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TitleClass Wargames: Ludic subversion against spectacular capitalism
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218 219

Revolution through the 1917 Russian Revolution to the May ‘68
Revolution. In successive reiterations, each of these spontaneous
outbursts of participatory democracy had been recuperated by
the cynical managers of spectacular domination. Every time, the
charismatic leader who’d personified this reassertion of hierarchical rule
was a skilful general: Bonaparte, Trotsky and de Gaulle. As evidenced
by the Bolsheviks’ brutal massacre of the 1921 Kronstadt Soviet,
these uniformed guardians of bourgeois order were quite capable of
employing the most extreme violence to achieve their nefarious goals.
In May ‘68, de Gaulle had also made sure that the French army was –
if necessary – willing to crush the insurrectionary movement by force.
However, it was his adoption of a more sophisticated strategy for the
Fordist epoch of spectacular warfare that would deliver victory for
Right. Instead of intimidating the French population into submission,
de Gaulle decided to hold fresh parliamentary elections. Crucially,
the ballot papers didn’t include the absolute rule of the workers’
councils. Given the stark choice between Gaullism and Stalinism, an
overwhelming majority of those who’d voted opted for the devil that
they knew. The Right had succeeded in maintaining its grip on state
power. Representational democracy had trumped direct democracy.
Distraught like the Austrians after the 1800 Marengo campaign, the
New Left now realised that de Gaulle had cunningly outmanoeuvred
them on the social battlefield. The May ‘68 French Revolution was

Having personally witnessed this debacle, Debord’s The Game of War
was a ludic warning that a new skilful general would almost inevitably
emerge to threaten the next outbreak of proletarian insurrection. As
we stressed at our performances, the players of his military simulation
were teaching themselves the Situationist history of 1789, 1917 and
1968 so that they could avoid making the same political mistakes as
the courageous fighters for these failed revolutions had done. Next
time, the Left must win. In the second stage of our campaign, Class
Wargames enthusiastically propagandised for this political utilisation of
The Game of War. Through our performances and publicity, Debord’s
seditious interpretation of the past was sent into ludic combat against

271 See Allan Priaulx, and Sanford Ungar, The Almost Revolution, pages 154–159; and
Patrick Seale, and Maureen McConville, French Revolution 1968, pages 214–229.

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218 219

the amnesiacs and fabricators of the integrated spectacle. But, in our
enthusiasm to engage the enemy, we were now also in danger of turning
into Situationist re-enactors ourselves. Like Dialectica Principia, Class
Wargames had become a bunch of May ‘68 geeks.

By the time that the 2011 Raylab launch took place, the political
weaknesses of this second phase of our campaign of ludic subversion
were no longer in doubt. Over the summer of that momentous year, a
spontaneous wave of mass protests had ousted the despicable dictators
of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya – and badly shaken all of the other corrupt
regimes in the Middle East: the Arab Spring. Across Europe, huge
numbers of people were now taking part in strikes, occupations and
demonstrations against the disastrous austerity policies imposed in the
wake of the global financial crisis. From Tunis and Cairo to Athens and
Madrid, the youthful activists who’d spearheaded these new improvised
movements of popular resistance were united in their scepticism about
the traditional structures of the Left.272 In the 2010s, the Situationist
revivalists of May ‘68 weren’t an anomaly. Like hobbyist wargamers
deciding to concentrate on refighting one particular historical period
of warfare, each of the rival factions of the Left was obsessed by its
own chosen moment of revolutionary valour from the last century.
Bolsheviks wanted to relive the storming of the Winter Palace in 1917
Petrograd. Anarchists dreamt of fighting fascism on the streets of
1936 Barcelona. Social Democrats took inspiration from the crowds
celebrating the election victory which would create the British welfare
state in 1945 London. Autonomists imagined themselves in the front
row of a rowdy demonstration of students and workers in 1977 Milan.
Trapped in the past, these political ideologues didn’t get the present
let alone the future. The Left was nothing more than a historical re-
enactment society.

For many young revolutionaries in 2011, the interactive capabilities of
the Net showed how politics should be conducted in the modern hi-tech
world. Everyone with a computer, tablet or mobile was now able to make
their own media. Empowered by these network technologies, people no
longer needed professional politicians to represent their views for them.

272 See TPTG, ‘The Rebellious Passage’; and Blaumachen and Friends, ‘The Rise of the

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