The Revolutionary Pleasure
by various anonymous authors
Thinking for Yourself
Those who assume (often
unconsciously) that it is impossible to achieve their life's
desires-and, thus, that it is futile to fight for themselves--usually
end up fighting for an ideal or cause instead. They may appear
to engage in self-directed activity, but in reality they have accepted
alienation from their desires as a way of life. All subjugations of
personal desires to the dictates of a cause or ideology are reactionary
no matter how "revolutionary" the actions arising from such
subjugations may appear.
Yet, one of
the great secrets of our miserable, yet potentially marvelous time, is
that thinking can be a pleasure. Despite the suffocating effect of the
dominant religious and political ideologies, many individuals do
learn to think for themselves; and by doing so--by actively, critically
thinking for themselves, rather than by passively accepting
pre-digested opinions--they reclaim their minds as their own.
This is a
manual for those who wish to think for themselves, a manual for
creation of a personally (rather than ideologically) constructed body
of critical thought for your own use, a body of thought which will help
you to understand why your life is the way it is and why the world is
the way it is. More importantly, as you construct your own theory, you
will also develop a practice: a method to get what you want
for your own life. Theory, then, must be either practical--a guide to
action--or it will be nothing, nothing but an aquarium of ideas, a
contemplative interpretation of the world. The realm of ideas divorced
from actions is the eternal waiting room of unrealized desires. Forming
your own practical theory, what could be called "self-theory," is
intimately connected to achieving the realization of your desires.
constructing your self-theory is a revolutionary pleasure. It is both a
destructive and constructive pleasure, because you are creating a
practical theory--one tied to action--for the destruction and
reconstruction of this society. It is a theory of adventure, because it
is based on what you want from life and on devising the means necessary
to achieve it. It is as erotic and humorous as an authentic revolution.
Any system of ideas with an
abstraction at its center--an abstraction which assigns you a role or
duties--is an ideology. An ideology provides those who accept it with a
false consciousness, a necessary component of which is
other-directedness. This leads those who accept the ideology to behave
as "objects" rather than "subjects," to allow themselves to be used
rather than to act to attain their own desires. The various
ideologies are all structured around different abstractions, yet all
serve the interests of a dominant (or aspiring dominant) class by
giving individuals (though the term hardly seems appropriate--"members
of the herd" is perhaps more accurate) a sense of purpose in sacrifice,
suffering, and submission.
ideology is the oldest example: the fantastic projection called "God"
is the Supreme Subject of the cosmos, acting on every human being as
"scientific" and "democratic" ideologies of "free enterprise," capital
investment is the "productive" subject directing world history--the
"invisible hand" guiding human development. In order to prosper, the
early capitalists had to attack and weaken the power that religious
ideology once held. They exposed the mystification of the religious
world and replaced it with the mystification of technology and
commodity capitalism, wherein Profit becomes the Supreme Subject of the
varieties of leninism are "revolutionary" ideologies in which the Party
is the rightful subject entitled to dictate world history by leading
its object--you, the proletariat--to the promised land through
replacement of the corporate-capitalist "free enterprise" apparatus
with a state-capitalist leninist apparatus.
other varieties of dominant ideologies can be seen daily. The new forms
of religious mysticism help to preserve the status quo in a round about
way. They provide a cheap and tidy way to obscure the vacuousness of
daily life and, like drugs, make it easier to live, or rather exist,
with this emptiness--and so prevent us from recognizing our real roles
in the functioning of the socio-economic system.
All of these
ideologies differ in the specific sacrifices they demand of you, the
object, but all are structured in the same way. All demand an
inversion of subject and object; things, abstractions, take on the
human attributes of power and will, while human beings become things,
tools to be used in the service of these abstractions (God, the
dictatorship of the proletariat, the fatherland, etc., etc.). Ideology
is upside down self-theory. It fosters acceptance of the separation of
our narrow, daily lives from a world that appears totally beyond our
control. Ideology offers us only a voyeur's relationship with the life
of the world.
abstraction-based ideologies demand duty, sacrifice for the cause; and
every such ideology serves to protect the dominant social order.
