Hayes om situationisternas inflytande på franska anarkister

Från Krigsmaskinen
Hoppa till: navigering, sök

Från Anthony Hayes “The Situationist International and the Rediscovery of the Revolutionary Workers’ Movement’, sidorna 82-86, i The Situationist International. A critical handbook.

The SI’s rejection of statist hierarchy – whether through their appropriation of the radical implications of Marx’s critique of ideology and Bakunin’s critique of the state, alongside their rejection of the ideologies of Marxism and anarchism – made their critique and proposal to launch a new revolutionary movement attractive to many young anarchists in France in the mid-1960s. Indeed, the sclerosis and antiquarian focus of what passed for an official anarchist movement in France in the 1960s matched the malaise and historical fetishes of the orthodox Marxists (and a good many of the heterodox ones too).

In contrast to incipient Marxist orthodoxy, anarchism emerged from the Paris Commune as the bearer of an intransigent revolutionary project. Unlike the social democrats, or even the Bolsheviks who contested duma (the Czarist parliament) elections, the anarchists mostly refused the capitalist state altogether. In opposition to the Marxist conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat raising itself to state power – albeit, ‘temporarily’ in anticipation of its ‘withering’ – Bakunin argued that such a conception risked becoming the basis for a new bureaucratic ruling class: a dictatorship of the most knowledgeable. This did not stop Bakunin from indulging in an authoritarian conspiracy to seize control of the First International, alongside an elite of the ‘most revolutionary’.75 Nonetheless, it is the critique of the state and hierarchy that becomes largely lost, or transformed out of recognition, in the official, statist ‘Marxism’ founded with the Second International six years after Marx’s death. So, organised anarchism remained the province of the critique of statist alienation in the face of the Marxist embrace of a purported revolutionary conception of state power.

The French Anarchist Federation (FA) was founded in 1945.76 It traced its lineage through the pre-war Union anarchiste, and support for the CNT-FAI (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo – Federación Anarquista Ibérica) in the Spanish Revolution and Civil War. Surrealists like André Breton and Benjamin Péret had been members of an affiliated group and published in the FA’s paper, Le Monde libertaire. A split in the early 1950s had led to a breakaway communist-anarchist group under the FA’s original secretary, Georges Fontenis, and the refoundation of the FA under the hand of Maurice Joyeux in 1954. However, Fontenis’ group, the Libertarian Communist Federation (FCL) itself split over the question of participating in elections. Those who rejected this electoralism formed Revolutionary Action Anarchist Groups (GAAR) and published the journal Noir et Rouge.

In the early 1960s a younger generation of anarchists came into conflict with the FA’s old guard. In 1962, the GAAR initiated a communist anarchist tendency in the FA: the Anarchist Communist Groups Alliance (UGAC). However, they were excluded from the federation in 1964, and a ‘hysterical anti-Marxism’ was left in its wake (particularly embodied in the leading old guard figure: Maurice Joyeux).77 Around the same time, at the end of 1963, a new ‘youth space’ was organised in the FA. Among these young anarchists were avid readers of not only Le Monde libertaire and Noir et Rouge, but also Socialisme ou Barbarie and Internationale Situationniste.

In 1966, members and sympathisers of the young anarchist René Fugler’s circle at the University of Strasbourg contacted the SI. The resulting pamphlet and scandal, On the Poverty of Student Life, helped to propel the SI into public consciousness, playing the role of hors d’oeuvre to May 1968.78 Fugler had become attracted to the Situationist critique of work and their evocation of the playful critique of the alienation of the capitalist city (that is, ‘unitary urbanism’). While involved with Le Monde libertaire, and as a direct result of dealing with Marxian ideas and history, Fugler’s group would leave the FA in late 1966, accused of being Marxists by Joyeux and others of the FA old guard. Similar problems arose for other young anarchists around the question of the SI and its purported Marxist conspiracy against the FA – notably future Situationists René Riesel’s and Christian Sébastiani’s Sisyphé group.79 Maurice Joyeux’s claims of a Marxist conspiracy within the FA with the SI as the puppet master reached a delirious peak at the Bordeaux congress of the FA in May 1967. Here he outlined his paranoid hypothesis under a title that ironically evoked Lenin: ‘L’Hydre de Lerne ou la maladie infantile de l’anarchie’ (‘The Learnean Hydra, or the infantile disorder of anarchism’). As the SI would comment some months later, ‘there has never been any sort of “situationist conspiracy” aimed at smashing the Federation […]. Our episodic reading of the deplorable Le Monde libertaire did not lead us to suppose that the SI had the least audience in it.’ In this regard, On the Poverty of Student Life caused a surprise: various members of the FA appeared to approve of it.80

