Reflections on Violence
Internationale Situationniste #9 (August 1964)
Translated by Thomas Y. Levin
THE REVOLT AGAINST existing conditions is manifest everywhere. It has not yet taken the form of an explicit project or an organization because the position is still occupied at the moment by the old, mystified, and mendacious revolutionary politics. This politics has failed and has inverted its own repressive opposite because it was incapable of grasping the unacceptable and the possible in their totality. As evidenced by its contemporary ruins, revolutionary politics has been equally unable to define either the unacceptable or the possible because its practice failed and transformed itself into a lie. The revolutionary project can only be realized once again by means of excess; it needs a new maximalism that demands a total transformation of society. Kowa Shoitani's gesture is not absurd: a society can choose to invest its resources in the development of television stations, in medical research, or in other types of more unexpected research. "The eye has become the human eye just as the object has become a social, human object, which is to say produced by men for men . . . The development of the five senses is the work of all of past history" (Marx, 1844 Manuscripts).
Today sports and idols draw the crowds that the political parties can no longer even dream of attracting. This is because for quite some time now the masses gathered together by politics were nothing but masses of passive spectators gaping at deceptive idols. However, these spectators that have succumbed to the contemplation of futile competitions also bring their dissatisfaction with them. In Lima, a mere falsification of the superficial spectacle was enough to awaken a radical refusal that revolted against the totality of spectacular falsification. This is what assures that the psychodrama will go bankrupt before it has fulfilled the stultifying function that its administrators expect of it.
In Clacton, gangs had it in for the local population, above all, the world of the adults. This manifested itself in the form of gratuitous acts of vandalism. In Morgate and Brighton they fought each other for various, obscure reasons . . . The presence of an "audience" beginning with the mass of reporters and television cameramen, and also including the respectable adult tourists both terrified and attracted by the much reported violence without a doubt played a role. As others have already observed, the youths presented themselves as spectacle . . .
Le Monde, 20-5-64.
A year ago, the black-jacket toughs of Serinette, a neighborhood in the suburbs of Toulon, decided to terrorize a seventy-year-old lady, Madame Hervé Conneau. A widow for quite a number of years, she lived alone in a comfortable house located in the middle of a park, a residence that everyone in the area called "the castle." It was the park that first caught the attention of the young gang, since the foliage lent itself well for meetings and semi-clandestine gatherings . . . Once they had occupied the park, the young thugs began to attack the castle itself. "One morning," the old lady recounts, "I noticed that they had leveled the chapel." There had been, in fact, a small, half-ruined chapel near the house: the "black jackets" had demolished it stone by stone during the night.
Le Monde, 10-5-64.
Jean-Marie Launay, born in Dreux (Eure-et-Loir), a young soldier from the 735th Munitions Company that guards a major depot near Thouars, had conceived of a plan to blow up the depot together with its thousands of tons of ammunition. Some friends who were supposed to come from Chartres in a stolen car would then have taken advantage of the ensuing panic to rob the vaults of the Place Lavault branch of the Banque Populaire, in the very center of Thouars.
Le Monde, 20-1-62.
Large numbers of arrests during the last few days. The Caen fair. Endless Brigitte Bardot films. The gangs from La Guérinière and Grâce-de-Dieu. The bus station. Girls doing strip-tease in basements. Delinquent minors turn up in court at age 20 . . . The V. family . . . occupy four rooms three bedrooms and a salon with built-in kitchen at La Guérinière. Mrs. V. . . . shows me the room: "You see, it has all the amenities: refrigerator, television, but he always insists on going out with his friends. Recently, they have been at the fair. I did not think that they would raise any trouble."
7 Jours de Caen, April 1964.
Around noon on Wednesday, the US ambassador to Japan, Mr Edwin Reischauer, was stabbed in the right leg by a young nineteen-year-old Japanese man in the embassy courtyard. Although seriously wounded, the ambassador's life is not in danger . . . According to the Japanese police, the aggressor is an unstable youth whose action was not politically motivated. The nineteen-year-old, whose name is Kowa Shoitani, lives in Numazu, one-hundred-fifty kilometers southwest of Tokyo. By means of his action he wanted to call attention to the inadequate medical aid given to those suffering eye illnesses. According to the police report he is said to have declared: "I am short-sighted and it is because of the bad political situation caused by the American occupation that Japan does not provide facilities for people who suffer from problems of vision."
Le Monde, 25-3-64.
In Algiers at night, groups of slightly drunk men occasionally roam through the former rue d'Isly shouting out their list of demands: "Wine! Women!"
Daniel Guérin, Combat, 16-1-64.
The authorities are preparing to launch an operation against the young "black sheep" that are becoming increasingly numerous in the streets of the larger Algerian cities. On 1 December last year, president Ben Bella already alluded to this "social blight." "We are going to take care of them," he announced. "The FLN is going to undertake a large operation to break their necks. We will make the necessary arrangements to send them to camps in the Sahara where they will break stones."
Le Monde, 18-12-63.
A young twenty-one-year-old man, Ryszard Bucholz, was condemned to death on Saturday by the Warsaw court for having assaulted and seriously wounded a police officer together with two of his friends in Polish capital last October 12 . . . The same day, Tadeusz Walcak, from the Wroclow region, was also sentenced to death for using a hunting rifle to shoot and seriously wound two police officers and an army officer who had surprised him as he was in the process of robbing a store. The same sentence was handed down for Julian Krol, a resident of Warsaw, who had already previously been indicted for armed assault, this time for having seriously wounded with a pistol a police officer who had asked to see his identity papers . . . The extreme severity of these judgments seems to be due to the wave of gang violence and juvenile delinquency now raging in Poland.
A.F.P., Warsaw, 18-11-63.
Three "sadistic hooligans" were shot to death according to a communiqué from the attorney general of the Republic of Bulgaria. The statement emphasizes the extremely brutal manner in which the three thugs "attracted by the bourgeois mode of life" had accomplished their crimes.
A.F.P., Sofia, 11-4-64.
Three hundred and fifty dead and more than eight hundred wounded: this is the outcome of the soccer game in Lima yesterday in which Peu faced Argentina. The match, which was part of the pre-Olympic South American tournament, suddenly degenerated into a riot when the Uruguayan referee, Mr. Eduardo Pazos, in front of the forty-five thousand people that had gathered in the national stadium, disqualified the goal scored against his own team by the Argentinean Moralès . . . In the stands, the tension mounted by the second. Shortly thereafter, in view of the increasingly threatening crowd, the referee decided to stop the match, thereby giving the victory to the Argentineans by a score of 1 to 0.
Breaking down all the fences, hundreds of people then rushed onto the field. The police, completely overwhelmed, threw tear-gas grenades and fired shots into the air . . .
The real tragedy began, however, when the gates of the stadium were violently burst open. This caused a terrible and murderous crush. Thousands of people rushed out into the streets, smashing and trampling women and children. This human tide demolished everything in its way: cars were overturned and then set on fire and a number of buildings close to the stadium were invaded. A tire factory and the "Jockey Club" were set on fire as were two other houses and three buses . . . Soon thereafter, in the center of the city, groups of crazed fanatics began to pelt store windows with stones and set cars on fire.