle lead them into an impasse: that of of councilism. As an expression of attacks against the commodity rather than of a comprehensive movement against capital, they did not make an analysis of the whole process of capital. As with S.ou B., they saw capital a way of managing society which deprived proletarians of all power over their lives, and so concluded with the need to find a way of allowing the particitpation of everyone. To this they added the passive-active opposition. Capitalism was theoretically conceived as spectacle as much as capital, and they sought to overcome passivity through the discovery of a means (democracy), a place (the workers' council) and a way of life (generalised self-management). The notion of the Spectacle swallowed that of capital and opened up a reversal of reality. The S.I. effectively forgot that 'the most significant dominating trait of all capitalist division of labour is the metamorphosis of the worker from the position of an active producer to that of a passive spectator of their own labour.' (Root and Branch, Le Nouveau mouvement ouvrier american Spartacus, 1978, p90)

The spectacle has it roots in the relations of production, of work, where it is a constitutive element of capital. The spectacle can be understood as arising from capital, not the inverse. Spectacle and passive contemplation are the effect of a much deeper phenomenon. It is the relative satisfaction of 'needs' created by capital for 150 years (bread, work, somewhere to live) which gives rise to the passivity found in behaviour. The theoretical conception of the society of the spectacle as a motor, as essence society was idealist.

Thus the S.I. following the German Left [i.e council communism] acknowledged revolutionary spontaneity, but without dealing with the nature of this spontaneous activity. They glorified general assemblies, the workers' councils, instead of dealing with which these forms would have to accomplish.

('Le roman de nos origines' La Banquise 1983, p23)2

If Claire Gilman were a noted humourist her article on 'Asger Jorn's Avant Garde Archives' would go down as a small masterpiece. One of the Situationist's techniques of psychogeography was to wander in one area using a map from somewhere else completely. This can be done intellectually as well - for instance analysing the poems of Baudalaire as if he shared the theoretical outlook of his friend the occultist Eliphas Levi. Gilman does this by applying a debordian gloss to Jorn's paintings. Here she follows Guy Atkins, who unfortunately secured himself a place as the major interpreter of Jorn in the English language. He dismissed all of Jorn's extensive theoretical works as being of little interest, thus allowing Gilman to present her travesty as some sort of critical article. She may well share problems of accessibility to Jorn's texts which have only been published in Danish, but this does not excuse an ignorance of material published in French and English. If this had been some sort of joke planned to make a monkey out of McDonough, it might have some merit, but sadly this is probably not the case.

Such ignorance is also shown by Professor Vincent Kaufman in his 'Angels of Purity': "Communism realized will be the work of art transformed into the totality of everyday life," he glibly quotes from Jorn's 'Critique of Political Economy' albeit from a citation by Jean-Francois Marcos' Histoire de l'Internationale Situationniste. I suppose a man of his station of life doesn't feel it necessary to actually understand works he quotes from, that students across the world will simply swallow his shit willy-nilly. He then continues "Communism, then, is the work of art become totality, the total oeuvre realized, the Book made by everyone and integrated into everyday life, and Situationism is but the implementation of such a Book: a fish dreaming itself in the water of the people-become-artist. Revolution is a precondition for realizition of the Book and vice-versa." Oh lucky reader, you now have in your possession an English translation of Jorn's 'Critique of Political Economy', and instead of relying upon any interpretation I could serve you, you can read for yourself how absurd, even insulting Haufman's claim that Jorn was one of 'the People of the Book' really is. Finally, one piece of good news is that October 79 has some new English translations of some S.I. texts — and some joker is sure to put these out in a pamphlet at a fraction of the price of this august journal.


LA BANQUISE (1983) 'le roman de nos origins' in La Banquise #2, Paris 1983
KEN KNABB (Ed.) (1981) Situationist Anthology, Bureau of Public Secrets, Berkeley
LORRAINE PERLMAN (1989) Having Little, Being Much: A Chronicle of Fredy Perlman’s Fifty Years, Black & Red, Detroit


Review: Vague's Anarchy in the UK: The Angry Brigade - John Barker

An excellent piercing, critical review - by an ex-Brigade member - of Vague's romanticising, fetishistic book on the Angry Brigade.

Submitted by Red Marriott on July 7, 2006

Orginally appeared in issue 4 of Transgressions: A Journal of Urban Exploration (1998).

"Anarchy in the UK: The Angry Brigade"
by Tom Vague, AK Press, 162pp, £6.95

It's a grisly business being given a book about your own past: there's this vaguely iconic photo of one's younger self and the feeling that you're trapped in a sheaf of yellowing news clippings or as in this book, some imagined golden age of the years of '68, an age of enviable commitment, mass struggles and unlimited horizons. Personally I've found it painful thinking about the past, doing it for the first time in a very long time. I don't regret what I did like I said to the only person who ever asked me, a screw after my conviction but the me of then seems very distant and though I respect what I did, have felt critical and not wholly sympathetic. Some of the rhetoric and righteousness of AB communiqués now makes me cringe. Unfortunately it's exactly it's the most over-the-top rhetoric this book is keen on. Other things I was involved in writing like the Daily Grind supplement of International Times or Strike newspaper stand up much better.

In 1971-72 I was convicted in the Angry Brigade trial and spent 7 years in jail. In my case, the police framed a guilty man. This book about Tom Vague did not bring back that past but made me think about it. If your own past life is going to be given an airing, far better a Tom Clear than a Tom Vague. This book is vague enough: a lazy cut-and-paste job (and that mostly of a cut-and-paste book of 20 odd years ago) and evasive in its own voice with nothing to say other than to make a vague connection to the Sex Pistols just so as no one misses the point of the book, the presentation of icons of cultural rebellion of the English sort, them and us.

The laziness means that for example there are no interviews with anyone involved in the Stoke Newington 8 Defence Committee which, not uncommonly, was more interesting than the AB itself, a widely-based, politically creative organisation of very different people. There is no sense of how people broadly supporting a democratic communist view of the world felt, behaved and organised at that time, or of what was happening in the world at that time. These things are evidently not what is now grotesquely called 'sexy'. Ideology by default is not so unusual, in this book the Angry Brigade is allowed to stand in splendid romanticised isolation.

The AB's attacks on property targets mostly occurred in the time span of Mr Edward Heath's government though attacks continued all over the country well into the seventies, something which partially validated the AB not being a tight-knit clandestine organisation which it never was. Until the recent election when the Conservative Party became almost immediately of no interest to anyone, Mr Heath was presented as a genial, troublesome old boy representing opposition to hard-line free-market capitalism, something which made me feel old and the actions of the AB somewhat farcical.

At the time however, Mr Heath was not like this, his Selsdon Man policy was hard-line free-market capitalism. At the time this was shocking. It failed partly because of the especially strong and not-legalistic opposition of the organised working class and also because of the decisive use made by capital globally of the oil price shock of 1973 had not yet shifted the balance of forces in favour of capital. By the time Mrs Thatcher came to power it was a fait accompli. The Selsdon Man policy was also accompanied by a brutalisation of state power. Looked at now the fact that there were only one or two deaths in custody or that the first police computer was put to use must make it seem like a truly innocent time, but that is not how it felt. These were shocking things. David Oluwale's death in custody was especially shocking.

I can only say that my own experience was one of ambivalent innocence. On the one hand as a member of the Claimant's Union I had experienced concerted self-organisation winning tangible victories but also as a scruffy resident of Notting Hill an increased level of police repression which we also organised in the battle to turn private squares into communal playgrounds. A feeling that victories could and should be gained and another, less conscious, that the state and capital had had a gutful of our victories and were going to come down hard.

They were then the early days of a cusp, heady days of working class self-confidence but signs of international capital and its guarantor nation states having had enough of it. This was not analysed or theorised until around 1973-74 and when it came it was not from the Bolshevik left but from the Italian autonomist movement; from Toni Negri, Sergio Bologna and Ferrucio Gambino. They were also the year when de-skilling computerisation was first applied to production. We were all very young at the time, I had just turned 23 when I was arrested, and cannot pretend we understood all of this: we shared the class confidence of the time but had a gut feeling that this was being challenged, by the Ford Motor Company for example, and by the British state most of all.

We were arrested in August 1971. In this month, two years ahead of the oil price shock, President Nixon made a key move in favour of global capital by ending he relationship between gold and the dollar, creating the conditions for floating exchange rates. In the same month the British state interned Republicans in the Six Counties. The last action before our arrest was to bomb an army hall in London in response.

The importance of this too, something more immediately repressive than seemingly technical moves in the world of international money, and a lot closer to home, is lost in the Tom Vague book. Internment, that is the arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of people not because they had committed anything designated as a crime but because their families or history of open political resistance made it legitimate to the government of Edward Heath, is surely something that would be even more shocking were it to happen now. It was certainly shocking then but perversely welcome from a theoretical viewpoint, the modern British state played by the rules until it suited them to unilaterally suspend them. It's what we'd known all along. A year later 13 citizens of Derry n a peaceful demonstration were shot dead by the armed agencies of the British state. I was in prison then and it felt like the British state wanted the IRA, they wanted a militarisation of the struggle in Ireland as preferable to Free Derry and democratic communism in practice.

These dates ignored by Tom Vague had real consequences. Those of us convicted were weighed off in December 1972. By the next year a serious IRA bombing campaign had begun in England. I was in the Scrubs when the Old Bailey bomb went off, the whole jail celebrated and I was relieved I'd already got my sentence. Bombing had got a lot heavier and we'd have got heavier sentences.

Romanticising as in this book requires a timeless context as if doing a rebellious act was heroic whatever the circumstances. I respect my past because the anger and commitment felt were real enough but it was not heroic. I was very young, didn't know seriously serious repression, and the AB actions were all before the IRA made bombing a serious business.

As it happened we were due for 15 years: Jake Prescott had copped this in earlier trial with less against him; the screw in charge of our escort to the Bailey had money on it; and finally the judge said that is what he would have given were it not for the jury's plea for clemency. I was much better at defending myself at the Old Bailey than as an urban guerrilla. In snide mode I'd say, par for the course for an ex-Cambridge student. True but it was also more suited politically. Hilary Creek, Anna Mendelson and me defended ourselves (which I would strongly recommend at least one person to doing at any joint trial) and were able to speak directly to 12 other citizens without mediation except for the judge interrupting and lying when it really mattered which he did because in my case the police really had framed a guilty man and there were holes in the frame. Looked at now I think, poor fuckers, a captive audience for six long months. Equally, first sign of them abolishing the jury system and I'm off, out of the country. One of the great moments of the recent past was the Liverpool jury acquitting the serious women to damaged a warplane destined for Indonesia and its vicious colonialism. The jury system is something exceptional in the representative democracies of present day capitalism, the only time when institutionally ordinary people have real power.

This book deals at some length with the trial but once again without context. It is not so disrespectful to see the trial as one of the few achievements of the AB and that this was so because it was no longer clandestine. For democratic communists wanting the mass democracy of a knowledgeable, critically intelligent citizenry, clandestinity is a contradiction in terms, exactly the Bolshevik-Bakuninist bullshit we detested in everyday life. The courtroom was made into an open forum by some defendants defending themselves and the jury did me a massive favour, 10 years instead of the allotted 15. It was before the first IRA bombs in London, true, but it was the jury saved me five years bang-up. After he'd given the verdicts and acquitted half of us, the nervous foreman stood up and said clearly that the jury had asked for clemency on our behalf. Some fucking moment. Like it was a vindication of the politics, the critically intelligent citizenry in action even if I was sick to be going down at all: a guilty man had been framed up and there were so many holes in the frame I'd had my hopes.

