Provisional Theses for the Discussion of New Theoretico-Practical Orientation in the SI

I. The point at which we find ourselves

If it seems that we cannot yet come up with a strategy which is sufficiently precise in relation to the course that the class struggles and revolutionaries periods in all countries will follow -- a historical movement which is still, moreover, latent, outside of its general presuppositions and first practical self-clarifications -- nevertheless, this is what we will have to do soon. If we still have not had the chance to grasp, for example, what the intervals between one revolution and another will be, what the international strategy will be ("the class battle array"), what new forces will develop in it (USA, USSR) and what level power's intelligence will reach, we are nonetheless at the beginning of this constructive period, where all the essential problems already pose themselves in direct relation to the action of conscious workers. Thus, we must be just as much aware of the peril of falling into a pure representation of globalness without development of our activities, as the opposite -- of not representing this globalness. One could say that we are at the same point as the Communist League, at the beginning of a historical period full of alternatives.

II. Organizational method

Consequently, the life of the organization and organizational rapports will not be derived simply from the fact of "recognizing a necessity and putting oneself at the service of this necessity," in the sense of a totally objective position created by the SI for its members. This method is, and must necessarily still be, seeing a necessity in the development of our capacities/possibilities, defining our tasks insofar as they are our own tasks, which is to say what we want as the group of individuals that we are (naturally, it is only a matter of an accentuation in the rhythm of unitary progression, but which continually becomes real through our consciousness of the stakes, of risk, of the element of the arbitrary that there is in all of our actions, of the radical subjectivity which is still almost exclusively their original terrain). All this can be summed up in the fact that the SI can be defined grosso modo in relation to its universal significance or in relation to its concrete present (according to Vaneigem or according to Debord, if this parallel can mean anything), as a revolutionary organization, practical political force or as a group of individuals, of theoreticians. It goes without saying that there is not any opposition which is not dialectical; it is a matter of moments summoned to succeed one another in reality.

On theoreticians and theory

It seems that there has been among us a tendency to judge purely theoretical activity as no longer sufficient, or that it is becoming insufficient in the new epoch. And one can add that which for too long has paralyzed theoretical production -- a phenomenon which is as much the consequence as the cause of the "disciplinary excess" -- seems to be, among other things, the feeling of having already becoming the masters -- though without slaves -- of theory; something which is only true in comparison to the somnambulists who have the originality to still be totally deprived of theory; a relation which is the opposite of the way we define ourselves.

But if we can't go beyond theory without using it decisively in practice, neither can we exert ourselves in practice except by means of our own theory. To attempt the supercession of our role as a group of theoreticians implies knowing clearly that the only solution beyond this group is the revolutionary organization, in the developed and complete form it will assume. Thus, I am convinced that it is on the path of theory that we will meet practice, new comrades and new actions. Now, when, after the first alarm signal, intellectuals and students still dream of washing away their remorse in a bath of "praxis," the SI can only continue on the opposite path with the certainty of finding its confirmation there.

We are still principally a group of theoreticians (before arriving at being simply conscious revolutionaries). But we are not only that. We are also something more, in the sense of the practical objective terrain created around us by our theory, and we have always been something before being a group of theoreticians, in the sense that the practical coherence in our interpersonal rapports and of each of us in his own life constitutes the practical basis of our solidarity (something that translates itself precisely in the method of not even discussing practical lapses since, beyond these, coherence must be a presupposition.) We are above all a group of rebels, or we are nothing. Strictly speaking, we are at the intersection of all classes, and thus we are no longer belong to any class. We know the bourgeoisie by direct experience; in culture and in daily life we have finished with its decadence; as proletarians we continue to work our way up; we are guerrillas because we are not aligned materially with any social stratum. Socially we are nothing, and, moreover, for us the society is nothing. From the point of view of Power, we don't exist, or at least we shouldn't exist. From the social intersections out of which we have come, to those where we are, we have found the space to choose our cause, even though there is no other practical one. From the point of view of the working class, it is inevitable that we must assume a separate existence, that if we exist it is only as "intellectuals," "militants," "leaders": as long as the workers reify us, our presence will seem foreign to them, as they are foreigners to themselves. But it is for the revolutionary workers that we exist on the terrain of a dynamic encounter in the one common project that is destined to become permanent. There, where we exist, it is beyond classes, outside of the perspective of Power. Our positive social being is nothing, and by this alone the negation is everything: it is only in the movement that this dialectical existence can reveal itself and take form.

