The Longest Months
In february 1963, the SI published a document entitled Into the Trashcan of History, regarding the dissolution of the journal Arguments. This document featured a reproduction of the situationist text Theses on the Paris Commune alongside the watered-down copy that Henri Lefebvre had slyly published under his own name in the final issue of Arguments, paraphrasing in the most outrageous manner the fraudulent carnival of modern thought of which Arguments has been France’s purest expression.
The following is a list of names of the Arguments collaborators: J.-M. Albertini, Kostas Axelos, Roland Barthes, Abel Benssi, Jacques Berque, Yvon Bourdet, Pierre Broué, T. Caplow, Bernard Cazes, François Châtelet, Jean Choay, Choh-Ming-Li, Michel Colinet, Lewis Coser, Michel Crozier, Michel Deguy, Gilles Deleuze, Romain Denis, Albert Détraz, Manuel de Diégez, Jean Duvignaud, Claude Faucheux, F. Fejtö, Léopold Flam, J.-C. Filloux, P. Fougeyrollas, Jean Fourastié, André Frankin, F. François, G. Friedmann, J. Gabel, P. Gaudibert, Daniel Guérin, Roberto Guiducci, Luc de Heusch, Roman Jakobsen, K.A. Jelenski, Bertrand de Jouvenel, Georges Lapassade, Henri Lefebvre, O. Loras, Stéphane Lupasco, Tibor Mende, Meng-Yu-Ku, Robert Misrahi, Abraham Moles, Jacques Monbartm Edgar Morin, V. Morin, Serge Moscovici, Roger Munier, Pierre Naville, Max Pagès, R. Pagès, Robert Paris, François Perroux, A. Phillip, André Pidival, Alexandre Pizzorno, David Rousset, Maximillien Rubel, Otto Schiller, Walter Schultz, H.F. Schurmann, M. Sheppard, Jean Starobinski, A. Stawar, Jan Tin Bergen, Jean Touchard, Alain Touraine, Bernard Ullman, Aimé Valdor.
In view of their plundering at the hands of Lefebvre, the situationist theses on the commune were translated into Italian and published in issue #9 of the journal Nuova Presenza (Spring 1963). Though varying opinions are expressed in the articles of the journal’s two directors, it should be noted that both of them mistakenly believe the essence of the SI’s theory and its presence in our time to be our interpretation of the 1871 Commune; moreover, neither of them points out that the publication of these theses is but a single detail of a document concerning the SI’s practical struggle against the spectacular disguise hiding the really subversive questions (in this case, the demonstration of the complete success of our boycott of Arguments). It is therefore easy for them to speak of “practical weakness” and “lack of historical perspective.” This is indeed the question.
- L’adaptation, phénomène social.
- Henri Lefebvre, après la longue série de ses mésaventures politiques et historiques, a trouvé les secours de la religion en même temps que ceux de la direction du District de Paris. Il n’ose pas démentir les pronostics de l’I.S. : la pire des poubelles de l’histoire est encore à Rome. Si les charognards de l’Eglise ont attendu 70 ans après la mort de Marx pour interpréter son œuvre, Lefebvre ne méritera pas un tel recul ; et gageons que quelque jésuite d’outre-Atlantique va se mettre à l’ouvrage avant même qu’il ne soit refroidi.
Specifically, Internationale Situationniste is the organ of a group of youths who have placed themselves in a position of radical critique of the “society of the spectacle,” that is to say modern technological and technocratic organization that manipulates all manifestations of human creativity toward the ends of the consumption industry ... It continues a theoretical movement that has its roots in early romanticism, developing through Rimbaud, the surrealists, Bataille and Klossowski; beyond its practical weakness, condemned as it is by its lack of historical perspective to succumb to the apparatus of domination and frustration utilized by modern bureaucrats, this movement represents the refusal of the new generations, who find themselves faced with a society founded on mystification and lies.— Franco Floreanini (The Values of the Commune in the Struggle Against the Totalitarianism of Technocrats and the Ideological Petrifaction of Stalinists and Socialist Bureaucrats).
