WE LEARN MORE AND MORE about the SI and what it did during its 14 years as time goes by. Inevitably, changes to or revisions of our most basic conceptions about the situationists have been and will no doubt continue to be necessary. There are several more important situationist books written in French that need to be translated. There are also quite a few very interesting and still untranslated situationist texts in Danish, Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish. And so there will be at least several more waves of English translations to hit these shores over the course of the next decade or so.
ANOTHER REASON FOR WRITING a new introduction to the SI every few years is the fact that situationist literature, like all great art, is far too experimental, unstable and internally inconsistent to be definitely summarized by anyone, no matter the familiarity with French or with the texts themselves, at any time. Something important always manages to escape; all guides to or summarizers of the SI seem doomed to make crucial mistakes, incredible omissions, unfortunate misinterpretations, and poor or hasty judgments. As a writer of two and now three introductions to the SI, I unfortunately speak from experience. (In case you're wondering, I didn't list my 1991 performance-piece "The Situationist Concept of Spectacle, Then & Now" among the existing introductions to the SI because the text of it has not yet been uploaded to the Internet.)
BUT IT IS ALSO A DISTINCT POSSIBILITY that the "problem" of having to write new introductions does not lie with the SI or the nature of its texts. Instead, the "problem" might lie with the changing nature of the society in which we find ourselves, and our relationship to it. As we will see, the situationist project was the beginnings of an attempt to completely abolish both Western capitalism and Eastern bureaucratic communism, and institute true ("anarchist") social democracy for the first time in history. Since the dissolution of the SI, a number of unprecedented events have taken place; the world scene is quite simply no longer what it was over the course of the 1950s, '60s and '70s. In particular, the Soviet Socialist Republics (as well as all of its European satellites) have collapsed and disappeared.
CONSEQUENTLY, THE GLOBAL CONTRAST between capitalism and bureaucratic communism -- sharp during the 1957 to 1971 period -- has become dull. But it has not disappeared: the most populous nation on Earth, and thus one in four people, is still governed by a totalitarian "socialist" bureaucracy. Armed conflicts seem to take place less and less in the geo-political realm and more and more in the socio-economic realm; racial and ethnic hatreds seem to be replacing ideological hatreds. But international class struggle has not disappeared: in Nigeria, in Albania, in Chiapas, in Seoul, and in Rangoon, the laboring classes are now fighting intense, all-out battles against both the military juntas that rule them and the multinational corporations that ruthlessly exploit them. In the midst of (the organized confusion that is) the "post-Cold War period," it seems increasingly difficult to imagine that something other than capitalism has been or will ever be possible. And yet the material preconditions for the emergence of anarchist social democracy grow more ripe every day.
CONSEQUENTLY, WE FEEL THE NEED to tell (again) the story of the Situationist International, a group of anarchists and artists who wished more than anything else to have a clear and accurate description of what capitalism really is and how it functions, and to have a concrete and effective programme by and through which capitalism could be completely abolished, bureaucratic communism could be avoided, and anarchist social democracy could begin.
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