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The 8th Conference of the SI

International Situationniste #12 (September 1969)

Translated by Reuben Keehan

THE NEXT SI CONFERENCE will be held in Italy at the end of September 1969.

The provides an opportunity to clarify several aspects the SI's organization in the past and in the present. Notably, this includes dispelling the strange myth of our hierarchical and dictatorial organization, which amusingly accompanies the other myth — strongly contradicted by every single one our texts — according to which we are advocates of a pure spontaneism when it comes to mass action. The most fantastic sketch of the SI's supposed evolution toward centralism can be found in the article — monstrous in every regard — published in issue 12 of the journal Communications, by Robert Estivals, a researcher at the CNRS. Beginning with an obviously false quotation from I.S. #3 — "a federative conception of the SI founded on national autonomy was imposed from the start by the Stalinist section" (sic) — the author notes that this federalism was abandoned in favor of a "central council" which "soon . . . held all the powers of the conference." He arrives at the conclusion: "Gradually, the dictatorship of this central committee actually allowed Debord to directly run the SI himself."

In order to leave this delirious reasoning where it belongs — it goes on to insinuate that the obsessive Debord single-handedly stirred up the May movement and even caused its defeat ("the action in Strasbourg, a general repetition of this undertaken in Paris . . . Debord's pronounced liking for the word 'international' is, by the way, very noticable. . . . The Situationist International is essentially the work of Debord. . . . no psychological restructuring has been carried out, and this, in our opinion, is the cause of the SI's error, and consequently, the failure of the neo-social democracy of the May 68 students") — let us remind everyone of a reality that is rather foreign to the police/psychological conception of history according to Estivals. Until this day — and this is very deliberate — the SI has never had more than twenty five to thirty participants — often less — which already throws these little histories of the deprived base commanded from above into a more truthful light. We have constantly demanded the participation of autonomous individuals, even if the real capacities of a few may not have always lived up it. Indeed, on the basis of a widely held accord in the initial period, there was complete autonomy among our various national groups; not only in practice, but also with regard to the very notions of what the SI would become, even if they did not coincide with those of opposing tendencies. Any change of position was accomplished within the groups themselves, even though there never any more than three groups conducting effective activities at any one time (most often the Dutch, French and German sections). The Central Council was therefore established at the London Conference as a council of delegates, meeting every two or three months to co-ordinate the activity of our groups, and having no kind of existence outside these meetings. Although they were nominated by the Conference, the delegates were occassionally replaced before a meeting by other members sent by their group. After the Göteborg Conference, there was a sharp debate within the SI that would be somewhat oversimplified if it were described as a confrontation between the "artists" and the "revolutionaries," but which was split along such lines to some degree. The theoretical discussion was long and extremely democratic, but in the end, the absolutely divergent practical manifestations, rupture of all solidarity and distinct breaking of engagements by the artists — who nevertheless wanted to remain in the SI and compromise it entirely by choice — led to their exclusion in 1962. At that point, the sixth Conference, in Anvers, decided that a coherent theoretical unification had been accomplished. Following this, when the question of dissolving the Central Council was posed, it was maintained only to emphasize the allegience of comrades in Scandinavia who were actively opposing the deceptive publicity of the Nashists, who for some time after purported to represent the SI in the art galleries and newspapers of Stockholm. After the dissapearance of Nashism, no further mention was ever made of this Central Council, which was formally suppressed without debate at the 1966 Paris Conference. After 1962, the SI had written that although several comrades were geographically dispersed throughout Europe, it considered itself to be a single unified group whose basic activities would be organized in France, where the journal that constituted its principle publication was issued (it ceased to carry the subtitle "central bulletin" after its 9th number). Our perspective was naturally to move on from the foundations laid by this coherent group by reforming into national sections whose activity was genuinely autonomous. The first version of this, the English section, fell apart just as it was beginning to exist as a group (cf. the note The Latest Exclusions this issue). It was only between 1968 and 1969 that the SI was once again formed into national sections, each editing its own journal (this just goes to show that there was never a "Strasbourg group," but only a few SI members who lived in that town until early 1967).

Although it includes comrades of ten different nationalities — our sections are themselves international in composition — at the time of its 8th Conference, the SI is organized into only four sections: American, French, Italian and Scandinavian.