Guy Debord is really dead
by Luther Blissett
Written in December 1994 - 1st Italian edition: Crash Edizioni, Feltre, January 1995 - English Translation by Miss Luther Blissett (August 1995), revised by the author.
1. Nunc est bibendum.
- Butch, whose motorcycle is this?
- It's a chopper.
- Whose chopper is this?
- Who's Zed?
- Zed's dead, baby... Zed's dead.
Quentin Tarantino, 1994
When Guy The Bore died (1) the Italian reformist press responded with obvious, misleading 'obits' with nothing to be surprised about . The same lib-lab trash-shredders who swallowed and ruminated K. Popper's dull tirades against TV, have later celebrated The Bore as a prophet of Berlusconi's taking the field. For years the leftist Ignoranzhia has been mistaking the "spectacle" for the media insolence of the Establishment or the cyclic recurrence of people like Letizia Moratti (2), or Sgarbi-and Ferrara-style Tv rows...(3) It 's no surprise then, that a critical theory attacking commodification and a system of production turning each of us in an insolent medium of the establishment, has been defused by a metonimy (the effect instead of the cause, the content instead of the container). Defusing the bomb was easy, due to its shortcomings, yet The Bore doesn't deserve to be stored in the pantheon of leftist heroes together with Pajetta and Berlinguer (4) where catto-togliattiani intellectual gravediggers are trying to put him, although as a heretic.
The abuse of the epithet "situationist" and of the meaningless term "situationism" (5) is due to the emphasis given the Debord's analysis of the spectacle; savoir vivre, subversion of everyday life, psychogeography and Unitary Urbanism - in a word, the whole range of immediate and practical kinds of actions the Situationists suggested - were taken in little consideration. Thus "situationist" was doomed to become an uniformative term; cultural reporters then decided to attach it to whatever personage or artistic movement whose expressions were nihilistic enough to be considered "estreme" and spectacular enough to allow for second-class mass-mediology. Thus, the TV schedule of Italia Uno - decided by Carlo Freccero - (6) was "situationist", as well as Striscia la Notizia (7), and TV-truth on Guglielmi's Raitre (8): "situationist" is whatever text written in a schizo-epigrammatic style, and so on.
Most of these 'wild labellers' hardly knows The Society of the Spectacle and, taking it as a Talmud of radical critique (although it rather looks like a bunch of clues for crosswords) pretends to be inferring anything from it. "Situationist" has become a passe-partout opening all the doors, from that of a badly-chewed dadaism, to that of an easy-minded technological millenarianism. In a nihilistic world, whatever is real, is "situationist".
After all, wasn't Debord himself the one who changed his reputation in that of a spiteful Cassandra? Wasn't his own attitude to allow his best known essay to be taken as a Talmud? Isn't it true that , two years ago, in order to explain the fall of so-called 'socialism' in Eastern Europe, he didn't do much more than recycling two laconic theses on bureaucracy, written 1/4 of century earlier and previously enclosed in the above mentioned book? (9) During the last decade of his life, The Bore had endlessly tried to give his dramatis persona a place in the historical context; like the prisoners in Kafka's short story, "In the Penal Colony", he stepped into a machinery carving on his body not only his writings (Considerations sur l'assassinat de Gerard Lebovici, Panegyrique, Commentaires sur la societe du spectacle, Cette mauvaise reputation...) but also the Law. In his case, the Law was the Right Interpretation, against slander and passive contemplation of the historical experience of the SI, and finally against pro-situ misleading information. (10)
The ceaseless hypertextual cross-references (from one line of the body-text to the other) seems to hide the desperate will to set up the proper bad reputation, to foster the proper way to contemplate, to bringabout the proper misleading information, in a word, the attempt not to change the style and to keep control. Such a task would involve the whole system and requires a group strategy: if a single will tries to reach it, (or simply to mark it), he or she will obtain exactly the opposite of what they were after. They used to care for style, now it's Identity to be defended, but Identity freezes and kills style, and strenghtens the spectacle. Thus, after The Bore's suicide, we inherit a body of rules which didn't mean to be such, as well as a bunch of prophetic soliloquies. We're left with holy writings, and only two things can be done with holy writings: you can either take them literally and be a fundamentalist, or taking them to mean whatever you like, without even reading them. But, where does this attitude come from?
We believe it's due to the unappealable failure of the SI which doesn't date back to the dissolution in 1972, but at least to a decade earlier, when the French section (after the experience of Lettrisme) came into power in the SI. Before the sky is breached and pro-situs insults start pouring down, it's necessary to provide an explanation.
