CUNT LICKERS ANONYMOUS
Single-handedly destroying the hegemonic position enjoyed by the dominant culture is a major task and I've dedicated the better part of my adult life to this chore. As a consequence, I've landed in all sorts of odd situations, and very often end up in media watering holes or frequenting parties thrown by the rich and famous, where I munch nouvelle cuisine and quaff very expensive wine at somebody else's expense. On this particular occasion, I found myself in a hotel bar in Bloomsbury, having received a mysterious phone call from a young woman who said she had something she wanted to give me.
'Mr. Blissett?' a blonde-bombshell enquired as I was ordering a glass of house red at the bar, and once I'd confirmed my identity she continued, 'I'm Hannah Hornblower, we spoke on the phone.'
'What are you drinking?' I enquired.
'The same as you,' Hannah simpered.
As we sat down, I clocked some upper class berk ogling Hornblower, both this prat and his mates were dressed up in tweeds, which along their loud conversation made it plain to everyone in the establishment that they were literary types. Taking a second glance at these twits, I realised that one of them was the author Solomon Thursday, who'd had a Papal Bull issued against him because of the supposedly blasphemous content of his novel The Lucifer Couplets, while another was Michael Aimless, the talentless son of talentless hack Keith Aimless.
'On the phone, you said you had something you wanted to give me,' I observed.
'Yes,' Hannah replied, 'I want to give you a blow job!'
'Okay,' I concurred, 'let's go up to the Gents, I could do with a bit of oral action.'
It was, of course, immediately obvious to me that Hannah was a spook, although I didn't as yet know who employed her. The intelligence agencies specialise in planting sexual partners on the people they investigate and everyone is interested in me, the British, the Russians, the Iranians, the American, even colonial countries such as Canada and Australia. I have been accused of being a radical, and I admit that I am a revolutionary and one of the best. Although I've never experienced any problems pulling birds, the fact that various security agencies want to plant pussy on me is a pretty cool situation. These days I can have whatever I want without any hassle at all. I just moan to a friend about how my love life is getting a bit jaded, and what I really need is a six foot plus Nigerian girlfriend with a doctorate in communist economics and a successful career as a model, and the spooks get it sorted. The bastards bug my phone, so I might as well make use of this snooping by letting them know what type of field agent will interact most successfully with me.
Anyway, I led Hannah out of the bar and up to the John, which was pretty plush. I told the bitch to plate me and she got down on her knee in front of the urinals. As Hornblower swallowed my dick, I stood there wondering why there isn't a wank rag called something like IQ for guys who get off on intelligent chicks, after all with the increasing segmentation of the market, pornographers seem to be catering for every other taste. While I pondered this, the door to the bog swung open and in marched the twat who'd been ogling Hannah in the downstairs bar.
'Who are you?' this idiot demanded.
'Luther Blissett,' I informed the bozo as I shot my load.
'Not the famous footballer!' the suit exclaimed.
'No,' I hissed.
'Does he look like the footballer?' Hornblower demanded as she wiped spunk from her lips with the back of her hand.
'You're right Hannah!' the cretin conceded.
'I take it you two know each other,' I put in.
'Unfortunately,' Hannah spat, 'this is Bill Serf, known to the handful of idiots who pay any heed to literary journalism as the most extreme British novelist since Barbara Cartland.'
'Hornblower works for my daddy,' Serf explained, 'he's a top CIA man who uses his professorship at the London School of Design as a cover for his daring espionage exploits.'
'Shut up! Shut up!' Hannah snarled as she sprang at Serf and proceeded to throttle him.
'Cool it babe,' I said while simultaneously patting her head, 'I already had you sussed as a spook!'
'In that case,' the agent replied as she released Serf and he sank to the floor, 'why did you let me suck your dick?'
'Once the agency knows your cover is blown, they'll simply send someone else after me, better the devil you know! Besides, you're a fine looking bitch.'
'Do you really think so?' Hannah pouted.
'Sure,' I replied, 'the agency has been investigating me for years and it knows my type, good looking and smart!'
'I like you!' Hannah bellowed as she threw her arms around my neck and kissed me.
