Proofs of the Nonexistence of Censor
By His Creator

I. Phenomenological

In the last ten years, and taking into account all of the democratic countries, it seems to us that an intelligent censorship would only have had to ban three or four books in total. But it would have been necessary to make these books disappear absolutely, by every possible means (…) It should not be a matter of criticizing the authors of such books, but annihilating them (…) We must treat the authors of certain books as disturbers of the public peace, as harmful to our civilization, which they do not want to reform, but to destroy.

(Censor, Truthful Report)

Have you read The Trumpet of the Last Judgment Against Hegel, the Atheist and the Antichrist?[1] If you still do not know, I can tell you, under the seal of secrecy, that it is by Bauer[2] and Marx. I truly laughed wholeheartedly as I read it.

(G. Jung, letter to Arnold Ruge, December 1841)

Those who up until now regretted not knowing who the author of the Truthful Report was, will now regret what they know. Those who were so scandalized by the anonymity of Censor will now have reason to be even more scandalized. Those who praised Censor because they believed it would be good to be seen by a powerful person will no longer be proud of it. And those who until now have prudently preferred to keep quiet and only take a position after they knew the name of the author will have given the measure of everything that their opportunism (like the fearful hesitation that they believe makes a fortress when they are in a predicament) lets take place.

In 1841, under the guise of denouncing Hegel as an atheist, Marx and Bauer wrote and published an anonymous pamphlet that was in fact directed against the Hegelian right-wing but that, due to its tone and style, appeared to come from the metaphysical extreme-right of the time. In reality, the pamphlet showed all the menacing revolutionary traits of which the Hegelian dialectic was the bearer in that period, and it was thus the first document that established the death of metaphysics and the “destruction of all the State’s laws” that was the consequence.

Today, it is no longer a matter of demonstrating the atheistic and revolutionary character of the Hegelian dialectic, but a matter of knowing if there exists in the dominant class a strategic thought that is capable of conceiving the prospects for capitalism. I have proved that this thought does not exist. I used the following method. If class power today possesses a thought and a project that deals with the preservation of the dominant order, although they are translated into practice with the misfortunes that we see all around us, what would these things be? Everyone has been able to ascertain that, on every occasion they speak, the representatives of power never say anything that is serious, not even about the affairs that concern them the most. And so one wonders, What do they say to each other when they are far away from the public’s eyes and ears?

Thus, in August [1975], under the pseudonym of Censor, I wrote and published 520 copies of the subsequently famous pamphlet Truthful Report on the Last Chances to Save Capitalism in Italy. This pamphlet was sent to government ministers, members of parliament, industrialists, union leaders and the journalists who are the most respected by public opinion. This Truthful Report immediately aroused great interest and a vast discussion that still continues today.

But on one point, at least, everyone was unanimous, because everyone believed that Censor existed, and they ventured to recognize him in this or that person from the economic or political worlds (everyone from Guido Carli to Cesare Merzagora, from Giovanni Malagodi to Raffaele Mattioli himself, who according to some journalists directed “Operation Censor” from beyond the grave).

All of them were deceived: Censor does not exist. And although his world still exists, the class that he represents no longer has the strength to produce a bourgeois of such lucidity and cynicism. Giorgio Bocca wrote: “Here’s what makes Censor’s pamphlet so exceptionally valuable in certain respects: it is one of the rare, extremely rare examples of right-wing culture that doesn’t exist among us or doesn’t have the courage to manifest itself.” Attributing the Truthful Report to Merzagora, Enzo Magri wrote that, “it is assuredly the most cynical politico-economic diagnosis that has ever been made in Italy (…) The logic is made of iron, forceful. Censor’s rigorous and pitiless analysis leaves no room for any doubts.