If the trial then was a vindication of sorts, what then of my record as an urban guerrilla? It's hard this, some attacks were real carried out, as with the attacks on Italian state property in response to the police murder of the anarchist comrade Pinelli, appropriate. On the other hand it didn't last very long, a little under two years, and this when everything was in our favour: security in this pre-IRA era was very weak compared to what goes down these days; and since most of us did not belong to any of the many known leftist parties and groupesecules of the time, we had a head start when it came to political police files. Given that my/our not lasting very long points to a terrible lack of nous, that's clear, but since writing this review at all is painful enough it's worth trying to be scrupulous in de-constructing this lack of nous. I lived in relatively innocent times, had not experienced repression beyond a police cosh 'n arrest at a Vietnam demonstration, and had never been in prison. This, unheroically, encouraged the belief that I would be very unlucky to be caught. Some AB actions, recorded and unrecorded require a degree of planning and nerve, but I contributed massively to my own unluck.

The many and various people who did AB things were not very comfortable with clandestinity which is inevitably elitist when it doesn't come out of a mass movement. Looked at now that is inescapable and the looseness of the clandestinity doesn't help: one of the most important texts of the time was 'The Tyranny of Structurelesness' which showed how informal leaderships were especially undemocratic and is especially relevant now when ideologies of the Internet distort its democratic potential with their holistic flimflam. There was at least not that naiveté-from-ego which demands you tell the whole world what you're doing, but still. For one thing we were libertarian communists believing in the mass movement and for another we were NOT THAT SERIOUS. Put baldly like this it sounds especially arrogant, Yeah man, we never took it seriously anyway: what I mean is that like many young people then and now we smoked a lot of dope and spent a lot of time having a good time. We had none of the vanguardist assumptions of the Red Army Faction in Germany (heroic though they were) or the Red Brigades of Italy (infiltrated and manipulated as they were). To be serious about your beliefs and wanting a good time in the process may have been part of those innocent times but is not some eternal psychological impossibility, a contradiction written in stone. The respect element of the critical respect I feel now is that we were serious about what we felt and thought and acted on it. Doing it and having a good time was largely financed by cheque fraud. This too left trails but neither these nor our untrained clandestinity lead directly to my short lived-ness as an urban guerrilla.

Early in 1971 one of the advantages we had, of not being known to the police in the AB context, had gone. And yet we continued. The middle-aged man I now am can wave the finger at this, it was fucking madness. We continued out of stubbornness, the AB having a dynamic of its own, and most of al from a naive, romantic sense of loyalty. Two comrades who had been arrested should not be deserted, left on their own, even though our addresses or names had been in a captured address book. Continuing in these circumstances was not being serious taken to a new level, it was foolhardy; the youthful feeling that nothing very terrible could happen to us and Fuck them, We'll show them.

The lack of any sense of historical context in this book and the romanticism that makes for, is not limited to the balance of class forces nationally and internationally: there is no sense of culture or political culture of the time. It was a great time as what had been bohemian broke out of that enclave; there was energy, enthusiasm, not much money and a creative belief that anything was possible. On the other hand a large number of songs of the time were still those of male self-pity, and 'the left' still spoke as a taken-for-granted WE, we the unitary oppressed. In the period of class self-confidence leftist parties and groupescules had a constituency and not exclusively in universities. some had places in trade union committees, some were complete nutters capable of two hour windy speeches with a front row of uptight acolytes ready to snarl at anyone who might yawn or laugh. What they had in common, like the Christian Bolsheviks of our present government, was an absolute self-confidence in speaking for a unitary WE.

The AB communiqués were right in their criticism of the authoritarian left but they too tend to adopt the WE voice. Looked at now there is a comfortably sectarian ring to them, as if 'the left' was the only problem, a small world one could have an impact on. In part 'the left' was the problem but the real questioning of it came from women and black people, rightly sceptical of the We. It is hard to imagine now how sexist the left was. An Anarchist conference sticks in the mind, it was appalling.

The critical distant me of now also sees how much political activity of the time was gestural. For myself, becoming an AB activist as well as being active in open struggles that affected me, was ironically prompted by disgust at the gestural nature of more conventional leftist politics. This disgust took off at a planning meeting for a Vietnam Solidarity Campaign demonstration at the Toynbee Hall, Whitechapel by which time I'd already been arrested twice on such demos and got a coshing on one.

The American war against Vietnam is barely mentioned in this Tom Vague book but the movement against it was on a huge scale and it was international. There was debate in the libertarian left, why support the authoritarian communists of Hanoi, but correctly I think, most comrades said that if the Americans were to win there was no possibility of any progressive movement there and that it would be massively discouraging to libertarian struggles across the 'Third World'. It was a time we did at least try to think internationally and I do respect our attacks on Spanish and Italian targets in solidarity with imprisoned and murdered comrades there.

Anyway so some of us turned up to this Vietnam planning meeting. Tariq Ali was in the chair, and among those present were four guys who were quite obviously cops. We said it was ridiculous to go on with them there, but no no, said the chair, we must continue. We continued to make our point and in fact the four cops plus one we hadn't notices got up ad left themselves. It made us feel that demonstrations were simply routine and that all that could happen was that would happen, with the leadership safely in the rear, was the people at the front getting whacked and arrested.

But why then bombing, a 19th century tactic, easily labelled as anarchist which we were not, necessarily clandestine, and given that we did not want to hurt anyone necessarily limited in the damage it would do. Isn't that essentially gestural? At the time it didn't seem like that, having been beaten on gestural Grosvenor Square demonstrations, it felt like it was hurting them without hurting ourselves. It also came from frustration and an anger channelled this way, here were these guys in government and corporations making decisions that had a seriously bad impact on the lives of thousands of people with impunity, nothing bad was going to happen to them personally, what they did a mealy-mouthed necessity. It also came from that feeling that we were at a cusp in terms of the balance of class power, and that there was a need for action not constrained by capitalistically defined legality. Within a year the mass movement won two major victories by disregarding legality at Saltley and at Pentonville prison. It would be tempting to think there was some connection but that too would be romantic and all that connects them is that they were of a period. Within another two years this same mass movement was being terrorised by its own leadership with much-publicised talk of possible right wing coups, and at Windsor a FREE rock festival was systematically smashed up by the cops.

I had been involved in other gestures and about these I feel less ambiguous, more certain that they were right. There was for example the auction of houses owned by Kensington and Chelsea Council to the private sector at which we put on suits and bid up the houses to fantastic levels till some dealer, sweating on a bargain tumbled something was up and the thing collapsed in chaos. This went back to some of the tactics of the Unemployed Workers Movement in the 1930s and to tactics of now especially from the Greens.

Or there was ripping up the Finals papers at Cambridge, a liberating experience I have never regretted. Again the times were softer, there would always be jobs, it had little or no impact in future years. It was a gesture but one that could harm no one and which did go to the heart of our libertarian communist beliefs, that elitism is the twin of exploitation, the one that mocks the rhetoric of opportunities for everyone.

Kensington and Chelsea sold that house, elitism continues to mock the rhetoric of democracy. The seizing of Powis Square, knocking down the railings of this private residential square and turning into a communal playground, this is the only victory that has survived. All that happened with the AB was that it cheered up the relatively powerless for a while. But it was too much from the outside. For example we had no idea of how attacks on the Ford Motor Company would have on workers in dispute there. Many innocent comrades had their house turned upside down by the cops. All I can say is at least we were never like some unscrupulous leftist groups that encouraged black youth to attack police stations after the death of Colin Roache and then disowned them when they did it with petrol bombs which are far more democratic than dynamite.

The AB was also ironically spectacular, given that I and others were much influenced by The Society of the Spectacle. The actions depended on publicity and have become in this book, part of a seamless spectacle, safely in a romanticised past. If there was a rationale we could take from situationist analysis it would be precisely the seamlessness of the spectacle, that no one is ever personally responsible for exploitation or repression. The Society of the Spectacle still stands up as a fine description of modern capitalism but it was never prescriptive. It is easy to mock in return and say at least there has never been an AB exhibition at the George Pompidou Centre. I say this because it is the situationist element in that AB rhetoric which often makes me cringe, that Tom Vague seizes on in this volume in his psychogeographic series. It is easy to say that spot on though it was, Guy Debord's analysis came from a group of Bolshevik bohemians and there is an elitist tone to it. What stands out in the Tom Vague book is how comfortable he is with what we could call 'the situationist angle' while saying nothing about the analysis and theory that came out of the Italian movement from Potere Operaio onwards which was more important to us.

It is not surprising that the Italian theory was written as hard strategic and tactical analysis from a working class viewpoint whereas the bohemianism of the SI had made it perfect for that massive displacement of intellectual activity that has gone with the class defeat of the mid seventies. There is always displacement and morbid symptoms in periods of class defeat. It's not that the terrain of 'culture; is not a weightier area in economic life but the shift of oppositional analysis almost exclusively to it and the bullshit romanticism of Guattari and Deluze for example, shows only a colossal loss of nerve.

The aim of Tom Vague's book has surely been to romanticise specifically our sense of commitment in an age he obviously believes is dominated by that sassy irony which makes an unambiguous opposition to capitalism slightly ridiculous. In doing this he leaves me trapped in the past where I do not want to be and do not feel myself to be, and also underestimates the present. Irony is not all pervasive, and fightbacks are not gestural, life is too tough for that. The ability of so many young people having a tough time to survive and be creative is stronger than 25-30 years ago and is shown for example how they have got around the seemingly draconian powers of the Criminal Justice Act.

What has survived and flourished from the libertarian movement and especially from the women's movement has been a scepticism about that automatic 'we' of traditional left politics. On the other hand in defeat the notion of autonomy (now used in mobile phone adverts) has become enmeshed in notions of personal identity. It is not just the notion of commitment but of unity that seems to be of the past. This is not true, it needs to be worked for and will be stronger than that of the automatic 'we' when borne of mutual respect and which can include those made furiously angry by our government of Christian Bolsheviks as their rhetoric of inclusions becomes every more excluding. If my 'generation' of those who believe capitalism is neither inevitable nor eternal have anything to offer I hope it will be a degree of hard-earned nous that we never had in the past and anger at what demands anger. That rather than endless hours of lame satire, weird ideologies or a fetishisation of the Angry Brigade.


The Ends of Class War - Mark S. Tey

A review article about the "final" issue 73 of Class War and related strands of the UK Anarchist movement in the late 1990s.

Originally appeared in issue 4 of Transgressions: A Journal of Urban Exploration (Newcastle, 1998)

Submitted by Fozzie on August 27, 2018

Class War, Number 73 (1997)
available from P.O. Box 3241, Saltley, Birmingham B8 3DP, England

Animal: The Voice of Unrepentant Class War, Number 1 (1997)
available from P.O. Box 467, London, E8 3QX, England

Beyond Resistance: A Revolutionary Manifesto for the Millennium by the Anarchist Communist Federation, 1996, London, Anarchist Communist Federation
available from ACF, c/o 84b Whitechapel High Street, London, El 7QX, England

The Class War Federation was the most provocative intervention in British revolutionary politics in the 1980s and early 1990s. It represented an attempt to ditch the elitist, arrogantly aloof, quasi-academic discourse that has come to dominate revolutionary groups in the mid-late twentieth century. It tried to forge a popular, accessible, autonomist agenda. And it did this, at least in part, by parodying the reactionary nature of the British popular press by producing a tabloid style of revolutionary activity; a 'lowest common denominator' form of radicalism. As Ian Bone, one of the founders the group, writes in Animal:

In the early clays Class War was often called a 'comic' by its detractors on the left. We didn't mind. We would stand next to the lefty paper sellers shouting 'get your gutter rag fuckin' stupid anarchist comic here' and the punters would queue up - we had the product they wanted, the lefties didn't. (p.7)

Other revolutionary groups never quite 'got it' about Class War. They continue to regard them as idiots, lacking a theoretical base. Perhaps, as these same groups slowly die away, slowly see their membership and influence dwindle even further, a few of their members might wonder if, just perhaps, they might have something to learn from a band of 50 or so activists (and 150 active supporters) who managed to breath a bit of energy, a bit of righteous anger, into the notion of left libertarian revolt. And who, incidentally, managed a circulation of 15,000 for their newspaper, when most revolutionary groups can't even give their rags away. I hope so. But I'm not optimistic. The revolutionary left just doesn't seem well equipped to cope with the late twentieth century, let alone the new millennium.