'What about me?' Serf snivelled from where he was still sprawled on the toilet floor.
'What about you?' I snarled. 'You're a sad Oxford junkie, so what?'
'Don't,' Serf sobbed, 'that's too close to the truth, I am a sad Oxford junkie but it isn't my fault. When I was a child my mother used to tell me she wished she'd had me aborted. I had a terrible upbringing and when I tried to follow in my father's footsteps, I was turned down by the CIA, they said my drug habit made me unreliable.'
'Why don't kill yourself,' I suggested.
'It's terrible,' Serf wailed, 'the middle classes hate me and the working class hates me too.'
'The working class don't know who you are,' I hooted.
'Yes they do,' Serf screeched, 'my last book had a terrible review in the New Statesman.'
'The New Statesmen is written and read by middle class trendies, it probably doesn't have a single working class subscriber.' I whooped.
'That can't be true,' Serf cried, 'the working class must know who I am.'
'Luther's right,' Hornblower concurred, 'the working class doesn't have a clue who you are!'
'I wish I could die!' Serf shrieked.
'You can son, you can,' I assured the self-pitying human wreck, 'you could overdose right here in the toilets, and I could film the suicide on my camcorder. That way your death would be immortalised for posterity and it wouldn't be long until you were a household name among all the classes of society.'
'Would you do that? Would you really film me killing myself?' Serf asked incredulously.
'Sure,' I replied, 'and I'd spare no expense in hiring a top-flight edit suite so that I could turn the footage into the biggest grossing video release of all time.'
'Wow,' Serf cried, 'why haven't I thought of doing this before? Let's get to it!'
I had a video eight camera in my bag, and aimed the thing at Serf as he prepared a hot shot. The no-hope author whose career was based entirely on hype, connections and marriage, sat in one of the cubicles and stuck the needle in his vein. He looked ecstatic as blood bloomed in the dropper. Five minutes later he'd passed out. I shut the cubicle door and reflected that it was no great loss that I hadn't had time to buy fresh film earlier in the day. After all, no one would be interested in sordid footage of yet another miserable little junkie putting an end to his pathetic life. I had at least done Serf's kids a great favour, they wouldn't have to grow up with a junkie for a father.
We went back to the bar and this time Hannah paid for the wine. This caused me to reflect that going to university tends to have a better effect on birds than blokes. Bitches with a degree have usually picked up at least the bare bones of a feminist critique, which manifests itself in all sorts of ways, not the least of which is an insistence that since they've got a career, they'll pay their own way. Over a drink or two, Hornblower revealed that she'd been assigned to become my girlfriend in order to get me to do a bit of dirty work for CIA. American intelligence was less than happy with the Toni Duffer Gallery, a London based operation that was churning out fake Wyndham Lewis paintings, because the financial advisors managing the agency pension fund had invested heavily in this artist.
The CIA figured I could be lured into this imbroglio if Hornblower let it slip that Guelph and Chibelline, the artists who were actually faking up the Wyndham Lewis pictures, were also involved in organised neo-fascism and ran a sinister organisation called Cunt Lickers Anonymous, which was designed to strengthen patriarchy by ridding the nationalist movement of hen-pecked husbands. Guelph and Chibelline's work was familiar to me, their monumental photography clearly operated within the discourse of totalitarian art, and I also knew that Toni Duffer had a hard time selling their pictures on anything other than tick. However, it was news to me that these two dickheads were so strapped for cash that they'd taken to counterfeiting work by the Vorticist Wyndham Lewis. Since art is a bulwark of the liberal state, the CIA felt their hands were tied, it would reflect very badly on them if it ever came out that one of their agents had knocked off Guelph and Chibelline, which is why they wanted me to do the dirty work.
I spent some time going through all the angles with Hannah, and eventually we agreed that we'd keep quiet about the fact that I'd rumbled her cover. After all, while I wasn't interested in doing the CIA's dirty work, particularly if I wasn't going to be paid, I did want to take out Guelph and Chibelline who were even more reactionary than the average representative of serious culture. As my escort and I were preparing to leave, Solomon Thursday came over and plonked himself down beside Hornblower.