And while explaining, it's necessary never to forget that it's a long time since a rift has grown between the SI and us, and this rift will shape the following text, sometimes openly and unambiguously. After all, the SI was still too strongly influenced by avantgardiste language and myths, and "every avantgarde grows old and dies without seeing its successors, because succession doesn't follow straight, but through a contradiction." (Asger Jorn, 1960).
2.Notes for a counter-history of the SI.
"The failure of most of the situationists serves to understand the nature of the catastrophe and to run along the crisis. Panic can be an incredible energizer."
Mark Downham, 1988
For which reasons and with a view on what did the SI get together? Few of those who shed words about "situationism" are actually able to answer the question. But it's very easy, it was all about CREATING SITUATIONS, i.e. "temporary settings of life, characterized by a superior emotional quality". The means to this aim were Unitarian Urbanism (an example of which is the "theory of mood-quarters, according to which each quarter of a town should tend to provoke a simple feeling, to which the subject would consciously expose himself"), a "new architecture" (which "shall play on the ambiance effects of rooms, colours, streets, an ambiance connected with the actions they contain") and the psychogeographical exploration of sites ("active observation of today's urban agglomerates and establishment of hypotheses on the structure of a situationist city"). The ultimate aim was "the invention of essentially new games [...] to increase the non-mediocre part of living and reduce null moments as much as possible [...] The situationist challenge to the elapsing of time and emotions would be the bet of being always in advance to changes, ever going further in the game and increasing the touching moments". It was necessary to challenge the capitalist way of life by fostering other desirable ways, "to destroy, by all the hyperpolitical means, the bourgeois ideal of happiness".
This was the meaning of Debord's subtle plagiarisms of famous marxian phrases: "Emotions have been sufficiently interpretated: now it's question of finding new ones". This was connected with the outlook of a "quick, continuous increasing of free time, at the height of productive forces reached by our age". "Today the ruling class manages to use the free time won by the revolutionary proletariat, by developing a wide entertainment industry which is an incomparable mean of abasing the proletarians with by-products of ideology and the tastes of the bourgeoisie". Actually, the situationists' purpose was that of discovering new means of action "simply recognizable in the domain of culture and customs but applied in the perspective of an interaction of all the revolutionary changes". The current banal meaning of the word "situationist" has very little to do with this programme. But this term has undergone such banalization because, at a certain stage, the SI itself stopped being globally situationist, and the word followed the process of involution.
As everyone knows, from 1957 onwards, the SI repudiated and banished members, behaving as a sect; theory was blatantly detached from praxis, and the organization was left with two members (Guy Debord and Gianfranco Sanguinetti), and was then dissolved with the public document La véritable scission dans l'Internationale (Champ Libre, Paris 1972). In the following section ("New year's Eve in Naples") I will explore this document: reading it is sometimes like hearing Glenn Miller playing (11). Let's go back to the point, now.
With frequent expulsions the SI was basically aping the Surrealist movement, whose heritage had been imported by the French section together with its judicial language, typical of the Avant-gardes. The expulsions involved other sections of the SI, in particular the German group SPUR. In spite of Debord's words ("We have to eliminate the sectarianism among us that opposes unity of action with possible allies for specific goals and prevents our ifniltration of parallel organisations. Since 1952 to 1955 the Lettrist International, after some necessary purges, has constantly been tending to a sort of absolute rigour, leading to an isolation and an unfruitfulness which were equally absolute, and fostering in the long run a certain conservatism, a degeneration of the spirit of critique and discovery. We have to definitively overcome this sectarian conduct, towards actual actions. It's only by this criterion that we have to find or leave comrades.)(12), since the beginning the French section stood out for its paranoid and conspiratorial strictness; they expected an injection of Hegelian steroids to strenghten theory, and expelled members for futile reasons (13); in the end, they fostered nothing less than the contemplative attitude and the inactivity they blamed on everybody but themselves. Let's follow the order: the Dutch and the Italian sections were decimated and then sent out before 1960. The Danish Asger Jorn, one of the most important members of the SI, whose texts would certainly surprise readers today(14), resigned in 1961. In Germany, the group SPUR (Trace or Track) caused several scandals and directly outraged the cultural establishment; at the IV congress of the SI (London 24-28 Sept. 1960) the group attacked the French section and in the following 16 months turned out to be the most active section, but they were finally sent out in January 1962 because they refused to let their eponymous review to be administrated in Paris. In March 1962 the former Scandinavian and German sections founded the Second Situationist International, and in the following years they issued two papers (Drakabygget and Situationist Times) and declared the following aim: "...The point of departure is the dechristianisation of Kierkegaard's philosophy of situations. This must be combined with the British economic doctrines, German dialectic and French social action programmes. It involves a profound revision of Marx's doctrine and a complete revolution whose growth is rooted in the Scandinavian concept of culture: This new ideology and philosophical theory we have called situology: it is based on the principles of social democracy in as much as it excludes all forms of artificial prejudice ."(15)
Stewart Home's comment is: "...Not only has Europe always traditionally seen itself as the center of the world, but Britain, France, and Germany tend to see th emselves as the hub of this center. Thus, when the SI split in two, from a French or Anglo-American perspective, the specto-situationists based in Paris were seen as the real SI, while the 2nd International centred on Scandinavia could be dismissed as 'foreign to the SI; much more sociable, certainly, but much less intelligent' (IS 8, Paris 1963)." (16) The French section promptly described the purges as parts of the conflict between its 'revolutionary' component and the 'artistic' one. As far as art was concerned, the SI had actually slightly less idealistic positions than "nashists" (the spiteful name the Second SI was given)(17) and both the internationals claimed to be revolutionary.