Authorities whose power depends upon docility must deny us our
subjectivity, our conscious will to act for our own desires.
Such denial comes in the form of demands for sacrifices for "the common
good," "the national interest," "the war effort," "the
We rid ourselves of the
blinders of ideology by constantly asking ourselves: How do I feel?
How's my life? What do I want? Am I getting what I want? If not, why
not? This is being conscious of the commonplace, being aware of your
everyday routine. That real life exists--life in which you are active,
a subject acting to achieve your desires--is a public secret that
becomes less secret every day, as the breakdown of daily life
constructed around abstraction-based ideologies becomes more and more
The creation of self-theory
is based on thinking for yourself, on being fully conscious of your
desires and of their validity. Authentic "consciousness raising" can
only be the "raising" of people's thinking to the level of positive
(non-guilty) self-consciousness, free of imposed morality in all its
forms. This type of consciousness can be termed "radical subjectivity."
what many leftists, therapy mongers, racism awareness trainers, and
sisterizers term "consciousness raising" is the practice of beating
people into unconsciousness with guilt-inducing, ideological
The path from
self-negation to self-affirmation passes through point zero, the
capital city of nihilism. This is the windswept still point in social
space and time, the social limbo in which one recognizes that there is
no real life in one's daily existence. A nihilist knows the difference
between surviving and living.
reverse their perspectives on their lives and the world. Nothing is
true for them but their desires, their will to be. They reject all
ideology in their hatred for the miserable social relations in modern
society. From this reversed perspective they clearly see the
upside-down world of commodity capitalism in which subject and object
are inverted, and people and abstract concepts are converted into
things, commodities to be sold. They see daily life as a theatrical
landscape in which "everyone has their price," God (via televangelism)
and happiness (smile buttons) become commodities, radio stations say
they love you, and detergents have compassion for your hands.
conversation offers sedatives such as, "You can't always get what you
want," "Life has its ups and downs," and other cliches of the secular
religion of survival. "Common sense" is just the non-sense of common
alienation. Every day people are denied (and deny themselves) an
authentic life and are sold back its representation.
constantly feel the urge to destroy the system which destroys them.
They cannot go on living as they are. Soon, most realize that they must
devise a coherent set of tactics in order to transform the world.
But if a
nihilist does not recognize the possibility for the transformation of
the world, his or her subjective rage will ossify into a role: the
suicide, the solitary murderer, the street hoodlum-vandal, the
neo-dadaist, the professional mental patient... all seeking
compensation for a life of dead time.
nihilists' mistake is that they do not realize that there are other
nihilists with whom they can work. Consequently, they assume that
participation in a collective project of self-realization is
This project of collective
self-realization, the changing of life itself through the
transformation of social relations, can properly be termed "politics."
Politics, however, also signifies a mystified, separate category of
human activity, an isolated interest with its own
specialists--politicians, political consultants, etc. It is possible to
be interested (or not) in this type of politics just as it is possible
to be interested (or not) in football, stamp collecting, music, or
fashion. What people see as "politics" today is the social
falsification of the project of collective self-realization; it has
become a spectacle and a parody. And that suits those in power just
collective self-realization is the revolutionary project. It
is the collective transformation of social relations and the natural
world according to the desires of all participants.
"therapy" at present usually refers to attempts to "help" individuals
"adjust" to their restrictive social roles and to the banality of daily
life. Authentic therapy involves changing one's own life by
changing the nature of social life. Therapy must be social if it is to
be of any real consequence. Social therapy (the healing of society) and
individual therapy (the healing of the individual) are linked together:
each requires the other, each is a necessary part of the other.
in present day society we are expected to repress our real feelings and
play a role. This is called "playing a part in society" (how
revealing that phrase is). Individuals put on "character armor" --a
steel-like suit comprised of role playing, posing, and concealing one's
desires as a defense against other individuals. Transforming social
relations and surpassing the role-playing game requires the conscious
decision of most if not all individuals to shed these roles and truly
communicate; therefore, the end of individual role playing is directly
related to the end of social role playing.
