The Question of Organization for the Situationist International

1. Up until now, everything for which the SI has been known belongs to a period that is fortunately over (more precisely, it can be said that this was the "second period," if the activity that centered around the supersession of art from 1957 to 1962 is counted as the first).

2. The new revolutionary tendencies of current society, however weak and confused they may still be, are no longer restricted to a clandestine margin: this year they are appearing in the street.

3. Parallel to this, the SI has emerged from silence, and in strategic terms it must now exploit this opening. The vogue that the term "situationist" has achieved here and there cannot be prevented. We must act in such a way that this (normal) phenomenon serves us more than it hurts us. To me, "what serves us" is indistinguishable from what serves to unify and radicalize scattered struggles. This is the SI's task as an organization. Beyond this, the term "situationist" could be used to vaguely designate a certain period of critical thought (and it is already quite good to have inaugurated this), but where each one is only engaged by what he does personally, without any reference to an organizational community. But as long as such a community exists, it will have to succeed in distinguishing itself from whoever talks about it without being [a part of] it.

4. Concerning the tasks on which we already recognized each other previously, it can be said that we must currently place the accent less on theoretical elaboration, which is to be continued, and more on its communication: essentially, the accent must be on our practical relationship with what appears (by quickly increasing our possibilities for intervention, critique and exemplary support).

5. The movement that is beginning poorly is the beginning of our victory (in other words, the victory of what we have been supporting and pointing out for many years). But we must not "capitalize" on this victory (because every affirmation of a moment of the revolutionary critique already calls for -- on its own level -- the requirement that every advanced, coherent organization must know how to lose itself in revolutionary society). In the current and the forthcoming subversive currents, there will be much to criticize. It would be inelegant if we were to make this necessary critique while leaving the SI above it all.

6. The SI must now prove its efficiency in a subsequent stage of revolutionary activity -- or else disappear.

7. In order to have the possibility of attaining this efficacity, we must recognize and state several truths about the SI that were obviously true prior to this; but, in the current stage, in which "the truth is verifying itself," it has become urgent to make them precise.

8. Since we have never considered the SI to be a goal in itself, but as a moment of historical activity, the force of things now leads us to prove it. The "coherence" of the SI is the relationship, tending towards coherence, between all of our formulated theses, between them and our action; as well as our solidarity on many, but not all, of the questions about which each of us must engage the responsibility of others. This coherence cannot be mastery that is guaranteed to just anyone, who would then be reputed to have acquired our theoretical bases so well that he [sic] would automatically draw an unquestionably proper conduct from them. This coherence cannot be a demand for (still less the recognition of) an equal excellence of everyone on all questions or operations.

9. Coherence is acquired and verified by egalitarian participation in the totality of a common practice, which simultaneously reveals mistakes and provides remedies -- this practice requires formal meetings to arrive at decisions, the transmission of all information and the examination of all proven failures.

10. Currently, this practice demands more participants in the SI, taken from among those who affirm their accord and show their capacities. The small number of members, very unjustly selected up until now, has been the cause and the consequence of a ridiculous over-estimation "officially" accorded to all the members of the SI simply by virtue of that fact, when many of them had in no way given proof of any real capacities (i.e., the exclusions that have occurred in the last year, of the Garnautins[1] and the Englishmen[2]). Such a pseudo-qualitative numerical limitation exaggeratedly increases the importance of each particular stupidity while stirring it up at the same time.

11. Externally, a direct product of this selective illusion has been the mythological recognition of autonomous pseudo-groups, gloriously located at the level of the SI, whereas they were merely feeble-minded admirers (and thus were, to be brief, dishonest detractors as well). It seems to me that we cannot recognize any autonomous group unless it is engaged in autonomous practical work, nor can we recognize the lasting success of such a group unless it is engaged in united action with the workers (without of course having such action fall below our "minimum definition of revolutionary organizations").[3] All kinds of recent experiences have shown the recuperated confusionism of the term "anarchist,"[4] and it seems to me that we must oppose this confusionism everywhere.

12. I estimate that it is necessary to accept the possibility of tendencies in the SI that concern diverse preoccupations or tactical options, on the condition that our general bases are not put into question. Likewise, we must advance toward a complete practical autonomy of the national groups, to the extent that they will be really able to constitute themselves.

