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situs & queers: "The Social Plague" (1972-1974)
by Patrick Cardon
22 May 2008
First English translation of piece showing the influence of the Situationist International on the homosexual rights movement in France in the 1970s.
History of a Journal: The Social Plague (France, 1972-1974):
The marriage of the situs and the queers
by Patrick Cardon
The philosophy of the Situationist International has been the philosophy of one of the most dynamic groups in the contemporary homosexual movement: Group 5 of the Homosexual Revolutionary Front (HFRA), which drew its thinking and language from the SI over the course of two years, from 1972 to 1974, which were the dates of the first and last issues of The Social Plague, its journal, the theoretical texts of which were gathered together by their sole author, Alain Fleig (today a photographer and collector) in 1977 for reprinting by Editions Stock under the title Sex Struggle, Class Trap.
After a brief summary of the SI, we will see the points it can share with the homosexual movement. This compound past demonstrates a passion that has elapsed but not at all by a mutual abandoning: the situationist current still brings pamphlets to the ideological market that deny all sexual identity. On the other hand, homosexual publications and theory have been enriched by the SI's advertising formulae and its spirit.
I. The Situationist International
The SI issued from diverse artistic movements, avatars of Surrealism: the Lettrists in literature, cinema and poetry, and COBRA in painting; which decided to come together in a total political, social and cultural engagement during the hours that troubled the Fourth Republic and its difficulties in Algeria (1958).
The SI owed its astonishing and incisive originality to its brilliant opposition to the [already] proposed political systems. It was one of the first to draw the lessons of Stalinism. It tended to emphasize, not the economic aspects of Karl Marx's works but its social aspects, which one especially found in his early writings, according to which -- one has forgotten -- "capitalism is first of all a social relation." Following the post-war economic boom, and the extension of the market into consumption, it was the everyday aspect of the social that drew the SI's attention.
The capitalist system in the family is called parsimony and its organization is that of the spectacle, understood as the ensemble of real or ideological media that short-circuit inter-individual relations in a real or fantastic manner to the profit of power.
Urbanism is a model that clearly rules our smallest vital programmes, such as movement, habitation and entertainment. This will be the privileged place for the "situationist destruction of the conditioning [that] is already, at the same time, the construction of situations": "The principal success of the current planning of towns is to make known the possibility of what we have called unitary urbanism, that is to say, living critique, fed by the tensions of all of everyday life, the manipulation of towns and their inhabitants." ("Elementary Program of the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism," I.S. #16, August 1961.)
This conception of unitary urbanism is [just] one of the aspects of an awareness of the explosion of the thousands of separate human activities that must be unified for human kind to reach its fullness. This cultural revolution consists in reintegrating culture, the arts and daily diversions, thereby transforming all of them.
To recover and discover this totality of man, the situationists warred against separations, following this Marxist adage: "I will no longer be a sinner, but I will sin according to my desire."
The arts and culture are decomposed: they must be realized today, this is to say, they must disappear as separated social functions in which artists are delegated functionaries, or they must disappear in their assimilation by the general population. Poetry, for example, must not be the affair of poets, who are miserable geniuses or paid by a bureaucracy, but must be the affair of all, since it is one's way of life that must be poetic.
These social upheavals will or won't exist: suicide or revolution, "socialism or barbarism." And they will be universal because the expropriation [l'emprise] of capital is currently planetary; capital has ingested and destroyed exploitable lands and countries, especially the old economic modes, the old social structures, according to its own unitary method.
Thus, under the form of atheism or secularity, capital takes on revolutionary forms to combat a religion whose fantastic infrastructures it has assimilated and systematized, for example, charisma and the cult of the leader, unanimously shared by all of the conservative or oppositional organizations. This is what renders the latter's opposition decrepit and completely demagogic. More recently, the cult of consumption and the fascination with the commodity allowed the situationists to confirm, deepen and generalize the chapter of Das Kapital on fetishism. Religion will thus visibly disappear as a separate and feared institution, because it will have attained a more advanced phase in its development: the modeling of the human unconscious; more specialists in religion, priests, but all of the little priests obey the little bishops who obey Capital, the pope.
The fate of these two antagonistic realizations -- that of poetry, and that of religion -- will depend upon the suicidal cybernetization of the society of survival or the gushing forth of a life in which it will be possible to "enjoy life without obstacles." This opposition is co-existent, and its awareness can thus express itself in a manner that renders the two poles of contemporary opposition into the very words used by the following formula of Marx with respect to Proudhon: "the philosophy of poverty, the poverty of philosophy." This curled formulation was one of the total advertising successes of the SI, whose slogans covered the walls in 1968. It allowed the striking of the mind by a startling shortcut that obliged the reader to concentrate and reflect so as to understand the meaning. It also had the function of transvaluing words. Rather than refusing the values of this society en bloc (the personality of the great refusal was often a Christian personality), the situationists preferred to play with meanings and make this very game the meaning, all the while knowing that this was only a provisional situation in which they must not shut themselves.
In addition to linguistic returns, they performed icongraphic detournements, making the people in comic-strips say quotations that had no relation with the original subject, except for the revelation of their shared cynicism. From the SI's point of view, anything that a priori is banal becomes the revealer of lies: it suffices to displace an element from one social context to another, from the original to its critique. The SI's platform was thus called "Basic Banalities." This distancing also worked through the utilization of a classic and precious style, such as the one in the book Vaneighem published in 1967 (reprinted as a paperback today!): Treatise on Living for the Younger Generations or even the tone of Sensor [sic] in How to Save Capitalism in Italy, which was taken very seriously by the milieu of Italian business, while it was ironic from start to finish.
