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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Situationist vs Anarchists in 1968

Enrages and Situationists in the Occupation Movement , France May 1968

Stuart Christie’s dismissal of a Situationist role in the events of May 1968 (see blog below) has been critically commented on. Here is the quote from Stuart’s book ‘Granny made me an Anarchist‘Scribner: 2004 :

One myth that has to be scotched here is that of Situationist influence on May’68, at least according to my Nanterre friends from the 22 March movement who were present at the birth. They assure me that although both Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle and Raoul Vaneigem’s Revolution of Everyday Life were both published in 1967 and surreal graffiti were on the walls, Vaneigem and Debord provided little if any intellectual inspiration during the uprising. Their main contribution came later. [ page 278]

There follows a discussion (pages 275/ 278) of the events and Stuart’s reaction to them - a piece of graffiti ‘Paris Today, Hornsey Tomorrow’ on Hornsey Town Hall. It would seem from the context ( p 275) that the ‘friends from Nanterre’ mentioned were Jean Pierre Duteuil and Dany Cohn-Bendit.

This may explain the ‘situation’. In July 1968, Rene Vienet wrote an account of the events in
‘Enrages and Situationists in the Occupation Movement, France, May 1968’. This was published in 1968 by Editions Gallimard in France. An English translation was published by Autonomedia (New York) and Rebel Press (London) in 1992. At various places in the book, - pages 21, 22, 23, 30 and 35- Vienet criticises Cohn-Bendit from a Situationist perspective.

The critical factor (pages 20/23) was that the Nanterre March 22nd group (which Stuart mentions and included Dany Cohn-Bendit) was a group of ‘traditional’ anarchists and leftists and were opposed and provoked by the ‘Enrages’ who were inspired by and collaborated with the Situationist International [Vienet’s footnote 3, page 59].

This is interesting - can some of the tension and confusion within ‘anarcho- punk’ and between anarcho-punk and mainstream anarchism be traced back to the Engrage vs. March 22nd movement conflict? And which re-surfaced again with the Wapping Autonomy Centre… as this quote from Albert Meltzer from http://www.spunk.org/texts/writers/meltzer/sp001591/angels21.html shows

by the time 121 was being squatted I had committed myself both to it and to an entirely different venture, the Autonomy Club in Wapping. It was Ronan Bennett's brainchild. Ever the optimist, I hoped it would take off, against reasonable expectations and my own expressed judgment. Iris Mills and Ronan put a tremendous amount of work into funding, finding and then building and decorating the place. Ronan, possibly misled by the backing the Persons Unknown had received, which numerically might have been about the same as that of the Republican Clubs of Belfast, not unreasonably thought at least one club on those lines could be established. In some capital cities on the Continent there are up to a dozen anarchist clubs or centres.

But the amount of committed support was limited. Ronan decided to appeal for support from the punk anarchists, then a new phenomenon, saying the punks would pass anyway and would be useful for the time it was around. The punk support, especially from followers of Crass and Poison Girls, was substantial. Punk has lasted a couple of decades, long outlasting the proposed club. With the punks' money came the punks, and in the first week they had ripped up every single piece of furniture carefully bought, planned and fitted, down to the lavatory fittings that had been installed by Ronan from scratch, and defaced our own and everyone else's wall for blocks around. In the excitement of the first gigs where they could do as they liked, they did as they liked and wrecked the place. Loss of club, loss of money, loss of effort. End of story. Ronan was not unnaturally disheartened and returned to even more chaotic Northern Irish politics.

Enough for now.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the disagreements between Situationists and anarchists in May 68 can really be compared to the tensions between punks and mainstream anarchists at The Autonomy Centre etc. The former were political disagreements, the problems at various squats and centres were not so much political rows between old school anarchists and anarcho-punk pacifist idealogues (although these existed) but between both these groups and some of the less political 'anti-social' 'brew crew' types who tended to trash everything they came across.
Hippy, punk and subsequent scenes (e.g. anti-road camps) have often attracted people with nowhere else to go and with heavy alcohol and drugs problems (sometimes mental health too). Many a space has been destroyed by the difficulty in dealing with this and the behaviour that results.

8:45 am  

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