In this review I'm going to look at the 'last ever' issue of Class War. For in 1997 the Federation broke up. As it says on the cover 'Class War is Dead ... Long Live the Class War'. This is an unusual issue of the newspaper, and not just because it was supposed to be the final one. For it breaks with tradition and provides, not a tabloid type of analysis, but a clear and relatively sophisticated set of articles. Out go the photographs of 'hospitalised coppers', the gleeful stories of ruling class types getting run over or contracting cancer, and in comes lengthy analyses of just what went wrong with the Class War Federation. This is the other distinguishing aspect of this issue. For, unlike anything I've yet to see from the Socialist Workers Party, Revolutionary Communist Party etc etc., it attempts to provide an honest and fully public critique of the imperfections of its own activism. The SWP, RCP etc etc would never dare such candour, which is one of the reasons why no one trusts them.

Animal represents the 'unrepentant' Class War and it, and some of London Class War, evidently wants no truck with their former comrade's bout of navel gazing. But I'll come to them later.

Class War posed and responded to the most important question in revolutionary libertarian politics: how can revolution avoid elitism and vanguardism and become a popular, flexible and democratic process? The problem is that there are many `popular' cultures, of various political complexions. Unfortunately, Class War never really undertook any type of analysis on the nature and different constituencies of any of them. Despite this, they went ahead and mined away furiously at one of the most problematic of cultural stereotypes, namely the working-class hard man. He ruled their pages, he laughed at their jokes. The crowds of rowdies at English football matches, and the general preparedness of some working class young men to have a go at the police and every other figure of authority, seemed to convince Class War that this was the most rebellious, and potentially radical, element of the working class. As the last issue of their newspaper virtually admits, this assessment was hopelessly narrow and, in large measure, down right wrong.

Class War is overburdened with baggage from the past: the myths, the lies, the illusions, the fantasies have all become millstones around our necks ... On occasion the paper has become a parody of itself and Class Warriors have tended to fetishize violence. Worse, this has led to us under-emphasising struggles that didn't involve violence. ... On many occasions Class War's macho approach has in turn alienated many people, especially women. (pp.4-5)

Another group Class War didn't attract was people racialized as 'non-White'. "Class War is, and always has been, an almost exclusively white organisation ... we have tried many times to put it right but always with a lack of success" (p.5). The latter 'failure' bothers a lot of revolutionary groups, mainly because they see in the African British led urban riots of the 1980s evidence of a militant and combative section of the working class. They imagine that black communities are the front-line of revolution. Class War attempted to translate this supposed militancy into the culture, the language, of white working class males: to say to them, 'don't just kick each other in at football matches, be like the blacks, and kick the police'.

There are two mis-readings inherent in this approach, one about Britain's 'black communities', the other about 'the working class'. I'll deal with the former first. Black people in Europe and North America are burdened with expectations of radicalism: they are supposed to be heroes of resistance, perpetually taking on the forces of oppression. They are the political fantasy objects of white and black radical intellectuals par excellence. Truth to tell, however, these communities, at least in Europe, are neither incredibly politicised nor radical. Like an awful lot of communities of recent migrant origin, they mostly just want to make a decent living for themselves, to get a decent education for their kids and get ahead. The last thing most British African or British Asian people want is trouble with the police. The fact that the authorities give them trouble, and the fact that British society is a racist one, has prompted periodic bouts of fighting back. But, relative to the provocation, these bouts have been pretty tame affairs. The secret history of Britain's black communities is that they put up with an awful lot, they ignore a lot of insults, and they potter along, not particularly radical, not particularly combative.

As to the second misreading identified above, we have to ask first what Class War meant by 'working class'? Again we are dealing with the stuff of fantasy. I accept that most Class War activists were working class, and that this distinguished them from members of certain other revolutionary groups. However, their movement's image of what 'working classness' looks like has all the hall-marks of bourgeois delirium. Think of those Victorian books about the awful, uncivilised, metropolitan masses. In Darkest England and the Way Out (1976, p.145, first published 1890) William Booth mirrored the middle class's fears and covert desires. Within a "stone's throw of our cathedrals and palaces" exist:

similar horrors to those Stanley found in the great Equatorial forest ... The two tribes of savages, the human baboon and the handsome dwarf, who will not speak lest it impede him in his task, may be accepted as the two varieties who are continuously present with us — the vicious, lazy lout and the toiling slave.

In How the Poor Live George Sims (1976, pp.64-65, first published 1883) drew the same colonial parallel. There is, he gushed, "a dark continent that is within easy walking distance of the General Post Office ... the wild races who inhabit it will, I trust, gain public sympathy as easily as [other] savage tribes". Such tales of depravity and violence thrilled the nineteenth century middle class, even to the extent that tourist packages were arranged to London's East End and other horror spots.

It is precisely this image of the working class, disseminated through the years and down the class scale, that Class War bought into. In other words Class Warriors sustained an anti-working class myth. They spoke of the working class as 'up for it' (i.e. violent), as holding education in contempt, as a dangerous rabble. Such images are both wide of the mark and offensive. The fact that so many working class people believe such things about themselves is one of the surest signs of working class defeat; it shows that working class people can no longer sustain an autonomous cultural and political image of themselves, that they live off the ideological scraps tossed down from the tables of the rich.

For Marx and his followers, it was not working class 'wildness' that was revolutionary but their discipline. Victorian Marxists despised the lumpenproletariat as reactionary, whilst heralding the 'labour aristocracy' as the heirs to a new communist society. Such contempt for what would today be called the underclass seems unjustified today. But at least it showed a grasp on the fact that it isn't the aggression of the working class that makes them a radical force but their ability to act autonomously, to develop a coherent, inclusive and nurturing culture. And it is precisely those elements who subvert that culture, who attack the working class from within, that are the most hated, and most feared, individuals within working class areas.

It is the thieves and vandals, the drunk thugs scaring people out of their wits, who personify 'decline' in the eyes of most working class people. It is these 'rowdies', these wild folk, who represent the front-line, the first forces of attack, not against the state, but against working class people themselves; breaking-up formerly socialist communities and leaving them at the mercy of capitalist development. The police may not be liked. But, for the most part, it isn't the police who trash people's neighbourhoods and steal their stuff.

Class War, it must be said, did launch a variety of ad-hoc schemes designed to isolate and attack 'anti-social' thugs. But these were marginal affairs, and remained undeveloped within the Federation. 'No burglars, no muggers' strikers appeared in most British cities. However, they were often mistaken for the work of neo-Nazi groups, groups who have tried to racialize the issue of anti-social behaviour. Such neo-Nazi stupidities should have been met head-on by Class War, and the whole issue of enabling sustainable and caring working class communities placed at the centre of their project. That it wasn't takes us back to the heart of the matter of who Class War spoke of, to and for when it talked about the working class. More specifically, it tells us that they didn't talk of, to or for women and old people. One of the articles in the last Class War makes, what in the context of the group's past coverage, is a devastating admission:

In 1987 a Brixton women wrote to Class War questioning our coverage of the Brixton riots. She said that living in a police no-go area had ended not in Utopia, but in women suffering intimidation, physical and sexual abuse ... a lot of women who agree with Class War's aims and principles, think the organisation is too Boy's Own to become involved in. (p.13)

Now women and the aged do not spend their time cowering in their homes surrounded by young male demons. They do, however, have to put up with a lot of shit, from all quarters. And because of this they often have a lot to say about how and why their communities could be made into more integrated, more sustainable places; places where solidarity, rather than mutual loathing, can start developing again. Of course you'll find the usual racist, reactionary twaddle. But, in my experience, you'll also find a lot of revolutionary feeling. The fact is that most working class women and old people are more politically 'up for it' than Class War ever understood.

Young men stomp around, make a lot of noise, but so what? It is women and the old who are keeping things going in Britain's run-down inner-cities, who give children the time of day, who have some vestige of respect for their environment. It is these two sections of the working class that form the most potentially explosive core of liberation revolt. As for young men, which includes 90% of self-styled revolutionaries, they need to stop ignoring these groups and start learning from them.

In fact, on the evidence of the last issue of their newspaper, Class War don't seer to know how to move forward at all. After years of telling us that only the working class matter and that we're on for a revolution they unceremoniously dump both conceits:

is it possible to make a revolution in which only working class people participate? Is it possible to create a purely working class organisation? We suspect that it isn't. After all, how do you determine who is allowed to get involved? Do you have a class-based means test or is it down to intuition. (p.6)

Oh, well, there goes class, and here comes revolution...

we have to be clear about things and say the unsayable: revolution is not on the agenda at the present time. (p.6)

And then there's Class War's famous 'action not words' anti-intellectualism...

A 'kick it till it breaks', anti-intellectual, anti-theory mentality has been prevalent within the organisation. This has been an obstacle ... we have been unable to respond to the upsurge in environmental/anti-roads activism or the rave/free party 'counter-culture' that partly overlaps with it. The 'anti-intellectual' culture within the Federation has stifled real political debate and left us mouthing the same slogans as ten years ago. (p.8)

I just hope this general clear out doesn't undermine Class War's — or whatever group emerges out of it - attempts to engage in popular culture. As I've explained I think their engagement was muddled but at least it was a serious and exciting one, which is more than you can say for the rest of the left. As they note, rightly, "if you get a kick out of the mess we're in, then the jokes on you — it's on all of us" (p.9). The remnants of Class War aim to carry out a sort of consultation exercise in order to think through what to do next. Revolutionaries will wish them well. The 'last' issue of their newspaper is already a land-mark document. It declares that the revolutionary left is fucked and provides hope for its renewal.

The same cannot be said for Animal or the Anarchist Communist Federation's (ACF) new 'revolutionary manifesto'. I haven't too much to say about the latter. I include it here because the ACF have come to acquire the status of the most 'sorted', most coherent, of Britain's left libertarian groups. Perhaps they acquired this reputation through the extraordinary dullness of their periodical Organise. There certainly isn't much evidence of penetrating analysis in their booklet Beyond Resistance, which promises "suggestions about what the alternative, anarchist communist society could be like". Of course as anarchists the ACF would rather 'not dictate' the outcomes of revolutionary change. They just want to make it happen. Well `not dictating' is one thing. Not giving anyone a bleeding clue is quite another. Anarchists, famously, tediously, confuse the two. It is both a self-aggrandising and a self-defeating strategy: it guarantees an abundance of radical rhetoric and a minimum of concrete political achievement. The ACF's response to what is a basic and structural flaw in anarchism is to go in for vague post-revolutionary predictions mixed with specific proposals on what, I guess, are presumed to be non-controversial issues. This very vague thing might happen, this very vague thing might be nice, and everyone one will have a big garden...

it is not for us to determine now exactly what our world will look like. However, agriculture will of course play a major part ... Some of us will still desire to live in larger social centres, but in the heart of towns there will be no offices and shops but perhaps communal meeting places, open green spaces for leisure and congregation, gardens and orchards, or whatever we choose and need (p.15)

I'm sorry, call me crazy, but I'm not prepared to destroy an existing, highly complex and inter-dependent, economic arrangement, however unfair, on the promise of an orchard and a communal meeting place. There are plenty of real, practical, examples out there of how we can develop non-capitalist organisations — collectives, autonomous activities of various kinds. I'd suggest that if the ACF want to offer any more 'suggestions' about what an `alternative' `society could be like' that they study existing attempts to organise outside the capitalist economy.

