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Is the Reichstag Burning?

Italian Section of the Situationist International

December 1969

Translated from the French by Not Bored!


The real movement of the revolutionary Italian proletariat is on the way towards reaching the point that renders impossible — for it and for its enemies — all turning back. Given the fact that the illusions of the possibility of restoring the "normality" of the preceding situation are all dissolving one after the other, both parties find the necessity of risking their respective presents to win their respective futures.

Faced with the growing revolutionary movement, despite the methodical action of the recuperation of the labor unions and the bureaucrats of the old and new "Left," power was compelled to come under the jurisdiction of the old comedy of order, in playing this time the double-dealing card of terrorism, in an attempt to conjure up the situation in which it will be obliged to reveal its game directly to the clarity of the revolution.

The anarchist assaults of 1921, the desperate actions of the survivors of the failure of the revolutionary movement of this epoch, furnished a convenient pretext for instaurating, with fascism, the state of siege in all of society.

The Italian bourgeoisie, even though helpless, has been strengthened by the lessons of the past. It need not experience big fear of the revolutionary movement, nor wait for the strength that can only be provided by the revolutionary movement's defeat, in order for the bourgeoisie to free itself from its democratic illusions. Today, the Italian bourgeoisie doesn't wait for or even need the errors of the old anarchists in order to find a pretext for the political realization of its totalitarian reality, but seeks to construct this pretext for itself by implicating the new anarchists in a police scenario or by manipulating the most naive among them in a crude provocation. The anarchists offer in effect the best trump for the exigencies of power: separated and ideological image of the real movement, their spectacular "extremism" prevents them from attaining the real extremism of the movement.

THE BOMB IN MILAN EXPLODED AGAINST THE PROLETARIAT, it was intended to wound the least radicalized categories in order to ally them with power, and to tighten the ranks of the bourgeoisie for the witch hunt: it was not by chance that there was a massacre among the farmers (at the National Agricultural Bank) and only fear among the bourgeois (at the Commercial Bank). The results, direct and indirect, of those outrages are their intended effects.

In the past, the terrorist act — as primitive and infantile manifestation of the revolutionary violence within backwards situations, or as lost violence on the terrain of the unsuccessful revolutions — has never been but an act of partial refusal and, because of this, recuperated in advance: the negation of politics on the terrain of politics itself. On the contrary, in the actual situation, faced with the mounting of a new revolutionary movement, it is power itself that, in its tendency to totalitarian affirmation, expresses in this spectacular way its proper terrorist negation.

In an epoch that sees the rebirth of the movement that suppresses all power separated from individuals, power itself is obliged to rediscover, as far as conscious praxis, that all that it does not kill, weakens it. But the Italian bourgeoisie is the most miserable of Europe. Incapable today of effecting its own active terror over the proletariat, there is nothing left for it to do but attempt to communicate to the majority of the population its own passive terror, the fear of the proletariat.

Impotent and clumsy in the attempt to block in this manner the development of the revolutionary movement and, at the same time, to create artificially a force that it does not posssess, the Italian bourgeoisie risks losing both these possibilities in one go. Thus it is that the most advanced factions of power (internal or parallel, governmental or of the opposition) had to deceive themselves. The excess of weakness brings the Italian bourgeoisie back onto the terrain of police excess; it begins to understand that its only way out of an agony without out end goes hand-in-hand with the risk of an immediate end of its agony.

Thus, power must play, from the start, the last political card to be played before the civil war or a coup d'Etat of which it is incapable: the double card of the false "anarchist peril" (for the right) and of the false "fascist peril" (for the left), in the aim of disguising and making possible its offensive against the true danger: the proletariat. Futhermore, the act by which the bourgeoisie attempts today to conjure away civil war is in reality its first act of civil war against the proletariat. For the proletariat, it is not a matter of avoiding or beginning this civil war, but winning it.

And the proletariat has hereforth to understand that it can not win by the use of partial violence, but by the total self-management of revolutionary violence and the general arming of organized workers in Workers' Councils. The proletariat henceforth knows from now on that it must definitely repulse, by the revolution, the ideology of violence along with the violence of ideology.

Comrades: don't let yourself stop here: power and its allies fear losing everything; we must not fear them and especially we must not fear ourselves: "We have nothing to lose but our chains and all the world to gain."

Long live the absolute power of Workers' Councils!


The Friends of the International