To think actively,
critically, is to make your life--as it is now, and as you want it to
be--the center of your thinking. This positive self-centering is
accomplished by a continuous assault on externals, on the false issues
("support our troops"), false conflicts (e.g., those arising from
notions of racial "superiority"), false identities ("American,"
"patriot," "Catholic," "white Christian"), and false dichotomies
("economic survival" versus "a clean environment") which permeate
kept from analyzing the basic nature, the totality, of everyday life by
the media focus--including "consumer" surveys and public opinion
polls--on mere details: the spectacular trifles, the phony
controversies, and ridiculous scandals. Are you for or against trade
unions, cruise missiles, identity cards? What's your opinion of soft
drugs, jogging, UFOs, progressive taxation, Michael Jackson's latest
nose job, the royal family's sexual relations?
diversions, false issues. The only issue for us is how we live. There's
an old Jewish saying, "If you have only two alternatives, then choose
the third." It impels people to search for new perspectives. We can see
the artificiality of false dichotomies by searching for that "third
conscious that there is a third choice allows us to refuse to choose
between two supposedly opposite, but equally repulsive, possibilities
which are presented to us as the only possible choices. In
its simplest form, this "third choice" consciousness is expressed by
the person brought to trial for armed robbery and asked, "Do you plead
guilty or not guilty?" "I'm hungry and unemployed," she replies. A more
theoretical, but equally classic, illustration of this consciousness is
the refusal to choose between the corporate-capitalist ruling classes
of the West and the state-capitalist ruling classes of what's left of
the Eastern bloc. All we need to do is to look at the basic social
relations of production in the USA and Europe on the one hand, and
China, North Korea, and Cuba on the other, to see that they are
essentially the same: over there, as here, the vast majority work for a
wage or salary in exchange for giving up control over their life's
work, control over both what they produce and how they produce it. And,
of course, what they produce in both East and West is then sold back to
them as commodities.
In the West,
the surplus value, or the value produced over and above the value of
the workers' wages, is the property of the corporate management and
stockholders, who keep up a show of domestic competition. In the East,
the surplus value is the property of the state bureaucracy, which does
not permit domestic competition. Big difference.
false issues and false conflicts cited above, false questions are used
to distract us from living in the present, from seeing the totality of
existence. One example is the stupid conversational question, "What's
your philosophy of life?" It poses an abstract concept of "life" that
has nothing to do with real life because it ignores the fact that
"living" is exactly what we are doing at the present moment, and our
"philosophy of life" is clearly revealed by our actions.
identities are perhaps an even more potent form of mystification. In
the absence of real community, people cling to all kinds of phony
social identities--they contemplate and attempt to emulate a huge
variety of roles presented to them in school, church, and, especially,
the "entertainment" media. These social identities can be ethnic
("Italian- American"), residential ("New Yorker"), nationalistic
("patriot"), sexual ("gay"), cultural ("Giants fan"), and so on; but
all are rooted in a common desire for affiliation, for belonging.
being "black" is a much more real identification than being a "Giants
fan," but beyond a certain point, such an identification only serves to
mask one's real position in society; and in order to recognize that
real position, you have to reject the false identities, false
conflicts, and false dichotomies, and begin with yourself as the
center. From there you can examine the material basis of your life,
stripped of mystification.
Suppose that you want a cup of coffee from the vending machine at work.
First, there is the cup of coffee itself: that involves the workers on
the coffee plantation, the ones on the sugar plantation and in the
refineries, the ones in the paper mill, and so on. Then you have the
workers who made the different parts of the vending machine and the
ones who assembled it. Then the ones who extracted the iron ore and
bauxite, smelted the steel, and work for the electric utility which
supplies power to the machine. Then all the workers who transported the
coffee, cups, and machine. Then the clerks, typists, and communication
workers who coordinated the production and transportation. Finally, you
have all the workers who produced all the other things necessary for
the other ones to survive. That gives you a direct material
relationship to several million people, in fact, to the immense
majority of the world's population. They produce your life, and you
help to produce theirs. In this light, all artificial group identities
and special group interests fade into insignificance. Imagine the
potential enrichment of your life that at present is locked up in the
frustrated creativity of these millions of workers, held back by
obsolete and exhausting methods of production, strangled by lack of
control over their own productivity, warped by the insane rationale of
capital-accumulation which pits one against all and makes life a mad
scramble for economic survival. Here we begin to discover a real social
identity--in people all over the world who are fighting to win control
over their own lives we find ourselves.
