An Extraordinary Mr. Yves Le Manach... A Letting Go of the Tiller.
Reflections on Bye bye turbin (Goodbye to the Turbogrind) by Yves Le Manach, Editions Champ Libre 1973, plus excerpts and précis's from a number of his Artichauts de Bruxelles
In the mid 1990s an individual connected with the recently defunct Os Cangacieros group passed to us a photocopy of Yves book Bye bye turbin. It was done in a nonchalant way with little comment though obviously done with the unstated suggestion we do something with this stuff. Shortly afterwards Yves sent copies of his artichauts to us in the post. Partly because of the way the A4 sheets of paper were folded, we found them difficult to read because the 'pages' did not follow through, and reading them required much twisting and turning. We knew enough about Yves to know this was a person that commanded respect. He became linked in our minds with John Dennis, the revolutionary Yorkshire miner who had similar wide-ranging interests, assimilating every scrap of knowledge into a vision of how things might be. In fact they even bear a resemblance to one another!
The titles of the artichauts were striking and we were flattered that Yves had sent them to us. We still recall receiving the one on Rimbaud and Corbiere - and also the one with the three monkeys as a mast head-an acid reflection on Debordism and better than the usual reactionary bullshit on Debord's undoubted genius which even today continues e.g. Will Self and the slew of deep topographers aestheticizing industrial dereliction.
Did Yves hope we do something with them? Well all we can say is better late then never. Around the same time we also received an unsolicited few books from L'Editions Encyclopedie de Nuisances. Both Yves's material and the Nuisance books were welcome. There was never an accompanying letter from the Nuisances people, though there was a handwritten one from Yves, which unfortunately got accidentally thrown out. We still feel bad about not acknowledging it. Yves and the Nuisance material did seem oddly connected, though more about that later.
Yves Le Manach cuts a lone figure: A skilled fitter by trade, almost single handily he sets himself from the mid 1960s onwards, the daunting task of expounding, in his own inimical way, the totality of the revolutionary project that does not leave one stone unturned. It is to this guy's credit that he undertook such a stupendous task. Not surprisingly, he is French. No other industrial worker has ever attempted such a feat, never mind pulled it off. However this quest often lies hidden deep within the heart of many another industrial worker, only the experienced eye able to see it in a chance remark, a visionary gleam in the eye, an impatient gesture etc. That much we do know from our childhood and boyhood in Co. Durham and West Yorkshire and our long experience of building sites where we have had the good fortune to meet an astonishing variety of characters. Only a few resembled the cardboard cutouts of bourgeois building worker myth. As things stand, Yves remains the most advanced, the most contemporaneous anti-work worker, in the world. His range and grasp is phenomenal, his vision of a new post-capitalist cosmic multiverse adding that essential dash of utopian promise to the drear speculations by academic scientists on the multiverse and that invariably sidesteps the need for total change on this speck of a planet. Yves's life has become a benchmark, which all aspiring totalising anti working workers can learn a lot from.
Since Yves Le Manach is only a name in the English-speaking world, some kind of introduction is necessary. What follows is a mixture of précis, selection and an attempt at a proper translation of some of the artichaut articles. It is the first such collection in English and it can be legitimately asked of us why didn't we fully translate this material? Well, our French, to put it bluntly, isn't good enough. And we know how quickly inadequate translations are mocked. Seeing we had no one to help us, a précis plus remained the best solution. So despite all its faults we can only ask, who else was prepared to do it? The academics? There is not the slightest chance of that as there is no kudos in it, no acclaim, no career opportunities - and, not least, no money! Also lets not overlook the fact we were largely 'educated' (for want of a better term) in sink schools in mainly mining areas and were never seriously taught French or any other language, including English for that matter! (However, we do remember been given mucky, well-thumbed trig' formularies such as Yves reproduces in Bye bye turbin). Being self taught, our knowledge of other languages was acquired in an haphazard fashion with us sitting down one day determined to prove that the many brutal, frustrated pedagogues, who wrote us off at an early age, were wrong on just about everything. In the précis's / translation cum translateez that follows there are occasional asides and commentaries to help the argument on its way and perhaps bring out a point. These are mostly in brackets and sometimes have a TN (Translators Notes) signifier even though they hardly merit being called a translation. Maybe too why not read the following in the light of Coleridge's précis's of Schiller in Biographia Literaria with the rider that sometimes Coleridge claimed précis especially from Kant as his own thoughts!
What comes across in this guy's writings is sheer authenticity. There is not the faintest hint of the academic style and if Yves writing is sometimes a bit abstruse, we can be sure it's not deliberate and designed to gull a naïve student audience into the acceptance of sweet fuck-all gibberish. Yves is always compelling and memorable, yet even in France, where quality theory just to say still counts for something, Yves over the past 35 years, has remained in the shadows whilst every professional, post modernist racketeer from Baudrillard, Deleuze, Derrida etc has received massive acclaim - and the dosh and status that goes with that. If not directly the economic victims of the crises they certainly are its chief ideological ones, more so than even their end of history, free market, economistic counterparts whose ideas still rule, only now as the pretence of impartial technocracy. However the complacent reign of the former is coming to an abrupt end and the field is now more wide open to radical theory than at any other time since the late 1960s. In one of the small texts printed here Yves shows nothing but contempt but for one of their precursors - the former nouveau philosphe, Bernard Henri Levy. The almost forgotten contributions of Yves Le Manach still shine brightly even if, so far, only for a small number of people.
Above: The German publication of Bye bye turbin
Evidently,what became Le Manach's most notable book Bye bye turbin, immediately upon publication, came close to the top of the list of most stolen books in France. At the time it was called a book that "dazzled the world". When translated into Spanish, factory workers in Barcelona also whizzed it from bookshops. Part of the book was also published in German (see above). And how would it have gone down here? Undoubtedly it would have had a readership even amongst industrial workers; for example possibly amongst the shipyard workers of Tyneside where the underground legacy of Jack Common remained strong, (Common belonged to the decades following the First World War and also struggled, from his proletarian condition, to cobble together a unique totality that contains a embryonic critique of art and urbanism.) However, unlike Common, what Yves would have lacked in these self-evidently more enlightened times, was a publisher. Finally and entirely in accord with our ghastly age, as soon as something really worthwhile begins to melt the ice of alienation, it is turned into its opposite. A French pop group formed in Caen in 1979 appropriated the title of the book. (Disbanded in 1981, their banal punkish recordings are available on You Tube, C/F photos below).
Indeed it is amazing how alike largely self-educated workers are, irrespective of which country or part of the globe they hail from. They have an insatiable ability to take from, and profit from, everything they come into contact with. For everything touches them and they spontaneously synthesize, as if the will to totality is second nature to them, and nothing is more alien than a discrete particular for everything must be included within the framework of class struggle. Learning to them is always a class act. Yves obviously had some acquaintance with relativity and thought it must form part of the revolutionary project. It seems churlish to even want to arrest the uninhibited flow of speculation and point out that Einstein's notion of time as the 4th dimension is not the same as the time of capitalist production. It is easy to feel superior, until we ask ourselves would Einstein's insights have come about without the growth of the electrical industries and the technical schools - all force fed by capitalism - that accompanied them? Some 20 years prior to Yves, that other revolutionary worker, previously mentioned from an earlier time, Jack Common, had written on Hoyle, Gold and Bondi's theory of the steady state system of the universe. Yet again our memory receives a jolt and we go back to the 1950s and Co Durham and Tyneside recalling how, as relative youngsters, we had listened in on technical school kids discussing Einstein. One of them was as passionate about butterflies and insects as we were and had been sadistically caned by a thug of a headmaster for releasing bees into a classroom. This is not an irrelevant aside. Rather it shows just how unrestrainedly probing working class communities could be and how the spirit of inquiry, especially the wild experimentation that went with it, was seen as a threat to the established order.
As for Bye bye turbin, what book ever began with a chapter entirely made up of trigonometric tables with nothing else besides an introductory quote from Lefebvre's, Everyday Life in the Modern World? What conclusion are we meant to draw from this contrast? That Yves was in some way proud that he knew how to use these tables? Was he signposting his difference and distance - from the 'revolutionary' student milieu, for stamped across them is not the lecture theatre but the factory floor? Or was he implying these tables are now useless and of trivial import when compared to what Lefebvre has to say. Once, left as they are, they might well have figured in a Futurist or Constructivist manifesto, the tables of sines and cosines singing the superiority of engineering and science over that of the museum of fine art. Now, like everything else, they too are part of a worn out aesthetic, their reproduction, rich in irony, a worker's stab at a successful ready-made that is not meant to be exhibited in a gallery. "For the use of mechanics" may appear to be a double entendre. However really it has a single meaning, which is to throw aside the tables, rise to the occasion and become the creative revolutionary force that abolishes all classes including their own.
Initially Bye bye turbin was a series of disparate jottings haphazardly put together in the late 1960s Yves describes in the forward how he dashed down ideas of bits of paper at work and on the metro, writing them up more completely at night whilst getting sozzled on a litre bottle of wine. Written by a bona fide industrial worker, its publication was a watershed moment in the history of the Situationist International, which as an organisation had just to say, folded. For it indicated the direction the legacy of situationist thought would have liked to have taken now that its flirtation with the artistic avant-garde was well and truly over with. The 'workers movement' had been reborn as a potentially wide-open movement, responsive, as never before, to a critique of all alienations. And Yves was the prime exemplar of this movement from below that demanded total revolutionary change. The way was now down, of that there could be no doubt yet it also was to remain a forlorn hope one still demanding re-birth. But the SI 'elders' were never able to even begin to take that route, that task falling willy-nilly to a younger generation that felt compelled to put a distance between them and what remained of the SI, chiefly the figure of Debord, his acolytes and an "our party" syndrome which favoured an apparat system albeit staffed by the most aware and intelligent apparatchiks in history!
However among those deliberately placing themselves on the outside of "our party" among this younger generation of work refuseniks some would begin to inch toward a new found interest in 'work' seeing, particularly in agriculture and building (the two rubbing against each other in often surprising ways) a barely suspected potential for transformation. There has not yet been even the beginning of a reputable theoretical investigation into this highly significant drift, indeed the most important since the demise of the SI and which still has a world to win. Meanwhile just about every other week yet another trashy academic book comes out dealing with the relationship between the cultural avant-garde and the SI. After the sudden death of post modernism, it is beginning to be the only game in town and one can only speculate on what its pernicious effect will be on a nascent revolutionary movement that has still much catching up to do. But of this significant neo-peasantry and neo building worker scene not a word. Writing about it will not result in a professorship and it is to be hoped it stays that way, as we don't ever want to be a stepping-stone to academic 'success'.
If there have been shades of a latter day groupuscule amongst the neo-peasantry (i.e. in some aspects of the Confederation Paysanne in the early 1990s) there certainly has been nothing like it amongst the neo building workers. This latter development in building and agriculture goes right against the grain of an ever intensified industrial agriculture and an equally mechanised, standardised, technocratic building industry that is more like legoland with each passing day. As practised by the neo peasant and neo building worker, these 'trades' are wide open, all of us wanting nothing more than that everyone become an agriculturalist and builder in the most free-ranging and far-reaching sense of the term, though also knowing this trajectory only has the chance of realisation courtesy of the withering away of the capitalist mode of production.
When Le Manach wrote Bye bye turbin he was a shop floor engineer (a fitter) working in an aircraft factory in Courbevoie, Paris. But he was more than vaguely familiar with situationist theory and activity prior to the explosion in 1968. He had formerly belonged to the Communist party (Ligue Communiste Revolutionaire) before moving on to a Trotskyite outfit which he also quickly out grew. He had, from a very early age, lived in the same arrondissement as Guy Debord and Michele Bernstein and got to know them and their friends, which included several international lettristes, by sight. However, as he says in one of his artichauts articles, the youngest amongst them was at least 10 years older than he was. However he insists it was the general ambiance of the area that made him into a situationist, not the theory itself (C/F later, The Quarter where the Negative held court). He also appears to have known about Socialisme ou Barbarie. Le Manach however was a fiercely independent, deep thinking, very observant guy who wasn't going to become the prisoner of any credo. Sometime in the very early 1970s Yves handed the jumbled up manuscript of Bye bye turbin to Patrick Cheval, by now a school caretaker and one of the last bona fide members of the SI. He was impressed and passed it on to Lebovici (the money-bags behind Champ Libre) and Debord, the book Bye bye turbin following in due course. Indeed Le Manach and Patrick Cheval remained the best of friends until the latter's death sometime ago, a loss that Yves took very badly.
Yves was never going to be a party man good for parroting the party line. And so he kept his distance from the SI, never remotely wanting to be part of it. There would also be occasional sorties with Henri Simon and Informations Correspondance Ouvriers. (Whatever would they think of his artichaut pieces on Rimbaud, Blanqui and Corbiere – the ravings of a lunatic?) The years immediately following 1968 were a time of confusion and disarray. The revolution had not materialised and easily the worst reaction in history was, bit by bit, beginning to gain the ascendancy. However precisely on account of that, it was also a time of renewed critical probing. This comes through in Bye bye turbin. Though broadly pro-situationist, there were both implied criticisms and outspoken ones in the book, especially regarding Rene Riesel's Preliminaries on Councils and Councilist Organisations (Sept 1969). Though Riesel is aware of the insufficiencies of all previous workers' councils, Yves dismisses them out of hand as counterrevolutionary and berates their adherents with wanting to perpetuate the class system. One cannot help but feel there is a hidden 'class' antagonism at work here and that Riesel has no idea of what it is like at the coalface, Subsequently Riesel would more than compensate for this very real lack of experience, finding a new life following a catastrophic breakdown in south western France as a sheep breeder and herdsman.
Over the next three decades, Yves growing antagonism to Debord would become something of an obsession. Shortly after the publication of the book, there was a furious falling out between Debord and Le Manach. However Debord had been more than impressed with aspects of Le Manach's original manuscript, describing it "as an authentic voice of the current revolt" and commending its "frequent good humour, several successful pages" and even occasional "brilliance". But he then went on to haughtily say the writing style wasn't up to scratch and enumerated what he regarded as the book faults, "weak construction and a too maladroit and distant imitation of the tone of science fiction." This was insensitive to say the least and would have made Yves aware that he had never been as 'privileged' as Debord and may well have not said so because it sounded too 'workerist', (one is tempted to say, too English!) and against the grain of his revolutionary theorising. However the trigger for an open rupture was Lebovici's treatment of J.P. Voyer which Debord just seemed to go along with. Yves does cite Reich in Bye bye turbin so most likely he was appreciative of Voyer's commentaries on Reich. (Some time later Voyer was to reorientate towards neo-fascist circles and for certain Yves would have had no sympathy whatsoever with that move). But from this moment on Yves can't stop sniping at Debord. Rather than brandish a micrometer screw gauge in his hand or, more fittingly, a hammer whilst shouting out loud "match this", Yves was bent on beating Debord at his own game. To have done so was argument enough because as the dream of a cure all techno fix began to fade, it was becoming obvious that social reconstruction would still require a big manual hands-on. Yves manner of writing could look a bit wayward when compared with that of Debord's spare, lapidary style. But, on the other hand, we are no longer too embarrassed to ask the 'backward' question, did Debord have any 'feel' for tools, those basic implements of a hands-on reconstruction? However, rather than go in for mere repetition here on the wrangle between Le Manach and Debord it's probably better to look at the introduction to Part 1. Situ Reorientation Debate. Never work(ing) worker. Mayakovsky.Tatlin. elsewhere on the RAP web.
However some of the above must also be qualified. Debord's letter quoted above was to Lebovici the publisher and financier of Champ Libre and Le Manach would not have known about the specific inflection of these comments until years later when the general body of letters became publicly available. On the contrary, the couple of known letters from Debord to Le Manach in late 1972 / early 1973 before the publication of Bye bye turbin are searching, sympathetic and friendly so much so that some of the content deserves to be quoted because nearly forty years later they are as relevant as ever: "I am much of your opinion on the necessity of suppressing work. But this is still only a beginning. Self-management must not be a question of the self-management of the existing productive process. And the Councils have only been a weak and primitive image that according to me indicates the route of necessary methods for rebuilding the world. It is certain that these last two notions have been recuperated by all kinds of people. But why must modern society recuperate anew so many revolutionary questions? Is it from gaiety of heart? It was certainly easier to recuperate us in the 1950s. As a result of recuperation, is not the ruling order becoming more and more sick?" (Note the all important question marks here -TN)...And a little later, "In itself, automation can only be the conservation of current production. But very few things merit being conserved as they are. It would certainly be necessary to reconstruct the world; and each year the problem poses itself in a more precisely concrete fashion. What revolutionary society would accept the inhabitation of Sarcelles or even of what Paris has become?" Too true and, decades later even truer......
After Bye Bye turbin, Le Manach wrote a few other things though it seems now quite difficult to get hold of, notably in 1981, Otez vos Culottes, Gardez vos Envelopes followed in 1988 with Le matérialisme saisi par derrière (Materialism grabbed by the bum – with a nicely rude Clovis Trouille on the cover)both published by Le Digitale. Apparently in 1981 Le Manach was living in Brussels and as the French elections were taking place, he decided on an intervention and refused to put his ballot paper in the ballot box. As he did so he kept repeating, "Otez vos Culottes, Gardez vos Envelopes", which rich though it is in suggestion, roughly means, "Keep your envelopes, I don't need them, I'm king all the time not every four of five years." "Culottes" of course is a nod in the direction of the French revolution and "envelope" in French, though meaning envelope, can also imply "corruption" just as "a brown paper envelope" can in English. Also, during this time Le Manach now and again wrote articles for an alternative anarcho-libertarian journal in Brussels.
Then from 1997 onwards, in a period lasting roughly seven years, Yves started writing 50 or so very short texts or vignettes some of which were immediately described as "fiercely anti Debord". Some undoubtedly were but there was much besides that was startlingly original. He called them his Artichauts de Bruxelles, tributes he says "to the secret Dadaist George Ribemont Dessaignes" though also with a culinary inflection re the indigestion Bretons can experience when eating artichokes abroad! Yves aim was to create an "autobiographical novel in parts" by "reducing theoretical abstractions to simplified, everyday situations" (or rather to "simplified everyday terms") and which provided an "opportunity for a man without letters to present himself" to a shop floor audience. However despite referring to them as combining into an "autobiographical novel", the artichauts are not artefacts and do not hide behind novelistic artifice. Often done in the first person singular, that tends to be the voice of real experience, they are much punchier than that and deal with events, which in their rich complexity, deeply affected Yves Le Manach. Others are more academic - but come across as refreshingly non-academic. Speculative history they may well be, but they really do linger in the memory......
For instance one need only take Le Manach's anti academic construct in at least a couple of artichauts on the atmospheric relationship between Corbiere, Rimbaud and the armed insurrectionary Auguste Blanqui immediately after the suppression of the Paris Commune of 1971 regarding their mutual over-lapping interest in eternity –"It is found. What? Eternity: It is the sea run away with the sun" (Rimbaud) somewhat set within the context of the Brittany coast with Blanqui banged up in a brutal prison overlooking a wild Atlantic on which one of Verlaine's Les Poètes maudits (accursed poets) the sickly and arthritic sailor, companion of seafarers, Tristan Corbiere was sailing daily each unknown to the other apart from a tremulous connectivity through the waves. (C/F Corbière, Rimbaud, Blanqui et l'Eternité, La Digitale, 2001).
However all this was to come. Back in 1968, Yves was at the centre of the storm in an occupied factory in what was then described as the "red belt" of Paris. He was also at the heart of the Latin Quarter's cutting edge, insurrectionary events. Thus he was well placed to compare this with what was happening in the occupied factories. Clearly he wasn't remotely inspired by what took place there, describing those who organised the factory assemblies as little more than a bunch of "cunts" who were opposed to another bunch of "cunts", the scabs (as with most workers, political correctness did not cut much ice with Yves). His direct experience confirms what many of us 'outsiders' suspected at the time: that the gates of the factories were closed not only to the police but crucially to fraternisation with others, students, bohos, alternatives - whatever. The assemblies (in fact to use such a term is an abuse of language they were more like simple, humdrum meetings) were more or less under Communist party control and were as far from the living reality of an open assembly as could be and where, by definition, everything is up for discussion and, as is natural, acted upon, like day follows night.
But Le Manach goes a step further taking a delight in puncturing the stereotypical image of the sacrificial militant worker fighting selflessly for the cause. His sympathies lay elsewhere, namely with all those workers (the majority) who used May '68 as an excuse to enjoy themselves pursuing leisure activities like fishing, painting the house, making love, visiting friends, driving around for the hell of it or frolicking in the springtime woods and fields. It has to be said these leisure activities are very humdrum, as if Yves cant resist having a poke at the SI's lauding of the passionel life, the SI rather guilty also of a certain stereotyping, though in a perspective considerably better to that of the baneful vanguardist, so-called revolutionary elites. And if these same leisure-passive workers returned to the 'occupied' factories, it was in order to benefit from the cheap, subsidised canteen meals and to find out if there was to be a return to work, which they obviously didn't much relish. These comments reflect our experiences. In 1970 we got to know an honest, very amusing shop steward who also worked in an aerospace factory in Birmingham. On pleasant, sunny days he, and others, would deliberately engineer a strike so they could go fishing. He had an even better way with words. Having forced a manager to back down over some trifle, he had declared "we can now really chuck a Great Northern Diver's egg in his back."
Yet we know Yves wasn't like this 'majority' and though he was taking walks in the countryside with earnest young women dreaming, speculating about subversion and falling ("splendour in the grass") in passionate embrace, it had little to do with passivity. Moreover, the general type of mild never working which in general was preponderant in May 1968 also didn't really have cutting edge merely mirroring the historical period when leisure time still had some aura of freedom and was still somewhat prior to the total hyper-capitalisation that was to take place over the next few decades making of leisure today an alien monster as draining as the drudgery of work itself and with the two enmeshed together producing an all round sacrificial nightmare devouring us alive.
However to be fair to Yves, in Bye bye turbin he criticised May '68 precisely because it didn't attack modern capitalism directly enough. If the movement had done so, "It would not have been the site of alienations [i.e. the factory] that would have been occupied but the historical time of leisure." He was therefore very conscious of the colonisation of leisure and that this was the age of alienated consumption. It is stated very explicitly over and over again in Bye bye turbin, Yves adding, perceptively, that it was rarity value, not crass, mass philistine consumerism, that was - and would - increasingly provide capitalism with its raison d'etre. He puts it really well: "With abundance, the philistines of power are obliged to perfect their methods. In their eyes one consumes well, one feels fulfilled (sublimated) in the object. But only rarity value can really do that; so consumer society must spread the ideology of rarity in a world transformed into a supermarket and waste bin." Though put together in the early 1970s passages like this anticipate the increasing importance of bespoke capitalism, luxury losing its lustre the more it was advertised, manufactured, made average, just another brand. Eventually concept art would become the ultimate de luxe statement, events like the Frieze Art Fair, and installation generally, finally answering the need to be different in the world of otherwise banal consumption.
As for crass, mass consumption Le Manach chiefly highlights the "Car, TV, the betting shop – these are the collective solitudes of the proletariat in particular and all classes in general". This latter quote could be said to be of its time, that is well before the house as asset and work of art became the crowning achievement of consumer society. When Le Manach wrote the foregoing, the process had barely begun, not even in the English speaking part of the world where it was destined to play a preponderant role. Elsewhere he says: "In the midst of heaps of useless gadgets, the philistines re-invent fear, anxiety, uncertainty, the better that we continue to make and consume." Of course the capitalist state does manufacture nightmares the better to keep a subject population in check. Then it was the threat of nuclear Armageddon, Today however it has been replaced by the terrorist threat, though by far the bigger danger comes from catastrophic climate change and ecological collapse. Because these life and death questions impact profoundly on consumerism and implicitly challenge capitalism, they are deliberately pushed to one side and all but ignored. As a consequence, the threat of apocalyptic breakdown is now overwhelmingly real. Whilst there is still time to do something about it, this nightmare is not conducive to passivity. Though the capitalist state is expert at conjuring up phantoms, it draws the line when it comes to this phantom because it is just too real.
The quickest perusal of Bye bye turbin is enough to show that Yves did have some acquaintance with psychoanalysis - mainly Reich - though he was also familiar with the murder of the father, which played such an axiomatic part in Freud's system. In fact he claimed the SI, from the moment of Debord's ascendancy, was in crying need of it! Partly because of his interest in psychoanalysis and the theory of sexual sublimation, he clearly saw how sex permeated consumption, providing an onanistic satisfaction entirely in accord with the increasing social isolation consumer society imposes everywhere. In the chapter The Smell of the Orange Flower, Yves says, "Today we have arrived at the epoch of electric masturbation, the vibrator vibrates in every realm: the portable TV vibrator, the sports car vibrator, the cinema seat vibrator." (This is an extension of Huxley's Brave New World. However in place of the tactile "feelies" we have sublimated genital sex with everything -TN). Otherwise Yves is not to be drawn on the subject of sex or the near impossibility of even the most rudimentary relationships between the sexes. Yet he is quite clear on the need to be rid of the monogamous couple, which will come about through the constructing of "new forms of relations as yet unsuspected". A big yes to that and also to his hostility to the family unit "the surest guarantor of consumer society". Children are also a bind, Yves exhorting us to "make fewer children" and to "enjoy ourselves more". This is the moment when "the guerrilla of everyday life appears". Like with everything else, his views on sex, relationships and the family are anchored within a critique of political economy. Thus "the possibility of surpassing the monogamous couple depends on the possibility of suppressing sublimation and frustrations by suppressing competition linked to the division of labour. The possibility of the surpassing of the monogamous couple depends on the possibility of abundance and the end of work."
Sex implies some sort of union, a coming together. Yet consumer capitalism thrives on ever growing isolation, the logic of the market inevitably reducing sex to an increasingly solitary event. Mere genital sexuality is the sign of increased isolation, "an over employed genital sexuality leading to ruination". "Gas-oil" becomes substitute semen. In response to a growing pornification of an everyday life drowning in cum baths, Annie Le Brun, a decade and a half later, would take it a step further (unfortunately she avoids being as low down and dirty as this). Yves implies in Bye bye turbin that the sexualised commodity has destroyed the erotic generally. However the process has gone much further with the newly emergent, finance orientated, real-estate conscious, directors of industry, than with anyone else. An insectoid like, new species-being whose "sensory organs atrophy" is evolving here and which leads us directly to the next point.
Debord was critical of this particular chapter, finding in it a distant echo of sci-fi. This Lautreamont-esque taxonomic extravaganza is not easy to précis never mind translate. Yves' reading of the The Songs of Maldoror must have influenced it. He was undoubtedly familiar with the work as he quotes from Lautreamont in Bye bye turbin. Beneath the general ghastliness of The Songs of Maldoror there lurks a devastating critique of capitalism, one that anticipates the coming of bio-engineering and the synthetic creation of new species that casually kill as they go, "murder incorporated" a more appropriate name for a bio engineered capitalism. That must surely be obvious to everyone but the litterateurs, avid for fame and fortune, who have made a literary genre out of Lautremount's anti novel - people like A. S Byatt, Salmon Rushdie and, more contemporaneously, China Mieville, (Mieville is closer in 'spirit' to Le Manach than the others, but still miles distant. Like Sinclair, Self, Dimitriou etc. he toys with radicalism the better to deflect it. His hero is Fred Hampton, the former Black Panther, Mieville describing his death as "one of the abiding disgraces of US state power". His dumb reviewers describe his sci-fi novels, like Kraken, as examples of the "new weird" oblivious to the fact they have their origin in Lautreamont and are a perversion of Lautreamont's essentially anti-literary testament. Like the other previously mentioned artistes, Mieville constantly threatens to overstep the bounds of literature, his review of Bugs Brittanica demonstrating an obvious competence in extra literary matters. His Phd thesis Between Equal Rights dealt with the subject of international law, Mieville rightly concluding, "the chaotic and bloody world around us is the rule of law". However this necessary step toward a grasp of the totality always winds up respecting the status quo and the division of life into a modified politics, art, science etc., e.g. Mieville notes in his review of Bugs Britannica that it "is impossible to state what the approach is - cultural ruminations organised around Linnaean schemes". The honourable Yves Le Manach can never be accused of this sort of shabby, career-minded backsliding) To continue - Le Manach's malevolent taxonomic conceits are not literary, they are 'real' in so far as he genuinely believes the bourgeoisie is biologically evolving into something post human and horribly aberrant, mechanising their reproduction for all time although perhaps you can say his giant insect-like monsters, may have been also indebted to Franz Kafka's story where Gregor Samsa turns into a beetle. (Indeed one of Le Manach's later artichauts was on Kafka). However this maybe pushing things for apart from a citation from Engels correspondence, in this particular chapter of Bye bye turbin only one real fact intrudes, and that is when Yves mentions that his bedroom, as a child, resembled a zoo, a fact so true of other kids of his age and time. It certainly was true of us. Maybe all those feathers, bones, insects in jars and matchboxes prepared the ground for a ready acceptance of Lautreamont's unlovely taxonomy years later and in which we instantly perceived humanity's possible demise.
