Open letter, or 'Situationism' and the Situation of the A.F.

"I am for freedom of thought . . . but if there are any situationists in the room, then they should get out." -- Professor Lhuillier, according to Le Nouvel Observateur[1]

In Le Monde Libertaire #127, an article entitled What is 'situationism'? appeared; at the same moment, the "situationists" of Strasbourg published their pamphlet On the Poverty of Student Life, the ensemble giving the impression of a concerted action. If the article in the M.L. appeared sufficiently colorless, although it wasn't comprehensible by the "workers," the pamphlet once again gave them a savior.

The reaction didn't delay itself: in M.L. #128, we had two articles attacking the pamphlet: an article by Father Easy/Maurice Joyeux and a letter by A. Bontemps.


It wasn't a question of becoming "situationist," but of "beginning" to pose questions and to respond to them, but in another ambiance and in a more global manner than the famous specialization of tendencies. In any case, it was necessary to pose the problems here and now, things that up until then the A.F. [Anarchist Federation] didn't seem to want to do.

Personally, what is the origin of all this? After reading Orwell and issues of Internationale Situationniste, it appeared to me that a new orientation was possible, at least at the level of critique. And a priori without contradiction to (but with differences from) the anarchist movement.[2]

Several timid attempts in this direction were made, in the M.L. articles entitled "The war of diversions has begun" (#121), "Well-being" (#122), [and] "Of cultural decomposition" (#123); apart from their faults, they can be qualified as vaguely pro-situationist. In sum, this lasted a long time -- without ever completely quoting the theses of the SI, of course.

The incriminated article (M.I. #128) wanted to respond to a part of the accusation that had been made against the SI, moreover with reason, as a by-product without reference and, on the other hand, as the result of quotations such as this: ". . . the Situationist International, which finally produced its tenth issue. One has wanted to be conciliatory with the SI, of which the always-intelligent thought is really revolutionary" ("Across the journals," #123). If the A.F. waited for the appearance of [the next issue of] I.S., this position had never been demonstrated, only indicated[3] precisely in "Across the journals." Because it is certain that one could count on one's fingers the comrades who had read "the situationists" and wanted to discuss them. Obviously, judging the SI on the basis of 7 lines concerning the anarchists in a pamphlet is simpler. If "the situationists" make declarations of love to the "anarchists" under the form of a slap, this must be effective. Alas, no. The A.F. immediately surrendered.

How are the situationists so different from the anarchists? It is exactly that they do not employ the "anarchist" label. Here is what they say about labels: "In the existing order, where the thing takes the place of man, any label is compromised. Nevertheless, the one that we have chosen carries its own critique in it: in that it opposes itself to 'situationism,' it summarizes the other labels chosen for us. Moreover, it will disappear when each of us will be situationists entirely apart, and no longer proletarians struggling for the end of the proletariat. In the short-term, as derisive as a label is, ours has the merit of cutting [trancher] between the old incoherence and a new requirement. What intelligence has lacked the most for several dozen years is precisely the cutting edge [le tranchant]." (I.S. #9)

At the risk of repeating ourselves, [we say that] the situationists are essentially different from the anarchists due to the critique of "ideology" -- critique of "Marxism" by Marx's own method -- or ideology and its treatment by the propaganda that deforms it, the propaganda that creates another ideology (the problem of democratic propaganda).

From the theoretical point of view, the SI rests upon the critique of the commodity economy (dialectical materialism -- but see also the theses on culture), which inevitably catalogues them as Marxists. "Marx's address to the Central Council of the Communist League (March 1850) is, at one and the same time, just in that it puts the workers on guard against the absence of an autonomous politics and the consequences of an attitude that is dependant on the petite bourgeoisie, and quite dangerous in that (in the final part) it defends the most Jacobin Statist centralism. The first part is exactly applicable to Spain and the coming crisis. The end is rejected by all of the proletarian revolution of our time and was already inapplicable to the Spanish situation of 1936, where regional autonomy was the basis on which the most radical tendencies expressed themselves" (I.S. #10).

