Originally appeared as one A4 sheet published by Diversion and later appeared in Antinational Situationist No.1. Jon Horelick was a member of the American Section of the l'IS who wanted to open up discussions on the exclusions. Together with Tony Verlaan he was involved in the formation of a 'tendency' around February 1971
Beyond The Crisis Of Abstraction And The Abstract Break With That Crisis: The SI

Jon Horelick

Debord and Sanguinetti have attempted to continue the organizational voice of the S.l. when the S.I. no longer exists in reality, to sustain the S.l. by sustaining an organizational critique. For the succession of individual and collective breakdowns which ended in an organizational void they have substituted an imaginary "Break". Knowing the outline of projects formulated during the former "orientation debate," Debord and Sanguinetti have thus succeeded in publishing a Situationist Manifesto. Unlike the terrifying manifesto of 1848, however, their manifesto does not announce the turningpoint of the accelerated organizational movement which is its radical axis. It conceals its irreversible decline. Their book which is entitled, "The True Break in The International", did not effectively end a void but simply came at its end. Their critical work represents the best and at the same time the very worst product of the situationist milieu, as thought of a theoretical organization whose coherence was only unitary in thought while divided against itself at the moment of its own self-negation and transcendence; in other words, in its everyday existence and its struggle to a scandalous practice.

The above situationist tendency has offered everything concrete at the general level of critical theory itself (in defining the totality of new revolutionary conditions) while retracting the total spirit of specificity from the most important organizational crossings. They have risen by neglecting the painful forest of subjective facts which made up the tortuous identity of the S.I. Accordingly they were at last able to materialize their apparent critical force in the exterior exactly when the true practical basis of the organization i.e. the near totality of its members, had fallen, patently, irrevocably and incontrovertibly. Judging this subjectively, Debord and Sanguinetti have fallen at the moment they arose, or put another way, they will never be able to rise again until the S.l. has also fallen for them. They have not inherited the S.I. by virtue of their place in time or their critical reformulation of its specificity, its poetry and dialectic. They have only inherited its contemplation.

The essential fault contained in the above tendency consists of the pretentious assertion of its own historical salvation of the S.I. from the clutches of ideological degradation. Debord and Sanguinetti have broken at best with an inert common activity which lost hold even of its theoretical pre-requisites for creative participation, by default of locating and enriching new practical terrain. But according to their own conservative self-justification, they are even further away from this terrain whose leading part can be replaced by no second. It is not situationist theory itself which has been in crisis (as perspective for the negation of all existing conditions by the producers becoming creators) so much as the method of its organization.

If the "Real Break..." bears an ideology of partial truth anywhere, it is exactly within those pages which deal with the given organizational period of the S.I. between 1969 and 1971, where they exert a pure synchronic portrayal of past expulsions, ultimatums, resignations and breaks. These pages betray the traditional precision and completeness of organizational reports, as the double of the organization itself in its last phase. The incidental specificity is absent exactly because their recuperation of the S.l. mitigates against specificity at the moment of total loss and the virtual loss of the totality of its members. In this way Debord and Sanguinetti did not become some political bureaucrats but some bureaucratic idealists. Suffice to say that an international association of revolutionaries has become mythical once it is sustained by two or perhaps three of its original members.

Debord and Sanguinetti fail to tell the whole truth about the actual regressions which developed in these years. The intersubjective difficulties that evolved through this period corresponded first of all to an enlarged terrain of possible practice, no longer confined to four or five invaluable critics in Paris but joined by a considerable number of young agitators. The subsequent failure to continue the coherence of its critique equally and democratically among all the new participants was reciprocal with its inability to supersede a purely theoretical activity according to a superior experimental practice, more constant, more specific in what it communicated and even more daring. Secondarily, they forget to mention the real course of this internal breakdown, the most false, the most true and the most irreconcilable moments which occurred in the very deployment of extreme organizational modalities against this deterioration. They say nothing minimally about a certain spirit of indulgence and even exhuberance which developed within the sphere of exclusions and reciprocally the crude opposition at the least to this indulgence.

