Situationist International #1 (June 1969)
A GENERAL MALAISE grew around the May-June events even as they occurred. The inability of the conmen to see what was clearly unfolding before (and against them) is only countered by their hard work in masking it for everyone else. "Hard news" on the events was to be found in the United States only in the likes of the New York Times (with the "objectivity" we know), and those who were not reached by that fell prey to the lesser ideologists who spewed forth in a completely predictable manner:
The little parties of the left faithfully supported their French equivalents and when they had none, worked overtime in heaping shit on their favorite enemies: The Communist Party USA, as ever, followed the dicturn about the biggest lie as it discovered and denounced the Gaullist agents led by Cohn-Bendit (who to the French CP predictably was a Trotskyist) and reported the glorious CGT bureaucrats leading the workers to victory under the Red Flag and the Tricolor; the Young Socialist Alliance/Socialist Workers' Party in support of the Jeunesse Communiste Revolutionnaire brand of Trotskyists against the Stalinist CGT bureaucracy (but for the union itself) and against the Federation Etudiante Revolutionnaire/Voix Ouvriere brand; the Workers League in support of FER/YO Trotskyists against. . . etc; the Marxist-Leninists of the Workers World/Youth Against War and Fascism family against the YSA/SWP/Workers League. And on to the maoists and every other cretin calling for this or that vanguard party.
The "underground press," with its low budget imitation of the movie magazines, provided "star" commentary from Jean-Jacques Lebel and Edgar Morin (the former an aging ex-surrealist media freak, the latter a pataphilosophic sociologist). And the Village Voice expressed the mentality of the "left liberal" as it attributed the "revolution" in turn to Marcuse, Lefebvre, and the ghost of L. D. Trotsky.
New Left Notes printed part of M. Bookchin's series, and CAW! #3 ( the SDS literary magazine) buried the decent reportage of the Solidarity (England) pamphlet among the fragmented "analysis" of March 22nd members, the pleadings of the bureaucrat Barjonet, and the guest star appearance of Sartre and de Beauvoir. One gingerly but seIf-important step outside SDS, the Radical Action Cooperative performed its expected service in publishing an account of the "revolutionary" bureaucratic management of the city of Nantes in Brittany, complete with the insights of the Trotskyist trade unionist, Lambert.
Everyone got their kicks in beating the French CP and its henchmen; it is cathartic, you know, as it helps conceal the effective stalinism practiced in the daily lives of the whole bunch.
Bad enough that we should be plagued with an American equivalent for every half-baked ideologist in France, the stars of the Columbia debacle engineered an International Conference in New York in late September 1968. Foreign ideologists (the real thing) were imported for the show; for the planners and invited participants, revolutionary internationalism was practically understood as a variation on the international commodity spectacle and not as its negation. In this soup, an incoherent anarchist and a JCR Trot were representative of the crumbs 'representing' the revolutionaries in France. Our comrade Tony Verlaan intervened in this ideological sideshow, exposing it for what it was. The comics, 'The Great Late Show of Opposition," issued immediately thereafter, is the adequate chronicle of this pseudo-event and its disruption.
The only piece on the May-June events that is worth reading is Worker-Student Action Committees, France May '68 by Fredy Perlman and Roger Gregoire (published by Black and Red, PO Box 973, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 49005). This small book deals directly with the experience of the authors in the occupation of Censier and in the Citroën Action Committee, and their critical analysis of this experience. They meticulously describe the mechanism of spectacular fragmentation in the destruction of possibility in a real historical situation, and they apprehend very well the terrain of daily life as the base of independent class activity. But the spectacular mechanism catches them still: throughout, they use the March 22nd Movement as a model of comparison and thus contribute to myth. They transpose Cohn-Bendit's intuitive radicalism onto March 22nd (the leftist amalgam he has come to spectacularly personify) when that organization was the containment of that radical spirit. The translations from March 22nd's Ce n'est qu'un debut, continuons le combat published in CAW! (as mentioned above) are sufficient illustration of that "Movement's" confident confusion.
The surrealists (hardly a factor here, but still a residue living off past glories in France), in their absolute separation from the events, saw, through some intellectual exercise, the realization of Fourier's cabalist principle in the competing ideologies in that parliamentary decomposition which was the March 22nd movement! Poor Fourier. Here again the nonsense of ideology passes into the ideology of nonsense in the hands of those who are not serious, and who are content to perfect play as a profitable specialization within the surface world of culture.
And even some who have advocated workers councils show, in response to real possibilities, that they missed the point altogether; that when they talked of councils they saw a crypto-bureaucratic form: a philosophical leninist like C. L. R. Jones, of "Facing Reality," described it over a decade ago: Workers councils in every branch of national activity.
Both Viénet's book and lnternationale Situationniste #12 (this last soon to be published; copies available from us for one dollar each) expose in detail the role of the political and cultural recuperators during the actual struggle in France.