The Counter-Situationist Campaign in Various Countries
The declaration published 25 June 1962 by the Situationist International concerning the trial of Uwe Lausen in Munich enumerated three types of negation the situationist movement has met with so far: police, as in Germany(1); silence, for which France easily holds the record; and widespread falsification, in which northern Europe has provided the most fertile field of study over the last year. [...]
In Internationale Situationniste #7 (pp. 53-54) we mentioned the sort of manifesto in which Jörgen Nash attacked the SI in the name of the Scandinavian section. Reckoning on the considerable geographical dispersion of the Scandinavian situationists, Nash had not even consulted with all of them before his putsch. Surprised at not being unanimously followed and at finding himself countered on the spot by the partisans of the SI majority who immediately circulated a definitive repudiation of his imposture Nash at first feigned astonishment that things had gone to the point of a complete break with the situationists; as if the fact of launching a public surprise attack full of lies was compatible with carrying on a dialogue, on the basis of some sort of Nashist Scandinavian autonomy. The subsequent development of the conspiracy scarcely leaves any doubt as to his real objectives, since his new Swedish “Bauhaus,” consisting of two or three Scandinavian ex-situationists plus a mass of unknowns flocking to the feast, immediately plunged into the most shopworn forms of artistic production (one need search no further than the initial production of this neo-Bauhaus: the “poems” of a certain Fazarkely, the sort of thing that would have been considered embarrassingly passé in 1930). A vacuous little Nashist journal entitled The Situationist Times appeared around the same time in Holland — a journal which has the peculiarity that it is “situationist” only in the sense that it is directed against the SI, its flock of occasional collaborators never having been (nor even claiming to have been) situationists, with the sole exception of one of the two editors [Jacqueline de Jong], who passed eighteen months in the SI and talks about it incessantly. The other editor is none other than Noël Arnaud, resuscitated from his Stalino-Pataphysical tomb. This eclectic assemblage also includes an ex-lettrist and, even more posthumously, Boris Vian. In the polemic between Nashists and situationists in Scandinavia, the Nashists resorted, in addition to all the threats and violence they thought feasible, to the systematic spreading of false information (with the active collusion of certain journalists). The most flagrant lie, circulated in June, claimed that the SI had agreed to resume dialogue with them regarding their possible reinstatement in the group. In support of this contention they cited a supposed letter from the SIs Central Council that was a pure fabrication. But in the end, despite the fact that the extensive discussion of this affair in the Scandinavian press had shifted the debate to a terrain more favorable to Nashist disinformation than to the objective presentation of the SIs theses, all their efforts to gain time and all their petty maneuvers to prolong the confusion could not save the Nashists from appearing for what they are: alien to the SI; much more sociable, certainly, but much less intelligent. [...]
We dont want to attribute some particular perversity to Nash and his associates.
It seems to us that Nashism is an expression of an objective tendency resulting from the
SIs ambiguous and risky policy of consenting to act within culture while
being against the entire present organization of this culture and even against all culture
as a separate sphere. (But even the most intransigent oppositional attitude cannot escape
such ambiguity and risk, since it still necessarily has to coexist with the present
order.) The German situationists who were excluded at the beginning of 1962 expressed an
opposition comparable to that of the Nashists though with more frankness and
artistic capacity to the extent that such opposition contains elements of a
legitimately arguable position. Heimrad Prems statement at the
(see Internationale Situationniste #7) complained about the
situationist majority’s continued refusal of a large number of offers to sponsor
“creations” on the conventional avant-garde artistic plane where many people
wanted to involve the SI, so as to bring things back to order and the SI back
into the old fold of artistic praxis. Prem expressed the desire of the
situationist artists to find an adequate field of activity in the here and now.
This attitude, which merely seeks a renewal of art, is in total contradiction
with situationist theory, which postulates that traditional, separate art can no
longer be fundamentally renewed without other necessary reconstructions, without
the free reconstruction of the entire society (the hypothesis of a constructed
situation being a preliminary example of a post-artistic explosion that will
disintegrate all the “conventional weapons” of traditional art). The Nashists
have simply gone much further in their bad faith and in their complete
indifference to any theory and even to conventional artistic activity,
preferring the grossest commercial publicity. But Prem and his friends, though
comporting themselves more honorably, had themselves certainly not completely
avoided concessions to the cultural market. The SI has thus for a time included
a number of artists of repetition incapable of grasping the present mission of
the artistic avant-garde; which is not too surprising if one takes into account
both the scarcely delineated stage of our project and the notorious exhaustion
of conventional art. The moment when the contradictions between them and us lead
to these antagonisms marks an advance of the SI, the point where the ambiguities
are forced into the open and clearly settled. The point of no return, in our
relations with the partisans of a renewal of conventional art under the aegis of
a situationist school, was perhaps reached with the decision adopted at Göteborg
to refer to artistic productions of the movement as “antisituationist” art. The
contradictions expressed in Nashism are quite crude, but the development of the
SI may lead to others at a higher level. [...]