A few lines do not seem enough for a thorough examination of Lefebvre’s interpretation of the Commune, especially if these lines are exclusively devoted to confronting the theses of Situationist International, its point of critical departure. It is now possible to consider their theses, and the critical reexamination of them undertaken by Lefebvre; and in our opinion, the judgment on the former and the latter alike can only be resolutely negative. Attacking the complex historical phenomenon of Stalinism, still not overcome in the Soviet Union or the French Communist elite, both propose a mystical historical form: in the “dictatorship of the proletariat” they seek the autonomy of proletarian forces and the direct and indirect participation of such forms in power, which is lacking in the inflexible bureaucracy and its antihumanism of Stalinism. But without real ideological terms, such a participation finds itself growing into a confused and irrational aspiration, separated completely from its historical and structural problematic. The autonomy of proletarian forces, the principle historical problem of their participation in power, is reduced to the suggestive and transcendent myth of an “everyday game with power,” of a popular “festival,” of the “autonomy” of popular armed groups. And they don’t hesitate to mix this utopian elan with formulas which, quite frankly, seem mediocre and almost superstitious: thus, the so-called originality of a “revolutionary urbanism” which “refuses to accept the innocence of a single monument”; the anti-humanist apology of those who wanted to destroy Notre-Dame, thereby “making this destruction symbolize their absolute defiance of society”; or finally the no less anti-humanist regret concerning the remaining “unaccomplished” acts that were later viewed as “atrocities.” A substantial part of this irrational knot, whose natural base is a distant and fictitious historical experience, remains in Lefebvre’s consideration, which succeeds only in excluding a few of the most abstract formulas ... This protest is completely and voluntarily out of touch with today’s historical reality. Stalinism ... is an irrational mystification, a projection of abstract aspirations onto proletarian forces, with a schema similar to that found in the Situationist International’s theses on the Commune. It is time for communists to pose the problem of the supersession of Stalinism through a rationalization of political and ideological life by institutionalized forms that will guarantee the dialectic between the forces of the working class and those who will assume the conduct of social revolution.— Marcello Gentili (Two Irrational Protests Against Stalinism).
Under the pretext of a completely imaginary anti-fascism, a few fragments of surrealism’s Stalinist tendency attempted to join the situationists in Anvers. Their inevitable ejection was reported by a tract issued in Dutch and French on 27 February 1963: No Dialogue with Suspects! No Dialogue with Morons!
The first issue of the German language SI journal Der Deutsche Gedanke appeared in April 1963, under the direction of Raoul Vaneigem. On account of various practical conditions, its address has finally been established: Boîte postale 155, Brussels 31.
In June 1963 the SI organized a “Destruction of RSG-6” demonstration in Denmark, under the direction of J.V. Martin. On this occasion the situationists distributed a clandestine reissue of the English tract Danger: Official Secret-RSG 6, signed “Spies for Peace,” which revealed the plan and function of “Regional Seat of Government #6.” A theoretical text, The Situationists and the New Forms of Action in Politics and Art, was also issued in Danish, English and French. In one area an ugly reconstruction of a bomb shelter was set up; in another were exhibited Martin’s “Thermonuclear Maps” (détournements of Pop Art representing various regions of the globe during World War III).
The situationist movement presents an exhibition — if you could call it that — with an idea. It demonstrates, with the aid of chaotic productions in plaster of Paris, paint splattered tin horses and soldiers bearing slogans demanding the destruction of the RSG6 shelter, which was built as a defense for the English government in case of nuclear war. Of course, their protest is against the world itself and the totalitarian State: they would probably be flattered by people saying that this is not art. Whatever the case, I fail to see how this could be a compliment.— Pierre Lübecker, Politiken, 3 July 1963.
A more intelligent report by Else Steen Hansen entitled Homo Ludens appeared in number 5-6 of the Swedish journal Konstrevy (December 1963).
The situationist Rudi Renson was stopped for no reason at the Danish border while traveling to the above exhibition. Influenced by the scandal evoked for several days by the press all over the country, the border police successively pretended that he had no passport; that he had no money; and that he needed a bath. While last point was obviously open to conjecture, the falseness of the other two was quickly demonstrated (nevertheless, situationist publications continue to be seized at this border). Renson is currently preparing a collection of SI studies on Architecture and Détournement.
In spring 1963, T. Kurokawa and Toru Tagaki, European delegates of the Japanese Zengakuren movement, made an invaluable contribution to the discussion of new departures for revolutionary organizations. Their address is Zenshinsha, 1-50 Ikebukurohigashi, Toshima-ku, Tokyo.
