May 68' - A Compendium

Situationist reflections on the uprisings in France, May 1968

The 50th anniversary of the events of France/ May 68' passed earlier this year with little fanfare. - maybe there wasn't much left to say after 50 yr of endless rehash and revision. What coverage there was left the usual analysis – lite / image heavy trail in it’s wake : young street fighting Parisians, earnest but chic looking Sorbonne occupiers, the iconic graffiti and posters on ageing city walls : imagery all long since passed into the mythology of pop-situ subculture, endlessly recycled and recuperated, stripped bare of any meaningful political legacy.

Within that mythology, the role of the Situationists has long been contested: underplayed exaggerated, misunderstood. This compendium reprints crucial pieces written by the Situs themselves, helping show MayWithin that mythology, the role of the Situationists has long been contested : underplayed or overplayed, and often misunderstood. Situationist International membership numbers never exceeded the low 80's during it's 15 years existence, and active Situ supporters amongst the Sorbonne occupation movement in early May 68' were in single digits, heavily outnumbered by the 57 varieties of Maoist, Trot and Tankie that surrounded them. And what happened outside of the Sorbonne, as workers broke free from moribund, Communist Party controlled Union federations , occupying factories across France, dwarfed the initial student uprisings in terms of scale and potential impact.

But "Beneath the Paving Stones, the Beach" is always going to look zingier on a t shirt than '10m rank and file workers on strike by the End of May', and May 68' will to some extent always be associated with youth-lead, subcultural political energy, and the few Situationists that helped foment it. This compendium reprints crucial pieces written by the Situationists themselves, some contemporaneously and from the heart of the events, helping show the reality of May 68' as a reaction to a profound systemic stasis running through mid 20th C capitalism, and a direct response to the autocratic, hierarchical, and tradition-bound ruling class that still oversaw it in France. 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

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Like a Summer With a Thousand Julys

Collected Writings from Dave + Stuart Wise, 1978 -2008

Now into their late 60's, and still working with the same gang of skilled / unskilled labourers, chippies, sparks and plumbers on the London building sites that they've been working on since the late 70's, key King Mob faces Dave and Stuart Wise reply simply and straightforwardly to a question about coping with the decades long aftermath to the "death of the social revolution" in the late 60's, a death that left them initially isolated and adrift, two working class insurrectionists and dreamers slowly drowning in a sea of desertion and recuperation : "it's the crack, 10 of us, all on equal pay, equal status, working together, no tension, getting jobs done, ideas and conversations drifting back and forth between equals. It creates an energy..."

Outside of the sites, and long after King Mob had ended, the Wise brothers never stopped the writing, thinking or agitating, and this, a companion volume to last years' warmly received 'King Mob : A Critical Hidden History' pulls together some of the best of their polemics, reflections, and righteous rants from the last thirty years.

The subject matters range far and wide, but the gaze remains steady, underpinned by an unwavering ideological perspective that firmly rejects the stasis of the post war 'revolutionary left', just as is it recoils in disgust at encroaching Neo Liberal barbarism. more

Mind Invaders:

A Reader in Psychic Warfare, Cultural Sabotage and Semiotic Terrorism

"The only movement to work consistently towards the death of history since the disbanding of the Situationist International has been the Global Neoist Network. Only Neoism carries within it the revolutionary potential for the realisation of our complete humanity. Since 1979, Neoism has been defending the revolutionary gains made by the Situationists and Fluxus. The Neoists are the only group to have brought about the conjunction of nihilism and historical consciousness — the two elements essential for the destruction of the old order, the order of history."

You can never quite be sure to what degree Stewart Home, (or the Neoists from whom he noisily split, but under who's banner he long continued to write / agitate), is / was taking the piss. Decades of provocation, parody, backhanded agitation, ideological feuding, art, anti art, ideological feuding as both art and anti art, all of it written up, reported upon, exaggerated, added to , invented, and thrown into the face of late 20th / 21st century culture /subculture , first as polemic , eventually as farce.

Mind Invaders was first published in 1997, culled from a panopoly of underported , unregarded, barely noticed sources : obscure zines, half finished manifesto's, loosely formed political strands starting to coalesce in shaded corners of the early web. Through force of will and a desire to exist, it pulled together a ramschackle, but somehow cohesive collection of currents that run deep through the post Situationist, anti art, anti trot, anti capitalist European underground... more

From Hill To Sea:

Dispatches From The Fife Psychogeographical Collective, 2010 - 2014

Fife: almost an island. Betwixt and between the cities of Edinburgh and Dundee; an ancient Pictish Kingdom, bounded by the Firths of Forth and Tay. Where a Brutalist New Town is built on a 4,000 year old henge and 18 feet menhirs brood on a ladies golf course, under the shadow of Largo Law.

Spectral trees drift above the plague graves of Devilla Forest, whilst sky-facing cup and ring carvings lie hidden on a hillside above Burntisland, a distant echo of their post-industrial landscape counterparts near Inverkeithing.

Ideas crackle, tussle and fizz, throughout the ether over this land-formed Scottie dogs head. Kirkcaldy's famous son Adam Smith tossed a large brick into the pool of economic theory with The Wealth of Nations written on a site now housing Greggs the Bakers. Take a walk with the ghosts through Little Moscow where Lawrence Storione founded the Anarchist Communist League in Cowdenbeath and West Fife elected Willie Gallacher as the first Communist MP in 1935. In Lumphinnans you will find Gagarin Way, a street tagged in honour of the Soviet cosmonaut.

In Methil and East Wemyss, walk the streets and landscapes which inspired the painter William Gear, a member of CoBrA, the post-war, European, avant-garde movement that fed into the Situationist International. In Rosyth, 'The Wilderness' most definitely does exist. Stumble across industrial relics in the most unlikely places.

Moving outwards, there are encounters with the uncanny in Edinburgh; a freedom fighter of the International Brigades, and a psychedelic tiger, in Glasgow. Kurt Schwitters and Kittiwakes in Newcastle. Bounce on Sacrilege - Jeremy Deller's blow up Stonehenge and contemplate Debord and Huizinga. On a train from Falkirk to Glasgow, a performance of John Cage's 4'33". more

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

"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