Tel Quel Summer 1968
The Revolution Here Now
Source: Tel Quel, number 34, Summer 1968;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor.
Tel Quel, for several years one of the most influential of Parisian intellectual journals, reflected the effects of May ’68 in its first issue after the revolution. The following statement opened its summer 1968 issue. Note the date given at the end for the first follow-up meeting. With this exception, the magazine continued to almost exclusively address its usual topics of linguistics, avant-garde art, and semiotics.
The action carried out here and now by us being textual i.e., caught up in particular rules that it cannot be a question of suspending or neglecting, though connected to social struggles, the primacy of which is not put in question (we participate in them politically without any ambiguity), has its own form of effectiveness. We believe it necessary to call to mind the following points:
- we are not “philosophers,” “savants,” or “writers” according to the representative definitions admitted by a society whose material functioning and consequent theory of knowledge we attack;
- this theory of language, subjugated by the metaphysical category of expressivity, seems to us to constitute one of the ideological keys to the current situation, in that disastrous complicities between the worst reactionary conservatism and baseless revolutionism are able to “spontaneously” reveal themselves here;
- we believe that the signifying activity of a given historical phase constitutes a decisive determinant of the transformative possibilities of that phase. The subordination of this specific level, the abandonment and the negation of its effects on consciousness and change, always coincides with an overdetermined regression by the state of things en acte, reinforcing themselves by means of local contestation;
- it thus seems indispensable to us to affirm that the recognition of a theoretical break and of the ensemble of irreducible differences in action — in praxis — that we support is of a kind to carry the social revolution to its real accomplishment in the order of its languages;
- consequently, the construction of a theory drawn from the textual practice that we must develop seems to us susceptible of avoiding the repetitive impasses of “engagé” discourse — the very model of a teleological-transcendental humanist and psychologist mystification, accomplice of the definitive obscurantism of the bourgeois state;
- in keeping with its complex mode of production of Marxist-Leninist theory, the only revolutionary theory of our time, this construction should be part of and be brought to bear on the critical integration of the most elaborated practices (philosophy, linguistics, semiology, psychoanalysis, “literature,” history of science);
- any ideological undertaking that doesn’t present itself today in an advanced theoretical form, and that contents itself with regrouping under eclectic or sentimental denominations individual activities that are barely political, appears to us to be counter-revolutionary insofar as it objectively fails to recognize the class struggle as something to pursue and reactivate.
Consequently, it is decided to immediately constitute a GROUP FOR THEORETICAL STUDY that will function once a week (lectures, discussions); first meeting Wednesday October 16 at 2100 at 44, rue de Rennes, Paris VI.
Paris May 1968
Jean-louis baudry, Pierre Boulez, Claude Cabantous, Hubert Damisch, Marc Devade, Jean-Joseph Goux, Denis Hollier, Julie Kristeva, Marcelin Pleynet, Jean Ricardou, Jacquelin Risset, Denis Roche, Pierre Rottenberg, Jean-Louis Schefer, Phillipe Sollers, Paule Thévenin, Jean Thibaudou