As with all intellectual specializations, poetry must disappear as a practice particular to a class of “technicians” and literary virtuosos in order to manifest itself directly in all creative human acts — including the act of writing; this point is completely missed by the lettrists and the situationists, for whom the abolition pure and simple of grammatical writing and artistic expression is the miracle cure to the crisis of poetic expression.— Front Noir #1 (June 1963)
Aside from a few facts and notions that will undoubtedly become fashionable, discussed with the most vulgar humor, Raymond Borde’s book L’Extricable contains the following strange confession: “The heady ideas of surrealism have been reprised by the situationists, but in an uncertain context. They might even provide — who can ever be sure? — the key to revolutionary theory ...” One can be sure that Raymond Bourde has always been able to place his stylistic exercises in the most certain of contexts (see page 19 of this issue [Sketch of a Morality Without Obligation or Sanction]): the only thing he has ever changed is his delivery.
France-Observateur was completely mistaken in writing on 7 February 1963 that Robert Dehoux’s brochure Teilhard is an Idiot (even if we completely approve of the title) reveals “an acquaintence with the situationists.” Robert Dehoux’s autonomy is still demonstrable, and was recently confirmed by his second work, Ecce Ego. It seems that certain critics are so used to seeing copyists feigning ignorance of the SI that anyone who has the good faith to cite the situationists to strengthen their argument is immediately lumped in with us.
Attila Kotànyi was excluded from the SI on 27 October 1963. Three weeks earlier, he had submitted a text to the situationists that demanded a fundamental theoretical reorientation. This reorientation was extremely retrograde, up to and including mysticism. Its author was unanimously rejected. Only the Danish situationist Peter Laugesen declared that he was not particularly shocked by it. He was therefore excluded at the same time (see the circular On the Exclusion of Attila Kotànyi, distributed in December). Since then, Laugesen has recited the same old story to the Scandinavian press: “They’re awful; I know what I’m on about; I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Kotànyi made at least one step towards Nashism when he tried to spread the rumor that all this was a dreadful misunderstanding, and that he would soon be back in touch with the SI. To that we say no: his text was perfectly clear. And so was ours.
In Le mouvement du signe, Robert Estivals persists beyond all semblance of reason in trying to understand the SI. Among thousands of other foolish things, he has “predicted and explained its inevitable explosion.” For him, this centrifugal motion is revealed by Ralph Rumney’s exclusion before we had even published a line. Perhaps it is because he is certainly of those who have “not even had the chance to exclude anyone” (IS #8) that he closes his eyes to the real significance of these exclusions. Does he think that the shockwave produced by the SI’s explosion has already reached certain mentally underprivileged zones while he was sleeping? It is always what he presented in a few Parisian publications — at least those in Lettres Nouvelles and France-Observateur — in pretending to have something in common with the situationists. It is clear that the only people who can be misled by this imposture are those who want to be: not only because the situationists are intelligent, or because Estivals, even as a researcher in the CNRS, appears to be unusually weak; but because the situationists do not practice this sort of procedure, as is well known.
Nashism has been torn and frayed in two main directions: the Dutch review Situationist Times has turned into a marginally less academic art journal, combining high quality illustrations with sometimes very carefully selected themes (such as the labyrinth). The tiny portion allotted to commentary in each issue is unfortunately not on par with this historico-academic effort. In one instance, famous museologist Dr H.L.C. Jaffé gives an Italian quotation of three preliminaries on The Divine Comedy, accumulating no less than six errors in the process (misinterpretations or nonsense). On this account, it doesn’t matter what it shows; maybe even that the journal’s unexplained title has a meaning? Elsewhere, Nash and his Swedish friends have mounted a group show on a public highway, showing flaming bears and sword swallowers in a pop art peppered with Scandinavian mysticism. In a recent tract, Nash ambitiously proclaimed himself “the son of God.” Like father, like son.
At the threshold of an era when science and technology play an occasionally demented role, it must be made clear that the cybernetic and remote controlled games, and the adult activities, that the Groupe de recherches d’art visuel has introduced to the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris on the ocassion of the 3rd Biennale are closer to Luddism than art. These are games worthy of some kind of mathematical fun park. While pretending to modify the work-spectator relationship, the Groupe advocates participation. By throwing the balls, by manipulating various elements, the visitor creates multiple situations. ...— Rabecq-Maillard (’Le jeu et l’actualité,’ La Nef #16-17, January 1964).
