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Situationist International

international organization of social revolutionaries
Guy Debord (in the center), Michèle Bernstein, and Asger Jorn, 1957

The Situationist International (SI) was a small group of international political and artistic agitators with roots in Marxism, Lettrism and the early 20th century European artistic and political avant-gardes. It was greatly influential in the origins of May 68.

QuotesEdit

  • Jorn’s role in the Situationist movement (as in COBRA) was that of a catalyst and team leader. Guy Debord on his own lacked the personal warmth and persuasiveness to draw people of different nationalities and talents into an active working partnership. As a prototype Marxist intellectual Debord needed an ally who could patch up the petty egoisms and squabbles of the members. Their quarrels came into the open the moment Jorn’s leadership was withdrawn in 1961. . . . Finally, 1966-8 saw the vindication of Debord’s policy, sustained against every kind of opposition, of adhering rigidly to the uncompromising pursuit of a singleminded plan. When the time came — in Strasbourg in November 1966 and in Paris in May 1968 — Debord was ready, with his two or three remaining supporters, to take over the revolutionary role for which he had been preparing during the last ten years. Incredible as it may seem, the active ideologists (“enragés” and Situationists) behind the revolutionary events in Strasbourg, Nanterre and Paris, numbered only about ten persons.
    • Guy Atkins, ‎Troels Andersen (1977) Asger Jorn, the crucial years 1954-1964. p. 63
  • We are going through a crucial historical crisis in which each year poses more acutely the global problem of rationally mastering the new productive forces and creating a new civilization. Yet the international working-class movement, on which depends the prerequisite overthrow of the economic infrastructure of exploitation, has registered only a few partial local successes. Capitalism has invented new forms of struggle (state intervention in the economy, expansion of the consumer sector, fascist governments) while camouflaging class oppositions through various reformist tactics and exploiting the degenerations of working-class leaderships. In this way it has succeeded in maintaining the old social relations in the great majority of the highly industrialized countries, thereby depriving a socialist society of its indispensable material base. In contrast, the underdeveloped or colonized countries, which over the last decade have engaged in the most direct and massive battles against imperialism, have begun to win some very significant victories. These victories are aggravating the contradictions of the capitalist economy and (particularly in the case of the Chinese revolution) could be a contributing factor toward a renewal of the whole revolutionary movement. Such a renewal cannot limit itself to reforms within the capitalist or anticapitalist countries, but must develop conflicts posing the question of power everywhere.
    • Guy Debord (1957), Report on the Construction of Situations.
  • The shattering of modern culture is the result, on the plane of ideological struggle, of the chaotic crisis of these antagonisms. The new desires that are taking shape are presented in distorted form: present-day resources could enable them to be fulfilled, but the anachronistic economic structure is incapable of developing these resources to such ends. Ruling-class ideology has meanwhile lost all coherence because of the depreciation of its successive conceptions of the world (a depreciation which leads the ruling class to historical indecision and uncertainty); because of the coexistence of a range of mutually contradictory reactionary ideologies (such as Christianity and social-democracy); and because of the mixing into contemporary Western culture of a number of only recently appreciated features of several foreign civilizations. The main goal of ruling-class ideology is therefore to maintain this confusion.
    • Guy Debord (1957), Report on the Construction of Situations.
  • We must call attention, among the workers parties or the extremist tendencies within those parties, to the need to undertake an effective ideological action in order to combat the emotional influence of advanced capitalist methods of propaganda. On every occasion, by every hyper-political means, we must publicize desirable alternatives to the spectacle of the capitalist way of life, so as to destroy the bourgeois idea of happiness. At the same time, taking into account the existence, within the various ruling classes, of elements that have always tended (out of boredom and thirst for novelty) toward things that lead to the disappearance of their societies, we should incite the persons who control some of the vast resources that we lack to provide us with the means to carry out our experiments, out of the same motives of potential profit as they do with scientific research.
    • Guy Debord (1957), Report on the Construction of Situations. Our Immediate Tasks

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