Written at Drakabygget Summer 1962 by Asger Jorn, Guy Atkins, Jørgen Nash et al. Originally appeared, with different titles, in Situationist Times No.2 (1962) and Drakabygget No.2/3 (1962)
The Struggle of the Situcratic Society: A Situationist Manifesto
Modern industrial society has so far been organised along classical lines as developed in Greece and Rome. During the Industrial period following the French Revolution there have been cycles in which all the different forms of such a method of Government have been explored. This has been a valuable experience. It has shown that the enlightened autocracy of Plato and the more or less aristocractic military dictatorship which replaced the legal government as well as the various forms of democracy (including the latest edition the so-called people's democracy) - that none of these have been capable of creating a form of government to meet and satisfy human needs, little less to allow life to flourish and propser.
The new phenomena which dominated industrial society from the beginning, despite some pioneer romanticism, is the growing socialisation of all the means of life which is itself the ineluctable consequence of machine techniques. By socialism we understand the inclusive principle which makes society the centre, meaning and purpose of all human activity. It is all the same whether one takes this evolution to mean progress or whether one interprets it as a growing threat to human freedom. Both attitudes amount to the same thing. Socialisation will spread in one way or another. Man can only dominate his future environment if we face this fact. We must use this knowledge to evolve the means of liberation. In order to win, it is essential for us to extricate ourselves from the principle of fatalistic necessity and to regain a new potential of choice and self-determination.
The social structure which fulfills the conditions for freedom we have termed the situcratic order. The point of departure is the de-christianisation of Kierkegaard's philosophy of situations. This must be combined with British economic doctrine, German dialectics and French social action programmes.It involves a profound revision of Marxist doctrine and a complete revolution whose growth is rooted in the Scandanavian concept of culture.
This new ideology and philosophical theory we have called situology. It is based on the principle of social democracy in as much as it excludes all artificial forms of privilege. It is the only existing guarantee which ensures that human life can develop in all its cultural variety and without crushing the special abilities of the individual in an anonymous society designed for the unfit. Sartre says that we should always ask what would happen if everyone acted like me. Our answer is that we should all die of boredom. We want to make it possible for man to be able to gamble his life. This can only happen if everyone is allowed to have indvidual freedom of action.
The first Situationist International was founded in Paris in 1957. Its function was to forumulate and develop Situology. During the last five years some serious differences of opinion have arisen. These have led to the progressive exclusion of many Situationist comrades in Great Britain, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Needless to say this continual up and down has imperilled the movement. It looks like becoming an international training college for avant-gardists, a sort of finishing school for serious artists. It was not for this that the situationist movement was founded. All the various tensions came to a head in Paris on February 10th 1962. At that council meeting the Parisians excluded the German situationists of Gruppe Spur (Munich). They did this at the very moment when the group was being tried by neo-Nazi authorities in West Germany: charged with producing degenerate art (entartete kunst). It is with great regret that we have to place it on record that the Paris declaration came as a stab in the back to our comrades; it was used by the German authorities as a weapon to discredit Gruppe Spur in court. Only after the verdict had been announced did Paris suddely declare its solidarity with the German Situationists. A meaningless gesture rather late in the day.
This sort of vaciliation shows that the situationists action programme - at the intellectual level - is suffering from a cancer. The root of this cancer lies in the adherence to old-fashioned, classical and ultra-rigid patterns of organisation.
To avoid the disruptive consequences of this disease, the Dutch representative Jaqueline de Jong proposed in The Situationist Times to go ahead with the Situationist programme of anti-organisation by dissolving the central organisation. Now anyone is free to become a Situationist without the need for special formalities. It is up to the indvidual to fulfil the Situationist ideology in the best way that seems fit. This does away all problems of inclusion and exclusion.
The Franco-Begian group of Situationists answered the above proposal with a categorical "No". Articles published in Internationale Situationiste and the Copenhagen Journal. Information declared that the Scandanavian group of situationists around Drakabygget (Secretary: Jorgen Nash) had been excluded from the Situationist International. They also saw fit to level a stream of querulous accusations against us which we reject out of hand. Whatever happens we shall adhere to our role in the Situationist revolution. We shall continue to do our duty. Here and now this document is our witness Ð we proclaim the foundation of the 2nd Situationist International. We look upon this action in the light of historical necessity. The action has been forced upon us. At the same time we trust that the split will only be temporary. We foresee that our own Situationist evolution and that which has its roots in Paris will be followed by an East European Situationist Movement. The three groups each evolving from its own set of problems and attitudes shall one day unite into a Situationist International.
For the sake of Europe it is very important that genuine differences and variants should not be supressed. On the contrary these characteristic differences have a vital part to play in the development of a Situcratic community.