The last conference of the SI was held in Venice and coincided with the last issue of its journal in [September] 1969. Internal splits decomposed the movement until 1971. If was as if the homosexuals, at least those in Group 5 of the Homosexual Front of Revolutionary action, took up their torch.
Situationism and (Homo)sexuality
Which torch? Indeed, what were the situationist positions concerning sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular? We will utilize "situationist" texts in the wide meaning of the term, that is to say, those that take up their principal themes (separation, unity) and their style (detached and pedagogic).
First, the original sin: "Researches into sexuality" appeared in the journal Revolution surrealiste, from which came a profound disgust with all homosexuality and, paradoxically, a pronounced taste for heterosexual sodomy. Aragon and Creval couldn't get enough. . . .
From this point of view, does the situationist analysis of the "spectacular commodity" society mark real progress? In this society, there exists neither man nor woman (nor homosexual [of either gender]), but human beings who battle for survival against reification. In its destiny as commodity, human kind is driven by capital, carried off by the distribution of goods, without distinctions of gender. One must remember that, in 1971, feminism wasn't the order of the day, but we will see that, as soon as it appeared on situationist radar, it was cited for being ceaselessly blind, at least according to the slant of Voyer's Lettre aux Citoyens du FHAR; and, in 1979, Francoise d'Eaubonne intervened to discourage bookstores from selling an anti-feminist pamphlet, written by a situationist woman.
The first issue of the journal Internationale situationniste (1961) was illustrated by five pin-ups. Displaced in this way, the functional images of the women/dolls were denounced without commentary (uniquely by their placement on the page). This usage was reprised throughout the following issues for other roles, such as that of the family and the security that it promotes, whether illusory or fabricated; a family entrenched in submarine habitations or subterranean atomic-bomb shelters (according to the fear of the moment). The reproduction of images of women was not at all characteristic of the general reproduction: this was only one model among others. This is what Vaneighem [sic] meant when he wrote The Treatise on Living for the Younger Generations, of which the first chapter on social roles does not question sexual differences at all. This book appeared at the same time in 1967 as Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle, and so one can say that here it is a matter of [different] generations. The women's liberation movement had not reached the resonance that would allow it to violently generalize its questioning of the roles that men assign to women. One could believe that the situationist man, and the woman who adopts his positions, is blind to his oppressive role if, for the moment, he refuses [to speak of] the other social statuses that the division of labor wants to impose on him. The social status of the male doesn't come up for critique: on the contrary, it apologizes for virile and revolutionary violence.
Nevertheless, this analysis of sexual roles could have been included in his [situationist analysis], but it would have been necessary for him to abandon his idealism, to not take his desires for reality. ("I take my desires for reality, because I believe in the reality of my desires" was a slogan written in reaction to the realism that paralyzed politicians and the individual.) Because, if idealism can be a means to change the real, it is powerless when it becomes a system. Refusing separations, the situationists believed themselves excluded, or at least they placed themselves in an explosive avant-garde separation: it is impossible to act on the givens that one does not see, such as the condition(s) of women and homosexuals.
Anti-authoritarian, he [the situationist man] doesn't want / doesn't see hierarchies among the separations: social poverty being generalized, the boss has a social life that is as pitiful as that of the workers (cf. the pamphlet on General Motors). The refusal of the role is thus a global refusal; it cannot be concerned with (for example) the masculine role subsuming the feminine role.
Not only this, but there are no heterosexual or homosexual relations, there are not sexual relations at all, Jean Louis Moinet affirms to us in his book The End of Science: "Sexual relations do not exist. There are only human or inhuman relations, whether their poverty is assumed revolutionarily or not. All possibility of authentic encounter supposes the active taking-charge of communal social poverty in view of its supercession, not an attitude of pardon or condemnation that remains external to the facts that its appreciates or depreciates." The author questions the desires themselves: "Those who are vainglorious because they've had amorous relations due to a purely physical attraction are fools, unaware of the trivially metaphysical character of such attractions." Elsewhere in this one book, he speaks of sexism: "Spectacular market alienation (to a great extent at the basis of sexism) [...] has transformed each individual into an conglomeration of appearances and roles without consistency, thus unveiling the socio-economic contents of 'the emotional plague.'"
The love that would escape these determinisms will be a subversive love, but, as Vaneighem [sic] states in his Treatise on Living for the Younger Generations: "There is no happy love in an unhappy world" and, for him, this was a matter of heterosexual love, since, in the manner of Marx, Moinet writes (page 94): "This disturbance of the aptitude for encounter and self-determination expresses itself daily in the manifest impossibility of any spontaneous relations of man to man" (homosexual? no, this is a generic term): that is to say, the relations of man to woman and reciprocally.
Michel Laitem is most optimistic in his comic-strip from 1973: his contribution justifies the refusal of egalitarian relations when they are only an exchange of fantasms: "You make me come, I make you come, we are through." And he is not far, this writer who has called himself chaste for years: "I do not like to have sex in partnership [with anyone]."
In this comic-strip, Yvon Godefroid and Michel Laitem present a "Francois the Gentle," who lives among the ruins of the commodity and the confusion of the sexes. It is similar to a 1971 text by J.P. Voyer, Instructions for use of Reich, which appeals for the dissolution of character, which is perceived as a defensive construction against the anguish of living and as a machine that preserves the existing state of things. For the occasion, Voyer took up the Reichian desire to recover the integrity of the person's "individuality," which Reich baptized (Voyer says "unfortunately") "genitality." It is true that Reich considered homosexuality to be one of the "piggish things" [cochonneries] (see the biography by Ilse Ollendorf).
