Monday, February 19, 2007


Who are the Situationists ?

Jørgen NASH

The first manifestation made by the Second Situationist International after it broke away from the I.S. was a leaflet signed by Jaqueline de Jong, Ansger Elde and myself. Shortly after the group Seven Rebels was formed at Bauhaus Situationiste Drakabygget, founded in 1960 in southern Sweden. It is a situationistic centre for experiments in film, painting, décollage, urbanism, poetry, archaeology and music.

The Franco-Belgian situationists base themselves on the same principles as Pascal, Descartes, Croce and Gide. Action precedes emotion. You only begin to feel religious after you have muttered your prayers. According to Scandinavian situationist philosophy action is the result of emotion and arises out of emotion. Emotion is a primary, non-reflective intelligence; passionate thought/thinking passion. We are not saying that the French method is wrong or that it cannot be used successfully. We merely say that our two outlooks are incompatible, but they can be made to supplement one another.

The Second Situationist International is a freely organised movement. It is a voluntary association of autonomous work groups. At the moment there exist four such groups on the Hallandsåsen in the southern part of Sweden, and two more in Denmark and Finland. It also works together with the German avant-garde group SPUR in Munich, whose books have partly been published at Drakabygget ... A periodical against popes, politicians and atomic bombs called Drakabygget has been edited since 1962, with the journalist and painter Katarina Lindell as editor. The following declaration is a quotation from this magazine :

1) I promise that I shall never, personally, under any circumstances set foot in an atomic shelter. It is better to die standing with all the cultural heritage of humanity, the perpetual modification of which must be our task. The labour movement was once considered to be the salt of the earth. Today it is more like a milch cow, whose udders are being pumped in an effort to get more and more material benefits - at the expense of the mind.

2) I refuse to have anything whatsoever to do with the aristocracy of the caves, and never to drink in the company of an owner or a builder of an atomic shelter; for this subterranean aristocracy, even if it man-ages to survive the disaster, will be of the quality of sewer rats, and could in no case be considered a continuation of the human race.

3) At this point in our present situation it is not so much the thermonuclear war, but rather the threat of this war, which shows the absolute bankruptcy of all the politi-cians in the world. The capitalist or bureaucratic leaders of both east and west already make use of their bombs every day, in order to secure power for them-selves. Only if one realises that they have placed themselves beyond the law can one establish a new legality. I therefore pledge myself not to expect the necessary upheavals of society by any of the existing formations of specialized politics.

This is part of the Mutant-manifesto, signed by all the members of the movement. But as we are no missionaries, and our movement is absolutely anti-authoritarian, we don't run around forcing people to sign our manifesto. The Bauhaus production of books, booklets, lithographs and periodicals is thoroughly non-commercial. Our job is to produce then our public has to act to get hold of our publications ! ...

In the Manifesto of the Second Situationist International we wrote the « Modern industrial society has so far been organized along classical lines as developed in Greece and in Rome. During the industrial period following the French revolution there have been cycles in which all the different forms of such a method of government have been explored. This has been a valuable experience. It has shown that the enlightened autocracy of Plato and the more or less aristocratic military dictatorship which replaced legal govern-ment, as well as the various forms of democracy (including the latest edition, the so-called « people's » democracy) - that none of these have been capable of creating a form of government to meet and satisfy human needs, still less to allow life to flourish and prosper.

« The new phenomenon which has dominated industrial society from the beginning, despite some pioneer romanticism, is a growing socialization of all the means of life - which is itself the ineluctable consequence of machine techniques. By socialism we understand the inclusive principle which makes society the centre, meaning and purpose of all human activity. It is all the same whether one takes this evolution to mean progress or whether one interprets it as a growing threat to human freedom. Both attitudes amount to the same thing. Socialisation will spread in one way or another. Man can only dominate his future environment if we face this fact. We must use this knowledge to evolve the means of liberation. In order to win it is essential for us to extricate ourselves from the principle of fatalistic necessity and to regain a new potential of choice and self-determination.

« The social structure which fulfils the new conditions for freedom we have termed the situcratic order. The point of departure is the de-christianisation of Kierkegaard's philosophy of situations. This must be combined with British economic doctrine, German dialectic and French social action programmes.

« It involves a profound revision of Marx's doctrine and a complete revolution whose growth is rooted in the Scandinavian concept of culture.

« This new ideology and philosophical theory we have called situology. It is places on the principles of social democracy inasmuch as it excludes all forms of artificial privilege. It is the only existing guarantee which ensures that human life can exist in all its cultural variety and without crushing the special abilities of the individual in an anonymous society designed for the unfit. Sartre says that we should always ask what would happen if everyone acted like me. Our answer is that we should all die of boredom. We want to make it possible for man to be free to gamble his life. This can only happen if everyone is allowed to have individual freedom of action. »

Greco-Roman thinking is rooted in political and social theory. It is opposed to our own way of thinking because we believe that man as a human being, an individual stands at the centre of all worthwhile activity. Sartre's scolasticism has been called humanistic, but in fact his human being is a socio-centric creature.

There are some people who will fail to grasp the significance of the Situationist struggle. The head-on collision in which we are involved will strike them as inexplicable. But we are convinced that one day this phase will be seen as an event of primary importance for Europe: the moment before a decisive breakthrough. To those who think that a verbal battle is not worth fighting, we would like to say this : A word war is better than a world war.

Jørgen NASH, « Who are the Situationists ? », Times Literary Supplement, numéro spécial sur l'Avant-garde, September 1964, 1964.


Post a Comment

<< Home