Posts Tagged ‘Situationist International’

SWILL: First International (Situationist)


23 Feb

impermanence

Impermanence Of Placement

samplex

To: sworg-talk@scenewash.org
Date: 23 Feb 2001 03:07:35 +0000

BEGIN ANOTHER SWILL, THIS ONE WON'T LAST FOREVER

Rebunk: The title might need a little adjustment in order to differentiate it first of all from the slew of post-situationist "critiques" of the SI that appeared in the 70s and early 80s, more often than not prey to gross misreadings and historical misunderstandings (e.g. Barrot, Winks, Home).

Well, how about Transcendence or Supercession of the 1st SI? More to the point, though less challenging perhaps. (Challenging is good innit? or not—depending really on how highly you rate the current crop of phoney situationists...). But in any case, this is a brief 10-odd point declaration we're aiming at here, not a literary career a la Home et al.

Rebunk: ...and secondly, from the tendency to fetishize the 1962 split between the SI's "artistic" and "political" factions—effectively into "first" and "second" Situationist Internationals

The POINT remember is to compose a scientific method for critique, to examine how reality and historical change are ordered. This is exactly what Marx and Engels hoped to be developing in dialectical materialism (and yer empirio-criticism, too, of course) and what has subsequently been LOST.
Okay. So how about Supercession of the 57 varieties of the Situationist International. I see this document with a can of tomato soup backdrop—or has that been done? Hell no—that was Campbell's but this is Heinz.

Of course the reference to "First" also possessed a threatening spin. One does not have to STATE that one intends to reconstitute a 2nd or 3rd Sit International (which as I see it would make little sense from a semantic point of view) but the implied suggestion that the past be replaced with a present and a future...this would bring out the woodlice or at least set them squirming a little in their rotting crevices...no? Oh well, I'll settle for the soup can then.

Article 1 read:

The SI inherited the incomprehension of dialectics that was already rife amongst (so-called) Marxists. Whilst on the surface the objection may seem merely one of perspective, to think of dialectical "opposition" as the motor of historical social change is in fact a fatal error—it results in several weaknesses which include (amongst others!) the failure to resist the transformation of subversion into a posture supporting the status quo.

Rebunk: This is a good point in terms of its acknowledgement of the potential recuperation of oppositional poses.

The only social contract worth having is the one that guarantees to us the world we want to live in and none of these wankers—communists, anarchists and situationists, has anything to offer which doesn't come cheaper when it's stolen.
Nope, nope, nope. I mean a lot more than that—there's no "potential" about it. What is being stated here is a general scientific objection to the law of dialectics as framed in Marxism and the alternative postulate does not apply simply as a warning re politico-poseurs but as a general description of reality. The POINT remember is to compose a scientific method for critique, to examine how reality and historical change are ordered. This is exactly what Marx and Engels hoped to be developing in dialectical materialism (and yer empirio-criticism, too, of course) and what has subsequently been LOST. (Hence the reversals of the late 20thC —which floundered along instead by leaning on slogans and comprehending nothing—least of all itself.)

Rebunk: ...but such a co-optation occurs even to those scientific Marxists who reject dialectics, and those self-styled anarchists who reject Marxism.

Exactement—and more besides. In Varela's terminology, such "dialectics" are in fact enactments, static phenomenological entities, fields, states which emerge and constitute themselves through a self-preserving tension. However co-optation only occurs if you play the game of taking sides in these games. It's a FRAUD to take sides in them—a decision to maintain a certain static posture in conspiracy with the "opposition" which is therefore nothing of the kind but in fact a co-conspirator. How you deal with this fact is a matter for you according to circumstances, but the fact I.S.. Supercession and transcendence in their various ways are, or should be, on the contrary (just like detournement) an escape from such predicaments—a genuine betrayal of the conspiracy. But the conspiracy will try to retrench itself on the basis of the new betrayal, and must be betrayed again and again...The only social contract worth having is the one that guarantees to us the world we want to live in and none of these wankers—communists, anarchists and situationists, has anything to offer which doesn't come cheaper when it's stolen.