The use of Marx, which, however, is critical, makes certain libertarians reject the situationists en bloc, because, for these libertarians, any nuance or critique concerning "Marxism" is a "mystification." They are thus incapable of responding on the exterior [of their organization] or replying to the diffuse "Marixism" of our era. In brief, how can these people (the situationists) dare to speak badly of all the magnificent "French revolutionary" organizations, in which everything is always resolved in advance, either by Trotsky (the facts!) or by anarchism (ideology)? Mystery! It is here that a reading imposes itself.


"Therefore what is expressed by the miniscule pamphlet entitled 'Basic Principles of the Anarchist Federation'? On page 1, one extols the abolition of the State and its replacement by libertarian federalism. Bravo. But such a formula, without other explication, is equivalent to a slogan. What is the modern State? What is a federation that is adapted to the modern world? These are questions that the anarchists of the second half of the XXth century leave unanswered."[4]

All this is quite just and actually there is no response to it and there will be no response to it, at least insofar as the general anarchist spirit will remain in its current disposition. "The under-development of revolutionary theory in the entire world is the primary underdevelopment that must now be left behind."[5]

"No one prevents them from doing what we have done and proving their abilities in creating their own organ in place making trouble."[6] Thanks all the same; I indicate to the author of this amiable phrase (he who loves politeness) that, up until now, I have been among the editors of the M.L., the "stupidity" of which is well known.

As far as the Association (the owners), it is the "property" of "anarchism," since one can say that the A.F. is the newspaper. This association can act if things go "badly," in case the spirit goes counter to orthodox anarchism. At least a text will always be well regarded, naturally: the anarchists are right; the anarchists are intelligent; they have already foreseen it; etc. Which obviously proves nothing, but satisfies those who understand NOTHING.

And this poses the problem of the militant: we know that the militant of a [political] party is someone who claims to hold the truth (which permits him to act at least for a certain time); in fact, he is conditioned (he was or he is conditioned). Introducing an element of ambivalence in such a "milieu" provokes an immediate reaction: one cries "This is propaganda!" It is true that it is propaganda that cries the most about propaganda,[7] its propaganda being good, but not that of the others, obviously: "Finally, our newspaper is the essential element of our propaganda."[8] One can perhaps pose the problem: "What is anarchist propaganda?"

As for the individualist [August] Bontemps, who only intervenes to extract foreign bodies from the sick part, he has found a casuist solution: "From now on, it is permitted to consider that an anarchist can kill himself, at the least to render existence difficult and uncertain if he doesn't practice, lucidly and voluntarily, a double morality: one for himself and his relations with those close to him, and another for everyone else in the social milieu." What is it he comes to sing to us, he who has so many "relations" with technocrats? They are so intelligent.

As far Father Joyeux-Easy, he doesn't fail to let the amalgam effectuate itself. "An article informs us" is savory, since he has read no situationist texts, aside from the pamphlet and, more precisely, the 7 lines in it that he believes were addressed to him.

Even feeling insulted (which is understandable in this instance), no newspaper has dared to publish an article as reactionary as his.

What to say to these people, who relate everything to the past? "Their strength is ignorance."

G. Bodson, alias Guy Antoine

[1] Translator: 21 December 1966. Lhuillier was a professor at the University of Strasbourg.

[2] "This independence of opinions at the heart of associations that are simply liberal: would it paradoxically be excluded from the libertarian milieu?" A.B. [August Bontemps] Anarchism and the Real [1963].

[3] M.L. #41-42, August-September 1958.

[4] Maurice Fayolle (Congress of 1965).

[5] Translator: "The Class Struggles in Algeria," Siituationist International, 1965.

[6] Here I repeat that I am not a situationist, not being [a member] in "The Occult International"; finally, if the phrase of Bontemps doesn't concern me (by chance), it concerns Strasbourg, which proves that Bontemps has the greatest respect for the unions.

[7] [Jacques] Ellul, Propaganda, A. Colin.

[8] Internal Bulletin #60. "Motion of the Louise-Michel Group." A magnificent example of stupidity.

(Unpublished. No date [January 1967?]. Unpublished. Footnotes by author, except where noted. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! September 2005.)

To Contact NOT BORED!
ISSN 1084-7340.
Snail mail: POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998