B U R E A U   O F   P U B L I C   S E C R E T S


The Blind Men and the Elephant

(excerpts from 1975 poster)



The Situationist International imposed itself in a moment of universal history as the thought of the breakdown of a world, a breakdown that has now begun before our eyes.

The French Minister of the Interior and the federated anarchists of Italy react to the SI with the same rage: never has such an extremist project, putting itself forward in an era that seemed so hostile to it, affirmed in so little time its hegemony in the struggle of ideas, itself the product of the history of class struggles. The theory, style and example of the SI are today being adopted by thousands of revolutionaries in the principal advanced countries; but even more profoundly, it is the whole of modern society that seems to be convinced of the truth of the situationist perspectives, whether it be to realize them or to combat them. The books and texts of the SI are everywhere translated and discussed. Its exigencies are plastered on the factory walls of Milan and the buildings of the University of Coimbra. From California to Calabria, from Scotland to Spain, from Belfast to Leningrad, its principal theses infiltrate clandestinely or are proclaimed in open struggles. The submissive intellectuals at the outset of their careers feel obliged, for their part, to disguise themselves as moderate situationists or semi-situationists, if only to demonstrate their capacity to understand the latest moment of the system that employs them. If the diffuse influence of the SI can be everywhere denounced, it is only because the SI is itself only the concentrated expression of a historical subversion that is everywhere.

What are known as “situationist ideas” are nothing other than the first ideas of the period of the reappearance of the modern revolutionary movement. What is new in those ideas corresponds precisely to the new character of class society and to the development of its ephemeral successes, its contradictions and its oppression. . . .

The SI not only saw the modern proletarian subversion coming . . . it went to meet it. We did not put our ideas “in everybody’s mind” by an outside influence, as only the bourgeois or bureaucratic-totalitarian spectacles are capable of doing (and that without lasting success). We articulated the ideas that were necessarily already there in those proletarian minds, and in articulating them we contributed to rendering such ideas active, as well as to making the critique in acts more theoretical and more determined to make the time its own. . . .

Because it came into being for the most part in the prerevolutionary moments of the modern era, the SI openly proclaimed its goals and almost everyone thought it was a joke. The silence maintained on this count by the specialists of social observation and the ideologues of working-class alienation for ten years (a very short period on the scale of such events) . . . had prepared the false consciousness of the submissive intelligentsia neither to foresee nor to understand what exploded in France in May 1968, and which has since only deepened and extended itself. . . . To the benighted consciousness of the specialists of power, this revolutionary crisis first appeared only as a pure and thoughtless negation. . . . It has unfortunately been discovered that the occupations movement did have some ideas after all, and that they were situationist ideas: even those who are unaware of those ideas seem to set their positions in relation to them. . . .

A generation, internationally, has begun to be situationist. . . .

May we cease to be admired as if we could be superior to our time; and may the era know the terror of admiring itself for what it is.

Public Circular of the Situationist International
April 1972



Ken Knabb will translate any or all of the situationist books when he can find a suitable publisher.


— Knabb must have final approval of the translation.

— If there is to be any annotation or commentary, he will provide it.

— In the case of an anthology of articles from the SI journal, he will make the selection. With this possible exception, the American editions must be unabridged and follow the basic format of the French originals.

— All matters of the form and content of the texts must be subject to the final approval of their authors, with whom, if they so wish, Knabb is prepared to collaborate.

January 1975


The 1975 version of “The Blind Men and the Elephant” was a large poster, a facsimile of which can be found in the book Public Secrets: Collected Skirmishes of Ken Knabb. The poster included the “Proposal” and the excerpts from La véritable scission dans l’Internationale reproduced above, a brief bibliography (not reproduced here), and an amusingly diverse selection of quotations pro and con about the situationists. An expanded collection of the quotations under the same title was later included as an appendix in the Situationist International Anthology (1981/2006).

No copyright.

[Italian translation of these excerpts]




Bureau of Public Secrets, PO Box 1044, Berkeley CA 94701, USA
  www.bopsecrets.org   knabb@bopsecrets.org