(Two Summaries of Situationist Perspectives)
Internationale Situationniste is the journal of a group of theorists who over the last few years have undertaken a radical critique of modern society a critique of what it really is and of all its aspects.
As the situationists see it, a universally dominant social system, tending toward totalitarian self-regulation, is only apparently being combatted by false forms of opposition illusory forms that remain trapped on the systems own terrain and thus only serve to reinforce it. Bureaucratic pseudosocialism is only the most grandiose of these disguises of the old world of hierarchy and alienated labor. The developing concentration of capitalism and the diversification of its global operation have given rise, on one hand, to the forced consumption of commodities produced in abundance, and on the other, to the control of the economy (and all of life) by bureaucrats who own the state; as well as to direct and indirect colonialism. But this system is far from having found a permanent solution to the incessant revolutionary crises of the historical epoch that began two centuries ago, for a new critical phase has opened: from Berkeley to Warsaw, from the Asturias to the Kivu,(1) the system is being refuted and combatted.
The situationists consider that this opposition implicitly requires the real abolition of all class societies, of commodity production and of wage labor; the supersession of art and all cultural accomplishments by their reentry into play through free creation in everyday life and thus their true fulfillment; and the direct fusion of revolutionary theory and practice in an experimental activity that precludes any petrification into ideologies, which reflect the authority of specialists and which always serve the specialization of authority.
The factors involved in this historical problem are the rapid extension and modernization of the fundamental contradictions within the present system, and between that system and human desires. The social force that has an interest in resolving these contradictions and the only force that is capable of resolving them is the mass of workers who are powerless over the use of their own lives, deprived of any control over the fantastic accumulation of material possibilities that they produce. Such a resolution has already been prefigured in the emergence of democratic workers councils that make all decisions for themselves. The only intelligent venture within the present imbecilized world is for this new proletariat to carry out this project by forming itself into a class unmediated by any leadership.
The situationists declare that they have no interest outside the whole of this movement. They lay down no particular principles on which to base a movement which is real, a movement which is being born before our very eyes. Faced with the struggles that are beginning in various countries over various issues, the situationists see their task as putting forward the whole of the problem, elucidating its coherence, its theoretical and therefore practical unity. In short, within the various phases of the overall struggle they constantly represent the interest of the whole movement.
The only reason the situationists do not call themselves communists(2) is so as not to be confused with the cadres of pro-Soviet or pro-China antiworker bureaucracies, remnants of the great revolutionary failure that ultimately extended the universal dictatorship of the economy and the state.
The situationists do not constitute a particular party in competition with other self-styled working-class parties.
The situationists refuse to reproduce internally the hierarchical conditions of the dominant world. They denounce everywhere the specialized politics of the bosses of hierarchical groups and parties, who base the oppressive force of their delusory future class power on the organized passivity of their militants.
The situationists do not put forward any ideological principles on which to model and thus direct the movement of proletarians. They consider that up till now revolutionary ideology has only changed hands; the point is to dissolve it by opposing it with revolutionary theory.
The situationists are the most radical current of the proletarian movement in many countries, the current that constantly pushes forward. Seeking to clarify and coordinate the scattered struggles of revolutionary proletarians, they help to draw out the implications of their actions. Striving to maintain the highest degree of international revolutionary consciousness, with the new theoretical critique they have been able to predict everywhere the return of the modern revolution. They are feared not for the power they hold, but for the use they make of it.
The situationists have no interests separate from the interests of the proletariat as a whole. They expect everything and have nothing to fear from so-called excesses, which reflect the critical profundity of the new era and the positive richness of the liberated everyday life that is emerging.
In all the present struggles the situationists constantly bring to the forefront the project of abolishing everything that exists separately from individuals as the decisive issue for the movement working to negate the existing society.
The situationists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their only interest and only goal is a social revolution going to the point where all powers are concentrated in an international federation of workers councils, the power of everyone over all aspects of everyday life over all aspects of the economy, of the society, and of history. The point is therefore not to modify private or state property, but to abolish it; not to mitigate class differences, but to abolish classes; not to improve the present society, but to create a new society; not to achieve some partial success that would give rise to a new division, but to thoroughly reject every new disguise of the old world.
The situationists have no doubt that the only possible program of modern revolution necessarily entails the formation of councils of all the workers, who by developing a clear awareness of all their enemies will become the sole power.
Revolutionaries are now turning their attention especially to Italy, because Italy is on the eve of a general uprising toward social revolution.
ITALIAN SECTION OF THE SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL
1. Berkeley: reference to the 1964 Free Speech Movement. Warsaw: probably refers to the publication of Kuron and Modzelewski’s Open Letter to the Polish Communist Party (see second chapter of On the Poverty of Student Life). Asturias: region in northwest Spain (see Footnote 5 here). Kivu: region in eastern Congo.
2. Many of the phrases in these two texts are adopted or adapted from the Communist Manifesto, e.g. “The communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties. They have no interest separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own by which to shape and mold the proletarian movement.” Quite a few other situationist passages (for example, all three of the chapter titles of On the Poverty of Student Life) are also derived from Marx, particularly from his early writings of the 1840s.
The first text was appended to the original poster edition of The Class Struggles in Algeria, which was distributed clandestinely in Algeria in 1965. On a few later occasions it was separately reprinted by the SI, sometimes with minor variations (e.g. citing different examples of current struggles in subsequent years).
The second text appeared as an appendix in the pamphlet Avviso al proletariato italiano sulle possibilità presenti della rivoluzione sociale (1969). The above version incorporates a few lines that were added in a reprinting the following year.
These translations by Ken Knabb are from the Situationist International Anthology (Revised and Expanded Edition, 2006). No copyright.