As the 'unrepentant' voice of Class War one might expect Animal to offer vintage, anti-intellectual, bash-the rich, material. In fact it has a rather wounded tone. It wants to legitimise the Boneist tradition (i.e., Ian Bone's camp within Class War, which the last issues of Class War have sought to distance themselves from) of `up and at 'em' politics. But Animal, nevertheless, contains, what will appear to readers new to the whole Class War saga, a rather odd mixture of rants, self-justification and obscure theory (with an article on the significance of Hegelian dialectics!). It is, of course, Ian Bone's piece that will attract most attention. He launches a defence of old-style Class War in the guise of a defence of stuntism, i.e. the organisation of public disruptions, such as Bash the Rich marches.

The serious tendency [in Class War] determined that the battle against stuntism was to be a battle for the soul of the organisation ... Having rejected stuntism the serious tendency mutated into the 'DO NOTHING' tendency - the two went hand in hand since if you were a serious revolutionary then kicking rich people in the street without any analysis was only a stunt. (pp.7-8)

Bone derides the `anti-stuntist' group as coming up with "some tired Rainbow coalition ideas which even Jesse Jackson gave up on years ago" (p.8). He also notes that stuntist politics worked, that it brought people into Class War, that it upset the enemy. Yet Bone's musings on stuntism and anti-stuntism miss the point. If you read the last issue of Class War stunts aren't presented as a issue.

Bone may be right about the personal animosity towards him within the group. But, for an outsider, this isn't of interest. What is of interest is that the revisionist Class War Federation have produced an analysis of their own practice that dares to push revolutionary politics into a new space. This new politics may or may not be stuntist but, with a bit of luck, it will be open to, and engaged with, the most radical sections of the working class not just the most physically aggressive.


BOOTH, W. (1976) 'Why darkest England?', in P. KEATING (ed) Into Unknown England, 1866-1913: Selections from the Social Explorers Manchester, Manchester University Press,

SIMS, G. (1976) 'The dark side of life', in P. KEATING (ed) Into Unknown England, 1866-1913: Selections from the Social Explorers Manchester, Manchester University Press,

P.S. The Animal tendency has joined 'Continuation Class War' to relaunch Class War (available from the Animal address), whilst the `stickies' have published Smash Hits: A Discussion Bulletin for Revolutionary Ideas, available from BM Box 5538, London WC1N 3XX


Transgressions #5 (2001)

Hundertwasser House built by Freidrich Hundertwasser 1986

Partial contents of the final issue of this post-situationist/psychogeographical journal.

Submitted by Fozzie on March 31, 2024

Contents available on Libcom


  • Capitalist Utopias: Forever Out of Reach, Always in Your Face - Alastair Bonnett
  • The Switch - Jakob Jakobsen

Review Articles:

  • Radical Philosophy, the declining utility of an oxymoron - Frank Zara
  • Three Psychogeographical groups: Activities, websites, publications - Dusty Bin


Guy Debord by Anselm Jappe, Come Before Christ and Murder Love by Nick Abrahams and Mikey Tompkins, The Situationist City by Simon Sadler, Comes in Your Face + Dolphins Live & Cyber Sadism Live by Stewart Home,, Comparative Vandalism: Asger Jorn and the artistic attitude to life by Peter Shield.

If you can assist with scans or texts of other content from this issue, please leave a comment.

*The translations on Libcom are different from those published in this issue of Transgressions by Peter Shield.


The Anti-Situation of Amsterdam - Asger Jorn

Asger Jorn 'Those Left Behind' painting 1950

A previously unpublished text by Asger Jorn, introduced by Peter Shield. From Transgressions #5 (2001).

Submitted by Fozzie on April 2, 2024

Introduction by Peter Shield

In 1960-61 Asger Jorn was moving away from his involvement with the Situationist International into a number of other projects. This was in line with his usual practice of a passionate involvement in the groups he joined or founded for about three years', followed by a disillusionment which led to his departure for fresh fields. Both in the case of Cobra, when he sent out a round-robin to the other members (reproduced in Asger Jorn, Lettres a plus jeune, 1998) and of the Situationist International, when he composed. a text intended for the Internationale Situationniste (I.S.) magazine, committed his dissatisfactions to paper.

The latter document, written in Jorn's "picaresque rather than picturesque" French (as one of his Cobra collaborators had put it), was probably never sent to Debord for publication, At any rate, with its repetitive text, spelling and grammatical errors, erratic capitalisation and occasional Danish-isms, it lacks the polish given to his published texts in French by the copy-editing of Dotremont (in his Cobra days) and Debord. Nevertheless, it is of great interest, exposing the many antinomies of his position at the time. The support given to him and his colleagues by museum directors like Sandberg is weighed against the clean sweep creation of new situations, as is the eternal problem of professionalism versus amateurism, current in Cobra as well as the S.I., and the idealism of the individual's commitment to the group. Jorn was on the point of developing "a complete revision of the existing philosophy" (which is described in my recent book Comparative Vandalism, reviewed elsewhere in this issue of Transgressions), which took into account national differences and the role of history and the future. All these points are emerging here in a text obviously written at speed and with great urgency. Published here for the first time, I have not attempted to reproduce the various textual anomalies in my translation, but instead have gone for as readable a text as possible.

For those unfamiliar with the events of the time, Troels Andersen admirably summarises them in his recent biography of Jorn, which draws heavily upon the extensive archive material at Silkeborg Art Museum.

[Jorn] met frequently with Debord. Together they attempted to realise the decisions of the Munich meeting. Sandberg [director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam] had promised to put exhibition space at the group's disposal in May 1960. The Dutch 'bureau', which consisted of Constant, supplemented by two architects [Oudejans and Alberts], were to negotiate the details.

During February, when Jorn and Debord became aware that nothing had happened, they travelled to Holland to talk with the Dutchmen. They met at the museum on 4th March. Jorn wished to speak with Sandberg alone and stated afterwards that neither the finance nor anything else were in place. The idea had been, as in Debord's suggestion from 1956, to construct a labyrinth that began inside the museum and led the visitors out into the street, where the whole city would become a 'psychogeographic' extension of the exhibition. A description and a schematic plan of the labyrinth was published in the June number of Internationale Situationniste (also included in this issue of Transgressions).

There Sandberg was portrayed as the representative of a cultural-political reaction. Jorn defended him in an unpublished text as the museum leader who had had the courage not only to carry out Constant's first New Babylon exhibition, but also to have earlier supported Constant, Gallizio and Jorn himself with purchases. He compared the attack on Sandberg with the scandal around the Cobra Exhibition of 1949 and called the new attack coarse and vulgar. Debord resorted to his usual means, the exclusion of the two architects. In true totalitarian fashion, Constant was made to transmit the news. In the magazine the motive for their exclusion was that they had designed a church. Jorn wished, as in his time with Cobra, to preserve the tension and dynamic that the opposition between himself, Constant and Debord could create. However, Constant had had enough and in June announced his departure from the collaboration.

...The 'central committee' [of the I.S.] met on 11th - 13th April [1961] in Munich. The Spur Group, which took the Situationist rhetoric very seriously, had come into conflict with Otto van de Loo [Spur's and Jorn's art dealer], who had made it known that he did not wish any connection with the Situationists. Maurice Wyckaert had taken van de Loo's side and had been excluded. With his strange logic, Debord maintained that "it was completely unacceptable that the art dealer could or could not freely 'break with the I.S.', which had absolutely nothing to do with him. It was simply an obvious attempt to interfere in the affairs of the I.S. by an art dealer who had personal connections with several Situationists...". Jom visited van de Loo in Munich to attempt clarification, but then took the consequences of both this discord and the previous conflicts. He had been on the point of breaking with the group after the magazine's complaints against Sandberg. He now announced his resignation and thereby robbed Debord of the opportunity of excluding him. At the same time, he continued to finance the magazine and maintained personal contact with Debord.

Troels Andersen, Asger Jorn: En biografi: Arene 1953-73, (1997, pp.102-3, 112)

The Anti-Situation of Amsterdam - Asger Jorn

In 'Die Welt als Labyrinth', I.S. [Internationale Situationniste] (number 4)1 explains the accident of Amsterdam in an extremely traditional and classical manner from the perspective of absolute and idealised progress, or a perspective of history necessarily and absolutely surpassing the old, but without recognising that the old in our epoch could have been either revolutionary or reactionary. Thus in the eyes of Constant, Sandberg just becomes the worse k kind of reactionary. What astonishes me is that this attitude is addressed unilaterally at me.

The great value of situationism is, on the one hand, of having opened out new creative perspectives towards the future and, on the other, of having highlighted the immediate, the present, as the crux of each situation. This opening towards the future is made by the fixation of a new conversion point, a zero point, which is the realisation of unitary urbanism. All the activities of the international situationist movement thus become preparations for the realisation of this goal, this zero point, from which the true radiation of situationist creation is able to start, thus transforming idealistic utopianism into an experimental and conscious utopianism.

If the realisation of unitary urbanism becomes the unique goal of situationism, as it has in Constant's programme, then at that moment unitary urbanism becomes anti-situationist, and the step in that direction will only be that of the precursors condemned by later true situationists as dirty reactionaries, as it has been possible to do in the case of Sandberg. With time our efforts thus take on a character which perfectly reflects a cultural reformism. This is uniquely a question of distance. Seen from a distance, each revolution takes on the perspective of simple reform. The difference between revolution and reform and even stasis is not a simple question of presence or distance, or even absence, it is what is called reification or Entfremdung, and situationism is above all the revolt against reification or situationism is nothing. It is possible that the post-war cultural reformists have not been able to do anything for the true innovators. This will always be so. [...] Knowing and deeply detesting these post-war cultural reformists as I do, I am unable to accept that Sandberg should be considered as their norm or perfect model. I continue to regard him as the exception that confirms the rule and gives him a merited glory. However, at the same time this exception remains above all an exception. There are those who constantly balance at the limit of what is not possible and, contrariwise, those who see an ethical position in being able to say say 'they could have done better'. Closely following developments in my own domain, Sandberg seems to me the only representative of cultural ability after the war that cannot placed in the latter category. The attacks against Sandberg on the 4th March. were violent only in the vulgar meanness of the insensitive insults, in the manner of current Catholic propaganda. The immediate resignation demanded with much fuss after the COBRA exhibition in 1949 was a much more serious attack. These two incidents have been far from isolated. To explain his invitation of a situationist exhibition as a last moment revolutionary detournement to save his reputation seems to me even more absurd seeing that, since 1949, he has exhibited and purchased works by Constant, declared Gallizio and by me, as well as his invitation for the situationist exhibition being in declared opposition to all the other cultural reformists. Sandberg has had the skill to remain in his place whilst we others have been considered lepers by the reformists. That is all.

