Introduction to Secretos a Voces

The publisher [and main translator, Luis Navarro] has suggested that I write a brief introduction to clarify the background of these texts, which have been selected from three decades of ongoing activity.

I have lived in Berkeley (near San Francisco) since 1965, and took part in many of the radical and countercultural events of the 1960s. In 1969 I discovered the situationists and began experimenting with situationist tactics. The first text in this book, On the Poverty of Hip Life (1972), is a draft by one of the situationist-influenced groups in which I participated (the group dissolved before the text was completed). Our generally negative view of the hip counterculture should be seen as an appropriate but sometimes excessive reaction against the prevalent illusions of the time. A somewhat more positive view is presented in my autobiography.

Double-Reflection (1974) examines some subjective aspects of radical activity that have unfortunately received little attention elsewhere. Most radical texts concern themselves with more “objective” political issues and pay little attention to personal ones, while those that deal with personal issues usually do so in an exclusively psychological way that ignores the connections with social conditions. The importance of being aware of these interrelations and of the processes of one’s own activity has been an underlying theme of my writings.

The Society of Situationism (1976) examines various nuances of situationism — that is, of the ideologization and cooption of situationist theories following the May 1968 revolt — and some related tendencies in the society as a whole (tendencies which have in some cases become much more obvious now than they were 25 years ago).

The Realization and Suppression of Religion (1977) has stirred up more controversy than any of my other writings because it challenged the situationist milieu to confront its blind spots regarding this despised and taboo topic. There are still people who refuse to speak to me because of this text!

The Opening in Iran (1979) was issued as a poster during the uprising against the Shah (several hundred copies were distributed to radical Iranian students in the United States). Needless to say, the revolution did not turn out as I had hoped, but I believe that my analysis of the possibilities that existed at the time was accurate.

During the 1980s I translated a large collection of situationist writings, wrote a small book about the anarchist author Kenneth Rexroth, and began exploring Zen practice.

The War and the Spectacle (1991) examined the Gulf war and the various forms of opposition to it in terms of the situationist notion of spectacle.

Strong Lessons for Engaged Buddhists (1993) and Evading the Transformation of Reality (1999) challenged Buddhists who were beginning to be aware of social issues to go further, to explore more radical perspectives and tactics.

During the 1990s I wrote “The Joy of Revolution” and an autobiography, both of which are included in the book Public Secrets (1997).

All of my writings, including French and Spanish translations of many of them, can be found at the Bureau of Public Secrets website (www.bopsecrets.org).

I would like to thank the translators for the care with which they have translated these texts.

September 2001


English version of the Introduction to Secretos a Voces (Spanish-language selection of BPS texts published in Madrid).

No copyright.