The speculative biology to one side, there is no denying Bye bye turbin contains the beginning of a revolutionary eco critique, though one limited by the period in which it was written. How the major eco organisations like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF etc. would discreetly join forces with capitalism lay sometime in the future. Hence there is no criticism of the nascent eco movements' back door love affair with capitalism and its consequent inability to mount anything even approaching a cutting edge critique of modern capitalism and the state. Astonishingly, excepting a few minor blips, this still remains the case today. So, in a sense, Yves comments remain somewhat self evident: "The man who rapes nature rapes himself", "nature and the species are threatened with the cancer of economic development", "All other species of animals accommodate themselves to nature, none transforming and modifying it as does man." Yet, on occasion, Yves displays an ecological awareness remarkably in advance of its time, "man has so modified nature that he has destroyed its ecological equilibrium." This is of course quite at odds with what the situationists had been proposing ten years earlier in parts of polemical tracts like Ideologies, Classes and the Domination of Nature which in itself still remains a fine polemic despite its bias towards a control over nature stemming from an Hegelian / Marxist trajectory.
Would we be right in detecting a faint whiff of Engels' The Dialectics of Nature when Yves picks on the evolution of the opposed thumb as crucial to the development of the human species? He was for a short time a member of the Young Communist League and Engels book, "the last word on science", was required reading in Communist party study circles. In Engels view, the opposed thumb, (which vastly increased the capacity to make tools), combined with the upright gait, must have contributed to the evolution of the human brain. In fact Stephen J Gould would pay homage to Engels, finding his essay on Darwinism one of the more interesting 'asides' on the evolution of man, (Gould had also challenged conventional wisdom by arguing that Darwin delayed publishing The Origin of Species for ten years not because he needed to ascertain the truth of evolution through an exhaustive study of molluscs, but because he feared evolutionary theory would have an incendiary impact on an already Chartist influenced, insurgent working class). The grinning ape concealed behind authority's mask besides, the 'Marxist' definition of man as the "tool making animal" has found strong support amongst manual workers because it also gave them an invincible sense of their inherent intellectual superiority over that of their manicured masters. Whatever the case, Yves has unerringly selected the most enduring chapter in The Dialectics of Nature - without however once mentioning the book by name.
Le Manach's hatred of the leftist or centre leftist union bureaucrat of all shapes and sizes gets good coverage in another chapter, Against the 200 Families and their 1000s dependents as he recounts significant run-ins with a whole gamut of them in the aerospace factory. So it's not just the Communist party hack he lashes out at....In fact he sees the whole shebang as rotten from top to bottom...and he's not wrong. It may even be said that Yves in Bye bye turbin almost discounts the relevance of democratically mandated delegates no matter how truthful and well intentioned. Like ourselves and many others, Yves was the kind of worker who could never sit comfortably in such a position, no matter how finely regulated and in the best traditions of direct democracy, nonetheless feels the sense of a repressive institution; a stifling of the totality yearning to be born within an individual's mind and body, perhaps unintentionally conjuring up Rousseau's utopia where a time and space is reached where there's no delegation, no transfer of power and sovereignty is completely undivided.
It is unlikely Yves would have ever felt comfortable in situationist circles, especially not in the early years when artists/architects etc. generally held sway, even though they were in revolt against accepted artistic paradigms. It was only after the SI had broken decisively with the art/anti-art milieu and the masses were beginning once more to dominate the historical stage – or so it seemed at the time - that Yves really felt the pull of situationist theory. Some of his artichauts articles deal with his growing interest in it, beginning sometime around 1963-64, yet he was never a convert and kept his distance, as if too close a contact would stifle him. Come 1973, Yves in Bye bye turbin would express his worries about groups in general: "To be a social form of contestation the group must not be a structured kernel, a society in a society but, on the contrary tends towards a fluidity that must insinuate itself in all the faults contradictions produce. Instead of shutting oneself away within the security of the group the members of a group must explode within society......A structural organisation is a target that is too visible to our enemies. In order to get to know one another and to recognise each other, other signs than the colour of clothes and flags are necessary......Individual or collective contestation, which passes through the test tube of the organisation, is recuperated by the reassuring comfort of formal structures that reproduces familial authoritarianism. Each carries out their petty militant tasks whilst submitting to the party's theoreticians on how best conduct their lives. Lacking the spunk to be themselves they identify with the boss. Organisation in truth often functions like families do. Contestation to be social must be individually and collectively subjective." Yves most striking formulation has to be: "Only to the extent that one has an autonomous practice outside of an organisation does one have a real practise."
Yes, it can be said that Bye bye turbin published in 1973 is of its time and therefore dated in a number of respects - as is every other work from that period. For instances Yves views on the full employment economy won't pass muster today, the assumption being full employment is now a fixture of political economy with employers free to take on workers, even though there is nothing for them to do. That said, he was aware a labour shakeout was going on in industry, though with laid off workers readily deployed elsewhere, chiefly in offices, where they were engaged carrying out increasingly absurd tasks. The victims of technological unemployment, due to the gathering pace of automation, were often reemployed as machine minders, metro transport staffs that were put out of work by automatic turnstiles, re-hired to look after- rather look at - the automatic machines. An acute sense of the absurd runs throughout Yves take on full employment, once summed up on the big screen as "watcher, watching, watched", this slick expression at least conveying some idea of the fear that the prospect of mass, freely-chosen unemployment, once gave rise to. Surprisingly, Yves has nothing to say about the growth in student numbers that was occurring throughout the 1960s and which, post 1968, would receive a massive boost. It would be a relentless rise, the participation rate in higher (i.e. low, lower and lowest) education reaching 70% in Europe and North America during the noughties. Though Yves certainly bounced off the student milieu, he never seemed to think of it as a form of work scheme for the unemployed. And whilst all other schemes have been cut back, this is the one sector that has grown exponentially until some have come to see in the availability of student credit, and the steadily accruing debt arising from it, the next 'sub prime' crises. The fact that the money has been borrowed from banks and has not been dispensed by the state in the form of grants does not alter its character as a concealed form of dole.
Despite this omission, between now and full automation Yves obviously thought some progressive steps could be undertaken, like job sharing and short time working-two days a week perhaps. It would be nice if capitalism could deliver on this score, the post Second World War consensus still enough intact to think such a solution was feasible when confronted with the mass unemployment that almost immediately followed the first oil price rise shock in the 1970s.When Yves was writing Bye bye turbin that shock was not even a straw in the wind, Yves little suspecting how his arguments in favour of short time working would be used to underwrite a return to the horrors of precarious employment with little or no fall back, super exploitation and dog eat dog competitiveness. And if one part time job isn't enough to survive on, then get another and another until you can just about scrape by. Only asset inflation was temporarily able to keep the lid on this state of affairs. And now that has gone........the stack is primed to blow. But let's face it, no one, but no one, who lived through the 1960s and 1970s, could have foreseen this was going to happen. And so there is a utopian, period charm to Bye bye turbin that pulls at the heart strings like a memory of a long, lost love.
In the decades following the publication of Bye bye turbin Yves was to get involved with unemployed committees in Spain, Greece, Germany and France, insisting that "desire" (more specifically the "desire to be reunited" with others) must be thought about when approaching the reality of unemployment. One cannot help but feel this is hardly the stuff of a mandated delegate or a militant group! Indeed his comments upon unemployment are charged with a great emotional intensity generally: "It takes a lot of strength, courage and will to live in idleness, to escape the melancholy and not to feel the desire to commit suicide"(Small Prose without Poetry 2, 2001) adding another touch reminding one (yet again) of Rousseau's Reveries of the Solitary Walker, "but with the loneliness that comes with unemployment, I started to like getting into people's private states of mind" (43rd Artichaut plus Ginette Potato and the Social Condition of Solitude, 1998).
The stories Yves tell in his artichauts are rich in telling details. They remind us of other stories told by rebellious, highly observant, knowledgeable workers. The down to earth details always tend to be wreathed in wonder, as if each of these individual workers are palimpsests of William Blake, that most remarkable of skilled workers forced out of craft conservatism because of the ever present threat of deskilling posed by more mechanised forms of engraving. In a way he becomes the type of liberated industrial worker who strive to reinvent production when faced with unemployment. (It might even be possible to give this approach a more general historical dimension, the strikes against deskilling, for example, that ripped through engineering factories during the First World War detonating, for all we know, all manner of far-reaching subjectivity.) So excuse us if we introduce a fairly lengthy digression on Blake. Like Blake, Yves also goes in search of a cosmic conscious, the revolution against capitalism an essential part of this quest. The cosmic dimension is of course far more pronounced in Blake, cosmic strife really a form of class struggle writ large in the heavens but essentially also brought down to earth. Closer to the reality of the industrial revolution than any other romantic poet of note, it is Milton the epic engineer as against that of epic poet that ultimately grips Blake the most. What really counts is the frustrated cosmic metallurgist forging ethical metals not the scribbler of literary historians. It is the Milton returning as a comet to enter Blake's foot at the very moment comets, and other debris from outer space, are subjected to systematic scientific scrutiny. To Blake this is the totally ignored Milton as shaped by the beginnings of the industrial revolution where everything was briefly up for grabs - Milton the titanic blacksmith of change and industrial struggle on the shop floor that does not appear in literary histories and that does not even remotely rate the same attention as that wannabe poet, the "mute, inglorious Milton" of graveyard fame.
Blake's echo never quite dies away and his worker palimpsests where once everywhere. No respecter of frontiers, their resemblance to one another is uncanny. These inspirational figures are larger than life: once encountered they are never forgotten. And like Blake they seem to have one foot in another, more imaginative realm they ducked in and out of effortlessly, as though it were an ever-present reality, though not quite in the spirit perhaps of Mrs. Blake's witty, bemused comment on her husband, "I never really talked to Mr. Blake much as he was always in paradise", and true to type all those remarkable individuals born since constantly still play with the stuff of a future paradise on earth. It was, to be sure, a transcendent reality but not a religious one and therefore markedly different from Blake, even though they too could invent comic personages every bit as obscure and changeful as Blake's and that also vividly demonstrates strict Christian hagiography was losing its hold, giving scope to individual reinvention coming from within. (Again we are reminded of John Dennis, the insurrectionary welder in Kiveton Park pit in South Yorkshire, who wanted to make a battleship and to sail it up the River Rother, guns firing to the right and left. He looked on existing industrial infrastructure as a means to a more creative end, the pit boiler room also serving as an illicit still - a wickedly brilliant redirecting of production to satisfy the needs of heavy drinkers that would appal the more finger wagging proponents of the "green industrial revolution". He was also marked though and through by 'Irregular Methodism', that reluctant concession even the dourest of protestant sects, on occasion, had to make to sexual liberation and spontaneous expression, one that also involved much cussing and swearing. Looking back to Blake and the wild antinomian traditions opposed to moral law, it achieved its most complete expression to date in the English revolutionary civil war of the 1640s. Yes, John would have got on well with Yves.......and probably would have wanted to bed him also. Incidentally, we learnt that John Dennis had died with a copy of Herodotus by his bedside......we had, by the by, just mentioned to his widow that Yves Le Manach liked Herodotus).
John Dennis was also fascinated by astronomy and liked to gaze into the dark skies above his pit village. Sometimes his wife Jenny would accompany him and they would stretch out, head to head, on a little hillock, pointing out individual stars to each other. Astronomy had become a form of radiated love, a stellar eroticism. Another miner, who had stayed the course of the yearlong 1983-4 miners strike, had converted his garage into an observatory. He found the local astronomy society wanting because all the members could talk about was ...stars! Though we have touched on the matter before, empirical facts only had significance if inserted into a wider totality, truth residing in the whole.
As for Yves Le Manach he even considers that the worker's movement must make a rejuvenated exploration of the 4th dimension one of its demands! However this renewed cosmos though visionary isn't accompanied by the religious framework which marked Blake despite the fact that Blake's vision is all about practical earthly reality too discussing subjects like child sexuality which even today would bring on howls of outrage. Rather what we have here is a cosmological view more in line with modern theories of multiverses and quantum physics regarding Yves's notion of eternity and endless multiplications of our selves. Even his delightful obsessions with gardens are suffused by Shakesperian "immortal longings" like in the artichaut, The Vertigo of Time in the Human Sciences where Yves says he's "looking for a sunny garden free from time and space [which] seems to me primordial". So Debord's criticism, this "imitation of the tone of science fiction" mentioned previously must be taken with a pinch of salt, perhaps is even a blinkered take on the cosmos, no longer in line with recent tentative scientific discoveries which need however a good dose of revolutionary poetics to bring them to life. And like Blake, Yves also finds "paradise and revolutions" inseparable. And as for the Cosmos minds cannot help but drift back to the time of The Metaphysical Poets during the English Revolution especially the example of Henry Vaughan though finally it must be clearly stated that Le Manach always pulls himself up short on the cusp of mysticism, suddenly adopting a mocking tone, firmly grounding eternity, multiverses and 4th dimensions in the direction of quantum physics rather than neo-religion. Indeed the line of questioning seems also to parallel Yves take on petite nationalisms and regionalisms when you suddenly feel he is about to fall into support for Breton nationalism or French Belgian separatism he deftly and lucidly sidesteps the quagmire sounding an altogether more profound note.
Yves recalls how he was introduced to the beauties of the night sky by his grandfather. He starts to wonder about eternity, though giving his speculations a secular twist. He expresses the hope the revolution will so open us up that we will be enabled to 'feel' the galaxies. When eventually he comes to formulate the matter more clearly, he seizes on an earlier version of the multiverse (and endless multiplication of ourselves that inevitably suggests quantum theory) as expounded by Auguste Blanqui, of all people. Again this is evidence of Yves striking originality linking Blanqui's preoccupation with eternity with that of Corbiere and Rimbaud. Apart from anything else, it made us realise there was more to Blanqui than the precursor of Lenin and that dread death knell of revolution - democratic centralism.
The comparisons with Blake multiply. The 'fictional' factory in Bye bye turbin - i.e. the transposed aerospace factory in which Yves actually worked - produces "saucepans for the cosmos". The world revolution begins in the toilets, a legacy of the French 1936 Popular Front government, wall tiles spelling out the word 'production'. The revolution brought to a successful conclusion; the book ends with Yves enrolling in some sort of 'hyperthalmic' institute. This suggests he wants to heighten his sensory capacities and throw "the doors of perception" ever wider enabling us to see into the "infinite", hitherto only achievable through the taking of drugs. There is something of a Cartesian rationalisation to this method of achieving an expanded consciousness. This very French attempt "to see infinity in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower" has its counterpart in Camatte's country commune, then also getting underway in the early 1970s, and which could be described (and was) as an intellectual rationalisation of the American hippy experience. Accordingly, the capitalist world was essentially an illusion composed of fictional values we were free to take our leave of. (But we were not able to walk away from this performance, as we would a London West End show, and only when the credit mechanism collapsed in 2007, and debts were called in, did anything like the question of a real exit from fictional values begin to be posed.)
Visionary workers like Yves constantly refused to be strait jacketed by the label worker, though in reality he was indelibly marked by his formative working class experience, an experience that clung to him like a limpet and that would never entirely release him from its grip. From the mid to the late 1960s right through to the late 1970s, he fraternised with students (and others) listening to their arguments and discussing on equal terms all manner of things. It is fair to assume he participated in the reorientation debates of the early 1970s swirling around the desolate urban spaces of the new Vincennes University on the Parisian periphery. (Remember Vincennes had played a pivotal role in the agitation leading up to the explosion of May '68 in the centre of Paris). The influence of these reorientation debates is to be found in the chapter in Bye bye turbin rejecting workers councils out of hand and in passages that highlight the inability of capitalism to valorize itself faced with the irresistible march of automation, "capital's self contradiction in motion" (Marx). Otherwise there is not the remotest hint of the growing pandemic of post modernism that would eventually infect the rest of the world, particularly the English-speaking world. (In fact post modernism would prove to be France's most successful ideological export and the new university of Vincennes its foremost exponent). Yves does not therefore attack the SI on the grounds that the spectacle is intrinsic to all forms of society and can never be transcended except through a knowing irony, a mind fuck that, despite its self-regarding claims to the contrary, merely buttresses the status quo. The occupation/work-in at the Lip watch factory in Besancon in mid France in 1973 must have also shaped Yves views on the obsolescence of the self managed panacea, a pamphlet Lip and the Self Managed Counter Revolution by Negation exercising a considerable influence upon radical circles in Europe and America at the time. And then there was the phenomenon of a revived Bordigism hailing from the 1920s Italian ultra left, all of this fruitless aridity giving a floundering person a false sense of their unassailable superiority and nuancing the final chapter of Bye bye turbin which is summarised here. Much of this stuff tended to be reductive and arid though the climate suggests Le Manach picked up on some of this. In a possible reply to this chapter, Debord in one of the letters mentioned previously while criticising the "poor past" of councils also says to Yves "I hold on to the 'councils' that is to say, the assembly of dialogue and execution" which we can hardly disagree with. Indeed, we would suggest there was possibly some creative cross over between Debord's revolutionary ecological arguments in A Sick Planet of 1971 and Le Manach's views.
It must be noted however that Yves was never enamoured of students or the student milieu fully knowing that his everyday life was completely at odds with theirs and so lucidly but painfully described in The Look that Kills in the following compilation. And in a telling footnote in his artichaut on Corbiere and Blannqui he rather gleefully celebrates Blanqui's desire to destroy the university saying, "Although an intellectual, he did not become a demagogue on account of assuming the position of a proletarian. Contrary to the worst friends of the proletariat, the coherence of his position was maintained when he demanded the university be destroyed. He saw it as the most odious, baleful monopoly of civilisation, the cruellest of outrages inflicted on human intelligence."
However some of this historical revaluation was far from negative and much could be gleaned from it. On reflection, could the open assemblies of the Paris Commune of 1871 be considered classic examples of workers councils? The communards are not the industrialised proletariat, the very existence of the Commune undermining Marx's own presuppositions that only the proletariat of the most industrially developed country could possibly lead the way forward. The organs of social emancipation were overwhelmingly local neighbourhood associations, not combines of industrial workers. And they vented their hostility more on the police, the priest and the landlord (concierge) than on the industrial capitalist. Yet Marx was unstinting in his praise, stressing that the most important social measure of the Commune was its own working existence: the Commune was to be a working, not a parliamentary body. This unforeseen event, the abolition of representative parliamentary democracy was "a completely new historical creation", "the greatest revolution of the century". At this point Marx and Rimbaud join hands in celebration of this "invention of the unknown" - but only just. The experience of the Commune is central to Rimbaud's supercession of poetry: he works at becoming a 'voyant' (seer), even though he has "a horror of all trades". It is an individual as well as a collective exercise, the Commune's workers also becoming 'other' than just mere workers like they were the living embodiment of Rimbaud's "I is another". A shoemaker is put in charge of building the Commune's barricades - a most surprising assignment considering the numbers of building workers still engaged in constructing Hausmann's grande projet. Things are bent to serve purposes other than what they were made for: furniture can be used in the building of barricades whilst also functioning as a potential weapon. Initially conceived as a defensive measure, houses are knocked through to adjoin each other thus becoming, at one and the same time, a weapon, a social thoroughfare and a place to live...................Considering Yves familiarity with Lefebvre and the SI, it is indeed surprising that he takes none of this into account when hurriedly dismissing 'workers councils'. Surely, he must have been aware of the historical revision initiated by Lefebvre regarding the everyday existence of the Commune? Perhaps he was still, to some extent, a prisoner of the Bolshevik conception of the Paris Commune, Lenin arguing that it indubitably showed the need for a vanguard party and that the state cannot simply be laid hold of in its present form but must be smashed to make way for Bolshevik apparatchiks. Quoting from a letter of Marx to Leo Frankel in which Marx criticises the amount of time the Commune wasted over personal quarrels and the fact that there were interests at play other than that of the workers, Yves sole reference to the Commune is dismissive in tone.
Over time, the redefinition of the Commune as a space / time of lived experience would be taken up and used to opposite ends. Lefebvre would be the main agent of this transformation, when he claimed an urban spatial revolution was becoming the primary circuit of capitalism supplanting that of industrial capitalism. That a viable capitalism could be built on property speculation was music to the ears of Anglo American finance capitalism, Anglophone spatio-sociologists seizing on Lefebvre's work, the better to overlay financial predation with a 'subversive' aesthetic veneer. Since its publication in 1991- and significantly more so than France - Lefebvre's Production of Space has exercised an enormous influence in the English-speaking world. And that can only be due to the unparalleled dominance of finance capital, which has seeped into every pore of social life. (Come to think of it, there has been nothing to remotely equal France's cultural export drive post 1968, a cultural Thermidor totally at odds with the country's great revolutionary tradition and that, irony of ironies, has been repackaged and sold back to its place of birth). The practical origin of a revolutionary social conception of space and time in the Paris Commune has been lost to view, the resultant amnesia generating the illusion of a 'subversive' revalorization of the arts but only on the condition they become multi-media and 'street'. The capitalised urban fabric of finance capitalism, a place of unequalled loneliness and personal desolation, becomes filled with installation and performance art, this fake creativity a proxy for the long forgotten glories of revolution.................................... When Yves came to publish Bye bye turbin in 1973, Lefebvre's Urban Revolution was but two years old. Academics always pull their punches and Lefebvre is no exception to the rule. Even so it has to be acknowledged that Lefebvre did anticipate de-industrialisation, the factory system in his conception, giving way to the primary, surplus value creating, urban spaces of post industrial society. It is now plain for all to see, Lefebvre conferred on this process an enduring economic solidity it did not in reality possess. However de-industrialisation would become a fact, nowhere more so than in the UK though few places would remain immune, France included. And so Yves noun-flood tide of hated objects, the numbing repetition of factory, factory, factory in Blues for a sad morning outlasting even death and the grave, now reads like an elegy to the industrial system......... for something far more insidious, difficult to get to grips with and terminally destructive, was set to take its place.........)
The beginnings of this speculative shift in political economy toward banks, property companies, pension funds out to make quick bucks in the shortest possible time etc. filtered through into the debates of the early to mid seventies concerning fictive capital. However it was a far less specific concept then than it is today, applying just as much to industrial capital as it did to finance capital. However only when finance capital became the hegemonic force years later and the credit mechanism allowed to flow as freely as it liked, did it become apparent that fictive capital was a concept far more deserving of respect than had been the case up to then. By now it was inextricably bound up with the wholesale export of industry to the developing world, the export of capital the rudimentary stage in this process and which, incidentally, blew irreparable holes in Lenin's Imperialism and his claim that this same developing world was condemned to remain "backward as long as capitalism continued to exist". Had anyone in the 1970s said this would be the likely outcome to the interlinked problems of worker militancy and declining profit margins, they would have been universally laughed to scorn re processes of valorisation / devalorisation, crucially important concepts that have marked the new (final) period of capital's leverage buy out and, most likely, the end of the capitalist cycle we are now finally encountering in all its potentialities for liberation / suppression of political economy, commodity production, wage labour, money and the state or, equally, the moment of final horror as capital in self-destruct mode lays waste to the planet and the mass of humanity. But such was the unanticipated scale of the defeat it would be churlish to criticise Bye bye turbin for not even remotely anticipating these possibilities.
Yves valiantly attempts to discuss labour value, the amount of manual input that goes into the making of a commodity and which then becomes the measure of its worth in money terms, This labour value takes on a second 'nature' and is absolutely central to Marx's adumbration of the "fetishism of commodities". Over time, the labour input gets less and less whilst the amount spent on machinery grows and grows. Eventually there comes a point when the entire system breaks down because it has no need of further labour and has therefore exhausted its capacity to exploit living labour, the blood on which it feeds. Yves in Bye bye turbin believes we have arrived at this historic turning point. In a text that is shot through with the influence of the SI, this renewed emphasis on Marx's economics, in particular those passages that treat of automation in The Grundrisse, strikes a new note. Though he does not say so, never specifically citing these crucial passages from The Grundrisse, its appearance in French a few years prior to the English edition must have made a profound impression upon Yves. Like so many other people at the time, Yves must have found these passages absolutely mind blowing. Indeed that is how they were actually described in a forward to the English edition and they became a central topic of discussion - and not just in so-called radical circles, especially when linked, around 1978, to the much-publicised introduction of the silicon chip into industry. For some it promised immediate emancipation from the drudgery of the five day week, but to others, like Yves, it foreshadowed hell on earth "the present world concentration camp (being) due to the devalorisation of labour", a comment which is far more applicable to our time nigh on forty years later. One gets the feeling that Yves had also participated in discussions that raised the possibility of machinery adding to the store of surplus value, "plus value machinique" just another of the glib catch phrases cluttering up the pages of Anti Oedipus by Deleuze and Guattari and which would also do the rounds of Vincennes University. We can perhaps detect something of this wayward influence in his following comment: "The aim of the capitalist is not to add to the value of the commodity that of surplus value but to flood the market with competitive products. It is not living surplus value (which is limited) which gives commodities their competitive edge but technological surplus value which is unlimited." If such a thing were possible, why go to the bother of transferring production to countries where labour was a lot cheaper? The facts speak for themselves. Again, Le Manach was writing before this became a universal practise and which literally nobody foresaw would happen.
Yves certainly took to heart the situationist emphasis upon automation - which is hardly surprising, having pointlessly slaved his young life away in a highly disciplined aerospace factory where his performance was monitored the livelong day. He prefixes the chapter Pour L'Automation with a quote from Asger Jorn's paean of praise to automation from the 1st edition of the SI in 1958. Entitled The Situationists and Automation, it is for its time a subtle document and anything but simplistic. "The issue of automation is bursting with positive and negative possibilities" Jorn says: at the same time "the new leisure here appears as an empty space that present-day society can imagine filling only by multiplying the pseudo play of hobbies"...yet it is also the indispensable basis for the taking possession of a dream of universal creativity that man has long harboured, Jorn describing it as "cultural construction" - a term that has all sorts of unfortunate overtones Jorn probably didn't intend . He does however stress "the goal is obviously outside the concerns of the partisans of automation. It is in fact antagonistic to the direct tendency of automation." Yet in the hands of the 'partisans of automation' it would ineluctably continue to advance, sweeping aside all obstacles. Yves however counters this is not the case, automation threatening the very existence of the bourgeoisie. Whereas previously it had constantly revolutionised the means of production, the bourgeoisie now recoils in horror before the final stage of this process: full automation. Unable any longer to valorise labour, its reason for existence collapses. It is then up to 'the workers' to complete the bourgeoisies now relinquished mission, the working class abolishing itself in the process. Whatever the economic impediments, the bourgeoisie, according to Yves, "cannot automate" for another reason: "they lack a dialectical imagination". Debord in his two known letters to Le Manach mentioned previously by the 1970s at least was getting somewhat worried by automation though on a rather different level noting in his letter of 4th November 1973... "how does one choose which aspects of production must be automated and even then how to correct this automation?, interestingly adding that as "far as collecting the garbage, for my part I would quite willingly accept such work for a few hours per week, if during this time no one could shelter themselves under intellectual or organisational specialisations so as to reserve for themselves work that would no doubt be more absorbing, but [also] considered as more elegant! And the only work that has ever been considered as elegant has been that which consists in organising the work of others." As for ourselves we well know that doing shit work essential tasks is the great corrective to having big, arrogant ideas about oneself and certainly knocks on the head all notions of woeful careerism or milieu-ist party building.
Looking back on this period the cure all naiveté of this techno -fix cannot but produce a benign smile. A revolution may well accelerate the automation of some sectors like communications and transport - all this on the back of a technical half-automation under the aegisis of capitalism - that has over the last few decades spread throughout the world, its side effects revealing themselves in a huge stratum of the permanent unemployed – well over 300 million - getting ever bigger. But first of all we would have to ask what do we mean by communication and transport? The automation of the high-speed rail network and air travel hardly strikes one as revolutionary, speed for its own sake being one of the first things a revolution would question and the wasteful, above all joyless use of energy that goes with it. And do we really want plug -in mass produced dwellings, furnished with the latest electronic mod cons, and all untouched by human hand? Do we really want our food to come gift wrapped in hygienic packages even if it is for the taking from newly liberated supermarkets whose shelves are stacked by automated forklift trucks responding to instructions from a mainframe computer? To take over the world on the basis of what's already there, even accelerating its 'progressive' tendencies presently shackled by capitalism, amounts to a limitless perpetuation of the present mode of production - or rather destruction. We must redefine what we mean by the hands on, creative transformation of everyday life and be especially on guard against its deceptively 'radical', pseudo alternative - the aesthetico-artistic transformation of everyday life which leaves everything just as it is and is therefore the 'solution' favoured by capitalism. Meanwhile today whenever admittedly small groups of workers occupy factories in particular, they tend to immediately raise the question of the redirection of production. Whether this will ever be feasible is another matter, the majority of production having gone beyond the limits of redemption. But what it does demonstrate is a deep felt need by workers to be rid of the noxious products they are forced to make and which we, and they, are also manipulated against our will into consuming.
