^ Ken Knabb (ed. and trans.), Situationist International Anthology (Bureau of Public Secrets, 1981), p. 81 [Revised Edition pp. 106-107] [Geopolitics of Hibernation]. Here and elsewhere I have sometimes slightly modified my original SI Anthology translations.
^ See Maurice Brinton’s The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control: 1917-1921, Voline’s The Unknown Revolution, Ida Mett’s The Kronstadt Uprising, Paul Avrich’s Kronstadt 1921, Peter Arshinov’s History of the Makhnovist Movement, and Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle §§98-113. (These and most of the other texts cited in this book can be obtained through the distributors listed at the end of the Situationist Bibliography.)
^ “The journalists’ and governments’ superficial references to the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of a revolution mean nothing for the simple reason that since the bourgeois revolutions no revolution has yet succeeded: not one has abolished classes. Proletarian revolution has so far not been victorious anywhere, but the practical process through which its project manifests itself has already created at least ten revolutionary moments of historic importance that can appropriately be termed revolutions. In none of these moments was the total content of proletarian revolution fully developed; but in each case there was a fundamental interruption of the ruling socioeconomic order and the appearance of new forms and conceptions of real life: variegated phenomena that can be understood and evaluated only in their overall significance, including their potential future significance. . . . The revolution of 1905 did not bring down the Czarist regime, it only obtained a few temporary concessions from it. The Spanish revolution of 1936 did not formally suppress the existing political power: it arose, in fact, out of a proletarian uprising initiated in order to defend that Republic against Franco. And the Hungarian revolution of 1956 did not abolish Nagy’s liberal-bureaucratic government. Among other regrettable limitations, the Hungarian movement had many aspects of a national uprising against foreign domination; and this national-resistance aspect also played a certain, though less important, role in the origin of the Paris Commune. The Commune supplanted Thiers’s power only within the limits of Paris. And the St. Petersburg Soviet of 1905 never even took control of the capital. All the crises cited here as examples, though deficient in their practical achievements and even in their perspectives, nevertheless produced enough radical innovations and put their societies severely enough in check to be legitimately termed revolutions.” (SI Anthology, pp. 235-236 [Revised Edition pp. 301-302] [Beginning of an Era].)
^ “We’re not interested in hearing about the exploiters’ economic problems. If the capitalist economy is not capable of fulfilling workers’ demands, that is simply one more reason to struggle for a new society, one in which we ourselves have the decisionmaking power over the whole economy and all social life.” (Portuguese airline workers, 27 October 1974.)
^ The SI’s dissemination of a text denouncing an international gathering of art critics in Belgium was a fine example of this: “Copies were mailed to a large number of critics or given to them personally. Others were telephoned and read all or part of the text. A group forced its way into the Press Club where the critics were being received and threw the leaflets among the audience. Others were tossed onto the sidewalks from upstairs windows or from a car. . . . In short, all steps were taken to leave the critics no chance of being unaware of the text.” (SI Anthology, p. 49 [Revised Edition pp. 60-61] [Action in Belgium].)
^ “The absence of a revolutionary movement in Europe has reduced the Left to its simplest expression: a mass of spectators who swoon with rapture each time the exploited in the colonies take up arms against their masters, and who cannot help seeing these uprisings as the epitome of Revolution. . . . Wherever there is a conflict they always see Good fighting Evil, ‘total revolution’ versus ‘total reaction.’ . . . Revolutionary criticism begins beyond good and evil; it is rooted in history and operates on the totality of the existing world. In no case can it applaud a belligerent state or support the bureaucracy of an exploitive state in the process of formation. . . . It is obviously impossible at present to seek a revolutionary solution to the Vietnam war. It is first of all necessary to put an end to the American aggression in order to allow the real social struggle in Vietnam to develop in a natural way; i.e. to allow the Vietnamese workers and peasants to rediscover their enemies at home: the bureaucracy of the North and the propertied and ruling strata of the South. Once the Americans withdraw, the Stalinist bureaucracy will seize control of the whole country — there’s no getting around this. . . . The point is not to give unconditional (or even conditional) support to the Vietcong, but to struggle consistently and uncompromisingly against American imperialism.” (SI Anthology, pp. 195-196, 203 [Revised Edition pp. 252-253, 262] [Two Local Wars].)
^ “In its mystified form, dialectics became the fashion in Germany because it seemed to transfigure and glorify the existing state of things. In its rational form it is a scandal and abomination to bourgeois society and its doctrinaire professors, because in comprehending the existing state of things it simultaneously recognizes the negation of that state, its inevitable breaking up; because it sees the fluid movement of every historically developed social form, and therefore takes into account its transience as well as its momentary existence; because it lets nothing impose on it, and is in its essence critical and revolutionary.” (Marx, Capital.)