Supposing that the extreme personality attacks waged by Debord and Sanguinetti intend to spit on prehistory, Glanfranco Sanguinetti, model adolescent throughout the greater part of the former crisis, must be choking on his own saliva. Meticulously bypassing this aspect of the past, he can join in a chorus of venomous denunciations, with the highest sociological rejection of this foreign virus: Situationism. Similarly, one may find the institutional presence of J.V. Martin after a decade of virtual qualitative inertia, and essentially because he risked almost nothing new, even the suppression of his geographic isolation. Thus, the false moment of the subjective critique is concentrated in the very account of this tendency i.e. the petty history of exponential expulsions, in which each succeeding case worsens until the very last, Rene Riesel, half a step away from their own toybox, and after some fifteen different departures. As for Guy Debord, his central part in this historical parody revolves around the contradiction between the course of his critical positions asserted during the real time of the S.I. and the practical conclusions which were drawn by him in the end. Without wanting to ignore the obvious stature and excellence of Guy Debord over a period of many years (which were the most crucial for the S.l. in many ways), he must be reproached for a certain myopia. In the "April Theses" of 1968, Debord introduced the first extreme moment of negative self-recognition and transcendence when he wrote as follows. "The S.I. must now prove its effectiveness in a future stage of revolutionary activity - or disappear." No less right was he to stress the intensity of this advance as "quickly increasing our possibilities of intervention". By July 1970, he was obliged to depict the new interpersonal crisis which was stigmatizing this advance of the S.I. with equal truth. "Between the rupture and contentment in principle, it seems that there has been no place for the real critique". In a matter of days, Debord was again the first to attack a sort of "pseudo-radicalism which manifests itself in an extremism of personal elimination", as evidenced in an internal conflict which had developed in Italy. Thus, Debord's position had slowly modified its original dramatic extremes as this pseudo-radicalism fatally evolved while forgetting that it was he himself who had inaugurated the necessity of progress through virtual ultimatum, seconded after the Eighth Conference of the S.I., in "as many exclusions as necessary" in order to locate an effective activity. While having resigned from the editorial committee, in order to protest the inordinate responsibilities imposed on him within the French section by all the other Parisian situationists in their languor or at the least in the weakening of their traditional excellence (as the Parisian section in turn had complained at times of the central role imposed on them by the "infantilism" of other sections), Debord continued to defend the basic truth of these expulsions late in the pileup, and despite this pseudo-radicalism, with the ghost of a "we". He ends in a vain rush to conserve the S.I. by retracting its practical goal. Today the assertive renunciation of practical agitation, even to encounter proletarian practice (as so flagrantly documented in "A Propos of Vaneigem"), founds the pseudo-critique of Situationism. Situationism in turn can renounce everything, wavering between a pure critical orientation deprived of organization and subjectivist metaphysics which goes so far as to abandon its proletarian foundation. Looking back, the S.I. did only have inequalities in the beginning, but it was hierarchical in the end.

The time of Situationism had become the time of the S.l. as a whole. People there were reluctant to attain certain critical faculties of others while others guarded their basic contentment with a common theoretical orientation for the group. In this condition, the S.I. could not approach a concrete recognition of itself as a whole, a real appraisal of its immediate and previous capacities, what it still was and equally what it had to become. It even lacked the awareness of its given marginality due to the vanities, reservations and even fears that are connected with the malaise of these twins, resignation and minimalism. Accordingly, the abstract state of the S.I. tended to increase with the verbal radicalization of its intentions, namely, "to be more than a group of theoreticians". Failing to define the authentic terrain of participation, the subsequent breakdown of individual after individual involved almost no historical substance, universal content or direct practical alternatives. Pretending all the while that its internal struggles were already on the terrain of practical preparation, the S.I. became more and more isolated from direct historical, intervention, in a time reduced to organization theory for its own sake. The old disciplinary modalities of the S.I. and its extended goal worked against each other in the abstract in the precipitous clash of various internal relations struggling to realize "the new form of human relations", apart from uninterrupted external resistance. One can say with accuracy that the greater number of internal quarrels had emerged through each succeeding pause in this very resistance. It was on this terrain tied to the idea more than the practice of uncompromised extremism that participants were in some way apt to go or to have others go. Situationism was allowed to develop through the prolonged theoretical function of the S.I. Today, the example of the S.I., an internal organizational rupture without positive synthesis, will serve to clarify the hegelian conception which idealizes this rupture exactly because it is a dialectic of return.