At the same time, from the same author and the same semi-humorous "Institute for Contemporary Prehistory" (1971) came a Letter to the Citizens of FHAR. This text congratulated FHAR on its Report against normality, just published by Champ Libre, privileged place for expression by the SI. This was the first time that the SI took a position on the precise subject of homosexuality, other than [general] disdain based upon the postulate that any partial struggle is merely a product of the division of labor and that, by definition, their parallelism cannot make them join together in a common front. Moreover, according to the situationists, one of the most pernicious results of homosexual revolt had been the selling of the image of the man as well as that of the woman.
FHAR was launched by lesbians. Its manifesto (the Report) included texts by homosexual men and women. The latter made Voyer hysterical; he could only praise the former so as to anathematize the latter and, to harden his position, used the crudest words. It is all the more astonishing that the tone of the text as a whole is rather chastising: "But the shame is on the Maoist bitches who jam-up your columns with their 'phallocracy.'"
Voyer gave a generic, humanistic sense to the word "man," and took offense when one used the word as an insult. [For him] the SI was a new humanism: "It was necessary that they [FHAR] chose the only insult inappropriate by definition: man, thrown to a crowd for whom the quality of man is denied every day." And Voyer took up situationist banalities [poncifs]: "Finally, there isn't a dominant sexuality, there is only a real absence of sexuality."
And he claims this, even though homosexuality is heterosexuality's scapegoat, which is new and contradictory.
From the/his defense, Voyer passes on to the attack against the stupidity of the lesbian women who forget history (only male homosexuals were persecuted by the Nazis): "It isn't gender that failed them [these women], but the brains and means to be useful, because everyone, if they have some knowledge of life, knows quite well that female homosexuality, fortunately, is almost never repressed in current society." As for those who are coupled-up (thanks to the pliant principles of the queers), Voyer suggests that they are bad in bed: "Several clumsy women who haven't easily managed getting girls into bed."
As for the men in FHAR, they only blamed the hetero-cops in whom Voyer did not seem to be recognized! He wanted to break the queer male/lesbian unity, which is something that, for multiple reasons, we cannot develop at length here. But we can already glimpse one of the elements in this complicity of desire that unites men who are either hetero or homosexuals, provided that they aren't effeminate. Voyer appeals to Spartacus who, he says, could "have been one of the authors of the Report." The women flew into a rage. The situationists didn't see the place from which they spoke, didn't know which gender was the proletariat or didn't want to know.
From this tableau, it seems that homosexual identity doesn't have a place. Nevertheless, several homosexuals find themselves in it so as to lose themselves in it. The communal springboard to launch oneself into revolt being, one suspects, the total revolution that includes a sexual revolution (without non-separated gender distinctions). Until now, all proposed revolutions have been puritanical; but we are a witness here to a desire for absolute pleasure in each act of life: "Furthermore, it goes without saying that we unconditionally support all forms of freedom in morals, all that the bourgeois or bureaucratic scoundrels call 'debauched.' The idea that we are preparing the revolution of everyday life with asceticism is obviously excluded" (Internationale Situationniste, August 1964, quoted in Report, p. 125).
Finally, one speaks of sex, one re-reads Reich, one reads Marcuse. Pleasure seems to subvert the complicity of the world of work and capital. With the honor going to the masculine sex. One denounces all the castrations of power, such as National Edu-castration, a play on words in the title of a then-contemporary book by Jules Celma, Editions Champ Libre, of course. But the notion of castration is quite different for men and women. . . .
II. The Social Plague
The Social Plague, #1.
Five issues would come out under the very phrase that re-seized the reference that Senator Mirguet made to "acts against nature" to help defend his amendment of 1960. It is in the context evoked above that the first issue of The Social Plague was published. It included a cartoon by [R.] Crumb that had been published in Actuel: taking up the whole cover, a man at the height of excitation cries "Sex!" The conception of the Homosexual Front of Revolutionary Action (HFRA) was thus quite different from that of the other journal of the [homosexual] movement, L'Antinorm. The new newspaper had already been announced in the Report as a text entitled "An action on everyday life." For Group 5, the HFRA was a voluntarily unorganized political movement, a [common] front of boys and girls and children of all ages who were struggling with sexuality, not just homosexuality, as a way to approach the subject of the global communist revolution: "Like heteros, homos have equal title to 'victims of the system'; they are simply used, exploited and oppressed in different ways." Under "Other Positions," they aligned the following:
Re-think the education of children in a non-authoritarian way.
Destroy the family and all of its roles, at all levels of value.
Culture is a bourgeois notion.
All physical or intellectual domination of one individual over another is a deviation of the sexual instinct (adult/child, man/woman).
The goal of the revolution isn't the seizure of power and the proletariat.
The concept of class struggle is to be re-thought totally.
Generalized self-management of life.
Thus, from the political point of view, there is a complete concordance here with the situationists' "Basic Banalities." From the sexual point of view, this special point of non-separation is a privileged subject. The goal of the newspaper was thus to make homosexuals aware that their struggle took part in an ensemble from which they must not be detached. This position is held by all advanced "class struggle" discourse: class struggle is also the sex struggle, which has for too long been channeled for the profit of order and work (the latter intends to liberate itself). Thus, this issue apologized for "savagery," that is to say, ludic and subversive violence, which is not recuperable: the gratuitous act (a wink to Gide), iconoclastic spontaneity.
The first issue of The Social Plague gave a large place to madness by applauding the vandalism of the hooligans [des loulous]: a fascination with the exacerbation of the virile and feminine roles that rejoin and escape from themselves. This is what the situationists called transvaluation, which allows one to side-step the system that is both oppositional (the politics of being "anti") and referential (with respect to the dominant power).
