from Guy Debord

To Rene Lourau
13 January [19]66
Dear Comrade:

In response to your letter of 31 December [1965], here are several precisions.

1) It is inexact to say that we address ourselves to intellectuals; and it is especially clear that we expect nothing from established intellectuals engaged in a career. Moreover, one can say that the great quantitative growth of (falsified) instruction in the advanced countries, by creating a stratum of intellectuals who critique and try to refuse the uses for which they are educated -- this phenomenon already manifests itself quite strongly in the USA -- , potentially facillitates, in a larger milieu, the elaboration of a new revolutionary theory that looks to the actual transformation of the world.

2) The fact that several of us live by our wits, or have certain intellectual and artistic qualifications, which we nevertheless do not accept to use regularly, that is to say, in a career, does not permit the idyllic image according to which we "do nothing." In the same way that the trade of teacher[1] isn't precisely the overture to the foundations of practical relations in social labor!

3) It is certain that the respectable and traditional practice of the teacher is in absolute contradiction with real revolutionary perspectives. One can only deduce that self-management in teaching would, by itself, have a revolutionary virtue. Isolated in this domain, it would only be a reformism, with all the faults and qualities of a reformism: immediately useful to the students and, in the long term, rather useful to power -- or it will become revolutionary and power will not tolerate it at all. It will send its supporters to the devil, or in any case much further away than the University of Tunis.

4) Lapassade[2] appears to us to be the perfect example of the recuperable ideologue of self-management (in the negative sense that you recognize in the term ideology). Of little importance here are his possible good intentions, or the boycott that he encounters (we encounter one a hundred times worse, and even this isn't sufficient to demonstrate the value of the SI -- it is at best a necessary element of such a demonstration). In the handling of new liberatory concepts, which are literally the battlefield on which radical authenticity and recuperation by different instances of power clash (cf. the famous "alienation" that Domenach,[3] the priest, wants to suppress as a word), one can not excuse the crude flirtation of a Lapassade with all the confusionists (the unbelievable partisan Marc Pierret,[4] who has been in the ex-Observateur and even the neo-Socialisme ou Barbarie.)

5) There is nothing personal in our hostility towards Lapassade or the others. You once wrote to me that he was "close to us." Without doubt, he is close, since we speak of the same things, but an enemy since our intentions are radically opposed. We say that we do not accept the irresponsibility of intellectuals in their theoretical positions and their practical liaisons. An example: yes or no: does the [subsequent] future of the thinkers of Arguments (even Planete) show that the SI's boycott of Arguments was practically just? Lapassade supports Arguments as much as he can.

6) It is because of considerations of this type that I did not believe that I had to respond to your preceding letters, though they were very likable. We have written (I.S. #9, page 5): "It is useless to approach us if one is not in agreement theoretically and practically with our condemnations of contemporary personalities or currents." Our positive contribution is open and a hundred times critiquable, but the negative that we carry is undiscussable among us. In other words, our theory -- which only interests us, of course, as much as our practical base -- can only be supported and lived (in quite difficult conditions) from a "practice of theory," first of all, by someone who is in close relation to it. The inoffensive and courteous relations of the intellectual serve goals and tastes that are opposed to ours. But we are never permitted to critique anyone without solid reasons -- readable in the totality of our publications and here is why we can not accept again putting into question these critiques, as if they were "details" or exaggerations of a position that would otherwise be "acceptable."

If you like, one can see us in eight days, Friday the 21st, at 3 pm at the cafe that is at the corner of the rue des Juges-Consuls and the rue du Cloitre-Saint-Merri.

Guy Debord

[1] Professional sector to which Lourau and his entourage belonged.

[2] Georges Lapassade, sociologist (cf. I.S. #9, p. 29).

[3] Jean-Marie Domenach, Christian philosopher of the Left, director of the journal Spirit from 1957 to 1976. [Translator: see Domenach versus Alienation.]

[4] Marc Pierret, critic at France-Observateur, a flatterer of the psychodrama and the spectacle of participation.

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 3, 1965-1968. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! August 2005.)

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