The SI certainly issued more coherent and radical statements, and claimed the founding of Workers Councils (they borrowed this claim from Socialisme ou Barbarie) although "they never really did anything to actually put them into practice "(18); the 2nd SI lacked a consistent theory (probably because they feared to become as dogmatic as their French cousins) and aimed at the immediate realisation of Unitary Urbanism and of the sperimental behaviour connected with it. Both sections inherited only a part of the originary situationist programme, and both of them failed.
The SI seems to have had a wider influence than the 2nd SI on the 1968 movement and on the following experiences, but this is due to a mistaken judgement, i.e. post hoc, ergo propter hoc. The well-known scandal of Strasburgh, 1966, certainly inspired those who, two years later, pulled up the paving on the streets of Paris; it's also true that the Situationists coined some of the best slogans of the movement; nevertheless, the effect of their practical critique on the events of those days has been overrated. If the influence of the Situationists had really been so determinant, it would be hard to explain the large re-emergence of Maoism and Trotskism in the following months, and especially the crisis in which the SI went through until its dissolution 3 years later. Actually when the events of May '68 began, the SI was already down in the maelström of inconsistency, and its structural problems didn't enable them to re-emerge. The French comrades of the Encyclopédie des Nuisances, whose critique of the SI is certainly very different from the one we're developing here, have masterfully outlined this inconsistency:
"Situationist theory criticized politics without caring too much for the means of its revolutionary realisation (leaving it to the Workers Councils, which were very far from being founded); as a consequence, it was left undeveloped as regards tactics and the search of necessary compromises: both the external ones (i.e. the convergence between a radical theory still in the making and a radical practice which was, in its turn, fragmentary and incomplete) and the internal ones (i.e. the methods of organisation which make the coherent appropriation of the critique possible). The myth of a total fusion of theory and practice, which the SI believed to have actually realised, and the myth of a revolution which will actuate this fusion in society at one go, - the latter being the historical counterpoint of the former- heavily affected the understanding of what the Situationists should have actually done together" (19). But the EdN doesn't seem to reckon that expulsion and the frequent derision of those who had refused (even if only partially or intuitively) such promethean hallucinations were among the very causes of the coming and persistence of those evil myths. Those "former situationists" were first defined "indulgent" and "inefficient" (20) and finally trapped in art and idealism, while their contribution - mixed to the theoretical rigour of the French members - would have given the situationist programme newer and wider opportunities of application and success.
The role of the 2nd SI and of the other expelled members has been underestimated and ignored for a long time. Especially in Italy, nobody knows much about it. Apparently the excommunication still has a strong influence and the francocentric perspective is still operating. Soon after the split, both the SIs kept on promoting scandals as a political weapon. But, while the Strasburgh scandal (a fucking stroke of luck which was very well exploited and propagandised) gave the Paris-based one a thrust which allowed them to wash their bollocks in the 1968 agitations, the other couldn't go further what today we would call a "kreative" approach and slowly imploded. And yet it had an indirect influence on the '68 movement both in Europe and all over the world, as well as many of the other ex-members did. Dieter Kunzelmann, former member of SPUR and contributor of Situationist Times, helped to found the Kommune 1 in West Berlin; the Kommune 1 appealed lots of young people, challenged the marxist-leninist positions of the SDS and contributed to give that organisation -and the whole German movement- anti-authoritarian connotations(21). Some years earlier the Dutch former member of the SI, Constant (the one Debord most derided, sometimes rightly), had an important role in the crucial PROVO movement in Amsterdam (1965-67): before being recuperated by the omnivorous institutions of that town, this movement offered the worldwide counterculture efficient and unpredictable ways of action(22). In London, King Mob issued several pamphlets and a tabloid paper (King Mob Echo) and provoked many events: for instance they caused street riots giving out fake news to the papers or expropriated department stores disguised as squads of Santa Klauses. Malcolm McLaren was a fan of King Mob: he would exploit Punk showing he had learned the Strasburgh lesson, in all its positive and negative features. Thanks to this influence McLaren and Jamie Reid (the Sex Pistols art director) "they refined the taste for for new practices of communication' - manifestos, leaflets, collages, pranks, wrong information - which gave a growing feeling that the state of things could be shaken, if not irreversibly transformed" (23).