Despite the lucid cynicism of Censor, or perhaps precisely because of it, bankers and financiers have greeted my pamphlet with interest. A good number of government ministers, parliamentary representatives and upper-level State functionaries have courteously thanked its first publisher. Some journalists have not managed to hide their admiration, nor even their stupefaction, because the truth is one of the rare things that is capable of causing them to be surprised and spiteful, but also because Censor, in a single blow, destroyed the house of lies that they had patiently but maladroitly constructed over the course of the last few years – on the crucial question of the bombs of 1969, for example. But how could one pretend that the journalists who were incapable of understanding from whence came the Truthful Report could, on the other hand, be capable of understanding what has been happening in this country for years? Or from whence came the bombs of 12 December 1969?

All the same, Giorgio Bocca honestly recognized that “this book says more true and terrible things about the hot autumn and the black conspiracies than all of the revolutionary literature,” but by saying so he implicitly admits that he does not know the truly revolutionary publications, because, on 19 December 1969,[3] exactly one week later, I published the truth about the bombs of 12 December.

More irritated than all the others, poor Massimo Rira noted in the columns of the Corriere della Sera that “this influential person lets it be clear that he knows important particular facts that reinforce the thesis of a ‘State massacre,’” and, with consternation, he lets fly a cry of the heart: “How can we not see a sign of the decadence of the [State’s] institutions in this inability [to keep quiet] by those who are committed to serve them in silence?” Enzo Magri adds: “The anonymous author supports the thesis of a ‘State massacre.’ And the logic is made of iron, forceful.” The predicament (sometimes noisy, sometimes silent) into which the book has plunged the Italian ruling class and all the political parties is complete and distressing. In the case of “Operation Censor,” there is no doubt that the owners of the social spectacle have, in their turn, been the victims of appearances.

Here are a few other examples of this “phenomenology of error.”

“Censor (…) is an enlightened and well-bred conservative, a great tutor of the bourgeoisie, a delegate of private capital (…) Reading this book, we can divine many things concerning Censor’s identity.” (Carlo Rossella, Panorama)

“This pamphlet is certainly a beneficial provocation, an ‘Enough!’ declared to progressive unction (…) An authentic event, a novelty in which we must rejoice, in the name of culture, even if we aren’t in agreement.” (Europa Domani)

“Who is Censor? (…) His liberal philosophy, his penchant for contempt and reprimanding the politicians, as well as the haughty character of a great bourgeois possessing a very vast experience in the economic domain, emanate from every page of his writing.” (Enzo Magri, L’Europeo)

“Censor made his Truthful Report known in the worst conditions: [only] 520 copies in all, published by a first-time editor, and distributed in the middle of August. And yet its success was immediate. Perhaps because the thesis of the author appeared suggestive to many.” (L’Espresso)

“Despite his ‘conservatism,’ Censor casts a benevolent eye upon the Communists and the historic compromise, believing that these new political stabilizers will serve to keep capitalism standing.” (Corriere d’Informazione)

“Published a few months ago in a numbered edition, this lampoon was immediately reprinted in a commercial edition. But it is both just and unjust, because it is both rare and precious, and thus unusual in publishing; on the other hand, it is exemplary, like a model that merits being proposed to a much larger audience (…) Censor constitutes a political party all by himself: he could be the true gentleman of old minting whose cultural tastes and economic interests are combined in his life, but always safeguarding his decency of life and thought, with a style of comportment and a morality that are true.” (Vittorio Gorresio, La Stampa)

“Reading [it] reveals a conservative of vast and very refined culture (…) We would like to know more: we would like to have proof of everything that this anonymous person claims. And, until then, we believe that Censor himself has a debt to pay to public opinion: to help it obtain the proof; to speak clear to the bottom without limiting himself to throwing a paving stone into the pool.” (Gianna Mazzaleni, Il Resto del Carlino)

II. Ontological

Today, the first duty of the press is to undermine the bases of the established political order.

(Karl Marx, New Rhineland Gazette, 14 February 1849)

I think of our life in Cologne with pleasure! We are not compromised. That is the essential thing! Ever since Frederick the Great, no one has treated the roguish German people like the New Rhineland Gazette.