There are two principal axis in this concept of the unity of front:
[1.] Solidarity with other oppressed minorities: "Women, young people, homos, small merchants, peasants, Bengalis, the Joint francais, factories in Paris-Nantes, the Nouvelles Galeries de Thionville, immigrant workers," all the time knowing "that there aren't fifty revolutions, there is only one. It takes place according to the free determination of each person." Because the struggles are uniquely "existential and pre-political."
[2.] Consequently, a struggle must not confine itself to itself. Homosexuality considered as an end in itself is "fascist and normative." It can only be a different conception, which [Guy] Hocquenghem enunciated in the Report as "a homosexual vision of the world." Homosexuality was reduced to a point of view; thus one didn't allow it any specific praxis, any development of identity, that would necessarily pass through research into and the creation of a culture. This murder (that's what it was) was the corollary of the politics of the past "made into a tabula rasa" and "all culture is bourgeois."
The interest in the insane is remarkable and one must follow it through the progression of the newspaper, because it will be the touchstone of our analysis. This interest was first of all in solidarity, because the mad are those who, spectacularly, are booed [conspuer] by the political parties. A strategic solidarity: the alibi is clear when Daniel Guerin defends them against Roland Leroy, while throughout his works (including his testament of 1979) he showed more than scorn for all forms of transvestism and fakery. Which "curiously" accompanied a bi-sexual discourse (as Peyrefitte and so many others will see later on). Alain Fleig used the same procedure against L'Humanite rouge and Lutte ouvriere ["Red Humanity" and "Workers' Struggle"]. In an interview that Group 5 accorded Actuel, the Gasolines were presented as the most efficacious means [of fighting] against Leftism:
[Group 5] A priori, nothing prevents a guy from the HFRA from entering the PSU [Unified Socialist Party]. In reality, from the moment that one tries to develop an 'ideology' that largely surpasses Leftism, I believe that a double membership in a Leftist movement and the HFRA becomes impossible. You understand, mad people, the Gasolines, are totally non-recuperable. . . .
Group 5: They dance, they sing in the streets, they get dressed up. It is delirium for the sake of delirium, total rupture, this isn't nothing. . . . It is quite necessary to see that there is a great difference between the crazy people ones sees in the HFRA and in dumps such as the PSU. For HFRA, when they get dressed up, it isn't to resemble a woman, but to provoke, to be aggressive.
All this allows several madmen to express themselves at length, such as Pierre Hahn, who signed "Praise of Madness" in the name of "a madman of the people." But the bottom is cynically male, as is exposed when a corporate exec [d'un compte-rendu corporatif] comes to Paris from the provinces: "We can allow ourselves to go to Paris without too much risk of making it seem that we have left the madmen in power." Traditionally, the vision of madness is sexist: it is tied to the festival. "We can march [defiler] on the first of May, by making a crazy festival." To the grumpy: "Let's not provide them with our quarrels, our jealousies of old (or young) madmen." To the delirious: "The most redoubtable are not the delirious madmen, but the serious, authoritarian, bureaucratic, organizational madmen who envelop themselves in the folds of the Red flag." And although The Social Plague wants "to undermine heterosexuality as the basis of society," it is embarrassed that "it is a shame to be hetero," as it stated at the general assembly of the HFRA at the Beaux-Arts.
The Social Plague, #2
If we have insisted on the first issue, this is because it sets the tone for what follows. The authors avow that this tone is deliberately theoretical. The other issues will take up approximately the same themes, but want to be more practical, more tied to struggles. It is nevertheless clear that the situationist political line makes itself harder and harder, and homosexuality is practically forgotten. It must be a question of solidarity and not homosexual Poujadism. The marching order is to "make the Occitans understand that the battles of the homos and women are parallel to theirs . . . making the homos understand that they should be concerned with the demands of the Bretons . . . Moreover, we are implicated in all combat."
The support for the mad rapidly switched to the hooligans [loulous] and all that could be virile violence: "Do not remain isolated because of isolation, that's the ghetto, that's shitty sclerosis, the shabby little idiocies [radotages] of the crazy people of the neighborhood; that's separation, breaking up, that's remaining faithful to the etiquette and the representation of the imposed image (...) This is why one must, in my opinion, try to establish liaisons with the marginal and the other pariahs, the hooligans [loulous] and the ruffians of the zone that, under violence and the cinema, hides a radical and sincere revolt, and a purity in love that often makes mistakes elsewhere."
We will pass over the naivete of the last phrase and will instead note the continual attraction to a phallomorphic revolt: "Non-violence has had its day. To violence, respond with violence. Long live the revolution. Long live the Black September Group!"
This wild workerism is of a homosexual (Spartakist?) type, which does not mean that it is a desire typical of some homosexuals, but the desire of all partisans of a proletarian politics in the sense that they appeal to living (virile) forces to lead a revolution of men, a certain form of politics that praises a certain form of more or less (de)sublimated homosexuality. This revolutionary position would be that of the Revolutionary Homosexual International, created during the meeting in Liege against the homocentrism ("the incapacity to identify with whom is other and elsewhere") of the participants. Persisting in the dualism of [the choice between] homosexual integration (bourgeois) and social disintegration (revolutionary).
In an article denouncing repression in Cuba, the second issue of The Social Plague proposed the creation of a homosexual spirit that would surpass the [traditional] notions of homosexual desire by developing a "spirit of reciprocity and equality in relations." In this point of view, homosexuality becomes spirit, a notable progression, but this spirit is that of reconversion. The article entitled "Poverty of Love" is frankly bi-sexual: "A ravishing little blond sits down next to us. The desire to love so many girls and boys!"