Despite the inherent block to achieving full automation mentioned by Yves, it still proceeds apace, the grand opera of the financial crises obscuring from view the backstage dramas unfolding, for example, in Chinese factories, where workers are being replaced by the shed load with machinery. Short of untold destruction, is a resumption of the capitalist cycle still possible? And as for automation, nowhere is this occurring with greater speed than on Europe's railways, a 'staff free' rail network stretching from Helsinki to Athens run by highly paid computer geeks and serviced by low paid cleaners and drinks trolley attendants not that far down the line. The question then arises how does the automated network pay for itself ?..........Yves would never again return to the themes briefly outlined above. Having drawn a line under them, it would be some years before his fingers hit the keys again. And when he did it would be the Marx and Engels of the Russian Mir and the rural commune that would engage his attention.
He mentions how the Russian Vera Zassulich contacted the older Marx, wanting his opinion on Russia's agrarian question and, in particular, if he thought that the ancient Mir could be imbued with new life and reshaped to serve revolutionary ends. Marx thought that it could, his conclusion, in Yves opinion, having an unsettling effect on him because it fatally undermined his assumption that industrial capitalism was a necessary stage to go through, without which human emancipation would forever remain impossible. In fact, as we have seen, the experience of the Paris Commune went against the grain of the 'essential' Marx and may have been decisive in opening his minds to other communal possibilities, something Yves appears to have overlooked. As we have also seen, Yves does not have much to say about the Commune and in his artichauts is only ever mentioned incidentally in relationship to Blanqui, Rimbaud and Corbiere. But there can be no doubt he went looking for a transposed commune elsewhere in gardens, Belgium fairs, even industrial parks etc, their poor reality hiding a promise of much better, wilder, things to come. Their was something deliberately idiosyncratic and provocative about this quest, almost as if he spurned the Commune because, in dogmatic Marxist literature, it has gone down as a dress rehearsal for that most baneful of counter revolutionary events: the dictatorship of the proletariat i.e. another form of bureaucratic rule implying the existence of the state and a new class. Even in Bye be turbin his senses are awakened to the smell of orange blossoms. They would become more heightened the more he dwelt on the potentialities inherent in the mythical gardens of the Middle Eastern, long lost gardens whose prototype was the biblical Eden. These were not the kinds of gardens we have come to associate with the term garden. They were gardens of desire and fulfilment, lived in gardens worth fighting and dying for. History has recorded one such garden, the garden of Maslamah, and a rival to Mohammed. It posed such a threat to Islam that, on Mohammad's death, a troop was despatched to kill Maslamah and his followers who, retreating into the garden, died crying out "the garden, the garden". (C/F the précis Maslamah de Yamammah. The garden! The garden! - the garden functioning as a cipher through which Marx and Engels can be reinterpreted anew.
The transformed garden (a garden unlike any contemporary horticultural monstrosity) by degrees becomes a displacement of the "turning centre" of the world, having its origins in Yves childhood. It goes back to the neighbourhood in Paris he grew up in, where, as a boy in short trousers; he would run across Michelle Bernstein, Guy Debord and their International Lettrist friends. The ambiance of this neighbourhood deeply affected Yves, looming so large in his life it becomes in his imagination, a huge landmass, Yves describing it in capital letters in one of his artichauts articles as the "CONTRASCARPE CONTINENT". He would even claim he was born a situationist rather than having become one because of the architecture and ambience of this quarter, where, all too briefly, "the negative held court" and which was the original site of the derive. The centre is everywhere subversion takes root and increasingly takes on an ecological hue, nature steadily coming to play a preponderant role in the creation of ambiances whereas formerly it had been the built environment of towns and cities. It has an ideal and real form evoking the fabled earthly paradise of middle eastern religions, the Garden of Hesperidias and even the iris filled landscapes of Mallarme that 'do not exist' but also do, actual sight taking over from visionary falsity, and where "every flower showed itself to be larger without our discussing it" (Prose for des Esseintes). The real / ideal can embrace the most prosaic like the different gardens on either side of the former Berlin Wall. It can also be the unstated backdrop to the Zapatista experiment in the Lacandon rain forest of Mexico during the 1990s.
The thought did cross our minds that there must have been some direct contact between Yves and the Encyclopedie de Nuisances people. We were, however, mistaken on this score, though their respective ideas undoubtedly do follow a parallel course and there may well have been some indirect cross fertilisation. A recognition of the timely importance of the Garden of Epicurus climaxes The Ghost of Theory, Semprun claiming that a treatise on simple gardening communicates more than any number of contemporary theoretical writings seeking to grapple with the enormity of this post disaster moment. This text is, of course, an addendum to that excellent book, Catastrophisme, administration du desastre et soumission durable, published in 2008 and co-authored with Riesel. But, at the end of the day, does the question of who influenced whom really matter? There is a 1998 artichaut on Orwell entitled The Destruction of Language and which was probably prompted by the Nuisance publication of Orwell's writings to do with newspeak. Equally we cant help wondering if Yves lack of self esteem, his shame, even, at having once been an industrial worker weighed still more heavily upon him, taking the disparagement of the industrial working class too much too heart when he had already lost his faith in its revolutionary destiny. By dint of his shop floor position, he had become a destroyer rather than a creator and every bit as bad as the cadres and captains of industry that he once loathed so fulsomely. At the same time, almost as if it was working behind his back, he could not become a party man and adopt the house style of Nuisances, the Debordist mantle having fallen somewhat on their shoulders.......... Thankfully, Yves never could overcome his very anti-hierarchical worker's essence, arching up at the faintest whiff of a party mentality.
Today the term workers councils has become redundant, a misnomer because a contemporary 'workers council' cannot be just about workers and production, much of production requiring to be immediately closed down because socially noxious. Other organs (and names) have to be found, genuine 'assemblies' of the future covering all there is of urban and rural areas. We note in passing that the countryside has been gobbled up, in one way or the other, by capitalism's urban fabric. And so we are faced with an all-encompassing desert, the green desert of industrialised agriculture just one among many others. This process has gone further in Britain than in most countries, each step along the way punctuated with a rising awareness of what was lost to enclosure, a faint echo of it even appearing in Todmorden's more or less officially sponsored, Incredible Edible. The Commons was once a way of life here, its boundaries, as its name suggests, unconfined when compared to what the name 'garden' evokes, the Garden of Eden still a garden, the everyday rough and tumble of the Commons the prerogative of the many and not the privilege of the select few. So when the names of Adam and Eve are rekindled to defend a Commons threatened with enclosure, they are given biblically unauthorised work to do and tools put in their hands, the implements defining them as class warriors and not merely the blissfully idle, first born of god's children: 'When Adam delved and Eve span who was then a gentleman?'..... Had Yves lived in Britain, and, given how the commonality of aspects of the pre-industrial past begins to absorb his attention, he may well have unearthed a stack of material of use to a genuinely modern revolutionary movement.
We have briefly touched on Yves rejection of the panacea of the workers council and how, in our opinion, the rejection of councilist perspectives as bourgeois and reformist, formed part of the post 1968 revision that took place. In particular he singles out in the final chapter of Bye bye turbin the councilist perspectives of the situationists, homing in on Riesel's Preliminaries on Councils and Councilist Organisations (Sept 1969), which comes in for a bit of a panning. However, despite the limitations of Riesel's shortish synopsis and re-evaluation regarding the largely 20th century history of workers councils, this text still remains one of the best overviews ever written on this important matter. Moreover it is, as the title indicates, a preliminary, this essentially unfinished tract open to further contributions from others.......... One of Riesel's final points emphasises the need for councils to move out over, going from the workplace to cover the surrounding neighbourhood taking in the urban terrain generally: in short a trajectory suggesting a city wide takeover which, more by implication, must also have been extended to include rural areas. In some respects this has begun to happen marginally in parts of Latin America over the past decade, and perhaps even in Egypt recently, though details are lacking and we don't how durable the outcome will be, this blurring of the boundaries between workers engaging in production and those outside the sphere of production with nothing to gain from the continuance of the capitalist system having been recognised in theory for a century or more. Sylvia Pankhurst in Britain during her all too brief ultra-leftist years especially wanted to see the workers council become a kind of community council, one that took full cognisance of the immediate needs of downtrodden women with children to look after, which she knew the feminist movement of her day, as represented by her sister and mother, tended to look down on, even despise. (These women are conspicuous by their absence in the prison diaries of Emiline and Cristobel Pankhurst, whereas they people Sylvia's). Moreover, we must also remember that Riesel praises, indeed places a very strong emphasis on the often unmediated direct action initiatives of the libertarian militias throughout Spain in 1936 that simply did things without asking for permission from the collective assembly.... "workers and peasants....making the greatest practical contribution ever to the international proletarian movement, burning churches, fighting on all fronts against the bourgeoisie, fascism and Stalinism and beginning to create a truly communist society."
Yet after all the critique of workers and unions, a few years after Bye bye turbin was published, Le Manach returned to factory work as recounted in the artichaut, The worker at his old machine, 2002 saying "I had been defeated in my attempts at emancipation, since I had never known emancipation and since I wasn't able to become anything but a worker, in order to be at peace with myself maybe I could be a good worker." Yves thus became a shop steward, this time knowing consciously that the "imagination of our unions are exhausted" also keenly aware as a born again unbeliever of a worker representative "we face the emptiness of our condition" wondering if he even should be a shop steward as he was at "the wrong starting point" merely "a vegetable" though "the answer soon came: I was fired" the factory closing down.
So it was back to the typewriter once more. And what came out was deeply solipsistic, depressed stuff. One of his artichauts was actually entitled Depression and Literature. He would scribble down half forgotten, moving memories, reading everything he could lay his hands on, especially the classic novels. "I devour what I read and cannot find rest until the last line", he wrote, even trying his hand at writing a novel, which fortunately came to nothing. Yves a successful litterateur feted in Brussels and Paris! Perish the thought, for the accolades would have finished him off far more surely than becoming a shop steward. In Brief Encounters he reminiscences about his work experiences, especially the people he bumped into who had made a deep impression upon him. In one his last artichauts simply called Tasks, he seems to find some agonised meaning in his brief passage through time from birth to death, like his whole life was an extended derive: "We are on earth, not to achieve a goal – that would be presumptuous – but to accomplish a task, a simple task"...and many do not find their task... For Le Manach the task is, "to find the centre of the human world: that point of intersection where individual fates are intertwined with collective destiny". Once more we are back at "the centre" he had playfully inhabited as a youngster, "the task" being to find that centre all over again, and again and again.
We are compelled to ask: did Yves Le Manach really know he was? Though no one can pigeon hole him - which is all to the good - did he not, despite himself, crave a niche? And would this craving have been assuaged if he had had the good fortune to meet people like himself on a daily basis, people who lived by the subversive principle that if you want to find yourself, get lost? That he did not see himself reflected in other people must have massively increased his loneliness and which is also a sign that the yearning for totality had become generally lost. That we can ask such questions like is Yves a worker, a philosopher, an artist suggests he was not entirely at ease with himself, his agonising self reflection - for example over becoming a shop steward when he basically knew better - a symptom of this. At the same time he would have had nothing but contempt for tick box categorisation. No stranger to the notion of the zero degree of writing, he would temporally resume the role of writer, complaining that he cannot talk to his fellow work mates about his need to write because they aren't in the least interested ------ only to then take the piss out of correct French, satirising the professional writer who knows the "law of the virtual syllepse harmonic hyperbate and of the paranymic chiasm or of deceptive etymology [and who] are in a far better position to seduce [than Yves] who hesitated to use the subjunctive imperfect."
So he had to make do with what he had. Moreover there's something welcomely unconventional in the way Le Manach uses quotes without saying who wrote them. As for "There, in a clearing surrounded by flowers, slept the hermaphrodite lost to the world on the grass dampened with tears." Surely this is Mallarme but maybe not and, more importantly, it doesn't really matter.
About the artist Robert Alonzo (1997) is an artichaut on a worker painter who couldn't show his paintings to fellow workers. These paintings were of kids mucking about, playing "sad children's games". Others dealt with the growing absence of communication and the wear and tear of daily life. He recognises himself in Alonzo's comments: "On Monday we talk about football, on Tuesday the film on last nights TV, on Wednesday its marital problems... we never talk about paintings." And yet and yet.........it doesn't square with our childhood experiences in the industrial districts of the northeast of England and West Yorkshire. We had an uncle who was a foreman chippie in a wagon repair works. He was also a Sunday painter. When the fancy took him, he made very competent copies of Raeburn, Franz Hals and Van Gogh who nigh on mesmerised him because he went mad. He even took us out into the countryside to paint watercolours at the age of around 8! Nobody at work held it against him because he was a Sunday painter. And he was far from alone in his weekend pursuit and, with the benefit of hindsight; one wonders if he, and others, had been influenced by the example of the now famous pitmen painters of Ashington Colliery. We don't recall any local poets, but we are familiar with the contents of the small libraries that railway workers and miners possessed and how they prided themselves on the grace of their handwriting and equally mellifluous expression, even if it was a bit light on content. Jack Common's father, a train driver and also from the northeast, was an avid Dickens reader and it is possible that Jack Common's effortlessly original powers of expression were nurtured at a distance by his dad's reading habits. However, the workers who made the greatest impression on us were those fired by a 'passion mechanique' (Fourier), the fantasy constructs of these worker 'neo-constructivists' always good for a laugh amongst their work mates but who also appreciated their experimental brilliance which authority was unable to bend to its purpose. These guys were always close to the bottom of the career ladder, which added to their allure and made them very approachable. Grown up children themselves, they could empathise with the child mind. Yves somehow felt a qualification from a technical college was a badge of shame and that marked him out as a failure when compared to being a bona fide situationist or international lettrist. The 6th arrondissement, the neighbourhood in which Yves grew up and where he got to know Debord, Bernstein etc by sight, was filled with galleries, antique shops, publishers etc. All around him was the cultural bric a brac that made Paris the capital of art. We, on the contrary, had scarcely heard of such things, never mind having direct experiences of them, the commodification of culture at a far more primitive stage.
It was pretty much expected of everyone from the local secondary modern that they would end up working in an engineering factory of great local renown like North Rd Shops in Darlington. We did not pay much attention to it, merely regarding it as an everyday fact of existence, a necessary evil. Meanwhile we sought escape from our blank futures in the wild nature of industrial dereliction and which would be our left bank play ground, our 'contrescarpe', our transgression against all existing institutions and escape from police surveillance. Then art and the easy, grant aided, passage to art colleges and university arrives like a deus ex machina, the waving of academic qualifications raising the aspirational stakes of working class youth. On the economic plane, it reflects the growing importance of art to capitalism, not just in terms of design and how a commodity looks, but in the more fundamental sense of commodifying the inner self, everyone able to eventually lead an aesthetic, creative existence and be the masters of their own fate. This increased emphasis upon the aesthetic, upon art become life itself, upon art become illusion rather than, as formerly, the rendering of illusion, is capitalism's solution to the growing poverty, and horror, of existence. Increasing exponentially from the Second World War onwards, it receives its biggest boost of all post 1968, this sale of self, and not just a portion of self as in wage labour, the sale of the century and millennia to come. All of us have lived our lives out, to a greater or lesser degree, under this regime so it is easy to overlook that to be an artist was once, and not that long ago, not the big deal it is today. The hostility Yves Le Manach experiences from other workers can also be a response to this fact, art, business and politics becoming interchangeable.
But then the contrary kicks in and Yves cannot help but be the 'worker' he does not want to be, this 'limited outlook' a symptom of where the difference begins and that goes unnoticed but also speaks volumes. There is one poignant, memorable article entitled Looks than Can Kill that records such an experience and that brings out the gulf between Yves, the revolutionary factory worker, and the 'revolutionary' art/anti art student milieu. A seemingly fairly trivial event occurring in the aftermath of May 1968, it had preyed on Yves mind and only in the 1990s could he bring himself to write about it. Lady Di and I is another artichaut article that deals with the question of separation from another angle, Yves agonising over the 'betrayal' of his fellow workers who became immediately suspicious of him the moment he began to converse about Dada and Paul Valery to his boss. Neither the 'revolutionary' students in Paris nor the factory workers on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Brussels have a clue about what has passed between Yves and his boss and supervisor. The difference is a trifle less pronounced in the artichaut article The Contrascarpe, Where the Negative held Court, Yves gently ironising his inability to play the game of 'equal opportunities'. Hence Debord and the avant-garde lettristes would go one way whilst he signed up for an apprenticeship ending up in an aerospace factory in the 18th arrondisment, a district Debord and his friends would be hardly likely to frequent. All this is said under his breath, as it were, but it is as if Yves is letting Debord and the lingering remnants of avant-garde circles politely know "there's a world out there you have no direct experience of and I'm not going to be put down because I do". At the same time he cannot ditch the influence of the SI or an artistic avant-garde poised on the edge of disintegration. Thus the SI and the factory floor join forces in determining his fundamental unease with writing and him being this way and that about it, like it is not his natural element. The anti writing side of Yves has its origin in those passages in Bye bye turbin that deal with unwritten history and the legacy of illiterate peoples, the primacy of the deed coming before that of the word. As these were pre-industrial people, Yves writing / anti-writing stance also engages with his developing passion for the rural commune. What truly takes to the air here is not the elegiac stanzas written afterwards but the unlettered people and the nature they interact with. It is worth noting Le Manach's uneasiness regarding writing. He doesn't feel 'at home' with the medium; he is this way and that about it, not in his natural element saying elsewhere: "I have no great desire to be recognised as a writer, my artichauts are enough for me. I am rather looking for human recognition." In fact the chapter in Bye bye turbin where this problem is initially raised is the bridge to later developments.
Moreover, the feel good bounce of Bye bye turbin would disappear to be replaced, in his artichauts articles, with much reminiscence and a deep yearning for the past which must be made to live again: an article called Nostalgia in 1998 displaces this delicate, melancholic mood from the past directly onto the present, Yves arguing that "the impression this sentiment belongs to the past is only a ruse of the imagination". He is then engulfed by recollections of his first reading of the situationists and how, on encountering the misery of everyday life, they had resolutely avoided producing material objects, going beyond form to capture the secret of art, "that fugitive, immaterial emotion of the creative act through which it has the power to move us." Yet he cant resist having a poke at Debord, saying this particular reverie had been sparked by his search, lasting several hours, for a quote from Debord. This had read something like "henceforth the SI must be the avant-garde of the proletarian revolution", Yves tartly adding, "or some such ridiculous trifle".
However when push comes to shove it also has to be said that Yves Le Manach cannot clearly throughout his life get away from art in the way that is necessary and his most anti art statements undoubtedly are as a young man in Bye bye turbin. Indeed, it can be said that Yves in his later artichauts places far too much emphases on art, even referring to situationist experiment carried out by "situationist artists", a weakness which latterly the media in general have eagerly seized upon with the intention of neutering the sharp edge of total revolutionary critique, morphing into a have your cake and eat it, alternative.
There again this is hardly surprising as a clearer revolutionary critique of art and cultural production in general had virtually disappeared from the mid to late 1970s, never so far to return, stuck fast, drowning in complete shit. So much so that the ultra artistic, so-called Second Situationist International has now been given a renewed lease of its decrepit life with King Mob wrongly included within its arty ambience via a paean of (distorted) praise from Home and Thompsett when King Mob throuhout its brief existence was virulently and violently anti art even if wanting on other levels.
In the last analysis, you cannot help but feel Yves Le Manach is anxiously casting about here, there and everywhere in search of a lasting solution to his barely concealed misery. He has found his 'task' alright but not the 'centre' enabling him to put a stop to the taking of anti-depressants and the depression consuming him. He temporarily finds it in food from the artichokes eaten in Brussels to le fritisme, this example of gastronomic nationalism in fact originally Breton and not Belgian. He will also research other regional nationalist myths, reaching surprising conclusions that undermine long established regional prejudices, as if the internationalist in him will out, come what may, blood lines of little consequence in the long run. He will also write about his mother, father and grandfather in passing, seizing on anything that might possibly alleviate his misery......And then silence, Yves after the atichauts interlude going SILENT, VERY SILENT.....The hurt and the disappointment becomes virtually insurmountable. It gnaws away inside him as it does with so many others, nailing him to the ground. It is unrelieved, unrelenting, a hurt that only the deepest, most profound social revolution can now vanquish............
The following is a précis of chapters in Bye bye turbin.
The chapters are as follows...
1. Trigonometry tables and other formulas for the use of skilled engineers followed up with an attack on all the shits, we know what your factories, parties, unions are about
2. The Scent of Orange Blossoms
3. Blues for a Sad Morning
4. Against the 200 Families
5. Winter in the Rue de Leningrad
6. Strikers will be Wild...
7. For an Intensification of the Senses (When I was a Small Boy my bedroom resembled a Zoo)
8. For Automation
9. Critique of the Councilist position of the Situationists
Forward to Bye bye turbo-grind
Yves begins "this book must be regarded as a practical instruction manual for the use of metal workers. It contains tables of sines and cosines, tangents and cotangents as well as some formula dealing with the resolution of triangles rectangles and every other kind of triangle whatsoever. These formulas are sufficient to construct angles, calculate sides with the aid of a rule........ " and so it goes........ Is Yves indirectly taking the piss out of these formulae, rendering them, and their practical application, pointless? In an absurd world these tables add up to a kind of mathematical gibberish, though knowing how to use them sets him proudly apart from most student revolutionaries for they bear the unmistakable imprint of the factory worker. (Years later, in a yet more explicit manner, Yves would send up grammatical correctness in one of his artichauts articles -TN) These formulas can also evoke other, unsuspected dimensions: any triangle whatsoever suggests there is a further order (or rather 'disorder'' of triangles) in addition to the equilateral, isosceles, and scalene triangles in common use. The trigonometric tables which follow are prefixed with a quote from Henri Lefebrve's, Critique of Everyday Life lauding the creative life of the class conscious, individual proletarian who now speaks for all of human society. An explosion of anger follows ten neutral pages of formulae: "Shits, we know what your factories, parties, unions are about." Seated at his work bench, Yves must have frequently cursed like this as he threw his formulary of trig tables to one side.
These abstract mathematical formulae only highlight the fact that, as a worker, Yves has only ever been regarded as a waged producer, an object. Yet he is also a subject and he knows full well what that means. It is the reason why personal reflections, inspired by the environment in which he works, follow the tables of formulae he uses in the workshop.
The majority of the book, Yves says, was written in between 1967-68. He had, he adds, been employed for a number of years in a factory in the Paris region. This had influenced the way in which the book had been written - more often than not on the sly in a forgotten corner of a factory, in the bogs or on a folding seat on the metro. Flung down on random bits of paper, he would write them up more fully at night after first opening an 11.5% lire bottle of plonk. As much as possible he sought to avoid writing a "workerist book" in which individual passions - his own and that of his work mates - only give birth to a rhetorical zoology of jackals and vultures and other predators, the name calling changing nothing in reality. What really counts is the recognition of contradictions, mystifications, the conditions that have been imposed on him and others.
All that has to be done and said does not figure in the text because it's impossible, Bye bye Turbo-grind only being a contribution to a collective discourse.
Chapter 1: Shits, we know what your factories, parties, unions are about
Strike waves in France, England, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Czechoslovakia.
Yves then reproduces the preamble to the first International beginning with the famous slogan: "The emancipation of the workers must be the work of the workers themselves"....
This is followed up with a discussion of the actual development of the productive forces and the relations of production that flow from this. It is no longer a question of attacking on the old spectacular terrain that commodity society tries to perpetuate (ideology, economy, politics). Rather it is a question of engaging on the real terrain of modern relations of production. Increasingly the relations of production and everyday life become synonymous.
This means not attacking on the level of ideology but on the contrary on the level of practical, material life – it is to demand the satisfying of our sensory needs.
Revolutionary activity must be regarded as a social human practise as a physical, sensory activity.
It is the contestation of the senses.
It is of no interest to know that there is a dispossessed class but it is of interest to know that when the possessing class no longer contains the productive forces that have developed within it that it can no longer develop these productive forces without undermining itself. The means of production then will have developed to the point where it is the material critique of all forms of power whatever they are, even proletarian.
To know, or attempt to predict the date of the revolution, matters little. What counts is expressing one's subjectivity on a daily basis, to be the subject not in a problematic future but in the here and now.
Those who are historically revolutionary are the natural children of the new means of production and the new relations that flow from it.
It is not enough to theoretically question society. What is needed is the practical means to put it in effect. History shows that theoretical conceptions only make their appearance with the practical possibilities already existent. The destruction of power does not rest on an ethical basis but on the already existing possibilities of generalised automation. It is up to the proletariat to realise it, to abolish class society – if not, the negative – the end of work – shall give place to the organisation of a generalised passivity and the retention of the working class. No revolution without risks!
To be a social form of contestation the group must not be a structured kernel, a society in a society but, on the contrary tends towards a fluidity that must insinuate itself in all the faults contradictions produce. Instead of shutting oneself away within the security of the group the members of a group must explode within society.
A structural organisation is a target that is too visible to our enemies. In order to get to know one another and to recognise each other, other signs than the colour of clothes and flags are necessary.
Individual or collective contestation, which passes through the test tube of the organisation, is recuperated by the reassuring comfort of formal structures that reproduces familial authoritarianism. Each carries out their petty militant tasks whilst submitting to the party's theoreticians on how best conduct their lives. Lacking the spunk to be themselves they identify with the boss. Organisation in truth often functions like families do. Contestation to be social must be individually and collectively subjective.
Practice which complies with the group in and through the group destroys all dialectical apprehending of reality and transforms it into an ideology, into dead thought.
To get caught up in an organisation is to flee from reality. Only to the extent that one has an autonomous practice outside of an organisation does one have a real practise.
Life is everywhere, why search for it some place else?
To identify with is an open door to ideology, the negation of social reality.
In a society of want, hostility and desertification there remains only one thing for the individual: loneliness. Amidst absence and loneliness, the individual is sublimated in the object he seizes, this, his self-satisfied egoism, this, his own sublimation through the object.
But because commodity society spreads super-abundance, the mirror of solitude breaks and the individual ceases to see only himself. He finally sees others and the possibility of having relations different from the relations of competition. The individual does not sublimate in solitude but has a need of others he can enjoy himself with.
What's important is to participate in life. Let's stop saying we are powerless.
Social participation is the beginning of individual satisfaction. Individual participation is the beginning of social satisfaction.
The vast majority of social human relations in our time aren't created but suffered. They only rarely transcend the parcellised social space imposed by the dominant power (workplace, urban nightmares, family / political groups, leisure clubs, youth clubs, beaches in August.......) it is the universe of the lonely where the lonely seek each other out, touch and become themselves. These superficial relations though they seem freely chosen, aren't and are imposed by the absence of choice and one characterised by restraint and enclosure. From birth to death, life is a perpetual starting afresh and has scarcely been modernised at all by domestic comforts.
These imposed relations hide endlessly behind the rancour of forbidden, involuntary gestures. However abundance is increasingly obvious to all and allows us as individuals to dare to be ourselves, not in the parcellised environment imposed by consumerism but in the time and space of our desires. Practise is unmediated satisfaction; it is direct and material. Theory under its different mediations (consciousness, language, creativity) and is, on the contrary, the expression of work, of poverty.
Need which realises itself at the moment of its sensory satisfaction disperses with theorisation.Theory is the mediation between need, which is felt in the present, and the possibility of its future satisfaction. Need, life, realised, satisfied is practical and material. When needs are immediately realisable the notion of needs and satisfaction disappears within abundance.
When practical life isn't wholly satisfied, frustration due to the estrangement of the object appears. Theory represents the path need must take to attain its object. Theory, consciousness are only the material manifestation of a lack of matter.
Theory is nothing other than the practise of historical dissatisfaction.
The identification with any structure whatsoever is a fear of time. Identification prevents time from flowing, shutting it up in a structured space. Identification tends to reproduce time in a repetitive manner.
In attempting to suppress the dialectical aspect of time, ideology transforms the need to know, to discover, to create into a refusal of development into conservative instincts. Ideology develops morbid tendencies, fear of others, fear of oneself. Time becomes the space of fixed conception. It is to live in the past.
- All we need to know through revolution is the satisfaction of our needs.
The demand to live in the present is not a fixed demand; it contains its own surpassing: the necessity of ever-present renewal of the present.
The revolutionary act is the possibility of all acts.
Real anticipation is to live today what has been promised tomorrow.
No social life – no individual life. The "art of living" means to live without art for want of a life. The "art of living" is the life of the dead, it is the distribution of want, and it is the planification of risk. Because individual and enclosed the non-life of the bourgeoisie smacks of the cemetery. The non-life of the proletariat is full of hope, it is social. The proletariat can deny itself; it has no interest in this world. The bourgeoisie cannot deny itself, because its interests are linked to the preservation of the past. It is condemned to self-alienation – or to disappear.
The management of everyday life by the bourgeoisie is not a consciously realised aim whose end is lies, planned, freely consented to, repression. The bourgeoisie is perfect in its own eyes and knows no adversaries. The management of life by the bourgeoisie is determined by immediate necessities and limited by its mercantile ideology. The bourgeoisie sees no further than tinned food and its management of everyday life only accelerates its decomposition.
History is the tendency to equilibrium between alienation and dis-alienation.
The revolutionary act is in an alienated period, dis-alienating.
The historical revolution depends on the maximum development of the productive forces in a given society. It can at a certain age of their development escape the control of those who created them and became the vehicle of liberation for those who were its slaves.
