Daniel Blanchard – Helen Arnold – Richard Greeman – Socialisme ou barbarie

A recent video interview conducted in English by Richard Greeman: of himself, Daniel Blanchard and Helen Arnold – all of them former social barbarians. The discussion is relatively wide ranging, though covering mostly the time in which these three were involved in the group, from the late 1950s to its ‘official’ end in 1967.

An account of aspects of Socialisme ou Barbarie (SB) will be of interest to readers of this blog, considering its considerable influence on the practice of the Situationist International. Indeed the SI and Guy Debord figure in some of the interview, from around the 47 minute mark up until around 1:04:00. However if you are going to jump to that point I would recommend watching from 44:06, as Daniel Blanchard provides an account of ‘order-givers’ (dirigeants) and ‘order-takers’ (exécutants), vital to an understanding of Debord and the SI’s engagement with SB.

Blanchard speaks briefly of the relation he had with Guy Debord, and the circumstances which led to the writing of Preliminaries Toward Defining a Unitary Revolutionary Program. In the interview Helen Arnold comments that this text was “pretentious” and “practically unreadable” (to which Greeman gleefully ejaculates in response “I will take your word for it!”); sadly she gives no supporting evidence for her opinion. She also shows no obvious sign of knowing about the Situationist conception of détournement, nor of the very real acknowledgement of their debt to SB, when she opines that Debord borrowed more than he would admit to from SB.

A better, and more detailed account of Debord’s and Blanchard’s relations can be found in Blanchard’s written reminiscence, Debord, in the Resounding Cataract of Time.

I don’t know much about Richard Greeman but he plays the role of an irritating interlocutor, often butting in to give his version of a story he admittedly participated in only briefly (or more often to regale us with tales of his exploits in the U.S. that are only tangentially related to SB).  One particularly egregious example of his editorialising are his hostile comments against Guy Debord. Not only does he retread the well worn criticism of Debord being a tyrannical leader who expelled all who disagreed with him, he even more ridiculously accuses Debord and the SI of behaviour worse than contemporary Stalinists (because, according to Greeman, at least the Stalinists had recourse to “faked procedure”!). Unfortunately Greeman’s asinine comments are not contested by Arnold or Blanchard.

Nonetheless still worth a look if only to get a feel for the radical milieus they inhabited in the period of which they speak.

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