One speaks here of writhing lunatics, and one pities heterosexuality, which, despite general approval, is hardly easier to live. Repressive desublimation reaches the editorial staff. It makes clear that it will not reproduce photos of naked guys: "Undress your neighborhood!"
The Social Plague, #3
The third issue of The Social Plague accelerated the process of "dehomosexualization": the vocabulary becomes more and more phallocratic. One reads it in: "Electorate my ass," "A thousand bullets my ass," "Elections are traps for cunts." The issue includes a comic-strip detourned from Peanuts, whereas before, in place of illustrations, there were two young men, one brunette, the other blond, intertwined, and lovingly breathing a speech-bubble about politics and love. Finally, the participation of non-homosexuals to the newspaper's collective is clearly announced and precisely justified: "We are no more homosexuals than heterosexuals and no less, certain people and certain uncertain people prefer relations with individuals of their own sex, others with individuals of the opposite sex. As in '68, we are German Jews, we are all homosexuals. Because the fundamental error, of course, is imagining that we are different, proclaiming this alleged difference and demanding its specificity. HFRA has recreated a new ghetto. . . . The famous homosexual vision of the world is only a vision seen from the short end of the binoculars, a partial vision and Poujadist, in the final analysis. There is only an economic, social and cultural (not sexual) cleavage. HFRA is dead from having wanted to project an image (we destroy images)."
Here we witness a clear step backwards by The Social Plague with respect to its previous positions. The uniquely political articles would start to multiply. There'd be a reproduction of a Belgian situationist journal and a tract against work signed by the situationist group Quatre Millions de Travailleurs. Rage and impotence: if the cover of this issue says "destroy what destroys us" in large print, that of the next issue presents a skeleton under an umbrella, with the following play on words serving as a foreword: Le fond de l'air effraie.
The Social Plague, #4
The newspaper format is abandoned for the format of a journal, and higher-quality paper is used. The editorial notes clearly announce that the magazine's collaborators will "try to be less negative"; the process of self-destruction continues. Having shown Leftism to be religion, they attack the new snobbery of Councilism. This was the most recent retrenchment of a pure and hard Marxism, made with thanks to Karl Korsch, Socialisme ou Barbarie, etc. And a long and lively critique of the programmes of the popular fronts with respect to the coup d'Etat in Chile.
The old editorial board was reduced, with relief, one was reassured, coming from new contributions that seemed to be offered by "the pals of the Communist Movement." They signed an article about Israel in which Jewish identity capsizes homosexual identity, and for the same reasons: "It is the Jews themselves who create the Jewish problem that, in reality, is not specific. Why can't the homosexuals have Sodom and Gomorrah as their capital cities?" Of course with anti-State justifications for support. "No, Israel has no right to exist. No more than any State-ified, repressive and aggravated form of social organization (same for the Palestinians)." Finally, the article "To Be Done with the Butt" clearly indicated that homosexuality was no longer the issue: "We willingly break with the HFRA and other MLFs . . ." and "To deny sexuality and leave the field free to our desires . . . We want everything because we are everything."
The Social Plague, #5
The last issue makes us witness the ultimate stage in the assassination of the homosexual: the suicide of the protagonists. The journal is abandoned to the Spanish anarchists of In Memoriam Puig Antich, the advertising department of Mouvement des conseils and Invariance. In it, one reads an attack on the journal Antinorm, "surviving the HFRA, become an appendix of the Trotskyists, the Poujadists of the penis." These "old ladies, so inhibited," must bow before the following definitive and enthusiastic conclusions:
Only life, fabulous and wild, gushing such a torrent of hatred, like a spurt of sperm of bitter odor, can sweep away the old world and open up our dreams, our imperious desire that impatiently becomes erect. . . . We live, we cum, we spit like crazy cocks, in the ass of the old woman it is springtime [Au cul la vieille, c'est le printemps] . . . We will fuck royally and we will fuck like queens. Revolution is an orgy without awakening to the taste of ashes, permanent orgy, life.
The revolution of The Social Plague had been an authentic revolution, which consisted of returning to the point of departure. It ended up like the beginning of the Letter to the Citizens of HFRA: "One speaks of 'man' but who has ever seen one?" One is forced to conclude that the idealist will to abolish the proletariat and the system that created it ended up in this reality of nothingness, because the homosexual movement, with difficulty, had to pull itself out of such a suicidal radicalism. It had to restore itself timidly under the less pretentious (more unionist than political) form of the Group for Homosexual Liberation.
III. Things in common
Which leads us to research the causes of the whirlwind of those years, after we examine the consequences.
1) Homosexual Reality
If there is a separated life, it is that of the homosexual, normal by day, perverse by night, which has nourished a quite fantastic imaginary in which one finds all the thematic variations of the couple (double), as in, for example, the compulsive transformations-mutations of the wolf-werewolf (cf. the film called The Werewolf of Washington), Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, explicitly transformed in the film called Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde. The difficulty of assuming the two roles, sometimes opposed for the most effeminate, has been described excellently in the scenes in La cage aux folles in which a couple of artists and a Moral Order family confront each other over the marriage of their children. It is also astonishing that their desires to live such-as- they-really-are, in broad daylight, is also the desire to destroy the separations imposed by the organization of labor and its conditions of reproduction. From whence also came the challenge to separated culture: the works of art by the homosexual geniuses would have been even more beautiful had such works been the very lives of these very painters, writers, filmmakers, etc. (Such an effort is currently undertaken in this sense in the homosexual journals of all countries. The study of Eisenstein done by D. Fernandez is a good example.) The refusal of partition was the refusal of sublimation. It was quickly replaced by a real sexual practice that encouraged the evolution of morals, detaching sexuality from reproduction. In this liberatory euphoria -- which came after a period of reconstruction after a lamentable war, an era in which homosexual awareness was fully born and, finally, an unheard-of historic moment that opened up the possibility of at least banalizing an act that was still inscribed in the penal code as "against nature" and a "social plague" (1945 and 1960) -- one still could not conceive the idea that the sexual act itself can be a sublimation.