The "Theses of April" (Debord, IS # 12) define the SI's direction of progress as having to put the accent more on the diffusion of theory than on its elaboration, though the latter must continue. I want to call attention to the fact that to accomplish this, it is important first of all to put theory in a condition where it can be effectively diffused. The first step of theory's advance towards practice takes place within theory itself: thus, the diffusion of theory is inseparable from its development. The task of providing all our formulated and implicit theses with a systematic and completely dialectical development, one which will not only bring them to the point where they can no longer be ignored by anybody, but also to the point where they circulate among the workers "like hotcakes" and themselves become the finally discovered cause of a definite grasping of consciousness (a scandal) -- this is certainly a theoretical task. But it also has an immediately practical utility: it is, more precisely, both necessary and banal in the moment that the SI is more or less led to play a hand of "double or nothing" with history.

Let us consider, for example, the excellent project of the Situationist Manifesto (only in this sense, that it is done by situationists). I think that some of the difficulty in its conception must be attributed to the fact that a certain level of the development of theory has yet to be attained. Which means: the theory of the SI is solid and already assumes a mature form without entering old age (insofar as it is the last theory, if this epoch's decisive revolution must be the last revolution). But beyond the fact that the SI's manifesto has to be translated into all the languages spoken by the modern proletariat and diffused among the workers, it should endure at least as well as the Communist Manifesto, but without having its faults and deficiencies. Therefore, it clearly can't be a book, nor an article (like, say, the "Address to Revolutionaries of All Countries") that one would arbitrarily call a "manifesto": rather, it must be the geometric locus of the theory of modern society, and the constant reference point of all future revolution. In this sense, Guy [Debord's] project of settling our accounts with Marx, in calculating precisely the degree of historic accuracy of his analyses and predictions, is a preliminary step, though not a necessary one. More generally, one theory certainly runs throughout all of the SI articles, from which it may be easily drawn, but in them our theory has to be precisely reconstructed by the reader. At present, it must be unified and synthesized, for which some additional analyses will be in order. In particular, the new simplicity of language we are seeking today will in no way render it familiar. Thus, we have as an intermediary task to that of the Manifesto the task of scientifically developing all the outlined themes (articles, pamphlets, books).

On the contrary, Rene Riesel's proposal for a Wildcat Striker's Notebook should be realized immediately, if we add to the brief history of the wildcat's critique in acts of the unions, and of its movement, a critique of the worker milieu and a short final programmatic chapter (defeat of the revolutionary movement, bureaucracy, spectacular commodity society, return of the social revolution, Workers' Councils, classless society). We'd have the follow-up to On the Poverty of Student Life corresponding to a "Strasbourg of the factories" and the premise of the [Situationist] Manifesto.

Finally, it seems to me that the Manifesto project is the way in which we (re)present to ourselves the necessity of a global advance in the relation between all our theses, as well as between them and the real movement, and that it thus presupposes the realization of almost all the other projects of theoretical work that have been formulated in the course of this debate. For example, Rene's and Raoul's pamphlet on the Workers' Councils and the critique of Pannekoek; of the four important projects presented by Guy, at a minimum 1). the analysis of the "two related failures" (insofar as it refers to the process of the formation of conscious revolutionary organization, and to the critique of the current process of a purely spontaneous struggle) and 2). tied to the critique of the past Councils and of councilist ideology, the definition of the armed coherence (a programmatic sketch) of the new Councils which "will be situationist or nothing." Thus, the "Preface to the practical critique of the modernized old world" opens up research on a real anti-reformism and on new forms of mass or generalized action in the proletariat's process of development towards an autonomous movement, the first phase of which is manifested by sabotage, by wildcat strikes, and above all by its new and modern demands. Moreover, it will still be necessary to re-examine the question of historical class determination, notably that of the working class and its revolutionary nature, insofar as it remains through its material position in society the bearer of all humanity's consciousness. (Tony [Verlaan]: "We must affirm that the workers will be able to be revolutionary and the only ones who can be so effectively." Raoul [Vaneigem]: "The path of the worker is direct; all he [sic] has to do is be conscious of his power -- because the fate of the commodity is in his hands -- in order to leave his brutalization behind and stop being a worker. His positivity is immediate. The intellectual, is, at best, of the negative. . . . Our critique must now bear essentially on the worker milieu, the motor of the proletariat.") Essential chapters are, thus, the analysis of capitalism and of American society with its new declassed [groups]; the critique of the most modern ideologies (in relation to the suppression in acts of political economy and of the retardation of the revolution; urbanism as destruction of the city; automation as liberatory in itself; ecology as crisis of consciousness of the present society which compels it to point out to itself its need to transform the relations of production, and, linked to all of the above, the critique of daily life conducted by Power itself: "situationism"); the analysis of the material presence in work and in daily life of all the fragmentary elements of the totality, of the historical project in its entirety, of that which the disappearance of art, the decomposition of philosophy, and the bankruptcy of science couldn't abolish, and which they have, to the contrary, injected everywhere in making it a definitive acquisition of the workers who are henceforth becoming its conscious inheritors. In general, there is the need to pursue the international strategy of the revolution by politico-historical articles on different countries, that is to say, to continue to translated Society of the Spectacle in ways such as "Decline and Fall of the Spectacular-Commodity Economy," and more beyond that. (Italy still awaits the translation of Society of the Spectacle.)