The split between Marxism and anarchism crippled both sides. The anarchists rightly criticized the authoritarian and narrowly economistic tendencies in Marxism, but they generally did so in an undialectical, moralistic, ahistorical manner, contraposing various absolute dualisms (Freedom versus Authority, Individualism versus Collectivism, Centralization versus Decentralization, etc.) and leaving Marx and a few of the more radical Marxists with a virtual monopoly on coherent dialectical analysis — until the situationists finally brought the libertarian and dialectical aspects back together again. On the merits and flaws of Marxism and anarchism see The Society of the Spectacle §§78-94.
^ “What surfaced this spring in Zurich as a demonstration against the closing of a youth center has crept across Switzerland, feeding on the restlessness of a young generation anxious to break out of what they see as a suffocating society. ‘We don’t want a world where the guarantee of not dying of hunger is paid for by the certainty of dying of boredom,’ proclaim banners and spray-painted storefronts in Lausanne.” (Christian Science Monitor, 28 October 1980.) The slogan is from Vaneigem’s The Revolution of Everyday Life.
^ For some hilarious examples see Henry Beard and Christopher Cerf’s The Official Politically Correct Dictionary and Handbook (Villard, 1992): it’s often hard to tell which of the Correctspeak terms are satirical and which have actually been seriously proposed or even officially adopted and enforced. The only antidote to such delirium is a lot of healthy guffaws.
^ On the Cultural Revolution, see SI Anthology, pp. 185-194 [Revised Edition pp. 240-251] [The Explosion Point of Ideology in China], and Simon Leys’s The Chairman’s New Clothes.
^ “As Shiites and Kurds battle the regime of Saddam Hussein and Iraqi opposition parties try to patch together a democratic future, the United States finds itself in the awkward position of, in effect, supporting continuing one-party rule in Iraq. US government statements, including those of President Bush, have stressed the desire to see Saddam Hussein overthrown, but not to see Iraq broken apart by civil strife. At the same time, Bush administration officials have insisted that democracy is not currently a viable alternative for Iraq. . . . This may account for the fact that thus far, the administration has refused to meet with Iraqi opposition leaders in exile . . . . ‘The Arabs and the US have the same agenda,’ says a coalition diplomat. ‘We want Iraq in the same borders and Saddam to disappear. But we will accept Saddam in Baghdad in order to have Iraq as one state.’” (Christian Science Monitor, 20 March 1991.)
^ “I am flabbergasted at the memory people retain of their own revolutionary past. Present events have shaken that memory. Dates never learned at school, songs never sung openly, are recalled in their totality. . . . The noise, the noise, the noise is still ringing in my ears. The horns tooting in joy, the shouting, the slogans, the singing and dancing. The doors of revolution seem open again, after forty-eight years of repression. In that single day everything was replaced in perspective. Nothing was god-given, all was man-made. People could see their misery and their problems in a historical setting. . . . A week has passed, although it already feels like many months. Every hour has been lived to the full. It is already difficult to remember what the papers looked like before, or what people had then said. Hadn’t there always been a revolution?” (Phil Mailer, Portugal: The Impossible Revolution?)
^ One of the most powerful moments was when the sitdowners around the police car averted a potentially violent confrontation with a mob of fraternity hecklers by remaining totally silent for half an hour. With the wind taken out of their sails, the hecklers became bored and embarrassed, and eventually dispersed. Such collective silence has the advantage of dissolving compulsive reactions on both sides; yet because it is nonspecific it does this without the dubious content of many slogans and songs. (Singing “We Shall Overcome” has also served to calm people in difficult situations, but at the cost of sentimentalizing reality.)
The best account of the FSM is David Lance Goines’s The Free Speech Movement (Ten Speed Press, 1993).
^ On May 1968 see SI Anthology, pp. 225-256, 343-352 [Revised Edition pp. 288-325, 435-457] [The Beginning of an Era and May 1968 Documents], and René Viénet’s Enragés and Situationists in the Occupation Movement. Also recommended is Roger Grégoire and Fredy Perlman’s Worker-Student Action Committees, France May ’68 (Black and Red, 1969).
^ “Labor will not only SHUT DOWN the industries, but Labor will REOPEN, under the management of the appropriate trades, such activities as are needed to preserve public health and public peace. If the strike continues, Labor may feel led to avoid public suffering by reopening more and more activities. UNDER ITS OWN MANAGEMENT. And that is why we say that we are starting on a road that leads — NO ONE KNOWS WHERE!” (Announcement on the eve of the 1919 Seattle general strike.) See Jeremy Brecher’s Strike! (South End, 1972), pp. 101-114. More extensive accounts are included in Root and Branch: The Rise of the Workers’ Movements and in Harvey O’Connor’s Revolution in Seattle, both currently out of print.