This is a critique, a purely spatial critique, not of the attitude of Sandberg, but of the extreme extents of his capacity and an efficacy always pushed to the limits, and thus, with due consideration, in Sandberg, I am obliged to recognise that what I call true revoltionary. However, those, who, for one reason or another, delay the course of events and the blossoming of human action, those I call reactionaries. It is for this reason that I do not hesistate to call the Amsterdam Bureau of Unitary Urbanism reactionary. The plan for the realisation of the labyrinth by May 1960 was entrusted to the Bureau in Munich in Autumn 1959. The Bureau made no contact with the museum where the manifestation was to take place, nor with Sandberg who had to realise it, before 5th March, and then only provoked by the presence of Debord and myself, and with a demonstrative contrariness on the part of Constant.

The plans should have been prepared months in advance and discussed by members of the movement and by practical authorities. The required money should also have been requested in time from the Prince Bernhard Foundation, as had been meticulously arranged for the monograph on Constant on the occasion of his personal exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum.

The Munich Congress gave full powers to the Amsterdam Bureau to realise the exhibition and the publication of the Potlatch review, because the latter confirmed its revolutionary intent. A reactionary activity which comes into effect in a revolutionary movement is called sabotage. The lack of activity on the part of the Bureau in these two domains can only be characterised as sabotage against situationist activity. The unwarranted or even casual insult is a situationist method able to cut across useless arguments in order to reinstate the truth in all its purity. We used this method successfully in 1956 against the Milan triennial which wished to conceal its refusal to realise the labyrinth we had proposed, and this was effective in prompting a distinction between the activity of Cobra and that of Situationism when Sandberg proposed a mixed exhibition to us, and if our aim had been to distance ourselves from the museum of Amsterdam and from Sandberg, I would have supported an even more spectacular provocation. But a provocation can have two contradictory aspects according to whether it serves a revolutionary movement in the struggle for its interests, or, on the other hand, if it is to serve to camouflage a sabotage organised from within a movement at the moment it risks being unmasked. The situationist movement can insult whosoever it likes in my name, providing that the general direction is pure, but if I now complain, it is to demonstrate that neither insults nor provocations directed outwards can hide the fact that the Amsterdam affair can in its principal aspect be described as a disadvantageous provocation against the movement itself. The publication of Oudejans's sketches of churches in Constant's article in Forum is thus not at all surprising, nor the undertakings for ecclesiastical ambiences by Alberts and Oudejans. On the contrary they explain everything, and the former discourses, already denounced at the Munich congress as a shabby Americanised pragmatism, had already indicated what was to come.

The fact that Constant could censor a text by Debord to use it under the latter's signature in a catalogue for an exhibition exhibition in a text in Germany, has incited the latter to write in I.S. (number 4) that "it is completely unacceptable that our publications should be revised - if this is not done by the S.I. in concert - and that they should appear to continue to honour the responsbility of the authors. It must be made evident that one's signature will be withdrawn after the least censorship."2

What I have written here is a clarification of the censored part of my consideration upon of the Amsterdam affair. The rest can be read in [I.S.] number 4. I am not against the modification of texts which have to appear to represent a movement, even with a signature, provided that this allows a homogeneity in the communal processes. Theoretical detournement can also be as fertile as practical detournement. But since I have not read this account about me and I feel obliged to add these commentaries, I ask myself, since this account is made by the IS in concert, if I am still part of this ensemble on whose behalf I take editorial responsibilities. An equivocal situation on this question would be inadmissible to me.

A reification necessary for the absolute originality of the individual creation is imposed in every organised collaboration. This is done in accordance with a communal discipline, in itself anti-artistic and anti-situationist, but which takes on a creative scope under the creative direction of someone who makes the others, so to speak, creative instruments for the multiplication of creative ideas. This direction could pass constantly from one person to another following the development of inspiration, as in the improvisations of jazz, or be definitively established, as in the classical orchestra, where a hierarchy of degree of inferior importance to the conductor becomes impossible. It is evident that the system of classical hierarchy is inconsistent with the situationist method. On each occasion the individual situationist is at the same time occupied with maintaining the directed development and with preparing himself to follow the temporary direction of the movement at the most favourable moment to realise an effort, in creating an immediate situation which is linked with or interprets a liaison with the determinant perspective of the movement. A deviation from this perspective cannot be made by the detournement and exploitation of our efforts in a utilitarian propaganda, be it commercial, political, confessional, etc. which thus breaks the autonomy of the movement. This deviation becomes evidently more and more easy and dangerous the more one approaches the tentative neighbours of situationism, which because of their decrepitude are incapable of renewing themselves but can, perhaps, put off their death a little by purchasing an external novelty. All this is, however, of less importance in connection with the internal problems of the movement. The danger for each situationist is of becoming a specialist whether of a determinant goal or in the perpetual creation of situations in the [immediate moment].

It is here that an unresolved conflict can be found in the movement and which is the very essence of the Amsterdam affair, and which shows that the accord which was the result of the Munich conferences has been a manoeuvre, a compromise and not the result of a superior comprehension.

If Sandberg, as I am supposed to have said, was truly the normative or complete representative of cultural reformism after 1945, he would be a symbol of this attitude like Chaplin, and one would be able to place him there and one would then be able to discuss, under the name of Sandberg, whether this cultural semi-modernism after 1945, in all its neutrality, is preferable to open reaction at its worst. But one cannot ignore that the attitude and the brilliant career of, for example, Oudejans, had been perfectly known to Sandberg during the discussions of the exhibition, even though neither Debord nor I had been in the picture about all this. If we were at this moment to accept the proposition of Constant to make a demonstration against Sandberg, with Oudejans as a collaborator, our role would be that of rotten apples, and situationism would reduced to a joke.

At the time of M.I.B.I., we had to pit ourselves against the perfect type of neutral reformism in our conflict with the founder of the Hochschule fur Gestaltung in Ulm, the architect Max Bill. Our critique only served to assist the reaction by replacing him wimth, that sinister imbecile Maldonado. At any rate, this development allowed the Spur Group to put the futility of the theoretical knitting of Max Bense in its place in 1958. The situation in Germany would be much less brilliant if the same Maldonado had been a member of the situationist movement or supported by one of the members. At that time Constant was very clear about refusing the offer to become a professor at Ulm. This time he does not seem to have evaluated the various damages according to their exact proportions.

Sandberg, being about to retire, is a finished man as far as being a cultural politician. No exists to continue his line in his environment, where he was placed by hazardous circumstances, the war, a possibility that cannot be repeated in the circumstances of a new social disruption. And so? I only know of one problem here, the problem of the dignity with which the revolutionary movement treats its past. One could ignore it. But history is self-made, even that of Danton and Robespierre. If we are for a future without history, we are for a future without situations because these are the events of history. It is here that I have to ask if I am of the situationist movement.

In the manifesto of I.S. (4), it is written that situationism is "against preserved art, being an organisation directly of the actual moment."3 This notion of the non-future, also formulated by Andre Frankin in his "Programmatic Sketches"4 , is to me rather enigmatic and I fear that Sandberg would really be much closer to signing up to it without asking for explanations than I would.

I am against the fabrication of preserved art, art eternal, art the goal of which is to preserve or be preserved, and for an art which is directly the expression of the actual moment and the goal of which is the intensification of this instant. I am for the organisation of this initiative because it is the unique means of realising it today, when organisations are becoming more and more efficacious in preventing precisely that. But I have behind me the disappointing experience of the poet Jeppe Aakjaer, who, when he was 50 years old, criticised exactly the over-simplified way in which this goal of the living word had been implemented, by saying after a stay at Folk High School, "I learn nothing from the dead words of living men. I learn everything from living words of dead men - long live the dead." The words of this combative socialist were certainly paradoxical, but I am persuaded that the theoretical and artistic work of the situationist movement is not comprehensible overnight and that this is not a question of a temporary state. That time possesses different speeds will always be so, and for me this is exactly the situationist's domain to profit from. For me urbanism can never be a spatial construction. Only spatial constructions with durations that stretch from a minute to thousands of years can be situationist instruments for me, no other.

I have never properly deliberated upon the criterion of a collaboration. For me the essential thing is the instinct for extraordinary momentum which exists in the situationist movement and my pleasure is in discovering each day new aspects of this endeavour. I am of the opinion that the revolutionary movement possesses a development and, by this fact, a history of progress and visible stages. I am of the opinion that the situationist movement itself possesses its own history already. I do not wish to indicate the stages marked by the members of the situationist movement through the creation of new and precise situations in the various domains already, established in the history of art and culture.

I just want to attempt to explain the reason for the basis of the anti-event of Asterdam. Up to now all the situations which mark the situationist movement have been internal realisations by individuals or fractions of the movement. The manifestation of Amsterdam was the first essay in orchestrating the whole movement and the entire responsibility was given to the Amsterdam Bureau, after violent discussions on the subject of individual creation in Munich. In recognition that the orchestration of play required knowledge of the principles of orchestration and accepting the superiority of an architectural education over that of the free and spontaneous artists' knowledge of materials, we yielded everything. The mistrust which reigned in Munich can, perhaps, excuse or explain why the Bureau has not since made contact with the various national sections for the realisation of this orchestration, even though they had the Potlatch publication to hand for this purpose. The silence on the subject of the theoretical realisation itself only served to enlarge this mistrust, which found its complete justification after total failure had created a complete hostility and irreparable fissures within the group by definitively separating the elements out which were only interested in the creation of immediate situations at any price and, on the other hand, those who could only agree with pure initiatives for the definitive goal, both extremes abandoning the situationist idea.

The failure of Amsterdam could be excused and tolerated if the labyrinth as a project had been capable of stating in the new and original situation the principle of the construction of labyrinths themselves, if the project could have turned the concept of the labyrinth itself upside down in putting it in rapport with the problem of the network of Galton's apparatus, where the essential problem of situationism is a game. It is regrettable that the project itself shows us that the reason for the labyrinth itself as an elementary phenomenon of situationism has eluded them, and that they do not even know of the geometria situs or situ analysis which has marked the last 100 years. If the Bureau had taken the trouble to study the principle of labyrinths in Chr. Weiner's Ober eine aufgabe aus der Geometria situs, which appeared in 1873 in Mathem, Annalen, their construction would at least have had interesting aspects, as they would have included all the extraordinary evolution that situlogy under the name of topology had made since the end of the last war.

[...] If situlogical investigations are not capable of surpassing or at least taking account of general topology, as one can see on the evidence of the project of the labyrinth of Amsterdam, the practical realisation of which would only ridicule our pretensions [sic]. That this criticism has to come from a free artist is rather troubling.

It is, nevertheless, important for the movement that such a criticism does not only come from outside, especially because we cannot be satisfied with a topology, i.e., that which is present in its actual formula. In the immediate future, we will be obliged to absorb topology in a general situlogy and, at the same time, to establish a general situgraphy which embraces, amongst other things, the geometries and the topologies. We are also capable of this.

As we have surpassed technical methodology by, on the one hand, the establishment of a scientific methodography and, on the other, by the anti-methodical method of play and of derives, we will go on to utilise the scientific aspects for our purposes, in contrast to the socialist perspectives which allow themselves to be used for scientific and technical purposes. Amateurism is an essential force of situationism, but the anti-situation created by the dilettantism of the Amsterdam Bureau has only diverted the external situation towards the movement internally. The situation is there. To be sorted out.

Translated by Peter Shield.


Individual, class and nation in Spain, 1936–1939 - Juan McIver

Juan McIver looks at the Spanish Civil War and the work of poet and playwright Federico García Lorca

Submitted by Spassmaschine on October 25, 2016

The individual in Lorca

The play El public (The Public) was written by Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) in 1930. It was never performed during his lifetime. On 16 July 1936 Lorca left the manuscript in Madrid. Five weeks later, he was murdered by Franco’s troops in Granada.

