Down with the spectacular merchant society

(Situationist International, May 1968)

The undeniable and only real sensational good news of this beginning of the year is, without any doubt, the declarations of this chief economist employed by the International Monetary Fund, a Frenchman unknown to our services until now, Olivier Blanchard, who, without any warning or warning to anyone, has made public a thick forty-page report in which, to make it (very) short, he shows quite simply and with proof and various figures to back it up that the famous policy of all-out austerity is a big bullshit. Let’s give credit where credit is due and note in passing that a few others before him had already widely denounced the idiocy and perversity of the measures taken almost everywhere. Jorion, Leclerc, Berruyer, Lordon and other economists who have broken with their dogmas have been denouncing for many months and in every possible way the absolute dead end to which this policy leads, and this, which no longer surprises anyone, in the appalling silence of the « pravda press » in its quasi totality.

On the other hand, the observation of comrade Blanchard has been slowly put on the front of the stage, without provoking any particular emotion or more or less learned exegesis. One will have only noticed one or another comment of the specialists guaranteed by the power and the guaranteeing one that, all, went in the same direction. Knowing what this gentleman says only commits him and, to a small extent, the IMF; as for the big soft heads of the European Commission and those in charge back home, there is no question of changing anything about the choices already made; we will therefore continue to move forward on the same familiar and vaguely reassuring ground; and come what may. These fools are not ready to renounce the ridiculous principles of a pseudo-science of so-called academic economics to which they devote a cult that has no other followers than those who, through the most opaque channels, the most nauseating shenanigans, profit largely and shamelessly from the situation that still prevails today. « What to do, what to do » Lenin asked himself at one of the key moments of the Bolshevik Revolution and, you see, I also ask myself… I remember these words of André Généreux during the days dedicated to the eco-socialist perspective, in Paris, a short time ago (I quote him from memory): « The big problem is not so much the environmental, social and other challenges, the only real problem is to convince of the reality of these challenges, the 80 millions of people who, here, in France, don’t give a damn ».

Let’s not be afraid, friends and fellow readers, let’s not be afraid to ask ourselves this question even if, in some ways, it may seem provocative. If it were, I don’t think it would be a bad thing. Let’s look around us, walk the streets a little more often, use public transportation; let’s look and listen. Let’s look at these faces, so many of which are struck with a strange stupor, a desolate dejection, a heavy fatalism. Let’s listen to these brief exchanges — when they happen! — between people; the words that are said about the weather and what it will be like tomorrow, the meager little hopes that are awkwardly expressed; the banality and emptiness of what is said there, so often, too often, shows to what extent the mediocrity of the times has been able to contaminate so many consciences. In this respect, we can only note, once again, the perfect adequacy of the situationist theses with the situation in which we find ourselves. Yes, the « Spectacle » whose evil reality Guy Debord denounced in 1967 has become, more than forty years later, this gigantic cold and hostile monster dominating all spheres of life. From work — or the lack of it — to leisure, from the production of nothing to the equally unbridled consumption of this nothing that is merchandise of all kinds, which is offered again and again to the dazzled and hypnotized onlookers in front of the shop windows, everything contributes to the atomization of what remains of the human society. The messages, the orders that are literally shouted by the laudatory images of commercial advertising and the injunctions of the so-called political « communication » — which is only pure propaganda, lies and deceit — that imposes its laws, its decrees in the most perfect contempt of the general good, are the exact reflection of the « communication » such as conceived by managers and other engineers whose talent consists in making people believe that they have nothing to do with what happens, in the same way that our elected representatives take refuge behind the vague European directives in almost every field to « pass » all the measures which aim at the acquired social rights, the dilapidation of public services, the privatization of whole parts of the companies until now belonging to the community.

Let’s add to this the universal and haunting machine to discombobulate that constitutes, with rare exceptions, the press as much written as radio or television; this way that it has to say imperiously, sovereignly and only what it is allowed to make known. In front of this, in front of the extent of the tasks that it would be necessary to undertake, we can only deplore to be able to count only on the weapons that are the most familiar to us: the ideas, the words to say them, to try to share, to make understand and to rally to us those that go, worried or unconcerned, on the path traced out in advance, vaguely reassuring and illusory, on which they blindly walk. I am thinking of this article from « Le Monde » published recently, where a clear-sighted journalist told his readers that, « because of the crisis », the French were less concerned about environmental issues. Great discovery that this one! It is obvious that, when one is faced with the worst difficulties of all kinds, one has something else in mind than these vague and so distant questions. We would like our modest contribution to the many debates underway to be received by others than those who, in advance, are essentially in agreement with the theses we are advocating. Of course, we are not alone; others, just about everywhere, are talking to each other, exchanging their multiple experiences, grouping together in spontaneous cooperatives, in buying groups; small political formations, clubs and assemblies are being created; finally, windows are being lit on the dark walls of the old world, which put fragile but comforting lights in the night that covers everything.

But it would take torches and torches carried by multitudes for the light to come! And how to animate them, these absent crowds? By what means; what practices should be invented and implemented that go beyond words? I am like you, like poor Lenin and like many others; I wonder what I and we could do. And I don’t have the answer that, in any case and all things considered, it is perhaps useless to ask. As Pierre Dac rightly and amusingly said, « The future is the past in preparation »… so be patient.

Jean-Pierre L. Collignon

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