from Guy Debord

To Gianfranco Sanguinetti
13 March 1969
Dear Gianfranco:

Yesterday, after having written to you, I received your three letters from 10 March [1969]. (Thank you for the long text,[1] which I will read and translate -- it is only a question of time.)

According to your most recent letter, the problem with Mario [Perniola][2] is obviously much more serious than we thought. At the same time, everything becomes clearer. We all estimate that the fact that you are now the Italian section of the SI is beyond discussion. If Mario henceforth places himself in a position of waiting and examining, of discussing things as an "sympathizer," this is his business; and it isn't permittable, if he has his own uncertainties and hesitations, that he insists on sharing them with others! Thus, we believe that Mario defines himself as an external sympathizer with respect to us all. It will thus be a question, as much as possible, of continuing this discussion so as to one day arrive at a complete agreement, if possible, but, in any case, this should not make an agreement with Mario any kind of prerequisite for the activity of the SI in Italy. As this is normal and, in the spirit of my "provisional theses" [of 21 February 1969], Mario must at first and principally follow this discussion with you, who are the SI in Italy.

I add that I am surprised by Mario's position, because, in the discussions with us in Brussels and Paris, we arrived at an agreement in principal on his participation: no longer had tactical questions (at the moment when the SI manifested itself in Italy with its first signed document). The discussion on our past and present theoretical bases seemed to have been completed. Nevertheless, [his interest in discussing] the history of the Platonic dialectic, etc., shows that there remain serious, unsolved theoretical problems.

The legal restrictions on the publication of an independent journal are very tiresome. A Venezualan situationist,[3] who might live in Italy starting this summer, was (officially) a professional journalist -- but in Belgium. Do you believe that a foreigner can edit an Italian journal? For all sorts of reasons, it appears necessary to us that a journal of the SI is placed under the responsibility of someone who actually participates in the activity of the "section" that publishes this journal; and not dependent on a "foreign" situationist. On the possibility of finding a "straw man," you yourselves indicate what the difficulties are (perhaps a scientist, not compromised by politics or literary journalism, but who has courage and lots of sympathy for you?) But it is necessary to take account of all future difficulties.

It certainly is necessary that we have a meeting a month or two from now. Do you think of coming to Paris? I can come to Italy when issue #12 [of Internationale Situationniste] is completed, which can hardly happen before the end of April. The more we advance, the more we find an immense labor, because of the richness of 1968.

Concerning the concept of the spectacle, I believe I can say: the respectives places of the different concepts that we employ are not, of course, to be measured in terms of philosophical fullness, but in historical terms. Thus, it seems to me that at present the spectacle is much "larger" than culture (although it doesn't comprise all culture: a part remains independent; a majority is infected by spectacle; a great part is directly spectacular). The spectacle contains an essential and dominant part of social life: it is a historic moment of society. By contrast, in the totality of past historical development, culture, which is much older, played a bigger role than the spectacle. One can also say that the commodity and capitalism are "larger" realities and concepts that come from much further in the past and that more fundamentally produce the present-day world: but it is now the hour of the spectacle, which is the current face of these realities (thus, in the same movement, one also recognizes the present-day moment as that of the struggle against the spectacle; the moment at which the revolution discovers its task in the general and direct realization of all historical life).

One can make an analogy with the role of ideology. Ideology is older than the spectacle (I speak of its actual function and not the appearance of the concept, to which it is subordinate and with which can date the relative awareness of this function). Today, ideology has become essentially spectacular: which it has not always been. Ideology is itself historically quite young in comparison to the immensity of the mythic-religious past. Ideology only appeared with semi-real or semi-illusory history (which we justly call "prehistory" become conscious: and "prehistoric" consciousness is obviously only partial consciousness). Ideology is inseparable -- in its true development -- from the historic ascension of the bourgeoisie in its effectively "progressive" role.

Of course, one can discover the germs of the spectacle in original ideology. And, moreover, the germs of ideology in the religion of "cyclical" myth. These discoveries are actually true in the sense that history existed and that, where there is history, "becoming is the truth of being." The most developed shows the origin in another light, which is finally its true light.

Va bene. M il spettacolo![4]

I believe that it would be good to publish in the [Italian] journal "The proletariat as subject [and presentation]" with several explanatory notes (because this chapter [of The Society of the Spectacle] is difficult for those who do not know the history of the workers' movement). If you lack space, "Basic Banalities"[5] can be published in two parts, as it was in the French journal: which offers the advantage of placing its "summary" at the head of the second part, a beautiful parody of the style of the popular serialized novel.

As to the atrocious Coco, one can hope to remain at this happy ending. The passion that he has put into sustaining his lies very little resembles his old behavior (according to what Chotard says). He [Coco] is a very impertinent, irresponsible person, who says it doesn't matter what to it doesn't matter who, and who remains quite indifferent to what others might think or say in response. His current attitude confirms the great probability of his obligatory engagement in a "serious" work for his police employees. I will relay this detail to Nantes.

Attached is a press clipping from the first newspaper that appeared on the Wednesday following the strike. The information (passed on in the pages devoted to the strike) disappeared from the following editions.[6] Today, Le Canard enchaine (a humorous newspaper with pretensions to non-conformism) published the photo of [Charles] Fourier on his pedestal.[7]

Cordially yours,

[1] Text by Paolo Salvadori concerning "materialized culture."

[2] Translator's note: see essay by the Italian section of the SI entitled Touched by enemy hands, the gold of the International turns to coal (July 1969).

[3] Eduardo Rothe.

[4] All goes well. Death to the spectacle! (Inversion of the letter "W," which means life [in Italian].)

[5] "Basic Banalities" by Raoul Vaneigem, cf. I.S. #7, p. 37 and I.S. #8, p. 34.

[6] The article "The statue of Charles Fourier reappears for a night [at the] place Clichy" appeared on page 3 of the first edition of Le Monde, dated 13 March 1969.

[7] Le Canard enchaine, 12 March 1969: "Fourier of contestation."

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 4, 1969-1972. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! July 2005.)

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