'I am the great Solomon Thursday,' the prat announced as he reached out and grabbed Hannah's tits, 'and I want to make passionate love to you!'
'Fuck off you talentless moron!' Hornblower screamed as she punched the novelist on the nose. 'I know all about you and your chum Aimless, you take women back to your Special Branch protected digs and slice them up to get your sick sexual kicks!'
Hannah then pulled a .45 from her handbag and plugged Thursday twice through the head. A couple of British intelligence operatives who were still wet behind the ears rushed towards us, but they were quickly shot by more senior colleagues who knew that Hornblower was on the CIA's payroll. The last thing they wanted was a diplomatic incident and everyone in the hotel bar had witnessed the talentless novelist molesting Hannah. Besides, they were sick of standing idly by with their hands tied as Thursday and his chums committed sick sexual murders. It was high time this twat met a sticky end and they were very pleased that one of their American cousins would be claiming the twenty million pound bounty the Pope had placed on the head of the lapsed Catholic writer.
The cops didn't even detain us, they'd witnessed the entire incident and said that although Hannah would have to make a statement in the morning, this was a mere formality and they hoped that a 10am appointment wouldn't inconvenience us too much. Hornblower assured her fellow spooks that the CIA was better funded than its British counterparts and she'd be paid overtime for helping the police with their inquiries. In any case, the special relationship between Britain and America was very dear to Hannah's heart, and she made it clear that she'd do everything in her power to assist Five and Six regardless of monetary considerations. Nevertheless, we had other work to do, and once we'd shaken hands with everyone present, nearly all of whom appeared to be intelligence operatives, it was time to split.
It doesn't take a genius to work out the type of audience Guelph and Chibelline attract. The Pinky and Perky of conceptual art appealed to the decadent crowd who'd made their money from pop and fashion, these are people who've always loved totalitarian chic. The singularly most important component in Guelph and Chibelline's work is the constant repetition of their own image. The cult of the personality is, of course, the central element of all totalitarian art. The eclipse and re-emergence of this particular cultural discourse is neither surprising nor difficult to understand. Unfortunately, it is a very common mistake to imagine that because Guelph and Chibelline's output operates within this tradition, they must inevitably adhere to neo-Nazi doctrines. I assume that the bulk of my readers are literate enough to be familiar with the critique of democracy made by the Italian left-communist Amadeo Bordiga and his followers, in any case there isn't room to restate the details of the argument here, so the ignorant will have to chase up the English translations published by the International Communist Party and other organisations.
While both fascism and democracy are variants on the capitalist mode of economic organisation, the former adopts the political orator as its exalted embodiment of the 'great man,' while the latter opts for the artist. This distinction is crucial if one is to understand how Guelph and Chibelline's monumental photography is situated within the evolving discourse of totalitarian art. Had the Bill and Ben of the London gallery scene merely copied the cultural excesses of the Nazi era, their reactionary activities would have been ghettoised within the far-Right fringe. However, Guelph and Chibelline understood that by making art a secular religion, rather than a mere adjunct of the state, liberalism imposes its domination over the masses far more effectively than National Socialism. With the exhaustion of modernism, it became necessary for the ruling elite to revive the discourse of totalitarian art, and just as National Socialism was a brand of aesthetic politics, so 'post-modernism' is ultimately cultural fascism. The identity politics of the democratic 'left' was long ago appropriated by the New Right for the defence of 'European particularism.' Naturally, both pop art and performance were important precursors to these trends, with Beuys, Warhol and Guelph and Chibelline being the leading exponents of this tendency as modernism entered its final phase of decline.
Now there is another element that is crucial to the totalitarian discourse, and that is the factor of high kitsch, which simultaneously articulates and denies a specifically patriarchal form of partially repressed desire. Since this particular mode of 'camp' organises itself in the form of male artistic collaboration, this double talk, this unfulfilled longing, truly is a love that dare not speak its name. In literature, one of the more notorious examples of high kitsch is T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound's joint work The Waste Land. Both poets were, of course, close associates of Wyndham Lewis. While Warhol had his anonymous assistants, Beuys' neo-Steinerean practice was predicated on the juxtaposition of felt and fat, hot and cold, shaman and people, etcetera. This tendency reaches its apogee in the work of Guelph and Chibelline, whose monumental photography upholds a particularly vile form of patriarchy with its simultaneous expression and denial of male sexual community. Add to this the use of anonymous youth as a symbol of the virile masses, and the result is the most extreme form of totalitarian art so far produced within the context of a liberal culture.