I have no such aspiration: I declare my interest from the very start, I declare myself to be a LIAR and a CHEAT (if you like) and thereby become not an icon like Derrida but that "contradiction" in terms—a tangible enigma—a liar with an honest intent, a monster with a beautiful dream. Better that by far than the converse.
Rebunk: Indeed, the SI's grasp of dialectics as theoretical device is actually pretty good, despite the fact that it didn't really reach its full critical potential until after the group's dissolution (in Debord, Sanguinetti and Sebastiani's later writings).

Point us to these better grasps of dialectics Reeb. If they are actually good enough they should form part of the declaration.

Rebunk: You can prove anything with dialectics (whereupon he proceeded to justify the development of Stalinism).

Well, of course. In fact, you cannot prove anything WITHOUT dialectics since so-called meaningful language is composed entirely of words which depend upon a dialectic in order to exist (except, arguably, the word *TAO* but lets skip that one for now). However, the notion that you can prove anything is demolished as soon as you overthrow the false understanding of dialectics itself. Which (to cut a long story short) soon brings us to the subject of Derrida. Derrida however seems to have succumbed—or permitted Deconstruction to succumb—to the (dialectic) illusion of having transcended dialectics: of claiming (albeit in a novel kind of way) to have attained true PURITY, true detachment. I have no such aspiration: I declare my interest from the very start, I declare myself to be a LIAR and a CHEAT (if you like) and thereby become not an icon like Derrida but that "contradiction" in terms—a tangible enigma—a liar with an honest intent, a monster with a beautiful dream. Better that by far than the converse.

Maybe I'm going too fast here.

—kubhlai

The SI Is Not Sports Illustrated


20 Mar

dissent

Dissent

samplex

Originally published Mar 20, 1997; this discussion took place in the founding days on The Spectacle SI listserv between Sam Hutchinson in italics, and myself.

I don't want to dis your friend too hard here, but are you kidding me? If we are going to set up such a silly Marx/Engels parallel, then undoubtly the most apparent Engels would be Vanegiem. Now I will go out on a limb here and say that the truest heir to Debord's paper throne was Malcolm Maclaren. I recognize punk as more than a passing fad. It was a very subversive passing fad... The only significant press time Situ theory has received since '68 was that insane summer of '77. Count the ego drive that inevitably destroyed the movement each was so critical in creating and you have the beginnings of a very subtle parallel to be drawn.

True. Bracken acknowledges this, but still draws heavily from the language of Marx, while like the original situ thinkers, rejects the Soviet model, and rightly so, doesn't say too much about the Chinese model, but loves himself a Chinese woman, or two, actually can rarely ignore the opportunity to add several Asians to his whistling sidecar.

I question this Bracken's thinking concerning Situ theory. Capitalist pig? Situationism was not Marxism. it grew from a distrust of Marxism as well as a distrust of capitalism and a refusal of the polar dialectic the two combined to create. anarchy, if it is good, attempts to break out of these convenient structures of left and right and find a new form, a new city, a new avenue to the conditions of freedom... What have we learned these past few days? Me, I have basically decided that situationism can not be revived. it would be like this "punk-revival" that is so big these days. in mimicing the stances and attitudes of punk, you essentially repress you ability to create new stances and forms. punk was a violent refusal to allow that freedom, the freedom to create new stances, the freedom to be revolutionary, to disappear from the zone that is pop.music.rock-n-roll, for lack of a better term. as Peter Buck once said of the early days of R.E.M.: "When we would go to New York and play, everyone was like, no, that's not punk. Punk is three chords and spitting. But we always saw punk as being able to so whatever you wanted, even if you wanted to be a folk-punk band..." I think we can easily substitute "situationism" for punk in all of the above sentences. To relive the exploits of the past is to deny a creation of a now. If we are to be situationists of a contemporary epoch, we must at least have the nerve to bury the remains of the past. Otherwise we are just necrophiles fucking a long dead corpse. To sum up: I don't live in Paris, 1968. I live in Atlanta, 1997.

I wouldn't change a single syllable above. Bravo! Why can't Bracken fathom this? I think he was off on some island, too conservative, too young, or just too damned preoccupied with books and scholarly pretensions, and therefore not a part of the punk scene to admit that the world has screamed past 1968. But then, I'm not a textbook revolutionary. I'm an observer observing the observers, executing bad policies, that is to say, putting to death bad policies I have tested and found wanting....and as my doubts are eyeball high, the jury's still out given the book I'm just been paid to typeset, it's probably best for me to duck from this discussion for now.

