from Guy Debord

To Gianfranco Sanguinetti
13 November [19]69
Dear Gianfranco:

The amiable messenger has remitted to me your letter #7 and the document on the activity of the Italian section [of the Situationist International].

We hope to soon see your poster.[1] Tell me when you have received the [copy of The Society of the] Spectacle (it is an annotated version, I hope that it isn't lost).

Concerning I.C.O. [Informations et Correspondances Ouvrier], paradoxically, the last issue evoked our critiques [of it] in an objective and almost masochistic tone (briskly inciting its readers to take notice). Obviously, then there were furious "letters from readers" written by the "editorial board" against us. But if they pretend to be careful with us at this point, it is because the pro-situ current is quite visibly stronger and stronger in their semi-organization. Perhaps they think that the pure pursuit of an outrageous and dishonest attitude will immediately provoke a schism in I.C.O. As they cite a good number of Italian publications, but none of yours, I would like to know if they know I.S. [Internazionale Situazionista] #1.

Since the cop came by [Rene] Riesel's place, no trace of the police.

We now have good contacts in Spain. It even seems that, by chance, one of them can begin to pay closer attention to Germany, which he knows well. But this is less than sure.

Attached is a translation [into French] of your article on China and Russia. I have also sent it to Scandanavian translators and to the USA. I believe that it is a very good translation. I have translated a little liberally one or two phrases, the first of which gives the equivalent of what seems to me to be the tone. I have preferred to say "Sino-Russian conflict" and several times I have placed "soviet" within quotation marks. Since we do not have to speak the language of the adversary, it is better to not fall into the journalistic complicity that calls the bureaucrats "soviets," and even the population of their State "totalitarian," which is quite simply Russian. Nevertheless, verify if there are not two or three false readings. At bottom -- the article is excellent -- I will only note that you have too much enthusiasm for the Commune of Canton. The Chinese proletarians certainly fought for their true objectives and as a last effort in a revolution that was betrayed by the Stalinist leadership. Nevertheless, it is necessary to keep in mind that this "Commune," which was immediately crushed, was essentially a putsch, maladroitly decided upon and executed by Moscow, which wanted a communique of victory after its real defeat at Shanghai and in the campaigns, exactly at the moment of the congress that excluded Trotsky. In this sense, the workers who were put down at Canton knew the bureaucrats as their direct enemies, but they struggled under their orders, and it was the militarists and bourgeois who immediately vanguished them, as was normal at this time. Cf. the book by Isaacs translated [from the English] by [Rene] Vienet.[2] Vienet is in Japan, and those of the Zengakuren who speak French are in prison. He has seen Nemoto, and will soon send us a report.

Your programme of work is splendid, nearly frightening! It is true that in Italy one must go quickly.

We will discuss your "resolution on organizational practice" at the next meeting, that is to say, Wednesday the 19th. I will say several words of my own.

Eduardo [Rothe] has written me that the equivalent document of the French section[3] appears to you to be written in "tough terms." I responded to him that these terms haven't seemed tough here. I find yours to be much tougher in tone on the different problems and perhaps less easy to define in terms of organizational terms (it goes without saying that I don't know what or who are the habits or people critiqued or autocritiqued in this text).

As a whole, everything that you say in it is quite just. If it was necessary to write it, I suppose that the style of your relations up until now needed it. But have you not been a little too severe? It is the whole SI that must be brought to a general homogeneity and it would unjust (even bearing in mind the objective situation and the urgent tasks in Italy) if one section imposed on itself requirements that were clearly above what the other sections had been able to to do. Nevertheless, without doubt, the success of such requirements would finally benefit the SI as a whole.

At first glance, one discovers that the Italian "problem" is exactly the opposite of that which is posed in the French section. If you have the fault of discussing things too much, of making and sustaining for too long too many theoretical (or pseudo-theoretical) nuances, the French has the inverse fault: everyone is immediately in agreement on everything that has been said, written or proposed by those who are -- by chance or custom -- in the breach. No counter-propositions. Almost never are new questions envisioned, there is concrete fall of dialogue down to the minimum of routine. This "luxury" of the worst taste sometimes goes as far as the attitude of the proprietors of large neglected estates [Spanish in original: latifundia]: residing elsewhere and letting happen what happens on the spot. Obviously bringing down the activity of all.

Without wanting to say that all these problems have been surmounted, nor that we have taken up a rhythm of work comparable to yours, this era is over. The meetings (which must only be a particular moment in the general and individual activity) have revived in interest and the partial encounters are infinitely more productive. Many ingenious ideas have appeared (although still not concerning our finances) and many points have already been partially written down for I.S. [Internationale Situationniste] #13, even if the projects for theoretical books remain in a certain [vague] space, as much in the contents as in the planning [English in original].

All that you wrote on exclusions is excellent. It is indeed absurd (as you said in point 12) to fear undergoing "an unjust exclusion." I can assure you that, in the SI, there has never been one and I do not think that the SI could last after a single unjust exclusion. Never has an "error" been sanctioned by an exclusion, which, indeed, is not a tactic. I will even say that the absence of all erroneous propositions or theses that obliged us to critique and repel them was, in the French section during January-June [1969], one of the worst signs of inertia or pseudo-comfortable stagnation. If one advances, one must encounter false ideas and commit errors that will be easily corrected, either in discussion or by practical experience. Because we operate on the same base, [and are] not lacking intelligence or honesty. And because one can not risk anything of the new without a large margin of doubt and error (certain adhesions [to the SI] are good examples of this practical necessity).

Nevertheless, exclusions are consequences of the variable level of the requirements of an organization that freely fixes itself to itself at any given moment. What the collectivity has fixed in full consciousness must also be defined with a true consciousness of what it can actually do. I hope that our settlement on the exclusion [of Alain Chevalier] is not made with the idea of shortly being applied to one of you. You must think that, at least in the French section, there is such esteem for each one of you individually that any future exclusion in Italy will involve a long debate in the entire SI.


[1] Avvisso al proletariaro italiano sulle possibilita presenti della rivoluzione sociale [Advice to the Italian proletariat concerning the current possibility of social revolution] (Internazionale Situazionista, 19 November 1969).

[2] Harold Isaacs, The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution, 1925-1927 (Editions Gallimard, 1967).

[3] See letter of 15 October 1969: On the functioning of the French section after October 1969.

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

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