Hornblower had befriended several faded members of the glitterati who hung around the Toni Duffer Gallery, all of whom had acquired Guelph and Chibelline pictures on the never never. We found the pop singer Bernard Barge in an overpriced restaurant. Having acquired several Guelph and Chibelline pictures, Barge had a standing invitation to visit their Fournier Street studios. Bernard wrung the promise of a date out of Hannah in return for introducing her to his artist chums. As a precaution against the possibility of jealousy, Hornblower told the former pop star that I was her art mad brother. Having accompanied us to the East End in a cab and introduced us to Guelph and Chibelline, Barge made his excuses and left. The one time Poxy Music frontman rarely visited his art bore friends after mid-morning, because by early afternoon they'd be blind drunk. Many of my readers will perhaps recall that Guelph and Chibelline made their initial reputation as 'the singing pissheads,' a pair of performance artistés who'd get up onto tables in pubs and in an inebriated state murder music hall classics such as Underneath The Arches. People thought Guelph and Chibelline were clowns, and encouraged them, their rise to fame and fortune had remarkable parallels with the career of Adolf Hitler.
'Our friend Whitebait is on her way round,' Guelph informed us.
'What,' I put in, 'you mean Roseanne Whitebait, the twit who became famous by appropriating Ross MacDonald and Joseph Campbell's idea of making plaster castes of rocks and calling the result fruitless labour?'
'The very same person,' Chibelline assured me, 'and don't be so critical, one cannot expect women to have original ideas, they are after all the second sex.'
'Would you like to hear some selections from our boxed CD set of Hitler speeches,' Guelph enquired.
'We'd be delighted,' Hannah lied.
While Guelph organised the entertainment, Chibelline poured the drinks. A half finished Wyndham Lewis fake was lying on the floor, next to an English language translation of Hitler's Mein Kampf. I picked up the drawing and admired the skilful imitation of the Vorticist style, then handed it to Hornblower who gave the sketch the once over before putting it back down on the floor.
'We can only do them when we're drunk,' Chibelline slurred, 'Wyndham had decent politics but his perception of the world was clearly tinged with insanity. The modernist culture, still unaware of the connectedness of the Aryan peoples and thinking in terms of left and right, has not understood Wyndham's political vision, just as it has not understood Blake. Like Guelph and myself, both Lewis and Blake offered the British People a regional variation on the Nazi dream of a third way beyond capitalism and communism.'
'Yes, yes,' Guelph chirped excitedly, 'we're looking forward to a new era when all the People of the world will recognise their particularity. Only then will Europe and the Third World be able to unite against the decadence of the West, that is to say against America. It is only by accepting difference that we can protect the purity and diversity of the many beautiful cultures in the world. It was the genius of Adolf Hitler to recognise this, which is why he was opposed to the rootless cosmopolitanism of New York and Hollywood. Let the regions blossom and the immigrants return to a homeland of their own, then we truly can have a Europe of the Peoples, a Europe of a Hundred Flags!'
'You see,' Chibelline screamed, as he jumped to his feet and raised his right arm in a Nazi salute, 'that's why we call ourselves Guelph and Chibelline, because we oppose the old hatreds and bring together everything that is beautiful and pure. Thanks to our Art, the Life of the People is wonderfully enhanced by the twin forces of Empire and Religion working hand in hand!'
'But,' I hissed, 'I see a problem here.'
'Oh no,' Guelph snapped, 'not the hoary old objection about the Hansa, we demolished that stupidity years ago. What we've got to do is return to the roots. Anglo-American society is a bizarre Calvinist deviation from the European norm. It was a tragedy when the Gresham family chased the Hanseatic League from Britain, subsequently establishing their Rosicrucian Invisible College, and a front operation in the form of the Royal Society. What we say is no more brothers wars. The British people have got to recognise that ultimately they are of German extraction, once we are fully reconciled with our cousins across the sea, Europe can be Great once again!'
