from Guy Debord

To the Italian section of the SI
10 April [19]69
Dear friends:

Your translation of [The Society of the] Spectacle is already here, and it seems magnificent to me. At the same time, I find out how lamentable the edition by De Donato is!

I do not have the time to write explanatory notes. You yourselves should write a quick introduction to mark the context of this book, relative to its publication in France and its stupid first Italian version. (For the epigraph, specify that it is from the Versailles inquest into the Paris Commune.) This evening, I will write to you at length on all the other subjects.

I have distributed here [see below] all of my remarks according to the pages on which they appear (following the pagination of your manuscript). It is very possible that several of these remarks are useless: I do have at hand a good Italian-French dictionary.

See you soon,

Page 1

-- Indicate in your introduction the monstrous mistranslation of the first lines of thesis 73 in the De Donato edition. With the result that this chapter begins "so well" that every reader will admit that your new translation was necessary!

-- In the last line of this page, does one understand well "e che esiste come coscienza del suo gioco"? Does one see sufficiently well that the (grammatical) subject is "il vivente"? -- e anche finalmente il soggetto storico!

Page 2

-- Line 12 -- "nel suo costituirsi da se stesso nel divenire storico." No. It is Hegel who constitutes himself at the end of history, since he gives (as the author of a system) the meaning of history, at the same time that he affirms that this meaning can only be found when history has been completed. This is the comic aspect of Hegel, which comes from a general tragedy of the bourgeois revolution.

Page 3

-- Line 4 -- Not "chiuse la sessione" but, I believe, chiusa ("bisogna di supporre conclusa . . . e chiusa la sessione").

-- Thesis 77 -- Not "che non ha [il proletariato] dimenticato. . . ." E il pensiero della storia che non s'e dimenticato (stesso). Here, I play upon Hegelian terminology, in keeping "thought" as a subject. Hegel says somewhere: "Sometimes, it seems that the Spirit forgets itself."

-- Beginning of thesis 78 -- "salvarsi." Here, perhaps, I prefer the passive form (to be saved) because the subject has now clearly become historically concrete (the practice of the proletariat).

Page 4

-- Line 2 -- Not "il partito," but, rather, "taking sides" (= the fact of taking sides)?

-- Line 13 -- "incontro a se stesso" = in going toward itself? Here, "encounter" doesn't have the sense -- military -- of clash, but the sense of "to meet again."

-- Line 15 -- "non ha piu una fina." I do not know if it is necessary to write "una." I have played upon the word "end," in its two senses. There isn't end (termination) of history, and there isn't exterior finality, above it.

Page 5

-- Last line -- "dimonstra." No, but to the contrary: "is well demonstrated by . . . "

Page 10

-- Next to last line -- "innalzare i propi colori." This is a allusion to the feudal expression "carry someone's colors." In 19th century terms, the equivalent would be "hoisting his proper flags."

Page 13

-- Line 5 -- "la polemica . . . era duplice"? Era solamente doppia (non voglio qui evocare la duplicita).

Page 16

-- Line 5 -- "certamente il piu avanzato." I believe that it must more strongly indicate "the most advanced that ever was" ( = that one has seen up until now in history). It seems to me that "certamente" weakens the declaration.

Page 18

I believe that you have badly understood the meaning of the phrases translated in lines 9, 10 and 11.

It can be said this way: the socialists want "to acquire" (I said, ironically, to inherit, in the sense of fortunately winning the lottery) the revolution in "legitimate" conditions only; and that the legitimate conditions for them (according to the laws of their partial science) can only be the final crisis of the capitalist economy. If nothing "forces their hand" (= obliges them to act as socialist power), they "honestly" refuse all idea of making a revolution. At the same time, they can pretend that the attempt [to make a revolution] would be a criminal and anti-scientific madness.

According to his "scientific" and relatively truer observation, Bernstein[1] says (subjectively delighting himself) that this obligation will not present itself.

Page 19

-- Line 4 -- "da parte sua conduceva." No, but: "reformist practice manages against this" (= reformist practice which was for the Second International -- everywhere except in Russia -- the counterpart, the other pan in the balancing scale -- the water of the real reformism that "equilibriated" the wine of pure revolutionary ideology affirmed by "orthodox Marxism").

Page 22

-- Line 13 -- "i burocrati dell'ala estremista." It is necessary to say clearly: "Leftists." Otherwise, one can believe that they are extremists of bureaucratic power (like Trotsky at that precise era).

-- Afterwards, does one understand in "qui o la con un fucile" that "la" (in French, "over there," that is to say, "in the distance") means "with the rebels at Kronstadt"? And that [Lenin's remark] "we have had enough" means: "the opposition is ended! We henceforth refuse the least amount of opposition"?

-- "Essa dava per scontato"? "It anticipates" simply means "it hopes for them, it calculates."

Page 23

-- Line 12 -- "che si indebolisce." I do not believe that. It isn't a question of saying here that private property "weakens itself," but that it finds itself incapable, still too weak, too undeveloped (below its task) to assure the economic growth of the backwards countries; this in the framework of the global market. And, on the contrary, the degree of bureaucratization developed by the bourgeois society of the modern countries reinforces private property.

Page 25

-- Next to last line -- "the Itself of its subjects make it contrast" is different (with the least sense of "political opposition") from your translation: "of its subjects that are opposed to it."

It is a question of a quotation from Hegel, in the Phenomenology, on the Roman emperors. Perhaps it is the already-known Italian translation of this book that you have reprised here?

Page 34

-- Concerning thesis 115 -- note well, in your introduction, that this book was published in 1967. Since the occupations movement in France [May 1968], we have manifestly surpassed the beginning of isolated revolt "under the aspect of criminality."

-- Line 11 -- "i figli dispersi." No. In old military language (at least from the 16th to the 19th centuries), the expression "lost children" means "advance scouts," the first soldiers sent ahead in extreme avant-garde. This was also the name of one of the fighting bands of the Paris Commune.

I even believe that the expression exists in Italian (and even perhaps comes from the Italian?). "Fanciulli perduti"??

Page 37

-- Thesis 123 -- "che gli operai diventino dialettici." It is a question of saying that they [the workers] become dialecticians (not dialectics). The form is intentionally strong. For example: history is dialectic; Hegel is a dialectician.

There it is. That's all. Again, bravo!

[1] Eduard Bernstein, German Social-Democrat theoretician (Theoretical Socialism and Practical Social-Democracy, 1899).

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 4, 1969-1972. Footnote by Alice Debord. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! June 2005.)

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