This nihilist revolt was, on the one hand, paranoiac due to its megalomania and, at the same time (an apparent contradiction), based upon the completely simple demand for normality, an Arcadian aspiration, but one that (as we have seen) is also that of revolutionary homosexuals.
2) "How to Impose Oneself on the World"
"We are realists, we demand the impossible" and, indeed, to march in drag during the May Day demonstrations, the festival of labor, reveals the greatest audacity. Those women knew something that was continually molested during the beginning of the MLF. One so believed in the pretensions of such an excess that one rendered the world such-as-it-is derisory and thus pushed [everyone] to transform that world. Therefore, it was excess that became illusory and impotence that became the daily bread of the supports of the great refusal. The exhaustion of such an attitude is patent in the letter by The Social Plague to the Champ social journal (journal of social workers) in which, after having reprised the ritualized analyses of global contestation, it is stated: "You denounce the role that one makes you play, but your continue to play it in good faith." This is a veritable appeal for help that one reads in the last phrases, accompanied by this excuse:
Good, these were several rapidly made reflections (excuse), tell me what you think, what is your reaction (call), do not believe that the immediate lot of hundreds of millions of individuals is indifferent to me. . . . Nevertheless, one must avoid regarding the small end of the binoculars and avoid stopping at the tree that hides the forest (sic-reprise) (the tree still exists) (awareness of reality).
a) The crazy ones
Condescension descends to earth. It isn't in the pitiful determination of the failure [of The Social Plague] at the end of 1974, but in the texts, the most brilliant ones, in which we must see an expression shared by the situationists and the madmen who, one can easily imagine, not satisfied with living in this world, do not beg for the adoption of a language that corresponds so well to their social situation, a language and an awareness that allowed them to master it. Because, whatever way society educated them, however little awareness was accessible to them, the world (even if unattackable) became clear to them in its functioning. Among the Sirs of the great refusal against those of the great night (hope being the leash of submission), united in their love of masculinity, one soon sees the appearance of the completely feminine notion (which traverses the genders) of the great lady. As a participant in a situationist group in Toulon expressed it, no role escapes from the retorts that skillful manipulations quickly teach. Language and awareness teach the means of "imposing oneself on the world" (cf. Migeot, Champ Libre) to those who had until then refused or denied any existence.
b) The queers
Thus today, for the majority of homosexuals, the miserable reality of their existence is effaced by the pride of being, despite everything, at the bottom of shame. This is what Hocquenghem said at the beginning of the movement: "We thought it was sufficient to reverse the terms so that what was shameful became an object of pride. . . . One imprisons us in a game of shame that we transformed into a game of pride. This only gilded the bars of our cage" (Partisans, 1972).
This was the price to pay for the new separation that returned due to the strength of the general apathy (public opinion), a new separation between so-called revolutionary consciousness and the maintenance (even a changing maintenance) of the same reality. Shame becomes pride, culpability a demand: an enlarged existence in a (good) (false) consciousness; the democratization of desire (the right to pleasure for all) mentally coincides with the reality of commercial development in which one buries it.
c) Politics, crazy people, queers
In any case, living in broad daylight, in the moment, coming out (cf. the film by the Mariposa group, Word is out) is, in this light, an action of self-discovery, nascent in some, of a great knowledge of oneself but also the hostile reactions that one provokes and that one could not have suspected. Also, the madmen who were the favorite targets of the homosexual movement's detractors were kept close (except for Arcadie, which had always thrashed them) and even uniquely seen (as we have seen with the situationists) as participants in vital revolutionary energy. The male homosexuals who applauded their outings [sorties] were in fact obsessed by the politics that they wanted to end. The crazy people were, through derision, either indifferent or mocking, as in this interview published by Actuel (#29, March 1973):
Actuel: Are you interested in a forthcoming revolution?
Patrick: Oh! With this socilism in preparation . . . more spangles, more nothing. . . . To the factory. . . . Never! We are Rightists!
Pascale: Speak for yourself!
Patrick: Ah, yes! Why? You wouldn't want me to say that you are a Leftist.
Pascal: No, but we do not have the same political opinions. Finally, it is out in the open, the Gasolines from the political point of view. We are apolitical (laughter).
This will to take part in the revolutionary movement finds itself to actually be a will for integration into a future society: it is a suicidal madness. Because then and there, if it was easy to have everyone agree that "we are all German Jews," then "homosexuals" remained [unsaid] in the throat: the revolutionaries were men. Homosexuals had wanted to be recognized as such (men and revolutionaries), but didn't continue to be convincing. It wasn't the crazy ones who were scandalous: "Half of humanity are women . . . and the other half, as well!" Which facilitated things for them! Despite this non-reciprocity of support (see the dispute between Antinorm and the Revolutionary Communist League, in which the former appealed for people to vote for Krivine, while the latter didn't include a word about homosexual demands in its electoral programme), homosexuals continued to fight their battles, alone, and it wasn't bad to send it back to a world that was proper to it [ce net fut pas un mal de le renvoyer a un monde qui lui etait propre]; this world wanted to ignore homosexuals rather than maintain them in the illusion that they would have their place in a "socialist" world. But we still aren't there yet.