'Up the Patriarchy!' Chibelline yelled.
'Death to Cunt Lickers!' Guelph roared.
'We like very much to be Artists, we like very much to be Nazis!' they chanted in unison. 'Ours is an Art of the People, and we are the Great Leader who will abolish the decadence of abstract painting, bringing beauty into the lives of ordinary men. We unite the Worker, the Peasant and the Solider, so that they can march happily into the Great National Socialist Future!'
Rather than constituting a single a 'Great Leader,' I might have imagined these two idiots becoming a hydra-headed monster if they hadn't been such buffoons. Besides, my objection to what they did had nothing to do with the Hanseatic League, which I've long considered as vile as that famous 'hammer of the Hansa,' the Gresham family. What I object to is a dominant culture that imposes itself on society as a mark of the alleged superiority of the ruling class. When all is said and done, institutional culture simply provides one more rhetorical 'justification' for the murderous activities of our masters.
'My problem,' I explained, 'has nothing to do with the Hansa. What I want to know is what contingency plans you have if one of you dies, because as far as I can see, if that were to happen, then the surviving partner would no longer have a career on the gallery circuit!'
'Guelph,' Chibelline howled, 'what am I to do if you die?'
'I'm not going to die!' Guelph exclaimed. 'I'm immortal!'
'Why don't you try a test to see whether he's lying,' I said as I kicked a carving knife that was lying on the floor at Chibelline.
'That's a good idea!' the inebriated twit replied as he picked up the blade and plunged it into Guelph's heart.
'It looks like your career in the art world has gone kaput,' Hannah spat at Chibelline as Guelph dropped down dead.
'Oh no!' the pisshead wailed as he plunged the knife into his own chest. 'I wouldn't have killed him if I'd been sober, but then I've been drunk for the past thirty years!'
'That's a job well done!' Hornblower announced as Chibelline snuffed it.
Then the spook pushed me back against the sofa and pressed her lips against mine. Split-seconds later, there was a knock on the door. Hannah released her grip on me and staggered up, clearly frustrated that we weren't going to get down to any serious sexual athletics just yet.
'It's probably the bloody neighbours come to complain about the noise!' Hornblower fumed. 'I should have turned this abysmal Hitler speech off before trying to snog you!'
As Hannah pressed the eject button on the CD, there was a second knock on the door. I got up and answered the summons, only to be confronted by a very ugly woman in her late-thirties, whose long red hair was flying all over the place.
'Who are you?' the creature demanded.
'A visitor,' I tried to reassure her.
'I'm Roseanne Whitebait,' the woman informed me, 'and I guess you must be the important neo-Nazi leader Guelph and Chibelline said was coming to visit them sometime this week.'
'Do I look like a Nazi?' I snarled.
'How should I know?' Whitebait retorted. 'I'm an artist, I don't know anything about politics, all I know is that I don't like the working class. That's why I let Guelph and Chibelline lace my cunt with LSD before they get various yobs to lick me out. Once these oiks are tripping, I fill their lungs with concrete and leave it to set, before performing an autopsy to retrieve my artwork. Guelph and Chibelline have been very helpful in providing me with sculptural subjects, so don't bother asking me about their politics because I don't know anything about it!'
'Well, I'm not a fucking Nazi!' I yelled. 'What's more, Guelph and Chibelline have just done themselves in, so that's the end of your sick Cunt Lickers Anonymous set up. There'll be no more lung castes for you!'
'Oh no!' Whitebait cried as she covered her mouth with a hand. 'This can't be true!'
'It fucking well is bitch, so tough shit!' I snapped. 'And if you don't believe me, why don't you come on in and take a look for yourself.'