(Georg Weerth, letter to Marx, 28 April 1851)

Naturally, Marx and Bauer’s anonymous pamphlet created a scandal, but after a few weeks its “rightist” provenance was placed in doubt, and its authors’ subversive imposture appeared in all its menacing reality. A century and a half later, six months has not been sufficient for Italy to perceive Censor’s nonexistence and thus his personal emancipation from metaphysics.

Just as Saint Anselm[4] claimed to provide ontological proof of the existence of God by considering that, if a Being of infinite perfection was conceivable, then it was not inconceivable that this Being could fail to have the fundamental attribute of existence. In the same way, but a millennium later, the Italian bourgeoisie candidly believed that a bourgeois as perfect as Censor – since he had all the qualities that it lacked (sincerity, rationality, culture, etc.) – could not fail to have the attribute of existence and, due to that attribute, could contribute to the bourgeoisie’s salvation.

Why did our decadent bourgeois so easily believe in the existence of an ally such as Censor? It is quite simple. They believed in it because they needed to. And yet, in the words of Vittorio Gorresio, “the only person who could possibly identify the author of the Truthful Report was Raffaele Mattioli, who has unfortunately disappeared.” But if conceiving of a bourgeois like Censor obligated the bourgeois to invent him, this is the best proof of the fact that, in our ruling class, there exists no one who can flatter himself with having the qualities that it would like to attribute to Censor.

If we can now, retrospectively, be astonished that, for so many months, none of the people who wrote about Censor publicly expressed any doubts about his existence, it is less surprising to see that many “progressive” bourgeois and a part of the non-Stalinist Left applauded the Truthful Report “despite [its author] being a rightist or precisely because he is a rightist,” as Giorgio Bocca said. In any case, Censor belonged to a right wing that did not appear more cynical than it really was, but that assuredly spoke more cynically than it had ever dared to before. It is in fact sufficient to consider the appalling extremism that the Italian bourgeoisie in its current disarray has accepted and even admired, if one wants to understand the full magnitude of that disarray. Thus, it is worth quoting here several passages from the Truthful Report that provide its exact measure.

“Thus we do not seek to prove that contemporary society is desirable (…) We say that this society suits us because it exists and we want to maintain it to maintain our power over it.” (Preface)

“Today, from the point of view of the defense of our society, there only exists a single danger in the world, and it is that the workers succeed in speaking to each other about their conditions and aspirations without any intermediaries. All the other dangers are attached to, or even proceed directly from, the precarious situation that places before us this primary problem, which in many respects is concealed and unacknowledged.” (Preface)

“(…) we will lose all of our reasons for managing a world in which our objective advantages have been suppressed (…) Capitalists must not forget that they are also human beings, and as such they cannot accept the uncontrolled degradation of all human beings and thus the personal conditions of life that they especially enjoy.” (Preface)

“All of the historically dominant forms of society have been imposed on the masses, who quite simply must be made to work, either by force or by illusion. The greatest success of our modern civilization is that it has been able to place an incomparable power of illusion at the service of its leaders.” (Chapter I)

“This society produces more and more things to watch. Some people have asked us, moved by perfectly irrelevant sentimentality: ‘Must we also love this society?’” (Chapter I)

“Our workers have in no way decided upon what they produce. And this is quite fortunate, because we might wonder what they would decide to produce, given what they are. It is quite sure, whatever the infinite variety of conceivable responses, that a single truth would be constant: they would assuredly not produce anything suitable for the society that we manage.” (Chapter I)

“Because one must be able to choose between two equivalent commodities, one must also be able to choose between two representatives.” (Chapter I)

