from Guy Debord

To Paolo Salvadori
11 December [19]84
Dear Paolo:

I have just received your long letter of 26 June [1984]. As you imagine, I am greatly occupied. In your letter, which I read very attentively, I must say that I have not found an immediately applicable practical orientation. Nevertheless, the majority of the points of your analysis are very pertinent, quite exact or strongly probable. It is possible that the totality will find itself being the truth. Thus, rather than weigh or nuance the great number of your observations that naturally have my agreeement, I would like now to perfect your information on several details that are not without importance, and to evoke a little more widely the general situation: that is to say, the one which we encounter, rather than the one that it would be simpler to encounter and settle.

The most fragile point of your thesis resides in the fact that anyone who decided to assassinate Gerard [Lebovici][1] for reasons of private interests or a personal hate that is more or less demented, could certainly calculate in advance that we would be obliged to follow the reasoning that you have exposed; and that we can obviously not draw it aside as the only logic. But, at the risk of deceiving oneself, to choose this thesis as the only force of socio-historical reasoning is to exonerate all other possible guilty parties. I thought that the momentary silence on the positive question of the guilty parties would be more menacing; and it actually is menacing. Thus one would say that we are in for a long war.

You have very quickly seen, around this crime, that the whole affair and the modus operandi itself are impregnated with an atmosphere of personal betrayal, ambush, the absence of any form of false explication, and I even dare to say the apparent limitation of the means (although direct and brazen); all things that are hardly in the current style of the States. There is in it a kind of curious "unreadability," because the State always wants to be a pedagogue: from the "death squads" of Brazil and Poland to the great Italian operations of Potere due.[2]

It is necessary to distinguish the crime itself (perhaps envisioned [observe] in advance and in a certain fashion "blessed" by the interested authorities) and its "normal" political exploitation, today and in the future. Up to the present, and it has already been nine months, it is necessary to recognize that this police exploitation has remained very moderate, almost indiscernible. One has ordered into action our "Red Brigades"[3] (id est "Direct Action"), then stationed in Brussels, several days after the assassination, and not before. I believe that the misadventure of Genthial[4] is tied to disagreements over the exploitation of the crime, rather than its execution. As far as the exploitation by the press, its own authentic hate for me, historical thought, May [19]68, etc. has no need of being commanded by the police. One has obviously made use of certain police sources where I am concerned. But here again it is necessary to note that no more serious or more recent dossier has been confided to the press, which is content with ridiculous counter-truths or old banalities that are without consequences. Reflect an instant on what could have been a more resolved and methodical exploitation. Fuck![5]

Moreover, although I feel the uncertain and ephemeral character of this last declaration, I am still alive. Whence comes this failure? I nevertheless took some experimental risks last summer in Champot, without even seeming to come close to being a suspect. Inversely, an assassination that, from now on, can not put an end to my scandalous anti-career, can not "scientifically" prove that Gerard was himself the victim of a political assassination. The new crime can, on the one hand, make itself part of the exploitation, because it is rendered easier and more desirable by the first crime, and because of the strange reactions of what used to be called "public opinion." On the other hand, that can be decided by Gerard's assassins, whoever they are: for the simple reason that they know that they are themselves in great danger as long as I live, with my suspicions.

There is something of a misunderstanding when you are surprised that, "in the family, one is somewhat ignorant of Gerard." Nothing of the sort. Gerard's cinematographic affairs were absolutely not suspicious. And Floriana [Lebovici] was quite regularly up-to-date on everything that was going on. Naturally, not having directly participated in certain, perhaps delicate negotiations or decisions, she was only informed about them second-hand. It is the situation evoked by Balthazar Gracian when he writes: "Life takes place almost everywhere to inform itself. We live in the faith of others." It goes without saying that I, in this domain, am even further away from any possibility of direct verification. With a single exception, the professionals of the cinema have kept a frightened and ignominious silence. If, for example, someone knew something of the machinations of the malavita[6] that had begun to manifest itself in this sector, I am sure that he would not say it to Floriana. It isn't exaggerated to say that we, "the family," are considered with much scorn and antipathy, and even with a fear that is perhaps sincere.

On the contrary, I can absolutely exclude the hypothesis according to which Gerard had prepared a "Strasbourg-like coup"[7] for the cinema. Moreover, the situation of Champ Libre, extremely marginalized for seven or eight years, can be more justly compared to a unshakeable fortress, blocked and besieged, rather than an invasion manoeuvre with rapid and fearsome blows.

I think that the time has past to eloquently exhort me to feel the menacing and offensive character, notably for me, of the assassination of Gerard. I understood it immediately, by strategy as much by normal sensibility. I have passed the last 32 years surrounded by diverse menaces, and you know that I have little borne them in mind. (Naturally, I have instead held as praise all the coarse reproaches of the enemy and several renegades, and I account as nothing the arbitrary insults that I have heard in the environment of certain bistrot brawls.) In any case, as I find the possibility that the assassins didn't know of my existence highly unlikely, I obviously hope to make them discover that they were wrong to take the risk.

It is actually very bitter to have easily understood why [Aldo] Moro and others have been assassinated, and to be unable to conclude with the same certainty when one killed Gerard, in some way at my door. But the other times I never divined, nor found, a univocal response by a simple application of theory. Each time I used the faults and patent impossibilities in the explications that had been advanced by those responsible among the enemy. But in this affair, leaving aside the irresponsible, parodic commentaries of the journalists of the moment, one only encounters complete silence.