have a vested interested in the political and economic status quo
continually present us with false choices, that is, with choices which
preserve their power ("Vote Democratic!"/"Vote Republican! "--"But
Vote!"). We are constantly being asked to choose sides in false
conflicts. Governments, corporations, political parties, and
propagandists of all kinds constantly present us with "choices" that
are no choice at all. We are given the illusion of choice, but as long
as those in power control what our "choices" will be ("choices" which
we perceive as the only alternatives available to us), they will also
control the outcome of our "decisions."
moralists love to tell those of us in the rich West how we will "have
to make sacrifices," how we "exploit the starving children of the Third
World." The choice we are given is between sacrificial altruism or
narrow individualism. (Charities cash in on the resulting guilt.) Yes,
by living in the rich, wasteful West we do exploit the poor of the
Third World--but not personally, not deliberately. We can make some
changes in our lives, boycott, make sacrifices, but the effects are
marginal. We become aware of the false conflict with which we've been
presented when we realize that under the global socio-economic system
we, as individuals, are locked into our roles as "exploiters" just as
others are locked into their global roles as the exploited. We have a
role, but little power to change it--at least individually. Therefore,
we reject the false choice of "sacrifice or selfishness" by calling for
the destruction of the global social system whose existence forces that
decision upon us. Tinkering with the system, or offering token
sacrifices, or calling for "a little less selfishness," simply won't
do. Charities and reformers never go beyond such false choices as
"sacrifice" or "selfishness"--but if any true social progress is to be
made, the rest of us must do so.
power continually use such falsifications to divert and disempower us.
By spreading myths like, "If we shared it all there wouldn't be enough
to go around," they attempt to deny the existence of any real choices
and to hide from us the fact that the material preconditions for
social revolution already exist.
Any journey toward
self-demystification must avoid the twin quagmires of absolutism and
the total acceptance or rejection of all components of particular
ideologies, or indeed, of any set of ideas or concepts. An absolutist
cannot see any choice other than complete acceptance or complete
rejection; s/he sees things purely as good or bad, black or white. The
absolutist wanders along the shelves of the ideological supermarket
looking for the ideal commodity, and then buys it lock, stock and
barrel. But the ideological supermarket--like any supermarket--is fit
only for looting. It is of more practical use to us to move along the
shelves, rip open the packets, take out what looks authentic and
useful, and dump the rest.
Cynicism is a
reaction to a world dominated by ideology and "morality." Faced with
conflicting ideologies, the cynic says, "A plague on both your houses."
The cynic is as much a consumer as the absolutist, but one who has
given up hope of finding the ideal commodity.
The process of constructive
thinking is a process of continually adding to and modifying one's
current body of self-theory as well as resolving contradictions between
one's new thoughts and perceptions and one's previous beliefs. The
resulting synthesis is thus more than the sum of its parts.
synthetic method of constructing a theory is counter to the eclectic
method in which one collects a rag bag of favorite bits from favorite
ideologies without ever confronting the resulting contradictions.
Modern examples include "anarcho-capitalism," "christian marxism," and
liberalism in general.
If we are
continually conscious of how we want to live, we can critically
appropriate from anything: ideologies, culture critics,
technoratic experts, sociological studies, even mystics (though the
pickings will probably be slim). All the rubbish of the old world can
be scavenged for useful material by those who want to reconstruct it.
