Red Army Faction, Red Brigades, Angry Brigade
The Spectacle Of Terror In Post War Europe
"Italian terrorism is the last enigma of the society of the spectacle and only those who reason dialectically can solve it…. Today, all those who speak of social revolution without denouncing and combating the terrorist counter-revolution have a corpse in their mouths."
Gianfranco Sanguinetti, founding member of the Italian Section of the Situationist International, writing in his 1978 work 'On Terrorism and the State' (and the later 'Preface to the French Edition', both included here) gave clear voice to the ideological position of the situationists in relation to the armed struggle groups that rose up in Europe in the early 1970's, and that continued to occupy swathes of the extra parliamentary left's political landscape into the early 80's.
This collection brings together a spread of writers, revolutionaries and reprobates to offer up a variety of critical perspectives on some of the key groupings involved in those armed struggles. Dave and Stuart Wise, key figures in King Mob, look deeply into the relationship between the Italian Communist Party, workers struggles post 68' and the roots of the Red Brigades, and succinctly concludes of the latter: "they added to the substitutionism of Lenin, who replaced the proletariat by the Party, by replacing the Party with the armed struggle."
Charity Scribner, MIT Professor, contributes "Buildings on Fire: The Situationist International and the Red Army Faction", exploring how and why the SI and the RAF's differing definitions of autonomy produced divergent modes of resistance... more
Vague : the Great British Mistake : 1979-84
intro by Jon Savage
"Reading through these back copies of Vague is to trip through time. The world that Tom Vague wrote about with a partisan passion has completely gone. That is to be expected, of course, as the events he described occurred between twenty-two and thirty-five years ago. Even so, there was so much I had forgotten about the 1980's - and, contrary to his assumed name - Tom brings it back with an engaged precision. He was there, and he communicates the eddies and the flows, the sub-currents of a time that is still misunderstood, is still barely known.
"Vague" began, as it happened, a few months after "England's Dreaming" left off: in the post-punk diaspora of late 1979. Turning nineteen years old in sunny Salisbury, Tom Vague began by featuring local punk bands as well as all the major acts that passed through or nearby - the Banshees, the Cure, the Ruts, Joy Division, Red Krayola, the Gang of Four, Clash, Adam and the Ants. It wasn't a pure punk fanzine - it was too late for that - but matched punk irreverence with the overall feeling of experimentation that still existed at the end of the 1970's.
Over the first few issues, "Vague" continued to work out the possibilities of independence - in all senses of the word - that had been pioneered in 1976 by Mark Perry (fanzines) and in 1977 by Buzzcocks and the Desperate Bicycles (seven inch records). The whole point about fanzines and DIY singles was that you didn't have to do what everyone else did. So "Vague" mixed up reviews with Perry Harris' cartoons and what Tom describes as 'stream of consciousness prose' that reflected the chaos and the intimacy of the moment.
Coming from a small, local scene, Tom Vague was used to rubbing up against all kinds of subcultures. In Salisbury, there was a mix of hippies, posers and punks, who, when they banded together, 'had to avoid bikers, Teds, rockabillies, squaddies, smoothies, etc.' There's an inclusive nature about the early Vague's which is very different from London's elitism." ... more
"I met a prostitute – Angela W – from the fishing port of Grimsby on the mouth of the Humber in the North of England. I instantly fell in love with her in an all consuming way. The pain inside my body, so massively accumulated with the death of hopes for the social revolution...was wrenched away from me as she slowly...shambled towards me."
So begins what is at various times a highly personal, deeply political, coldly analytical and achingly optimistic account of what some consider to be one of the most important English political groupings of the 20th Century and beyond.
From a radical working class perspective, Dave Wise (helped by brother Stuart and longtime collaborator Nick Brandt) gives a first hand account of the (loose) formation of King Mob after their core members were excluded from the Situationist International by the schism-happy Debord in 1967. (Not, unfortunately, as the story used to go, after Debord came to London looking for the crack squad of pro-situ streetfighters he'd heard about, and found Dave and Stuart W. sat in front of Match of the Day getting on the lager- it never happened). "A Critical History…." celebrates their attempt to move "from the Situationist salon to the street" ... more
There's a moment in Jack Kerouac's 1962 autobiographical come-down novel 'Big Sur' where 'the King of the Beats' (a term he hated) comes face to face with "some sort of Beat Jesus", an 18 year old proto-hippy, there in San Francisco, a good eight or nine years before Woodstock, and a forbearer of a subcultural, generational shift that arguably changed Western culture for good.
Boys Own, the Complete Fanzines, 1986-92, has Big Sur moments peppered through the 1986-88 issues, as a small crew of West London football lads, clubbers, music freaks and blaggers start to realise that they're not just near the centre of Acid House as it starts to emerge from the primordial swamp of mid 80's UK subculture, they and the faces around them are helping create it... more
Since their birth in the late 1960's as a working class subcultural response to what was seen as a feminised, bourgeois-hippy parent culture, the skinhead has since held a semi-mythological status... more
After Guy Debord's seminal Society of the Spectacle, this new compendium brings together eight other important situationist works. Ivan Chtcheglov opens proceedings via his Formulary for a New Urbanism (1953)... more
From 43AD, and the building of the (no doubt very straight) Roman Great West Road to Silchester, to 2009, another bout of Carnival Riots and David Cameron getting his bike nicked outside Tescos...more
The Das Kapital of the 20th century,Society of the Spectacle is an essential text, and the main theoretical work of the Situationists. Few works of political and cultural theory... more