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8. Yet Another Introduction to the Situationist International . . . Bill Brown

THE THIRD PERIOD OF THE SI (1968 to 1971) was largely taken up with accurately reporting, documenting and interpreting what had happened in Paris and elsewhere in France during May 1968. Because of the clarity and severity of their take on the rebellion, the situationists -- in Rene Vienet's 1968 book Enrages and Situationists in the Occupations Movement and in the 12th and, as it turned out, last issue of their journal (September 1969) -- produced both the most knowledgeable and the most useful accounts of it. But the SI was not sure what its own next step should be, now that "the much anticipated revolution" had arrived; indeed, its members weren't even sure if the SI could or should, in the aftermath of May, continue to exist as it had before.

THE BEGINNING OF 1970 saw the organization polling itself on these questions. By the end of the year, Raoul Vaneigem had resigned and several members had been excluded for being too "contemplative," that is, being too taken with their status as stars of May 1968. In 1971, the remaining members of the SI decided to dissolve the group and pursue their respective activities as unaffiliated individuals. The following year, the group published The Veritable Split in the International, within which there were in-depth analyses of everything of interest -- the May 1968 revolt, the situationists' spectacular visibility, the resignation of Vaneigem and the issues it raised, etc. -- with the exception of the SI's quiet and unexpected decision to disband. (Note: a different interpretation of the SI's last few years and end can be found elsewhere.)

OTHER OPTIONS FOR THE GROUP clearly included acclimating themselves to their unwanted celebrity and learning how to use it to further their aims, or arming themselves, going underground and becoming terrorists, as several ultraleft groups in France, Germany, Italy, England and the United States did in the 1970s. But these options were no doubt rejected as absurd. The only choice left was to disappear -- to return to the nowhere out of which their movement had so unexpectedly emerged -- as quietly as possible. So quiet is the farewell to the SI contained in Debord's 1973 cinematic adaption of La Societe du Spectacle that you might miss the fact that celebrating the rise and fall of the SI is the film's raison d'etre.

NEITHER FETISHIZERS NOR DENIERS of their past, unsullied by both nostalgia for the 1960s and the blood of murdered people, the situationists managed to go out much as they had come in: e.g., masters of their own fate. Thus it seems to us now that their project can be resumed at any time and by anybody who has the ambition, the vision and the commitment to do so.

AND YET IT'S OBVIOUS AND INEVITABLE that there will be problems with any concerted attempt to apply the theory and practice of the Situationist International to contemporary struggles in America. Let us concentrate on four of the most important of them.

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