The nature of modern
society, unified globally through its capitalist economic system, makes
necessary a self-theory which criticizes all areas in which
socio-economic domination exists (i.e., both the corporate capitalism
of the "free" world and the state capitalism of the "communist" world)
as well as all forms of alienation (sexual poverty, enforced
participation in the rat race for survival, etc.). In other words, we
need a critique of the totality of daily existence from the perspective
of the totality of our desires.
this project are all the politicians and bureaucrats, preachers and
gurus, city planners and policemen, reformers and leninists, central
committees and censors, corporate managers and union honchos, male
supremacists and feminist ideologues, landlords and eco-capitalists who
work to subordinate individual desires to that hideous abstraction,
"the common good," of which they are the supposed guardians. They are
all forces of the old world-bosses, priests, and other creeps who have
something to lose if people extend the game of seizing back their minds
into seizing back their lives.
theory and abstraction-based ideologies are enemies, and every
politically conscious person knows it.
By now it should be obvious
that self-demystification and the creation of our own revolutionary
theory do not eradicate our alienation; "the world," with its
capitalist economic relations permeating every aspect of life, goes on
and is reproduced every day with the acquiescence and assistance of
billions of people.
text has the creation of self-theory as its focus, we do not mean to
imply that revolutionary theory can exist separately from revolutionary
practice. In order to be consequential, to effectively reconstruct the
world, practice must be based in theory, and theory must be realized in
practice. The revolutionary project of ending alienation and
transforming social relations requires that one's theory be nothing
other than a theory of practice, realized in what we do and how we
live. Otherwise theory will degenerate into an impotent contemplation
of the world, and ultimately into a survival mechanism--an intellectual
armor that acts as a buffer between the daily world and oneself. And if
revolutionary practice is not the practice of revolutionary theory, it
degenerates into, at best, altruistic militantism--"revolutionary"
activity as one's social duty or role. At worst, it degenerates into
strive for a coherent theory purely as an end in itself. For us, the
value of coherency is that it makes it easier to think critically and
effectively. For example, it's easier to understand future developments
in social control if you have a coherent understanding of present-day
social control ideologies and techniques.
coherent theory makes it easier to put into practice your strategy for
realizing your desires.
In the process of
constructing self-theory, the last theories that must be dealt with
(one hesitates to call them "ideologies," as they are not based in
abstractions with their accompanying "shoulds" and "duties") are the
ones that have the most resemblance to revolutionary self-theory. These
are situationism and syndicalism.
Situationist International (1958-1971) was an organization of
theoretically oriented, ultra-left, European (especially French)
marxists. Many believe, as did the original author(s) of this essay,
that the situationists "made an immense contribution to revolutionary
theory." That evaluation is, however, overly generous. Virtually all of
the key insights attributed to situationist writers can be found in the
works of earlier anarchists, social democrats, and philosphers such as
Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw,
Wilhelm Reich and Friedrich Nietzsche (though the insights in question
were scattered and often were not developed with the rigor found in the
better situationist texts). The primary reason that this is not widely
recognized is that most of the early situationists and their followers
came from marxist backgrounds and were simply not familiar with the
vast body of non-marxist progressive writings produced in prior
decades; and the younger situationist followers often have had very
little in the way of political experience and are as unfamiliar with
early progressive literature as were their marxist predecessors.
reason for the overestimation of the importance of the situationists is
that situationism is a French ideology utilizing an arcane
marxist-derived jargon ('poverty of...,' 'society of the spectacle,'
'reification,' 'dialectical,' etc., etc.); as well, virtually all
situationist texts are written in a very difficult to follow,
jargon-ridden, muddy style--which makes them inaccessible to most
people. Thus, situationism has a great deal of snob appeal for those
with intellectual pretensions. Once you've mastered the jargon and read
(or claim to have read) the key (one is tempted to say "sacred") texts,
you certainly at least appear to be an intellectual. Thus it's not
surprising that "situationist" poseurs, 1atched as they are to their
"situationist" roles and "intellectual" pretensions, often have little
regard for truth and regard decent human behavior as "bourgeois"; it
follows, then, that in political controversies they often resort to
deliberate distortions, fabrications, and ad hominem attacks upon those
who have the temerity to criticize their ideas. (Some, incredibly, have
even used the slogan, 'the personal is political,' as an excuse for
scurrilous personal attacks.) The destructive-and ultimately
self~defeating~effects of these vicious tactics are so obvious as to
need no further comment.
