B U R E A U O F P U B L I C S E C R E T S
Provisional Theses for Discussion (Salvadori)
Remarks on the SI Today (Debord)
Declaration (Debord, Riesel, Viénet)
Untitled Text (Debord)
Participation in the SI and National Sections
1. The SI is an international association of individuals who, having demonstrated an equality of capabilities in general, not in every detail for our common theoretical and practical activity, are equal in all aspects of its democratic management. Majority decision is executed by everyone; a minority has the duty to break if the issue in dispute seems to it to concern a fundamental matter among the previously recognized bases of agreement.
2. The SI organizes its activity on the basis of a division into national sections. This national criterion is understood in both geographical and cultural terms; it is possible, and in fact desirable, that each section be itself partially international in its composition. Each section is also national in the sense that it engages in a central advanced activity in a given country and does not seek to subdivide into regional subgroups in that country. A section might envisage such a subdivision within itself in certain exceptional geographical conditions, but the SI would continue to relate to the section only as a single unit.
3. A member of the SI is ipso facto a member of any national section where he expresses his decision to live and participate. Each member is responsible to the SI as a whole, and the SI is collectively responsible for the known behavior of each of its members.
4. The general assembly of all the members of the SI is the only decisionmaking power
over all theoretical and practical choices. To the exact degree that there exist practical
obstacles to the presence of everyone, the SI recognizes a system of delegates
representing each of the members. These delegates may or may not bear specific, imperative
mandates. Decisions made by delegates are revocable by those who have mandated them if the
mandates have been left open; they are not revocable in cases in which a delegate has
correctly executed a specific mandate.
Organization of National Sections
5. Each national section, on its own responsibility and within the general guidelines adopted by the entire SI, democratically decides on all its activities and tactics on its own terrain. It alone decides on all aspects of the publications, contacts and projects it sees fit to pursue. If possible it publishes a journal, the editorial management of which is entirely in its own hands. It goes without saying that personally undertaken projects or theoretical hypotheses cannot be limited by the section, nor by the SI as a whole except in cases where they are manifestly hostile to the SIs very bases.
6. Each national section is the sole judge, in its region, of breaks with persons on the outside and of admissions to the section. It is responsible to the SI as a whole only for guarding against anything that might lower the general level of the SI (see Article #3) or introduce a notable inequality among participants. The entire SI automatically recognizes and upholds all these breaks and admissions as soon as it is informed of them.
7. Each section is master of its exclusions. It must immediately furnish the reasons and all pertinent documents to all the other sections. In cases where the facts are disputed by the excluded comrades, or in cases where another section requests a new discussion bearing on the very basis of the dispute, these exclusions are suspended until a general conference of the SI (or a meeting of delegates) makes the final decision. As a general rule, it is not admissible that theoretical or programatic oppositions even serious ones be dealt with by exclusion before a general meeting of the SI can discuss the matter. But all practical failings must be dealt with on the spot. Any divergence or choice that does not require exclusion allows for resignation.
8. On any theoretical or tactical question that has not met with unanimity during a discussion, each member is free to maintain his own opinion (as long as he does not break practical solidarity). If the same problems and divergences are met with on several successive occasions, the members who are in agreement on one of the options have the right to openly constitute a tendency, and to draft texts to clarify and sustain their point of view, until there is some final resolution (by rediscovered unanimity, by a break, or by a practical supersession of the divergence). Such texts may be circulated throughout the SI and may also appear in the publications of one or more sections. A tendency bearing on a general tactical problem should normally itself be international (thereby tracing a division within several sections).
9. In exceptional cases in which a situationist finds himself isolated and yet active on a concrete terrain (a country where he alone acts in the name of the SI), he alone must determine his activity, while remaining answerable to the SI as a whole.
10. The present national sections can agree to temporarily share their contacts or activities in certain countries where no SI section exists, in accordance with considerations of common language or geographical proximity. Such apportionment must not be institutionalized nor must it notably increase the importance of one of the sections relative to the others.
11. Each national section will organize its own complete financial autonomy; but in this domain, too, it will, as its means permit, show solidarity with other sections that might be in need.
Coordination Between Sections
12. A general conference of the SI should meet as often as possible with all members, or at least the greatest possible number of them who can get there. In no case will it be held without the presence of at least one delegate from the section that would have the greatest difficulty in getting there.
