No Useless Indulgences

Intellectual or artistic collaborations in a group devoted to our kind of research more or less engages our use of everyday life. It is always mixed with a certain friendliness.

Consequently, when we think of those who participated in this agreement, then were excluded, we are obliged to think that they were also our friends. Sometimes it was a pleasure. Other times, it was ridiculous and embarrassing.

As a whole, subsequent developments have proved the well-founded nature of our reproaches and the irretrievable character of the people who could no longer keep us with us. A few of them (but some, nevertheless) rejoined the Catholic Church or the colonial troops.[1] The others were satisfied with the intelligentsia.[2] They grew old there. Our era is such that they were not able to make a career in it: Francoise Giroud[3] is perfect in her place and, as long as this genre continues to exist, there is no reason to replace her with an unemployed half-genius. With the result that the person who works under false names in the literature of the pornography of the heart has come -- so as to give taste to it -- to make new works of this type and reprint old ones, that is, under her real identity as an "avant-garde artist." If, by chance, she thus recovers a second wind, it will be pseudonymously [sous le manteau] that she will express serious ideas, so as to make it believed that this person is in fact someone else. This won't be the same person who has made a name for herself by furnishing an enigma to the gossipmongers, but a disciple. Far from such ambitions, resigned to being neglected by all, this honest Belgian theoretician -- who was formerly associated with certain of our current friends in the "International of Experimental Artists"[4] -- is so well entrenched in the tastes and memories of her youth that she can utilize in ideological debates several nationalistic arguments -- in favor of Belgium, of course.

A much larger number of individuals have never even managed to be accepted by us, despite the extreme indulgence that we have always had for those who have still not done anything or said anything, or have only accomplished several vague stupidities. We have seen a lot of those who confusedly feel that something must take place among us and who turn around, quite attracted, but without being attractive themselves. They were finally in the line of those faithful young men in the emerging guard of surrealism, knives without handles.[5]

The recent constitution of the Situationist International has given a new relevance to questions of agreement and rupture. A period of discussions, of parleys of equality between diverse groups, began at the Alba Congress[6] and ended at Cosio d'Arroscia[7] with the formation of a disciplined organization. The results of the new objective conditions have obligated the undertaking of an open opposition by certain opportunist elements, who were immediately eliminated (the purge of the Italian section [of the SI]). On the other hand, certain wait-and-see attitudes have ceased to be tolerable and those of our allies who have not believed that they must immediately join us have been unmasked by this as adversaries. It is according to the programme since developed by the majority of the SI that all of the new elements have joined us, and we would risk separating ourselves from these elements, and especially those whom we will encounter in the future, if we agreed to pursue the least dialogue with those who, since Alba, have manifested their irremediable wear and tear [usure].

We have become much stronger, thus more seductive. We still do not want inoffensive relations, and we do not want relations that could serve our adversaries.[8] Mathieu,[9] who cannot be ignorant of what we think of him, this past March tried to slip one of his works into a projected construction of situationist ambiance. And how could Tapie[10] not say -- in a way that immediately reminds one of a band of monkeys looting a warehouse of writing machines -- "As the passionate is different, at its scale everything changes in the structures of behavior: the complete work at the scale of today is that in which different structures, thus ensemblist, transcend a content that is at least passionate" (Paroxystic Evidence, which dates from last April)? But it is highly improbable that he arrived, all alone, at finding a meaning in this sequence of parodic vocabulary, and highly improbable that we ever accepted his advances. If he disappears immediately, we will see if the next ones won't be better.[11]

We say clearly that all of the situationists will preserve the enmities inherited from their constitutive groupings and that there will be no possible return for those whom we were once forced to scorn. But we do not have an idealist, abstract, [or] absolute conception of rupture. It is necessary to see when an encounter in a concrete, collective task must be impossible, but also to see if such an encounter, in changed circumstances, is possible and desirable, between people of whom we have kept a certain esteem.[12]

There are people -- two or three, perhaps -- whom we have known, who have worked with us, who have left or who were begged to do so for reasons that are, today, surpassed. And who, since then, have not become resigned: at least we can hope so.[13] Having known them, and having known what their possibilities were, we think that today these possibilities are equal or superior to what they were, and that these people's places can still be with us. It is true that a communal work such as we have undertaken, and that we pursue, cannot proceed without being mixed with friendship. I said so to begin. But it is also true that it cannot be reduced to [mere] friendship and that it must not be subject to the same weaknesses. Nor to the same modes of continuity or relaxation.

Michele Bernstein[14]

[1] Piero Simondo, excluded in January 1958, became re-involved with the Catholic Church. Piet De Groof ("Walter Korun") was a member of the Belgian air force.

[2] The following, rather lengthy passage was left untranslated by Ken Knabb, who butchered this text under the title No Useless Leniency.

[3] Francoise Giroud (Lea France Gourdji, 1916-2003) was a famous journalist, film script writer and "socialist" politician. She did not take the name "Giroud" until 1964. The author's remarks about her are very sarcastic and biting.

[4] Also known as COBRA, which existed from 1948-1951.

[5] End passage left untranslated by Ken Knabb.

[6] 2-8 September 1956, in Italy.

[7] 27-28 July 1957, in Italy.

[8] Begin passage left untranslated by Ken Knabb.

[9] Georges Mathieu, a neo-Dadaist painter.

[10] Michel Tapie, a French art critic.

[11] End passage left untranslated by Ken Knabb.

[12] Note Ken Knabb's mistranslation of this phrase: "between persons who have been able to retain a certain respect for each other."

[13] Note Ken Knabb's mistranslation of this phrase: "at least as far as we know."

[14] A co-founder of the SI, Michele Bernstein remained a member until 1967, when she resigned.

(Published Internationale Situationniste #1, June 1958. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! July 2007. Footnotes by the translator.)

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