notes on the strategic debate

1. More on the recent period and what it has begun

One is in complete agreement: at the same moment that, all through Europe (but also elsewhere), reality was seeking out situationist theory, this theory wasn't developing. Without doubt, the Venice Conference [of the SI, held September 1969] was "exemplary" of this "intensive" non-development. The period after Venice was a good example of the real dimensions of the SI's extensive development.

Never did the SI have as many members who were less "useful" or, rather, as many members who were less useful to the SI, than it did in 1969. It goes without saying that it was truly disgraceful that those who were part of the most modern and coherent international revolutionary organization active today, used it so little and so sluggishly; almost as if one could at certain moments doubt that the SI was truly at the disposition of those who wanted and knew how to make use of it.

Striving to be at the center of the organization, as Raoul said, and being "admirable" to the other members -- these are the same things. And what is true for each situ[ationist] is true for each section: the SI must stop being divided between a "center" in Paris and various Eastern peripheries (it goes without saying that there are comrades from other countries whose membership entails certain difficulties). The Italian section must provide a lot here: at the least, it must provide an example of a country other than France that has an active, well-constructed section of the SI.

In other words, the Italian section and its hoped-for successes must immediately be examples and, above all, precedents for the other sections, today and in the future, just as the French section has constantly been for more than ten years. Among the other sections, the one in Italy is in the most favorable position where this is concerned.

It's necessary, in the future, and to the extent that we want the organization to be really creative and experimental, that we emphasize the choices faced by the SI: it isn't a question of situs making problems for the SI (as an Italian comrade [Paolo Salvadori] recently did), but rather making the SI and all of its choices the problem for each situ. It would in fact be ridiculous for the situs to want to resolve the SI's strategic problems without confronting their own problems (cf. Raoul: "group discipline"). Contrary what was desired by unhappy [Claudio] Pavan, the SI isn't a sinecure for its members or for its enemies; if some of us have found it happy chance to know the SI, others surely haven't found it so. It seems to me that (today, less than ever) it isn't necessary at all to encourage among us a certain optimism, even though, from another point of view, there are real reasons for it. One says this, not out of a kind of stupid "rigorism," but simply because I am convinced that we don't need it, especially because it never served us well. For the rest, this debate has already demonstrated its usefulness.

One last thing concerning the period of crisis and the recent exclusions [Claudio Pavan, Paolo Salvadori, Eduardo Rothe]: in his first text, Comrade Christian [Sebastiani] said in reference to the crisis that "it is sad but true that it is necessary to say: the SI that was, was also that." But the failures of the members of the SI are, it's true, in part the failures of the SI itself. But I believe it isn't necessary to dwell upon this, because, for the SI, these kinds of failures are moments of its success, because these failures mark the historic progress of the SI. And the historic success of the SI will be its truth.

2. Some remarks on our strategy and this debate

As Paolo noted, and with good reason, the fact that we have had more or less direct and conscious contact with other autonomous revolutionaries is already an indirect support for and verification of our theory. But it is necessarily much more interesting for us, because we have become very popular and because the movement and struggle that we have announced puts all in motion; and, in enlightening everyone's interests, we confer to everyone the interest of this struggle, our struggle.

Reciprocally, in actively seeking our real interest in all this, it's necessary for us to make precise our strategy for combating the interests of recuperators and producers of situationism, which, unfortunately, are interests that are more real than necessary for us.

Without doubt, there are different ways of combating the recuperators: a good tactic is to sabotage their work. By giving them too much. It is necessary to augment the cadences for these salaried workers in the established order! Our gain will be immediate and double. In order to prevent recuperation, one must use some kind of detournement. The progress of the SI will be measured by its ability to ceaselessly detourn itself.

Artists, intellectuals, students: we have had enough. It is necessary, perhaps, to be indulgent against them: it seems to me that, since 68, the majority of the SI's attacks on them, violent though they were, risked being objectively pedagogical rather than exemplary. On the contrary, like the workers, we don't have to be indulgent (cf. the last text by Christian: "it will not be necessary to be tender with them").

It will be necessary for us to be more and more intolerant of justifications (beginning with our own): we know that they exist, if one goes in search of them, but we also know that it is the old world that produces them for its own benefit and that they will one day cease to exist. We have quite naturally chosen to be collectively and individually compromised with the proletariat; it is necessary that the proletarians, who are our next interlocutors, begin to compromise directly with us. It seems to me, for example, that it is Italy that one can know and critique the workers for what they have and haven't done, for example, in response to the events of December 1969.

In Europe, at least in the countries in which they are sections of the SI, the workers can be criticized for not fully living up to their potential, even as they have begun speaking to and criticizing themselves (it goes without saying that it is useless, even academic, for us to criticize the workers before communicating with them: this is the importance of "The Wildcat Striker's Notebook."

It seems to me that the text of Paolo [Salvadori] is particularly remarkable for the problems that it approached, for beginning the discussion of strategy that Raoul wished to take up in his last text. To be precise, as Paolo tried to be, about moving closer to the realization of a classless society -- this was already sketched out in the lines of force of our positive strategy. One of our goals, at least as we've defined them, has been to supercede being a "group of theoreticians." "But if we can't go beyond theory by engaging in practice, we can't confront practice according to the means of our own theory" (Paolo). And, even more trivially, as the interventions of this debate have made clear, it is obvious that the SI can't actually and definitely supercede being a "group of theoreticians" even if its theoretical production is quantatively superior to what has been so far (cf. Riesel and others on this point).