13. To coordinate the SIs activity in the periods between conferences, meetings of delegates from the sections will be held as often as necessary. Each delegate disposes of the exact number of votes as the number of situationists from the section that has mandated him. In cases where two different positions exist within a section, such a section would have to have two delegates, each representing the number of votes supporting his position. Any member of the SI can participate and vote in these delegate meetings (in such a case, his vote obviously could not also be allotted to a delegate).
14. A section that cannot send a delegate to these meetings has the right to have itself represented by a situationist it chooses from another section, who will bear a specific mandate. The selected delegate should be informed far enough in advance to allow him to refuse to uphold a mandate if he disapproves of its content. The section that cannot attend would in that case have to ask another situationist to defend its point of view.
Adopted 30 September 1969 at the 8th SI Conference in Venice
[...] The April Theses [Debords April 1968 The Organization Question for the SI] pointed out that the SI now needs to concentrate more on the dissemination of theory than on its elaboration (though the latter must also be continued). I want to call attention to the fact that in order to accomplish this, theory must first of all be put in a condition in which it can be effectively disseminated. The first step of theorys advance toward practice takes place within theory itself. The dissemination of theory is thus inseparable from its development. The task of giving all our formulated or implicit theses a systematic and completely dialectical development, one that will bring them not only to the point where no one can any longer be unaware of them, but also to the point where they circulate among the workers like hotcakes and finally spark a definitive awakening of consciousness (a scandal) this is certainly a theoretical task. But it also has an immediately practical utility; more precisely, it is both necessary and banal at this time when the SI is more or less led to play double or nothing with history.
Let us consider, for example, the excellent project of a Situationist Manifesto (situationist in the sense that it is done by situationists). I think that some of the difficulty in conceiving or imagining it must be attributed to the fact that we have yet to attain a certain level of theoretical development. By this I mean: the SIs theory is solid and is already maturing without becoming old (it being the last theory, assuming that this eras decisive revolution is the last revolution). But beyond the fact that the SIs Manifesto must be translated into all the languages spoken by the modern proletariat and disseminated among the workers, it should be in a position to last at least as well as the Communist Manifesto, without having the latters defects and inadequacies. It thus clearly cannot be a book, or an article (like the Address to Revolutionaries of All Countries, for example) that would arbitrarily be called a manifesto; rather, it must be the geometric locus of the theory of modern society and the constant reference point of any future revolution. In this sense the project proposed by Guy(1) of settling our accounts with Marx, by precisely assessing the degree of accuracy of his analyses and predictions, is a preliminary project, though not a necessary one. More generally, our theory certainly runs through all the SI articles, from which it may easily be drawn; but in that form our theory has to be reconstructed by the reader. This theory must now be unified and synthesized, and for this end some additional analyses will be in order. In particular, the new simplicity of language we are seeking will certainly not be able to make our language familiar in the short run. Thus, before the Manifesto we might undertake the intermediate task of scientifically developing all our previously outlined themes (articles, pamphlets, books).
In contrast, it seems to me that René-Donatiens proposal of a Wildcat Strikers Handbook should be realized in the near future. To a brief history of the wildcat movement and a confirmation of its critique in acts of the unions, we could add a critique of the worker milieu and a brief final programatic chapter (defeat of the revolutionary movement, bureaucracy, spectacle-commodity society, return of social revolution, workers councils, classless society). This would be a premise for the Manifesto as well as a followup to Student Poverty, in that it might lead to a Strasbourg of the factories.