When the production and consumption becomes abundant when the work required to produce them becomes superfluous, when repression can no longer justify itself historically and follows an internal logic that is contrary to the generic reality of the species, it becomes ridiculous and noxious to keep conflict confined within these parameters. However that is what "leftist" parties want to do in our country.
In our time in the most industrially advanced countries as in the least industrialised, conflicts do not erupt solely around working conditions and consuming power but also critique work and consumption. Nature and the species are threatened with the cancer of economic development. In a period of super-abundance conflicts must not be based on survival but the realisation of life.
From the capitalist point of view the proletariat is not in competition with it. It is a commonplace commodity in the same way that machines or raw materials are. For capitalists competition only exists between themselves. They are the new knights and the stock exchange is their jousting tournament. To them a ruling class and a ruled class do not exist. There is only one class, that which rules over production.
To oppose proletarian power to that of the bourgeoisie is not to take into account the beginning of the proletariat, which is its own disappearance. All power can only base itself on want and the economic separation of individuals. The dictatorship of the proletariat is a class dictatorship even if it amounts to other individuals holding the reins like in the so-called "communist" countries. A "pure" dictatorship of the proletariat can only be the self-management of its own misery, slaves without masters.
Chapter 2: The Scent of Orange Blossoms
"I can't get no satisfaction" (Les Rolling Stones)
(The following is a very abbreviated summary of a crucial chapter some sixteen pages long. Much has been left out and only some of the ideas summarised. This chapter is the bridge to Le Manach's later development particularly his ruminations on the rural commune and writing – TN)
History up to now has been the history of class struggle so says The Communist Manifesto, though Engels would be more exact later. (.....) written history to be more exact.
In 1847 the history of social organisation, which had preceded all written history, meant this history was largely unknown. Afterwards Haxthauser had discovered in Russia the communal property of the earth and Mauser had shown it was the social base from where historically all the German tribes came from. Bit by bit from then onwards it was discovered that the rural commune with the collective possessions of the earth had been the primitive form of society from the Indies to Ireland.
Yves begins by saying that many others have since contributed to clarifying the history of pre-history by placing man in a movement that goes beyond "written history". However, the majority of leftist ideologies hold fast to the absolutist and universal concept of class struggle. However this holds good for a short period of human history. The division into classes is not inherent to the human species.
Leaving the animal stage, man the result of a long evolution is led to not only utilise nature but also transforms it. The "animal-man" is induced to alienate nature in alienating himself under the pressure of new external circumstances. This alienation from nature transforms the animal, which is subjected by man as he subjects himself. This alienation of nature and of man by himself represents a quantative stage in the development of the species.
All other species of animals accommodate themselves to nature, none transforming and modifying it as does man. As Yves remarkably stresses at this very early stage in ecological awareness man has so modified nature that he has destroyed its ecological equilibrium.
In transforming nature man has transformed himself. Man is not an accident but a moment in the development of nature. Man is only a link in evolution that goes from mildew to the amoeba from the amoeba to "something else".
Up to now human alienation has been determined to a large extent by the division of labour (the most effective means in the struggle against want). This alienation will only disappear with abundance and the end of the division of labour.
And then a typical Le Manach touch: It seems that nature in itself from the puddle to interstellar space is alienation, the dialectical condition of transformation.
The "animal-man" is led to transform himself. This transformation means man is obliged to get rid of repetitive animal comfort. The adventure begins, man becomes conscious nature where there had been immediate consumption, and there was now poverty. And so in order to survive man must put himself in charge and adopt a separate activity. It is the specific characteristic of man: if animal alienation is determined by nature that of man is determined by nature and by himself.
The alienated relations that people maintain between themselves are imposed by external conditions. We have yet to find out what other entities man has been able to alienate? In order to maintain the existence of a species it is necessary that the present generation be preserved and that others can be produced.
There are alimentary needs and genital sexuality. Genital sexuality is satisfied within a species without the need that it ever became a conscious reproductive act.
Human relations are no more than utilitarian relations and sexuality no more than reproductive sexuality (with the most 'evolved' animals the reproduction of love is apparently absent whilst in the majority of so-called primitive tribes this aspect has an important role, fertility rites, initiation ceremonies, menstruation, taboos etc.
In the struggle for survival man is led to physically adapt himself: affirmation of the upright position, structuring the language, perfecting of manual activity allowing for the systematic use of tools.
Parallel to the physical transformation there takes place social transformation. It is no longer a matter of the horde where he possesses in himself the instinct of the entire horde and where the entire horde is the individual instinct.
The specialised individual detaches himself, he represents only one part of the knowledge of the group, the ego affirms itself; the super ego also. Men develop a competitive attitude. At this stage alienated work develops and there is born all the dependencies that this entails.
Man can survive but he becomes an adjunct to the perfecting of the tool like all his relationships with nature. The "animal-man" loses his intuition to the profit of technological science. Man survives at the price of a painful alienation and has not searched looking for a new totality that simultaneously unifies need and its satisfaction.
Man no longer breathes to the rhythm of his generic totality; he no longer loves to the rhythm of his fellow creatures. His lungs no longer breathe in oxygen but oxygen smoke, his increasingly rare oxygen that of the metro, the factory, his apartment. Only outside of the cities or with some friends does he feel that he is breathing better. The world is no longer the permanent larder that it should be but a super-grocery. The body no longer extends itself by the extension of its limbs and the sexes beyond every frontier. His limbs are limbs and sex is sex but to arrive at the outside, change is necessary. We are encased in a cyst. Man is no longer himself in others and with others. He is a morsel of himself because outside of others.
The more the tool parcellises the activities of humans, the more humans are separated from their original generic totality but the more they draw closer to a new entity different to that of the animal that remains dependent upon a wayward nature.
Our new entity should be on a cosmic scale.
The stagnation of technical development entails a stratification of human history, the continuation or increase in poverty. The evaluation of technique on the contrary allows us to resolve these contradictions and allows for the possibility of different human relations.
The development of human history depends on the constant and maximum amelioration of technologies that free man from forced alienating labour and from socially indispensable labour.
All labour that is imposed by necessity is alienating.
The nostalgia for the farmer living with the seasons, out night and day, the graceful gestures of the sower, the skill of the artisan have never prevented droughts or famines or work accidents. The 20th century has put its aestheticism in the wrong place. Sometimes the shit of his work engulfs the labourer.
To oppose this aestheticism to the industrial militarisation of the proletariat is to shut our eyes to the slaves of antiquity, the serfs of the Middle Ages.
We have never been so close to generalised automation.
It is not the fact that proletarians are dispossessed of their labour that creates their alienation. It is the necessity of work that is the cause of the alienation of men. Workers or bourgeoisie, it is the price of survival. It is not the fact that the proletariat is dispossessed of its labour that makes them revolutionary but the possibility of the development of the productive forces.
The development of techniques must not be confused with the violations and systematic destruction of nature, which is actually the case. Human civilisation is today afflicted with cancer; a multiplication of cells which fills and kills us with their uselessness.
The development and control of technique must not become an assault upon nature but a harmonious, intelligent relationship with nature. If man can be "conscious nature" he is not beyond it. The man who rapes nature rapes himself. Nature knows how to defend itself.
The division of labour is the division of men between themselves. The division of labour entails the division between men and women. This division is neither biological nor moral it is an economic consequence of the division of labour.
Most assuredly it is motherhood that ties women to sedentary tasks (agriculture, craft work, domestic work at the same time males run through woods and along river banks in search of game and fish, or they go to confront other tribes.
Poverty or rather want entails sublimation and the fetishism of the object. Social relations and their sexual moments do not escape this sublimation. Human relationships are objectified.
Contrary to what Marx claims in a note on The Communist Manifesto, sexuality is not a natural division, the first division. It is as Reich demonstrated the two points of the same equation.
The individual is not a part, a single part of space. It is necessary to be at least two to be oneself. It has been a long time since we were amoebas and when we reproduced in a fissiparous fashion.
"There, in a clearing surrounded by flowers, slept the hermaphrodite lost to the world on the grass dampened with tears."
The speculation on the primal horde, the possession of women by the father, the murder of the father by the sons and their guilt has more to do with news items in France Soir than with reality. With living organisms there is no hint of natural sexual poverty. The solitary wolf always finds a she wolf to mate with.
It is the division of labour that entails the alienating parcelisation of sexual need. This division places each individual whether male or female in a competitive position vis-à-vis each other in order to satisfy everyday alimentary needs.
Because of competition sexuality appears as a brutal act, the result of a long drawn out tension brought on by individual economic struggle. The male his egotistic belly full, tracks and rapes the woman who waits only for that: for her there is no other possibility. Now and then, the male succeeds in 'possessing' a female, objectifying her in objectifying himself.
The division of labour and the alienation that flows from it and which is physically and morally deeply felt, give birth to sublimated activities (song, dance, painting, religion, politics, geniuses, science) are in themselves specialised separate activities.
Man resenting alienation tries to escape through free creation. But this creative activity is itself dependent on the division of labour and alienation and depends on the solitude of the individual drowning in social competition. It is socialised egoism.
Sexuality is linked to social relations; the social relations are linked to the production of material life. The transformations of sexual relations are linked to the transformation of structures of production.
The possibility of surpassing the monogamous couple depends on the possibility of suppressing sublimation and frustrations by suppressing competition linked to the division of labour. The possibility of the surpassing of the monogamous couple depends on the possibility of abundance and the end of work.
Egotism product of material poverty has disturbed the need for love, man permanently feeling his lack of satisfaction and consequently the possibility of permanent satisfaction. With the animal, sexual needs satisfied in the natural environment to the extent where it is not subjected to the division of labour, the animal life is in symbiosis with the external environment. The needs that are determined by this environment are satisfied by this environment are satisfied by it, genital orgiastic satisfaction are linked in the same act.
For alienated man only genital sexuality is satisfied (relatively because we are also alienated there) and we pursue methods of 'contraception' and a disturbed sexuality preoccupies us: make fewer children and enjoy more.
Permanent dissatisfaction is felt physically and consciously and estranges us from the possibility of "natural satisfaction". Direct animal satisfaction is transformed into universal satisfaction to the extent that the satisfaction of the individual depends to an ever-greater extent on his own emancipation and that of his own emancipation from competition, from the division of labour and from work itself.
The revolutionary outcome of our repressed needs primarily depends on the technological development of the means of production because the satisfaction of these needs depends as much on material possibilities as on the will.
Consciousness is powerless if the material conditions of its realisation don't exist. To be conscious has never meant to be satisfied and we prefer to be satisfied in abundance than conscious in poverty. One can censure this position as "technological determinism" but this depends less on the recognition of an historical situation than on voluntaristic activities which in the final analysis is an irrational emotional position and only represents the determinism of powerlessness.
The revolution does not belong to the avant-gardes. These will learn that they can participate in it at the same level of equality as other individuals. Those who set their sights on becoming commissars after the revolution, an aim they see as justified by the wretched theory of the "party" as "the historical consciousness of the proletariat" will bloody their noses on the existence of a propertyless mass and who are not prepared to hand themselves over to a new minority.
It happens that in an authoritarian, competitive society, contradictions provoke the birth of material forces of contestation and the individuals that serve it. It serves no purpose to suborn social practise to the manufacturing of a revolution which can only belong to history (the times of the Jacobins, the Blanquists, Leninists and some Guevarists is over with). The form and the content of the revolution shall be inscribed in the revolutionary moment by those who participate in it.
It is not a question of manufacturing the revolution but, from now on, through the imposition of the lived, of expressing it practically in the extreme horizons of present historical conditions which will result in insurrection: new forms of relations between men, participation freed from competition, the satisfaction of needs. By needs it must be understood the extent to which it is possible to withdraw from alienated labour through the intermediary of technological development, to be rid of economic quotas in order to be able to directly make contact with desires and to satisfy them and by getting rid of repressive structures (hierarchy, family, classes, state).
Products of alienation, of want, of work, of competition, of authority, of commodity fetishism, individuals shall practically contest with all the means at their disposal. This contestation is not ethical or voluntary, it is society itself which brings it about as to the degree that it makes its contradictions cruelly felt by the greater number of men.
Given the actual state of society it is now possible to question existing social relations and a type of liberation is already possible. The abundance and squandering of objects leads more and more individuals to the demystifications of commodities and their manufacture.
The revolution has already begun not as regards the insurrectionary moment but in the space of satisfaction.
Having passed along all the old paths of recuperation, dissatisfaction remains just as strong. From now on, society is advancing towards forms of relations as yet unsuspected up to now. It is not possible to predict the reactions of the old world of the 20th century. However no turning back is possible, the satisfaction of our needs is at stake.
Chapter 2: Blues for a sad morning (Begins with Violet Mills, blues singer.....)
(Yves begins this chapter quoting the words of "Mad Mama Blues" from the 1920s and perhaps the most violent blues ever sung. Two female blues singers, Josie Miles and Julia Moody, (we don't know where Yves got the name Violet Mills from) each recorded "Mad Mama's Blues," written by Spencer Williams under the pseudonym Duke Jones. He is probably best known for "Basin Street Blues" and "I Ain't Got Nobody." ...Yves only quotes three verses but they are an amalgam of all the others. He has in essence reinvented the song). The following is the original song – TN)
Wanna set the world on fire
That is my one mad desire
I'm a devil in disguise
Got murder in my eyes
Now I could see blood runnin'
Through the streets
Now I could see blood runnin'
Through the streets
Could be everybody
Layin' dead right at my feet
Now man who invented war
Sure is my friend
The man invented war
Sure is my friend
Don't believe that I'm sinkin'
Just look what a hole I am in
Give me gunpowder
Give me dynamite
Give me gunpowder
Give me dynamite
Yes I'd wreck the city
Wanna blow it up tonight
I took my big Winchester
Down off the shelf
I took my big Winchester
Down off the shelf
When I get through shootin'
There won't be nobody left
The weekly work timetable is a mirror of boredom – a little sperm and a coffin at the end of it all. The common labyrinth where the ways out are known – but who dares take them? And yet it is so easy – no longer go or return.
Between boredom and boredom – the clocking on machine, the mopping of brows, then alcohol and sleep. And in between a kind of loving.
IS THIS LIFE??
Our time is denied us.
TO GO TO RETURN - TO GO TO RETURN - TO GO TO RETURN - TO GO TO RETURN - TO GO TO RETURN.
MONDAY. TUESDAY. WEDNESDAY. THURSDAY. FRIDAY.
JANUARY – FEBRUARY - MARCH – APRIL – MAY – JUNE – JULY – AUGUST – SEPTEMBER – OCTOBER – NOVEMBER – DECEMBER.
FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.
(There follows a staccato listing of what this kind life amounts to – And always the factory, the factory, the factory, the factory up to retirement and then the factory again and finally the cemetery followed by the factory –TN)
Our time is denied us, our time is controlled in the space of ideological structures abd by consumer commodities.
Always the Same Thing - No Power Over Time - Happy Event - Titty Bottle – Skool – Apprenticeship - Factory – Army – Factory – Marriage – Factory – Factory – Elections – Factory - Strike – Factory – Factory - Factory - Shit Job – Metro –Factory - Bye Byes – Factory - TV – Factory – Factory – Donkey Jacket - Factory - Cinema – Factory - Air Freshner - Factory - Trade Union –Factory – June 1936 – Factory – May 1968 – Factory – Fridge - Factory - Cote D'Azur – Factory – Factory - Pipe in Hand - Factory - Handfile - Factory - Sun – Factory – Factory – Snow - Factory – Love – Factory – Boneshaker – Factory – Retirement - Factory – Cemetery – Factory.
IS THIS LIFE??
WE HAVE ORGANISED YOUR TIME IN SPACE!
Car show-room, book festival, ideal home exhibition, open air exhibition, business fairs, boat shows, fashion parades, term time, Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, May 1st etc, etc.
- and then the "L'Humanite" festival, (strong awareness of the suffocating presence of the Communist party in Bye bye turbin - TN).
And then comes Sunday requiring us to be responsible – to give for cancer, the old, to famine victims and to ex-servicemen. Then to buy L'Humanite on Sunday, to go to mass, the betting shop. Sunday, Sunday, Sunday – be free. And then comes Monday and back to the slavish daily grind.
Wait and hope – for the next edition of your magazine, the bus, your fiancée, retirement, paid holidays, end of a shift, the latest release of your pop idol.
But beneath all this: paradise and revolutions.
An ideology seeks to keep time within an eternal past lived as an eternal future. Therefore proletarians must make conquest of the 4th dimension (time) part of its programme!!!
(This chapter following "Blues for a Sad Morning" is meant to be chanted rather than read. The collection of nouns, the repeating of "factory" over and over again speaks for itself: the factory outlasts time, the seizure of time and space being the important thing, not the factory- TN).
Le Manach rather likes to present himself as a shop floor worker, one of the unskilled as opposed to the skilled worker. Thus the skilled engineers appear as white collar technicians sporting fashionable clothing and "English shoes". They ask why someone pulls out a gun: the reply: "to do the washing". A pin is taken out of a grenade and they end up splattered against the wall. They now feel every bit as bad as we do!
Middle management cadres appear: "There are leftists here" they say. "Did Peking supply you with the grenades? Standing before the machinery they ooze fashion consciousness. "You're off to the hospital?" "Yes, I've just lost two fingers in the culling machine." And tomorrow the blood collectors will be doing the rounds.......
Chapter 3: Against the 200 Families and their 1000s of Dependents
And after the harangue of Blues for a Sad Morning time for a more considered theoretical reflection. It begins with a quote from Marx's Critique of the Gotha Programme followed by one from Lautreamont's Poesies: "With the certainty of overwhelming them, I seize and balance the lash of indignation and concentration, and I await these monsters, firm footed as their predestined conqueror," In fact Lautreamont has just been lambasting the Manfred's, the Werther's, the Faust's, the Caligula's and the fearsome mythologies of old – "the whole clamourous series of pasteboard devils" – "the soap bubbles" and "puppets in gold leaf". The suggestion is the spirit of Lautreamont will finally conquer the Marx that claims those who don't work, who live off the labour of others, even drawing their culture from the labour of others. Le Manach leaves us in no doubt: the solution to this evil is to abolish work through automation.
This chapter begins with the question of planning and suppression of competition, which in Yves opinion, if it does not suppress the division of labour will separate individuals. It also leads to a scramble for the best jobs – a privileged place within the division of tasks.
Meanwhile a CGT union delegate passes through the workshop. It is as if all of Yves observations are potentially subject to the policing function of unions – the CGT, the CFDT, Force Ouvriere making common cause, ever mindful their chief function is to suppress workers. And so at the end of each paragraph a union delegate puts in an appearance, casting a watchful eye over proceedings. Yves concludes: unions in fact do have a base amongst workers – the most favoured workers – not to mention management.
To briefly summarise Yves views: The more intelligent you are, the more likely you are to be co-opted in a classless, planned society, the consumption of power mattering more than the consumption of objects, power more important than pay. Only the development of the means of production can end labour hierarchies by creating new relations of production that set the worker free from work. Accordingly labour is not a biological necessity with humans and neither with animals. Hence alienation does not reside in being denied the fruits of labour but in labour itself, a consequence of the failure to dominate nature. History then is no longer the history of class struggle but rather as the confused search for the satisfaction of needs and the improvement of techniques.
No class therefore is essentially revolutionary, not even the working class. Class relations are only the relations of production determined by the existent means of production and voluntarist ideologies cannot change anything in this respect.
The proletariat is not capitalism's ultimate contradiction but only one of two factors inseparable from surmounting natural alienation. On the one hand there is poverty, on the other there is the means of escaping it.
In bourgeois industrial society class antagonism manifests itself only as a struggle for integration in it and does not constitute its surpassing. It is necessary that workers become bourgeois. This roughly speaking is what the demands of workers' organisations amount to. This moralistic utopia does not take account of the reality of the division of labour and the inequalities that necessarily result from it.
The proletariat can only become revolutionary according to the extent the bourgeoisie develops technology. In the functional, technocratic society which is developing on the premises of automation, work has attained its last degree of division and simplification. The division of labour no longer determines class struggle but rather a functional division of labour, the leftist bureaucrats being its most ardent defenders. "Seeing manual workers are less intelligent than engineers, it is normal they should not have the same rights." It is normal that the bureaucrats of the left delude the "engineers and industrial technicians" and that they recognise themselves more and more in the structures proposed by the bureaucrats of the left. It is sad that the struggle for equality proposed by the workers movement in its inception and enshrined in the preamble to the First International should have come to this.
In this society of functional logic, labour has attained its last physical expression which boils down to it becoming increasingly passive and dependent upon sight and control of class relations, given these new means of production, are transformed into industrial hierarchies. (Le Manach seems to have been influenced by certain chapters in Marx's Grundrisse here. It must have been discussed in France some years before it did the rounds in the English speaking part of the world-TN). At this stage in the development of the productive forces the end of work becomes a reality not because workers are dispossessed of the fruits of their labour but because work has become unreal or ir-real to the vast majority of the people.
Meanwhile some CGT delegates accompany a group of delegates from England around the factory. (Confederation General de Travail, Communist party union - TN)
Yves adds the time of commodity production is in the final analysis only the space of consumerism.
Meanwhile a Force Ouvriere delegate passes through the workshop. Yves adds, the bourgeois conception of the economy still remains the point of reference for the different bureaucrats of the left seeing it is in their interest to maintain the notion of work as a necessity.
Meanwhile 5 CGT delegates leave the factory together.
Yves adds art, politics, the economy, ideology in general serves only to mask or justify the ends of commodity society – to produce in order to consume. In this society, to consume is at once the means and ends of human relations. (Note that Le Manach puts art first! -TN)
Meanwhile 3 CFDT delegates follow them. (Confederation Francaise Democratique de Travail –TN)
Yves says consumer society is not about satisfying human needs but is an end in itself; the family in particular the surest guarantor of consumer society.
With abundance, the philistines of power are obliged to perfect their methods. In their eyes one consumes well when one feels fulfilled (sublimated) in the object. But only rarity value can really do that. So consumer society must spread the ideology of rarity in a world transformed into a supermarket and waste bin. This world is set up for us to salivate before plastic and chrome but there is always a dishwasher that is uniquely adapted to your personality. Man the object of his solitude, takes comfort in the solitude of objects. In personalising consumerism, consumer society perpetuates separation.
Meanwhile a CGT delegate and a CFDT delegate engage in a two hour discussion.
Yves adds that consumer society has spilled over into the production of objects exclusively destined to compensate for isolation. Now however, we have arrived at the epoch of electric masturbation, the vibrator vibrates in every realm: the portable TV vibrator, the sports car vibrator, the cinema seat vibrator.
Car, TV, the betting shop – these are the collective solitudes of the proletariat in particular and of all classes in general.
Meanwhile a Force Ouvriere delegate discusses with a CGT delegate for three hours. (Force Ouvriere is an anti-party trade union - TN)
Material abundance and the possible richness of human relations make sublimation in consumer objects laughable. When that happens the only recourse is to blackmail us. "You will lose your job and be unemployed. Do you want to retire at 65 or at 60? Are you insured against water damage, fire? Have you taken out the insurance?" In the midst of heaps of useless gadgets, the philistines re-invent fear, anxiety, uncertainty the better that we continue to make and consume.
Yves then goes on to say that it is not workers who are the source of surplus value but machines and that the real problem for industry is having more powerful, more perfect machines at its disposal.
The aim of the capitalist is not to add to the value of the commodity that of surplus value but to flood the market with competitive products. It is not living surplus value (which is limited) which gives commodities their competitive edge but technological surplus value which is unlimited.
Chapter 4 : On the Rue de Leningrad in Winter
(the former 'Red Belt' of Paris where Yves worked)
(This is the most personal chapter in "Bye bye turbin". A mixture of fantasy and fact, it begins with a poem simply called "Love" from the "About This" series by the Russian Futurist poet, Vladimir Mayakovsky. In this collection of poems he pours out his unrequited love for Lily Brik, though his letters to her are every bit as passionate and perhaps more touching and direct for being so commonplace. (Mayakovsky poems however have a typographical character to them, like he was struggling to escape the verse format and break through poetry).
I want to live out my life!
So that love won't be a lackey there
forsaking the fireside chair
so that love shall flood the universe
then very first cry of
shall spin into this one this very earth.
So as to live
not victims in home-holes curled
So that henceforth
to each other
Yves immediately contrasts this with the un-poetical rhythms of his own humdrum daily grind which begins at quarter to four in the morning with the ringing of the alarm clock - followed by the hurried flinging on of clothes, no time for a coffee, the hassle of getting to work on a packed bus full of factory employees. Arriving at the factory and already fantasies are taking over. It is not workers on the shop floor but machine tool androids. And so we have the Manclamp, Calliper-man, Adjustable Spanner-man and Oilcan-man who is busying himself with the electro-plated saucepans, for this is no longer an aerospace factory that Le Manach actually worked in but a cosmic factory producing saucepans for the universe, though it could just have easily been teaspoons. This mocking reshaping of production in the minds eye makes the real business of work just that bit more endurable for this shop floor symbolist – and is so very typical of the most advanced workers who habitually find their job a joke and make play with it by giving it a sci-fi makeover. It has the opposite effect of religious submission to work and hierarchy, they generally being the first to take action, for they are the least hoodwinked of all, the least bound to their jobs, their fantasy constructs expressive of their disenchantment and readiness to change things .....
Seeing we have made mention of William Blake in the introduction, here we also note in passing the fact Le Manach does have his cosmic moments, maintaining that the workers movement must make the taking of the 4th dimension (that of time) part of its demands! (How many other gifted workers are in the habit of letting their imaginations run away like this, their wild statements so refreshingly different from the restrained tedium of academic texts. And so less invigilated.) And then a drifting dream begins..........
Opening his tool bag, Yves leans on his vice, the foreman having disciplined him for dossing on the job taking away his bonus. He is well and truly fucked off. He slips a copy of the Oily Rags Clarion in his overalls and heads for the bog. They are very fine bogs, 300 in all measuring 15 meters long by 15 metres wide. The walls and floor have been tiled in white. Some of which have been encrusted with industrial diamonds that form the word PRODUCTION. Though it gives the impression of being hygienic, the smell is truly awful, a combination of excreted canteen beans and beef, trichloric acid and other metal agents make the pong really hard to put up with for those not used to it. The loud flushing of toilets combines with the farts of 300 men.
And all this 'sanitary' hardware was the immediate legacy of the factory occupations of the French general strike of 1936 and is the company's pride and joy. (One is reminded of how pithead baths were promptly installed after the mines were nationalised in the UK following the Second World War -TN) For Yves having a shit in peace is one of the few pleasures left to the shop floor worker - but look out for the surveillance cameras. And so seated on the bog Yves takes out his copy of the Oily Rags Clarion and starts to read it. His eye is caught by an article to do with the resumption of work following the May 1968 events. It is counted a victory. "This will not do" he exclaims and begins to shout out: "The bourgeoisie and unions are one in calling a return to work a victory" there follows an obscure aside on George Lukacs, suggesting he betrayed his theory of alienation by emphasizing in later life the necessity of production for its own sake. (At least that is the interpretation we've put on it for we cannot make much sense of what Le Manach is saying here-TN) So what! But he is immediately answered by the occupant of another toilet to the effect that the present world concentration camp is due to the devalorisation of labour, which is at the same time the trajectory of the alienation of human work described and denounced by Marx. Some one else from another cubicle rejoins that we are camped at the door of the old society and that we must be the organisers of absence from work seeing we are so deeply embedded in the spectacular commodity economy.
300 toilets are promptly flushed and 300 doors open; it is the insurrectionary, armed strike. A foreman bares the way, wanting to know if these bastards are in the pay of Mao Tse Tung. Before Yves can reply, someone shoots him between the eyes. "Quick on the Draw" Earnest then fells five others. Having occupied management offices, a telex is quickly dispatched to "All the workers of the planet - the saucepan factory to the cosmos is in the hands of insurgents. We have decreed the immediate end of work and the end of class society - wherever you are, do as we do." The laser equipment in the research laboratories is commandeered and turned into an offensive weapon able to blow up CRS vans. A telex arrives from Milan – "the Fiat factory is occupied. The end of work appears imminent." And so it goes on, telex massages arriving from around the globe, including one from the Bank of Tokyo, which as it is quite useless, has been set on fire. Another is received from Gdansk in Poland: "The port is in the hands of the dockers and the Communist party HQ is on fire -the end of work appears imminent". A telex is received from the nuclear facility of Saclay to say the nuclear bombs are at the service of the revolution! (A tongue in cheek comment to be sure, and could well be an ironic aside on the now forgotten, but then current, view in Stalinist circles that the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal was the workers' nuclear arsenal! -TN)
Instead of canteen hash, a magnificent meal has been set out on an immense table, one straight out of the pages of Saint Simon or Fourier. The menu du jour is notable for its lack of oppressive good taste and includes veal, duck liver pates, braised tortoise, marinated hare, peacocks dipped in sauce, haunch of venison, pheasant roasted on a spit, grouse, stuffed partridge, flambéed guinea fowl, sautéed young bunny rabbit etc etc!!! And as for the wines, well, one doesn't know where to begin describing what's on offer. (All this of course enough to turn a righteous green instantly puce, this OTT, lush but very un-PC spectacle would provide yet another pretext that would culminate, years later, in the unprecedented demonisation of the industrial working class throughout the west, nowhere more so than in Britain. -TN)
Meanwhile the insurrectionary workers of the cosmic saucepan factory have drawn up a list of indispensable products essential to social production. Having done this they find that work time can be reduced to five hours a week. They take a vote in the saucepan stamping shop (the mock-epic detail is typical) on whether to continue occupying the factory. The response is a unanimous NO, the former workers setting fire to the factory though leaving the Star Wars laser beams in place. Delegations are sent to all of Europe whilst others set about the immediate destruction of the spectacular commodity economy. The occupation of towns and cities is well under way and concrete has been poured onto bridges, motorways and runways at strategic points. Banks, administrative buildings, insurance companies have either been bulldozed or burnt down. The call goes out, "the workers are now masters of the globe." A rock group strikes up "C'mon everybody". There is now no going back and the hour of the festival has arrived.