Either the crime of State this time inaugurates a new style (and, if that is the case, one will often see this particular [form of] modernism elsewhere), or it is a question, at the origin, of a private operation, for private interests (or illusions of interests). I still can not respond to this alternative, although I am carried to imagine a certain conjunction between the two, a kind of two-triggered system.

It seems to me that you have a tendency to see -- and to imagine that all the others have seen it -- Gerard's activity as permanently participating in a kind of "situationist conspiracy." Here you are wrong about the dates, but not on Gerard's personality. His qualities were so great that I estimate it very probable that, if we had met five or ten years earlier, he would have become a situ, and assuredly he would have been one of the best. But it is a fact that at the moment that I met Gerard, the SI had ended. You know how and why. Thus I do not have the intentions, the possibility, nor the right to involve someone in this genre of engagements from another period. For three years, I have explained to several comrades from Spain that all of my relations with Champ Libre were exactly defined in my letter to Jaime Semprun dated December 1976 (Editions Champ Libre: Correspondance, vol. 1); and that all remained the same, with the single but important difference that we became, him and I, better and better friends. We spoke at length about practically everything, with sincerity and pleasure. But there are two or three things, to my eyes quite secondary, of which we never spoke, or hardly ever; my fault, no doubt. At the first rank, questions about the cinematographic business. I have regretted this a little, after the crime. That is to say, in the same way that I absolutely did not have to report to Gerard, he obviously didn't have anything to report to me. Quite distinct from the relationships that you saw in the SI, and with which I am quite glad to be done, after having seen them lived for more than twenty years, because the last years have been heavy.

Thus the rumor according to which Gerard had "yielded" to me Editions Champ Libre is thus a pure Stalinist calumny (everyone knows well that it is Floriana who has been occupied with it since the beginning). It is also false to alledge that Gerard had "offered" to me a movie theatre in the Latin Quarter. He only bought a theatre[8] so as to show my films, and I wanted to break this off after his death, before all, because the public henceforth no longer appears to me to merit being able to see them. It was truly a gift, but of another kind: it was a little like he had bought a restaurant, simply so that I could eat in it a suitable cuisine when I happened to spend several days in the vile Paris of today. That is to say, it was a violent response to an abnormal situation to which everyone is accomodated. Such a freedom of spirit no doubt created lots of hate among the envious [and] ignorant.

What has, from the beginning, the most determined my obligation of reserve concerning Champ Libre, despite the initial cordiality of our personal relations, has been the fact that, at the place, there were a number of former situs of whom I didn't think anything good. And I didn't want to say a single word that might injure the ex-comrades in the vicinity of someone whom they wanted to make their employer (inversely, I don't know Guegan and the others at all, and this is why I never said anything before their maladroit attempt to stage a putsch, swept out so easily by Gerard). Several years later, Gerard spoke to me of his brief encounters with [Rene] Vienet, [Raoul] Vaneigem, [Mustapha] Khayati (a little longer with [Jean-Pierre] Voyer). And he judged them by himself as upstarts without means, without dignity, without prestige. Then we laughed together.

It is true that I can't imagine that Gerard, being who he was, would have refused me anything. But it is also quite true that I almost never asked him. What more could I have asked for?

For years, in another atmosphere and for other reasons, I remained conspicuously far from the efforts of Editions Champ Libre, which surely had no need of me. The fact that all this, coming in another epoch and managed, whatever they say, by other people, so little resembled the SI, is exactly what has shown historically, in a finally incontestible manner, that it was the continuation of the SI ("counter-signed by universal and general hatred"). Moreover, I will change my politics on this subject. Now that one assassinates it, I will propose to figure more in the catalogue, as soon as possible.

What to do to subsequently clarify the crime itself? Beyond divserse punctual investigations, from which one can no doubt expect something, I propose the following method: wait to certify what has changed (for Editions Champ Libre or others). Because one didn't kill a man like Gerard without precise intentions. What has actually changed will give the cui prodest.[9] And here, the guilty can only attract the thunderbolt, because this method prevents them from hoping to always dissimulate themselves. So far, one still hasn't seen the change, but one will see it.

Several friends from the past have made contact with me. At first, I have not wanted that they should vainly compromise themselves tra la perduta gente,[10] since we still do not know where it is necessary to strike.

You must read [Lebovici's] Everything about the Personage. Nothing very decisive, but certainly a beautiful presentation of the social surface which engendered (which must engender?) the crime. I believe that many people who figure in it do not like it.

Cordially,
Guy

P.S. This letter being finally written, I will communicate copies to several trustworthy people; asking them to not expect something until a subsequent change in the situation.


[1] Translator's note: Murdered on 5 March 1984.

[2] Translator's note: The P2 Lodge, revealed in 1980, brought together the "cream" of Italian society and formed a kind of shadow or parallel government. See Debord's Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (1988).

[3] Translator's note: See Debord's letter to Gianfranco Sanguinetti dated 21 April 1978.

[4] Police Superintendant Jacques Genthial, the first one in charge of the investigation into Lebovici's assassination.

[5] Italian in original.

[6] Translator's note: "underworld" in Italian.

[7] A reference to the scandal caused in Strasbourg (and elsewhere) by the text and circumstances surrounding the publication of On the Poverty of Student Life in 1966.

[8] Trans. The Cujos, which was open from October 1983 to April 1984.

[9] Trans. In Latin: Who profits?

[10] "Among the lost people" (Dante, The Inferno, III, 3).


(Published in Jean-Francois Martos, Correspondance avec Guy Debord, 1998. Reprinted in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 6: Janvier 1979-Decembre 1987 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2006. Footnotes by Alice Becker, except where noted. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! March 2007.)



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