13. Contrary to the habits of the excluded people[5] who, in 1966, claimed to have attained (inactively) a total realization of transparency and friendship in the SI (it was almost embarrassing to judge their boring company), and who, as a corollary, developed the most idiotic jealousies, lies unworthy of grammar school kids and conspiracies as ignominious as they were irrational, we must only admit historical relationships among us (a critical trust, the knowledge of each member's possibilities or limits), but on the basis of the fundamental loyalty demanded by the revolutionary project that has been defining itself for over a century.

14. We have no right to deceive ourselves in breaking with people. We must still deceive ourselves in matters of adhesion -- more or less frequently: exclusions have almost never marked any theoretical progress of the SI (on such occasions, we have not discovered a more precise definition of what is unacceptable -- the surprising thing about Garnautism is precisely linked to the fact that it was an exception to this rule). Exclusions have almost always been responses to objective pressures that existing conditions reserved for our action: thus, we run the risk of having this reproduce itself on higher levels. All kinds of "Nashisms"[6] could reconstitute themselves: the only question is whether we are in a position to destroy them.

15. To accord the form of this debate to what I believe to be its content, I propose that this text be communicated to certain comrades close to the SI or capable of taking part in it,[7] and that we solicit their opinions on this question.

Guy Debord
April 1968

Note added by Debord in August 1969

These notes of April 1968 were a contribution to a debate on organization that at the time had to begin among us. Two or three weeks afterwards, the occupations movement, which was obviously more agreeable and more instructive than this debate, forced us to set them aside.

Only the last point was immediately approved by the comrades of the SI. Thus, this text, which obviously has nothing secret about it, was not exactly an internal document. However, toward the end of 1968, we found that truncated and undated versions of it had been circulated by several leftist groups, to what goal I do not know. Consequently, the SI estimated that the authentic version had to be published in this review [Internationale Situationniste].

When our discussion on organization was able to be renewed in the fall of 1968, the facts progressed very swiftly, and the situationists adopted these theses, which were confirmed. Reciprocally, the SI knew how to act in May in a manner that responded quite well to the demands that these theses had formulated for the immediate future.

At the moment when this text is receiving wider distribution, I think it necessary to add a specification, in order to avoid any misunderstanding on the question of the relative openness required by the SI. I have not proposed any concession here to "communal action" with those semi-radical currents that already search to form themselves, and especially not the abandonment of our rigor in choosing the members of the SI and in the limitation of their number. I criticized a bad, abstract use of this rigor, which could lead to the contrary of what we want. The admiring or subsequently hostile excesses of all those who speak of us from the viewpoint of inopportunely impassioned spectators cannot be answered by a "situ boasting" that would help make it believed that the situationists are marvelous people actually possessing everything in their lives that they have expressed, or simply accepted, as a revolutionary theory and program. Since May, one has seen the magnitude and urgency this problem has assumed.

The situationists do not have a monopoly to defend, nor any reward to anticipate. A task that suited us has been undertaken and maintained through good and bad, and as a whole, correctly with what is to be found here. The current development of the subjective conditions of the revolution must lead toward the definition of a strategy that, starting from different givens, will be as good as that which the SI followed in more difficult times.


[1] See the letter dated 15 January 1967.

[2] See the letter dated 21 December 1967.

[3] See the letter dated 1 August 1966.

[4] See the texts concerning the Anarchist Federation.

[5] Theo Frey, Jean Garnault and Herbert Holl: the so-called Garnautins.

[6] Named after Jorgen Nash, who, in February and March 1962, led a protest in the SI against the exclusion of the Spurists. This protest also included Ansgar Elde, Steffan Larsson, Katja Lindell, Jorgen Nash, Hardy Strid and Jacqueline de Jong, many of whom either helped found the "Second" Situationist International or contributed to The Situationist Times.

[7] People like Rene Riesel, Christian Sebastiani, Yves Chotard, Jacques Le Glou, Pierre Lepetit. . . .

(Written and signed by Guy Debord, April 1968. Published in Internationale Situationniste #12, September 1969. Translated by Point Blank! in 1972. Translation substantially modified and foonoted by NOT BORED! September 2005.)

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