In the new moment of anti-hierarchical groups, the nightmare of social alienation can never be dealt with in the same way without predicting possible evolutions and planning to avoid them on the spot. The full personal critique should be more and more customary at the earliest time without the presence either of restraint or immanent rupture. At the least the mechanism of breaks must apply more and more specifically to forewarned failure that contradict the subversive progress which exists in general inverting the self-fissiparous nature of expulsion which persisted between 1969 and 1971. Surely, exclusions have not been the source but the product of our real problems. They are no problem for us as long as they serve as real means which uncover each alienated interference at its roots. But they can no longer be the parochial means for resolving common inactivity emerging from a generalized ultimatum with its utilitarian necessity. These years in question exhibited the opposite result, more silence and inertia, rising on the terrain of glorified behaviourist judgement. With the profound diffusion of negativity in the present world, the unity founded on the break with alienated relations will reveal itself among autonomous revolutionary groups themselves among those whose practical opposition has become their real life. With each new day, an increasing refusal of proletarian conditions will leave them more and more harmonious among themselves.

The breakdown of the situationist milieu has left its mark on present history as time lost for the revolutionary movement itself. This occurred exactly at the moment when the S.I. had to release the total use for its ideas as situated material power in articulating the restive expanse of working life within reach of the workers themselves. In its abstract urgency, the S.I. retreated from the dialectical method with the easy intellectual expectations of its immanent revolutionary conclusion. Having drawn the historical goal of life from the total critique of advanced capitalism and essentially from the new class struggles which form the central product of its extended alienation the situationists tended to withdraw from the subjective pass in their international development. They lost sight of the life present in the class struggle, and accordingly the opportune necessity of an intensified exemplary activity of their own because they had lost sight of their own concrete existence i.e. what was new and therefore revolutionary about their own contradictions. To this day, the international proletarian assault verifies itself through its own objective practice revealing the historical truth of its being exactly at the moment of raw intervention, without plan and without visible title, without an explicit knowledge of its own history and its own theory which is the recognition of itself as a class. The present state of the real movement tends to indicate the likelihood of the popularization of situationist theory in a matter of years and perhaps even months according to its own mounting suppression of existing conditions. While this popularization will never arise at one stroke it is even more true that situationist theory will belong to the masses alone when the masses have subjected that theory to their own experience and transformed it like any other productive force. In reality, the presence of situationist theory in the masses will he identical with the autonomous formation of workers councils and thus the beginning of the revolution.

The revolutionary critique of our time is just starting to really enter the search for its practical terrain more than this terrain itself; as struggle, in other words, for its universal situation parallel to the universal situation which is struggling to know. To the contrary, Debord and Sanguinetti present an image of critical retirement, gazing at the wonders of the modern class struggle instead of registering their membership in the immediate struggle to conclude it once and for all. While yielding more systematic structure to situationist theory in its very relativity they have released the mythical portrait of its relative presence on working terrain. No one can hide their eyes any longer from the central fact that revolutionary theory has been an exterior truth to the extent that it has been communicated at the actual margins of everyday life. It requires no great wisdom to see that the medium of disalienated publicity is crucial (noting that the truth does not guarantee its utility of itself); that its in-vention and combat require theory and practice equally; the vastest struggle against the ruling spectacle which has censored and fragmented the proletarian opposition at its base. There is a line from an old and no less harmless film which aptly characterizes the urgency of this immense task. "You can't but you will". Today, it's not that the situationists have to face the task of regroupment as much as they have to regroup for the above task.