the most critical~weakness of situationism is that it offers no
coherent method for "getting from here to there," that is, from "the
society of the spectacle" to the free society.
this, it should be added that the great virtue of the situationist
writers was that they presented their insights in a more or less
coherent manner and expounded upon them at length. (The qualifer "more
or less" is used due to the very low quality, stylistically, of almost
all situationist texts.) At its best, situationist theory offered a
critique of "spectacular" society, that is, society in which people are
reduced to the level of passive observers and consumers rather than
active participants. It made an extensive critique of how both ideology
and commodification turn people into passive, alienated observers of
their own lives. Thus, situationist theory is a body of critical
thought which can be incorporated into one's own self-theory--but
nothing more. Anything more--the unquestioning acceptance of
situationist theories and the identification of oneself with those
theories--is the ideological misappropriation known as situationism.
Situationism can be quite the complete survival ideology, a defense
against the wear and tear of daily life. And included in the ideology
is the spectacular role of being a "situationist," that is, a radical
jade and ardent esoteric.
body of ideas which bears a great deal of resemblance to revolutionary
self-theory is, to use the term broadly, syndicalism. Variants include
anarcho-syndicalism, revolutionary syndicalism, and council communism,
with anarcho-syndicalism being the most important of the three.
self-management is the direct management (without any separate
leadership) of social production, distribution, and communication by
workers and their communities. The movement for self-management has
appeared again and again all over the world in the course of social
revolution: Russia in 1905 and 1917-1921; Spain in 1936-1939; Hungary
in 1956; Algeria in 1960; Chile in 1972; and Portugal in 1975. The form
of organization most often created in the practice of self-management
has been workers' councils: sovereign assemblies of producers and
neighbors that elect delegates to coordinate their activities. The
delegates are not representatives, but carry out decisions already made
by their assemblies. Delegates can be recalled at any time should the
general assembly feel that its decisions are not being rigorously
carried out. Partisans of all of the above-mentioned forms of
syndicalism advocate such practices.
virtues of syndicalism are, first, that it seeks to destroy all
coercive authority as well as the commodity (i.e., capitalist) economy.
Second, it does provide a practical means of "getting from here to
there." And third, it recognizes that the one essential function of
social organization is to provide the economic base-production and
distribution of goods and services-upon which all else rests.
Syndicalism recognizes that this is the one area in which extensive
organization (of the libertarian type described above) is needed, and
that it's best to leave all other areas of life as free as possible
from organizational influence. Virtually all critics of syndicalism,
including the original author(s) of this pamphiet, miss this essential
point. (It's certainly true that a thorough critique of all types of
domination and mystification is necessary to social transformation, but
one need only glance at the better syndicalist publications to see that
at least some syndicalists are making such a critique.) Given the
destruction of coercive authority (one of syndicalism's central goals)
and adequate advance preparation (i.e., demystification), it would be
absurd not to expect an explosion of creativity in all areas of life--
art, music, writing, architecture, family relations, sexual relations,
community structure, etc., etc.
however, two great dangers in syndicalism. The first is that many
syndicalists develop tunnel vision: they become so obsessed with labor
struggles and self-managed economic schemes that they not only fail to
analyze non-workplace-related forms of domination and mystification,
but they often act as if such problems do not even exist. Thus, if this
syndicalist tendency would succeed in its aims, it could well help to
produce a self-managed society in which other-than-economic forms of
domination and mystification still exert their baleful influences--for
example, it's easy to envisage a worker-controlled economic system
which coexists with religious mystification, homophobia, and sexism.
This would be contrary to anarchist principles, but many syndicalists
are syndicalists first and anarchists (or "antiauthoritarians") second,
which is more than a bit like the tail wagging the dog.
danger is related to the first: syndicalists sometimes forget that
syndicalist organizations are just a means to an end. They sometimes
develop a bad case of organizational fetishism; this can be termed
"organizationitis"--an intellectual hallucination in which means and
ends are reversed, in which the syndicalist organization is perceived
as an end in itself, as being more important than its goal (the free
society). Sadly, in some cases that goal seems to be entirely
forgotten. And, even more sadly, "organizationitis" sometimes--but not
inevitably-- leads to an even worse disease, bureaucratization.
