NOT a review of "Guy Debord Is Really Dead" by Luther Blissett
Sabotage Editions, London, 1995
"Philosophy and the study of the actual world have the same relationship to one another as masturbation and sexual love."
Marx, "The German Ideology"
This pamphlet is subtitled "the failures of the Situationist International considered in their historical, cultural, psychological, sexual and especially political aspects, appended with the modest proposal that we cease allowing the traditions of the dead generations to dominate the lives of the living", and that pretty much sums up its intentions and subject matter. The argument presented is neither very original nor useful; so the S.I. "failed", they had hierarchical tendencies and some illusions about bringing consciousness to the masses, even though they claimed to be critical of such concepts, etc... These are no great revelations. Far better and useful critiques of the SI have been done - notably by J. Barrot back in the early 70s. (It is not our intention here to bother to either condemn or glorify the SI).
But what strikes us as interesting is not the content of this dull text, but the motives of those involved in publishing this edition. There are a few clues in the text itself, but its necessary to look at the general strategy of those involved by a recognition of all they have done up to now to see what they stand for and whose interest they defend.
The text's editor and the writer of the intro is Stewart Home (from now on we'll adopt the style of his text and give silly names to people we don't like). Stupid Gnome has carved himself a cushy career as a writer and specialist authority on the avant-guard art scene. Time Out, the Independent, British Arts Council, ICA, trendy posers, art students and sections of academia all love him and throw money his way.
It was in the 80s that the British intellectuals and academics really became aware of or very interested in the SI - partly prompted by the neatly packaged commodity of the ICA's SI exhibition. Suddenly the SI was hip! Well they must be cos Channel 4 and the Guardian said so and Stupid Gnome was lecturing at the ICA about them. (Stuffy old British academia has generally been about 30 years behind their more sophisticated French counterparts). Gnome also encouraged interest of this kind by a regular stream of publications which (whatever the subject matter) never failed to mention the SI and/or other supposed situationists in critical, often abusive terms. When viewed over several years, and in the light of his relentless negativity towards the SI, this amounts to a sad obsession. (His main collaborator in this is his chum Fried-Brain, over at "Unpopular Books".) These people have spent years collecting irrelevant gossip, obscure scraps of useless (and often inaccurate) information about the SI and those related to them - and then published and presented them as great scoops, revelations about the -real untold story- of the SI. Big fucking deal! Who cares if, for example, there's some vague possibility that some SI member dealt hash in Paris in the 50s (as The Gnome wildly speculates in his intro)? These people have more irrelevant things to say about the SI and less insight into them than anyone else on the planet: they are the train spotters of radical theory. (And more recently, the occult). They feel a need to constantly use the SI like a mirror in order to be able to define themselves, their "originality" and to practice their poses.
HOME IS WHERE THE ART IS
They reserve their greatest venom and bitchiness for those who have tried to take from the SI what remains useful in order to contribute something to trying to transform this miserable world. Those attacked have generally not been attempting to build careers or get celebrity status from their efforts.
Much of Mr Gnome's antagonism towards the SI is that part of what remains relevant about their theory is that they were uncompromising in exposing and condemning those who play roles like the Gnome's; i.e. those happy being a specialist celebrity in the cultural spectacle. He has developed this role as a recuperator (*) by treating history like most other bourgeois historians - as a history of organisations and famous individuals, rather than as a history of broad social movements. This explains his obsession with gossip about the "stars" of the SI and constant "exposures" of their failings and hypocrisy, while he has nothing to say about today's struggles (see below).
For those whose only interest in the SI is as a possible source of methods for radical activity (theoretical or otherwise) they will take from them what remains useful and dump the rest. This is done from a perspective of the necessity of an escalation of class struggle to change the world. Class struggle is something rarely mentioned in Stupid Gnome's scribbles, and then only in the abstract, usually for aesthetic effect or show he's read certain books; there's rarely anything about the concrete events of today. As he says in his intro, for him the social struggles of today merely encompass "plagiarism, the avant-bard, pranks, scandals and the creation of urban myths"; i..e. the playground games of Gnome and his avant-guard poser pals.
For those who may take certain aspects of the SI to attempt a clearer understanding of this world we must leave, he has only contempt - for he senses (in a confused way) that any utilisation of the SI's theory makes clear the need to attack those like him; nasty little attention seeking careerists and recuperators.
Don't worry, the class struggle will bury the likes of him.
ELLEN KARRYOUT and A. FREEMASON
*) Recuperation; a term used by the SI, meaning to recover or reincorporate a subversive tendency back into the present system. This defines Stupid Gnome's role perfectly; he's clearly very at home hanging out with his artist, journalist and academic pals - and in their hands anything radical becomes merely a subject for philosophical wanking and historical cataloguing, deliberately divorcing theory from any practical application.
Published by A CLASS ACT TO ABOLISH ALL CLASSES
For info: SABOTAGE EDITIONS, BM Senior, London WC1N 3XX, United Kingdom.