More and more members of the FA were finding it hard to stomach Joyeux’s paranoia and pointedly non-libertarian leadership, leading them to form a breakaway second Anarchist Federation in the wake of the Bordeaux congress. Additionally, the three anarchist groups most influenced by the SI broke away to form the Situationist inspired Anarchist International (IA).81 The IA, however, was itself short-lived.82 One reason that contributed to its brief passage was the uneven level of engagement with the Situationist project. To the criticisms of one member of the IA, Loic Le Reste, who called upon the SI to fuse with his group, the Situationists responded that on the contrary, ‘we are clearly partisans of the multiplication of autonomous revolutionary organisations’.83 Pointedly drawing upon their experience with SB and the dubious legacy of Trotskyism, the SI noted that their refusal of disciples or ‘recruits’ in favour of welcoming individuals here and there embodied an organisational form which they opposed to the hierarchical and ‘mass’ politics of the Trotskyists.84 The idea of ‘the multiplication of autonomous revolutionary organisations’, coupled with the SI’s argument that such an organisation must ‘refuse to reproduce within itself any of the hierarchical conditions of the dominant world’, offered an alternative to both the hierarchical dreams of the Trotskyist-Leninists and the loose federalism behind which the FA hid its incoherence and unavowed hierarchy of the old guard.85 As the SI reminded the GAM (Makhno Anarchist Group of Rennes) and IA, ‘we believe our practical activity is located, inseparably, as means and ends’ in such an organisational form.86 Hence, unlike the Trotskyists, and even some anarchists, the object was to contribute to the practice of generalised self-management, in the Situationist sense of the term. And that end, as Situationist practice in the present (and unlike the hierarchical and conspiratorial groupuscules) anticipated the ‘means and ends’ of revolutionary self-organisation and self-emancipation.

* * *

The ‘crisis’ in French anarchism between 1966 and 1968 was in fact a symptom of a larger historical movement – the re-emergence of revolutionary contestation. Debord, on the eve of May 1968, noted that the SI itself had ‘emerged from the silence that previously concealed it’, precisely as a result of this ‘movement that is haltingly beginning’ – a movement, moreover, that the SI had been ‘supporting and pointing out for many years’.87 Indeed, we can consider that, by the turn of 1967, the SI had in large part established the Situationist critique it would enter battle with the following year.88 Consequently, Debord argued in April 1968 that the SI ‘should now concentrate less on theoretical elaboration […] and more on the communication of theory, on the practical linkup with whatever new gestures of contestation appear’.89

When this debate on the organisation question resumed the following year, after the ‘more pleasant and instructive’ occupations movement of May 1968, the debate became framed in terms of presenting such questions as the SI’s critique of work and their critical appropriation of self-management in terms of promoting the need for a situationist councilist organisation.90 Perforce, such an organisation was not merely the reassertion of the ‘councilism’ of Pannekoek, SB or ICO – and even less that of the Bolshevik conception of soviet power. Perhaps most remarkable was that, in the face of the failure of May 1968 to manifest an autonomous proletarian revolutionary power (despite the patent radicalisation left in its wake), the SI more clearly conceived of the need for an organisation question beyond their earlier, perhaps vaguer statements regarding the disappearance of the revolutionary avant-garde at the moment of its success.91 With the old mole of revolutionary contestation once more emergent, the question now was more clearly one of an appropriate organisational strategy of contestation.

May 1968 can be retrospectively judged the high point of the SI’s practice. However, in the face of such success the SI itself became overwhelmed with its inability to clarify its new strategic orientation. The Situationists clearly provided much of the explicit critical poetic content of the May movement, as well as being key players in its ‘detonation’.92 In the wake of May, the terms ‘situationist’ and ‘enragé’ became synonymous with the most extreme manifestations of this movement. Such success became emblematic of the spread of Situationist ideas and influence throughout the European and global movements that emerged in the wake of the French May – notably the ‘Hot Autumn’ of Italy in 1969 and its aftermath.93 But such ‘success’ also figured more immediately – and destructively – in the spectacular recuperation of the Situationists. Indeed, the SI was itself overwhelmed by both its success and its attempt to reorient on this basis. Soon after September 1969, in which both the last issue of its journal was published and its last conference was held in Venice, the SI was immersed in its ‘orientation debate’ which ground on interminably through 1970 and into 1971.94 By that year’s end, only Debord and Gianfranco Sanguinetti remained to officially wind up the group early the following year.95

Nonetheless, the SI’s influence was immense, particularly amidst the reawakening revolutionary movement of 1968 and after. Today, no serious reckoning of May 1968 in France can omit the extent of the influence of Situationist ideas upon this social upheaval.96 Similarly, their ideas – alongside those of SB and others – were taken up by revolutionaries in Japan, Italy, Spain, Germany and beyond through the 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, the SI’s critique of work, as too their conception of generalised self-management, laid the groundwork for the rediscovery and elaboration of both the negative and positive content of revolutionary proletarian critique in the 1970s and beyond.