But these are
not condemnations of syndicalist theory; they simply show that even the
best theory is, in itself, no guarantee that its holders will always
act in accord with its principles or will develop insights which go
beyond those contained in the theory. This isn't terribly surprising.
We all live in the world of commodity capitalism, and it would be
shocking if we weren't burdened to a greater or lesser degree with the
character traits such a life engenders; and it would be equally
shocking if these character traits didn't cause problems in syndicalist
organizations --indeed, in organizations of any type, including the
Still, the situation is
far from hopeless. A high degree of personal awareness among
participants can reduce the dangers of organizationitis and
bureaucratization. As well, there are many procedural devices which are
very effective at reducing such problems; these include
decentralization, mandatory rotation of offices, term limitations,
strict delimitation of responsibilities, and immediate recallability.
With such safeguards, participation in common projects of
self-liberation is more than feasible; it's desirable.
The world can only be turned right side up by the conscious collective
activity of those who construct a theory of why it is upside down.
Spontaneous rebellion alone is not sufficient. Without adequate advance
preparation, the old world will simply reappear after any rebellion,
embedded as it is in the psyches of the fabled "people." An authentic
revolution can only occur if there is a coherent and practical mass
movement of self-conscious individuals in which all of the
mystifications of the past are being consciously swept away.
This essay was originally
published in the United States in 1975 by The Spectacle under
the title "Self-Theory: the pleasure of thinking for yourself."
An extensively revised edition was published in London in 1985 by Spectacular
Times under the title "Revolutionary self-help: a beginner's
manual," and it has appeared twice since then in American
periodicals under the title "Revolutionary Self-Theory"; in
1989 it was published in a slightly revised edition by OVO, and in 1992
in a further revised edition by No Longer Silent (NLS). This
edition is an extensively rewritten and somewhat expanded version of
the text which appeared in NLS.
As the editor
of No Longer Silent commented, "...at this point it's fair to
say that 'RST' has been penned by multiple authors, which is as it
should be. Hopefully this trend will continue as future editions of
this text appear. After all, the propaganda, literature, and so forth
that we produce should not be considered as immutable tomes,
determining the language and boundaries within which we are expected to
interpret our experiences, but rather as fluid and alterable,
reflecting our experience of reality as we are."
entirely in keeping with the sentiments of the previous authors/editors
who stated, "...the ideological supermarket--like any supermarket--is
fit only for looting. It is more productive for us if we move along the
shelves, rip open the packets, take out what looks authentic and
useful, and dump the rest."
In fact, that
is exactly the approach which I've taken while editing this text: I've
retained those portions which were useful and insightful, but I've also
jettisoned a lot of waste material, including almost all of the
marxist/situationist jargon plus a number of statements (particularly
in the concluding section) which were factually incorrect or simply
missed the point; as well, I've cleaned up the text by eliminating a
number of non sequiturs and hopelessly fuzzy statements and by using
terms (e.g., "ideology") in a more precise manner than in the previous
editions of this work. What I've done, essentially, is to take a
situationist tract and translate it into plain English.
introduced a certain amount of new material which contradicts some of
what I've deleted. Thus, it's quite possible-in fact quite
probable-that the authors/editors of the previous versions of this
essay would take strong exception to some of the changes I've made.
While I regret that my alterations and additions may upset the original
author(s), the point of this pamphlet is to get people to think for
themselves; and I believe that the changes I've made increase the
effectiveness of the pamphlet in that regard.
the changes in this edition, the central thesis of this essay remains
unchanged: that all genuine revolutionary impulses and activities stem
directly from the desires of individuals, not from any
ideologically imposed sense of "duty" with its attendant guilt,
self-sacrifice, and self-deadening "shoulds."
previous authors/editors of this pamphlet have chosen to remain
anonymous (or pseudonymous), the editor of this edition shall likewise
This text is
not copyrighted. Please feel free to reproduce it.