“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Monday, 19 May 2014

The true nature of the beast.

Back in the late 60's and early 70's I became very influenced by the writings of the Situationists and I suppose that to an extent I still am. I struggled with the writings of Debord and Vaneigem and had frequently no clue as to many of the other theoreticians that they referred to but I was none the less captivated by the stuff. From May '68 in was downhill all the way for the SI but how could they have known that their theory of recuperation would in turn be recouped by generations of shit for brains middle-class art students working "The Situationists" into their dreary dissertations? For all of their failings the Sits were on the money about many things and not least the utter futility of the old hierarchical left. Also central to the ideas of Debord, Vaneigem and the rest was the notion that, in the developed world at least, the struggle was no longer about material inequality but rather the total alienation of daily life and the drudgery of work - commute - TV. It was claimed that capitalism could feed the masses and  provide us with all the labour saving gizmos but would never be able to mask the fundamentally hierarchical nature of the system; it was always going to be us versus the bosses. We might all be well fed but an authentic life was not possible within capitalist society. All of this is true of course. Today more people than ever spend their working lives isolated in an open plan office staring at a computer screen. The working day has been extended with workers starting earlier and staying on into the early evening. But this increase in the alienating nature of work has also gone hand in hand, not with any levelling of material wealth but with an increase in inequality that the Situationists could never have foreseen.
This years Sunday Times Rich List spells it out in harrowing detail. The Richest 1% of UK population own as much as the poorest 55%.  The richest 1000 individuals own the equivalent of one third of UK GDP and that same 1000 have seen their wealth increase by 15.4 % during the past twelve months. The rich are getting richer. Our poor dear Queen increased her share of the cake by £10 million last year but that's nothing compared to that diamond geezer and geezerete Jamie and Jooles Oliver who amassed a further  £90 during the same time. The top 64 people in UK own between them £255 billion. The same amount is shared between the poorest 30% of our population. And all of this in a country where for the first time in my memory the distribution of food parcels to the needy is a commonplace.
But if the Situationists got it wrong about distributive trends they were right about one thing. The solution, as always, lies not with some new re-alignment of left grouplets or placing any trust in the pre-election pledges of politicians. The solution is on the streets.

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