The expelled situationists didn't end up in the trashbin of history. Being consistent with the several francocentric historical accounts (24) would mean to say that these groups and movements put into practice remnants of second-class theory and owed their radicality to the pale blue blood they were left with after quitting the right salons. But, if we said that, we wouldn't be serious: we would be pro-situs. Critical theory is not "transcendental", it moves in real contradictions with the virus of exemplary action; it's true that had the whole situationist programme been re-charged in the social struggles, it would have accelerated the events, but this failed assault on totality must be put down to all the situationists, including Debord, Sanguinetti and Vaneigem. And what is more, every salon is intrinsecally wrong.
3. A New Year's Eve in Naples
"The present day wretchedness works retroactively"
"It is necessary to examine and deconstruct the 'Theses sur l'Internationale Situationniste et son temps' (the text leading the Dance Macabre of La veritable scission...) in order to understand how Debord's style developed into a fossilised poetics of rancour and how he consequently declined in"
First of all it must be said that the "Theses" are a kitsch piece of writing. We're using 'kitsch' in its classic meaning, as re-proposed by Tommaso Labranca in his book Andy Warhol era un coatto - Vivere e capire il Trash [Andy Warhol was a urban hillbilly - Living and grasping Trash-culture] (Ed. Castelvecchi, Rome 1994). The post-'68 SI and Debord/The Bore were kitsch because they meant to get rid of shit and misery from the grounds of self-historicisation, on which they unceasingly spread references to Marx's and Bakunin's First International (the title itself of the "circulaire publique" is one of these references).
Situationists tried to emulate a high model, but sensationally failed (does an international with only two members make sense at all?): they obtained a trash effect (failed emulation, inconsistency, maximalism... There were all the ingredients)(25); but for the fear that they might have been identified with their failures (with trash, with misere), they attributed whatever they considered low and poor to other people and to other causes: pro-situs stupidity, the impotence of the former members, the "delay" of the real movement compared to the situationist programme and so on. No doubt the result was kitsch, i.e. the failed attempt to get rid of shit in one's life, the attempt of those who are "surrounded, sinking and choking with shit (the trash) and fight an everyday strenuous battle to hide it" (Labranca, op. cit.). The "Theses" are a kitsch masterpiece which slides down "the dogmatic slope leading to judge history according to an external rule (e.g. councilist teleology); following this approach the SI and its supporters too often considered the wide and active subversive movement merely from the point of view of its delay compared to the Situationist historical programme; the Situationists failed to see that this 'delay' actually was a criticism of that programme (especially of its abstract generality) as if the only task of the movement were to follow the schedule they had previously laid down: briefly, as if revolutionary theory had nothing left to learn from the actual revolutionary movement". (26). In fact, this is kitsch.
Thesis 2 states that "never had such an estremistic project spread like wildfire in an apparently ostile period, taking so quickly the supremacy in the struggle of ideas - which is a product of clss war history. Not only theory, style and the model of the SI have now been adopted by thousand of revolutionaries in the main developed countries, but, it's much more significant that the whole modern society seems to be persuaded that the outlook of the Situationists are true, both to realize them and to fight them." Thesis 3 explains: "The SI has been successful simply because it expressed the 'real movement that abolishes the present state of things' and because it has been able to do it which means that it started to make the subjectively negative part of the process, its wild side, understand its unconscious theory. [...] Then, it's not a theory of the SI we have, but the theory of the proletariat". The no. 6 adds: "[for the Holy Alliance between the owners of society], as for its partners, a new age has begun: They found out that the occupation movement, unfortunately, did have some ideas, and those ideas were situationist."
After the boastful talk at the beginning, the theses from 10 to 20 consist in some clear considerations about economy, pollution, about the "symptoms of the crisis", and workers struggles. For instance, thesis 17 very clearly states that "today, pollution and the proletariat are the two concrete aspects of the critique of political economy."