Yves meets Paulette who was formerly a typist at Credit Industriel but is now part of the regional body engaged in the organising of socially necessary tasks. Eventually she departs for Cairo, explaining that having made a revolution is not in itself good enough and that henceforth technological knowledge must become part of our very being, seeing how we are still too deeply mired in the intuitive. The natural sciences also include the science of man just as the science of man encapsulates the natural sciences. Echoing a striking phrase from Marx's The German Ideology, Paulette says henceforth we shall have only one science. As for Yves, well, he goes off on a nutty, vaguely Cartesian kick, entering a libertarian non-academy of cortico thalamic training - whatever that is. Goodness knows what he hoped to get out of it but we might be correct in surmising that this shop floor worker has already been toying with the idea of the need to expand consciousness.
Chapter 5: Strikers! Let's be Wild
Begins with a quote from a letter Engels wrote to Marx in 1844 pointing to the huge increase in crimes like burglary and killings which act as indicators of the degree to which workers are contesting the old organisation. The streets are no longer safe; the bourgeoisie are being thrashed, knifed, mugged. (Engels to Marx: Correspondence, Sept 1844)
Yves immediately says the fact that there are two classes absolutely does not imply that one is revolutionary. This is not a theoretical question it is a practical one. However up to now the proletariat has only shown that sometimes it is capable of violence but has never been able to get beyond an imposed social practise. For too long its watchword has been work or death.
Up to now revolutionary moments have always been marked by elements of hysteria but which don't have a real practical content. They are an abstract mediation of a dispossessed class that faced with an historical situation of want, commit suicide. In fact the most positive thing in the conscience of the proletariat is that which has remained unconscious. It is now possible for proletarians to disorganise in production – in the political apparatus.
The organisation of the proletariat is only an instrument that has no need of an ideological justification: workers do not organise to militate but to live. The possibilities of action by the workers depend on objective conditions (the level attained by the productive forces) and subjective factors (the desire to take in hand their own lot.)
Up to now class struggle has always been influenced by want – necessity and struggle has always been about political and economic demands. Once satisfied the proletariat would once more be handed over to work and competition.
The achievement of relative abundance in the most technically advanced countries has to transform the content of struggle. The struggle for necessities gives way to the necessity of struggle. What's the point of economic struggles for consumption and better living standards? Everything is already there in the stockpiles of multinationals. It is only the imposed social structures that prevent us from enjoying ourselves. The struggles of the 19th century merely accelerated the development of the bourgeoisie (the era of radical reformism) and which today lose themselves in the depths of the spectacular commodity from which nothing bubbles up.
The only end one can assign to the struggle of the proletariat is the struggle for the totality, which passes beyond the destruction of parcelled structures of a divided power. The struggle of the proletariat must be a radical critique of all the repressive instances of an imposed everyday life, the negation of power under all its constraining forms.
Comrades after the urban and rural guerrilla, the guerrilla of everyday now appears. This struggle does not rest on a fixed structure, it is the expression of an immense need to live, which escapes ideologies and invades the planet. Faced with the movement, repression is powerless because it defies classification by the police.
This form of struggle requires that each proletarian becomes conscious of the rules of the game (bourgeois society) and all the means of trickery (liberation).
It has been a long time since the Popular Front government (mid-1930s) and the granting of the forty-hour week.
Breaking out of the walls that shut in the proletariat, power becomes myself; power to express my subjectivity that certain people want to plan. This subjectivity, which they want to smother in the pit of ideology, this subjectivity of the proletariat as unique as a Messiah, pushes me into leaving my place of work that imprisons me and where everyone wants to keep me.
The subjectivity is at the very least proletarian or it is nothing. "Never Work" is proclaimed in the factories and nowhere else.
It is not a matter of the proletariat realising itself as a class but as the human species. It can only realise itself through its disappearance, that's the reason its historical task can only be critical – a critique of class society – and of itself as class.
Any attempt to resolve contradictions within the framework provided will only reinforce its alienation.
Proletarians of the world, dig deep within ourselves and stay there.
(Yves then follows this up with a long denunciation of the role of trade unions.) Putrid trade unionists all you want us to do is participate in competitive society – AS WORKERS. Our only function is to justify your existence. For you demands are only quantative and you ensure that they fit in with the interests of power. You lack "realism" and your idea of happiness is not the same as ours. You measure our happiness in terms of the number of electronic gadgets in your possession. You make demands on the basis of a culture which is foreign to us.
Although we are lazy, for the bourgeoisie production constantly increases. For you, our purchasing power is constantly threatened. This contradiction is only apparent that we produce and consume more. And when you appeal to the "dignity of the worker" it is only because you hope one day to be the new masters. You hope to shut us up by negotiations, pay increases and better working conditions. You imagine that this can resolve anything whatsoever whilst it is the same limited notions that is governing the hazardous direction of our planet. The factory to which you are attached by your complicit demands makes us throw up. Your responsibility makes a change from our irresponsibility. You wish to appear worthy in front of the boss, you ooze good will in the hope you can mask our bad will. It's hopeless. Some of us have been thinking of kidnapping one of our bosses or their stooges.
You talk of reforms but you are only the bourgeoisie's truncheon. You have never raised the possibilities of new productive forces. For you automation only exists as a source of unemployment – or as a utopia. What embarrasses you the most is the fact that automation undermines you as much as it does the bourgeoisie because it undermines work itself. Whatever would become of the union of "labour" parties without workers? A pay increase or improved work conditions, but only if it does not question work itself.
Chapter 6: Through a greatly increased intensification and through an increase in the involuntary muscular constructions the excitation grows in an abrupt rapid fashion until the climax.
Between the chapter, Strikers Let's be Wild (or rather than describing it as a chapter why not refer to it as an added component like say an engineering fitter would deploy?-TN) there is a Lautreamont-like chapter describing the mating displays and habits of the bourgeoisie. It begins with a quote from Engels to his young friend Marx describing his pleasurable encounters with good time girls (grisettes) adding that if the French did not exist then life would not be worth living.
Yves then pitches in to describe the mating habits of this new species of freak bourgeoisie, lumping male and female together. This Lautreamont-esque taxonomic extravaganza is not easy to précis never mind translate; however there can be no doubt that it has been influenced by Le Manach reading The Songs of Maldoror in which we can discern behind the general ghastliness a hidden critique of capitalism. Le Manach's malevolent taxonomic conceits are not literary, they are 'real' in so far as he genuinely believes the bourgeoisie is biologically evolving into something post human and horribly aberrant, mechanising their reproduction for all time.
According to Le Manach, in spring the individuals of his country (France) treat us to the spectacle of the male at the end of some boulevard pursuing the female for a few hours. In one fell swoop he places himself before her. From his tail he discharges an air full of gas-oil from his abdominal glands until he finally gains her attention.
With individuals of the human species, luxury, well-polished cars, their dashboards trimmed with bankcards bear witness to the art with which the male lets the female know of his amorous intentions.
They paratise each other; their sensory organs atrophy. They never follow a course themselves and never eating any decent food, their teeth fall out. Their arteries join up and they are nourished by blood. They remain dwarfs no doubt because otherwise they would drain off too much organic liquid from the female and too much vital force. Only their genital glands increase to a huge size. It must be difficult for a male to find his female in a society, which escapes his grip, and so it's not a bad solution that allows the male to grip his female once he has found her in a way that he is not in any danger of losing her. It is up to sociologists to find out how other inhabitants of these sad remnants give themselves over to amorous encounters.
One can observe rather better in spring the tender effusions of two hermaphrodites who appear to be an amorous couple. In fact they are one but each behaves at the same time like a male and like a female. Their reciprocal tenderness reaches its culminating point the moment when each plunges into the other a sharp dart that has been honed over time in a special gland – this brutal witness of love is no doubt necessary where cold bodies are concerned. Afterwards each injects there spermatozoa in the genital passage of the other carrying out a cross fertilization.
The mating of Auvernigats (on the make French hippy entrepreneurs in the Auverne -TN) is just as intriguing and also just as easy to observe. The male seizes the auvernigate that it has chosen behind the head whilst making use of the palpe that it has brought to bear on the abdomen. Afterwards he flips over in such a way that his own genital orifice which is equally to be found at the end of his abdomen produces a ventral sac which is then filled with sperm. Continuing to hold onto the auvernigate with the aid of his palpe he stretches out again etc, etc, etc.
In summer one often sees an auvernigat and auvernigate leap on each other when having completed the operation described above they form a wheel which revolves crazily in the air.
The man amongst the individuals of this civilisation because he has mated, constructs on the peripheries of the cities and towns a semi-detached house that he ornaments with washing machines, fridges, televisions, bones and even fresh flowers. Once the building is complete the woman stretches herself out under the porch whilst the man performs all manner of contortions whilst emitting strange noises. This amorous behaviour is similar to that of the blackcock except it is more ostentatious and done with consummate artistry not lacking a certain aesthetic edge.
But as with other individuals their amorous disposition is a good deal less poetic. Love with them takes place in the stomach. Like with anglers for example who have caught fish the couple pounce on each other the man seizing the woman by his teeth.
This is followed by a strange paragraph about "solidarity between different nations." Humans become aphids and birds just like in Lautreamont.
In brief it is about sugar or rather honeydew excreted from the anus of aphids. Only this time they are the 'inhabitants' of the "blue" countries. Neutral countries that are not troubled about where the sweetener comes from eagerly receive the sweetener. But the people of the "red" countries have established close relationships with several "blue" countries. They want to look for the origins of the sugar, even up their anuses. An inhabitant of the "blue" countries saves as much of his excretions as possible until an inhabitant from the "red" countries happens to arrive and is forewarned of when he vibrates his antennae. Then the inhabitant of "blue" countries rather than violently expel his sugar droplet evacuates it delicately into the corona of hairs that ring his anus and forms goblets. The inhabitants from the "red" countries have only then to suck it up. (Does this mean they are up each other's arses? The "blue" countries must be the capitalist west, the "red" the east, the former soviet bloc -TN)
These same social parasites are everywhere. The individuals in question can be found equally in the east as well as the west and are parasites on the proletariat. Calling themselves the bourgeoisie or bureaucracy they grow to some ten metres in length. The head is miniscule. Sense organs and nervous systems are rudimentary; the brain barely exists at all. Inhabiting the dark recesses of a society they are doing their utmost to perpetuate, at no point do they come out with profound reflection. The head is equipped with suckers, which they attach to the proletariat so they don't get involved in riots. They don't leech on the proletariat itself but they do empty it of content by appropriating the fruits of their labour. Like its host it economises on work, hardly having a digestive system possessing neither a mouth nor intestines. They absorb through their body what they have need of, namely, wholesome flesh which normally should pass through the body and blood of their host.
After several days before the female goes into labour the male searches out the female and enfolds her in his arms. He is equipped for this long embrace because thick calluses appear on his thumbs that he plunges into the flesh of the female. Under the pressure of this embrace the female gives birth, the male showering the new born with sperm thus ensuring the infants healthy growth.
There can never be an elective marriage amongst the individuals of this civilisation because this type of marriage presupposes a kind of psychological underdevelopment. However there does exist something that resembles an engagement. The couple are not joined by an ideal symbol like the ring on a marriage contract of earthlings but by a link they cannot break. They are literally welded to one another.
The majority of these human beings behave in the same way as sea urchins. During the spawning season they congregate en masse on the beaches or in swimming baths where they release their sperm. Giving the fact that spermatozoon is so small it is scarcely surprising that many of them do not achieve their aim and many women go unfertilised.
In industrially developed countries artificial insemination is recognised, the procedure leading to a greatly increased number of births. This is not necessary in a country like India where the collective bathing of several million in the Ganges gives much the same result. (Not very PC neither! TN).
Chapter 7: For Automation
"If, as the scientists and technicians claim, automation is a new means of liberating man, it should imply the supercession of previous human activities. This means that man's active imagination has to go beyond the realisation of automation itself."
Asger Jorn: The Situationists and Automation, 1958.
This is followed by a quote from Wilhelm Schutz, Die Bewegung der Produktion .
"It has been estimated that of the existing level of production an average time of five hours a day divided amongst those able to work is enough to satisfy all the material needs of society."
Yves begins by saying that the workers' movement today can only be understood as a negation of work. Plus the fact forms of organisation dedicated to keeping workers in work are being negated by the development of big industry. The hour of the satisfaction of needs has arrived.
The founding of a classless society is dependent on two conditions: Firstly, the existence of a conscious man who wants it, and, secondly, that there is in place a technological infrastructure that suppresses specialisation and the division of socially necessary labour essential to survival which has been our lot up to now.
And then a typical Le Manach touch: the most important problem for a "cosmic" society is not the management of production but rather the management of needs, of life.
To be responsible, to participate are strictly moral notions. However, workers' control has come to mean management of one's own alienation, the planification of existing poverty and the inauguration of alienation within the pseudo institution of freedom. The problem that is now posed is not the management of the economy but the suppression, pure and simple, of work as an economic, parcelised activity. Work that has been imposed must be replaced by automated machinery. The autonomy of the human being can no longer be at the mercy of material penury. Man must be free to realise himself in a free activity, in the labyrinth of limitless knowledge and in freely willed participation where the body can drift (derive) in a space and time without boundaries and norms. Having eliminated the moral constraints imposed by poverty, bodies can touch and take hold of one another outside of all material constraints. We are opened up to the experience of some galaxies in the infinite cosmos that have ventured on the path of liberation (and typically Blakeian-TN).
Now and forever the final aim must tend towards the rationalisation of all material tasks. Any socially necessary activities that cannot be automated must not be handed over to professional specialists but done on the basis of the apportioning out of necessary drudgery.
Automation means different things to the capitalist and worker. For capital automation gets rid of labour in certain sectors in order to reinvest in new, more crazy sectors of production. For workers automation means withdrawing from alienated work entirely.
To produce is to consume. One must not confuse free time and leisure. Free time becomes leisure only to the extent that the consumption of commodities spatialises free time. Thus work time and leisure time are complimentary and part of the space of a capitalist production that becomes increasingly spectacular in the sense that it produces more and more with greater facility than ever. Thus it is obliged to push ever further ahead with the invention of ideological commodities. Within the bourgeois system free time is the time of consumption. So it is ever more necessary that the workers' movement, which is in the process of being reborn, defines its motivational needs and utilises free time through an activity that is different to consuming. Free time should be the time of knowledge and experience. Automation is the end of work at the end of rights.
Work can never be a game as Vaneigem likes to think and some other belated Fourierists.
To confine the production of socially necessary consumption goods it is essential society has a clear view of its future and a desire to live that one can qualify as "dialectical". And that is the reason why the bourgeoisie for whom the only "human" end is to produce and sell will never actually be able to automate. Not only because its existence as a possessing class will be brought into question but only because it lacks a dialectical imagination because with automation it realises, by developing the productive forces, its historic task and can then only disappear. The imagination of the bourgeoisie can only realise itself in the form of fridges and the number of waste bins.
In accord with its essence (the search for profit in competition) the bourgeoisie can never question the existence of work, which, is the justification of the success of its ideology. Should it recognise the pointlessness of work, its world will cave in. However, because of a superb contradiction, it cannot prevent the development of the productive forces and to the degree that big industry automates the creation of wealth depends less and less on labour and more and more on the power of technological agents which are set in motion. Once this happens labour in its immediate form ceases to be the principal source of wealth, and labour time ceases to be its measure and exchange value ceases to be the measure of use value. Production based on exchange value collapses because of this fact. (This is pure Grundrisse-TN)
Followed by a vintage Le Manach.....Up to now civilization and human culture have been material. With generalised automation they risk becoming "spiritual" not in the sense of belief and religious practises but in the sense that our brain contains approximately twelve million brain cells though only one tenth are used. Now that we are freed from work we can look to use the ten or eleven million that are not utilised. After having become aware that we possess an opposed thumb which allows us to hold tools man can appreciate he has a brain.
Those who cry utopianism or sheer foolishness when we announce the end of work and classes as possible in the hours to come have shit in their eyes.
The separation in the revolutionary movement has been there for a long time but is now approaching its end.
The revolutionary movement has been cut off from its aspirations by the poorness of technology. It has fallen back for too long on trade unionist and political reformist demands put there by bosses and bureaucrats. Many times during the course of history workers have taken up arms to achieve emancipation only then to return every time to the factory and the mine. It has today refound its aspirations and with more fervour than the existing means of emancipation – namely the end of alienated labour and the end of classes.
Automation offers new perspectives and a new immediacy. In effect, automation can liberate a great quantity of labour time and at the same time can simplify to the maximum degree tasks that remain indispensable. Automation liberates workers who use it in time and space.
Let Yves explain: In the old system of production the worker was well established in a specialised job, he worked full time and it was difficult for him to change his trade and he remained tied to his job his whole life even when not in the same place of work. The organisations he was in part reflected the overwhelming burden that bowed him down.
With automation however specialised production became the tasks are similar, manual work transforming into surveillance monitoring labour time considerably diminishes. (This likewise could have come out of The Grundrisse TN)
With automation, the workplace (the factory) shrinks; monopolising less space and labour time diminishes. More and more what distinctly appears on the horizon is the possibility of desires.
On the social plane this translates into questioning work, a steady increase in absenteeism, a decline in "professionalism" amongst workers who no longer see the point of it.
Although the introduction of automation is happening slowly it is nevertheless having considerable repercussions on daily life. The possible calling into question of work is being masked by illusory work, which camouflages unemployment. Workers thrown out of work by automation are employed in stock control. Or they are employed as controllers who control automatic controls like on the Paris Metro. Or they are packed off into offices. There are also attempts to manage unemployment through work placements, which amounts to an ever greater, hidden recognition of the powerlessness of full time work.
There are attempts to reclassify peasants driven out by the industrialisation of agriculture. Miners driven out by the petroleum industry, a middle stratum driven out by the development of information technology. A new form of work is appearing – short time working.
Up to now the workers' movement had crystallised around the work place. With automation and temporary work it will erupt into everyday life. Demands will change this form and content, workers demanding to take back their free time from consumption and production. Stealing is increasing and the big stores budget for it. Absenteeism which causes industry a lot of pain.
The state is cracking down in an increasingly heavy manner on the growing number of people who kite cheques. There is an increase in the number of hold ups. There are more and more people fiddling social security, looting in Watts, Gdansk, Montreal, the Latin Quarter, refusal to pay on buses and train, the tendencies expressed in the refusal to pay taxes, rents and tolls.
Too often there is a readiness to describe automated society as a society in which boredom rules. The machines produce whilst human beings with heavy hearts live a life of inactivity given over to drugs and crime. This is due to the fact that automation is considered only within the framework of moral toil, a view that lacks imagination on the simplest level. Yes machines are going to take our work.
That machines will take over is a myth, power is an idea of man for man and the world of generalised automation shall be what men make of it.
Machines only have the power of what is known already (it is not machines that are dangerous but the men who take hold of them). It is up to men to discover the unknown.
With generalised automation the true human adventure will open up entirely new fields of experimentation because men will be liberated from the struggle for the necessities of everyday survival.
Automation is not a new utopia, a redefinition of communism. It is not an end to be attained but on the contrary a point of departure. Too many groupuscules do their utmost defining the social form of the society to come (dictatorship of the proletariat organised by party, libertarian self-management, workers' councils....) whilst what really matters is starting from the already existing productive forces. Automation is not a new brand of washing powder in competition with other brands; it already exists and is not a mind thing.
We conclude this précis with a number of demands in capital letters put forward in Bye Bye turbin:
MAXIMUM REDUCTION OF THE SOCIALLY NECESSARY LABOUR TIME BY MEANS OF THE SUPPRESSION OF ALL BRANCHES OF LABOUR AND SOCIALLY USELESS SPECIALISED WORK (ARMAMENTS, BANKS, INSURANCE COMPANIES, THE PRODUCTION OF GADGETS, THE LEISURE INDUSTRY, LUXURY GOODS.)
THE SYSTEMATIC APPLICATION OF ALL SECTORS OF PRODUCTION WHERE IT CAN BE APPLIED.
THE REPARTITION ON A WORLDWIDE BASIS OF SOCIALLY NECESSARY WORK AMONGST ALL HUMAN BEINGS CAPABLE OF WORK.
WELL PAID UNEMPLOYMENT RELIEF.
WE WILL OURSELVES DEAL WITH ALL THE REST OF THE PROBLEMS.
Chapter 8: Critique of the Situationists Councilist Position
The situationists are wrong to think the councilist moment of class struggle marks its finality.
Councils cannot seize the factories if it means parcelised work continues to exist as in the end the councils will be forced to submit to parceliization. This explains the defeat of all previous proletarian revolutions. The different apparatuses whether unions, Bolshevik, social democratic or whatever are not responsible for their defeat as Rene Riesel leads us to think. They are only expressions of defeat.
Le Manach lifts and remodels a quote from Marx that proletarian revolutions constantly criticise themselves – the weaknesses and poverty of the beginnings – beating down their adversary for the revolution to arise stronger than ever etc, recasting itself constantly anew before the enormity of its aims etc.
After the cooperatives, the unions, social democratic parties, Marxist Leninist, Trotskyite, Guevarist, Maoist parties, is it necessary we add the corpse of the councils?
Then there is another lift from Marx. At a certain stage of their development the material productive forces enter into conflict with the existing social relations of productions which become a fetter. There then opens up a revolutionary festival. (la fete).
Le Manach seems to suggest the bourgeoisie cannot automate and as a class is dying simply because it cannot do just that. Thus the bourgeoisie which can only exist if it ceaselessly revolutionises the mode of production is surpassed (se depasse, rather than superceded) by the instruments of production which it has itself created. It forges the arms that put it to death. It is then the proletariats task to materially automate society seeing it is the idea of automation that has killed off the bourgeoisie.
By coupling the word council with that of workers will not advance the problem one jot. We must understand that the division of labour and private property are identical expressions. When the workers cease to be workers and cease working there also ceases the ideas of workers' councils.
Let's be clear that the councilist transitional stage, the self-managed stage still belongs to the world of the economy, where "work yes, pleasure no" still serves as a measure. In the councilist society, the right to work is an equal right but that equal right is an unequal right for unequal labour.
Workers can participate in putting into place some kind of transitional stage especially if it means automation the better to destroy this transitional stage. Communism is only possible as an "immediate" act. This requires the universal development of the productive force and the relations closely linked with communism. It matters little if transitional stages are councilist or not.
The aim is to realise a life without dead time and only then will the narrow horizon of the bourgeoisie be surpassed. Only then will it be possible to speak of "to each according to his needs, to each according to his desires". This then is today's watchword and ours in the sense that we demand automation. (Vaneigem clearly had a great impact on Le Manach despite the criticisms- TN).
By being councilist the situationists only reify the radical content of class struggle. Workers Councils are not the aim, the goal of human development, and the form of human society. And is Le Manach criticising Riesel when he quotes that "the techniques of telecommunication allows for permanent control over the delegates by the base." For as long as there are delegates there are proletarians: the rich techniques of telecommunications are in fact poor.
Generalised self-management can only reinforce economic categories and the division of labour.
It is necessary to insist that the workers councils are councils of "workers" attached historically and qualitatively to their "essence" as 'parcellised' workers – i.e. workers who endlessly engage in one particular task often assembly line stuff. To be a worker is not to be a human being; it is to carry out a function. It is not because workers are organised in councils that they cease to be workers. To believe that is to reclaim autonomous categories such as politics or philosophy.
It is necessary to insist that a social system that has a need for delegates but which has moreover to control them materially is a system of slaves – transparency has eliminated fear and mistrust. We demand to no longer work and to be masters of our time. Would that the masters of power drown in shit!
It seems that Riesel's Preliminaries on Councils and Councilist Organisations and his Advice to the civilised is only a new kind of Gotha Program (which Marx heavily criticised) or a platform like that of the ICO (Henri Simon and Informations Correspondance Ouvriere). The councilist propositions of the situationists are chiefly political and philosophical expressions thus the concept of the council which promotes autonomy is only a thought category and is pitted against the concept of the spectacle. At this point Le Manach opts to praise Marx who he says influenced the situationists more and more because he never made this mistake. All he did was critique past and present societies. The construction of the future depended on practise and the question of the truth of thought is essentially a practical question. It is through practice that man proves the truth, the power, the materiality of thought. The question of the reality or non-reality of thought isolated from practise is a scholastic practise.
Then Le Manach asks some questions:
1. Does the Situationist International tend to a Hegelian realisation of Leninism?
2. Is the Situationist International an ultra leftist tendency?
3. Is issue number 12 of the Situationist International journal a supplement to the first issue of "International Revolution?" (A reductive 'new' ultra-left journal -TN)
The only organisation which we wish to know is not the councilist organisation but the political, organised practical critique of workers who are sick of being workers, intellectuals who are sick of being intellectuals, peasants who are sick of...., cosmonauts who are sick of...., etc. etc. etc.
In structuring the coming future in the notion of the council, the situationists despite themselves can only establish a pure councillism which itself then becomes an enemy of historical reality. The revolutionary moment's sole organisational core is that of immediate radical practise considered notably under the political aspect of pleasure. Revolutionaries have only transformed the world; it is now a question of changing it.
Instead of babbling on about councilism, it would have been better for the situationists to continue on in the direction of The Revolution of Daily Life, the Society of the Spectacle or Jorn's article in the first edition (1958) of the SI journal The Situationists and Automation.
It is necessary to make a correct interpretation of May 1968 in France and see clearly that workers did not express a councilist tendency through the occupations movement. They did not occupy they stopped working. It was the parties and leftists that occupied the factory to cut the ground from under the feet of those who wanted to automate the factories; of those who wished to have nothing more to do with the factory, its strike committee or general assembly, of those who consciously desired to no longer work desiring automation instead.
These people only came to the occupied factories to profit from cheap meals or to find out when work would be resumed as for the rest of the time they went to the races or to cafes or visiting friends or driving around aimlessly painting their houses or even making love. Whilst dozens of cunts occupied the factory and dozens of cunts wanted to resume work, the majority were enjoying a long weekend in spring.
If the young workers who had had a ball on the barricades of the student quarters had in their heads the situationist theory (which will be the case in the period to come) the barricades would not have been erected in the student quarters but in the spectacular consuming quarters. The police would have had to occupy Opera, the Grand boulevards, faubourg Saint Honore, Champs Elysee, the supermarket precincts. It would not have been the Odeon theatre that was occupied, but cinemas in popular quarters like Pigalle, Gobelins, Montparnasse. It would not have been the factories that were solely occupied but the motorways, the railway stations, the bridges, airports, the fields and woods. It would not have been the site of alienations (the factory) that would have been occupied but the historical time of leisure.
It seems the situationists have a tendency to dress themselves up with pure concepts (spectacle, generalised self-management, organisation, class, consciousness, revolution, history).....Giving themselves the air of being materialist, they take a series of images which represent the concepts in history.
They have eliminated the materialist elements from history: when the situationists are materialists (critique of everyday life, derive, transparency) they do not interfere with history but when they do (promoing workers councils) they are no longer materialists. The history of councils is never materialist history; it is only political history, philosophical, ideological and finally the history of history, the pure councilist idea. What matters is not the history of workers' councils but the workers' councils of history.
Self-management and councils are not the forms of the real motives. Rather than state in advance the organisational forms of the revolutionary movement it is better to advance the practical, material manifestations of the movement.
Men have been organised enough let us now organise objects.
Précis's and excerpts from some of Yves Le Manach's Artichauts de Bruxelles
(Many are taken from the 2002, Editions L'Insomniaque booklet. The artichauts are not numbered nor in chronological order)
The Look that Kills (February 1997)
A Restaurant and Class Struggle
(A précis done in the first person singular)
On this Saturday we had been to see a western in a cinema in the centre of Paris. Afterwards we had gone for a meal in the Chartier restaurant. My friends were not workers like me and did not have my uncommunicative air. The majority were students or former students, all of them desiring to be artists identifying with the most extreme avant-garde of the era. That is why they were beside themselves with joy going out with a worker of their own age especially since he had read some of their provocative pamphlets.
We had before us a number of unopened bottles of wine as we had just sat down. My friends were discussing how to divert (detourne) the Seine into the streets of the 16th arrondissement (a very posh area) to make them into canals, Paris becoming an Amsterdam–like quarter. Of course this lot also wanted to fill up the Amsterdam canals and make Prague into a banlieu-like suburb. I really liked it because they painted a picture; a picture of an existence in every respect different from the one I was leading then.