Whitebait pushed past me and rushed into the studio. She charged over to Chibelline's inert bulk and pulled the knife from his chest. Then sobbing hysterically, the K Foundation Award winner plunged the blade again and again into Chibelline's lifeless form. Hornblower pulled a mobile from her bag and used the speed dialling function to call up logistical support. Minutes later, armed cops kicked in the door. Whitebait was still plunging the knife into Chibelline's bloody corpse, while Hannah and I cowered behind the sofa as the sculptor's bulk was peppered with bullets.
'Thank God you've arrived!' Hornblower hollered as she leapt up and threw her arms around a female sharp-shooter. 'We came here to visit Guelph and Chibelline. Somewhat later, Roseanne Whitebait dropped by and began ranting about how her friends were mass producing fake Wyndham Lewis paintings and selling them through the Toni Duffer Gallery. When Guelph and Chibelline told her to shut up, she stabbed them.'
'Don't worry,' the WPC assured her, 'we've got everything under control. I'll send out an All Points Bulletin to have Toni Duffer arrested, I can see there's a half finished Wyndham Lewis fake on the floor. I believe Duffer's gallery is in Darling Street, only two minutes walk from Oxford Circus!'
'Yes, yes!' Hannah concurred.
'By the way,' the WPC whispered, 'some anonymous philanthropist has put up a million quid reward for anyone providing the police with evidence to convict and jail the ring flooding the market with Wyndham Lewis fakes. You two lucky bastards are in the money, so if I was you, I'd go and book a flash hotel room and order a Champaign breakfast!'
And that's more or less what we did. Let me assure you that Hannah Hornblower is one hot babe, but a long term relationship with a spook isn't for me. Therefore, once we'd made statements to the cops about the circumstances under which Solomon Thursday and the three artists had died, I split. That afternoon, I thought I might as well test the CIA's ingenuity, so I phoned up a friend and told him I was sick of blondes, what I really wanted was a girl in her mid-twenties who'd enjoyed a traditional upbringing in a matriarchal tribe, but had subsequently got a first class degree in pure mathematics. A few hours after I'd made the call, Hornblower dropped by to say she was disappointed I wasn't going to settle down with her. However, to show there were no hard feelings, she gave me a suitcase filled with used notes, it was the entire million pound reward for smashing the Wyndham Lewis counterfeit ring. Toni Duffer, the ugly duckling of the art world, had been arrested and almost immediately hanged himself in a police cell. Hannah didn't need the philanthropist's dosh, since she was getting twenty million knicker from the Pope.
'By the way Blissett,' Hannah laughed as she left, 'good luck with Zulinda. You said you wanted a babe who'd grown up in a matriarchal tribe and had a first in pure mathematics, and I'm warning you now, she's one stroppy cow!'
Originally published in 1996 as a limited edition pamphlet under the Imprint 93 banner. Aside from this story, Stewart Home also produced 'Will Self Is Stupid' badges as part of the ongoing Imprint 93 project curated by Matthew Higgs.
Rigor Mortis (short story)
Get Yourself Killed (short story)
Cheap Night Out (short story)
Toilet Love (short story)
The Web Sex Archive Of Karl Marx (short story)
Stewart Home gets down and dirty in a story originally commissioned as a pamphlet by Matthew Higgs for his Imprint 93 project...
Cover for the Imprint 93 pamphlet publication of this story.
Will Self Is Stupid badge, another piece Stewart Home did under the aegis of the Imprint 93 project curated by Matthew Higgs.
Guy Debord by Anselm Jappe translated into English by Donald Nicholson-Smith with assistance from the author (University of California Press 1999)
The situationists declared somewhere that boredom was counter-revolutionary. They forgot to add that it is also wearisome and stupid. Jappe's squib is both the most boring and by far and away the most stupid book to be written about a situationist to date - and in saying this I'm conscious of the fact that the competition consists largely of art monographs and the throughput of Andrew Murray Scott. Aside from the fact that it is printed on paper of some character - soft, off-white and pleasant to touch - about all that can be said in favour of Jappe's handbook is that it is not a biography at all. The publishers puff Jappe's guff as an intellectual biography - but a low-brow, one-sided and woefully inadequate introduction to situationism would be a more accurate description.