Franco’s military alzamiento of 17 July 1936 started ostensibly against the Popular Front Government but in reality it was aimed at crushing the insurgent working population of Spain. The Italian and German Fascist regimes had defeated similar social unrest, and in neighbouring Portugal, Salazar’s state was also a bulwork of reaction. Léon Blum’s Popular Front government in France showed a different way of deflecting social unrest. In the USSR, Stalin was preparing further purges — the Moscow Trials that shocked the world in August. Claiming to represent the traditions of the Russian revolution, Stalinism was as totalitarian as the Nazi régime. As Stalin’s Great Terror unfolded in 1936-38, the world rushed to the abyss of WW2.

Lorca shunned political involvement in a society being ruthlessly polarised by the Army and the Popular Front parties. However, he had humanist and utopian opinions about the individual and society. In April of ‘36, he said in a long interview: "I see it clearly. Two men are walking along a riverbank. One is rich, the other poor. One has a full belly, the other pollutes the air with his yawns. The rich man says, ‘Oh, what a pretty boat I see on the water! Look sir, at the iris flowering on the shore.’ And the poor man grumbles, ‘I’m hungry; I don’t see anything. I’m hungry, very hungry.’ The day hunger disappears the world will see the greatest spiritual explosion humanity has ever known. Men will never be able to imagine the happiness that will erupt on the day of the Great Revolution."1

For holding such opinions, and for his sexual ambivalence, Lorca was a marked man. Franco’s military-clerical crusade was not only anti-working class but deeply homophobic and misogynistic.

In El public, Lorca’s views about individuality are profoundly subversive. They address the difficulty, if not impossibility, of love in a repressive society. His first play, El maleficio de la mariposa (The Butterfly’s Evil Spell), was a scandal in 1920. The plot has been called ‘preposterous’.2 Perhaps: after all, it dealt with the rather unpredictable love between a cockroach, Curianito, and his Butterfly paramour. Other creatures in the play were glow-worms and a scorpion. By the end of the drama Curianito and his beloved Butterfly die, proving that love brings only suffering, never joy.3 But the play also asserted that "…love springs forth with equal intensity on all planes of love".4 To assert that insects (and, later, gays) were capable of the most intense and sublime expressions of love was indeed subversive in the 30s.

El public contains many of Lorca’s intimate views of the individual’s tragic fate in society. Because the manuscript included themes of homosexual ‘mad love’ (amour fou), he knew the play would face scandal and fierce opposition. This was true in spite of the victory of the Second Republic in 1931."This is for the theatre years from now" he remarked at the time, "Until then, let’s say no more about it."5

The play’s symbolism ruthlessly exposes the violence endemic in society. The main character is a Theatre Director who perishes attempting to renew himself through a ‘Theatre of Beneath the Sand’. This is a theatre of authenticity; a living project where the lies and pretenses of the repressed and repressive public are exposed. For his own play, the Director uses the Romeo and Juliet characters from Shakespeare’s play. However, Juliet is a youth in disguise. The real and moaning Juliet has been left gagged and trussed under the seats. To the Director, it didn’t matter if the sexes were swapped. But the public didn’t tolerate this transgression and ‘the revolution’ broke out. They disembowelled the Director, Romeo and both Juliets. A lady witness remarks ‘…the revolution had no right to desecrate a tomb.’

El public shows the influence of Pirandello, the (mainly French) avant-garde (Cocteau) and surrealism.

In Lorca these influences and techniques are woven into a new, magical and delirious tapestry. Here we have a stroppy Juliet arguing with one of the White Horses (who trumpet and talk back):

"People, and yet more people; they’ll be in my tomb next, taking over my very cot. I’m not interested in discussing love, and theatre; what I want is … to LOVE.
White Horse. TO LOVE!
Juliet. Yes, a love that lasts no more than a moment."6

In Lorca’s plays love is elusive and violence is always near the surface. Witness this surreal dialogue between two figures, one covered in little golden bells and the other with red vine leaves:

"Bells. If I changed myself into a cloud?
Vine leaves. I’d change myself into an eye.
Bells. If I changed myself into a turd?
Vine leaves. I’d change myself into a fly.
Bells. If I change myself into an apple?
Vine leaves. I’d change myself into a kiss.
Bells. If I changed myself into a breast?
Vine leaves. I’d change myself into a white bedsheet.
Voice (sarcastic). Oh well done!
Bells. And if I were to change myself into a moonfish?
Vine leaves. I should change myself into a knife."7

Lorca’s vision of the individual, and of his tragic quest for love, has the resonance of the social conflict devouring Spain in the mid-30s. His love, disguised by endless masks that crushed, is not the marvellous of Breton’s amour fou (1937), but he would have shared Fourier’s criticism of the society that killed that divine passion: "…what is the aim of this political system which represses love so violently? Is it to reduce society to poverty, deceit, oppression, carnage, etc? Of course not. But this has been the result of the civilised system which represses love and grants it only a minimum of legitimacy."8

The individual is defined by Lorca as a being passionately in need of love. "He alone loves who has the strength to hold fast to love", wrote Adorno in 1946.9 The fact that individuals, generally, cannot fulfil this species need in communal life is a fundamental critique of an alienated society. Lorca’s art, and specifically El public, is therefore a testimony of rebellion, of refusal to adapt to inhumanity. His art is also a tribute to his strength to hold on to love. All humans have this capacity, in greater or lesser degree, but unfortunately few of us leave records of this quest in art-forms.

The individual and class in the Spanish Civil War

Was there a ‘social revolution’ in Spain in 1936-39? In key industrial regions, and in Madrid, there was a resolute workers’ and popular resistance to Franco’s alzamiento during and immediately after 19 July 1936. Suddenly a mass movement was unleashed, of factory takeovers by workers and land collectivizations by agricultural workers and poor peasants. However, this elemental class movement coexisted with the hulk of the Republican Government, and supported it. Anarchists of the CNT-FAI, UGT trade unionists and the Marxists of the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista) rushed to support (albeit critically) and even join the Popular Front coalition and the Generalitat in Catalonia. The Spanish Communist Party, until then relatively small, was extremely active in reviving the moribund Republic. The autonomous interests of the workers were subordinated to the needs of the democratic state. These needs momentarily coincided with the USSR’s strategic needs. Just like the Italian and German Fascists supported Franco’s crusade, Stalin supported the Republic’s. From the late summer of 1936 the workers’ militias were gradually militarised into a National, centralised Army. The process of militarisation was criticised and resisted, but it became irresistible when the Army’s modern weapons were supplied by the USSR. A minority tried to resist the totalitarian drift by insurrection in Barcelona in May 1937, but it was too late by then. The revolutionary wave had receded and suffered a defeat in Spain, as it had already in Russia, Germany and Austria. The workers’ resistance in Spain waned and had to be propped up with intense propaganda and coercion. The interests of the Republic, as upholder of the Nation, became paramount, not social emancipation. Anti-fascism thus replaced the vision of a classless society. Anti-fascism too was crucial for Stalinism to justify the Great Terror, and to deflect attention from Stalin’s underlying strategy of forging a pact with Hitler.

In Stalin, Willi Münzenberg and the seduction of the Intellectuals — part of the recent literature on the period — the American writer Stephen Koch explains the international dimension of the Spanish Civil War. Stalin wanted to reach an agreement with Hitler, whose military might he feared. In order to do that, he wanted to use Spain as a bargaining chip. In fact, to appease Hitler, he sacrificed his own supporters in Spain. Inside the USSR itself, he was decapitating his General Staff (who were anti-German) during the purges of the Great Terror. This was to show Hitler that the USSR wasn’t a threat and might even be an ally. The Great Terror also allowed Stalin to exterminate any possible threat to his total power. The gamble in Spain seemed to work. In 1939, Hitler and Stalin signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which allowed Germany and Russia to invade Poland without mutual fears.10 That started WW2 in September but it didn’t stop Hitler from invading Russia in 1941! The Spanish Civil War ended in April 1939, with Franco’s total and unconditional victory.

This is part of the ‘macro—history’ that provides the backdrop to the 30s. Without grasping these events, it’s difficult to understand the seemingly isolated ‘personal’ events and tragedies of that period. The films Burnt by the Sun and Ai No Corrida depict fictional private tragedies in the same period of history. One happens in Russia as the terror of the purges engulfs all human relations and the other in a militarised Japan. The subtle overlap of the particular with the general emphasises the poignancy of these symbolic tragedies. Yet, in these films, as in history, the individuals were cruelly subordinated to the barbarism of the macro-level. All great works of narrative art have this dimension — a critical depiction of the mutual interaction between the general and the particular. It applies much less to the visual arts, and even less to music. In the mentioned films, the isolated monad, the particular, is defeated by the macro-level, by the false community that speaks in the name of individuals.

Franco’s victory brought immense suffering to thousands who emigrated to escape his terror. Many opponents, or ‘neutrals’ who couldn’t escape were massacred outright, tortured, imprisoned or couldn’t get jobs for years. But the victory of the other side (the Stalinist side by then) would have meant the same if not worse for many of those same people. By supporting one side of a conflict between gangs, humans become cannon-fodder (or at least dupes) of one of the gangs. That has been the fate of mankind this century. But it doesn’t have to be like this forever. Perhaps the memory of the initial emancipatory movement that existed in Spain in 1936 is part of a history that still has to be reappropriated.

The Spanish Civil War was the most important political event before ‘WW2; in fact, it was its preamble. The hundreds of thousands of workers and other civilians who perished in Spain, on both sides, were sacrificed for the dominant system of blocs, not for ‘socialism’. In this sense, it wasn’t ‘Spaniards’ or ‘Catalans’ or whatever who died, but part of humanity’s living hope.

The 1995 film Land & Freedom seeks to present the POUM, the Anarchists and perhaps the Trotskyists as heroic revolutionaries who defended a revolution ‘betrayed’ by Stalinism. According to this, Stalinism ‘opened the door’ to Franco. In reality the mentioned political groups supported the Catalonian Republican government, the Generalitat. In turn, this regional apparatus supported the Central government in Madrid. It thus supported its Army. This Army (controlled by the Stalinists after Negrín dominated the Popular Front) systematically militarised the workers.11 Trotsky’s perspective in Spain was that workers should defend "the lesser evil". He wrote: "Only cowards, traitors, or agents of fascism can renounce aid to the Spanish republican armies. The elementary duty of every revolutionist is to struggle against the bands of Franco, Mussolini, and Hitler."12 And: "We are ‘defensists’…. We participate in the struggle against Franco as the best soldiers [of the Popular Front Army],…"13 This perspective ignored completely that the Popular Front and its Stalinist supporters, in carrying out a prolongued civil war, had defeated the working class politically and socially, and decimated the most radicalised workers, a policy no different from Franco’s.

