from Guy Debord

To Jaap Kloosterman
18 June 1973
Dear Jaap:

I am thrilled that the Dutch translation [of The Society of the Spectacle] advances. It is thus the "Calvinist language" that must advance. I see that you have begun to attack the Dusseldorf translation: it holds for you an infinity of bad surprises. I even believe that you will have no interest in making use of it.

Last year, Jean-Jacques Raspaud made an attentive examination of the manuscript (which has not changed much in the recent mimeotyped publication). He found so many mistranslations, inconsistencies of all kinds and even missing text and deliberate deletions, that he himself has undertaken a serious German translation, which will be completed soon. I think that it is within his text that you must examine the German equivalents. He has made a particularly scrupulous effort to retrieve and choose the theoretical concepts, almost all of which have a German origin, but of which one is tranquilly ignorant, in Dusseldorf as in Buenos Aires.

Concerning the question that you have emphasized, I would obviously like to say this: behind the phenomenal appearances of the spectacle (for example, television, advertising, the discourse of the State, etc.), that is to say, particular mendacious forms, one can find the general reality of the spectacle itself (as a moment in the [capitalist] mode of production). The dialectical connection between the actual reality of the historical movement of the socio-economic formation and the general form of the spectacle -- at once illusory and real -- was envisioned immediately before [the passage in question] (thesis 7-9). Thus, by suppressing the idea of social organization, which is the reality of the spectacle, the German translation has me speaking of stupidities, because "the appearances of this appearance" already constitutes a quite shocking and baroque turn that I hesitated to use. It can only be justified by reference to these three degrees: mere technico-ideological appearances / the reality of the social organization of appearances / the historical reality.

As for the Manifesto of 1847[1]: it is not due to Bernsteinism[2] that I prefer this date, nor I hope due to erudite pedantry. Here are my reasons. The text was discussed, drafted and adopted in 1847. It went to the printer in January '48, was finished in February and [so] arrived too late for the February revolution, which did not pay attention to it (it also remained unknown in Germany). It seems to me that speaking of the "Manifesto of '48" more or less associates it with the revolutions of that year, as if it issued from those experiences (in the eyes of ignorant people) or that it exerted the influence that it merited (which is what the majority of current militants imagine). On the other hand, if one summarily dates a text from the year of its publication, a platform for an organization (the manifesto "of the Communist Party") should be dated at the moment that it was adopted by the League. Thus, one easily recalls that the manifesto was formulated before the battle.

I am now filming the Spectacle. In fact, during the first phase of the production, I am detourning: choosing images from newsreels and several other films. We will [actually] film next month, and in September I will be doing the montage. I will be very happy to see you at that time. I would love it if you could come have dinner at my place some Saturday evening, because the schedule and rhythm of the montage slightly resembles the work at a factory, and thus leaves little free time for life during weekday evenings.

Our best wishes to you, Maria and Arthur.

[1] The Manifesto of the Communist Party, by Marx and Engels. Cf. thesis 79 of The Society of the Spectacle [which refers to the "1847 Manifesto"].

[2] Allusion to Eduard Bernstein [author of Theoretical Socialism and Social-Democratic Practice, which is also mentioned in thesis 79 of The Society of the Spectacle].

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 5: Janvier 1973-Decembre 1978 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2005. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! March 2007. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except for phrases placed [between brackets], which were provided by the translator.)

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