At this point, I don't think any of us on this list are revolutionary. I bought this computer.

To your point, Sam, I shelled out big money on this upscale computer so that I could join the world of blips and bleeps, to face the fears of the future with ev'ry article of faith I have to exploit my need to communicate from the best beaches of childhood memory to the most stormy seashores chanced by aman in search of the most valuable one liner ever heard in the English language, and live out a simple life making simple choices, one or two maybe a few at a time, but I certainly do not feel qualified to speak for, or against, this bustling deaf world at large, except in spoonfuls of salt or vinegar meant for beggars and brothers who prove themselves not on the field of battle but upon the waves of friendship. I'm not neither parrot, nor paratrooper, sheep or wolf, victim or executioner until I have no other choices. It's time we realized that we cannot control the entire world with a well-placed verb, noun, or screaming decibel of a three-minute song, but it is the almighty decimal point that is being propped up by controlling powers pacing strategically around the globe that must be analyzed, attacked, and destroyed in due time. But most of us don't want to be around when that happens.

Bracken drives a Beemer, or is it a Volvo? I have no problem with that, and neither does he, obviously, but why if a typewriter is a revolutionary's best friend, tell me in the name of Bill Gates (my own nominee for Anti-Christ of the hour), does buying a computer make one "unrevolutionary"? This is one aspect of the materialism/born with nothing, die with nothing question I have never quite understood, although in some respects I feel the same burn because my wife has a tendancy to want to buy a new house, or the latest anything all the time. I confess to a degree the same desires, but mine are generally focussed entirely on software and hardware, and of course books. I don't need clothes or car. My house is satisfactory except for the inner city warzone where it's located keeping me juiced on paranoia with a nearly debilitating fear to tread outdoors.

Anyone taken as an individual is tolerably sensible and reasonable—as a member of a crowd he at once becomes a blockhead.Friedrich Schiller

The question of Marcus is a tricky one. He was my introduction to the SI and I agree that it's a great read, but on re-reading him last year in the midst of hundreds of other people's versions (I kid you not, I can send the 8-page bib.!), it is clear that Marcus either knows little about the politics of the SI post- '62 and/or glosses over many things in order to push his 'bohemian losers' line. There is a certain aestheticism and romanticism in Marcus' account that renders everything in the book as simultaneously crucial, vital, necessary and doomed, marginal, pointless. From what little I know of Len Bracken, I think he's just taking these kinds of qualms and magnifying them (in best pro-Situ fashion) into a stance of unwavering enmity.

schiller

Friedrich Schiller

I think you are probably right about this. The only flaw in this argument however is Bracken's own romanticism about everything Debordian to the point that he disagrees with damn near anybody who publishes an opinion concerning his master, so that his own opinion remains prominent in the minds of any potential acolytes. I rely upon Bracken's real life example in these matters because he is my strongest closest contact with all this revolutionary posture, and I'm new to the specifics of the SI, despite have been an independent rebellious sort while struggling for self-awareness for much of my life. Bracken, like myself, is a sports enthusiast, although I'm way past my prime. Yes, I had read Lipstick Traces, already. Still have my original hardcover on the bookshelves. But Bracken is local. He stormed in wearing this Debordian crown of thorns. He claims a certain pride of Debordian discipleship, so I'm sure he would not appreciate these "non-dialectical" details of his life coming off my keyboard, but to me the reality is that everything is dialectical or nothing is dialectical. I do not understand this solipsistic need to get social approval for one's revolutionary postures. Either one is revolutionary or one is not. The label is nothing but air and alphabet. Aestheticism, however, is not among Len's own bag of tricks, except as it regards his own personal hygiene and that of women. Is the situationist spiel merely a thinly disguised front for bagging women, I ask. With Bracken, it seems so. I hardly think the SI is Sports Illustrated. But thanks for the perspective...

S A M P L E X

"Ignorance and virtue suck on the same straw. Souls grow on bones, but die beneath bankers' hours.""


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