Finally, it seems to me that the Manifesto project is the way in which we can consider the necessity of an overall advance in the relations among our theses as well as between them and the real movement, and that it thus presupposes the realization of virtually all the other projected theoretical works that have been formulated in the course of this debate. For example, René and Raouls proposed pamphlet on workers councils and the critique of Pannekoek; of the four major projects proposed by Guy, at least the analysis of the two concomitant failures (insofar as they concern the process of the formation of conscious revolutionary organizations and the critique of the present process of purely spontaneous struggle) and, linked to the critique of the councils of the past and of councilist ideology, the definition of the armed coherence (the outline of a program) of the new councils, which will be situationist or nothing. Thus the preface to the practical critique of the modernized old world opens up the quest for a real antireformism and for new forms of mass or generalized action in the proletariats development toward an autonomous movement, the first phase of which is manifested by sabotage, wildcat strikes and above all by the new, modern demands. Besides this, it will still be necessary to come back to the question of historical class determination, notably that of the working class and its revolutionary nature, since it continues, because of its material position in society, to bear the consciousness of humanity as a whole. (Tony: We must affirm that the workers can become revolutionary, and that they are the only ones who will be so effectively. Raoul: The path of the worker is direct: because he holds the fate of the commodity in his hands, all he has to do in order to break free of his brutalization and stop being a worker is to become conscious of his power. His positivity is immediate. The intellectual is at best negative. . . . Our critique must now bear essentially on the worker milieu, the motor of the proletariat.) Essential chapters are thus: the analysis of American capitalism and American society with its new déclassés; the critique of the most modern ideologies in relation to the supersession in acts of political economy and to the delay of the revolution (urbanism as destruction of the city; automation seen as automatically liberating; ecology as present-day societys moral crisis, which compels it to envisage the necessity of itself transforming production relations; and, linked to all the above, situationism: the critique of everyday life conducted by power itself); the analysis of the material presence in work and in everyday life of all the fragmentary elements of the totality, of the entire historical project, of that which the disappearance of art, the withering away of philosophy and the bankruptcy of science were unable to abolish, but have on the contrary injected everywhere by making it a definitive acquisition of the workers who are henceforth becoming their conscious inheritors. In general, there is a need to pursue an international strategy of revolution by politico-historical articles on different countries, that is to say, to continue to translate The Society of the Spectacle into terms like those of The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy, and even further in that direction. (A good translation of the former has yet to appear in Italy.)
Another project I think it is useful to add is this: beginning with a quick run-through of past revolutions (like Marx does in the Manifesto, Engels in the Introduction to The Class Struggles in France, Trotsky in 1905, Pannekoek in Workers Councils), to develop an answer to the question, Why will the next revolution be the last one? The history of the workers movement aspects of which have been treated in numerous articles and whose line is most fully traced in The Proletariat as Subject and Representation [Chapter 4 of The Society of the Spectacle], along with Riesels critique of its highest moments, the councils, in Internationale Situationniste #12 is still far from being an outworn topic on which everything of consequence has already been said. But what seems to me of even greater interest is to clarify why modern revolutions are henceforth, and for the first time, exclusively proletarian, and this at a time that is witnessing a decisive transformation of the workers and of work itself. Thus the revolutions of the past failed to attain, except marginally, that without which the modern revolution cannot even begin: the fact that victory can be achieved only by demanding the totality is now also expressed in the fact that there are no longer even any struggles except for the totality. One could start from a definitive critique and a justification of Russian Bolshevism (of Trotsky and Lenin) in relation to the real conditions of the Russian proletariat, those conditions being in their turn considered in relation to the conditions of the modern proletariat, which simultaneously make Bolshevism impossible and the councils necessary, no longer at the periphery of a movement that is ebbing, but at the center of a movement that is rising. This would also be a verification of Marxs general thesis: As long as the existing production relations are not exhausted and have not entered into contradiction with the development of the productive forces (in the total historical sense that includes the development of the revolutionary class itself and of the consciousness that produces history), revolutions run the greatest risk, which so far has never been avoided, of being defeated and leading to a modernization of domination. Each revolution sets loose all possibilities (in 1789 as in 1871 and 1917), but in the final analysis realizes only those that correspond to the level attained by the development of productive forces. Out of all the possibilities each revolution opens up for itself, it always seems to choose the nearest. All the possibilities are there before it, but some of them remain invisible while others are in everybodys mind: it is obviously everyday life, the immediate relation with the existing world, that puts them there. This can just as well be expressed by saying that in all revolutions the negation is never absolute, that the positive plays a large part, whether as positive or inversely as determining the negation: if the condition of victory consists in reducing the former, it also always consists in reinforcing the latter, in reducing the positive to its objective basis.
It also seems to me that we have arrived at a point where we must go over all of situationist theory from top to bottom and rewrite it, so as to deal with the mediations that were treated too rapidly and with the questions that were left open. The recognized value of writing books, for example (books that in the present period the workers should begin to read), obviously stems from this necessity of superseding the opening moment of hostilities on a new front of modern critique. [...]