It's from thesis 21 that we step into the kitsch (not to get out of it anymore): "when all the conditions of social life change, the SI is in the middle of this changement [sic!] and sees the conditions in which it acted evolving faster than all the rest. None of its members could ignore it or thought about denying it, but actually many of them didn't want the SI to be touched. They were not guarding the past situationist activity, but its image". From here to thesis 44 we have a long tirade against pro-situs and the "contemplative" former members, especially Raoul Vaneigem. The beginning is promising: "it was an inescapable consequence of the historic success of the SI that it were, in its turn, contemplated, and that in such contemplation the unconditional critique to whatever exists were positively appreciated by an ever-widening section of the impotence, which had become itself pro-revolutionary." But thesis 22 is quite revealing as well; after reading it we're left with an aftertaste of an excusatio non petita [unrequired justification, t.n.] :"no historical thought can be sure in advance to escape from misunderstanding or falsification. It doesn't want to impose a definitely coherent and complete system, and especially it doesn't expect to appear so precise to prevent stupidity and bad faith to each of those who will deal with it: therefore it will not be able to impose one universally true interpretation. Such an idealistic claim can only be supported by a dogmatism which is doomed to fail; dogmatism is the opening defeat of such a thought. Historical struggles, which rectify and improve every theory of this kind, are grounds for mistaken and limited interpretations and for interested rejections of an univoc meaning. Thus truth can't be established, without becoming operative force." This piece of reasoning ends up with the idea that the SI theory [i.e. the theory of the proletariat, as stated in thesis 3], even if it's often misunderstood and warped, "will be able to reappear in all its authenticity every time history will be ready for it, starting from today. We've stepped out the age when we could be falsified or rubbed off without appeal, because our theory can now count, in good and evil, on the collaboration of the masses".
The "historic success" of the SI would then consist in having persuaded the masses to "collaborate" their own theory, i.e. with themselves. The SI decreted nothing less than the end of proletarian alienation and self-misunderstanding! The 'theory of the proletariat' had not been formulated by the proletarians, but, in the end, they contributed to its co-elaboration.
'Co-' means 'together with.'... With whom? Who was co-starring in this elaboration if not the SI? Here comes again the old-fashioned "consciousness brought from outside", and, standing against the light, the decrepit figure of the "separate intellectual" who "goes towards the people" Then, what did 'of the proletariat' mean if not the determination of a subject-matter? It was a theory 'on the proletarians' rather than a theory 'by the proletarians'. Furthermore, in spite of the sparse references o "historical struggles", this theory turned out to be metahistorical, ready to reveal itself at every right time.
But, at a conscious level of the text construction, the SI refused all this (separation, metahistoricity...) and Debord and Sanguinetti seemed to perceive the inconsistency: therefore they come along with the excusatio non petita: "OF COURSE, it's OBVIOUS that we've never believed..." They tried to hide the trash and, as soon as even a little of it re-emerged, they rushed to say: "This is not what we are!" This is really kitsch. Let's get down now to the crucial part of the tirade against pro-situs, who "let everybody know that they entirely approved the SI, and are not able to do anything else", and who "own only their good will". Here the first explicit reference to the dissolution of the SI appears: "Had the SI kept on acting as before, it would have risked to become the last spectacular ideology of revolution and be used as a pillar of this ideology: The SI would have then risked to hinder the real situationist movement:: revolution" (thesis 26 ) It is then said that pro-situs contemplate the image of a "situationist aristocracy" they wish to enter and this "appearance of hierarchic values" is put down to the former members (expecially Raul Vaneigem) who claimed to be venerated ("mystical status") only because they had belonged to it. Thus pro-situs as well as vaneigemists are "the outcome of the general weakness and lack of experience of the new revolutionary movement" (thesis 32). The following piece is an analysis of the social origins of pro-situs, with some interesting observations (the difference between new 'cadres' and old petit bourgeois). It ends with thesis 38, leaving room for a criticism of the ill composition of the SI and the incapacity of some of its members. This is the beginning of thesis 42: "The contemplative members of the SI were acquired pro-situs, because their imaginary activity was, in their opinion, confirmed by history and by the SI". Thesis 44 sheds light upon that statement: "Those who, instead of asserting and developing their true personality criticising and developing what the SI does and could do anytime, lazily chose a systematic approaval, only wanted to keep up the appearance through the imaginary identification with the result."
Here ends the 'tirade'. The last theses, from 45 to 61 are the conclusion: it is recognised that the SI hasn't been able to be egualitarian; nevertheless it avoided to become a power and is one of the few revolutionary organizations in history that "didn't burn itself with the fire of hierarchy". (thesis 52). Thesis 53 says that: "situationists are now everywhere,and their aim is everywhere [...], we don't have to grant anymore whether these people are Situationists or not, because we no longer need it, and because we never enjoyed that. [...] The very term Situationist was used in social war only to instil a certain number of projects and ideas". After a bunch of variations on this theme, thesis 58 strongly asserts: "the real split in the SI is the same to be actually recognized in the large and shapeless movement of protest: the split between the whole revolutionary reality of the age and all the illusions about it." Finally, the conclusion: "Stop admiring us as if we were able to be above the age, and let this age scare itself, looking at its own actual image" (thesis 60); "Whenever we consider the life of the SI we'll recognize the history of revolution in it: nothing could make it bad" (thesis 61).