Oddly enough Situcratic history has followed the same trend as the Communist International during the last century.The latter separated into the 2nd Social Democratic and later into the Communist International. With us the process has been speedier. Our experience throws new light on the way in which socialist splinter movements come about. The process cannot be explained merely in terms of internal self-criticism as has usually been done in the past when people have looked for an explanation for changes in social structure. Yet there is clearly a parallel between the two movements.
Niels Bohr's compelmentary theory is based on observation that one cannot give a simultaneous description of position and movement. This is more than a purely abstract scientific observation. Indeed something of the same incompatability between position and movement underlies Bohr's own scientific methods and procedures. Let us for the moment disregard the overtones of recrimination and abuse in our present controversy. Let us assume that the Scandanavian and French programmes are both equally well meaning, intelligent and correct. We shall then find that there is a fundamental difference of assumption between us. If we discard all prejudice we shall see that the problem, as seen by Guy Debord from a Paris point of view, is purely a matter of position. This same applies to this analysis of situation. The Scandanavian outlook is completely different. It is based on movement and mobility. Once we understand this difference the split between the two groups seems natural and inevitable. We must agree to differ in order tolet the two opposing tendencies work out their own salvation. Any attempt to force them both into the same mould will lead to frustration and further conflict. Therefore the creation of a 2nd Situationist International is not a matter of progress or regression. It is the natural result of Situationist dichotomy which operates from two fundamentally different assumptions and programmes.
We want to steer clear of Parisian problemsof position at least until such time as these problems have been clarified to the point where they become amenable to systematic and rational discussion. Positional Situationism starts out by making projects. This is typically Latin pattern whereas Scandanavian Social Democracy is called reformative because its plans arise out of the situation itself. This method seems to be quite alien to the French way of thinking at the present time and they therefore regard it as taboo. These differences automatically preclude any form of close Franco-Nordic co-operation. In this argument neither side can claim to have a monopoly of the right ideas.
Greco-Roman thinking is rooted in rooted in political and social theory. It is opposed to our own way of thinking because we believe that man as a human being and individual stands at the centre of all worthwhile activity.
Sartre's scholasticism has been called humanistic but in fact this human being is a socio-centric creature. The Franco-Belgian Situationists base themselves on the same principles as Pascal, Descartes, Grace and Gide. Action precedes emotion. Emotion is a primary, non-reflective intelligence: passionate thought/thinking passion. We are not saying that the French method is wrong or that it cannot be used successfully. We merely say that our two outlooks are incompatible, but they can be made to supplement one another. Lastly this: Scandanavian politicians who chose to ignore these fundamental differences will do so at their own peril. They will get an unpleasant suprise at the Boric emotional reaction.
The 2nd Situationist International is a freely organised movement. It is a voluntary association of autonomous work groups, whose programme as agreed in Stockholm is briefly as follows:
Freedom For Science And Intellectual Life.
The new world organisation will resemble Unesco, but without being dominated by any single political power group or alliance. It shall be based on Prague. But Czechoslovkia must be released from its satellite attachment to the Soviet Union. This is a perfectly feasible demand.
It is inevitable that scientific knowledge and technological skills should be unevenly distributed throughout the world. It is therefore impossible to socialise science on a global scale. But the achievements of science can and shall be made available to all.
Art shall be for the benefit of mankind. Art and culture can only function properly when they are free from political interference. It is necessary to establish autonomous centres of cultural actvity and colleges for the people. Such institutions will come under the protection of the new Unsesco in Prague.
The labour movement was once considered to be the salt of the earth. Today it is more like a milch cow whose udders are being pumped in an effort to get more and more material benefits at the expense of the mind. All the same our material standards have not risen to such great heights when seen overall. We have the spectacle of society which, on the one hand, is consumer-minded but on the other hand is controlled by shopkeepers of every kind. They are in charge of business, politics and cultural affairs. The Situationist movement wants to achieve freedom of the mind.
We shall work towards the accomplishment of the MUTANT programme of interplanetary economic expansion: the abolition of military designs, the destruction of all atomic weapons. If mankind is nevertheless doomed, we prefer that we should all perish together. We are opposed to any plan which favours the survival of a bunker aristocracy.
Situationists And Nordic Rebels
Another important difference is this. The Scandanavians strive towards reform whereas the French aim at Revolution. We build on the past and we let new ideas grow out of past experience. This can be called an organic principle, it can also be called ultra-conservatism.
Today terms like conservatism, progress, revolution and reactionism have become meaningless. The terminology of liberalism is equally fatuous and played out. There is no point in using phrases of this kind for the Nordic philosophy of situations which is essentially tradition-directed. Herein lies our strength. On this we base our ideology and our working principles. If the French Situationists cannot accept our view, they must make their own plans and go ahead independently.
There are some people who will fail to grasp the significance of the Situationist struggle. The head-on collision in which we are involved will strike them as inexplicable. But we are convinced that one day this phase will be seen as an event of primary importance for Europe: the moment beforea decisive breakthrough. To those who think that a verbal battle is not worth, we would like tosay this: A word war is better than a world war.