Open letter to Guy Antoine on Situationism

Although I no longer collaborate on Le Monde Libertaire, I do not like to see it denigrated by one who publishes in it, nor to see one avoid, with a perjorative intention, all allusions to libertarian action with regards to situationism, this new form of Baroque-ism.

Those who have taken the pains and the risks of founding Le Monde Libertaire are also young. They have known how to usefully understand the old militants who remain in the breach. If the young ones of the present can not support the diversity of opinions that was and remains the rule of the initiators, if the editors of a certain pamphlet,[1] published by the students of Strasbourg, believing that they can, on the subject of the A.F. [Anarchist Federation], take the liberty of imparting that "these people actually tolerate anything since they can tolerate each other," then no one prevents them from doing what we have done and proving their capacities in creating their own organ, instead of making problems.

The A.F., the Association that has permitted the purchase of the shop, the foundation of the bookstore and, at first, the newspaper, has been organized in such a fashion that all evolutions are possible in it. Evolutions, but not evictions or substitutions. I can specify this completely objectively because, practically, I am no longer completely on the path.

As far as sending me to the "sources" of situationism, as you have done,[2] this is ignorant of the fact that the debates in which I am constantly engaged, and in which I have had dealings with these specialists, oblige me to keep myself informed. Nevertheless, a pamphlet such as that by the young Strasbourgeois leads me to an affidavit. It is impossible for lads of your age to read the anarchist newspapers and pamphlets of the diverse tendencies that were abundant in the 1900s. Because of this, they can not pretend that they have discovered America. I have read the texts of the pamphlet in question (style, intentions and insults) dozens of times before 1914. Though they are lesser, the Provos replace the activists of direct action (without Vaillant, Henry and others). The beatniks are substituted for those individualists who would like to be asocial and, like them, return to the ranks at the age of twenty-five.

In what concerns the constructive part [of On the Poverty of Student Life], it is regretable that its authors do not know that, well before them, at the end of the other century, theoreticians of quality had elaborated it under different forms. If it is necessary to re-visit their theories, it is puerile to reinvent them and claim to give them lessons. These reduce down to the very old formula: "All power to the Workers' Councils." Previously, one said to the Republicans: "All power to those elected by the People." All this is so new and modern that, going back to Proudhon, I must say for the first time in a long time how much I mistrust powers, even those delegated by the people or by the workers, who have in fact freed themselves. This is only my opinion. It remains that the modernism of the situationists smells too much of patch-work for one to await their directives. Above all, the current conjuncture poses the problems of ability and responsibility for the responsible people who are not their own judges. At the level of the planetary mechanism, this requires a little more than bullshit.

You also tell me that libertarians have done nothing for culture. I will not tell you to read the catalogue of Publico but, since you believe that they were ignorant of "surrealism in its time," I will respond to you that at that time I was in good relations with Andre Breton and Robert Desnos. But, insofar as I was an anarchist, specifically, I was opposed to their inconsistencies, to their apology for the irrational while their anti-clericalism was virulent, to their taste for mystery while all mystery, according to etymology, supposes initiates, thus mystifiers. If it is true that these inconsistencies finally led an Andre Breton from communism to anarchism, others were drawn to Moscow or Rome when they did not desert. It is they who, alas! sank into asylums or committed suicide.

I have written in other libertarian publications that surrealism cleaned rationalism of its university crusts and gave the fighting spirit a style. Is this being uninterested in culture? But an anarchist culture is what it is, at the margins of knowledge, an involvement in the will for lucidity and a conscious contentment in the rigor of fact.

As for the modern world, understanding of it begins when someone among us turns twenty. This was the way it was in 1914. There has been a half-century of debates and physical age has nothing to do with it. As far as mental age, one knows and regrets that too many adolescents are a little retarded. On the other hand, Rutherford was 48 when he realized the first transmutation of the atom in 1919. This said, one only asks to exchange views on the becoming of anarchism, on anarchist activities that will cease to be anarchist if they are unified. Unification is the business of sects and parties. It isn't the business of a group of mutual aid and solidarity. As for individuals, nothing prohibits us from all kinds of participations as long as one acts at a point and doesn't mask oneself. It is thus that anarchists actually manifest themselves in the current world.

Among us, in the exchanges of concepts, the margin is wide and the modern materials too abundant to be of easy access. One must admit that, to speak with some sagacity, courtesy isn't superfluous. It is a prejudice like any other to hold vulgarity to be a form of emancipation. Since you are interested in culture, you will be in agreement on this point that the choice of words matters to both the ear and the spirit.

[1] On the Poverty of Student Life.

[2] See What is situationism?, published in Le Monde Libertaire #127, December 1966.

(Written by Charles-August Bontemps and published in Le Monde Libertaire #128, January 1967. Translated from the French and footnoted by NOT BORED! September 2005.)

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