In conclusion, we ourselves dont have a head start at this beginning of an era: its the beginning of an era for us too. The SI was able to trace, condensed into a few phrases, a few of the fundamental alternatives and perhaps all of the modern directions of development; but it is precisely for this reason that it is virtually a question of beginning over again (except for the spectacle, the critique of everyday life, a few brief though excellent politico-historical texts on revolutions, and of course the analysis of May). Our most notable theoretical acquisition so far is our theoretical method, which must be verified in a number of concrete respects by deepening the theory itself in a decisive manner, precisely because the force of spirit is only as great as its externalization. We have already written, in installments, our German Ideology, but our 1844 Manuscripts will be the text Guy proposes for the historical détournement of Marx. We are beginning to consider our Manifesto at the same time as our Critique of the Gotha Program. Moreover, we dont come only from Hegel and Marx. The Revolution of Everyday Life has only opened the way; antiutopia is an unexplored territory from which no one has returned so far. It is this antiutopia, made possible on the bases of modern society, that must fill in the gaps left by Marxs insufficiencies, just as it must itself be rendered dialectical and find a practical implementation. [...]
Milan, May 1970
I am in agreement with Paolos text (Provisional Theses, May 1970), apart from two slight differences. First, on page 5 of the French translation, I think it is necessary to dialectize somewhat more the question of the relation of Bolshevism to the backwardness of productive forces in Russia, by pointing out the very role of Lenins Bolshevism as a factor of retardation and regression for that central part of the productive forces: the revolutionary classs consciousness. Elsewhere (page 7) Paolo characterizes this formulation regarding what the SI has so far been able to accomplish the element of promise still surpasses the element of accomplishment as a slight exaggeration. On the contrary, I find this phrase to be completely true, without any exaggeration. With these theses of Paolo and a number of those expressed by various comrades, notably Raoul, René and Tony (as well as Gianfrancos very correct insistence on our developing certain economic analyses more concretely), it seems to me that we have a substantial basis from which we can more and more concretely develop both our strategical analysis and our theoretico-practical activity.
However, a few points remain to be dealt with that are preliminary to this debate (though they have already been touched on in texts by René, René-Donatien and myself). Paolo was right to parenthesize these preliminaries, for they have little direct relation with his programatic outline; and he has taken care, in a final note, to make the very significance of his text contingent on their practical resolution. We must thus now make an effort to determine these difficulties more concretely difficulties which are simultaneously archaisms in our own historical development and preconditions that we have to master before really undertaking the development of a more advanced perspective. [...]
After four months of this orientation debate we have not seen any theoretical divergences emerge; and this was fairly predictable. But one begins to wonder if these texts which go in the same general direction and many of which contain excellent points are not piling up like so many monologues while scarcely being used. To clarify what I mean regarding this underuse of theory: Just as Magritte could paint a pipe and then correctly write on the painting, This is not a pipe, to declare that one does not separate theory and practice is not yet to practice theory. And putting revolutionary theory into practice is not at all messianically postponed until the victory of the revolution, it is required throughout the entire process of revolutionary activity. Similarly (and this too is only a theoretical observation, but a necessary one), we all naturally refuse to consider even the most fundamentally theoretical activity as separable from even the most distinctly practical activity. To formulate the most general revolutionary theory is inconceivable without a very precise practice, and vice versa. Even in a street fight you still have to think! But if we leave aside these dialectical truisms on extreme cases, we can consider the most common concrete situation in which dialecticians reveal themselves as such (even if many of them dont have the intellectual background enabling them to talk about dialectics or to write theory at the dialectical level). People meet each other. They talk about how they understand the world and what they think they can do in it. They judge each other while judging their world; and each judges the judgments of the others. They agree with or oppose each others projects. If there is a common project, they have to know at different moments what this project has become. Their success or failure is measured by practice and their consciousness of practice (they may themselves, rightly or wrongly, characterize their failures and successes as secondary or decisive; the result may later be reversed and they may be aware of this or have forgotten it). Etc., etc. In a word, it is in this concerted and theorized action (which is also theory tested in action) that revolutionary dialecticians have to recognize as well as possible the decisive elements of a complex problem; the probable or modifiable (by them) interaction of these elements; the essential character of the moment as result, as well as the development of its negation. This is the territory of the qualitative where individuals, their acts, meaning and life know each other and where it is necessary to know how to know. The presence of history in the everyday life of revolutionaries. You comrades will certainly say that the preceding lines are very banal; and this is quite true. [...]