Situationism belongs, for the most part, to the student in his romance with revolutionary extremism, that prestigious commodity which serves to decorate the poverty of his life and equally his complicity with the old world. The pro-situationist represents the proletarian ass backwards. He is simply postponing his descent toward the spectacular alienation of the cadre in the same period that the proletarian is found fluctuating in his departure from private life. All the same, Situationism is more diverse in its social origins, having contained a proletarian side which corresponds to an intermediary phase of the international class struggle as a bitter incapacity to live through and understand this phase whose sudden advances now occur to its suprise and equally its shame. Insofaras the class struggle has arrived at higher forms of tension, history itself starts to obliterate this dependent. The social problem of the proletariat, which are the problems no doubt of the conscious individual, have reached a breaking-point before our very eyes. Thus, the proletarian side of Situationism corresponds, not to the moment when the proletariat is absent from its struggle, but when the situationist is absent from theory. When all of the strata which supported Situationism (including the high bourgeoisie as well as the classical lumpen proletariat) had lived this absence, the global proletariat was sustaining the accelerated collective moment of its history in which everything, even its burning deficiencies, became concrete. Today, it welcomes its crisis, a crisis in which it comes to know its true antagonists and refuses any thought other than the stakes of its own life and their improvement. Rather than daydreaming any longer in the delirious images of the reigning spectacle, each and every one of its public gestures smashes their repressive mode of conditioning. It is on the attack, and perhaps for the first time, it can really speak about itself. While the existing proletariat is far from suppressing the totality of determinants which underlie the Reichean critique of character-in-revolt, the terms of its sovereignty already exceed the Reichean situation. Accompanying the transition from isolated to collective proletarian terrain (in a word, the reawakening of the unitary social critique), Reichean theory tends to lose the necessity for its categorical identity in the enrichment of life. In a similar way, the more localized critique of Situationism will not withstand the contemplative deficiency which is at the origin of its attack unless it takes form a passing critique and equally a critique which passes. For this critique really manifested an infantile moment in general within the new course of the international revolutionary movement. Beyond Situationism, the workers are coming to master the situation through the irreversible consequences of their own action, and as a consequence, with a clearer anticipation of the subjective-objective limits in which they must inaugurate a new society antagonistic to alienation.

Debord and Sanguinetti have taken the liberty to contradict themselves with case when they define the future possibility or impossibility of various situationists who had known a failure within the S.I. equal in its specificity to the S.I. itself. Their transhistorical judgement had never been a practice of the S.I. in its real days. Their judgement could appear exactly because the reality of the S.I. no longer existed.

Of the numerous oppositions which have emerged outside the domain of the S.I. against Debord and Sanguinetti, the polemic composed by Jimmy Lallement is among the most honest and least intellectualized. This comrade has not extended a critique of the practical subjective breakdown of the whole of the S.I. but the entire revolutionary movement of the recent past whose troubles and setbacks were everywhere. And he maintains the same practical concern in delimiting the self-critical function attached to the revival of Reichean methods, their value and necessity when deployed from an active position of strength. Despite these virtues, there is still a shortcoming present in his "Gazette 3": on the one hand, while searching for "the general deficiency" witnessed in the S.I. he still believes like Debord and Sanguinetti that the "S.I. has not failed"; on the other hand, like in many other polemics, he exaggerates the importance of ridding the proletarian movement of a generic situationist reduction without really questioning the idealistic projection of a few situationists who sustained their presence as the S.I. and the consciousness of the proletariat as situationist. The more - precise examination of the subjective stature of the existing proletariat is overlooked (the very objective condition for fresh critical intervention), an attribute which is already fundamental to the situationist perspectives with the double specificity which they impart to the historical encounter, an encounter which is equally their own.

The appearance of Diversions did not bear the intention of either reviving a situationist theory or getting rid of one. It was simply preoccupied with the real use for this theory in locating the route of revolutionary praxis, the noose of unified opposition which tightens around the neck of the old world as words and deeds become one. The new anti-hierarchical groups which emerge today must be like a factory of everyday life in which a half dozen or dozen rebels unite in order to make the pressure of their critique rise throughout the world. Nothing less will satisfy them than being fully satisfied with themselves.