Is it necessary to add that, as for the other situationist theoretical elaborations, homosexuals had been living them profoundly since the dawn of time? Isn't the field of prohibitions vaster for homosexuals if they should suddenly enjoy life, not simply raising their heads and bringing the walls down, but by "living dangerously"? The situationist derive that appealed for thwarting the plans for human traffic: haven't homosexuals [of both genders] been dressing in drag and conducting other research into partnering for a long time and in full awareness of what they have been doing? Having similar desires and bodies: this is hardly still possible among heterosexuals, for whom the differences between the sexes is so characteristic that [truly] spontaneous encounters are impossible. Predisposed to the derive more by their desires than by their [class] consciousness, homosexuals (one can affirm) have actually realized a part of the situationist programme. Who inverts words and values more than the homosexuals? Who do more than detourn images, but detourn bodies; who are more sensitive to the spectacle and advertising than the "detourned" lunatics of furs, boas and spangles, who know no more about repartee, mytho-megalomania, precocity, spermic gratuity or the general futility than they do; who [in fact] have a more acute awareness of living in a "contemporary prehistory" than those whose primary [daily] concern isn't being a man or a woman.
From the heterosexual side, situationism perpetuated its virulence and its auto-critique in the distribution of journals such as Errata (journal of sociality), Utopie (a special issue on urbanism invited its readers to "buttfuck power in the town"!), Derive (with the participation of homosexuals such as Dominique Robert, who was also the editor of Arcadie!) and among authors such as [Jean] Baudrillard.
From the homosexual side, reflection is still inspired by situationism, of which the G.L.H. of Aix en Provence retains a rather crazy aspect (which we have already indicated and with which one can associate the use of fantastic signatories: [for example] Leon Blum for the anti-popular front text in The Social Plague, etc.) -- the very same G.L.H. of Aix en Provence that in its theoretical evolution ended up in the constitution of the association called Mouvance Folle-lesbienne in 1978 (their precise handle: "homosexuals who do not love men"!) -- whereas the G.L.H of Lyon kicked out the queer elements. In its fifth and last issue (early 1979), Guy Davol (Derive #5) wrote: "Let us burn the ghettos of language, tear up the cheap finery of desire so as to finally make the reality of our miseries appear then disappear."
Just as the first tendency distanced itself from the class-struggle line, the second tendency reaffirmed the positions that seemed to be shared by the supporters of the struggle against capitalism, including the publication of Masques, issued by dissident homosexuals, which defined the G.L.H. of Lyon in Interlopes #5:
Identity:: (see "Soap" [savon]). Social mask that normality demands that I adopt under the threat of washing my mouth out with soap [de me faire savonner] in the near future.
Culture PD: (see "Integration"). Culture as artificial as steaks derived from petroleum products. The pink wave is to be feared, it is the sign of integration and recognition of an identity, a homosexual status, by society.
The elitist situationist conception of class struggle (which is also its crazy/great-lady side) is opposed to the mass workerist conception called Leftist by a journal parallel to The Social Plague: L'Antinorm.
Gautier Xaviere: Surrealisme et sexualite, NRF Gallimard, idees, 1971.
Revolution surrealiste, #11, 1928: "Recheches sur la sexualite," Jean-Michel Place.
Internationale Situationniste, Paris: Champ Libre 1976, Amsterdam: Van Gennep 1969 .
Raspaud J.J. et Voyer J.P., L'I.S.. Champ Libre .
Debord, Guy, La Societe du spectacle, Buchet-Chastel, 1967 [Champ Libre, 1971].
Vaneigem, Raoul: Treatie de savoir-vivre pour les jeunes generations, Gallimard, 1967.
De la Misere en milieu etudiant, brochure, UNEF of Strasbourg, 1966.
[Jean-Pierre Voyer] Des causes et de la nature de la misere des gens, Champ Libre, 1976.
[Andre] Migeot, De la maniere de s'imposer dans le monde, [Champ Libre] 1972.
Ratgeb [Raoul Vaneigem], De la Greve sauvage a l'autogestion generalisee, UGE 10/18, 1970.
[Jean Louis] Moinet, Fin de la science [Notes critques sur la science humaine comme expression achevee de l'inhumanite originelle de la science, Paris: Imprimerie Aubin, 1974].
[Jean Louis Moinet], Genese et unification du spectacle, Champ Libre 1977.
Laitem, Godefroid, Francois la douceur chez les Hommes-images, Bruxelles: Rupture Internationale, 1973.
[Jean-Pierre Voyer], Lettre ouverte aux citoyens du FHAR, Institut de Prehistoire Contemporaine, 1971.
[Jean-Pierre Voyer], Reich, mode d'emploi, Institut de prehistoire contemporaine .
FHAR, Rapport contre la normalite, Champ Libre, 1971.
O Tante en emporte le vent, policier situ-homo, ed[itions]. Phot'oeil, 1979.
Censor (Gianfranco Sanguinetti), Veridique rapport sur les dernieres chances de sauver le capitalisme en Italie, Champ Libre, 1976.
Le Fleau Social, numeros 1-2-3-4-5, 1972-1974.
Champ Social # 18, Winter, 1975 pp. 18-19.
Fleig Alain, Lutte de con, piege a classe, Stock 1977.
Actuel, "Interview," # 25, Nov. 1972.
Derive: La question du pouvoir, 1978.
Interlopes, #5, Lyon.