Leaving aside the fact that all the issues of Internationale Situationniste have included a number of personal contributions (often notable and sometimes even discordant), it can be said that for the most part the anonymous portions of issues 1-5 were produced in a truly collective manner. Issues 6-9 were still done relatively collectively, mainly by Raoul, Attila and me. But from number 10 on I have found myself left with almost the entire responsibility for preparing each publication. And what seems to me even more alarming and unhealthy is that I consider — unbiasedly, I hope — that these three issues are the best ones of the series! This situation was still somewhat obscured for me in numbers 10 and 11 by a small (but welcome) amount of collaboration from Mustapha (I’m still referring to the articles published without signature). We know that the departure of Mustapha right in the middle of the preparation of number 12 (though after he had turned in the article on Czechoslovakia) pushed things to a scandalous point, since at the same time the membership of the French section had doubled. I resigned soon thereafter from the position as “director” of the journal, mainly so as not to be an accomplice to a sort of spectacular lie, since we all had plenty of opportunity to be aware of our distance in this regard from our stated principles. A year has now gone by since this problem was posed, and the present editor-comrades are beginning to put themselves in a position to resolve it. If they succeed in this it will be by finally appropriating the methods that have “officially” been theirs for several years.
The deficiency of consciousness (on the asserted base of historical consciousness) regarding matters of method in carrying out various particular tasks obviously stems from a more general deficiency of consciousness. For two or three comrades, we can even note a deficiency of information, stemming from a lack of reading rather astonishing for theorists of the proletariat and realizers of philosophy and art. But this is only an epiphenomenon: it would be as vain to become indignant about it as it would be vulgar to joke about it. If some have not read what others quote and use, it is because they have had neither the desire nor the need to do so. I dont think this is because we have different tastes. It is simply that these comrades have discovered nothing to do that would have given them this desire and this need.
This deficiency of collective activity (I dont mean to say, of course, that we havent collectively discussed, decided on and carried out a certain number of actions or writings, even during the last two years) is mainly noticeable in the French section by a sort of general aversion to any critique aimed at a specific fact or at one of us. This was quite evident at the July 14 meeting. The slightest critique is felt as a total calling into question, an absolute distrust, a manifestation of hostility, etc. And this emotional reaction is not only expressed by the criticized comrade. The SI comrades are very quick and adept at judging the pro-situs(2) (the successive writings of the poor GRCA,(3) for example), that is to say, something of very little importance. But almost everyone manifests a strange reluctance when it comes to judging anything about a member of the SI. They are visibly uneasy even when someone else of us does so. I cannot believe that some hollow politeness is at the origin of this. It must therefore be a certain fatigue that sets in the moment questions are broached that really concern our movement: things we risk succeeding or failing in. In any case a critique is never carried further by other comrades and no one (except occasionally the criticized comrade) strives to draw from it any conclusions that might be useful for our subsequent collective action. In this way the SI has a tendency to freeze into a sort of perpetual and admirable present (as if a more or less admirable past was continued in it). This not very historical or practical harmony is only broken in two situations, in one case really, in the other only apparently. When a critique is really taken seriously and given practical consequences (because the incident is so glaring that everyone demands this conclusion) an individual is excluded. He is cut off from the harmonious communion, perhaps even without ever having been criticized before, or only once briefly. The apparent break in our habitual comfort happens this way: A critique is made or a defect of our action is pointed out. Everyone goes along with this critique, often without even bothering to express themselves about it; the point seems clear and undeniable, but boring (and correspondingly little attention is given to really remedying it). But if someone has insisted on the point, everyone admits that the detail is indeed a bad thing. And everyone immediately decides that it must not continue, that things must change, etc. But since no one bothers with the practical ways and means, this decision remains a pious hope and the thing may well recur ten times; and by the tenth time everyone has already forgotten the ninth. The general feeling, expressed not so much in the responses as in the silences, is clearly: “Why make a drama out of it?” But this is a false idea because it’s not a matter of a drama and the choice is not between drama and passivity. But in this way the problem, when it eventually is dealt with, is dealt with only dramatically, as many of our exclusions have shown. Between the extremes of breaking and complacency it thus seems that there is no place for real criticism. Such criticism is seen as pointless, as merely reflecting a bad mood (which is not to say that more genuine bad humor is not to be found among virtually all of us, in inverse proportion to our indulgence in overt criticism: in almost every personal encounter with a situationist one sees a sort of vague discontent that contrasts with the tranquillity of most of our meetings).
