from Guy Debord

To Raoul Vaneigem
19 June 1963
Dear Raoul:

And so we continue this exchange of data, despite the fact that a certain supplementary confusion is introduced, I believe, by the rapid style of these letters (I see that mine haven't been explicit enough on several points): confusion and misunderstandings that direct dialogue certainly would have kept away, so that we could have arrived at the really open questions.

All the same, I believe that, in the meantime, we can still clear the terrain by writing.

At first it appears that we both think that membership in the S[ituationist] I[nternational] (the fact of being, in practice, a situationist) is inseparable from a certain capacity. This "capacity" obviously cannot be defined a prior because it is, to a certain extent, fluid and partially different in each case of those engaged in this complex task; because it is historical and varies with different stages of our action; and finally because it isn't a question of envisioned as entirely given among each of our interlocutors. No more is it a question of expecting that the SI completely provides for, even to a sufficient extent, each interlocutor. The SI can only dialogue on the basis of already possible, practical dialogue, and can not become a "primary school," simply because there are other, more urgent tasks -- and more pleasant ones, too.

This accord between us -- and, I think, all the current members of the SI -- raises the following question: what are the five or six forms of immediate action in the first rank of the SI's preoccupations? I don't want to say that we still have the leisure of defining them by pure speculation or by brainstorming [English in original]. I suppose that this exercise will leads us all to be more clearly conscious of the fact that we already have in hand two or three forms of engaged action which are necessary to pursue; perhaps there is one that it is necessary to cease; perhaps there are still one or two to choose from among three or four new ones that we have in mind. We will obviously derive a provisional definition of "capacity" from these specific responses.

We again take up the question of the clashes within the SI -- a certain level has been attained: cf. the [metaphorical] death of Nash, etc. -- which I see as entirely dependent on this first open question (even the crisis concerning Uwe is directly a debate on the methods of practical activity). At first, I would like to say that it goes without saying that no one need "demand justifications or give them," as you've written. On the contrary, I consider this discussion to be an elementary schema, which serves to describe and comprehend the functioning -- and the dysfunctioning -- of an organization that is less vast but more complicated than the classic revolutionary party. One can more veritably reconstruct these anecdotes by naming A, B or X as the occasional porters of diverse attitudes.

This is to say that I don't think that there are wounds that must be washed in water (fresh or otherwise). And it even appears to me that, in an adventure such as this one -- see the very strong pressures coming from the hostile environment (the torture of which you speak in "B. de B."[1]) -- all real wounds become gangrenous very quickly. Just as the small breaches in the regions where the submarine Thresher went were fatal ("We go beyond experimental depth").[2] One has a very impressive example of this in Gilles Ivain [Ivan Chtcheglov].

Thus, it is all the more important to avoid "wounds." To not let relations that are out-of-line install themselves. Like you, I think that insolence is paired with exclusion, that the logical end of insolence is exclusion. All exclusions are reciprocal. But there is also a relation of forces in this reciprocity (who is right?). It is a question of having the means (which can be said to be: having justification.) Thus I approve, more than anyone else, the insolence of the SI against the world, its refusal, the exclusion of so many people (in fact, a very small number is composed of "excluded" in the sense of "former situationists"). Whereas, hypothetically, this insolence among ourselves is useless and unlucky. Except, of course, if it goes with the development of a programme opposed (on the central points) to our well-known communal programme so far (then, if this insolence is "good" or "bad," is of little importance here).

This said, the point where we seem to be in disagreement is when you propose an alternative between accepting (more or less "in the name of the SI") or killing off. For my part, I steadily refuse such an alternative: I would kill the fewest people possible (in the metaphorical and concrete meanings of the word) and, at the same time, I want to do or submit to the least possible number of things that displease me. And this in the SI as well as in the external world. This contradiction, I think, is posed and regulated, more or less fortunately, in the different moments of the practice of life, and also of this action that we want to be revolutionary.

Tied to this opposition -- and, without doubt, even producing it -- is the different manners in which we qualify insolence and intersubjective clashes.

In your recent letter, you define insolence as the moment at which "intersubjective clashes are carried to the degree of the absolute" (in fact, you reduce all manifestations of insolence to its supreme stage: exclusion. Thus, if I may dare to say so, we don't have the right to refuse the conduct of others at the moment when they exlude us, and we don't have any other weapon against them than exclusion. What an equilibrium of terror!) For a long time, I haven't seen "intersubjective clashes" worthy of the name, nor carried to the degree of the absolute. Nevertheless, I will call "insolence" -- more or less benign or "excusable," that is to say, notable as an indicator of dysfunction -- several maladjusted attitudes, let us say, a bit unamicable. I believe that it is not necessary to pretend to encourage them, nor to submit to them, even temporarily, wherever they go. The unamicable style can only render the SI less interesting at its interior, and a bit ridiculous to the external witness. We are all, and all "merit" being, judges of the most maladroit behavior of the [other] situationists. I do not pretend to reduce situationist relations to a sentiment such as friendship: but, nevertheless, I believe that we deal in abstractions (more than ever) if we pretend to carry into the world the values of dialogue without possessing, at the minimum, friendship between situationists (or without completely surpassing it, which would be an enrichment of conventional amicable relations, not their casual liquidation).

Finally, I don't believe that, in reality, someone in the SI uses forms of spectacular or sophistic communication (though we are sometimes constrained to use them in our discussions with the enemy). In any case, I don't reproach anyone for it. It seems to me that it is the lack of collective reflection on the elementary aspects of several of our problems that indubitably creates this impression where several of our remarks are concerned. In saying this, I do not at all imply that I myself have developed this elementary reflection on the totality of the field of our activity.

Finally, the principal misunderstanding: in speaking of "specialists" in the SI, I absolutely do not have in mind the trivial level, where, for example, Martin and I "organized" the [RSG-6] exposition at Odense (although obviously we must try to prevent these chance specializations from reinforcing themselves in the long run). And, fortunately, plenty of people other than Martin and myself have done many things in different degrees of our practice. The publication of Der Deutsche Gedanke, even if very labored, is (will be) a very important contribution of Belgium: and we extol it completely.

Where this is concerned: it is a question of assuring, without delay, the distribution of the review copies of this delayed journal. I hope that you have arranged this without too much difficulty. Here [in Denmark], for all of the documents of the current exposition to shipped while they are still fresh, we must behave a bit like gangsters. It seems that this is effective. Laugeson[3] has rejoined us, and one says that Rudi [Renson] is on the way.

I don't believe that I can go to Belgium immediately after my return to Paris, which is becoming very urgent.

I will be in Paris before the 28th [of June 1963], but on the 28th, unfortunately, I must be leaving again in the early afternoon. Can you come the evening of the 27th (Thursday) or the 26th?

Cordially yours,
See you soon,
Guy

[1] "Banalities de Base" [Basic Banalities].

[2] Last radio message sent by the nuclear submarine Thresher (USA), which disappeared after plunging, with 129 men aboard, 10 April 1963.

[3] Peter Laugeson, situationist in the Scandanavian section.


(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 2, 1960-1964. Footnotes by Alice Debord. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! May 2005.)



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