Jappe's writ consists of fourteen chapters divided into three sections. Unlike the Situationist International which was made up of several different national sections (some of which contained as many as five or six members!), Jappe's focus is more limited, he concentrates on one man - Guy Debord. Jappe's three leaden sections are preceded by a forward in which T. J. Clark announces: "The room on the rue Saint-Jacques where The Society of the Spectacle got written was at once an austere cell - with nothing on the shelves, I remember, but a few crucial texts... laid open at the relevant page - and the entryway to Debord's minuscule apartment, through which friends and comrades continually passed." So Clark 'was there', he was on 'visiting terms' with Debord, and he 'remembers' - perhaps he even spent the night in the room in which The Society of the Spectacle got written. Given Clark's emphasis on gossip and 'authenticity ('I was there!'), it seems unlikely that he understood much of what he heard on the rue Saint Jacques - indeed, there are no traces of anything as developed as an unhappy consciousness in his recent prose.
The actual translation begins well enough with a red-herring: "Guy Debord, though, must surely be numbered among the very few people deemed quite beyond the pale." Since the pale invoked in this racist metaphor is the area outside Dublin that escaped English influence, the intention is presumably to place Debord in the company of such literary luminaries as George Moore and Shan O'Casey. After this almost serviceable joke, Jappe limps though the notion of commodity fetishism so tritely that it will bore the pants off middle-aged punk rockers, let alone anyone already familiar with Marx, Lukacs and Debord: "The first sentence of The Society of the Spectacle is a detournement of the first sentence of Capital..... Likewise, Debord substitutes the word 'spectacle' for the word 'capital' in another sentence borrowed from Marx." Ad nauseam. However, Jappe not only adopts a plodding approach to his subject, he simultaneously fails to be thorough about it. Despite stressing Debord's reuse of the content of texts by Marx, this clown doesn't bother to note that in the case of Marx (and other writers drawn upon in this way by the situationists such as Thomas De Quincey), it is not simply content but also method and form that is being taken up. For example, it has long been a banality to describe The Communist Manifesto as an anthology of revolutionary rhetoric since many of its most effective slogans are borrowed - 'the workers have nothing to loose but their chains' and 'the working class has no country' come from Marat &c. &c..
After pondering the meaning of Debord's seminal text The Society of the Spectacle over thirty-six tedious pages, Jappe finally works up enough spunk to state what he sees as its flaw, while simultaneously outlining his own 'post-modern' position on class: "Debord clearly points up, if succinctly, the unconscious nature of a society ruled by value. At the same time, however he bases himself on the aspect of Marx's thought that assigns a central role to the concepts of 'classes' and 'class struggles'... such struggles are merely struggles over distribution within a system that nobody now seriously challenges... the modern individual is truly a 'man without qualities.' able to assume a multitude of interchangeable roles... One may be at one and the same time a worker and a co-owner of a firm... Even the ruling classes have lost all mastery, and now the only thing at stake in economic competition is a more comfortable place within the general alienation." Jappe hasn't quite grasped that Debord, Marx and many others configured class struggle as a means of overthrowing the economy, so it would be a mistake to think that this joker has arrived at the same position as Jacques Camatte - who starting from Bordiguism eventually declared it was humanity's task to destroy capitalism - since rather than sliding from a communist perspective into metaphysics, Jappe's outlook is thoroughly bourgeois from the beginning.
In the second section of his circular, Jappe provides a plonkers guide to the history of the Lettrist and Situationist Internationals. Since this material is well known and more reliable versions of it can be found elsewhere, it is best ignored beyond noting a couple of points. Firstly, page 117 sees the return of the anti-Irish cliche that appeared on page 1: "In his Preface to the Fourth Italian Edition of 'The Society of the Spectacle' (1979), Debord analyzed the part played by the abduction of Aldo Moro and the function of the Italian Communist Party in the resolution of the state crisis; his conclusions are generally accepted today, but at the time they were completely beyond the pale." The repetition of this racist metaphor - this time without the qualification 'deemed' - cannot be excused as an almost serviceable joke, since it is typical of the inept prose style of Jappe's translator. It seems unlikely that either Jappe or Nicholson-Smith are conscious racists, it is more probable that they're unaware of the origins of this hackenyed phrase, and that recourse to it twice in such a small primer betokens a carelessness about language completely at odds with their ostensible subject. The other point to note about the second section is that Jappe implies the Situationist International was 'anarchistically inclined'. and attempts to position it between 'anarchism and communism'.