Another project that I believe useful to add on its the following: beginning with a quick run-through of the past revolutions (like Marx [did] in the Manifesto, Engels in the introduction to Class Struggles in France, Trotsky in 1905, Pannokoek in Workers' Councils) leading up to an answer to the question, "Why the next revolution will be the last." The history of the workers' movement -- which is covered in some of its aspects in many articles, and whose line is best traced in "The Proletariat as Subject and Representation" [a chapter in Debord's Society of the Spectacle] and in Riesel's critique of the councils in IS #12 -- is still far from being a waning subject on which everything of consequence has already been said. But to succeed in clarifying why modern revolutions are henceforth, and for the first time, only proletarian, in a moment which witnesses a decisive transformation of the worker and of work itself, that what I think would be of still greater interest. Thus, the revolutions of the past failed to attain, except marginally, that without which the modern revolution could not even begin: the fact that one can only achieve victory by demanding the totality expresses itself in the fact that there are no more struggles except for the totality. One could start from a definitive critique and from a justification of Russian Bolshevism (of Trotsky and Lenin) relative to the real conditions of the Russian proletariat, the latter considered in relation to the conditions of the modern proletariat which creates simultaneously the impossibility of Bolshevism and the necessity of councils "no longer at the periphery of that which is ebbing, but at the center of that which is rising." But it leads also to the verification of Marx's general thesis: as long as the existent relations of production are not exhausted and have not entered into contradiction with the development of the productive forces (in the global historical sense that includes the development of the revolutionary class itself and of the consciousness that produces history), the revolution runs the greatest risk, up until now never avoided, of being defeated and of leading to a modernization of domination. Each revolution lets loose all the possibilities (in 1789 as in 1871 and in 1917), but realizes in the final analysis only those that correspond to the level attained by the development of the productive forces. Of all the possibilities opened up by each revolution, it always seems to choose the nearest. All the possibilities are there, but certain of them remain invisible, while others are in everybody's mind: evidently, it is daily life, the immediate relation with the existing world, which puts them there. This can just as well be expressed in saying that in all revolutions, the negation is never absolute, that the positive plays a big part, either as positive or inversely as the determination of the negation: if the condition of victory consists in reducing the former, it is also just as much concerned with reinforcing the latter, in reducing the positive to its objective base.

It seems to me also that in all of situationist theory, we have arrived at a point where we must start all over again, rewrite it a second time, in concerning ourselves with those mediations treated too rapidly and with the interstices which are still to be discovered. The recognized value of writing books, for example (books that in the present epoch the workers will begin to read) evidently rests on the necessity of superceding the opening moment of hostilities on a new front of the modern critique.

"Just as a building is not finished when its foundation is constructed, neither is the attainment of the concept of the totality the totality itself." Thus we see the only possible mode of progress for the journal [Internationale Situationniste] consist in making it the simple bulletin of the activity of the SI. Reducing strictly theoretical research in it, the journal should consist almost exclusively of notes: to inform people of our activity, to criticize revolutionaries, to continually disentangle ourselves from aspects of recuperation or from enemies, to present immediate analyses of on-going class struggles and organizational texts. This would thus be only the most direct means by which we participate in the process of the formation of conscious revolutionary organization.

In conclusion, we ourselves don't have a head start at this beginning of an epoch. It is the beginning of an epoch for us, too. The SI was able to trace some of the fundamental alternatives and perhaps all the modern directions of development in a few condensed sentences; but that's precisely why it is almost a question of beginning (except for the spectacle, the critique of daily life, such and such brief but good politico-historical text on the revolutions, and naturally the analysis of May '68). On theory, there exists today particularly the method, which must verify itself through the various concrete aspects in making theory itself more profound in a decisive manner, precisely because "the force of spirit is as great as its externalization." Certainly we have already written in fragments the [situationist counterpart to Marx's] German Ideology; but the [situationist] 1844 Manuscripts will be the text that Guy proposes for the historical detournement of Marx. We have begun to consider the [Situationist] Manifesto at the same time as a [situationist] Critique of the Gotha Program. Furthermore, we don't only come from Hegel and Marx. [Vaneigem's The Treatise on Living [more commonly known as The Revolutionary of Everyday Life] has only opened the way: anti-utopia is an unknown territory which up until now nobody has come back to. It is this, rendered possible on the bases of modern society, that must make up for the "insufficiency of Marx" just as it must be rendered dialectical and find a practical use.

Note: Written in Italian by Paolo Salvadori, May 1970. It was immediately translated into French for use by the French section of the Situationist International. The translation into English was probably done by someone (Ken Knabb, it appears) who was reading the French translation, not the Italian original. In any event, it was first published by the American pro-situ journal Implications in 1975 and later included in Knabb's Situationist International Anthology (1981).

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