It goes without saying that in speaking of “criticism” I am deploring not only the sleep of the “negative” aspect of criticism, but also of its “positive” side: usefully approving, developing, striving to reuse a theory or an act of one or another comrade. I mentioned our prompt critique of the errors of the pro-situs, not in order to say that it is not in itself justified, but in order to note that the pro-situs are not our principal reference point (any more than ICO or the leftist bureaucrats). Our principal reference point is ourselves, it is our own operation. The underdevelopment of internal criticism in the SI clearly reflects, at the same time that it contributes toward, the underdevelopment of our (theoretico-practical) action. [...]
I think that all this is only a symptom of a correctable deficiency: several situationists lack of cohabitation with their own practice. I almost always remember the times I have been mistaken; and I acknowledge them rather often even when no one reminds me of them. I am led to think that this is because I am rarely mistaken, having never concealed the fact that I have nothing to say on the numerous subjects on which I am ignorant, and habitually keeping in mind several contradictory hypotheses regarding the possible development of events when I dont yet discern the qualitative leap. In speaking here for myself I would nevertheless like to believe that, as Raoul would put it, I am also speaking for some others. And, by anticipation, for all those comrades who will decide to consciously self-manage their own basic activity. [...]
The style of organization defined by the SI and that we have tried to implement is not that of the councils or even that which we have outlined for revolutionary organizations in general; it is specific, linked to our task as we have understood it so far. This style has had some obvious successes. Even now it is not a question of criticizing it for lacking effectiveness: if we successfully overcome the present problems of the phase of entering into a new era, we will continue to be more effective than many others; and if we dont overcome them, it doesnt much matter if we have carried out a few publications and encounters a little slower or a little faster. I am thus not criticizing any ineffectiveness of this style of organization, but the essential fact that at the moment this style is not really being applied among us. If, in spite of all its advantages, our organizational formula has this sole fault of not being real, it is obvious that we must at all costs make it real or else renounce it and devise another style of organization, whether for a continuation of the SI or for a regroupment on other bases, for which the new era will sooner or later create the conditions. In any case, to take up Paolos phrase, most of us will not stop dancing. We must only stop pretending.
Since the present problem is not at the simply theoretical level (and since it is dissimulated when we carry on theoretical discussions, which are moreover virtually contentless since they immediately lead to a consequenceless unanimity), I dont think we can settle it by constituting formal tendencies (much less by forgetting about it). I think that each of us might first try to find with one other situationist, chosen by affinity and experience and after very thorough discussion, a theoretico-practical accord that takes account of all the elements we are already aware of (and of those that may appear in the process of continuing this discussion). This accord could then, with the same prudence, be extended to another, etc. We might in this way arrive at a few regroupments that would be capable of dialoguing with each other whether to oppose each other or to come to an agreement. The process could be long (but not necessarily so) and it would probably be one way to put into practice the perspective evoked a few months ago but scarcely developed since of rejoining the SI (without formally suspending the present accord, but by here and now preparing its future). Suffice it to say that it is time to seek concrete individuals behind the now-evident abstraction of the SI organization; and to find out what they really want to do and can do. Without claiming that this will produce a stable assurance for the future, it would at least make it possible to bring into the open and deal with all the difficulties and discouraging impressions that have already been noted. We still have to talk about all this until acts permit us to shut up.
27 July 1970
The crisis that has continually deepened in the SI in the course of the last year, and whose roots go back much further, has ended up revealing all its aspects; and has led to a more and more glaring increase in theoretical and practical inactivity. But the most striking manifestation of this crisis (ultimately revealing what was precisely its original hidden center) has been several comrades indifference in the face of its concrete development, month after month. We are quite aware that no one has in any way expressed this indifference. And that is precisely the heart of the problem, for what we have really been experiencing, behind abstract proclamations of the contrary, is this refusal to take any responsibility whatsoever in participating in either the decisions or the implementation of our actual activity, even at a time when it has been so indisputably threatened.
Considering that the SI has carried out an action that has been at least substantially correct and that has had a great importance for the revolutionary movement of the period ending in 1968 (though with an element of failure that we must account for); and that it has the potential to continue to make significant contributions by lucidly comprehending the conditions of the new period, including its own conditions of existence; and that the deplorable position in which the SI has found itself for so many months must not be allowed to continue we have constituted a tendency.
Our tendency aims to break completely with the ideology of the SI and with its corollary: the miserable vainglory that conceals and maintains inactivity and inability. We want an exact definition of the SI organizations collective activity and of the democracy that is actually possible in it. And we want the actual application of this democracy.