^ Raoul Vaneigem (who incidentally wrote a good brief critical history of surrealism) represented the clearest expression of both aspects. His little book De la grève sauvage à l’autogestion généralisée (literally “From Wildcat Strike to Generalized Self-Management,” but partially translated as Contributions to the Revolutionary Struggle) usefully recapitulates a number of basic tactics during wildcat strikes and other radical situations as well as various possibilities of postrevolutionary social organization. Unfortunately it is also padded with the inflated verbiage characteristic of Vaneigem’s post-SI writings, attributing to worker struggles a Vaneigemist content that is neither justified nor necessary. The radical-subjectivity aspect was rigidified into a tediously repeated ideology of hedonism in Vaneigem’s later books (The Book of Pleasures, etc.), which read like cotton-candy parodies of the ideas he dealt with so trenchantly in his earlier works.
^ “One day into this thing, and I’m tired, but compared to the positive sensations that are passing through this place, fatigue doesn’t stand a chance. . . . Who will ever forget the look on management’s faces when we tell them we are now in control, and their services are obviously no longer needed. . . . Everything as normal, except we don’t collect phone bills. . . . We’re also making friends from other departments. Guys from downstairs are coming up to help out and learn our jobs. . . . We’re all flying. . . . Sailing on pure adrenalin. It’s like we own the bloody thing. . . . The signs on the front door say, CO-OP TEL: UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT — NO MANAGEMENT ALLOWED.” (Rosa Collette, “Operators Dial Direct Action,” Open Road, Vancouver, Spring 1981.)
^ “A South African company is selling an anti-riot vehicle that plays disco music through a loudspeaker to soothe the nerves of would-be troublemakers. The vehicle, already bought by one black nation, which the company did not identify, also carries a water cannon and tear gas.” (AP, 23 September 1979.)
^ If this question had been openly posed to the Spanish workers (who had already bypassed the vacillating Popular Front government by seizing arms and resisting the fascist coup by themselves, and in the process launched the revolution) they would probably have agreed to grant Moroccan independence. But once they were swayed by political leaders — including even many anarchist leaders — into tolerating that government in the name of antifascist unity, they were kept unaware of such issues.
The Spanish revolution remains the single richest revolutionary experience in history, though it was complicated and obscured by the simultaneous civil war against Franco and by the sharp contradictions within the antifascist camp — which, besides two or three million anarchists and anarchosyndicalists and a considerably smaller contingent of revolutionary Marxists (the POUM), included bourgeois republicans, ethnic autonomists, socialists and Stalinists, with the latter in particular doing everything in their power to repress the revolution. The best comprehensive histories are Pierre Broué and Emile Témime’s Revolution and the War in Spain and Burnett Bolloten’s The Spanish Revolution (the latter is also substantially incorporated in Bolloten’s monumental final work, The Spanish Civil War). Some good first-hand accounts are George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, Franz Borkenau’s The Spanish Cockpit, and Mary Low and Juan Breá’s Red Spanish Notebook. Other books worth reading include Vernon Richards’s Lessons of the Spanish Revolution, Murray Bookchin’s To Remember Spain, Gerald Brenan’s The Spanish Labyrinth, Sam Dolgoff’s The Anarchist Collectives, Abel Paz’s Durruti: The People Armed, and Victor Alba and Stephen Schwartz’s Spanish Marxism versus Soviet Communism: A History of the P.O.U.M.
^ P.M.’s Bolo’bolo (1983; new edition: Semiotext(e), 1995) has the merit of being one of the few utopias that fully recognize and welcome this diversity. Leaving aside its flippancies and idiosyncrasies and its rather unrealistic notions about how we might get there, it touches on a lot of the basic problems and possibilities of a postrevolutionary society.