Casting an eye over the dining rooms, I saw advancing toward me a management stooge. He was a nasty piece of work despising the workforce, which he suspected of getting up to everything. He loved to follow us around with a stopwatch timing how long we spent in toilets. He seemed to have nothing better to do than finding evermore ways of infantilising us. Our eyes locked simultaneously and I was seized with unease. I could see he felt the same way.
It would be wrong to think that management and workers leave their situation behind them at the factory gates. Our democratic system is not so perfect that it is able to separate our attitude in the factory from our attitude in civil society. It is the reason why we are so ill at ease with one another. In the middle of this restaurant buzzing with conversation our work relations were exacerbated. It was like a meeting between a Nazi executive and one of his victims in a street in Buenos Aires some years after the liberation of Buchenwald.
I could see in his look that he was saying, "It's not me that wants a set to, I've done nothing to you, let me pass." He was amazed I was in the restaurant in the company of my exuberant friends. I had the impression that he resented me breathing the same air as he did. I was undecided what to do. I could have nodded my head timidly accompanied by a grimace of a smile. On the other hand I knew if I gave in to this urbane gesture all the energy I had invested over the months in passively resisting (like systematically turning my back on his gaze) would be annihilated in the instant he said hello.
Each of us knew what the other was thinking.
Then one of my friends spoke to him and he turned his head away the unease slowly dissipating. When I looked back this bosses man has sat down at the back of the restaurant his back turned towards me.
This duel had only lasted a few seconds. I did not speak about this to my friends who, preoccupied with changing the world were not aware of what had just taken place. Not only were they capable of insulting him but also of assaulting him. I felt ashamed of myself, of my behaviour and of my life. My evening had been spoiled and I had remained silent, drinking more than usual.
On the Monday morning we returned to the factory both of us acting as if nothing had happened. We behaved in our habitual fashion towards one another. Some months later I handed in my notice after having spent twelve years in the same factory and went to live in Brussels.
This incident happened a quarter of a century ago and only lasted for a few seconds. However, the memory of this painful though instructive moment has remained with me. In the space of an instant I had confronted one of the secrets of the economy: the secret of domination and submission.
(Some of the following précis and translations are done in the 3rd person)
Frederick Engels and the Garden (Squares and Garden series, October 1997)
We have seen how Marx did not have time to develop his ideas on Morgan's, the anthropologist's work and ideas, especially his book The Ancient Society (London, 1877) which announced a break with economism, utilitarianism and the myth of the working class which he had defended all his life. It was up to Engels to make good this omission in his The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State of 1884. Yves then quotes extensively from Morgan claiming that was sufficiently insightful to realise the state was not an arbiter above class society but the zealous servant of proprietal owners.
Anyhow he notes how Engels regretted he did not have the time to put Fourier's brilliant observations on civilisation side by side with Morgan's and his own. Engels citing Fourier calls the nuclear family the incoherent family and Yves says such notions are full of promise.
But he believes that as regards democracy, Engels shared the prejudices of the social democrats, a prejudice that turns on believing democracy is not the result of a rational debate but a question of acceding to power. However, Yves notes that Engels concerning the collusion of owners and state power repeats Morgan's point of view. Engels makes several precise observations on how this collusion operates; observations that always escaped Debord and his mystifying "theory of the spectacle". In parenthesis – though Yves doesn't mention this – the long passage he quotes from Engels is remarkable in the way it anticipates the rise of the power of finance capital under the bourgeois democratic state.
As for Engels in dispatching his obligations to his old chum Marx is not so much interested in the Iroquois as in the ancient Germans and Franks. What he wrote on them would not be published until after his death. The term Marche as used by Engels is not synonymous with the French term "March." Rather it denotes a village territory and its dependent hamlets and its common property – forests, pastures and rivers. There is an annual redistribution of cultivable land. This custom though somewhat symbolical persisted into Engels time in the Hochwald. In brief however it revealed the presence of a democratic management of the garden for his own people, Engels coming to a similar conclusion to that of Marx that the modernised Germanic Marche offered a way forward to the German peasantry and "its natural ally the workers."
However, this conclusion in the 1883 edition of The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State was suppressed in subsequent editions. The social democrats had by then committed themselves to the liberal bureaucratic / proletarian monstrosity of Marxist orthodoxy.
Engels in mixing up Marx, Morgan and Fourier together was sending out a message. This signal should lead us to hope that it would have involved bringing to fruition what was universal in the Iroquois and the ancient Germans. Thus Engels work could have been an inspired anticipation of the work of Marcel Mauss (Essay on The Gift) or Georges Bataille (The Accursed Share).
Alas, the economic / industrial perspective offered by Engels is apocalyptic and breathes dioxins in each line. It would make the commune in Chiapas in Mexico in the early 1990s despair. Engels could envisage nothing other than chasing the peasantry off the land. It was a curious conception of the bucolic 'vie champetre'. Whether liberal or socialist, materialists are incorrigible, polluting everything they touch.
But the originality of the old Engels does not reside happily, in the industrialisation of the countryside but in his researches on the Kabala. In 1883 when the corpse of Marx was barely cold he published in progress, a London journal an enthralling article on The Book of Revelations in the bible and scientifically showed that NERO (50 + 200+ 6 + 50 + 100 + 60 = 666 which is the mark of the Beast. "Like all great revolutionary movements Christianity is the work of the Masses"). (PHEW YVES!-TN)
Guy Debord and the "Centre of the World" (February 1998)
The persistence of a question....
Begins with quotes from Debord's Preface to the fourth Italian edition of The Society of the Spectacle
"Undoubtedly, a general theory calculated for this end must first avoid appearing visibly false, and so must not expose itself to the risk of being contradicted later on by the outcome of events. But it must also be a completely unacceptable theory. It must be able to denounce as bad, to the indignant stupefaction of all those who find it good, the very centre of the existing world, in having exposed its exact nature. The theory of the spectacle meets these two requirements."
However to Yves it is not sufficient that a theory demystifies the precise nature of domination. It is necessary the dominated be gripped by it. From this point of view it is obvious to all of us that Debord did not lay bare the centre of the world. If he had we would not be in the same position as we are today. The only question remains that of JP Voyer, "why despite the theory of the spectacle don't the slaves revolt."
The Origin of the World's Centre was at Cannes
The question of the centre of the world continued to obsess Debord. The first time that one finds a reference to the "centre of the world" to Yves knowledge in International Situationist and International Lettrist literature is an account of a derive undertaken by Gil Wolman and Debord on March 5th 1956 and which appeared in Les Levres Nues (Cold Lips) no 9, Brussels in November 1956. However, Wolman recalled apropos of the notion of a turning centre, a turntable (in the mutual account this had been the rotunda of the statue in Claude-Nicolas Ledoux square that he had first used the term) in 1952 to designate the centre of the world in this instance a crossroads in Cannes.
Wolman therefore can be thought of as the person who had first introduced the notion of the centre of the world into avant-garde artistic circles.
The Lettrists had exposed the existence of cracks and openings in the unity of the urban tissue. These cracks could meet at certain spots in a town. And when they did a conscious intervention could exacerbate social contradictions allowing the creation of a certain ambience. These psycho-geographical centres though they bore a relation to domination were never the centre of the existing world.
The Golden Age of "the Centre".
The last few paragraphs beginning with a quote from Debord's film Critique de la Separation of 1961, one which is to say at the very least obscure and there doesn't seem much point in attempting to provide a précis. However, Yves does stress that in order to dissolve the centre of the world we have to change the way we live. And it is a personal decision. As Yves says "the struggle against the centre does not pose itself in terms of class struggle as if we were foreign to the centre but in terms of a personal engagement of disobedience."
Despite appearances, we are not external to the world we inhabit, rather it passes through us. The changing of the world is already there in us in a manner of speaking.
Debord at this point had attained his intellectual peak writing in the same synopsis with the beautiful simplicity that comes from something that has been well conceived (afterwards Debord was to lapse into a parodic style, the mark of all intellectual decadence). "All existing equilibrium is called into question each time people attempt to live differently."
Regression from "the Centre"
Under Debord's authority, the notion of "the centre of the world" under went a regressive development in situationist activity. Yves then condemns the tendency towards centralism evinced in the 8th edition of the SI journal appearing in January 1963. (Knabb's translation???)
As Yves says, the centre of the world which in 1952 had signified the contradictory places in the urban tissue and, in 1961, "the way that we live", had become in 1963 a kind of Central Committee made up of eight people who were now the incarnation of the centre of the world instead of the former.
Despite the psycho-geographical researches of the first situationist wave, the second wave was incapable in May 1968 of investing any place with meaning in the sense of a "plaque tournante" – literally a turntable. Neither the Sorbonne nor the sinister National de Pedagogic de la Rue D'Ulm nor the Renault factories at Billancourt could realise the "existing centre of the world." (Yves calls the pedagogic Institute in the Rue D'Ulm sinister because in an Ubuesque fashion it had pushed him into becoming a worker).
Debord as "The Centre" of the world
"There is nothing more natural than to consider everything as starting from oneself, chosen as the centre of the world: one finds oneself thus capable of condemning the world without even wanting to hear its deceitful chatter. One has only to mark off the precise limits that necessarily restrain this authority: its proper place in the course of time and society; what one has done and what one has known,one's dominant passions." Quoting from Panegyric (1989) Yves comments that for the old Debord the centre of the world was no longer "the way in which we live" and not even in the central committee: the centre of the world, less a few tasty limits, had become Debord himself.
Yves then quotes from Bataille's Le Coupable (The Guilty) to the effect that we do not passively reflect the world seeing that we are the centre of this reflection and that therefore it ceases to be the measure of what has no centre. The world is what passes between us when we laugh, when we love and when we lose ourselves in its immensity.
Debord had never understood what was at stake in the critique of the centre of the world: the liberation of communication. Where communication is free there is no centre. Everywhere where a centre or a periphery exists it must be combated.
The piece ends between two Taoist Luminaries, Tchouang - Tseu and Houei Che talking about – what else – the centre of the world! Houei was claiming, "I know the centre of the world. It is to the north of Yen and to the south of the Yue."
Tchouang - Tseu replies this could enlighten the dialecticians and that they could find their pleasure there. As Le Manach says, Tchouang - Tseu was no doubt a better dialectician than Houei Che but as regards the interest of the dialecticians in it, it was Houei Che who was right. Yves seems to be saying that the centre of the world cannot be intellectualised and that it centre is everywhere and nowhere escaping all geographic limits. Once the centre of the world is fixed it is seized on by intellectuals who then proceed to destroy what is good about the notion.
The Neighbourhood where the Negative Held Court (December 1997)
Between Luxembourg ad the Jardin des Plantes not that far from the centre of the world
Some of my readers do not like me to confront the question of the Situationist International, either because they have no knowledge of the matter and are bored by it, or they find it an old story. Others however are appreciative and want more. Still others, who are involved with the SI, find me a traitor, unappreciative of the way I talk about them.
The SI was the last artistic avant-garde of this century. The instruments of critical inquiry – the derive, detournement or the creations of situations do not seem to me to have attained the object of the development they are being credited with. The fundamental laws of detournement or the creations of situations, as they were defined by the situationists, have devalorised the original meaning of the detourned structure and the organization of a new meaning that gave this structure a new scope. The situationists have only applied these laws within the perspective of a critique of art; as regards that which concerns social critique they have adopted the orthodox point of view of the proletariat. However it seems to me that these instruments can be extended to social criticism, and, by allowing this practice to immediately designate its object, finish with the separation between leftism and activists, This aspect has not been developed by the SI and means that I'm still interested in it.
But things are not so simple.
The war was over. We left Toul-an-Neunet and went to live in the Rue Saint Placide (the birthplace of the poet Hegesppe Moreau and where the writer J.K.Huysmans died) in the 6th arrondissement in Paris.
My childhood was spent in the Sevres-Babylone district. I went to play school in the Rue Vanneau (where Karl Marx and Georges Darien lived and where Andre Gide was still living) and then to a primary school in the Rue Chomel. With my younger brother and sister we would go play in Commaille Square or in the Bon Marche square. A little later I would go the Olier church school in the Rue d'Assas.
During that time I often ran across Michele Bernstein and Guy Debord who lived in the Rue de Bac. They would also dawdle in the Commaille square. I would also run into their International Lettriste friends, either in the Place Saint-Germain-des-Pres - "where the fog conceals the rendezvous that turns to suicide", or at Marche Mabillon where they were taking shots of Debord's film Howls in Favour of de Sade. But they didn't notice me as the youngest among them was at least ten years older than I was.
After primary school, I took a parallel route along the Rue du Port-de-Lodi, frequented, I was to learn much later, by the editor of La Digitale. Going up the Rue du Cherche-Midi, du Four, de Buci and Dauphine, I continued to see Guy Debord. In the morning as I arrived at school, leaving the l'Estrapade he would go down the Rue Dauphine on his way home.
In 1956 my family moved to the opposite side of the Boulevard Saint Michel and we settled in the 5th arrondissement in front of La Mosque between the Jardin des Plantes the Arenes de Lutece and the Saint-Medard church. As I continued to go to school in the Rue du Pont de Lodi I continued to see Michele Bernsein, Guy Debord and their friends.
In a district that had more publishers, art galleries and antique shops than butches and bars, I was not ready for factory work. However not having understood how to play the game of equal opportunities, I was left stranded in a trade school in the Rue Boinod. Having passed my CAP (Certificat D'Aptitude Pedagogique - school leaving certificate) I found myself a fitter in an aircraft factory in Courbevoie.
During these years, which were not the happiest of my life, I rarely saw Bernstein, Debord and their friends who, in the meantime, had become situationists. They did not belong to the kind of people who frequent the 18th arrondissement or Courbevoie.
In 1960 I joined the 5th arrondissement Young Communists. The militant activities led me back to the Marche Mouffetard (where we sold our sad paper), Rue Saint Jacques (where M lived, a female comrade belonging to the student communists) or Rue de la Montagne (where our leader lived). I began to bump into Michele Bernstein, Guy Debord and the situationists not only in the street but also in the bistros of the Place Contrescarpe. I had grown up.
I had spent a good part of my childhood and adolescence bumping into Bernstein and Debord and their friends. But it was only in 1963 when I had come back from Algeria and was living in the Port Saint Ouen (still in the 18th arrondissement) that Odette put into my hand the first issues of the situationist review. After the Communist party, I had become a supporter of the ultra left. At that time, I was under the influence of 'workerism' far more so than I am today. So much so that I could find nothing that was immediately relevant in the situationist thesis, printed as they were on glossy paper. These thesis seemed to me entirely to do with the critique of art, too specialist, and of no use whatsoever when it came to emancipating a fitter.
It was in August 1964, in the space of night during a train journey from Paris to Hossegor, that I devoured the no 9 issue of the SI journal that Natalie had slipped into my backpack. I spent my holidays on the Landes beaches reading and rereading this copy - it was the only literature we had with us - all the while discussing it with Danielle and Natalie. Back in Paris, Natalie gave me other issues of the journal. I was no longer prejudiced against glossy paper.
I was born in Paris, at the corner of the Rue d'Assas and Rue Guynemer just across from the Luxembourg gardens. But it was in Toue-an Neunet on the boundaries of Plesidy and de Magoar that my eyes were opened to the world and where I pronounced my first words and took my first steps. It is the memory of those fleeting years that allows me to claim a Breton identity, though somewhat inconsistently I will admit.
My first experience of exile occurred on my return to Paris characterized by a barely noticeable, though stubborn, rupture. Yet I do not regret my childhood spent between Montparnasse and the Contrescarpe, the Senate and the Chambres des Deputies. Not belonging to the ranks of the privileged, who can freely choose where they want to live, and thanks to the vagaries of cheap rented accommodation and my mother who, having always lived in the 6th arrondissement and had no desire to move to Cligancourt, meant that, by chance, the footsteps of Boris Vian and Boby Lapointe coincided with mine. I woudn't say that we had lived at the centre of the world but we weren't that far from it.
The Contrescarpe Continent has been described several times over the past 50 years, both by G.E.Debord and G.J.Wolman and also by Gilles Ivain. However i would like to cite a few passages from a description of it made by Jacques Filon for the journal Les Levres Nues (Cold Lips) in 1955.
"The centre of Paris is the region of the Contrescarpe. It is oval shaped and one can walk around the periphery in around 3 hours. The northern part consists of Montagne Genevieve, the land sloping gently to the south. The people are every poor and generally North African in origin. Here is where the envoys of various unknown powers meet.
One hour's walk in a southerly direction brings you to the Butte-aux-Cailles, a mild, temperate spot. The people are every poor but the way the streets are laid out tends towards the sumptuousness of a maze.
A 45 minute walk to the west and there is a square that is empty of people between 7.30pm and 8. The topography surprises and is commonly known as "The Square of Foreign Missions."
A thirty minute walk north east and there are several parallel passages that lead nowhere and demarcate a small Chinese enclave. The Inhabitants are every poor. They prepare rather nutritious, very spicy, elaborate dishes. A fifty minute walk north of the Contrescarpe, and after first crossing a deserted 'Ile' known for a long time as the "IIe Louis", and we come across a lone bar where Poles regularly meet up with one another. They are very poor. So an excellent vodka can be had at not much cost.
Such are the interests of a derive that has been properly undertaken".
This is where we lived since we were kids and where our family home was located up until 1995.
In the scenario of his film In Girum.... Guy Debord wrote: "There was then on the left bank of the river a neighbourhood where the negative held court". I breathed in this negative, not a lot, but enough to be able to say that if there is something of the situationist in me, I owe it more to the architecture and the atmosphere of the place where we lived than to the absolute value of the theory. I did not become a situationist, I was born one. This gives me an authority that is pretty hard to contest.
Guy and Gerard
In the guise of an epitaph on the occasion of the republication of the 12 issues of the SI
Of Contracts: Guy Debord's posthumous book
........................legally formulated agreements............
This book informs us there were 3 cinematographic contacts signed by Guy Debord with two companies, Simar films and Soprafilms belonging to Gerard Lebovici. The contracts concerned The Society of the Spectacle (1973), Guy Debord's 6th film (1977) which became In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni - and On Spain (1982).
What is missing in this book is the contracts signed by Debord concerning his 5th film, Refutation of all Judgements - likewise concluded with Simar films - nor his 7th and last film, Debord, His Art and Times. His literary contracts with successive publishers are not mentioned either. This book therefore does not constitute an exhaustive study of the rights of authorship Debord had undertaken, but only deals with certain aspects of his relationship with Lebovici. You don't have to be a specialist in film matters to be struck by the fact these contracts are favorably disposed toward Debord in regard to what concerns the freedom of the artist. In this period of easy money, the advantages accruing to Debord were, from a financial viewpoint, quite modest.
. .......favour those who make them.........
No one can ignore the friendliness Debord showed to Gerard Lebovici: my "publisher and friend" as he wrote in Considerations Regarding the Assassination of Gerard Lebovici, Champ Libre (1985). In Of Contracts he was specific about certain aspects of this friendship: "nothing is equal in such contracts; and, quite rightly, it is this particular form that makes them honourable. They have been chosen in all their preference. They have been drawn up to satisfy only one side - that which alone can inspire admiration." Writing this Debord had owned up to the privileged link that united him with someone who had been able to recognize and admire his merit: Gerard Lebovici.
. ..............Commenting on these contracts, Debord L'Admirable wrote............
"The artist, in any case, does not have to explain what means he would choose to bring to an end the kind of exploit that is evidently insoluble."
To have to announce the title of a projected work is routine regarding contractual covenants that "in the end will be advantageously withdrawn."
A third film that will not even be screened has been chosen in advance.
All these contracts "have been nicely calculated with a view to satisfying my more extravagant needs."
And he finished by declaring that it was a matter of a "principle that scarcely lent itself to financial speculation." Writing about the clauses, Debord had recognised the generosity of his admirer. But it would be wrong to believe that the relation between Guy and Gerard was a one way street. Boggio, from the Le Monde newspaper, wanting to informatively air the matter of Lebovici's assassination, had called attention to the fact that the publisher, in seeking out Debord's company, had progressively "distanced himself from the social norm that his professional circle approved of." And Debord would underline "one can just as easily say that it also made his reputation." If Lebovici had, by associating with Debord, compromised himself, he had also hoped there would be a gain in prestige from it. The contacts agreed between Guy and Gerard - in so far as they do not express the relationship of force habitual to this kind of exercise but only bear witness to the personal relationship between the two-adds nothing to the critique of society which prides itself on being based on "law".
It no longer adds anything to the Debordien theory of the spectacle. On the contrary! Debord, desiring to systematize his friendship by placing it within a legal framework, has only perpetuated the ambiguity that exists between law and feeling. This juggling of the emotional and the juridical, which is the secret of tyrannies, was also the secret of Debordism.
. ............. and must be executed in good faith..........
In a letter addressed to Le temps qu'il fait editions - three days before his suicide - Debord wrote "as we are a long way off December, I am sending to you an idea for a cover illustration which I thought telling when it came to me. To my mind it is the most mysterious and beautiful: the 3 card trickster. It seems to me this card would, without being too insistent, add something and that allows us to see in it an evident mastery of manipulation. At the same time it would invoke, in a timely manner, the breadth of its mystery."
In Of Contracts only three contracts appear and all concern Guy and Gerard. They had mutually agreed to draw them up together. When Debord wrote that one could see the image of a 3 card sharp , the Find the Lady trickster (le bateleur) as an evident mastery of manipulation, he meant that after twenty two years of reflection there was no collusion between him and his patron, rather their relationship was one of conflict. Without being too insistent here, one can say that Debord was admirable and that Lebovici was good for only being an admirer, a dispenser of funds and someone to be manipulated.
Debord claimed to have expediently invoked the full extent of the mystery that hid his mastery of manipulation. Once we learn this mastery operated within the framework of the contracts entirely at Lebovici's expense and how Lebovici was assassinated, we take fright and are seized with dread.
In reality the Champ Libre orthodoxy set up by the two compeers, has cost the situationist experience and even Debord's credibility, very dearly. Today not a single school kid would claim allegiance to Debord .
It has gone so far that we can say that Debord, in being the victim of his own flattery, has only wronged himself.
This posthumous book has no other objective than to exhibit Debord's assumed qualities to the detriment of a corpse. It boils down to the boasts of a suicide on the back of an assassinated person. It has something about it of a primary example of - and at the same time a recoil from - what was Debordism.
..................and cannot be revoked except through mutual consent.........
Debord was an expert in matters of intellectual private property. It does not seem to me to be entirely useless to recall what the expelled Strasbourg situationists said in 1967; "If the Unique (Debord) control and warrants the revolutionary 'legitimacy' of others, if he disposes of power within a group that wanted the dissolution of all power, it is because this power had a real basis. The review was at his disposal (he was the owner of the brand)..."
L'Unique, L'Admirable - all this is hard to critique as are all forms of power - not only in regards to legality but also on account of the manipulation of feelings. A veritable murder of the father figure should have rightly taken place. However this had not been situationist for a long time.
.................or for reasons that the law authorizes...................
The first situationists through experimental techniques (detournement, the creation of situations) had contributed to deepening our understanding of the ideological space of capitalism, thus facilitating critique of it. Situationist attitudes which privileged experience over that of any ideology, was not opposed to a critique of our society's legal spheres. Thus the social contract which rests on fictions like the nation or sovereignty - the sole objective being to hand the waged over to exploitation - is rounded off by the labour contract. Characterized by a chain of subordination on behalf of waged workers vis their employers, it is wide open to situationist style experimentation.
The book contributes nothing to the critique of the dominant ideology. The single aim of the theory of the spectacle appears to have been the creation of an opaque layer that has acted as a barrier to critique. Which is to say it is the opposite of what the situationists were looking for. This artificial theatricality of critique, resting on pseudo secrets, has revived leftism and has anointed Debord as the one and only centre of the world. To a worker of my generation, it is saddening to observe how the most gifted of the situationists has devoted the last half of his life to destroying what he contributed to elaborating during the first half. Like a 3 card sharp /the Find the Lady trickster, Debord has made play with the showman's patter right up to the grave. Which is just what the huckster does.
Amateur Artichauts (October 1997)
(next four are precis's)
Begins with quotes from Georges Bataile. We are on this earth to accomplish a task and this task is for each of us to discover. He, Yves had known since very young he had a task to accomplish. This task came to him once he was thrown into unemployment, the intolerance of the economic model clashing with the Taoist model of Loa Tzu.
Such a task would make the gods of finance laugh. After all he was only a fitter and that he had only studied geometry for two years and trigonometry only a little longer. However Yves sees himself handicapped by his quixotic spirit. ......
Maslamah de Yamamah: Le jardin, le jardin (a Satanic Artichaut. Squares and Gardens series, March 1997)
Mohammed was a little like Pope Jean Paul 11. He believed in the garden for everyone but only after death. But Mohammed had a carpenter named Maslamah who was also regarded as a prophet. He recognised the need for birth control in an epoch where Reich had yet to write The Sexual Revolution. Muslamah had said to Mohammed let's come to an arrangement and apportion out the divine market. But Mohammed had no such intentions and he was resolved on cornering the revelation market and treated Maslamah as an impostor.
We only have certain knowledge – one of the sacred gardens of Ancient Arabia, of which the biblical Eden is the prototype. This garden existed in the first decades of the 7th century. This garden belonged to Maslamah and his friend the beautiful prophetess Sajah.
The people mocked Mohammed because he did not have a garden, the sacred garden still being very much alive in Arabia. Mohammed was jealous of Maslamah because he had a garden.
When Mohammed died, Maslamah fell out with his successor the first caliph, Abu Bakr. So the caliph sent his soldiers to deal with Maslamah whose war cry was "the garden, the garden", a demand similar to that of the Zapatistas in Mexico in the early 1990s. The last stand had taken place within the walls of the garden where Maslamah had fought to the death with 10,000 disciples. The grass borders were torn up. Abu Bakr in his role as prophet was Trotsky and Maslamah's garden, the Kronstadt of Arabia. (YVES PHEW!-TN)
We can think that the Garden of Eden constitutes "the centre of the world" ------However, whoever has read Guy Debord knows that the "The centre of the world" is a certain way of living and whosoever has watched Magnum on TV (PHEW- TN) knows that paradise is not a place but a state of mind. Only the person who is capable of liberating the garden in order to hand it over to the living shall be worthy of being called our prophet.
Karl Marx and the Garden (Tierra y Libertad) Apropos the last texts of Marx published in his lifetime (October 1997)
When Yves was a young communist worker he read Marx to familiarise himself with his philosophy. Quickly becoming a dissident, he read Marx to oppose the truth of his thoughts to the treacheries of the rest. Then thanks to Joseph Gabel who said "that Marxism is a chronic illness that is difficult to cure" Yves read Marx in order to emancipate himself from his determinism. What are left over were some passages that he was particularly attracted to. Yves liked a passage on the dream like the utterance of the young Marx who wrote to Ruge in 1843 "For a long time the world has dreamt of something that it only needs to possess consciously in order to possess it in reality."
This statement had seemed to Yves to be in contradiction in the rest of his writings. What did he mean when he spoke of realising past ideas? Re-finding the golden age, the Garden of Hesperides, the biblical Eden? Did Marx mean to say that the task of humanity was to realise paradise on earth? But then to what purpose does the development of the forces of production serve?
Involved in an impossible critique of the economy, Marx forgot the old dream. But late in life he was approached by Vera Zasulich of Partage Noir who asked him in February 1881 for his opinion on Russia's agrarian problem, or rather, the rural commune and if it was capable of developing in the direction of socialism.
This question is still relevant to today's world notably as regards the indigenous peoples of Mexico's Chiapas in the early 1990s but also the excluded of the entire world. Is there a temporal quality residing in humanity? Are we obliged to pass through capitalism to arrive at the Garden of Hesperides?
Marx replies to Zasulich on the 8th of March 1881. He comes to the conclusion, despite what he says in Das Kapital, that the rural commune in Russia could be the source of social regeneration in Russia but only by getting rid of deleterious influences so that it will then be able to continually and spontaneously transform itself into something getting ever better.
Though Vera Zasulich's letter had disturbed Marx, he had not been caught off guard. At the same time he had been studying Morgane's The Ancient Society, which marked the birth of modern ethnology. Marx had compiled some fifteen pages of scrappy notes taken from Morgan and which led him to remark that the end of capitalism would result in a return to a superior form of "archaic" property relations and collective production. This was merely a rehash of Morgan's conclusion that there would be a revival of the antique rights of the people – of liberty, equality, fraternity. Marx in effect had turned back on himself to become a partisan of the Mexican Zapatistas.
This is the real "epistemological" break in Marx (Althusser is mentioned in passing). If the young Marx had conceived the future of humanity as the realisation of an ancient dream, the old Marx had specified the nature of this dream, its realisation in a modern form of archaic social organisation.
According to Le Manach the modern form of insurrection is not the dictatorship of the proletariat, nor is it the Paris Commune of 1871, rather it is the rural commune, so worthless Marxists like Louis Janover and Charles Reeve need to buck their ideas up.
