from Guy Debord

To the Rennes group of the Anarchist International
16 July 1967

On organization and autonomy

The discussion sketched out on 3 July [1967] between us and the comrades from two groups in the Anarchist International seems to make visible -- in addition to our agreement on fundamental points and produced by the uncontestible existence of this accord -- a divergence on the question of organization, such as it had been expounded by Loic Le Reste in the name of the Rennes group. One can summarize this divergence thus: whereas we are clearly partisans of the multiplication of autonomous revolutionary organizations, Le Reste thinks of their fusion. Of course, Le Reste is not a partisan of a unique revolutionary organization that claims "to represent" a class or the revolutionary movement, and we ourselves are not attached in principle to the artificial distinction between groupings that can reciprocally recognize in each other a fundamental identity at the principal theoretical and practical levels.

Thus, the question is not posed around an abstract definition of an absolute model of organization, but depends upon a critical examination of current conditions and upon certain options on the perspectives of real action.

The positions of the SI are clear, often expressed and confirmed by all of our conduct. If it is well known that the SI has never "recruited," but has willingly welcomed several individuals here and there, these two aspects are equally commanded by the concrete conditions in which we believe our practical activity is located -- as goals and as means, inseparably -- , and thus aren't simply tributaries of a comprehension or an approval of certain theoretical positions (as far as these positions are concerned, we naturally desire that all those who can appropriate them -- in the full sense of the term [appropriate], freely making usage of them -- for themselves). Very schematically, we can say that, at the international level, the SI tries to employ itself in the reappearance of certain general bases of a current-day revolutionary critique. We do not make this moment that is the activity of the SI into a goal: the workers must organize themselves, their emancipation can only be their own work, etc. Numerical "reinforcement," considered as a univocal advantage, can not be accepted by us. It can be unfortunate from an internal point of view if it creates a disequilibrium between what we really have to do and the personnel who would only be abstractly employable, and thus subordinated -- due to the fact of geographical or other obstacles. Numerical "reinforcement" can be unfortunate from an external point of view, by presenting an example of the will to pseudo-power on the model of the numerous Trotskyist groupuscules with the "calling to be party leaders" (the SI, which is frequently slandered, does not offer any opportunities for this kind or reproach and, precisely because we do not offer any, would be even more frequently slandered if it gave some signs of going in this direction). That is to say, the "massive" rallying to our position of several dozen comrades on the local level is not what we desire.

Still more clearly, we are in disagreement with Loic Le Reste when he says that the autonomy of different organizations can introduce a hierarchy among them. On the contrary, we think that hierarchy threatens the interior of an organization from the moment that certain people in it approve and execute what is decided by the organization, while others have less power to influence the result. But we do not understand how an organization that is actually autonomous -- and of course rejects all double memberships -- can submit to an exterior power. Without doubt, such an idea has already known a "Garnautine"[1] expression, but one can say that there are few things to be drawn from it: everyone knows or will know that the "Garnautins," when they do not lie, content themselves with deceiving themselves. Thus, they write in The Unique and Its Property:[2] "When the SI claims to discuss [matters] at the theoretical level with diverse revolutionary organizations . . . it sinks into bureaucratic farce and judges these movements and their programmes from the superior and abstract point of view of a disincarnated radicalism." It is only if this type of connection is really bureaucratic -- that is to say, aims for subordination -- or if this basic radicalism is really abstract and disincarnated (which hasn't been demonstrated and could only be done by the Garnautin-M.N.E.F. incarnation with difficulty) that one could speak of a superior role sought by the SI, in practice, in the first case, and in a weak dream, in the second. But where would the so-called revolutionary organization be, if it were composed of imbeciles who let themselves be treated in this fashion? Here the Garnautins have stupidly projected on to the Zengakuren or Acion comunista[3] their own attitude of impotent respect, which we ourselves only discovered retrospectively, at the moment of their exclusions.

As for the possible fusions of the future, we believe that they must be made at the most advanced revolutionary moments of the workers' movements.

It is certainly not for us to express the positions that appear to be implicated by the known bases of the A.I.[4] (we have never given any sort of advice to these comrades concerning their politics -- which is another way of reiterating the evidence that we never fomented any sort of "conspiracy" at any time in the A.F.,[5] by sending or recruiting agents). We will limit ourselves to recalling the well-known conclusions that naturally derive from the attitude that these groups have themselves chosen to adopt in continuing the struggle in the A.F. up to the Congress at Bordeaux. If the A.I. breaks away from the anarchist movement, it certainly isn't by chance or in haste. If the A.I. wants to help renew in a critical manner the thought and activity that issued from the old anarchist movement -- an important part of which will surely find itself justified and realized by the next revolutionary current -- then it is legitimate to expect from it a work of re-examination that we, for example, have taken up with respect to "Marxism" ( in our opinion, several days ago, Comrade Le Glou[6] expounded this task very well). In the perspective of a short-term liquidation, the orientation towards an autonomous position with respect to the international anarchist movement, the project of publishing a journal and documents, etc., seems both impracticable and useless.

We do not claim to know the secret of the organizational problem of the next era -- and, in any case, it won't simply be posed and resolved at the level of current-day small radical groups. We, and others, have only a few definite givens, for example, those that prohibit the reprise of the old models without falling back into the pseudo-innocence of purely informal liaisons. It is necessary to begin with such givens; and respect for the autonomy of numerous groupings worthy of dialogue, as well as for the honesty of this dialogue, are surely among them.

For the SI,
[Guy] Debord, [Mustapha] Khayati, [Rene] Vienet

[1] Arbitrarily chosen name for the Strasbourgeois who were excluded [in January 1967].

[2] Pamphlet published in May 1967 by the "Garnautins."

[3] Translator: two revolutionary organizations with which the SI engaged in non-hierarchical relations.

[4] The Anarchist International.

[5] Translator: the Anarchist Federation.

[6] Jacques Le Glou, member of the Libertarian Group of Menilmontant.


(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.)



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