Since the split of 1963, the journal Socialisme ou Barbarie has tried to follow in the footsteps of Arguments (cf. “We know that your subscription to Arguments testifies to similar preoccupations,” in the circular of 20 January 1964 addressed by the new editorial committee to their desired audience.) But this comes too late, and it is clearly weaker and insignificant. Politically, it is the expression of the furthest left and most deluded fringe of those managers and mid-level functionaries of the Left who want to have a revolutionary theory of their own actual career in society, and also the overtly social career of such a “revolutionary theory.” But whereas Mallet and Gorz are professionals at this sort of activity, the people at Socialisme ou Barbarie are visibly amateurs: a weekend away for managers whose real career is elsewhere. The breakaway Marxist minority has accepted the debate on the falsest terrain: the “modern” was the privilege of the Cardanists, and “revolution” the flag of the minority. But in fact, these notions are represented by neither camp, because revolution cannot be separated from the modern, nor can modern thought exist outside of the reinvention of revolutionary critique. The minority (Pouvoir Ouvrier) is so detached from the trifles of the era that it has not found it useful to explain the meaning of Socialisme ou Barbarie’s dissolution, too modern a phenomenon for its taste, not even to educate its few fervent readers about workers democracy. There were only very few traces left of the useful theoretical work on numerous points made by Socialisme ou Barbarie over the years. All of it has drowned in an extraordinary atmosphere of bitterness and recrimination, as everyone rushes to the lifeboats of critical thought. In this shipwreck, it seems that only the captain can spout off euphorically. Cardan, after fifteen years of useless efforts, finally masters the dialectic — if only for a brief instant — and decides that it is not ripe enough a fruit, proclaiming that “we cannot give ourselves over to any sort of dialectic, for a dialectic postulates the rationality of the world and of history, and this rationality is problematic, as theory and as practice.” (Socialisme ou Barbarie, no 37, page 27). From this, he can attach with the greatest pride his long disguised inability to grasp the play of contradictions: “On the base of this (Marxist) theory of history, there is profoundly and contradictorily interwoven a philosophy of history, itself contradictory, as will be seen.” With such a good base, all will indeed be seen, and even [Georges] Lapassade can psychodramatically direct such an avant-garde of the revolution of the “questioning.”
The Si chose to respond, in December 1963, to an inquiry from the Center of Experimental Art, on the relationship between art and society; but, obviously, refused all participation in the discussions opened between different artistic currents for a “union of artists.” More generally, there is even an appeal to the union of all honest people to carry out the hunt for the situationists currently launched by Isou with a proclamation posted at the premises of the Center (and reprised in L’avant-garde lettriste et esthapeïriste):
As certain reactionary groups affirm that machines must be destroyed, other reactionary groups — like the situationists, based on a poorly managed ersatz sub-sub-sub-Marxism — troglodyte, as Lenin put it — affirm that art, as a whole, will be eliminated in the near future ... In an era when neo-Nazi movements in America and England have revived the swastika and the Sieg Heil, at the same time as the appearance of groupuscules that attack formal and material artistic experiments, as in the most sinister anti-formalist periods of Hitler and Stalin, people concerned with a renewed blossoming of humanity must unite to repel the efforts of vile cretinization of obscurantist nullities of the détourning-troglodyte type.— Résponse aux déchets obscurantistes “situationnistes”
The people concerned are well and truly unified, because in March 1964, the International Center of Aesthetic Research in Turin, directed by Piero Simondo (excluded from the SI shortly after its formation for crypto-catholicism), presented Isou’s pictorial work, prefaced enthusiastically by the Jesuit Tapié, who everyone thought was dead. What beautiful children this lot will bear!
A book by Guy Debord has been featured without his permission, and without any warning, in the exhibition Schrift und Bild, in Baden-Baden, then Amsterdam. After an initial protest addressed to the organizers when this maneuver was finally pointed out to us, the Germans in Baden-Baden claimed that it was the responsibility of the Dutch Ad. Petersen, of Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, while the museum asserted, at the same time, that the choice was that of the German Mahlow, director of the Kunsthalle in Baden-Baden (to be continued).