Like sections one and two of Guy Debord, section three is aimed at people who are devoid of common sense and all historical knowledge - it should go without saying that it provides further low-brow, one-sided and wildly inaccurate fantasies from the felt-tipped pen of Anselm Jappe. For example, Jappe raves: 'socialist thought in France was traditionally less Marxist than elsewhere, much to the benefit of such authors as Proudhon and Fourrier...' This claim is utterly spurious, since elsewhere might be the British Isles, where socialist thought was also 'less Marxist' to the benefit of scribblers like Carlysle, Ruskin and Morris; or Spain where socialism was 'less Marxist' to the benefit of complete scumbags such as Michael Bakunin; or North America where socialism was 'less Marxist' to the benefit of Edward Bellamy and Henry George; or India &c. &c.. What's more, bolshevism has long been the dominant force within Marxism and since this tendency is distinguished by its Bakuninist methods of organisation, it is necessary to denounce most of those who call themselves Marxists for their unreconstructed anarchism. One might argue - pointlessly - about whether or not the situationists were Marxists, what is of consequence is that they were communists and belonged to the ultra-left; which is why Debord in his well known critique of Bakunin made in theses 91 and 92 of The Society of the Spectacle condemned anarchism as 'an incoherence too easily seen through'. Jappe understands nothing of this - and nor do T. J. Clark and Donald Nicholson-Smith, as is evident from a piece of hack work they jointly knocked up for the art rag October (#79) entitled 'Why Art Can't Kill The Situationist International'.
Jappe has appended an 'Afterword to the English-Language Edition' that sums up much of what is wrong with his enterprise: "With the exception of Asger Jorn, all the other Situationists would probably be forgotten today were it not for the association of their names with the SI, and hence with Debord." Whatever level one takes this on - including the spectacular level Jappe has staked out as his terrain - this is stupid. Clearly what interests Jappe is the bourgeois notion of great men, since many former members of the Situationist International are still alive, and of those that are dead none have passed out of living memory. But even on the level of bourgeois 'posterity' and bourgeois 'history', Jappe - as usual - is wrong. For example, an ongoing interest in Alexander Trocchi (who died fifteen year ago) quite unrelated to his membership of the SI, is evident from the fact that new editions of both his literary and his pornographic novels continue to appear in English. Likewise, two rival Edinburgh publishers have issued biographies of Trocchi in recent years and one of these was accompanied by a Trocchi reader. Trocchi is also treated as a major figure in a number of more general literary and 'counter-cultural' histories such as Paris Interzone by James Campbell and his involvement with the 'beat generation' and 'sixties underground' arouses far more interest than his membership of the SI, which many anglo-american commentators ignore completely. One might continue in this fashion all the way down to former Situationist T. J. Clark, who not only provided the forward for the English language edition of Jappe's rant but is also an insipid - and hence academically well regarded - art historian, whose published works include The Absolute Bourgeoisie.
Jappe's rhetoric shows this would-be 'intellectual biographer' to be trapped in the ruins of bourgeois culture. Jappe emphasises Debord's 'style', 'language' and 'tone', as well as talking wildly about 'erudition', 'beauty' and 'Debord's aristocratic spirit'. Jappe wants to promote and defend Debord as a great man. He understands nothing of the Situationist International as a collective project, in short he knows nothing of communism - and thus it comes as no surprise that his wretched fan-letter to a dead man is just another worthless commodity which announces its own obsolescence on the final page: "Recently a bizarre cult of Debord has arisen, threatening to transform him into a pop idol, a sort of Che Guevara for the more refined taste..." If Jappe was more intelligent he might be able to name some of those responsible for this state of affairs. Biography is, after all, the penultimate bourgeois literary form - and the most that can be said in Jappe's favour is that he fails on his chosen terrain.
First published in Datacide #7, Summer 2000.