After May 1937, the Stalinists tried to openly exterminate the POUM, Anarchists and Trotskyists, who at last rose in Barcelona in a last desperate attempt at self—survival. These parties were seen as potential threats by the Stalinists and Negrín. But these parties had become isolated from the then militarised working class, The state machine they had supported turned against them and massacred them. They no longer had any coherent mass support. Their deaths, like all deaths, are to be deplored, but their own faith in lesser evils doomed them. What’s worse, their calls for support for the Popular Front’s military effort confused thousands of enthusiastic workers, who were then caught and mowed down in what became a merciless gang warfare. This lack of adequate consciousness in the working population is at the root of the tragedy. In the unfavourable world situation of 1936, one isn’t saying that the working population could have done differently. One cannot jump over one’s shadow, and only the benefit of hindsight allows one to be clearer on the events.14

From the above, it is difficult to see how the contradiction between the individual and society — in national form in this case — was resolved in Spain in July 1936. It certainly never was in the period after. The individual in July 1936, insofar as he belonged to a fighting community of labour, did take actions that reduced the chasm. Many accounts exist confirming that a real movement of emancipation took place. The narratives and histories of Mary Low and Juan Breá, Grandizo Munis, Carlos Semprún-Maura, Burnett Bolloten and many anarchist historians, in spite of their differing perspectives, provide persistent confirmation of what the working class in cities and the countryside did on 19 July and thereafter. The destruction of prisons (soon to be rebuilt by the Republic), the agrarian collectives where money was partially abolished, the democratically-run juntas and comités (before the CNT-FAI-UGT committees recaptured and expanded their own influence), the ability of the population to persuade the forces of law and order, and even Franco troops, to join them against the Franco onslaught. The vision of an emancipated life was being posed for real, it was being acted upon, even if the steps were faltering.

Michael Seidman’s various writings on Spain’s Civil War should be mentioned as indispensable studies on the role of ‘individualism’ during the conflict. These essays on working class ‘individualisms’ are provocative in that they suggest that any vision of emancipation that departs from the betrayal of individualism demanded by ‘sacrifice’ to a false, higher, collectivity is bound to provoke demoralisation and then resistance from the ‘atomised’ individuals. The particular and the general can enrich and propel each other toward emancipation only if there are no hidden agendas of domination:

"Thus, an analysis of resistance contributes to an understanding of a key function of the state in industrial societies and to the conclusion that one of the most vital functions of the state is to make workers work. During the 1930s, a weakened or permissive state encouraged resistance, whereas a repressive state — bourgeois or proletarian — reduced refusals to work. The growth and use of state power in Barcelona and Paris during the Popular Fronts cast doubts on the argument of the workplace utopians that in socialism or libertarian communism the state will wither away."15

Seidman’s ‘cybernetic utopia’ also suggests that the overcoming of capital, and thus alienation, and the separation between the individual and the community, can’t be understood in terms of individual (or factory) reappropriation by workers of that which they produced. Today, in contrast to 1936, the amount of social abundance, the alienated social totality, would not require a ‘politics of labour’ but an immediate ‘socialisation’, a transcendence of all separations.

In Spain in 1936, the individual became lost once the class retreated from the social and political stage, once the permanent need to exchange experiences, to discuss and take decisions collectively and individually, was lost. The emancipation of consciousness needed that atmosphere as the most basic precondition: debate and reflection are aspects of self-activity. The false and totalitarian communities of nation and state reasserted themselves once the individuals lost their own general terrain, lost their, own autonomous momentum.

Simone Weil was much more prescient than Trotsky, Nin or any other supporter/participant in the Spanish Republic’s war against Franco. Her insights apply also to the course of WW2. In 1933 she wrote:

"Revolutionary war is the tomb of the revolution and will remain so as long as soldiers themselves, or rather, the armed citizenry, are not given the means of making war without a controlling apparatus, without police pressure, without a special court, without punishment for desertion. Only once in modern history was war conducted in this way, namely, under the Commune; and everyone knows how that ended. It seems that a revolution involved in a war has only the choice of succumbing to the deadly blows of the counterrevolution or transforming itself into a counterrevolution through the very mechanism of military struggle. The prospects of revolution seem therefore very limited, for can a revolution avoid war?"16


"The absurdity of adopting war as a means of antifascist struggle is thus quite apparent. Not only would it mean fighting against a barbarous oppression by crushing the peoples under the weight of an even more barbarous massacre; it would even mean extending under another form the regime we want to abolish. It is childish to suppose that a state apparatus made powerful by a victorious war would alleviate the oppression to which the enemy state apparatus has subjected its own people; it is more childish still to believe that a victorious state would let a proletarian revolution break out in a defeated nation without immediately drowning it in blood."17

This scenario became a grim reality as Nazi Germany was invaded by Allied and Stalinist troops from the West and the East, at the end of WW2.

Analysing the Russian Civil War (1918-20), Weil remarked:

"This war imposed on a revolution that had a program calling for the abolition of the army, the police, and the permanent bureaucracy, a Red army whose officer corps was made up of czarist officers, a police force that lost no time coming down on Communists more harshly than counterrevolutionaries, and a bureaucratic apparatus unequaled in the rest of the world. These apparatuses were all a response to the necessities of the moment; but they were fated to outlast those necessities. Generally speaking, war always reinforces the central power at the expense of the people."18

Weil joined the militias under Durruti in the summer of 1936, fighting in the Aragon front. After suffering an accident, she returned to France in September, quite depressed by what she had seen.

Here are some of her reflections, made in October:

"Alas, there we also see forms of compulsion and instances of inhumanity that are directly contrary to the libertarian and humanitarian ideals of the Anarchists. The necessities and the atmosphere of civil war are sweeping away the aspirations that we are seeking to defend by means of civil war.

Here we loathe military constraint, police constraint, compulsory labor, and the spreading of lies by the press, the radio, and all the means of communication. We loathe social differentiation, arbitrariness, cruelty.

Well, in Spain there is military constraint. In spite of the influx of volunteers, mobilisation has been ordered. The defence council of the Generalitat, in which our FAI comrades hold some of the leading posts, has just decreed that the old military code is to be applied in the militias.

There is compulsory labor. The council of the Generalitat, where our comrades hold the economic ministries, has just decreed that workers must put in as much extra unpaid time as might be judged necessary. Another decree stipulates that workers whose rate of production is too slow will be considered seditious and treated as such. This quite clearly means the introduction of the death penalty in industrial production.

As for police constraint: the police had lost almost all its power before the nineteenth of July. But to make up for that, during the first three months of civil war, committees of investigation, responsible militants, and too often, irresponsible individuals carried out executions without the slightest semblance of a trial, and consequently without any possibility of syndical or other control.

Nor did organized lying disappear after the nineteenth of July."19

As said above, Simone Weil’s insights into the end of the emancipatory dream of 1936 were prophetic. They are still relevant today.

The absence of simultaneous global workers’ emancipatory movements in that period is the ultimate cause for the failure of the revolution in Spain. Isolated in ‘revolutionary zones’ or ‘communes’, emancipated individuals and their communities can’t in the end transcend alienation and all the separations of a commodity society. This is because the conditions of domination are universal, and only a global co-ordinated insurrection could preclude their continuation.

Finally, what should we do with the historical memory of those tens of thousands of individuals in Spain, who in a wild festival of emancipation, confronted the ‘problem of the total human being’s self-realisation under the sign of freedom’? They left an unfulfilled promise of happiness for future generations. Their revolution was inevitable once they refused to sacrifice themselves for anything other than their own individual and communal interests, which were those of mankind. Once they abandoned, or were made to abandon, this universal task, they were devoured by a two-headed Leviathan.

"It is above all necessary to avoid once more establishing ‘society’ as an abstraction over against the individual. The individual is the social being. His vital expression — even when it does not appear in the direct form of a communal expression, conceived in association with other men — is therefore an expression and confirmation of social life. Man’s individual and species-life are not two distinct things,…."20

A note on Lorca’s individual and Marx’s species being

Lorca’s tragic view of the individual’s quest for love fulfilment in modern society can have enriching parallels with Marx’s concept of man as species being. Where Lorca has a tragic view of the quest of love, fusing it at times with death itself, Marx’s views of human activity tend to be openly biophilic. These two views may seem opposite, but who could deny that death accompanies all human endeavour, including the quest for love? This may suggest too that the individual as species being, a child of Enlightenment classicism, can survive in the Romantic individualism of the 19C and even in the 20C avant-garde. The idea and need for happiness, particular as well as general, may still contain a ‘radioactive radical nucleus’, as Vaneigem aptly suggests regarding Surrealism.21 On the need for love, set always in the social context, Marx’s and Lorca’s views probably differ little.

In 1844 Marx advanced a view of death which would have challenged Lorca’s:

"Death appears as the harsh victory of the species over the particular individual, and seemingly contradicts their unity; but the particular individual is only a particular species-being, and as such mortal."22

It is doubtful that Lorca’s dramatic vision of death would accept this austere recognition of necessity. Marx’s views were made from the standpoint of socialised humanity’. In Lorca’s dramatic universe, the world is strewn with traps, the harshness of suffering and of death can only be concealed by love. In El public Lorca conceived his characters as one-sided fragments of humanity, confronted by inhuman and magical forces that never allowed for reconciliation. Love, in masks, sweetened the approaching death. Yet the violence suggests that everything could fall apart at any time, even love.

But would Lorca have objected to:

"Man as an objective sensuous being is therefore a suffering being, and because he feels his suffering, he is a passionate being. Passion is man’s essential power vigorously striving to obtain its object."23

Or to:

"…love can be exchanged only for love, trust for trust and so on. If you wish to enjoy art you must be an artistically educated person; if you wish to exercise influence on other men you must be the sort of person who has a truly stimulating and encouraging effect on others…. If you love unrequitedly, ie, if your love as love does not call forth love in return, if through the vital expression of yourself as a loving person you fail to become a loved person, then your love is impotent, it is a misfortune."?24

Probably not.