After everything we have seen these last several months, we reject in advance any abstract response, any response that might still aim to simulate a comfortable euphoria by finding nothing specific to criticize or self-criticize in the functioning or nonfunctioning of a group in which so many people know so well what they have lacked. After what we have all seen for months regarding the question of our common activity, nothing can any longer be accepted as before: routine optimism becomes a lie, unusable abstract generalization becomes a dodge. Several of the best situationists have become something else; they dont talk about what they know and they talk about what they dont know. We want a radical critique a critique ad hominem.
Without prejudging any later, more considered and serious responses they may make, we declare our disagreement with the American comrades, who have constituted a tendency on completely futile bases. At the present moment the infantile futility of pseudocritiques is a bluff as unacceptable as the noble generality of pseudocontentment; both are evasions of real criticism. Other comrades have for months never undertaken to respond in any manner whatsoever to the mass of clearly urgent questions pointed to by facts themselves and by the first, and increasingly specific, written critiques that we have been formulating for months. The very terrain of the scandal and of its denunciation have expanded together and any silence makes one directly complicitous in all the deficiencies. Let no one believe in our naïveté, as if we were putting forward here some new exhortation aimed at arousing the members against some incomprehensible and paralyzing inevitability an exhortation that would meet with the same absence of response as all the preceding ones! We are quite aware that some of you have not wanted to respond.
This shameful silence is going to stop immediately because we demand, in the name of the rights and duties given us by the SIs past and present, that each member accept his responsibilities right now.
At this stage there is obviously no need to reiterate the central questions regarding which we await responses. Everyone is aware of them and they have already been put in writing. Let us simply say that we will naturally accept no response that is in contradiction with the actual practice of the person who formulates it.
If certain members have hidden goals different from ours, we want those goals to be brought out into the open and to be expressed, as they should be naturally, in distinct actions carried out under distinct responsibilities. And if anyone doesnt have any real goals, as strange as it seems to us that anyone would want to conserve the miserable status quo ante, let us only say that we will not contribute to covering for some glorified pseudocommunity of retired thinkers or unemployed revolutionaries.
Our tendency is addressing this declaration to all present members of the SI without distinction or exception. We want it to be clearly understood that we are not seeking the exclusion of anyone (and much less will we be satisfied with the exclusion of some scapegoat). But since we consider it very unlikely that a genuine accord can be arrived at so belatedly among everyone, we are prepared for any split, the dividing lines of which will be determined by the forthcoming discussion. In that eventuality, we will for our part do everything possible to make such a split take place under the most proper conditions, particularly by maintaining an absolute respect for truth in any future polemics, just as all of us have together maintained this truthfulness in all the circumstances in which the SI has acted until now.
Considering that the crisis has attained a level of extreme gravity, we henceforth reserve the right in accordance with Article 8 of the statutes voted at Venice to make our positions known outside the SI.
DEBORD, RIESEL, VIÉNET
Paris, 11 November 1970
In casting back into their nothingness the contemplatives and incompetents who counted on a perpetual membership in the SI, we have taken a great step forward. We must continue to advance; because now an era is over for the SI too, and is better understood. The undeniable success that we have registered in this case was so easy, and so belated, that certainly no one will think we have the right to settle back for a few weeks to gloat over it. Yet already over the last few weeks a certain lethargy has begun to manifest itself again (without, in my opinion, any longer having the previous excuses or semi-justifications) when it comes to developing our present positions. [...]
1) The SI recently was in danger of becoming not only inactive and ridiculous, but cooptive and counterrevolutionary. The lies multiplying within it were beginning to have a mystifying and disarming effect outside. The SI could, in the very name of its exemplary actions in the previous period, have become the latest form of revolutionary spectacle, and you know those who would have liked to maintain this role for another ten or twenty years.
