Tuesday, 30 March 2010

What use would an international association of situationist revolutionaries be?

The following comes from a reply I sent to a person who expressed interest in the new situationist collaboration that I have proposed.

I think you are right to approach the notion of a new international association of situationist revolutionaries with cautious scepticism. Such an association should only be created if the inter-relations between the individual members that constitute it are likely to serve a useful practical purpose.

My initial thought is that a new association could in principle have two principal functions. The first is to foster the creation of a body of revolutionary theory properly adapted to our times. This it would do by opening channels of communication between theorists such as permit a more systematic and sustained circulation of information, ideas, encouragement, debate, collaboration, and assistance with the practical matters of publication than would otherwise take place. The initial goal would perhaps be to create a wide-ranging critique of the currently-dominant forms of alienation and the factors that have led dissatisfaction with everyday life not to find a revolutionary solution over the past forty years. However, all this presupposes the existence of individuals willing and able to enter into this form of cooperation.

The second function of the association that comes to mind is to serve as a network through which individual members can propose, and subsequently collaborate on, particular interventions in social life. I should stress that, here and elsewhere, I do not envisage the association acting as a separate and superior entity that produces activities for its members. It is merely a means by which its individual members carry out particular projects, with specific collaborators, at their own initiative. Once again, this presupposes the existence of individuals willing and able to enter into this form of cooperation.

If a new association is in due course length created, I suspect that it will tend to concentrate on the first of these functions for the time being. In the case of interventions that go beyond the production and dissemination of theory, the scope of what can usefully be done at any given time and place will depend on such factors as the degree of discontent and the array of repressive forces to be found locally, and the availability, material resources, and willingness to take risks on the part of the members of the association. Unfortunately, it seems to me that, at present, the notion of contesting the processes whereby individuals' lives become alien to them is in general fairly far removed from the proletarians' sense of what is possible and desirable, with the result that practical actions directed against those processes by members of the association are unlikely to be taken up or even understood by the wider population. Repression amidst indifference is all too likely to be the only outcome. Of course, where conditions are more favourable, the members of the association should do whatever they can to disrupt the alienation of their own everyday lives, and thereby encourage others to do the same in their own lives. But a masochistic or vainglorious indulgence in foreseeable failure appears to me to possess no merit. The same goes for the reformist measures that are always seductively at hand. Where the only available actions consist of inconsequent kamikaze missions or some species of pseudo-oppositional protest that takes the continuance of the fundamental processes of the existing society for granted, the revolutionary course of action, I would suggest, is precisely to express practical contempt for both options by refusing to take up either.