Another point. If one can say that France and Italy, and perhaps Spain and Scandanavia, have been very well served by [Debord's] Theses of April 1968, one must also put them to work in England, the USA, Germany, etc. It is time that the SI had a good journal in English. It seems to me that we merit one, just as the proletarians in the USA, England and Germany merit us. Without doubt, with one or two films, it would easier for us to penetrate into these countries than if we employed texts (here is another reason to speed up work in the cinema).

More abstractly, concerning our strategy, one can say that the SI only poses problems that it can solve, but also that, today, the SI can solve many more problems than it has posed.

This will not be without difficulties; as elsewhere, nothing is accomplished without effort. But the value of the changes the SI is making will not be measured by cost, but by what has been gained by the accomplishment. The SI must continue to produce situationists; but now it can't produce them by producing other things (cf. Riesel " . . . make more and other things"). Comrades, if we want to once again astonish this world, we must act quickly.

The problems posed by this debate are problems of choice and knowing how to choose. In general, one will know that the debate has ended when we have very precisely and practically defined all that no longer interests us, all that can engage us, and, finally, our time-frames. From this point of view, we are already at a good point. From here, the discussion can take two different directions: towards a long-term, deep and precise delineation of the fundamental questions of strategy and the development of theoretical questions already posed or to be posed; or towards the rapid precision of the times and modes of realization that we have discussed and decided upon (I am speaking of modes because, it goes without saying, these realizations will be international in the double sense that comrades from all sections of our organization will participate in their theoretical construction and in putting them into practice in several different countries: choosing work crews, fixing meetings, aiding the actions of numerically weaker sections, etc).

3. Some modest propositions "on the economy," in comparison with the debate on the workers' condition

Without wanting to fall into Marx's tendency or its inverse, I propose that we pay a great deal of theoretical attention to economic problems, even if this subject isn't one of the most passionate. However, all the modifications and veritable changes that have been produced in this domain over the course of the last half-century render it more interesting.

Today more than ever, it can't be a question of forseeing any economic "crisis" or deriving from this vision the mythological "necessity" of social crisis. On the contrary, because there is already a grave social crisis, it is the smooth functioning of the economic sector that is directly implicated. One saw this in [France in] May [1968] and afterwards. One also sees it in Italy (and in the USA and the USSR, too).

No revolutionary dialectician since Marx -- except maybe the SI -- has said anything really new on the subject of the development of capital. Of course, most commentators on capital have been specialists in and for survival. It is now necessary for us to completely "demystify" this "monstrous" argument [survivalism]. In Italy, as elsewhere, one has long known that "the intelligence of capital" (power, too) resides in the stupidity of those who believe in it, generally Leftist ideologues who attribute intelligence to capital so that they can justify the impotence of their "struggle" against it. This is so true that one is sometimes astonished by the infrequent moments of relative lucidity (bombs [such as those of December 1969], etc). And if capital is sometimes or more and more forced to be lucid, this demonstrates the precariousness of its general state and the habitual nature of its stupidity. Capital is suspicious of the workers, because they are the weakness of this system of production; but capital must remain totally aware of them; the Communist Party and the unions must make even the simplest things difficult, even impossible. And all that comes easily.

One can say that, after fifty years of defeats and lies, the workers will never enter into struggles without sufficient "guarantees" of seriousness and success (cf. for example, French workers didn't stir themselves in 68 until there'd been a week of real struggle in the streets of Paris). But, in becoming conscious of the weaknesses of their adversary, the workers understand that they are the only ones who can guarantee the seriousness of the struggle. This understanding is a big victory for them.

As for us, we have already entered "into the melee" by, at the suggestion of Comrade Donatien [Rene Vienet], producing a good Wildcat Striker's Notebook. It seems urgent to me, and perhaps others as well, that the cinema should be employed (even though it takes longer and is more difficult to realize than a tract). Our Wildcat Striker's Handbook demonstrates to the workers, as well as those who expect so much from the workers and whom we accuse of "workerism," that we don't expect the workers to stir themselves, not when they are already on the march from one end of Europe to the other. And it also demonstrates that, in the factories and other places of programmed deadness, creativity is an excellent weapon against the management of its absence. In fact, if power can more or less tolerate the existence of new techniques of disorder in culture and the universities, power must nevertheless keep control over the factories and offices (it can always control the newly rich), so that everyone sees the concrete character of its force as well as the precariousness of the condition of the commodity. By staging fast and wild actions, which cost little to execute and publicize, small groups of revolutionary workers can inspire other initiatives, can "oblige" other proletarians to comprehend, recognize and reproduce such initiatives.

It will be necessary for us to communicate to the workers our taste for games, among other things, and for us to play more. Today, when we say "play," we mean everything put in play in the struggle for our liberation. It is necessary that the workers taste the pleasure of playing this kind of game: constructing situations that merit the difficulty of being lived -- this is what is worth deciding today.

Completely necessary in the short-term: a certain interest in the economy, a discussion of the workers' condition as proposed by Raoul, and direct action among and with the workers.

(Written in French by Gianfranco Sanguinetti, a member of the Italian section of the Situationist International, dated Milan, June 1970. Translated by NOT BORED! August 2004.)

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