On the Exclusion of Attila Kotànyi

In December 1963 Attila Kotànyi was excluded from the Situationist International. For years I had known of this but not exactly the reasons why. The exclusion document had only circulated as a mimeographed circular, never being reproduced in any collections of SI documents as far as I knew. And references to Kotànyi’s exclusion were brief and sketchy in other readily available SI documents. Recently I came across a scanned copy of the circular on the web. I was very keen to translate the document in order to set to rest what remained imprecise regarding the exclusion of Kotànyi. This translation is also available on the NOT BORED! website. Thanks to Bill Brown for help with the translation.

On the Exclusion of Attila Kotànyi

At the beginning of September [1963], Attila Kotànyi distributed in the S.I. a programmatic text that proposed a complete theoretical reorientation. In the discussion, marked by around a dozen texts that circulated in the S.I., it was soon apparent that the ideas of Attila Kotànyi – unexpected, in this case, and yet famous for centuries – hold everything in a refusal, pushed to a caricatural extreme, of history and praxis at all levels. This accompanied a demand for the return to myth that went as far as colluding with religious thought; and a degradation of the argument which was, in eight or ten cases, just like the laughable bluff of the Planète style.

The positions of Attila Kotànyi were unanimously judged unacceptable and even indisputable – Peter Laugesen alone revealed in relation to them extremely suspect hesitations, and was thus instantly excluded. On the 27th of October, three representatives of the S.I. signified to Attila Kotànyi (whose sole defence had been to demand that we acknowledge that his text had never existed) the break with him patent in this dialogue.

How such a reactionary attempt, after others of very different styles, can be made among the situationists merits an explanation, so as to always better clarify desirable conduct in the SI in the future.

Attila Kotànyi joined the S.I. at the beginning of the summer of 1960, at a time where membership was still easy for people infinitely less reliable than him (Nash and company). Attila Kotànyi at that moment declared himself to be 100% in accord with what he discovered in the S.I. and showed in effect that he understood our positions. We were compelled to disregard all of his previous positions (excepting, in more general terms, his participation in the Hungarian revolution [of 1956]). Since then, though participating in all the discussions of the S.I., often enriching them with very felicitous formulas, and in the end always countersigning the general theory that resulted from these discussions, Attila Kotànyi, as an individual, only wrote two short articles (published in I.S. #4 and in I.S. #7); the third, with an evidently more striking content, was that incredible programmatic text.

In fact, for about six to eight months, Attila Kotànyi manifested, in almost every practical discussion, a half-witted and ineffective opposition. His propositions were often rejected by everyone (for example, his scandalous conceit of censoring the texts translated in our German magazine, Der Deutsche Gedanke, in order to avoid the police repression that he judged inevitable in West Germany, and his estimation that our attack against Planète in I.S. #7 had been too superficial!). Even the opposition that he manifested against the recent activities of the S.I. (our relations with the Japanese Zengakuren movement or with the Spanish revolutionaries) remained isolated.

Under these conditions, the discussion of the “Programmatic Text” was very fast becoming a discussion of its author. Unacceptable acts reveal themselves as soon as communication between situationists makes their connections appear.

As it is clear that none of us is what one calls an opportunist, and that we are not resigned to the pure inactive contemplation of a time that would be unworthy of our beautiful souls, the divergence was certainly on the definition of what we would call a success. It seems to us that our minimum conception of success involves a rather deep upheaval in all the conditions that have been made for us, whereas Attila Kotànyi (perhaps influenced by the memory of the role of the intelligentsia in Eastern Europe) easily arrived at limiting success to our recognition by certain privileged sectors of the dominant culture. (That the very possibility of “power” in such a sector is, for us, an illusion is another question.) It remains that the necessity, for Attila Kotànyi, of obtaining a certain effect by choosing to speak with people who are for us undesirable (for example, the “Esprit” group, the inept sociologico-literary people grouped around shady L[ucien] Goldmann) led him as a corollary to address from on-high those people who agree with us, and to panic all of our contacts in Spain. However, in our opinion, although the work of the S.I. – as an experiment advanced in the critique of the culture and everyday life of today that moves toward a new theory of contestation – must be done by a quite small avant-garde group, we consider that it would be entirely fanciful if it were not, from now on, connected to and identified with the real struggles in society and to the early indications, even if they are still weak, of a vaster, upcoming movement.

Attila Kotànyi’s position, avowing itself to be an extreme minority position, led him to secretly bank on, against all the ideas and practices of the S.I., the notion of authority. However, because the constitution of Attila Kotànyi as an “authority” amongst us was as unlikely as the fitting out of the pyramids of Egypt as a telephone exchange, an effort in this direction led him to two complementary activities in which he has completely lost himself: on the plane of thought, recourse to the occultism found in bus-station libraries; and, on the plane of practical relations, base political maneuvers (and in a similar way – infected with occultism – because conducted in a clumsy and delirious manner).

