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For Discussion in the French Section of the SI

René Riesel

Paris, Eure and Loire, March-April 1970

Translated by Reuben Keehan


The search for a situationist strategy for the new period — demanded on several occassions within the French section, but hardly mentioned at the Venice Conference — has been on the agenda for two years now, and we haven't made an inch of progress. Not only has there been no real theoretical discussion, but the very reality of the SI as an international of sections has been heavily compromized. To my mind, the dialectical relationship between these two things poses the question of the SI's organizational existence once more.

1. In the sense that we have not produced any new advanced theoretical hypotheses since the occupations movement, we can no longer conceal the fact that the definition of the SI as "an international group of theoreticians" is itself brought into question, in the same way that we have failed to define our new field of operations, the possible transcendence of such a "group of theoreticians." But on the other hand, I think that we need to see how the propagation and communication of already elaborated theory has been poorly handled as far as we are directly concerned, principally due to lack of resources (in France, the limited distribution of Viénet's book; in the USA, practically no distribution of SI; in Scandinavia, we need keep in mind the ridiculous figures revealed by Martin in Wolsfield, especially considering the impressive number of texts published by the translation agency of the old Libertad group; Italy is definitely the country in which we have been able to do the most — without this being anywhere near enough — but it's now a matter of making up the time that the crisis has made us lose).

2. Given this state of affairs, it seems to me that in the period we are entering as in that which we just left, the existence of a unified group of critical theorists is extremely well justified and has the greatest historical utility. But it still actually has to be one. At any rate, the only prerequisite for its possible transcendence is its effective existence as such. This existence necessarily entails a revival of the process of collective imagining, which must now include a passion for ideas and a passion for debate alike, both of which we are sadly lacking.

3. I would now like to refer to a few assorted matters that of lesser importance, all of which nevertheless express the extent of our present theoretical and practical shortcomings (to varying degrees; with an understanding that if our theoretical shortcomings are derived partly from the trifling absence of serious discussion and also partly from the more general absence of a conscious revolutionary practice outside of our own, this latter being dialectically attributable to us even as we are waiting for our chance if things don't change.

4. In France, one of the only practical tasks to which we committed ourselves, for want of anything else, was making contact with autonomous groups that we did not think were going to be long in appearing. The development of the class struggle having decided otherwise, we have nothing important — or even interesting — to do in this area, and we have allowed ourselves to become stuck in a routine of useless meetings where the tiny scraps of information that we have gathered have taught us nothing, and have not even had any possible repercussions for other revolutionaries, in their absence.

5. The few texts critical of I.S. #12 that we have received, which all come from people who we know all too well are idiots, are spurious and in disaccord with our basic theses; none of them sets forth a genuine discussion. (I do think, however, that without going into its completely false perspectives, a few particular points in Yves' text merit some attention before it is abandoned purely and simply like the ratty critique of the rodent that he is).

6. In this regard, the text "Contribution to the Consciousness of the Class that will be the Last" seems interesting and revealing. Even if it doesn't come from Leglou and his gang, I think that we ought to oppose this sort of phenomenon and its very perspective. It's too late now for us to start worrying about the thousands of little would-be SI tracts that have been appeared; furthermore, they really aren't our problem. But I do find the degree of uncreativeness and impersonation exhibited by such people from supposedly autonomous groups uninteresting and suspect a priori. It's all too much imbicility and too much servility for us too bother with.

7. One interesting question that came up during the resolution of the "Eduardo [Rothe]-Paolo [Salvadori] conflict" focused on the shared tastes that we may or may not have recognized and the common or diverging style that has stemmed from them. In the non-clarification of this point — in the increasingly endless extension of the tacit aspect of our agreement in the absence of a possible verification, which goes hand in hand with the "hollow pretention to a supposed historical role" described by Guy [Debord] — I see the origins of our current malaise. The traces are numerous, and it won't be volantarist endeavors ("friendly work meetings," etc.) that erase them in any way, but frank and profound discussion.

For example, at two different levels:

— if the ideas developed in the journal of the American section are adequate, their style of exposition is hardly very situationist (see, for example, Ten Days...); in spite of a few jokes, gibes and sarcasm, it remains perilously close to American Marxology à la Contemporary Issues. In this case, we can still consider the matter to be fortuitous, but only to the degree that we would the presence of a Chasse among us.

— on the other hand — and I don't think this is outside the framework of what was defined in the "April Theses" as "historical relationships, critical confidence" — the rather marked divergences in lifestyles could lead to an irritation that feeds on its own silence and could even destroy everything if not for this indispensable confidence, or at least the taste for discussing and acting together. Without thinking that it is necessary to proceed with a discussion like that which occured between Eduardo and Paolo, and without wanting to present myself as someone who is particularly sociable and agreeable to everyone, I have to say how deeply what appears to me as a certain meanness in life, and above all in style, shocks me about François [de Beaulieu].

8. I have no precise strategy to propose; and I don't think that it can be defined before we can put ourselves in a position to talk about it.If the various discussions that have already taken place have brought about a desire to reinforce our specificity, to which I subscribe wholeheartedly, it is also important to note that this goal of "making the SI more known and making it better known" must necessarily proceed from the verification of the equal participation of everyone.

9. To this end, it wouldn't hurt if in the weeks to come, everyone commits themselves to drawing up a list of the predominant theoretical problems, from which we can establish an order of priority; the formation of rotating discussion groups should not be dismissed out of hand. These discussions must quickly be relaunched on an international scale in order to dissolve their formalization into the creative spontaneity of all.

10. Our last meeting was planned so that we could discuss the problems that some of us had raised. The fact that only three comrades out of six brought along notes must be seen as the latest symptom of the current poor climate. It is certainly reassuring that the texts presented addressed the basic points, but it is alarming that none of ths comrades brought along notes. One might well ask that if everyone recognized the specific problems, did they feel that their mere presence was enough? And what is the depth of very normal accord that they might have with the analyses presented?

This point must also be taken seriously.

For the SI!