Textes by the G.L.H. d'Aix en Provence (in Agence Tasse, especially).
(Written by Patrick Cardon, dated 1999 and available on-line thanks to The Gay Seminar. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! 22 May 2008. All footnotes by the translator, except where noted.)
 Author's note: political history and the history of morals seem difficult to reconcile. J. F. Martos traces for us a strict History of the Situationist International (Editions Gerard Lebovici, ex-Champ Libre) without bothering with the fantastic nebula that it engendered, in which the journal The Social Plague was one of the prettiest stars. [Translator's addition: not sure about the Martos, but the final publication of the SI, The Real Split in the International (1972), was quite explicit in its condemnation of this "pro-situ" "nebula" and its role in the SI's decision to disband.]
 The French here is Lutte de con et piege a classe.
 This passage as translated by Ken Knabb: "The main achievement of contemporary city planning is to have made people blind to the possibility of what we call unitary urbanism, namely a living critique of this manipulation of cities and their inhabitants, a critique fueled by all the tensions of everyday life" (emphasis added).
 A slogan coined by Rose Luxemburg and later adopted as the name of a French Marxist group in 1947.
 The French word used here is phagocyte.
 Translated into English by Donald Nicholson-Smith as The Revolution of Everyday Life (1983).
 The "Censor" pamphlet was written in Italian by Gianfranco Sanguinetti in 1975 and translated into French by Guy Debord in 1976.
 Author's note: reprinted by Jean-Michel Place.
 Jean-Pierre Voyer's Letter to the citizens of the Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action (1971) has never been translated into English.
 We do not know who this woman was.
 The first issue of the situationists' journal came out three years earlier, in June 1958.
 English in original.
 Author's note: on this subject, see the notion of reproduction and [in particular] reproduction in the discussion of Marilyn de Warhol in [Jean] Baudrillard's book Symbolic Exchange and Death.
 Author's note: Jean-Louis Moinet, who adopted the declaration of Valentine Saint-Point ("Manifeste futuriste de la luxe," Le Figaro 2 January 1913): "Instead of giving and taking (by a thunderbolt, delirious or unconscious) from beings inevitably multiplied by the inevitable disillusions of unforeseen tomorrows, it is necessary to choose wisely."
 Unknown to us; certainly not a member of the Situationist International or a friend of Guy Debord in the 1970s or 1980s.
 Translated in 1973 by Ken Kabb as "Reich: How to Use."
 Mrs. Wilhelm Reich.
 Voyer was not a member of the SI, but in 1971 he helped put together one of the official guides to the group (see bibliography). It can't be denied that Debord approved of the gesture if not the contents of the pamphlet: see his letter to Juvenal Quillet, dated 14 December 1971: "P.S. I add a tract on the pseudo-liberators of sexuality, by the author of Reich: Instructions for use."
 Author's note: "Hetero-cop: someone who erects his heterosexuality as the only "normal" form of love and profits from repressing those who do not imitate it" (Report, p. 14: "Our vocabulary."
 The French word used here, moeurs, is active in moeurs speciales ("homosexual lifestyle").
 Contrast with Michel Bounan's Incitement to Self-Defense (1995): "For example, among the causes of homosexuality two pre-dispositional factors have been revealed -- familial and congenital -- , which one willingly opposes, one to the other. But the 'castrational' family, which the homosexual experiences precociously, is itself the concentrated product of a reified social organization in which the deprivation of the I is the very essence of this 'castration.' As for the morpho-psychological type of the homosexual, it is only remarkable due to an extreme sensitivity to all environmental aggressions, and particularly psychical aggressions. The only congenital terrain here is the hyperesthesia of the homosexual to this 'castration' that he, like the others, suffers."
 Author's note: this last point was particularly developed in Ratgeb's book From the General Strike to Generalized Self-management, Collection 10/18.
 "the Joint francais, factories in Paris-Nantes, the Nouvelles Galeries de Thionville" refers to strikes in 1972.
 The "Gazolines" splintered off from the Homosexual Front for Revolutionary Action in 1972. Folded in 1974. Among their members were Marie-France, Helene Hazera and others. Known for dressing in drag and playing upon madness, the group also engaged in confrontational behavior, including overturning a police car during a demonstration against the destruction of les Halles.
 Pierre Poujade (1920-2003) was a right-wing publisher and politician. "Poujadism" was a phrase sometimes used by Guy Debord.
 In September 1970, the Jordanian army massacred hundreds of Palestinians; a militant group later took up the name "Black September."
 The literal meaning is "The basis of the air scare."
 The French word used here, demont(r)e, means both demonstrated and dismantled.
 Salvador Puig Antich was garroted in Barcelona's "Model Prison" on 2 March 1974. Invariance was founded in 1968 by Jacques Camatte.
 Andre Migeot's De La Maniere De S'imposer Dans Le Monde was published by Champ Libre in 1978.
 English in original.
 The Revolutionary Communist League was a Trotskyist group. One of its politicians was Alain Krivine.
 There is no such thing as situationism or, rather, situationism was something the situationists explicitly repudiated right from the start (1958).
 Utopia was a post-situationist journal with which Jean Baudrillard was closely associated.
 Born in 1956, Patrick Cardon is also the author of "Marc-Andre Raffalovitch, un pionnier de l''homoliberte,'" published by Gai Pied Hebdo (1989) and Dossier Jacques d'Adelsward-Fersen (Lille: Cahiers Gay-Kitsch-Camp, 1993). He founded the film festival and website called Gay Kitsch Camp.
 We have tried to improve this by putting obvious omissions [within brackets].
This work is in the public domain