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Opposition Falsified

Situationist International #1 (June 1969)

THE OPPOSITION that confronts American universities at this point must be seen as a reply to the general social dissolution and as a reflection of adjustment to changes forced by the bureaucratization process. On the elemental level students revolt against the intellectual sterility of the university, against its bureaucratic pettiness, against its existence as a corporation of lies. The student is powerless over the employment of his life (which in his particular case is the odious job of producing and maintaining the technology and ideology so necessary to the continuation of capitalism), and his revolt against this condition is the expression of his proletarianization.

What we have witnessed in the last year and a half is the spectacular presentation of this revolt manacled to "issue politics" and underdeveloped ideologies — in short, manacled to the amelioration of the apparent defects of capitalism. The Columbia occupation appeared to grow out of this framework, but the immediacy of life in the 'communes' created gave expression to the real root of the revolt. This immediacy however was quickly eroded because no one there realized that the recuperators were still among them. The silly 'heroic' defeat, the factional quibbling — all followed, and Columbia (that is, this series of bureaucratic maneuvers mythologized) became a model for much of what has passed since.

Out of the Columbia strike came a bizarre communitarian grouping called the Radical Action Cooperative (RAC). They opposed themselves to the subleninists all around them, claimed to start from a critique of daily life and declared affinities with the thought of the SI. But they quickly exposed themselves as inflictions of their own boredom and confusion, as ideologists of daily life. RAC migrated to Harvard where they provoked the unimaginative 'confrontations' from which the well-disciplined zombies of PL tried to profit.

Whenever necessary there is the show of violence (Cornell), but more often only the talk of the show. There are always the central strike committees with the bickering over the representation of blocs (not even people — blocs), always the tactical alliances and uncritical support — even to the trade unions: the San Francisco State strike collapsed from its sheer boorishness. The student ideologist still senses his underdevelopment, but finds his model in the spectacular presentations of black ideologists and bureaucrats. Northwestern was a charming beginning, and more recently, City College. The Panther heroes with their auxiliary, the Black Student Unions, present the basic reformist demands, and though they do not know it, they will be rendered superfluous by those demands that will be accepted. The apparent victory is only the appearance of victory.

Bureaucratic capitalism does not see the reforms necessary to its survival: these are first presented by oppositional bureaucrats and ideologists. This presentation is necessary. The prevailing system needs functionaries trained in Black Studies Programs, its welfare breakfast administrators, and the universities need to incorporate students into their administrations — but the presentation is 'unofficial,' spectacularly oppositional and therefore excessive. Once the official programs are created (minus ideological exaggerations) to meet the needs, there follows the spectacular destruction of the agents of exaggeration. It was true of the old Bolsheviks and more recently in our particular history, the 'leftists' in the formation of the CIO — and it will come true for the Panthers and their white collegiate counterparts. This spectacular destruction, serving to create the myths of martyrs that will colonize and falsify future opposition, only covers the real tightening up on those "masses" whose violent excesses find no possible bureaucratic integration.