The Return of Charles Fourier
Internationale Situationniste #12 (September 1969)
Translated by Reuben Keehan
AT 7PM ON MONDAY 10 March 1969, the precise moment when a "general strike" carefully limited to 24 hours by union bureaucrats was scheduled to commence, the statue of Charles Fourier was returned to its plinth in the Place Clichy, which had remained empty since the removal of its original incarnation by the Nazis. A plaque on the statue's pedestal explained: "A tribute to Charles Fourier, from the barricaders of the rue Gay-Lussac." Never before has the technique of détournement reached such a domain.
The job of putting it in place was accomplished at one of the Place Clichy's busiest times in front of more than a hundred witnesses, many of whom crowded around it, but none of whom was particularly shocked, even upon reading the plaque (hardly anyone in France is ever shocked after May 1968). The statue, an exact replica of the original, was made of plaster but finished in bronze. On first glance, it looked like the real thing. Even so, it weighed over a hundred kilograms. The police were advised of its presence shortly after, and left a guard around it for the course of the next day. It was removed by the authorities at first light the day after that.
A commando of around twenty "unknowns," as Le Monde put it on 13 March, was enough to complete the operation, which lasted a quarter of an hour. According to one witness, quoted in France-Soir on the 13th, "eight young people of twenty years of age deposited the statue with the aid of wooden beams. Not a bad performance, considering the fact that it took no less than thirty guardians of the peace and a crane to lay the plinth bare again." And L'Aurore, telling the truth for once, remarked that the whole thing was notable because "the enragés aren't usually in the habit of paying tribute."