The group has arrived at a decisive turning point in its history [Castoriadis wrote]. This turning point has been imposed upon it by both external events and by its own internal situation. External events: with the end of the Algerian War, we can no longer continue to avoid answering the following question: In a modern capitalist country, in what does revolutionary activity consist? Internal situation: the great majority of the comrades, in fact nearly all of them, clearly feel that the extreme empiricism and the refusal to respond, as far as we are capable, to basic questions that have characterized for the past two years the conduct and the existence of the group cannot go on any longer without leading to a certain split.
The customary and logical thing would have been to discuss publicly the reasons for this scission, and the opposing theses. Unfortunately, that is not possible for us to do. This opposition has remained without any definable content, positive or even negative; to this day we know nothing about those who reject our ideas want to put in their place, and just as little about what precisely they are opposed to. We therefore can only explain ourselves concerning our own positions and, for the rest, we can merely note once again the ideological and political sterility of conservatism.
We have had a negative experience, regarding both a working-class membership and an intellectual membership [he writes]. As to the former, even when they view a political group sympathetically and recognize in its idea the expression of their own existence, it is not their habit to maintain permanent contact with it, still less active association, for its political views, insofar as these go beyond their own immediate preoccupations, seem to them obscure, gratuitous, and excessive. For the others -- the intellectuals -- what in particular they seem capable of satisfying when they come into contact with a political group is their curioisity and their 'need for information.' We should state here clearly that we have never had, on the part of the public readership of the review, the kind of response we had hoped for, which could have aided us in our work, the attitude of this public has remained, save for the rarest of exceptions, that of passive consumers of ideas. Such an attitude coming from the public, which is perfectly compatible with the role and aims of a review presented in a traditional style, in the long run renders the existence of a review such as Socialisme ou Barbarie impossible [emphasis added].
Our experience has been [Castoriadis writes] that those who came to us -- basically young people -- often did so based, if not on a misunderstanding, at least on motivations that derived much more from an emotional [trans: affective] revolt and from a need to break with the isolation to which society today condemns individuals than from a lucid and firm adherence to a revolutionary project. This initial motivation perhaps is as good as any other; what really matters is that the same conditions for the absence of properly political activity also prevent this motivation from being transformed into something more solid.
the group formed by the dissenting S. ou B. members called itself Communisme ou Barbarie [a.k.a. Groupe Bororo]. It met frequently in the Marais section of Paris, managed to be denounced by the Situationist International during its brief existence, and picked up a few members, including Dominique Frager, who had wanted to join S. ou B. soon before its dissolution. Contacts also were establsihed with people from Noir et Rouge, the Situationists, and radical students from Germany, among others. Right before Christmas, 1967, Frager introduced the group to the soon-to-be student leader of May '68, Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Cohn-Bendit [...] thus was in direct contact with the group that made itself the continuator of Socialisme ou Barbarie in the months leading to the March 22 takeover of the Nanterre University Administration building and to May '68. To my knowledge, this quite slender, but significant, thread of historical continuity has never before been revealed in print. Also of significance, Guillerm participated in the Nanterre occupation on March 22 and in the formation of the March 22d Movement. He was on the barricades the first evening in Paris.
The students and workers were not even united on a negative objective [Castoriadis writes about May 1968]. Among the students, at least among their revolutionary and active elements, the negative objective of opposition to the government was understood in a different sense than it was by the workers. For the former, the aim is to eliminate the government, whereas the great majority of workers, even though they do not favor the government, are absolutely unprepared to work toward its overthrow. A worker/student alliance cannot materialize under these conditions; it remains a mere wish, based on a misunderstanding.
Historically [Castoriadis writes], it is revolution that permits the world of reaction to survive as it transforms and adapts itself -- and today we risk experiencing a fresh demonmsration of this truth. These explosions shatter the imaginary or unreal setting in which alienated society, by its very nature, tends to enclose itself -- and they oblige alienated society to seek out new forms of oppression better adapted to today's conditions, even if it finds them through the elimination of yesterday's oppressors.
To break with the conceptions and practice of bureaucratic organizations [he writes] is also to break with traditional jargon, which has lost all meaning for people, and even has become an object of derision [...] We must transform our way of speaking and writing, pitilessly eliminating from our speech and from our texts insider terms and a didactic expository style.
Obviously on this point no one can provide recipes or resolve the problem by fiat in one day [he writes]; only by multiplication of examples and of trial efforts will be able to yield results (some of the texts written by our English and American comrades show the way in this regard). But this need to change our language must become a preoccupation, a permanent obsession for everyone [...] To break with the bureaucratic ideology is, first of all, to break with the themes of this ideology and its corresponding propaganada. It is to broaden the subjects we are talking about so as to embrace all aspects of people's lives in society. It is, moreover, the most profound content of our ideas that makes this incumbent upon us.
People will not make a revolution over their wages -- not today, in any case; they will not even make one for workers' management as such, and rightly so, since workers' management as such is only a tool, not an end in itself. People will make a revolution in order to make a radical change in the way they live, and this concerns the content of the revolution, its ends, and its values.
Someone who is afraid of cooptation has already been coopted. His [sic] attitude has been coopted -- since it has been blocked up. The deepest reaches of his mind have been coopted, for there he seeks guarantees against being coopted, and thus he has already been caught in the trap of reactionary ideology: the search for an anticooptation talisman or fetishistic magic charm. There is no guarantee against cooptation; in a sense, everything can be coopted, and everything is one day or another.