The "Theses" end with the last fireworks, just as a New Years' Eve in Naples, and here as well -when the booze has gone - dead and wounded are counted up and people realize that the 1st of January is not different from December 31st, that there has been no catharsis, no palingenetic entrance in a new age (27).
The pompous sentences had only to convince the SI survivors they didn't have to pay for their massimalistic narrow-mindedness, and couldn't even back the criticism against pro-situs: the "contemplation" of the SI and the ideological endorsement to its programme were not a "part of its historical success", on the contrary this meant the very failure of the situationists to co-ordinate theory, praxis and organization. The reproduction of pro-situs and the passiveness of some members of the SI were inescapable, written in the DNA of the group, which had been manipulated and deviated at the times of the purges (not with biogenetic skills but, as naively as Josef Mengele injecting phenol in the pupils of Jews to give them an Arian look.).
It was also pathetic and tardy to state that the SI "couldn't be above its age", because, for years they behaved as if whatever happened couldn't but confirming the soundness of their theory.
Concluding: the SI had done everything possible to be contemplated, then it pretended not to welcome the offers of its suitors, in order to frustrate and turn on their desire, to keep the game moving. Of this soap-opera love game (terribly thrash), Raoul Vaneigem got tired in 1970,and left the group writing: "It's enough for me to ascertain my inadeguacy in improving this movement - which I've always considered condition of my radicality. [...] I'd rather make again the bet that my adherence to the SI had delayed: to get totally lost or totally re-build my coherence, and do that only for the sake of rebuilding it with the largest number of people I can (24). Behing a hedonist, he understood that, after May 68, new girls to seduce had come to town, and that custom had changed; instead of waiting to yield until her flesh was wrinkled, youth had vanished, and the old suitor had run away, it was much wiser to join the fray of "new sex". The spinsters of the would-be crochet club which the SI was going to become, fell back on the tale of "the fox and grapes": "We didn't want suitors! We weren't the ones to provoke them, but Miss Vaneigem! Anyway, we were ever so good-looking that it was natural that somebody tried to to seduce us..." It's an irriverent allegory, for sure, but not a false one. Anyway, the dissolution of the SI did not shake the world.
Furthermore, I don't consider unusual this station of nihilism where I'm lingering as in a waiting room, half bored, half waiting for an alarm bell. People then turn into passengers, and we're surprised at the waiter still taking an order down. Given the disquieting mutation of our world, almost everyone should know the atmosphere in which we start doubting about reason. It may just be a spectral dream. Ernst Juenger (what a sad skunk!), 1982.
Conclusions are already clear in the very development of our argument, always suggested by the text and by its gaps. There is no epilogue which can't be read in the titles: Guy Debord is really dead, nunc est bibendum! On "Il Manifesto", Sunday 4th of December 1994, Enrico Ghezzi (a man of some merit) wrote: "The news about Guy Debord's death seemed to me a deceit, une leurre. A sublime fraud, like the one many suspected behind Moana Pozzi's death. To be able to detourner his very death. To make it even more unreal than it already is, challenging it on its own mediatic grave. [...] To give an end to his own length, not to his time. To give himself an end..." I had a very different impression: The Bore did no longer have choice, he had chosen more than three decades earlier, getting carefully ready for the moment when his time would have finished, deboredom would have come along, and he would be left with nothing but his own length to give an end to, sooner or later.
The notes marked by a *** didn't appear in the original text: they were appended by the author during the foul-proof reading.
1. Guy The Bore is the double of Guy Debord, is Debord in such a self-contemplative attitude that he became a sheer image. In our opinion a feeling of deboredom (i.e. the boredom caused by Debord) has definitely taken hold of the character after the movie In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (1979); here, self-contemplation still met a lyric requirement, and wasn't tedious, (de)boring. As we'll explain later, since then each of his writings is really full of resentment (a self-referring kind of feeling which ended up in an emotional short-circuit) This feeling of deboredom was already there at the time of the SI, though it was mitigated because they recognized the collective revolutionary needs and expectations.