^ Although the so-called networking revolution has so far been limited mainly to increased circulation of spectator trivia, modern communications technologies continue to play an important role in undermining totalitarian regimes. Years ago the Stalinist bureaucracies had to cripple their own functioning by restricting the availability of photocopy machines and even typewriters lest they be used to reproduce samizdat writings. The newer technologies are proving even more difficult to control:
“The conservative Guangming Daily reported new enforcement measures targeted at an estimated 90,000 illegal fax machines in Beijing. Chinese analysts say the regime fears that the proliferation of fax machines is allowing information to flow too freely. Such machines were used extensively during student demonstrations in 1989 that resulted in a military crackdown. . . . In the comfort of their own homes in Western capitals, such as London, oppositionists can tap out messages to activists in Saudi Arabia who, by downloading via Internet in their own homes, no longer have to fear a knock on the door in the middle of the night. . . . Every taboo subject from politics to pornography is spreading through anonymous electronic messages far beyond the government’s iron grip. . . . Many Saudis find themselves discussing religion openly for the first time. Atheists and fundamentalists regularly slug it out in Saudi cyberspace, a novelty in a country where the punishment for apostasy is death. . . . But banning the Internet is not possible without removing all computers and telephone lines. . . . Experts claim that for those willing to work hard enough to get it, there is still little any government can do to totally deny access to information on the Internet. Encrypted e-mail and subscribing to out-of-country service providers are two options available to net-savvy individuals for circumventing current Internet controls. . . . If there is one thing repressive East Asian governments fear more than unrestricted access to outside media sources, it is that their nations’ competitiveness in the rapidly growing information industry may be compromised. Already, protests have been voiced in the business communities of Singapore, Malaysia, and China that censoring the Internet may, in the end, hamper those nations’ aspirations to be the most technologically advanced on the block.” (Christian Science Monitor, 11 August 1993, 24 August 1995 and 12 November 1996.)
^ “In the post-Cold War era politicians have discovered crime-baiting as a substitute for red-baiting. Just as the fear of communism propelled the unimpeded expansion of the military-industrial complex, crime-baiting has produced the explosive growth of the correctional-industrial complex, also known as the crime-control industry. Those who disagree with its agenda of more prisons are branded criminal sympathizers and victim betrayers. Since no politician will risk the ‘soft on crime’ label, an unending spiral of destructive policies is sweeping the country. . . . Repression and brutalization will be further promoted by the institutions that are the primary beneficiaries of such policies. As California increased its prison population from 19,000 to 124,000 over the past 16 years, 19 new prisons were built. With the increase in prisons, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), the guards’ union, emerged as the state’s most powerful lobby. . . . As the percentage of the state budget devoted to higher education has fallen from 14.4 percent to 9.8 percent, the share of the budget for corrections has risen from 3.9 percent to 9.8 percent. The average salary and benefits for prison guards in California exceeds $55,000 — the highest in the nation. This year the CCPOA, along with the National Rifle Association, has directed its substantial war chest to promote the passage of the ‘three strikes, you’re out’ initiative that would triple the current size of California’s prison system. The same dynamics that evolved in California will certainly result from Clinton’s crime bill. As more resources are poured into the crime-control industry, its power and influence will grow.” (Dan Macallair, Christian Science Monitor, 20 September 1994.)
^ Other possibilities are presented in considerable detail in Workers’ Councils and the Economics of a Self-Managed Society (London Solidarity’s edition of a Socialisme ou Barbarie article by Cornelius Castoriadis). This text is full of valuable suggestions, but I feel that it assumes more centering around work and workplace than will be necessary. Such an orientation is already somewhat obsolete and will probably become much more so after a revolution.
Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel’s Looking Forward: Participatory Economics for the Twenty First Century (South End, 1991) also includes a number of useful points on self-managed organization. But the authors assume a society in which there is still a money economy and the workweek is only slightly reduced (to around 30 hours). Their hypothetical examples are largely modeled on present-day worker co-ops and the “economic participation” envisaged includes voting on marketing issues that will be superseded in a noncapitalist society. As we will see, such a society will also have a far shorter workweek, reducing the need to bother with the complicated schemes for equal rotation among different types of jobs that occupy a large part of the book.
^ Fredy Perlman, author of one of the most sweeping expressions of this tendency, Against His-story, Against Leviathan! (Black and Red, 1983), provided his own best critique in his earlier book about C. Wright Mills, The Incoherence of the Intellectual (Black and Red, 1970): “Yet even though Mills rejects the passivity with which men accept their own fragmentation, he no longer struggles against it. The coherent self-determined man becomes an exotic creature who lived in a distant past and in extremely different material circumstances. . . . The main drift is no longer the program of the right which can be opposed by the program of the left; it is now an external spectacle which follows its course like a disease. . . . The rift between theory and practice, thought and action, widens; political ideals can no longer be translated into practical projects.”
^ Isaac Asimov and Frederick Pohl’s Our Angry Earth: A Ticking Ecological Bomb (Tor, 1991) is among the more cogent summaries of this desperate situation. After demonstrating how inadequate current policies are for dealing with it, the authors propose some drastic reforms that might postpone the worst catastrophes; but such reforms are unlikely to be implemented as long as the world is dominated by the conflicting interests of nation-states and multinational corporations.
^ For a wealth of suggestive insights on the advantages and drawbacks of different types of urban communities, past, present and potential, I recommend two books: Paul and Percival Goodman’s Communitas and Lewis Mumford’s The City in History. The latter is one of the most penetrating and comprehensive surveys of human society ever written.