“Of those minds and hearts that have become discouraged because, for the last ten years, they have taken the end of the troubles of a particular time for the end of the time of troubles, we ask, ‘Must we be resigned to the idea that any certainty that has been triumphantly conquered will be ceaselessly put into question, and is the crisis in society destined to always last?’ We will respond coldly, ‘Yes.’ (…) Our world is not made for the workers, nor for the other strata of impoverished salaried workers whom our reasoning must place in the simple category ‘proletarian.’ But every day our world must be made by them, under our command. This is the fundamental contradiction with which we must live.” (Chapter I)

“And precisely because we dare to admit that the Italian workers, who have taken the offensive in the social war, are our enemies, we know that the Communist Party is our support.” (Chapter VI)

“Because we should not forget for an instant that the workers, at least when they work and do not revolt, are the most useful reality in the world and merit our respect, for in a certain way they (under our well-informed direction) produce our wealth, i.e., our power.” (Chapter VII)

“Henceforth we must know that the abundance of fabricated objects demands (with ever-greater urgency) the setting up of a [true] elite, one that precisely shelters itself from such abundance and keeps for itself the little that is really precious (…) The law that dominates here is, of course, that everything that we distribute to the poor can never be anything other than poverty: cars that cannot circulate because there are too many of them; salaries paid in inflated money; meat from livestock fattened up in several weeks by chemical feed, etc.” (Chapter VII)

“We (…) designate the Republic of Venice as our model of a qualitative society (…) Venice had the best ruling class in history: no one resisted it, nor purported to demand an accounting from it (…) Venice was terrorism tempered with happiness, the happiness of each person in his proper place.” (Chapter VII)

We could continue to quote many other truths contained in the Truthful Report. These are such simple truths, moreover, that anyone would be obligated to admit them, once they have been spoken aloud, but they are such atrocious truths that, until now, no leader has wanted to do so: these are the truths of this world, and if they are not pleasing, it is this world that we must transform. And since no one among all those who wrote long articles on Censor protested against any of these atrocities, all these excellent bastards – in accordance with the principle he who says nothing, consents – have accepted them.[5] We must remember this.

If the virtuous admirers of Censor had been intelligent, they would have immediately realized that such a pamphlet could only have been written from the point of view of the social revolution (cui prodest?[6]), and if they had been unintelligent, but less deficient and less desperate, they would at least have concluded that Censor, as a bourgeois, was quite imprudent and completely unrealistic, since his central project of reconstituting a ruling elite worthy of the name is quite obviously the most impossible utopia. “Operation Censor,” and the unlimited stupidity that it revealed,[7] have shown this in the purest experimental light to anyone who by chance had nourished the slightest illusion on the subject. But all these naïve spokesmen for decadence, upon hearing about an elite, already dreamed that they were a part of it.

III. Historical

In the hospitality of war
We left them their dead as a gift
To remember us by.

(Archilochus, Fragments)

There are times in which one can only dispense contempt sparingly, because of the large number of people who need to receive it.

(Chateaubriand, Memoirs from Beyond the Grave)

One should not believe that I was motivated by a particular hostility to Italy: I am an internationalist.[8]

What did I propose to do by writing such a book and inventing such a person? I proposed to harm Italian capitalism, which is the weakest and most stupid element of class domination in the world, and, more particularly, to harm all those who are engaged in the unfortunate enterprise of rescuing it: the neo-capitalist bourgeoisie and the so-called Communist Party.

Who could be served by such a Truthful Report? This is something that no one wondered. As the article devoted to the pamphlet in Il Borghese showed, it could only harm the Right. For the Christian Democrats and the other bourgeois governing parties, “Operation Censor” has been even more unfortunate than their enormous errors and brazen provocations because the Truthful Report definitively denounced them. For the Stalinist-bureaucratic Left, my pamphlet has been more harmful than a hundred wildcat strikes because it irrefutably demonstrates what the Left’s real goals are in Italy today. The enforced silence with which only the press organs of the Italian Communist Party – otherwise so docile in publishing the directives from the Minister of the Interior – have greeted my book is the best proof of this.