Juan McIver, February 2000


Adorno, TW. Minima Moralia. London: Verso, 1978
Alexander, Robert. The Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War (I). London: Janus Publishing, 1999.
Bateman, Don. Joaquim [sic] Maurin (1893-1973): Life and Death of a Spanish Revolutionary. Leeds: ILP Square One Publications, 1974.
Berger, Lisa/Mazer, CaroL Des femmes libres dans la révolution espagnole (De toda la vida).Video, Hésiode, Marseille: La Canebière, (1993?).
Beecher, Jonathan. The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier, Selected Texts on Work, Love and Passionate Attraction. London:Jonathan Cape, 1972.
Beevor, Anthony. The Spanish Civil War. London: Cassel, 1982.
Berneri, Camillo. Guerre de classes en Espagne. Paris: Spartacus, 1977.
Bilan. Textos sobre la revolución española 1936-1938. Barcelona: HC/Etcétera, 1978.
Blinkhorn, Martin. Democracy and Civil War in Spain: 1931-1939. London: Routledge, 1996.
Bookchin, Murray. The Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years 1868-1936. Edinburgh: AK Press, 1998.
Bookchin, Murray. To Remember Spain: The Anarchist and Syndicalist Revolution of 1936. Edinburgh: AK Press, 1994.
Bourrinet, Philippe. The Italian Communist Left: 1926-45. London: ICC, 1992.
Harry, Browne. Spain’s Civil War. Harlow: Longman, 1996.
Bolloten, Burnett. The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution. Chapel Hill: North Carolina Press, 1991.
Bolloten, Burnett. The Grand Camouflage. London: Hoffis & Carter, 1961.
Brendel, Cajo/Simon, Henri. De l’anti-franquisme à l’après-franquisme : illusions politiques et lutte de classe. Paris: "Echanges et Mouvement", 1979.
Broué, Pierre/Témime, Emile. The Revolution and the Civil War in Spain. London: Faber & Faber, 1972.
Brenan, Gerald. The Spanish Labyrinth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Cahiers Léon Trotsky. ‘Souvenirs de 1936’ (2), Grenoble, 1986.
Carr, Raymond intro. Images of the Spanish Civil War. London: Book Club Associates/Allen & Unwin, 1986.
Castels, Durán Antonio. El proceso estatizador en la experiencia colectivista catalana (1936-1939). Madrid: Nossa yjara, 1996.
Chacón, RL. Porqué hice las ‘Chekas’ de Barcelona: Laurencic ante el consejo de guerra. Barcelona: Solidaridad Nacional, 1939. A revealing Francoist pamphlet, using the techniques of show-trial perfected by Stalinism.
Chazé, H. Chronique de la Révolution espagnole, Union Communiste (1933-1939). Paris: Spartacus, 1979.
Claudin, Fernando. The Communist Movement: From Comintern to Cominform. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975.
CNT/FAI: 1936 The Spanish Revolution. Edinburgh: The Ex/AK Press, 1997.
Cook, Judith. Apprentices of Freedom. London: Quartet, 1979. In this homage to the memory of the International Brigades, we read about an incident in the Battle of Brunete: "Well, we took the village in the end, but we took it twelve hours too late. There I saw the worst incident of the war. A group of civilians were pushed out of the village towards the fighting, mostly women and children. We wondered what was happening until we saw they were being used as a living shield, they were screaming. It was ghastly to watch it. There were old men, babies, toddlers, and they were shot down by us because we couldn’t stop. Every last one of them." (87) Thus were the defenceless ‘saved’ by the ‘apprentices of freedom’. This contrite tone, concealing the usual sadism and barbarism of ‘democratic’ warriors, was to become pandemic in the Allied propaganda machines during WW2 (that is, when atrocities were reluctantly admitted).
Costa, Luis et al eds. German and International Perspectives on the Spanish Civil War: The Aesthetics of Partisanship. South Carolina: Camden House, Columbia, 1992.
Cunningham, Valentine, ed. Spanish Civil War Verse. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1980.
Diaz-Plaja, Fernando. Anecdotario de la guerra civil española. Barcelona: Plaza & Janes, 1996.
Diaz, Prosper J y Roca Boix J. Colección Imágenes en guerra. Valencia: Universidad de Valencia, 1998.
Dolgoff, Sam, ed. The Anarchists Collectives. New York: Free Life Editions, 1974.
Dupuis, Jules-François (Raoul Vaneigem). A Cavalier History of Surrealism. Edinburgh: AK Press, 1999.
Edwards, Gwynne. Notes for The Public, British première. London: The Royal Stratford East Theatre, 1988.
Elorza, Antonio, Bizcarrondo Marta. Queridos camaradas: la Internacional Comunista y España 1919-39. Barcelona: Planeta, 1999.
Enzensberger, Hans Magnus. El corto verano de la anarquía: vida y muerte de Durruti. Barcelona: Anagrama, 1998.
Esteban, José/Llusia, Manuel et al. Literatura en la guerra civil: Madrid 1936-39. Madrid: Talasa, 1999.
Esenwein, George R. Anarchist Ideology and the Working-Class Movement in Spain: 1868-1898. Oxford: University of California Press, 1989.
Gilbert, Martin. Descent into Barbarism: A history of the 20th Century: 1933-1951. London: Harper Coffins, 1999.
Graham, Frank. The Spanish Civil War, Battles of Brunete and the Aragon. Newcastle Upon Tyne, 1999. In a review of Land & Freedom, this author revives the Stalinist slanders against the POUM regarding the May Days: "There was a gentleman’s agreement between POUM and the fascists that they shouldn’t disturb the status quo,…". What would be the political/military benefits of such a fantastic "agreement"? Of this not a word. And: "The fascists did not seize this opportunity since for many weeks they had been in negotiation with POUM which from the start of the war, had been infiltrated by the fascist Falange." (ibid) Absolutely no proof is offered for these absurd charges. The pamphlet goes on "…all [the POUM’s] forces were withdrawn from the front. Twenty miles were left without troops." (ibid.).Yet Franco’s Army and the Falange refused to use this splendid opportunity to occupy the empty positions of their POUMist allies! Imagine, a gift of twenty unopposed miles! Why didn’t the Fascists swiftly take them? Maybe because they were ‘gentlemen’? Who, so as to not "disturb the status quo", were waiting for the equally gallant POUM militias to return to their posts?

In reality, this never happened. These slanders belong to the ‘Stalinist School of Falsification’. The POUM never entered into negotiations with the Falange or Franco, whereas the International Brigades were formed by and infiltrated by Stalin’s Comintern and NKVD, the latter being a lying, murderous and totalitarian machine no different from the Gestapo. Of this, there’s ample historical evidence — the works by Stephen Koch, Hugh Thomas, Elorza & Bizcarrondo, Burnett Bolloten, Robert Conquest and Walter Krivitsky’s testimony — to mention just some of the most authoritative. The Comintern in Spain was led and serviced by the likes of André Marty, a sinister psychopath, or torturers like the infamous Codovilla.
Guérin, Daniel. No Gods/No Masters (2): An Anthology of Anarchism. Edinburgh: AK Press, 1988.
Guillamón, Agustín. The Friends of Durruti Group: 1937-1939. Edinburgh: AK Press, 1996.
Guillamón, Iborra Agustín. Los bordiguistas en la guerra civil española. Barcelona: Balance, Cuadernos Monográficos de Historia. 1994.
Harris, Derek, ed. The Spanish Avant-Garde. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995.
Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls. London: Arrow Classics, 1994.
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Hore, Charlie. Spain 36: Workers in the Saddle. Socialist Worker pamphlet (no date).
Increvable Anarchistes. Espagne : la révolution sociale contre le fascisme. Paris/Bruxelles: Éditions du monde libertaire, 1999.
Koch, Stephen. Stalin, Willi Münzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals. London: Harper Collins 1995.
Koestler, Arthur. Spanish Testament.London: Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1937.
Koltsov, Mijail. Diario de la guerra de España. Switzerland: Ruedo Ibérico, 1963.
Korsch, Mattick, Pannekoek, Rühle, Wagner. La contre-révolution bureaucratique. Paris: 10/18,UGE 1973.
La pasionaria’. Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library, 1999.
Lee, Laurie. A Moment of War. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1992.
Loach, Ken. Land and Freedom. Video, Artificial Eye 123, 1996.
Lorca, Plays: Three. Mariana Pineda, The Public, Play Without a Title. London: Methuen Drama, 1995.
Lorenzo, Anselmo et al. Durruti: 1896-1936. Paris: Active/Beastie, AK Press et al. 1996.
Low, Mary/Breá, Juan. Red Spanish Notebook. San Francisco: City Light Books, 1979.
Malraux, André. Days of Hope. London: Penguin Books (no date).
Martin, Benjamin. The Agony of Modernization: Labor and Industrialization in Spain. Ithaca: ILR Press, Cornell University, 1990.
Martinez, Nadal Rafael. Lorca’s The Public. London: Calder & Boyars/Lyrebird Press, 1974.
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Marzocchi, Umberto. Remembering Spain: Italian Anarchist Volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. London: BM Hurricane, 1999.
Mattick, Paul. ‘The Barricades Must be Torn Down. Moscow-Fascism in Spain’. Chicago: International Council Correspondence, No. 7-8, August 1937.
Mintz, Jerome R. The Anarchists of Casas Viejas. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.
Monreal, Antonio. El pensamiento politico de Joaquin Maurin. Barcelona: Peninsula, 1984.
Morrow, Felix. Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain. London: New Park Publications, 1976.
Munis, Grandizo.Jalones de derrota, promesa de victoria: (España 1930-39). Paris: "La Vieille Taupe", 1972.
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Semprún-Maura, Carlos. Revolución y contrarrevolución en Cataluña (1936-1937). Barcelona: Tusquets Editor, 1977.
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Vallejo, César. Poesia Completa. (Barcelona?): Barral Editores, 1978.
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Taken from the Left-wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder? website.

  • 1Leslie Stainton. Lorca, A Dream of a Life. London: Bloomsbury, 1998, 447.
  • 2Ibid., 67.
  • 3Ibid., 69.
  • 4Ibid., 67.
  • 5Gwynne Edwards. Notes for The Public, British première, London: The Royal Stratford East Theatre, 1988.
  • 6Lorca. Plays: Three. Mariana Pineda, The Public, Play Without a Title. London: Methuen Drama, 1995, 78.
  • 7Ibid., 68.
  • 8Jonathan Beecher. The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier, Selected Texts on Work, Love and Passionate Attraction. London: Jonathan Cape, 1972, 335.
  • 9TW Adorno. Minima Moralia. London: Verso, 1978, 172.
  • 10Stephen Koch. Stalin, Willi Münzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals. London: Harper Collins 1995. Chapters 5 (127-145) and 10 (265-297) are particularly relevant. After this work, it will be difficult for surviving Stalinists who were active in Spain to deny that they were dupes or butchers for an imperialist power. Still, from time to time, defenders of the cult repeat the same sinister slanders against the POUM and the Trotskyists as ‘agents of fascism’. The exposed truth about the USSR’S role in the Spanish Civil War is also called a ‘leftover of the Cold War’. Koch is no defender of workers’ autonomy, but his work confirms what Stalinism and ‘anti-fascist fellow-travelling’ meant prior to WW2 (see below, bibliography note on Stalinist pamphlet by a one F. Graham).
  • 11For a very clear and succinct description of the initial events of the revolution in Catalonia, and the subsequent counterrevolution, Carlos Semprún-Maura’s Revolución y contrarrevolución en Cataluña (1936-1937) is an exemplary text. Unfortunately, there is no English translation.
  • 12Leon Trotsky. The Spanish Revolution. New York: The Pathfinder Press, 1973, 242
  • 13Ibid., 289.
  • 14The Italian Fraction around the publications Bilan and Prometeo — the so-called Bordiguists — were able to analyse accurately many of the underlying class contradictions that erupted in the Spanish Civil War even before July 1936. See Agustín Guillamón Iborra’s Los bordiguistas en la guerra civil española. Barcelona: Balance, Cuadernos Monográficos de Historia. 1994.The group that published International Council Correspondence in Chicago in the 30s was also able to grasp the situation, especially the May Days of 1937 in Barcelona, with remarkable clarity. See Paul Mattick, The Barricades Must be Torn Down, Moscow-Fascism in Spain. Chicago: International Council Correspondence, N. 7-8, August 1937.
  • 15Michael Seidman. Workers Against Work, Labor in Paris and Barcelona During the Popular Fronts. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991, 315-316.
  • 16Dorothy Tuck McFarland/Wilhelmina Van Ness. Simone Weil: Formative Writings 1929-1941, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987, 245.
  • 17Ibid., 246-247.
  • 18Ibid., 249.
  • 19Ibid., 256-257.
  • 20Marx. Early Writings. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975, 350.
  • 21Jules-François Dupuis (Raoul Vaneigem). A Cavalier History of Surrealism. Edinburgh: AK Press, 1999, 127.
  • 22Marx. ibid., 351.
  • 23Ibid., 390.
  • 24Ibid., 379.



7 years 7 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Auld-bod on October 25, 2016

The other day I was reading this:

The popular success of one of his books, The Gypsy Ballads, seems to have helped him heal the social estrangement he had sometimes felt in childhood and adolescence. In a letter to his parents a year before his death, he tells of a reading of the Ballads in Barcelona:

The way I was received by the workers was extremely moving. It seemed so true, this contact with the real people. I was so moved I had a lump in my throat and I could hardly speak… When I read ‘Ballad of the Spanish Civil Guard,’ the whole theater rose to its feet and shouted, “Long live the poet of the people!” And then I had to undergo more than an hour and a half of people standing in line to shake my hand: artisans, old workers, mechanics, children, students. It was the loveliest act I have experienced in my life.

(Christopher Maurer, Introduction, page xiii, Federico Garcia Lorca, Collected Poems, revised, FSG, 2002)