2. Letizia Moratti is the chairman of the RAI board of directors. The RAI [RAdiotelevisione Italiana] is the public broadcaster which competes with the Fininvest, the Berlusconi's TV company. In March 1994 Berlusconi became Prime Minister of a government which was a wonderful synthesis of Poujadisme, Fascistic behaviours, Mafia alliances and neo-thatcherite lingo. The first 'enemy' attacked and defeated by the Government was the RAI, whose very existence seemed to be an intolerable interference in the final Fininvestization of the country. Berlusconians and post-Fascists use to describe the RAI as a lair of crypto-communists; actually there are lots of soft-core leftists and former pro-situs, nevertheless the RAI belongs to the ruling class as much as the Fininvest. Berlusconi instituted a new board of right-wing directors whose chairman was Mrs. Letizia Moratti ['chairMAN' is quite proper, because some right-wing women refuse to use the feminist gender; since in Italian the neuter gender does not exist, they describe their offices or positions as though they were males]. She is a member of a potent family of the Milan upper-class which, amongst other things, owns the Inter football club. This raid has been the only successful act of that Government, which was shaken and overthrown in November by a general strike led by the reformist unions. Berlusconi was too fetid and extremist to meet the requirements of the ruling class, which exploited the workers' struggles to establish an 'apolitical' emergency government whose premier is Lamberto Dini. However Letizia Moratti is still where Berlusconi had placed her.***
3. Vittorio Sgarbi, former art critic, and Giuliano Ferrara, former journalist, are two exponents of the Right who talk in a very vulgar and insulting style. Sgarbi has a daily talk-show on Canale 5 (Fininvest), Ferrara is the ghost-writer of the Berlusconi's speeches and statements.***
4. Gian Carlo Pajetta and Enrico Berlinguer were two powerful and respected bosses of the old communist party (PCI). Berlinguer was secretary general since 1969 'til his death in 1985. He completed the destalinization of the party and started its conversion into a social-democratic organization.***
5. It's no mistake today to use the term "situationism", because we owe the existence of such an '-ism' to those who already used the term 30 years ago. On the other hand, the SI strongly condemned the use of this word because it defined a specific doctrine about savoir vivre which didn't exist at all: everybody could be situationist even without knowing the SI, therefore there doesn't exist such a thing as situationism. But, only in 1977, in Manoscritti antieconomici e antifilosofici del 1977 (anonimous cyclostiled writing, Italy) we can read: "power swallows critique and recycles it. Marx became Marxism [...], in the same way the SI became situationism." And power swallowed critique owing to those who turned situations into situationism.
6. Carlo Freccero is a former pro-situ which became general manager of Italia 1 (Fininvest) in the late Eighties. He managed to produce TV shows which conjugated commercial potential and post-modernist experimentalism, but he was too indipendent and Berlusconi fired him. After the death of Guy The Bore, he wrote an obit piece on the communist newspaper "Il Manifesto".***
7. Striscia la notizia is a daily satirical news edited by the former pro-situ Antonio Ricci and broacasted by Canale 5 (Finivest).***
8. Angelo Guglielmi is an ex-member of the 1960's literary avantgarde group Gruppo 63. For over ten years he's been general manager of RAI3, the most post-modernist and leftist TV channel of the public television. Most RAI3 shows started as experimental and became smash hits, e.g. "Blob", an outrageous daily strip edited by the pro-situ Enrico Ghezzi, which consists in cut-ups and detournements of the shows and news broadcasted the day before by all the national TV channels. Nevertheless, RAI3 broadcasts ugly cop-styled shows like "Chi l'ha visto?", a show which searches for the missing persons; in January 1995 its editorial staff has been victim of a prank by Luther Blissett. ***
9. See the "Avertissement pour la troisi_me _dition fran_aise", in: Guy Debord, La societé du spectacle, Gallimard, Paris 1992. He writes: "This edition has been left identical to that of 1967 [...] I am not the kind of man who corrects himself [...] Such a critical theory doesn't need to be trasnformed...". In this short piece, The Bore refuses to take the 1989 collapse (and all the following events) into account, and is content with a reference to theses 58 and 111 of The Society of The Spectacle, as if this were all had to be written on the subject, a sort of Nostradamus' centuriae to which nothing can be added. Since in 1992 Croatians and Serbs were already butchering each other, how should we name such a hack-prophet?***
10. Pro-situs was the name given to superficial and lamely ideological sympathizers of the SI who tried to emulate the style without sharing their rigour. Still in the Commentaries to the society of the spectacle, (1988), Debord wrote: "On the ground of the post-1968 contestation, the inept recuperators called 'pro-situs' have been the 'first disinformers', because they dissimulated as much as possible the practical manifestations by which the very critique they maintained to share had become popular; without scrupling to weaken the proposition, they never cited anything or anybody, in order to arouse the impression that they had found out something by themselves"[By the way, isn't this an antiplagiarist statement? ***].
11. This phrase is incomprehensible in English; Glenn Miller was a trombone player, right? Well, "trombone" is also the Italian metaphor to mean a windbag, one that is puffed up etc.***
12. All the quotations since the beginning of the paragraph are from: "Rapport sur la construction des situations et sur les conditions d'organisation et action de la tendence situationniste internationale" (1958), in: Mirella Bandini, L'estetico il politico - da Cobra all'Internazionale situazionista, L'Officina, Torino 1977.