In reality, all the political parties have suffered from its publication, because they are all each other’s accomplices. But with this operation, the poor Italian State, which has spared us nothing in these last few years – bombs and assassinations that can no longer be counted, although ever since 1969 the workers and almost the entire population have been continuously provoked, deceived and insulted by these crimes, which the bourgeoisie has applauded and about which the Stalinists have cordially kept silent – this State of provocateurs has finally been provoked in its turn.

In the Truthful Report, there are not only truths, truths that capitalist thought not only does not have the courage to say, but also does not even have the strength to think. Thus, we must wonder: Who does the truth harm? And, Who benefits from the truth? In human history, the truth has always been Public Enemy Number 1 for all power and the principal ally of those who are exploited. And the Stalinists know these facts better than anyone, because, more than anyone else, they have made a specialty of combatting them, in Russia and elsewhere.

What did I want to prove by publishing this pamphlet? Above all, I wanted to prove that the card of the “historic compromise” is the card of the least-backwards capitalism, the one that has enough intelligence to have understood that the so-called Communist Party and the union bureaucracies are its best allies in the permanent social confrontation in which it is opposed to the workers, and this I did not want to demonstrate to the capitalists, who know it all too well due to their experiences, but to the workers. The fact that the bourgeois have taken quite seriously the proposition advanced by Censor that they should conclude the “historic compromise” without any further ado demonstrates the fact that they think that the compromise must in fact be made. “Censor is serious,” L’Europeo wrote, “so serious that his pamphlet can certainly be considered as a real and authentic manifesto of the Italian political and economic right wing.” “One immediately understands,” Il Giorno wrote, “that Censor is serious, and doesn’t get lost in the hypocrisies or the bowing and scraping [les salamalecs].”

On the other hand, I wanted to prove that the party of social revolution can understand the party of Stalinist-bureaucratic reaction much better than reaction is capable of understanding itself, and I have [also] proved that the party of reaction can neither understand nor simply recognize the party of revolution, even when it comes forth to do battle.

What the Italian workers are in the process of learning is quite simply what their Portuguese comrades have just learned, what the French revolutionary workers understood in 1968, and what the Russian and Czechoslovakian proletariats (exploited as they are by the vile bureaucratic capitalism that dominates those countries) have always understood: the so-called Communist bureaucrats and unions are not at all disposed to accept the abolition of the capitalist exploitation of work in any country in the world. And in Italy, in particular, they are the best servants of our disastrous capitalism, to which they offer their services to spare it from bankruptcy.

In the decline and fall of Italian capitalism, Censor is nothing other than the reverse image, as in a mirror, of the Italian bourgeoisie, and the lucid extremism of this nonexistent bourgeois shows the extent and depth of the revolutionary current that invented him. The difference between the two is that, while this revolutionary current exists, Censor does not.

The Ministers of the Interior in all the countries, just like the bureaucrats of the so-called Communist parties, feel the same impotent anger about the reappearance of the modern revolutionary movement. In Italy, where the Italian Communist Party hopes to use class struggle as a way of participating in the management of power, and desperately seeks its opportunity, this anger can only be even greater than elsewhere. Because at this point, if revolutionaries can already harm power, which on its own greatly harms itself[, then power is in real trouble]. Look at Portugal: for a year and a half, we have prevented any governmental power from really constituting itself there. The “historic compromise,” that Holy Alliance between the bourgeois and Stalinist bureaucrats, which one today proposes to introduce in Italy, has already reigned in Portugal since 24 April 1974: it reigns but it does not govern. Pitiful result, ridiculous failure!

What do I want to see happen? The triumph of my party, naturally. And my party is the party of the autonomous organization of workers’ assemblies that assume all the powers of decision-making and execution. It is the party of revolutionary workers’ councils, the delegates to which are revocable at any moment by the base; the only party that fights all the bourgeois and bureaucratic ruling classes everywhere; the party that, every time it manifests itself, undertakes to realize the abolition of all classes and the State, salaried work and the commodity, and their entire spectacle. And I will never serve any other.