This last aspect of his enterprise led A.K. to systematically employ incredible calumnies (four situationists were confidentially denounced, not together, but each according to the auditor, as being Stalinists); and at the same time to work to lower consciousness in the SI by trying to bring into it easy-to-handle ignoramuses. This tactic was literally Nashist, in that it would sacrifice the situationist project, through the introduction of manageable nullities, for immediately personal ends, and yet it was only sub-Nashist because it remained merely a dream. While Nash, at the beginning of 1961, had managed to bring his people to the belief that he could eliminate us from Germany and Scandinavia, the strange proposals of Attila Kotànyi for bringing someone in were always rejected. In most of these cases, he didn’t even dare to support amongst us a proposal for contact with people – like the small group, incapable of all thought as well as all independent action, that publishes the journal Socialisme ou Barbarie in 1962 – whose hopes he contented himself with secretly watering. Thus he lowered still further, insofar as this was possible, their capacities for understanding and for living. Become incapable, due to his politics and his unfortunate ambitions, of understanding even the positions developed by the S.I., the man of “hidden contacts” [“contacts occultes”] inevitably found the man of occultism in his contacts. He had to be obscure, unable to offer anything. This obscurity, demagogic in that it crudely flattered the ignorant by pretending to marvel that they have “understood all” even in the dark, was also demagogic in that it gave a great turn, for some time, to laziness, to the impossibility of realising the least thing. Attila Kotányi was therefore bound to claim vaguely to support – without discernibly using – “the truth of the S.I.,” embellished with a mysterious overture: simply condemning real situationists for a Stalinist deviation or narrow-minded rationalism. Thus the nonentity is united, in his depth, with nothingness. This clandestine “transparence” was, however, somewhat revealed by his very audience who, mystified, were interested in Attila Kotányi, especially as a springboard toward the S.I.

The opposition of Attila Kotányi, in the name of a bluff to permanently “deepen” [the discussion], was thus exercised against any practical phase in which the S.I. believed it could now advance. And this even on the terrain of the simplest cultural or artistic agitation, of which Attila Kotányi demanded the vastest realisations in a blink of an eye, but soon after linking them to [the necessity of] several years of preliminary reflection on Chinese mythology, the idealist philosophy of Karl Krauss, his own discovery of the equivalence between Bishop Anselm and Marx, [the relationship] between heaven in Buddhist thought and the Hegelian totality! Here again, Attila Kotànyi, in his passionate desire to not drive himself against the wall of practice, re-joined Nashist artistic impotence; and all the Pharisees who half support them and who, before the palpable nullity of Nashist artistic achievements, console themselves by throwing back onto the S.I. an alleged choice of pure inaction in this domain, [thus] avoid seeing that the sole heirs of the accursed artists of the turn of the [19th] century are precisely the Situationists, by dint of the practical conditions that have been made until now thanks to their preliminary achievements. It is by this the same movement, which allows oneself good conscience, that all the hypocrites on the artistic side feign to treat us as politicians, and, on the political side, reassure themselves by reproaching us for being artists and dreamers. Their common point is that they speak in the name of artistic or political specialisation, the one as dead as the other.

The exaggeratedly “prudent” attitude of Attila Kotànyi when faced with the most interesting of our possibilities was clearly related to his fear of being compromised, of becoming inadmissible to the upper echeolon capable of “understanding,” which he believed was open to his dark gossip. By dint of seeking unacceptable interlocutors, it is very probable that he already provided some additional material to the falsifications constantly leveled against the SI. Did he even more imprudently reveal his tendencies to those outside of us? The fact remains that [certain] Pataphysico-Stalinist morons falsely and prematurely announced, through a leaflet that coarsely imitated [the situationist style], the exclusion of Attila Kotànyi from the SI for mysticism back in March.[1]

We are accused of being severe. We accuse ourselves of being too patient. This severity is outrageous only to those who want to disarm us. We leave them the detail that is Attila Kotànyi. We are able to predict, with the same certainty, that they will use him, and that he will hardly suit them.

[signed]
SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL – December 1963. (Address: B.P. 75-06, PARIS)

[1] This fake tract was entitled “The Situationist International Takes the Offensive,” dated 31 March 1963, allegedly signed by Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem, and marked as a supplement to Internationale Situationniste #8. See Guy Debord’s letter to Alexander Trocchi dated 22 April 1963.

(Never reprinted by the Situationist International. Translated by Anthony Hayes, with help from NOT BORED! July 2012.)

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Not Bored!, Situationist International, Translation. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s