The SI cannot be a massive organization, and it will not even accept disciples, as do the conventional avant-garde groups. At this point in history, when the task is posed, in the most unfavorable conditions, of reinventing culture and the revolutionary movement on an entirely new basis, the SI can only be a Conspiracy of Equals, a general staff that does not want troops. We need to discover and open up the Northwest Passage toward a new revolution that cannot tolerate masses of followers, a revolution that must surge over that central terrain which has until now been sheltered from revolutionary upheavals: the conquest of everyday life. We will only organize the detonation: the free explosion must escape us and any other control forever.
One of the classic weapons of the old world, perhaps the one most used against groups delving into the organization of life, is to single out and isolate a few of their participants as stars. We have to defend ourselves against this process, which, like almost all the usual wretched choices of the present society, has an air of being natural. Those among us who aspired to the role of stars or depended on stars had to be rejected. [...]
The same movement that would have us accept situationist followers would commit us to erroneous positions. It is in the nature of a disciple to demand certainties, to transform real problems into stupid dogmas from which he derives his role and his intellectual security. And later, of course, to demonstrate his modernity by revolting, in the name of those simplified certainties, against the very people who transmitted them to him. In this way, over a period of time generations of submissive elites succeed one another. We intend to leave such people outside and to resist those who want to transform the SIs theoretical problematics into a mere ideology. Such people are extremely handicapped and uninteresting compared with those who may not be aware of the SI but who confront their own lives. Those who have really grasped the direction the SI is going in can join with it because all the supersession we talk about is to be found in reality, and we have to find it together. The task of being more extremist than the SI falls to the SI itself; this is even the first law of its continuation.
There are already certain people who, through laziness, think they can rigidify our project into a perfect program, one already present, admirable and uncriticizable, in the face of which they have nothing more to do except perhaps to declare themselves still more radical at heart, while abstaining from any activity on the grounds that everything has already been definitively said by the SI. We say that, on the contrary, not only do the most important aspects of the questions we have posed remain to be discovered by the SI and by others but also that the greater portion of what we have already discovered is not yet published due to our lack of all sorts of means; to say nothing of the still more considerable lack of means for the experiments the SI has barely begun in other domains (particularly in matters of behavior). But to speak only of editorial problems, we now think that we ourselves should rewrite the most interesting parts of what we have published so far. It is not a matter of revising certain errors or of suppressing a few deviationist seeds that have since blossomed into gross results(3) (e.g. Constants technocratic concept of a situationist profession see Internationale Situationniste #4, pp. 24-25), but of correcting and improving the most important of our theses, precisely those whose development has brought us further, on the basis of the knowledge since gained thanks to them. This will require various republications, although the SIs current difficulties in publishing are far from being resolved.
Those who think that the early situationist thought is already fixed in past history, and that the time has come for violent falsification or rapt admiration of it, have not grasped the movement we are talking about. The SI has sown the wind. It will reap a tempest.
1. In 1961-1962 the German situationists were subjected to a series of police harassments searches, confiscation of SI publications, arrests for immorality, pornography, blasphemy, incitement to riot, etc. The SI conducted an international campaign on their behalf, even after the majority of them had been excluded from the SI for moderation and compromises in other regards. Uwe Lausen, who had not been excluded, was the only one to eventually be jailed (for three weeks); the others got fines and suspended sentences. See Internationale Situationniste #6, p. 6; #7, p. 51; #8, p. 64.
2. Nashisterie, Nashistouse: humorously vulgar French coinages. Rough English analogies might be “Nashistan” and “Nashtiness.”
3. An example of the gross results: The ex-situationist Constant, whose Dutch collaborators had already been excluded from the SI for having agreed to construct a church, now himself presents models of factories in his catalogue published in March by the Municipal Museum of Bochum. Apart from plagiarizing two or three poorly understood fragments of situationist ideas, this slippery character has nothing better to propose than to act as a public-relations man in integrating the masses into capitalist technological civilization; and he reproaches the SI for having abandoned his whole program of transforming the urban milieu, which he alone is carrying out. Under these conditions, yes! (Internationale Situationniste #6, p. 6.) Constant (Constant Nieuwenhuis) resigned from the SI in 1960. He is the same person later mentioned in On the Poverty of Student Life as one of the Provo hierarchy “leaders.”
Lopération contre-situationniste dans divers pays originally appeared in Internationale Situationniste #8 (Paris, January 1963). This translation by Ken Knabb is from the Situationist International Anthology (Revised and Expanded Edition, 2006). No copyright.