75. [Debord, Society of the Spectacle]., thesis 91, pp. 42–3.
76. Much of the following account of French anarchism in the 1960s and its relationship to the SI is drawn from Amorós, *Les Situationnistes et l’anarchie* (La Taillade: Éditions de la roue, 2012).
77. Ibid., p. 28. No doubt the hostility toward Marxian influences can also be attributed to the splits of the 1950s that resulted in the formation of the FCL and GAAR.
78. For the SI’s account, see ‘Nos buts et nos méthodes dans le scandale de Strasbourg’, IS, no. 11 (October 1967): 23–31. A more recent account can be found in Miguel Amorós, ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ (2018), [libcom.org](http://libcom.org/).
79. Apart from Sisyphé, other FA-affiliated groups which ran afoul of the paranoia included members of Maurice Joyeux’s own Menilmontant Anarchist Group (GLM) such as Guy Bodson and Jacques Le Glou, the Makhno Anarchist Group of Rennes (GAM), and the Anarchist Group at Nanterre University (GAN).
80. Situationist International, ‘Splits in the A.F.’ (1967), [notbored.org](http://notbored.org/). Translation modified.
81. That is, the Revolutionary Anarchist Group (GAR), the Menilmontant Anarchist Group (GLM) and the Makhno Anarchist Group of Rennes (GAM).
82. Nonetheless, some members of the IA would go on to form part of the Situationist-inspired Enragés of Nanterre (crucially important as detonators of May 1968), as well as the SI group Council for the Maintenance of the Occupations (CMDO) during the May 1968 movement. The SI’s account of the Enragés, the CMDO and May 1968 can be found in René Viénet, *Enragés and Situationists in the Occupation Movement*, France, May ’68 (1968), trans. Loren Goldner and Paul Sieveking (New York: Autonomedia, 1992); SI [Debord], ‘The Beginning of an Era’ (1969), in Situationist International Anthology.
83. Guy Debord, Mustapha Khayati and René Viénet, ‘Letter to the Rennes group of the Anarchist International’, 16 July 1967, [notbored.org](http://notbored.org/). Le Reste was a member of the Makhno Anarchist Group of Rennes (GAM), and of the IA.
84. Ibid.
85. SI, ‘Minimum Definition of Revolutionary Organizations’, in Situationist International Anthology, pp. 285–6.
86. SI, ‘Réponse aux camarades de Rennes’ (Letter to the Rennes group of the Anarchist International), 16 July 1967, cited in Clark and Nicholson-Smith, ‘Why Art Can’t Kill the Situationist International’, in Texts and Documents, p. 482. Translation modified.
87. Guy Debord, ‘The Organization Question for the S.I.’ (1968/69), in Situationist International Anthology, pp. 380–3.
88. For instance, both Debord and Vaneigem’s books published that year had been elaborated over the course of the previous four years. 89. Debord, ‘The Organization Question for the S.I.’
90. See Riesel, ‘Preliminaries on Councils and Councilist Organization’.
91. For instance, as outlined in ‘Ideologies, Classes, and the Domination of Nature’ and ‘Minimum Definition of Revolutionary Organizations’, in Situationist International Anthology, pp. 285–6.
92. For the SI’s account of its role in detonating May 1968, see both Viénet, Enragés and Situationists in the Occupation Movement, and Debord, ‘The Beginning of an Era’ (1969). See also, Michael Seidman, The Imaginary Revolution: Parisian Students and Workers in 1968 (New York: Berghahn Books, 2004).
93. See, for instance, the work of the Italian section of the SI, notably the first and only issue of Internazionale Situazionista in 1969, as well as various leaflets circulated by the group in 1969 and 1970. Of course, like the Situationist influence in France and elsewhere, in Italy the influence extended well beyond the SI’s official representatives and publications, notably among militants and participants in the various iterations of Italian operaismo and autonomia. Not to mention the continued work of Gianfranco Sanguinetti, most strikingly in the Truthful Report on the Last Chances to Save Capitalism in Italy (1975), trans. Bill Brown (Brooklyn, NY: Colossal Books, 2014), and On Terrorism and the State (1979), trans. Lucy Forsyth and Michel Prigent (London: Chronos, 1982).
94. For more on the orientation debate, see the appendices in Situationist International, The Real Split in the International, trans. John McHale (London: Pluto Press, 2003).
95. J.V. Martin also remained one of the last Situationists standing at the end, but played little or no part in its closing.
96. See Seidman’s Imaginary Revolution.