Revolution of Everyday Life
Treatise on Living for the Younger Generations:
The Reversal of Perspective
by Raoul Vaneigem
“You’re fucking with us? – You won’t fuck long!”
In Watts, Prague, Stockholm, Stanleyville, Gdansk, Turin, Port Talbot, Cleveland, Cordoba, Amsterdam, wherever the act and wareness of refusal generates passionate break-outs from the factories of collective illusion, the revolution of everyday life is under way. The struggle intensifies as misery becomes universal. What for years were reasons for fighting specific issues – hunger, restrictions, boredom, illness, anxiety, isolation, deceit – now reveal misery’s fundamental rationality, its omnipresent emptiness, its appalling oppressive abstraction. For this misery, the world of hierarchical power, the world of the State, of sacrifice, exchange and the quantitative – the commodity as will and representation of the world – is held responsible by those moving towards an entirely new society that is still to be invented and yet is already among us. All over the globe, revolutionary praxis, like a photographic exposer, is transforming negative into positive, lighting up the hidden face of the earth with the fires of rebellion to ink in the map of its triumph.
Only genuine revolutionary praxis gives the organisation of armed revolt the precision without which even the best proposals remain tentative and partial. But this same praxis shows a rapid corruption the moment it breaks with its own rationality. That rationality is not abstract but concrete supersession of that universal and empty form, the commodity – and is alone in allowing a non-alienating objectification: the realization of art and philosophy in the individual’s daily life. Such a rationality’s line of force and extension is born of the deliberate encounter of two poles under tension. It’s the spark struck off between subjectivity, extracting the will to be everything from the totalitarianism of oppressive conditions, and the historical withering way of the generalised commodity system.
Existential conflicts are not qualitatively different from those inherent in the whole of mankind. That’s why men can’t hope to control the laws governing their general history if they can’t simultaneously control their own individual histories. If you go for revolution and neglect your own self, then you’re going about it backwards, like all the militants. Against voluntarism and the mystique of the historically inevitable revolution, we must spread the idea of a plan of attack, and a means, both rational and passionate, in which immediate subjective needs and objective contemporary conditions are dialectically united. In the dialectic of part and totality, the curved slope of revolution is the project to construct daily life in and through the struggle against the commodity form, so that each phase of the revolution is carried in the style of its final outcome. No maximum program, no minimum program, and no transitional programme – instead a complete strategy based on the essential characteristics of the system we want destroyed.
Between the increasingly disorganised old society and the new society yet to be created, the Situationist International offers an example of a group in search of its revolutionary coherence. As with all groups bearing the seeds of poetry, its importance is as a model for the new social organisation. It must therefore prevent external oppression (hierarchy, bureaucratisation…) reappearing inside the movement, by insuring that participation is subordinated to the maintenance of real equality between all its members, not as a metaphysical right, but on the contrary as the norm to attain. It is precisely to avoid authoritarianism and passivity (leaders and militants) that the group should unhesitatingly move against any compromise, drop in the theoretical level or lack of practical activity. We can’t tolerate people whom the dominant regime so happily puts up with. Exclusion and rupture are the only defences of coherence in danger.
In the same way, the project of centralising scattered poetry involves the ability to recognise or encourage autonomous revolutionary groups, radicalise them, and federate them without ever taking them over. The Situationist International has an axial function: to be everywhere the ax which popular agitation wields and which in turn amplifies the initial movement. The Situationists will recognise these groups on the basis of their revolutionary coherence.
The moment of revolt, which means now, is hallowing out for us in the hard rock of our daily lives, days that miraculously retain the delicious colours and the dreamlike charm which – like an Aladdin’s cave, magical and prismatic in an atmosphere all its own – is inalienably ours. The moment of revolt is childhood rediscovered, time put to everyone’s use, the dissolution of the market and the beginning of generalised self-management.
The long revolution is creating small federated microsocieties, true guerilla cells practising and fighting for this self-management. Effective radicality authorises all variations and guarantees every freedom. That’s why the Situationists don’t confront the world with: “Here’s your ideal organisation, on your knees!” They simply show by fighting for themselves and with the clearest awareness of this fight, why people really fight each other and why they must acquire an awareness of the battle.