December 1975

[1] Author’s note: Die Posaune des Juegsten Gerichts ueber Hegel den Atheisten und Antichristen: Ein Ultimatum (Leipzig, 1841).

[2] Bruno Bauer (1809-1882) was a philosopher, historian and theologian. Nine years older than Karl Marx, he studied with Hegel, who died in 1831.

[3] Author’s note: “Is the Reichstag Burning?” (Milan). [Translator: written by Eduardo Rothe and Puni Cesoni, and issued in the name of the Italian section of the Situationist International, of which Sanguinetti was a member.]

[4] Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) was the author of the Proslogion (“The Discourse on the Existence of God”).

[5] Author’s note: These bourgeois and these journalists, who preferred to be scandalized by Censor’s anonymity rather than the truths contained in his Truthful Report, are in fact the same people who, until now, have not shown the least qualms about committing or covering up the crimes and monstrous errors of power, of which cynical Censor, had he existed, would have been ashamed. The nonexistence of Censor, so obvious to anyone who read my pamphlet with a grain of salt, but which no one imagined for so long, thus definitively proves the nonexistence of Italy’s political personnel, bourgeois intellectuals and bureaucrats. We knew that the majority of our journalists do not know how to write; now we know that they do not know how to read. No contemporary event has shown these people to be so stupid, and since it is not possible that the Italians themselves are equally so, this is the best proof of the stupidity of the others who speak in their place, and thus the Italian proletariat must take its affairs directly into its own hands, so as to not leave for an instant more the monopoly of its government and its words to imbeciles of such appalling incompetence.

[6] Latin for “Who benefits?”

[7] Author’s note: I would like to make clear that I did not lower myself by using subtlety to deceive the “qualified” public to which I sent the Truthful Report. Anyone with an average level of culture would have immediately and very easily recognized that, for example, the letter attributed to Louis XVIII is in fact a very well-known literary fake written by Paul-Louis Courier; the letter attributed to a Russian diplomat is a very recognizable passage from a well-known work by Nietzsche; there are long détournements of Tocqueville, and an entire page of the Report was taken from The Real Split in the International (Paris: Editions Champ Libre, 1972); or a thousand other obvious flippancies. The last phrase of the Truthful Report, in itself, is a properly Swiftian enormity. And yet no one noticed any of this and drew the only possible conclusion.

[8] Author’s note: If something can console the Italian intellectuals and politicians for having proved their incompetence, it might be the consideration that, in this case, their police are even worse. Some time before giving the manuscript of the Truthful Report to the printer, I was released from prison, where I had been thrown, in March 1975, on the extravagant charge of possessing a stockpile of weapons of war, a stockpile whose ghostly existence had never been found except in the completely fantastic enunciation of the accusation against me. This arbitrary act at least allowed the police to conduct four successive searches of both of my residences, and the ones who were in charge found nothing of note in the manuscript, then partially completed, which they read with indiscrete stupidity. At the time, a directive from the Minister of the Interior had orchestrated (in almost every newspaper, including the Stalinist ones and those published by their Leftist imitators) a campaign of calumnies that presented the Situationist International as the hidden power – simultaneously anarchist and fascist – that was organizing terrorism in all of Italy. I am honored to have been a member of the SI, which, by completely different means than terrorism, had unleashed into the world a more authentic and vaster subversion. But it turns out that the SI was dissolved in 1972, due to the very fact of the success of its historical operation, and this dissolution took place at the very moment that the SI had promised to do it: “We will dissolve into the population” (Internationale Situationniste #7, April 1962). Moreover, I personally co-signed the act of dissolution with Guy Debord, the author of the well-known book The Society of the Spectacle in April 1972 (cf. The Real Split in the International). Thus it was perfectly vain to mount such police machinations an entire historical period too late! If they absolutely want to find the situationist critique at work today, they should seek it in the factories held by revolutionaries in Portugal.