13. The case of the Englishman Ralph Rumney, who founded the first London Psychogeographical Association, reminds of the Theatre of the Absurd. In 1958 he was sent out because, when his first son was born, he turned in his psychogeographical survey of Venice a couple of days after the 'deadline'. Nine years later, the whole British section was expelled in unbelievable circumstances, allegedly described by Fred and Judy Vermorel in: The Sex Pistols (Tandem, London 1978).
14. See expecially Open creation and its enemies, translated and prefaced by Fabian Tompsett, Unpopular Books, London 1993.
15. Nash, "Who are the Situationists?", in "Times Literary Supplement", London. Quoted in: Stewart Home, The Assault on Culture, AK Press, Edimburgh 1991, p.39, and p.41.
16. Stewart Home, in the previously quoted work, uses the term "spectosituationists" (from "spectacle") to distinguish the SI from the Second SI.
17. "The current use of the term art treats it as a sub-category of these disciplines; one which differentiates between parts of them on the basis of perceived values. Thus, the music of Mozart is considered art,while that of Slaughter and the Dogs is not. This use of the term art, which distinguishes between different musics, literatures, &c, emerged in the seventeenth-century at the same time as the concept of science. Before this, the term artist was used to describe cooks, shoe-makers, students of the liberal arts &c.
When the term art emerged with its modern usage, it was an attempt on the part of the aristocracy to hold up the values of their class as objects of 'irrational reverence'. Thus art equated with truth, and this truth was the world view of the aristocracy, a world view which would shortly be overthrown by the rising bourgeois class [...when the bourgeoisie] appropriated the concept of art it simultaneously transformed it. Thus beauty more or less ceased to be equated with truth, and became associated with individual taste. As art developed, 'the insistence on form and knowledge of form' and 'individualism' (basically romanticism) were added to lend 'authority' to the concept as a 'particular, evolving, mental set of the new ruling class'.
Thus, rather than having universal validity, art is a process that occurs within bourgeois society and which leads to an 'irrational reverence for activities which suit bourgeois needs'. This process posits 'the objective superiority of those things singled out as art, and, thereby, the superiority of the form of life which celebrates them, and the social group which is implicated' [...] This is a conclusion very different to that reached by the specto-situationists [which wanted to realize art] If art, from a materialist perspective, is a process which occurs in bourgeois society, there can be no question of its realisation. Such an idea is mystical since it implies not only that art has an essence, but that as a category it is autonomous of social structures. To undertake its realisation and suppression is an attempt to save this mental set at the very moment the category is abolished. Art disappears from the museums only to reappear everywhere! (Stewart Home, op. cit. The internal quotations are from: Roger L. Taylor, Art: An Enemy of the People, Harvester Press, Sussex, UK 1978.
18. Manoscritti Antieconomici e antifilosofici, quoted above.
19. Encyclopedie des Nuisances, Considerazioni storiche sull'Internationale Situationniste, edizioni 415, Torino 1994 (formerly: "Abrégé", Encyclopedie des Nuisances # 15, Aprile 1992. For info: Encyclopédie des Nuisances, 74 Rue de Menilmontant, 75020 Paris, France.
20. La veritable scission..., op. cit.
21. Some references to the Kommune 1 can be found in: Richard Neville, Play Power, Jonathan Cape, London 1970, republished by Paladin, London 1971. As regards the anti-authoritarian consciousness of the German '68 movement, see Hans-Jurgen Krahl, Konstitution und Klassenkampf, Verlag Neue Kritik KG, Frankfurt a. M. 1971.
22. See Richard Neville, op. cit. and Fernanda Pivano, Beat Hippie Yippie - Dall'underground alla controcultura, Rizzoli, Milano 1978.
23. Jon Savage, England's Dreaming, ?
24. For a good example of a debord-centred and servile historical account, see Jean-Francois Martos, Histoire de l'Internationale Situationniste, ed. Gerard Lebovici, Paris 1989.
25. According to Tommaso Labranca, Trash culture is unsophisticated popular culture. It obviously is coarse and inconsistent, thereby it has to be buried under tons of "good taste". The middle class is as trashy as the working class, but the latter is not ashamed of it, while the former wants to hide the trash, poses as being thoroughbred and becomes kitsch. The characteristics of 'proletarian' Trash culture are unintentional genre cross-fertilisation, incongruity, aesthetical maximalism and emulative syndrome.***
26. Encyclopedie des Nuisances, op. cit.
27. In southern Italy, especially in Naples, the New Year's Day culminates with destruction of any old house furniture, which is thrown down from the balcony. In addition to this, the midnight hour is saluted by a real guerrilla of fireworks, petards and firecrackers. Some are found wounded or dead. This clearly is a pagan cathartic feast which Christianity took good care not to suppress.***