What is necessary in anarchist society is that it awakens everyday in a new, unknown world offering possibilities unlike those of the day before ... The situationists seem to have understood this and propose, for example, an architectural revolution (the appearance of the city changing daily) that puts people in new situations daily. This is only one aspect, but it makes sense to us that all of life that must be overthrown ...— Jeunes Libertaires (March 1964)
After the publication in the English journal Tamesis (March 1964) of the text All the King’s Men (cf. IS #8), translated by David Arnott, two professors from Reading University commented in the same issue on clearly distinct levels of incomprehension.
... these people who, in some of their manifestations, appear rather like the anarchists of the 19th century. I think they number around 70, and are spread over thirty different countries. Three members have already been excluded for deviationist measures or otherwise ... And this, from a certain point of view, will be the most original thing, that the revolution must take place without authority (not only without the authority that the linguistic authorities and the experts have established, but also without the authority of government — with hardly any political organization at all). It is thus that one can see that this pamphlet has been conceived in a completely anarchist way.— Prof. Lucas
But the phrase what is permitted implies that there is someone who permits, and the author obviously wants to reject even this center of power. And this is why he is anarchistic in a way that has not, as far as I know, been formulated for a very long time ... Is this gentleman on a collision course with the Marxist view of social revolution, trying to introduce the next stage in the present, by a conscious effort, trying to make modern poetry useful again, for example, from a 21st century perspective? I think so ... It is only in a superficial way that the article advances an entire series of arguments. It is simultaneously a manifesto and an example of what the manifesto seeks to accomplish. It needs to be grasped in its own terms or not at all.— Prof. Bolton
Giuseppe Pinot-Gallizio, one of the founders of the SI, who was present at the Cosio d’Arroscia Conference, and who was excluded in 1960, died suddenly in Alba on 12 February 1964. Experimental in every discipline, Gallizio was one of the artists who best represented the furthest point reached by modern art in its creative period. He was torn between the research of its supersession, and a certain attachment to the tastes of this earlier period. Some of these tastes, mainly by peer pressure, eventually made his participation in the SI somewhat difficult; as a result of this, he was better suited to staying independent. Personally incredibly inventive, he was the complete opposite of the falsifying Nashists. The birth of the situationist movement owes him a great debt.
In mai, students were expelled from the Danish Communist Party for alleged Maoism. In reality, they were reproached for their interest in the theses of the SI.
According to Professor Guy Atkins book Asger Jorn (London: Methuen, 1964):
After Cobra, the most important movement in which Jorn took part was the international situationist movement, which began in 1957. It is interesting to compare two such different movements ... Each effectively existed for around three years. Cobra was an avalanche that grew until it became monstrous. The SI was exactly the opposite. When it first appeared, it was solid and coherent. It shattered into fragments of marble. Towards the middle of 1962, everyone was being “excluded” by Guy Debord, although Jorn had the good sense to resign in 1961. Cobra produced a common imagery. The SI created a spirit and an attitude, and carried out experimental activity with curious and subtle ideas. Cobra, with its Danish gregariousness, had too little discipline. The situationist were made and then broken by their own discipline.
With the realism of this conclusion, our readers are invited judge the value of attributing other terms to this comparison (Cobra painted men as they are, and the SI, as they should be?).
In july 1964, the SI published the tract España en el corazón (Spain in the Heart) in Spanish and French, bringing attention to a new form of propaganda currently being experimented with in Spain.
All SI publications mentioned here may be passed on to anyone who can provide a good reason for wanting them.
- Tract situationniste au Danemark.
- En écho aux « comics » espagnols, qui déﬁent d’un seul coup la censure proprement politique et la censure morale des curés, l‘I.S. a diffusé cette photographie au Danemark, où les ﬁançailles de la ﬁlle du roi social-démocrate avec le souverain grec soulevaient les protestations polies de la gauche. Christine Keeler, sur la fameuse photo attribuée à Tony Armstrong-Jones, y déclare : « Comme le dit l’I.S., il est plus honorable d’être une putain comme moi que l’épouse de ce fasciste de Constantin ».
All SI publications mentioned here may be passed on to anyone who can provide a good reason for wanting them.