Yves invites his fellow citizens to ask themselves what is the essence of "modernity", what is atemporally modern in the fact of being human? Marx is describing the ancient Greeks as the normal children of humanity – and by implication meaning that the Celts and Lacandon Indians were badly brought up in comparison – had in the end to admit that the rural commune was the first social grouping of free human beings that was not constrained by blood ties.
What marks us off from animals and which situates us in the region of the divine is our ability to emancipate ourselves from the repetitive universe of the animal world. It is indeterminacy, our unfinished state which gives us our specific human identity. If not, we are worse than beasts. Everywhere where man is waged debased – felled – everywhere where territory is privatised or communication has broken down or where activity is a thing instead of being praxis – everywhere where religion, science, the economy seeks to determine man – our modernity is wanting.
Thus he is now engaged in the process of resuming his reinterpretation of the rights of man. Where is the place of this modernity if not that of Maslamah, of Yamamah and the people who died with him crying as he did so "the garden, the garden".
The Position of an Unemployed Dosser who throws Bottles into the Sea.
A Manifesto (December 1988)
Even though as a child Yves at Xmas time had gone to gaze through the windows of Bon Marche, the fact that he had lived in a quarter packed with antique shops, galleries, publishers and the religious establishment meant he was exposed to the more extreme examples of modern art even before he had set foot in the Louvre.
However the riches of this environment had not saved him becoming an engineering fitter spending several years training to become one. However, that was a long time ago and although he has distanced himself from the literary / artistic avant-garde nevertheless he has been aware for some time that the extremist productions of the avant-garde had formed part of his culture.
Benefiting from the precarious privilege of being unemployed he is disposable and poor ("ideal conditions for creativity") he needs must keep himself occupied regularly. So he writes and ruminates on the role of writing. He realises that the Dadaist technique of writing is no use of all to him because it does not pose the question that obsesses him – that of injustice. He is aware that this question is foreign to the universe of culture. All its manifestations that he had once regarded as embodying revolt were, in reality, only expressions of literary artisans.
He then goes on to say that language has become divided between literary preferences and the word, which must be considered an anarchic, individual act that menaces norms. Linguistics privileges the written word and is exterior to the spoken word. Accordingly people without writing, the illiterate have no relation with language, which is idiotic.
We have become strangers to our maternal language and we must seize it as a tool.
Futurists, surrealists, constructivists, lettrists faced with the inertia of a language dominated by the bourgeoisie had seen in this language an authoritarian form. They wanted to change language, revolutionise words, destroy language........ However, if they had demonstrated the need to revolt against written language (grammar, syntax) they had not felt the need to revolt against the social organisation of the word (family, school, religion, law, the factory, the police....) What the avant-garde could not tolerate in the bourgeoisie was not its social status but its aesthetics and literary tastes which only goes to show that artists were radicals in their critique of syntax but conservatives, even fascists or Stalinists as regards their critique of injustice.
Writing, even destructured writing has remained for them, the only relation to language. What concerns them no matter how violent their manifestations, is internal experience not alienated man.
Bearing this in mind, Yves concludes the phonetic experiments of the Dadaists are puerile. Artists have left the main question to one side: in criticising and destroying art and culture not only have they saved the bourgeoisie but they have realised its programme.
Yves does not reproach artists for having made art but he does reproach them for their displaced radicalism. The magic has flown away and he feels betrayed and so he decides willingly or not that he will let his obsession with justice enter into the universe of justice. If he doesn't, what's the point of being a human being?
In 1993 Yves began to write because he did not want to pass his day's playing cards, drinking beer or listening to Johnny (presumably Johnny Holliday) as some of the Brussels's unemployed did.
He reached the conclusion that after five years engaged in writing he became more exacting. (The fact his apprenticeship of five years was the same as that of learning to be a fitter). He searched for words, his vocabulary was enriched, time and again in depth and space expanded. Writing, he concluded, grants us the idea of the infinite and eternity; it transforms us.
However he is against a language that separates him more and more from people and was dead set against acquiring a vocabulary rich enough to propel one outside the galaxy. Not being able to write novels he felt obliged to reduce the abstractions of idealism into the simple terms of everyday life.
This desire to maintain contact led Yves to the language question. And like his fellow creatures he broached this question with the tools his primary school given him. And in an obvious send up he mentions the professional writer who knows the law of the virtual syllepse harmonic hyperbate and of the paranymic chiasm or of deceptive etymology are in a far better position to seduce than Yves who hesitated to use the subjunctive imperfect. So he had to make do with what he had.
Contrary to literary avant-gardes he did not confuse the rigour of language with its manipulation by power. The authority of language did not trouble him and he was free to read what he liked even the complete works of Stalin. If language lacked rules it would not be a language what Yves criticised was the capitalist mode of communication, its conception of social organisation and of representation.
Yves believes he has passed his life in some forgotten quarter. He is like a castaway on some desert island, his words lacking any public image. His artichauts are therefore like a message in a bottle that has been thrown into the sea.
He began to publish his artichauts through an unemployed centre set up by the League of the Rights of Man. This was hardly the place to exercise free speech and he, to begin with, thought of them as a means of exercising his right of free individual expression. He had wanted to talk about gardens, though in truth he had no precise aim. He had begun to find out what he was about.
His artichauts allowed him to intervene in the meetings which he would attend, time allowing. In this way he did away with an editor, a printer, a distributor and bookshop and it satisfied his taste for risk and adventure. His artichauts were not just about his attempts to enter into contact with writing, an inner experience, they also represented an attempt to link up with his fellow creatures in their effort to organise words. He was not just in search of a style of writing but also a method of encounter. Empowered by this literary deconstruction, artists have endorsed the absence of the proletariat in literature. They have concluded that proletarians have no relationship to literature have no relationship to language and no human dignity.
The majority of our exchanges whether capitalists or proletarians are verbal ones (even courses on literature are given verbally). So artists, who have been literate for too long, cannot conceive of a language community other than as a community of writers. Artists have not been able to conceive that the struggle for justice, because it appears under the mystified forms of economic and trade union conflict, is also a conflict of language: the protagonists do not use the same bits of the dictionary.
If the struggle against injustice reveals a conflict of language, it also reveals a conflict of culture expressing the same secret desire of artists: to know and be known. A beautiful social conflict capable of investing vocabulary with richness and which will also be a cultural manifestation, that sublime moment "where chance carries us and, divinely makes visible to us the furtive gleams of communication." (Bataille – a bit of a rough translation -TN).
Contrary to the avant-gardes who are content to operate a displacement within language itself, Yves would like to be himself, a displacement in a social organisation. In what way are we organised in a factory, in a union, in a church, in school, in court, in the family, in a supermarket, in the League of the Rights of Man? What does it mean to be seated in a room in order to speak? When we hand out a text what part of humanity are we experiencing or when we take the lead in talking to strangers?
Yves then quotes a passage from Heidegger's Letter on Humanism regarding the imprisonment of plants and animals in their separate spheres and how humans because of their possession of language are able to achieve a clarity of being.
Yves concludes that he is not engaged in the reduction of working hours and campaigning for an increase in pay, nor is he preaching the need for a new religious and philosophical truth. What he wants above all is clarity.
April 1998, Yves Le Manach
(More or less a translation)
Afflicted by insomnia, Yves has been avidly reading a novel called The Patriot by Pearl Buck on the Chinese uprising against Chiang Kai-shek as told through a student Wu i-Wan, the son of a powerful Shanghai banker who, gripped by revolutionary fervour, has joined the Communist party.
I have never been a student in Shanghai nor one of the idle, western rich and I have never been to China or Japan. However, perhaps because of the insomnia the contrast between the rending apart of the characters and the exotic impression of the travelers filled me with a pregnant emotion like when one finds a pebble that has been picked up from a beach in a drawer.
I was assailed by the idea of my own death. This did not throw me back onto the agony of dying but to the feeling that I had not experienced the essence of my life, that my life was not worthy of an event as important as death. This did not just apply to me in my particular position but was the lot of everyman: a banker, not more and perhaps less than I, does not know the essence of life. These travelers, the sea, the rain, the sun, the most beautiful gardens in the world – offered me a vision of what this essence could be. Sweating between the sheets the scraps of childhood reading, the prints of Hiroshige and pictures of far-off places overwhelmed me with a flood of nostalgic feelings and images.
I wondered why the feelings prompted by events that we have not experienced, trips we did not take or people we have not met, may claim preference over and be more real than the life we actually live?
Our feelings are not limited to our work, our opinions, or love of our family, but extend to an unexplored world, which can be happy or sad, as exotic as memories of Africa or Brittany. Emanating from real memories infused with dreams we glimpse a dimension of existence that we wish were real.
This is not just an impressionist memory, it is the manifestation of a shadowy dimension of life which we do not know how to access. Beyond rational thought, there is a world that expresses neither the idea of a beginning nor the end of an idea, but instead bears witness to our incompletion. Nostalgia, as I see and feel it, does not just evoke regret for the past, but is the reinvention of poetry; an emotion that belongs to the present. Conceiving of nostalgia as something belonging to the past is only a ruse of the imagination.
This makes me think of Lucette's car piled high with dead leaves, dried flowers, stones, bits of roots, feathers or skeletons of small mammals.......All these objects which were the subject of her imagination and work turned her car into a witches den. For me they represented aspects of death they had tried to stop.
Nostalgia is awakened by emotions we ourselves have known, by emotions that others have known because they make us share in the emotions that we can only imagine, they always send us back to moving sensations for only moving sensations are able to produce such delicate, complex feelings. I want every moment of my life, the life of my friends and that of strangers, to bring me such emotions. Then our lives would indeed be rich! I imagine an entire lifetime based on feelings of nostalgia and I conjured up techniques able to do so at will, able to overwhelm me in the street.
As I gave myself over to these musings, I thought of the afternoon I had spent several hours looking for a quote from Guy Debord which I did not find and which said something like: "Henceforth the Situationist International in order to be the vanguard of the proletarian revolution," or some such ridiculous triviality. At the thought of those hours spent leafing through books, hours devoid of nostalgia, I said to myself Debord could not incite such emotions.
No sooner had I expressed this thought than I was overwhelmed by the memory of my first readings of the Situationists. Situationist artists, wanting to criticize the poverty of everyday life, did not seek to create new objects, but states of minds, sensations. Beyond form, they tried to capture the secret of art: the intangible and fleeting emotions of the creative act by which art had the power to move us.
The central idea of the situationists was the construction of momentary concrete situations in life, and their transformation into a superior passional quality. For them, the derive was the practice of a sensory displacement through a rapid changing of different environments. They wanted their creations to be without a future and conceived of them as places of passage. For them, the main emotional drama of life, its wealth, lay in the feelings of the passage of time. If "the taste for false novelty expresses woeful nostalgia" the taste for the really novel expresses happy nostalgia. Everything in their practice seems to me like an attempt to control nostalgia. That is why the experimental instruments the situationists invented appeared to me not only as a means of subversion, but also as a means favourable to the emergence of nostalgia. They wanted to subvert the world invading it the most moving and penetrating human feelings....Like a shower on a garden in Nagasaki.
(The following artichauts are all translations)
LADY DI AND I
Banc Public No. 53, October 1996, Yves Le Manach
I had reached an age when I could claim I had experienced several work scenes in the Parisian suburbs or the Brussels region. I worked in factories which were located for the most part in neighbourhoods (quartiers) or in industrial suburbs. The skeletal proliferation of factories from the beginning of the 20th century breathed an atmosphere of nostalgia. However I had the opportunity of working for a few years in an industrial enclave east of Brussels. It was a quiet area with business premises surrounded by lawns with fragrant wild roses adorning the sidewalks.
The company where I worked was surrounded by hedges full of wild roses which bloomed from late spring until November. There was also a sweet chestnut tree and in the fall we would eat the chestnuts after first cooking them with blowtorches. Rabbits frolicked on the lawns and magpies chattered in nearby poplar trees. The only drawback consisted in the fact the workshops had no windows. To gain any benefit from the scenery the workers had to either to go into the security guards office or into the canteen.
On this particular morning we stood in the canteen which was also hosting the monthly health and safety meeting. It was winter and through the large windows the snow was falling on the skeletons of the rose bushes. It was a special day for the company as Princess Di was travelling from England to visit a new branch of the company. Though this visit did not concern the staff directly, everybody was excited. Our managing director who was also chairman of the health and safety committee and who had not been invited to the festivities asked us what we thought of the visit. The answer came back, I belonged to a people who had guillotined a king and the comings and goings of the crowned kings and queens of the world did not excite me. So I was glad when I saw the employees delegate open his mouth "You know, Sir, we others, the princess ----we only hope she changes her knickers more than once a week!" He was referring to De Chavanne who a few days earlier had invited to his TV chat show some typical Brussellians. A couple of them – Noel Godin and Robert Dehoux - engaged in some Dadaistic jokes amongst other saying that Queen Fabiola (the glamour obsessed widow of King Baudouin of Belgium -TN) only changed her knickers once a week. It was no big deal but the show seemed to have hurt the people of Brussels.
The representative of the media oriented SETCA union, who was not a Dadaist, had become more 'Belgian' than was necessary. "It is disgusting allowing people to speak like this on TV. Not only are they vulgar, they do not represent Brussels people. These French never cease poking fun at the Belgians and if we add to it then where are we heading?"
The managing director, who didn't seem offended by the Dadaist provocation appeared to be disappointed by this remark which he thought, was conformist. "But you know Robert Dehoux is a very interesting, intelligent man." He had once owned a restaurant and had once shouted out loud when the restaurant was crowded that "Paul Valery was a cunt" (radical post-symbolist poet in his early years, only later to cop out –TN)
The meeting then took a picturesque turn. I know full well that I should have kept my mouth shut and that I should have kept my proletarian council ensconced as I was within class relations. But it was the first time I had seen such a subject raised in a meeting with management and I could not stop myself from intervening. "Sir, you are talking about L'Estro Armomica." "That's it, L'Estro Armonica. The food was also very good. But tell me Monsieur Le Manach, how come you know this?" The trap was closing in on me: I would be unmasked not only in the eyes of the managing director but also in the eyes of my fellow trade unionists.
Robert Dehoux and Noel Godin are my friends, sir." "Oh! But you had had not told me that. How very interesting."
But the managing director did not follow through with his interest. And perhaps that was for the better. It wouldn't have been healthy neither for the company nor for social convention for the managing director of a company to discuss Dadaism or situationism in his office with an invited FGTB rep.
Yet I was forced to admit that, culturally speaking, I was closer to my class enemy than I was my proletarian allies. Once again I was up against the state of cultural exclusion that is the lot of the working class. Acting in an unexpected way should I blame myself for being a class collaborator? Had the managing director come down a step when he had made plain his interest in Dadaist attitudes?
However, wasn't it Robert Dehoux and Noel Godin, who by their intellectual attitude had fostered the ambiguity? And is it not right that intellectual attitudes should cultivate doubt and ambiguity? But at bottom was it not simply a visible symptom of social separation? Altogether though it was a telling incident that was much more than just a visible manifestation of social separation.
Four black sedans passed high speed behind the rose hedge leaving flurries of snow in their wake. Lady Di had just passed by. The meeting of the health and safety committee could then begin......
Tristan Corbiere, Arthur Rimbaud, Eternity, The Sea and The Sun
A few years ago, I found myself with Christian, a Breton friend who was then living in Brussels. He handed me a book of poetry on the sea. We other exiled Bretons are like that, we love to talk about the sea, menhirs (prehistoric standing stones) and bagpipes. Browsing through the book I came across this Letter from Mexico written by Tristan Corbiere, which began with the following line:
"You were meant to look after the boy. - He's dead."
The book made a big impression on me and I promised myself I'd get hold of the poet's works. A few weeks ago I was in the Libris bookstore to buy Mikhail Bakhtin's Rabelais, when my memory was suddenly triggered, and I called out: Corbiere! I ran to the Gallimard / Poetry section and there with outstretched arms beckoning me was Corbiere's Les Amours Jaunes (Yellow Loves).
In 1863, Tristan Corbiere the young poet of Moulaix who was suffering from tuberculosis was advised by his doctor to settle in his parent's cottage in Roscoff. There he frequented the docks and the Le Gad inn, where he met Parisian painters. He liked to take his cutter out when the sea was rough. The pallor of his skin and his emaciated looks were what the Bretons call "An Ankou" meaning death.
Fleeing the Paris Commune, (unless this was his punishment?), Count Rudolf of Battin accompanied by his mistress, the Italian actress, Josefina Cuchiani Armida, called Herminie, arrived at Le Gad in the spring of 1871.Tristan Corbiere instantly developed a crush on the beautiful Italian he re-baptised Marcelle. In October, Marcelle and Rodolphe returned to Paris. Corbiere, alone and disconsolate, writes Les Amours Jaunes, a series of twenty-four poems. Of these, Steamboat is dedicated "To a passenger" (Marcelle). The first stanza reads:
"As smoke is driven, so is eternity / the crossing / Which one day made you my sister / my sister of love" ...
What I find remarkable is that Corbiere based eternity on love. When love decamps, eternity disappears in smoke.
The second stanza begins as follows:
"There: this sea colourless / or where you were once still floating ... "
While the tenth begins:
"Already the sun is dark / Which balances on your shadow."
Once love has fled, Eternity disappears in smoke, the sea becomes colourless and the sun pales. This was cause for despair for those who want love to triumph over time. However, a few months later, in May 1872, Arthur Rimbaud wrote: "It is found. What? - Eternity. It's the sea run away with the sun. "
This seems to connect with Corbiere: when the sea runs with the sun, the lover runs away with the beloved and Tristan with his Marcelle: Eternity is found again. Those who want love to triumph over time have only just made it!
Poets that talk about love and eternity are banal. On the contrary, a poet who says, in October, that the hunt was on for eternity, and another, in May, who says it has been found again, is much more startling. The obvious conclusion would be to imagine that the two poets met. But did they?
Rimbaud returned to Charleville in March 1872, and was back in Paris on May 4th. He never left the capital until July 7th, where, along with Verlaine, he went to Arras and Charleville. The 9th they spend in Belgium in the Grand Hotel in Brussels after travelling through Walcot, Charleroi and Liege. Corbiere, meanwhile, arrived in Paris in early spring 1872 and left for Douarnenez, in the company of Count Rodolphe and Marcelle in June.
The two men had been present together in Paris between May 4th, the date of Rimbaud's return, and early June, when Corbiere departed. If they met, they did so during May. Whilst staying in Paris, Rimbaud spends most of the time with friends on the Left Bank. Corbiere lives on the right bank, on the Butte Montmartre, close to Marcelle and arty friends. But that does not mean they never left the area where they were staying, venturing into another territory.
Louis Forestier relates that "From the Café de l'Univers, near to the Gare de Charleville, to the Academy of Absomphe (absinthe) in the Rue Saint-Jacques, would include most of the dives that Cros and Verlaine ventured into: that is to say in all the pubs, wine merchants, cafés, drinking dens of Montmartre and the Latin Quarter through to the D'Harcourt, Place de la Sorbonne and to the Delta on the slopes of Montmartre. Perhaps he also frequented the cafés where painters hung out: the Muller brasserie in the Avenue de Clichy, La Nouvelle Athenes, Place Blanche, Café des Photographes (due to the presence of Carjat), Rue de Amsterdam.. .."
For his part Corbiere, even when unlucky in love, is not a bashful lover. In the same way that he frequented the Le Gad in Roscoff he must in Paris have visited, in the company of his friends, a good number of artists' cafes on the Butte where Rimbaud also hung out.
But the two poets have only one month to meet, and during this month Rimbaud must find the time to write much of his new verse, including Eternity and a few other pieces.
To make this investigation easier would require specific details on the aesthetic tastes of both men. Beyond the fact that both have taken a lot from the La Boheme of 1830, they seem to share a common attraction to the carnival spirit of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, a spirit that only the Belgian people, knowing little of Jacobinism and having barely left the communal system, had been able to keep alive in all its jollity and culture right up to the dawn of the 20th century. Thus, Corbiere - like the medieval clerics who wrote liturgies on drunkards or testaments to the pig - he did not hesitate to parody Breton religious hymns. P.O. Walzer commenting on a poem by Corbiere whose title , The Travelling Minstrel and the Pardon of Saint Anne says it all, writes: "If the central litanies called spiritual songs are a wonderful pastiche of a prayer, what dominates the rest of the poem is its aspect of village fair and the sacred precincts of miracles: Bosch and Bruegel." Here is a stanza of a Corbiere poem which plunges us directly into the universe of James Ensor or that of Ghelderode:
"It's the Pardon / - Revels and mystery - / Lice in the trodden grass already ... / Saint Anne, for mothers-in-law a Lotion! / For husbands consolation!... "
Rimbaud, who excels in fairground attractions disarticulated hanging balls or hugging man-chairs,(this is surely a spoof imitation of Rimbaud -TN) was born on the border of the Ardennes is familiar with the Belgium spirit. Some literary critics have even seen in his poems Au Cabaret-Vert and La Maline, written in Charleroi, a kind of Flemish painting!
If the two poets met in Paris in May 1872, perhaps it could only have been in a carnival atmosphere: At the Rendez-vous des Belges in the Gare du Nord.
Seated at tables or leaning on the counter, presided over by the Pissing Man, we see Bruegel the Elder, Ginette Patata, Jerome Bosch, Jacques Brel, Felicien Rops, Erasmus, Chiquet Mawet, Michel de Ghelderode, James Ensor, Hugo Claus, the Dardenne brothers, Eddy Merckx, Emilie Dequenne, Emile Verhaeren, Marcel Marien ... Arno and Jo Lemaire, perched on a platform, humming a sea shanty accompanied by the Brabant bagpipes of Adolphe Sax. Noël Godin circulates among the tables, serving pies, while Amelie Nothomb, decked out in an extravagant hat, is in the bar swilling down pint after pint, telling us about his last stint at Pivot.
Tristan Corbiere is leaning on the counter between Serge Antoine Claeys, author of French Snipers and Serge Noel, author of Grimacing Children.
Arthur, arriving from Charleville in the Gare de l'Est, enters in a rush to quench his thirst before departing for Le Baron Rouge in the Place d' Aligre. Corbiere, wearing a pirate's hat, seeing his quest for the exotic spoiled by the arrival of the Frenchman, insolently accosts Rimbaud:
"Hey Dude, it's being sought" he murmurs to the stranger that has the look of a fallen angel.
"What?" Rimbaud is surprised by the Breton's expostulation and who looks like a triumphant ghost.
"Eternity!" Corbiere replies, who indeed gives the impression he has risen from the grave. And leaving Rimbaud stunned at the bar, he exits the Rendez-vous des Belges, farting like holy fuck and clicking his fingers as he goes. Rimbaud quickly regains his wits; originally from the north, he finds the carnival spirit familiar. On the contrary, haunted by Corbiere's repartee, he writes ceaselessly, even when at the bar in the station cafe: "It is found. What? - Eternity. It is the sea run away with the sun." Giving a Pentecostal burp he leaves the bar, clicking his fingers as he goes. An attractive scenario, but unlikely. Moreover, neither Louis Forestier, a Rimbaud specialist or Henry Thomas, a Corbiere specialist, have not found the slightest trace of such a meeting.
There is another hypothesis. In the late nineteenth century, unpolluted by electronic waves, the thoughts of men spread freely through the air, permitting a reciprocal capturing of thought, poets responding to each other without knowing one another. Gustav Meyrink, echoing Plato's theory of archetypes, has a hypothesis, "Are you so sure, when an idea comes to you, it really originated in you; and that it isn't a communication that could have come from anywhere? To my mind it is just as likely man is an emitter as well as a receiver - a more or less sensitive one - of all the thoughts that are thought ... lets say by the earth as the Mother". And he had added "these ideas are contagious, even when we do not express them. Perhaps even rightly in this instance..." The fact remains that if Rimbaud and Corbiere, mediated through archetypes, correspond to one another, the proof is difficult to establish.
There is another theory. Corbiere and Rimbaud, without ever meeting, could have corresponded via a third poet who, before them, had lost, or looked for, eternity.
I do not know all the poets of the nineteenth century, let alone read all their poems. To my great regret, I am therefore forced to abandon the search. It also seems to me that in succeeding in putting together in a single text, Paris, Brittany and Belgium in a credible way, I have accomplished a remarkable task. I will leave it at that.
Auguste Blanqui and Eternity. And a memory of Jerry David (June 2000)
I was annoyed that I hadn't managed to establish concrete links between Tristan Corbiere who wrote the line in Steamboat, "as smoke is driven so is eternity" and Arthur Rimbaud who wrote: "It is found. What? Eternity. It is the sea run away with the sun" (C/F the artichaut, Tristan Corbiere, Arthur Rimbaud, eternity, the sea and sun. But I wasn't going to give up on the elements. For want of materials, I was going to abandon the project when an idea flashed through is mind: Why not Auguste Blanqui?*
I searched my jumble of books and on finding the one I was looking for feverishly flicked through the pages: Eternity Through the Stars – an astronomical hypothesis edited by Germain-Baillerie which hit the bookstores on February 20th 1872, three days after its author, the insurrectionist Auguste Blanqui was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Versailles Court.
For Blanqui "the infinite universe is comprehensible but the limited universe is absurd. This absolute certainty of the infinity of the world, combined with its incomprehensibility is one of the most nerve-wracking teasings, plaguing the human spirit." Starting from the hypotheses that the simple bodies that compose the universe are limited in number, he went on to conclude that "despite their multitude they have an end and hence must replicate themselves in order to reach infinity." Nature makes billions of copies of each of her works. He imagined an infinite number of earth look-alikes populated by doubles of ourselves. "The earth look-a-likes exactly reproduces our own down-to- earth detail – family, house, everything that happens in a persons life (-) thanks to this planet each person possesses through this extension an infinite number of doubles who live exactly the same life. He is infinite and eternal in the others of himself, not just on account of his present age but of all other ages. Every second he has doubles of himself by the billion, some born, some dying and living every second of his life from birth to death."
Given who the author was, and the oddity of the subject matter, the book attracted a huge amount of interest and was widely reviewed in the press. It is not unthinkable that Rimbaud had heard of the book and had read it himself. Blanqui's book was a powerful source of poetic inspiration and it is possible, without sounding too outrageous that Rimbaud's poem Eternity was a comment on the man condemned to life imprisonment. When Rimbaud wrote "Sentinel soul / Let us whisper the confession / Of the night full of nothingness / And the day on fire" one can easily imagine that it was addressed not only to Blanqui but the prisoner who vainly at night peered into the dark from the prison cell whilst daylight burns his eyes.
When he writes "You break from earthly approval / From common urges / You diverge here / And soar, as you may" one might think he is referring to Blanqui's tumultuous politics or his equally tumultuous prison writings and that all that remains to be done is to let the mind fly away from human concerns. When Rimbaud writes "Since from you alone / Satiny embers / Duty breathes without anyone saying: at last" it can be imagined that he was alluding to the fever of love burning in luxury linens. Exhaled duty in this place, it never tires, is not expected to issue, no one ever sighed at last. But where can Blanqui now be found for he is finished with his sweet duty.
This is the subject of the fifth stanza. "Here is no hope / Nul Orietur / Knowledge through patience / Torture is certain." Far from human feelings, it only remains for Blanqui to study the stars and eternity. (Nul Orietur means "nor will any arrive" -TN).
It is not entirely impossible that Rimbaud's poem was inspired by Blanqui. But Corbiere? He wrote Steamboat some months prior to the publication of Blanqui's book. The literary link tying together Blanqui and Rimbaud together just does not work when it comes to the poet of Morlaix. I was once again faced with a blank. But rather than give in and accept disappointment, I decided to check the chronology of events.
On the eve of the Paris Commune on March the 17th 1871, Blanqui on the order of Thiers, was arrested in Le Lot where, ill, he had been in hiding after the riots in Paris on the 31st of October 1870. Initially imprisoned in Cahors he was transferred to the Fort du Taurus in Brittany where he was imprisoned for six months before being brought to trial in Versailles.
It was in this fortress that Blanqui wrote his book on Eternity by the Stars. And where is this fortress located? It is on a windswept island on the mouth of the Morlaix River between the town of Carantec to the west and the Kermehelen peninsula to the east and merely a few nautical miles from Roscoff and only separated from it by the island of Callot. Looking westward between Carantec and Roscoff you can see Saint-Pol-de Leon, the Breton capital of the artichoke.
This is where the Fort du Taurus is located. It was built by the citizens of Morlaix in 1542 to defend the entrance of the river against the incursion of the English barbarian. In 1660, Louis 14th seized it – in 1680 it was reinforced by Vauban, becoming a state prison in 1765.
And who lived in Roscoff at the same time as Blanqui was in the Fort du Taurus? Why Tristan Corbiere! The question then is did the poet, then writing Steamboat have any contact with the prisoner writing Eternity by the Stars.
Blanqui in this fortress was under constant surveillance, he was not allowed to receive any news from his friends. He knew nothing about the six hundred communards put in jail in nearby Brest on May 25th 1871. Yet from mid June he was able to communicate with his family. He was not therefore totally cut off from the outside world. He was able to divine through his encrypted correspondence with Madame Antoine the evils overwhelming Paris.
