“A brilliant spark that will fly through the air and set the vapors of our insurrectionary imaginations alight.”John Jordan, founder of Reclaim the Streets
Situationist International (SI) was either one of the twentieth century’s most important and successful cadres of anti-capitalist revolutionaries, or a bunch of petty, self-marginalized megalomaniacs waging an inconsequential decades-long war of words — depending on your perspective. SI began as a group of avant-garde artists but rapidly evolved into a political organization that, at its peak, heavily influenced the May 1968 general strike in France. SI’s organizational culture was persistently tumultuous. Recounting its history of backbiting, excommunications, factional splits, personal feuds, esoteric debates and bitter polemics would require a separate book. For instance, Letterist International, one of SI’s parent organizations, emerged out of a heated debate over the artistic status of Charlie Chaplin. Having expelled all of SI’s founding members, the group’s intellectual leader Guy Debord dissolved the group in 1972. SI’s chief legacy is its social and political theory, which has influenced a broad range of individuals, organizations and movements, including Reclaim the Streets, the Weathermen and Adbusters.