2) The process of alienation gone through by various past emancipatory endeavors (from the Communist League to the FAI,(4) or even, if this comparison should also be evoked in our case, surrealism) was followed by the SI in all its easily recognizable forms: theoretical paralysis; party patriotism; lying silence on increasingly evident faults; imperious dogmatism; wooden language addressed to the miners of Kiruna(5) still rather far off, fortunately and to Iberian exiles; invisible titles of ownership possessed by little cliques or individuals over one or another sector of our relations or activities, on the basis of their being SI members (like people used to invoke the privileges of being a Roman citizen); ideology and dishonesty. Naturally this process took place this time in the present historical conditions, that is to say, to a large extent in the very conditions created by the SI; so that many features of past alienations were precluded. This set of conditions could have made a counterrevolutionary subversion of the SI all the more dangerous if it had succeeded, but at the same time it made such a success difficult. I think that this danger virtually no longer exists: We have so thoroughly smashed the SI in the preceding months that there is scarcely any chance that that title and image could become harmful by falling into bad hands. The situationist movement in the broad sense of the word is now diffused more or less everywhere. And any of us, as well as some of the excluded members, could at any time, in the name of the SIs past and of the radical positions presently needing to be developed, speak by himself to the revolutionary current that listens to us; but that is precisely what Vaneigem will be unable to do.(6) On the other hand, if a neo-Nashist regrouping dared to form, a single pamphlet of 20 pages would suffice to demolish it. To smash the SI and reduce to nothing the dubious pretensions that would have been able to preserve it as an alienated and alienating model this had become at least our most urgent revolutionary duty. On the basis of these new measures of security we have fortunately implemented, we can now probably do better.
3) The SI had (and still has, but fortunately with less of a monopoly on it) the most radical theory of its time. On the whole it knew how to formulate it, disseminate it and defend it. It often was able to struggle well in practice; and some of us have often even been capable of conducting our personal lives in line with that theory (which was, moreover, a necessary condition to enable us to formulate its main points). But the SI has not applied its own theory in the very activity of the formulation of that theory or in the general conditions of its struggle. The partisans of the SIs positions have for the most part not been their creators or their real agents. They were only more official and more pretentious pro-situs. This has been the SIs main fault (avoidable or not?). To have gone so long without being aware of it has been its worst error (and to speak for myself, my worst error). If this attitude had prevailed, it would have been the SIs ultimate crime. As an organization, the SI has partly failed; and this has been the part in which it has failed. It was thus necessary to apply to the SI the critique it had applied, often so well, to the dominant modern society. (It could be said that we were rather well organized to propagate our program, but not our organizational program.)
4) The numerous deficiencies that have marked the SI were invariably produced by individuals who needed the SI in order to personally be something; and that something was never the real, revolutionary activity of the SI, but its opposite. At the same time, they praised the SI to the extreme, both to make it seem that they subsisted in it like fish in water and to give the impression that their personal extremism was above any vulgar corroboration of facts and acts. And yet the alternative has always been quite simple: either we are fundamentally equal (and prove it) or we are not even comparable. As for us here, we can take part in the SI only if we dont need it. We must first of all be self-sufficient; then, secondarily, we may lucidly combine our specific (and specified) desires and possibilities for a collective action which, on that condition, may be the correct continuation of the SI.(7) [...]
28 January 1971
1. The SI members mentioned in these texts by their first names are Guy Debord, Mustapha Khayati, Attila Kotányi, René Riesel, Paolo Salvadori, Gianfranco Sanguinetti, Raoul Vaneigem, Tony Verlaan and René-Donatien Viénet.
2. pro-situ: pejorative term referring to fans, followers and imitators of the SI. See Debord and Sanguinettis Theses on the SI and Its Time ##25-38 in The Real Split in the International.
3. GRCA: Groupe Révolutionnaire Conseilliste d’Agitations (Revolutionary Councilist Agitational Group), one of the many situationist-influenced groups formed in the aftermath of May 1968.
4. Communist League: early international workers organization (1847-1852). FAI: Iberian Anarchist Federation.
5. Kiruna: The SI had addressed a congratulatory telegram to wildcat strikers in Kiruna, Sweden (January 1970), and Vaneigem subsequently wrote an article on the strikes that appeared in the Danish SI journal.
6. Raoul Vaneigem resigned from the SI on 14 November 1970 in response to the Debord-Riesel-Viénet Declaration. His letter of resignation and the SIs Communiqué Concerning Vaneigem are reproduced in The Real Split in the International.
7. During the following year the remaining SI members decided to dissolve the organization. Its last publication, The Real Split in the International (April 1972; primarily written by Debord, though one of the texts was co-signed by Sanguinetti), examined the post-1968 SI crises in some detail, as well as new developments in the society as a whole. “Henceforth, situationists are everywhere, and their task is everywhere.”
These translations by Ken Knabb are from the Situationist International Anthology (Revised and Expanded Edition, 2006). No copyright.
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