Perhaps he was able to solicit the favours of a jailer kindly disposed to the Commune who agreed to smuggle out the pages of his manuscript and hand it over to the printers of Le Gad or to Count Rodolph de Battin companion of Armida, Josephina Cuchian (Marcelle) all of whom were in Roscoff at the time.
Corbiere in turn was a rebel. His many provocative acts had scared the people of Roscoff. Once on returning from Italy, the poet had donned a bishop's outfit and had blessed from his balcony a crowd of outraged Morlaix Catholics. (In retrospect did these provocations by Corbiere possibly influence Michel Mourre and Serge Berna re their superb intervention in the cathedral of Notre Dame in 1950 –TN). However though Corbiere was a rebel, he was not a revolutionary. Poetry, his love for Marcelle and tuberculosis preoccupied him. It is hard to imagine him being part of a Blanquist section. But you can assume that among his friends there were some agitators. And as this Comte de Battin, what role did he play? An aristocratic bohemian, a police informer, a revolutionary charged with contacting the prisoner.
Discovering Corbiere's Yuvre these verses seem to me to anticipate Rimbaud by some months. I try to find a link that would allow me to explain how these poets complemented one another. And what did I find? Blanqui imprisoned in a prison cell, a cable's length from Roscoff and writing Eternity By the Stars. the camaraderie, though striking, does not provide proof and a link between the three men. Establishing this link is not desirable because it is part of the secret essence of poetry.
Unlike Rimbaud who was inspired by Blanqui's life and by his book, it is unlikely Corbiere was inspired by Blanqui and must have written his Steamboat to his one sole heartache.
However, the fact that Corbiere and Blanqui found themselves in close proximity to each other and despite not sharing the same sea and sun, had breathed the same ozone-laden air was good enough for me. That Corbiere sailing his boat had passed again and again Fort de Taurus where Blanqui was, and who was part of the same moment writing "the world has hardly yet begun, nor man either" seems to me more beautiful than any evidence.
Blanqui had said, "What I write now in a dungeon in the Fort du Taurus I have already written and will write for all eternity on a table, with a pen, wearing the same clothes in all circumstances. So with everyone." Thus Corbiere and his infinite look-alikes on look-a-like earths since the non beginning of the world and its non end is condemned to pass again and again by Fort du Taurus ignorant of who the prisoner is and his cares. So it will be my look-a-likes eternally cultivating a sense of nostalgia displaced in the repetitive space and times of Blanqui.
However can we imagine a fault within the system? Imagine that as a planet in the constellation of Cygnus there is a Corbiere look-a-like who on a calm day in the latitude of the Fort du Taurus finds a bottle in the sea? Tucked inside are the Artichauts de Bruxelles and the identity of the prisoner and the object of his search. Surprised by his sudden fortune, Corbiere lets go of his tiller and writes in his notebook: "As smoke is driven so eternity."
Corbiere and I had just smashed Blanqui's eternity to pieces. Indeterminate and unfinished we had just gained access to the immediate.
* August Blanqui (1805-1881) French socialist situated between the Utopians and the Marxists. Although an intellectual, he did not become a demagogue on account of assuming the position of proletarian. Contrary to the worst friends of the proletariat, the coherence of his position was maintained when he demanded the university be destroyed. He saw it as the most odious, baleful monopoly of civilisation, the most cruel of outrages inflicted on human intelligence. He was amnestied in 1877 undertaking to publish "Neither God nor Master". (Note by Le Manach)
The Vertigo of Time in the Human Sciences (December 1999)
As a child I spent my holidays in Bourges with my maternal grandparents. On days when the weather was bad, my grandmother would propose three activities: the button box, leafing through postcards, or looking through catalogues of Saint Etienne's factory wares in the 1920s. These wholesome pursuits stimulated my imagination cultivating in me a sense of time and with it, nostalgia. Already I was appreciative of rainy days.
One summer, in order to visit my aunt and uncle who lived in Saint-Aignan we had to get up whilst still dark to get to the railway station on time. I remember it was a beautiful August night and my grandfather, who having a wooden leg had to support himself on a walking stick, expressed his admiration at the beauty of the sky. I asked him a preposterous question: "Grandpa where do the stars come from?" I don't exactly remember his answer but I do remember he talked about infinity and eternity. So scarcely five years old, I had experienced my first fit of metaphysical giddiness.
However, the giddiness of eternity was soon eclipsed by that of girls and a sense of injustice. I went through the matter of girls in the discomfort of loneliness, eventually finding some kind of tolerable balance. I temporarily abandoned the question of eternity to the Guarani Indians. Only the question of injustice still bothers me especially in Brussels where the issue of Flemish nationalism weighs ever heavier.
The hateful politics of some of the Flemish Dutch against the French speaking Flemish left me feeling dirty. Finding nothing that satisfied me in Belgium as regarding critique, I sought critique and comfort in what we Bretons, in the matter of critiques, had to hand. Rereading Bretonism by Jean-Yves Guiomar, I became bluntly conscious of the fact that our society has only had a limited rationalist view of the history we've lived through since the 19th century. So I'll try and summarise Guiomar's comments: Whilst the Egyptians had developed a theory of a solar cycle lasting 24,000 years and the East had conceived the world in millions of years, up to the 19th century the West had accepted the biblical chronology that traces the beginning of time only to 4,000 BC.
The era between 1770 -1830 saw the confrontation between 'the catastrophists' and those who believed in authenticated facts. The first thought all life was annihilated by The Flood. For them, all life preceding The Flood was unconscionable to say the least. Breton historians, who were never less than ultra Catholic, went onto analyse Breton history in terms of identifiable elements in the bible. For them, the Celts descended from Gomer, son of Japhet, third son of Noah. Those who believed in 'the facts' thought on the contrary that the laws which govern physics and chemistry were the same from time immemorial.
It was Danish historians and archaeologists who brought the decisive arguments to bear commencing in 1807; the archaeologist, Ramsus Nyerup set up a Royal Commission charged with collecting together Danish Antiquities. In 1813, the historian Vedel-Simons as a consequence of his excavations had worked out the different ages beginning with the Stone Age, through the Bronze Age and then to the Iron Age. In 1816, Christian-Jorgen Thomsen, became secretary of the Royal Commission and it was he who set about ordering the archaeological material according to Verdal-Simons classifications. Opening in 1819, a museum in Copenhagen was arranged according to his classification.
This method was rapidly followed in Germany but it took more than twenty years before it penetrated Catholic liberal, Cartesian France and a few more years before it compelled recognition.
Even Cuvier who had founded modern palaeontology never accepted the new ideas sticking to an archaic (le catastrophe) concept of time. It was only in 1859 with the acceptance of Boucher de Perthes theses that 'the facts' theories triumphed. The notion of local historical and archaeological peculiarities gave way to a notion of historical continuity covering vast time scales and forced people to go far beyond biblical chronology. On the known and barely glimpsed historical horizon appeared unknown human groupings that we could neither imagine nor name, which as we knew nothing about, so we referred to them as monkeys. Science opening up a vast space-time scale unified all the peoples turned up by history and pre-history. Knowledge took possession of the starry night of time giving us a taste for the giddiness of eternity.
The new historical and archaeological techniques spread to anthropology, ethnology, linguistics.... These new conceptions produced an upheaval that made the old ways of examining civilisation obsolete. Breton studies moved to Paris because the technical requirements exceeded the limited capabilities and aptitudes of most local scholars. Apropos of this, Guiomar remarked: "The weakness of Breton philologists was of great account here and prevented the 1867 -1872 offensive from blossoming at a high level. Highly technical linguistic studies required prior training and this accounted for much. This weakness is one of the main reasons for the forming of the Breton nationalist movement."
What Guiomar suggests is that Breton nationalism stems from the low intellect of researchers. For the nationalist researchers who wanted the Celts to be the first and only occupiers of Armorica (part of ancient Brittany-TN) the discovery of prehistory was a shattering blow. Their nationalist pretensions, which they claim are rooted in history, appeared threadbare, underdeveloped scientific thought. The consciousness of historical time modifies our perception of history – and it also modifies our perception of the present. The construction of an arbitrary timescale spanning a mere 6,000 years and that includes the creation of the universe, the appearance of man, stone cutting, the steam engine, electricity and the Internet.... induced an acceptance of an inexorable, historical determinism. On the contrary, in a biological time spanning billions of years, the very idea that there once was a day when bosses didn't exist, is of great comfort to us.
Given such a point of view, it is not only nationalism that is the product of underdeveloped thought but all the values that hold our society together. Indeed, law, morality, economics, parliamentary government, the philosophy of human rights, socialism - all are rooted in the bourgeois thought of the 17th century.
For these bourgeoisie who announced themselves in 1789 (the French Revolution –TN) still had a biblical conception of time, and those dark areas enveloping history, appear as a state of nature, a place of permanent violence, and devoid of any social organisation. The state of nature was seen as a threat against what they saw as natural rights. To escape the fictional violence of this state of nature they conceive of the rule of law – a civil society that guarantees the property of owners and punishes those who dare to undermine it.
Even the Marxist conception of history rests on an arbitrary construction that begins with Greek antiquity. Marx imagined 'pre-historical' human beings living in a state of almost absolute scarcity and linked the emancipation of the proletariat to the developments of technology.
In John Locke's time, the legal view of trade was in line with other aspects of knowledge, everything having a cultural unity. Today the dizziness that time induces, time's vertigo, has changed the epistemological configurations of knowledge. Some members of the church no longer subscribe to biblical time. Abbe Breuil studied cave paintings and Canon G. Lemaitre theorised the expansion of the universe. Social sciences have highlighted our lack of physiological determinism, the relation of action to words, the incest taboo, all religious and artistic imagination...So a state of culture as the foundation of our humanisation drives Locke's state of nature back to being the hallucination of a monkey.
Only the right wing intimately linked to the existence of capitalism remains attached to these old conceptions of knowledge.
The new knowledge which gives the illusion of being independent remained confined to academia. Their producers also belong to civil society and adopt its norms. Critique no longer comes from within their works but from the eventual political engagement. There is no longer any cultural unity. Hence the decomposition of meaning and values.
I agree with Francois Perin: All the faculties of European law should demystify their vocabulary by subjecting it to semantic analysis in order to dispel fantasies about democracy or popular sovereignty. De Tocqueville had already noted how the bourgeoisie had kept intact the centralised state apparatus.
Two centuries of legal humanism hasn't proved able to denounce the relations of subordination that characterise the employment contract as a legal moment of exploitation. The fact that the Belgian League of Human Rights will be split into a Dutch League and a French League shows us that this humanism is not sheltered from nationalist underdevelopment.
Enough of private property defining human quality. What we need is a new conception of man that accords with the new conceptions of time.
The emotion I feel when I hold in my hands a book that belonged to my mother is different from the one I had as a child when I fixedly looked at the stars. The intimacy of my memory of my mother is not the same order as my intimacy with the sky. Yet intuition tells me these two emotions aren't strangers to each other: the sadness that I feel for the former is the moment of vertigo that I feel for the latter. These desires for who knows what does not belong to the past or the future and if in a preceding artichaut I had specified by the notion of nostalgia I can now bluntly specify the substance: it is eternity.
I have no desire to create a new philosophy of history as too many specialists would poke fun at me. On the contrary looking for a sunny garden free from time and space seems to me primordial. And if I laugh at my expense I will not be casting a shadow on anyone.
I cannot accept that the question posed by me contemplating a starry night would have as its outcome the boredom of a life based on wage slavery and a laughable savings account. I would like my ephemeral life to express eternity. The painter Antoine Wiertz wrote in the 19th century: "In a thousand years, in a hundred thousand years, in a hundred million years perhaps..... man shall laugh and laugh understanding everything we think of and do, everything we've said and wrote, all that we call glory, honour, magnified heroism, art, beauty, power, grandeur, wonder. Man shall have forgotten man."
So I understand my literary tastes. When I writer draws me into the vertigo of time he speaks about me: eternal and infinite, without beginning or end: unfinished, already laughing and forgetting.
Freedom and Solitude in Berlin (...very small gardens) December 1996
All year round these living gardens had cheerily offered up their bouquets, though, strange to say, nobody picked them. The sinister Berlin Wall was in certain pleases divided up into small gardens. On the West German side they were called freedom gardens. In East Berlin they were called solitude gardens.
Today the wall has been knocked down. In its place there's now a grey dirt road bordered by wild grasses and weeds. Beyond the weeds remain the freedom gardens and solitude gardens.
The men of the freedom gardens of freedom never visit the solitude gardens. "They belong to Stasi veterans (the GDS – German secret police - TN). They have things to hide and do not want to be recognised. Moreover, since the destruction of the wall, they've erected fences to keep us away."
The men belonging to the solitude gardens never visit the freedom gardens: "They are proud and arrogant, they always want to be the best, the strongest...Us, we, we are not like that. After the destruction of the wall they came to demolish our sheds, so we put fences and planted bramble bushes."
On both opposing sides everyone celebrates summer.
Those on the western side are civil servants, company managers, skilled workers. They are western consumers.
Those from the east aren't all former Stasi. Among them there are former bureaucrats who administered the planned economy and ran the state TV.
Some have lost their jobs: unable to understand what is happening in the world, they don't like their newly found 'freedom'.
A man in a solitude garden remembering his youthful reading of Emile Zola's The Fault of Father Mouret notes that the garden of Paradise plays an important part in the story, ensuring that everyday God made summer as well as winter, flowers were to be seen blooming.
A woman gets around to regretting the time when it was difficult to obtain books. She remembers the joy she felt in making literary discoveries.
A mother and daughter find that the crosswords in the newspapers have changed. During the era of the GDR (German Democratic Republic-TN) clues often involved the geography of Eastern Europe. Today it involves the entire geography of the planet. The crosswords are more difficult.
A man explains how sunlight reflected from the Berlin Wall was good for growing tomatoes. Today tomatoes don't grow as well as previously.
A woman continues to grow a variety of roses in order to adorn her church in East Berlin. She has been doing this for the last fifty years.
Some mimic their western counterparts. They roll out turf on their private plot which was prohibited during the Stalinist epoch. This done, they place white plastic garden furniture on it.
Others want the wall rebuilt. They feel that keeping your distance from the other side means comparisons aren't made, hence their sadness is less sad and their poverty less so.
There is one who lives a solitary life in solitude. He reckons there has been no real cleansing. He fears the return of the bureaucrats and doesn't want to commit himself.
As for those in the West, they preoccupy themselves in their own gardens just as surely as you do in yours. If you have one.
In the space of thirty years, the people of the same city are supposed to share the same language, the same culture, the same religion. They will conclude they no longer understand each other or wish to live together. This illustrates perfectly the power of national ideologies.
The Destruction of Words (1998)
Ideas are deteriorating,
the meaning of words are involved.
Paul Lafargue noted in his article The French language before and after the revolution, the French Revolution had changed the language from top to bottom. Opposed to the classical language of the aristocracy, the romantic language of the bourgeoisie, born in the forum of parliamentary assemblies, established itself as the official language of France. In 1831, a company of grammarians produced a Supplement to the Academy Dictionary containing 11,000 words that had been introduced during the revolutionary period.
We have been living in a period of intense contradictions because for each action language amplifies what has been said. Not only the dictatorship of advertising decides what is understandable and incomprehensible to the consumer, but power, taking over advertising techniques, reshapes the language of daily life, trying to codify a world of predators in terms of non-contradiction.
Layoffs have become corporate restructuring, while the bosses, borrowing the vocabulary of Auschwitz, speak of delousing. Today unions (social services) have imposed the social plan. Flexibility (deregulation of working conditions) has become flexible. The English, more into neo- liberalism, deploy employability, making negotiations difficult within the European institutions. Companies that outsource using Russians or Thais ... are not uncivilised businesses, but corporate citizens. While wages based on an unacceptable subordination, do not hesitate to talk about corporate culture. The chiefs of staff became human resources managers. Stalin, more economical, spoke of man as: The most valuable capital asset.
The linguist Alain Rey said in Le Monde, 28.1.1998, " In social life, new words are used to conceal an intended or real action. So they express a political point of view [...] next to their objective meaning, the words convey intentions that can be manipulated." When there is a simple and precise word, e.g. blind, which is replaced with not seeing, it does not only disqualify blind but its variations verbal, adverbial, proverbial or adjectives (blind, blind, blind, blind, blind ...), but replaces a word with a proposal. It is the syntax of the language that was changed before our eyes. It's the same with impaired hearing, overweight, a cleaner, homeless, police station, indictment ...
Language, despite the claims of linguists, is not a neutral standard describing the weaknesses of communication; it is traversed by contradictions allowing for ideological manipulation. Any attempt to reduce inconsistencies by subterfuge semantics leads to the impoverishment of language, so with our thought.
The fact that power is trying to influence the language is proof that it knows what we've done and said. It knows it hurts us and tries to hide behind words. When, despite the absence of widespread social struggles, language, even in the eyes of power, is more prescriptive and is forced to constantly modify the meaning of words to mask its contradictions, means that its legitimacy, in its own eyes is no longer self-evident. Then all dangers are to be feared.
We express our thoughts - in our brains or our heart – through a set of signs, sounds, colours, smells and, above all, words. When words that allow us to express our feelings disappear, degrade our feelings, having no words to express our humanity, we fall below the existence of animals. Despair (violence, alcoholism, drugs, suicide ...) which engulfs a part of the population (among all social categories), shows that for some of us words are no longer a way to express our feelings. There's television, pornography, fast food, football ... but there's no more dignity or complexity left in our sorrows.
The meaning we give to words is what creates a social bond. When language is no longer a standard, but expresses a permanent lie, there's little left to social ties. No human society can survive without the bond of language. If power is no longer able to meet its own standard, we must seek our own. The struggle to make sense of words is the main issue of class struggle.
Orwell gave one of his characters a striking sentence: The proles are not human beings, implying that they were outside of problems with linguistics, outside of the development of thought.
It is necessary to understand the employees or the unemployed as they are uniquely the subject of economic and social rights. Without considering that they are also the subject of language is to be complicit in Orwell's character: The proles are not human beings. However it remains to be seen that the bankers, bosses, politicians, lawyers ... who got us in this situation are themselves human beings. The possible inhumanity of those who lead us should be the object of all our attention.
My first workbench companion bench was a fellow named G. He was a small, sickly worker who was close to retirement. I was fresh out of the apprenticeship centre and I used a school satchel as a tool bag which greatly amused me. Maybe I didn't want to abandon my childhood? G. was not very talkative. In fact, apart from a morning hello, I do not remember him ever saying a word to me. However, he was not an unpleasant companion; in fact the opposite.
Whilst I worked at punching holes through which to pin piles of braces G. would dive under the workbench with an empty 25cl bottle filling it from a gallon of red wine in his satchel. The other workers nudged each other and said, "Look, G's. gone down the wine cellar!" Never filling more than a 25cl bottle G. could pass for being sober.
Hired in early July, I accompanied other workers on paid leave in August. G., with some others, remained behind as skeleton staff.
Returning from leave we learned that G. was dead. He fell under the wheels of a Fenwick car and was killed instantly, crushed in the factory a few months from retirement.
With only two months of work behind me, including one month of paid leave, I had already understood that in the car plant life was not easy for teenagers, it was not easy either for the old.
This tragic accident, combined with the kindness of A., our militant union activist, caused me to cling tightly to the union. Later I realized that I should have run away from this plant double quick. Alas, it was too late.
Solitude on Public Transport
At the time I was acting assistant storekeeper at Toyota in Diegem, in Flemish Brabant. I had missed the bus one morning and so I travelled to work on the STIB bus. At Place Madou a young worker got on. I had been working with him for a few months and recognising me, he sat down at my side. He told me he had found a permanent place in the industrial zone of Evere. He was happy with his new workplace as it was a modern enterprise. Everybody is on familiar terms, including the director, a young man full of vitality, who, incidentally, came to work by motorcycle. He enjoyed many fringe benefits such as flexitime or meal vouchers. Management had organized quality circles that allowed staff to speak freely and to take initiatives regarding the organization of work. But what pleased him most was the environment. From his bench he could see, through the large windows, lawns, rosebushes and hawthorn trees in bloom. Magpies and jays chattered in the branches and rabbits frolicked in the grass. The sky was blue and the sun delighted him though the winter snow made him melancholy. As he spoke, I quietly observed my young companion. His trousers were worn and his sneakers were scruffy. His hair was greasy and neglected. His face was pale, unshaven and looked tired. Arriving at Evere, he said goodbye, jumped off the bus, clutching in his arm an Aldi plastic bag in which he kept his sandwiches, and run through the puddles of water because he was late.
The Trade Union Council in the early 1980s
I had the opportunity to meet Jean-Pierre V. (presumably Jean Pierre Voyer? –TN) on several occasions. At that time he swore by Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War and Alcibiades, in which he saw through action the power of communication in all its cruel beauty. A few years later, discovering this book in the Alain Ferraton book catalogue, I hastened to get it. This was the L. Hachette and Co. edition of 1863 with an introduction and notes by E.A. Bétant, head of the gymnasium in Geneva. I acquired it for the sum of 300 francs. In short, it was a good deal. Good history books are also books of adventure and I found this a pleasant way to spend my long association with mandatory transport. One Wednesday evening, as I had arrived early for the monthly meeting of the union council, I continued my reading to pass the time. I had come to the point when Hippocrates, who ran to the front of the Athenian army, gave the following speech: "Athenians, I will be brief in my exhortation, though for people with heart what difference does it make? My aim is not to raise your courage, but to make you remember it, let none of you imagine that we face this peril on a land and for a cause that is foreign to us. It's their territory, but it is for us that we are fighting ..." That's when the young delegate from Volkswagen who sat next to me asked me what I was reading. The question bothered me a little; I knew that my readings are not very orthodox. If only I had in my hands, God forbid, a book by Bernard-Henri Levy, I would not hesitate for a moment, but then, Thucydides ... After this slight hesitation, and I hope, my companion did not have time to notice, I decisively said: - I am reading the history of the Peloponnesian War. No sooner had I had time to finish my sentence, than my companion came back tit for tat: - Ah! Yes, the book of Thucydides! You can imagine my surprise. So I was not the only metallurgist in Brussels to love extravagant reading. Soon, the company I worked for closed down and I found myself unemployed. I no longer had the opportunity to go to the union council or get better acquainted with this young delegate. - Comrade! You who know the prowess of Sparta, I give you my salutation!
Social Europe in the early 1970s
I had opened the cardboard box that protected my purchase finding on the packing certificate the following...
UG GLASS CONT LTD. CASTLEFORD
Sorter: No. 545
Any Complaints Must Be accompanied by this note
Anonymous sorter 545 that packed goods in Castleford in the early nineteen seventies, I take this opportunity of sending you my cordial hello!
Artichauts de Bruxelles: These and others are in PDF format at http://utozona.net/potlatch/artichdebrux.zip and with some of the original artichauts presented in this URL there's difficulty in extraction.......
1. Lettre n° 2. à la Ligue des droits de l'Homme
Contribution du 10 février 1996
2. Les vains occupations d'un adjuster un chomage, Une correspondance avec Anne Morelle 1999
3. Lettre a Madame Michele Bernstein Serie Mémoire Situationniste 1996
4. Liberté & Solitude à Berlin (...Très petits jardins...), fevrier 1996
5. Techniques publicitaries et manipulations politiques par Vance Packard, 1997
6. Qui dit vrai: Isabelle Stengers ou Jacques Velu? mars 1997
7. Le « fritisme » UN MYTHE NATIONAL BELGE mars 1997
8. Nous sommes ici par notre propre volonté nous n'en sortirons que poussés par nos crampes d'estomac, avril 1997
9. MASLAMAH DE YAMAMAH, avril 1997
10. FRANÇOIS JANSSENS & ANNE-MARIE APPELMANS, mai 1997
11. Harcelées par le Führer LE POINT LIMITE DE LA RATIONALITÉ ÉCONOMIQUE, juin 1997
12. Le Regard qui tue, juin 1997
13. Guy & Gérard, juillet 1997
14. K.-O. philosophique beuverie interactive? PREMIERE PARTIE : LES CHATS, juillet 1997
15. Où il est montré, à l'aide de citations, l'impossibilité de faire des citations, aout 1997
16. Antériorité des droits des pauvres RESISTANCE DES RICHES, septembre 1997
17. L'amateur d'artichauts : SA TÂCHE ! Préface n° 8, octubre 1997
18. Karl Marx et le JARDIN ! octubre 1997
19. Comment parler dans la langue de son patron quand on est ouvrier salarie? aout 1997
20. LE LANGAGE DE La MARCHANDISE ET LE LANGAGE DE LA NATION La « benetisation » de la démocratie flamande, aout 1997
21. DECLARATION UNIVERSELLE DES DROITS DE L'ANIMAL, septembre 1997
22. Le secret incinéré de Guy Debord, novembre 1997
23. Martin Heidegger en langue française, novembre 1997
24. Le quartier ou le negatif tenant sa cour, decembre 1997
25. Bref Rencontres, janvier 1998
26. LE SAC DE MEMPHIS. Vie dynastie, 2100 avant J.-C. janvier 1998
27. GINETTE PATATE, janvier 1998
28. Guy Debord et le « centre du monde » fevrier 1998
29. NAISSANCE ET MORT du printemps dans la poésie chinoise des, comme le dit un Song du Nord, mars 1996
30. CORRESPONDANCE 1) Isabelle Stengers : réponse du 21 août 1997 à la lettre de Y. Le Manach (14 août 1997). 2) Y. Le Manach : réponse du 2 avril 1998.
31. Friedrich Engels et le JARDIN 1998
32. NOSTALGIE, mai 1998
33. CRIMES ET PROTECTIONS Textes de : JAMES BALDWIN, GEORGES BATAILLE, BERTOLT BRECHT, KARL MARX, LEWIS MUMFORD ET OCTAVE MIRBEAU 1998
34. Critique de la forme, septembre 1998
35. KERBELEN Carnet de voyage, 1998
36. La position chmeur. Manifeste, decembre 1998
37. SEMAINE DE LA LANGUE FRANÇAISE. CHEV' Lettre à M. le secrétaire perpé tuel de l'Académie française, 1999
38. LES PIRES AMIS DE LA CLASSE OUVRIERE par KARL KORSCH, janvier 1999
39. TROIS PERSONNAGES EN QUÊTE D'HAUTEUR, janvier 1999
40. LE TAO DU BOUCHER A propos du peintre Robert Alonzi, mars 1999
41. LE VERTIGE du temp dans LES SCIENCES HUMAINES, juin 1999
42. L'ABJECTION chez Karl Marx Deuxième partie : 1864-68, avril 1999
43. FRANZ KAFKA & SEMIRA ADAMU La justice, les filles et l'éternité, janvier 1999
44. STATION SAINT-GUIDON SINT-GUIDO STATION Préface n° 6, janvier 2002
45. Rene Haquin et les Jeunes Filles, mars 1998
46. La Destruction Des Mots, 1998
47.Le Laterale Andine et L'Archipel Des USA, 1998
48. Le dernier texte d'Engels publie de son vivant, decembre 1998
49. Tristan Corbière, Arthur Rimbaud, le soleil, la mer et l'éternité, fevrier 2000
50. Du role des Indians d'Amerique dans la décolonisation des Européens Avec une note de l'éditeur, avril 2000
51. UNE CORRESPONDANCE SITUATIONNISTE, avril 2000
52. Jardins sosies et Poètes parallèles, Corbiere, Rimbaud, Blanqui.....A la mémoire de Jerry David, printemps 2000
53. ANTHOLOGIE DU COMMENCEMENT À la mémoire de Chiquet Mawet, aout 2000
54. UNE CORRESPONDANCE SITUATIONNISTE (suite et fin), septembre 2000
55. DÉPRESSION & LITTÉRATURE En marge de l'Anthologie du commencement (et de la fin), septembre 2000
56. « J'ai joui de mon ami dans le jardin...» OCTAVE MIRBEAU (suivi de Propos sur le jardin par Yves Le Manach, avril 2001
57. FRITZ ZORN & LOUIS ALTHUSSER DÉPRESSION ET LITTÉRATURE (11), avril 2001
58. LETTRE AUX ARTICHAUTS DE BRUXELLES A propos de l'Auteur, de ses personnages et de sa liberté, juin 2001
59. LE CHÂTAIGNIER pas très loin du Centre du monde, juillet 2001
60. RÉPONSE À STÉPHANE PRAT (Le corporatisme en literature), juillet 2001
61. MOI AUSSI, QUAND J'ÉTAIS JEUNE, J'AI ÉTÉ UN HÉROS MODERNE Du sens civique et du jugement esthétique, avril 2002
62. PETITES PROSES SANS POÉSIE, avril 2002
63. PETITES PROSES SANS POESIE, juin 2002
64. « J'aime la FranÇoise qu'est blonde ! Faut pas voir tout en noir. » COUPLETS ET REFRAINS TRISTES (avec équivalent Prozac), juillet 2002
65. Fritz et Ernst (de la promotion social a Buchenwald), septembre 2002
66. AUTOPSIE DU RAPPORT SOCIAL Lettre à Jean-Pierre C.
67. La Dissolution du Foyer Familial, septembre 2002
68. Le Fritisme (11) janvier 2003
69. LETTRE SUR LA LIBERTE
Stuart & David Wise: Winter 2011-12