from Guy Debord

To Attila Kotanyi
12 July 1961
Dear Attila

Concerning Alain's[1] letter (dated 29 June [1961]), which, as you know, obliges one to draw several clear conclusions.

After leaving Antwerp fifteen days ago, I went directly to Tours. Alain wasn't at the meeting. Two days later, when he telephoned me, I responded that I didn't want to speak to him. In light of the essential question raised by Robert[2] in Brussels -- the possibility of a minimum of cohesion in the collective activity boldly announced by Alain -- the event responded beyond measure. I haven't seen Alain again since we left you: it is obviously useless to bore oneself a moment longer with pathetic fancies that are destined to remain idle chatter. From whence comes his letter, officially addressed to you, of which Richard[3] gave me a copy the same evening.

The extraordinary weaknesses of intelligence and vocabulary in this letter are quite far from the ideas expressed by Alain in our presence, but unfortunately are representative of what, in his conduct, lacks rigor and courage. I don't know where he gets the idea that I proposed to "select" people for the famous tendency that he planned with his friends (on the other hand, they have refused to even address themselves to C. Chabrol,[4] who made the most interesting intervention at the [Pouvoir Ouvrier] national conference, simply because they didn't find it "sympathetic"). I only asked that they at first try to reach an accord amongst themselves (very doubtful) before beginning an action that is nothing more than the application of the principles of S[ocialisme] ou B[arbarie] -- an accord suspectible of being approved by 90% of the current organization and of starting at last an action that wouldn't be too derisory towards the exterior. This [perspective] has obviously framed our relations with P.O. And we have never, until now, encountered reasons for being interested in these people, other than their membership in P.O. This was clear. And to the extent that I have always dissuaded the perspective of a split[5] that, in the most irresponsible and hollow manner, Alain prophesized at Brussels.

It seems clear that Alain has not made a complete account of all that happened, to judge from his current bitterness. One can correct a formula that holds Alain dear by saying that S. ou B. fabricates opponents in its own image. To adopt [a total of] three such formulae, one thinks oneself installed at the center of the world and its revolutionary critique; and one immediately begins to set up the spectacle of the melodrama of these sorry thoughts. But the heart of the problem is that Alain and his friends who affectively resemble him scarcely have the capacity to be opponents: they are just complainers.

The passionate side of his letter, which is comical because it is perfectly out of place, can only be explained by the disappointments of "revolutionaries" who still search for their fathers. If one such father is Barjot [Cornelius Castoriadis], you can, it seems, count on two years of obedience. If these sons can not envision themselves growing up to be Barjot, they immediately complain about it.

From whence comes this sufficiently nauseating little phrase, which is a twisted confession: "Of course one wants young people, because they are easy to flatter and influence. One violates their minds . . ." I have difficulty believing that this is the same Alain whom we know; he dares to resort to the appeal, the "protection of the young woman in distress": does he define himself as young? Who wants to violate whom? Who has ever "flattered"? As for influence, I quite believe that we have influenced more or less the mass of people; I do not see any reason for being proud, nor being the least bit embarassed. That's life.

But especially for whom does one want "the young"? For the SI? This is precisely where the shoe pinches. He has stated that we [in the SI] do not recruit new recruit members and, in all cases, not from the ranks of P.O. members.

Also, weighed by honest people as if we were so many grapes that are a little too green, we are found to be functioning "according to the pitiful mode of scandal" (one day, speaking just in case they reproached us for never envisioning such possibilities, I explained to them that we have made several badly); [we are] neo-Stalinists, perhaps, but surely "taking ourselves for Gods"; and this in the intellectual neo-salons (of l'impasse de Clairvaux). This is all too much bullshit to discuss further, at least with Alain.

It is necessary, however, to note that this group, which seeks to define itself within P.O., is composed of the most conscious individuals in an organization that will be at the center of all real re-launches of the revolutionary movement; and that several of them will surely go quite a bit further than that. But they still possess very fragmentary knowledge (I have never given it to be understood that I am the only one -- that we situationists are the only ones? -- to have "understood Marxism," and even less have taken glory in it; but it is quite necessary to say that someone who has understood the dialectic can not designate our supposed goal as "a very pure crystal, untainted by contradictions . . ."). It is thus highly improbable that they will manage to act together now. And the most resolved of them (Bechir[6]) certainly situates himself beyond P.O. In the first rough sketch of this group within P.O., there are too many people who think in terms of ditties, who want to be loved, who still have not understood the fact that declaring themselves to be interested in something does not automatically make them interesting.

Thus, in its relations with P.O., P.O.B.[7] must only count on itself, because the state of crisis in P.O. still gets worse. And the remaining perspectives must be examined by the SI [at its upcoming conference] at Gotenberg [Sweden].

Attached is a copy of a publication that was sent by five Englishmen -- do you know them? -- who boldly launch themselves into "situationism" [English in original] and clamor for stocks of our documents. [Alexander] Trocchi, who is in London this week, takes charge of contacting them to remind them that the thing [situationism] does not exist, and to see what they want to do. I expect Raoul [Vaneigem] to be here in three days.

Cordially yours,

[1] Alain Girard, member of S[ocialisme] ou B[arbarie].

[2] Robert Dehoux.

[3] Richard Dabrowski, member of S. ou B.

[4] Another member of S. ou B.

[5] The split between S. ou B. and P.O. took place in 1964.

[6] Bechir Tlili, Tunisian student enrolled in preliminary study with Jean-Francois Lyotard, member of S. ou B.

[7] Belgian P.O.

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 2, 1960-1964. Footnotes by Alice Debord. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! April 2005.)

To Contact NOT BORED!
ISSN 1084-7340.
Snail mail: POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998