from Guy Debord

To Gianfranco Sanguinetti
1 June 1970
Dear Gianfranco:

Just received your letter of 27 May. The revival of wildcat workers' struggles in Italy is perceptible in the spectacular news. One once again speaks of the Italian crisis, certainly with much less anguish than in November-December [1969], but as if the fortunate forgetfulness induced for four or five months by a well-employed bomb [at the Piazza Fontana in Milan] is now exhausted. The claim at Fiat is an admirable example[1] of the absolutely unacceptable "partial" claim! I think that we must cite it alongside the programme for a general strike in a Spanish town around 1905: a demand to only work a half-hour per day (for eight hours of pay). But, in this case, it was anarchists who consciously formulated this unacceptable claim, and so that the movement ended in revolution. In Italy, one hopes that this same goal begins to express itself semi-consciously, with the same black humor.

Here [in France], there is still disorder, and the government's serious uneasiness. Today, all the bourgeois observers (outside of the party in power, obviously) admit that the university was broken in May 1968 and that, since then, there's nothing to take its place. The change of the climate in the factories also remains a constant of the new era; and it is this that most worries the bourgeoisie and its State. At a more superficial level, observers and ministers admit that Leftism has also become a permanent given. It is against Leftism (its relative isolation and enormous stupidities) that the government, the press, Stalinism and the remainder of "democratic" unionism are naturally turning their sunlights [English in original] in the manner of the direction of a horror film.

In this calculated denunciation of the superficial danger, what goes far is the attack against the height of the superficial, the truly delirious idiocy: the Maoists of la Gauche proletarienne [the Proletarian Left]. A hundred of them are already in prison, the movement is dissolved. The demonstrations last week were obviously serious failures. They had announced "a great revolutionary day," "the people of Paris will not permit the trial," etc. They only created five or six very ordinary and localized brawls, with two or three thousand demonstrators in attendance, calculated liberally (half or a third of them were miliatnts, the rest were students[2] always content to come up against the cops). Now Geismar[3] makes it seem that he's taken flight, and the government makes it seem that it searches for him like he's public enemy #1. In the last few weeks, the delirium provoked by the public declarations of Geismar exceeded all the records for irresponsible stupidity, even those attained by the worst adventurist-opportunist bureaucrats or the most thoughtless anarchists in history. With an incoherent and odious side that, to my knowledge, neither of these groups have ever manifested. In this case, it is necessary to say that there is an objective collusion between power and this group (on this point, the orthodox Stalinists haven't been wrong). One can even ask oneself if the subjective collusion [between the two] isn't pushed quite far by the presence of police officers among the leadership of G.P. It is difficult not to have suspicions about Geismar. He himself appears suspect. Because so much idiocy has never been said (more than done) on the doctrinal, strategic and tactical planes at the same time. In 1968, he wasn't an idiot. Nor a Maoist.

A magnificent "prospective" document from the Commissariat [police headquarters] was revealed last week by the Trotskyists of the Communist League. In it, one studies the probability of a definitive liquidation of all of Leftism before the end of 1970. In it, one foresees the sabotage of an airplane (attributed to Leftists), clashes in a college that cause twenty deaths "of which two are police officers." This document isn't a fake; it hasn't been denied. The authorities say that it is one among the many products of a purely "prospective" "brainstorming" [English in original]. But this prospective isn't so pure when it is handled by those who have all of the means to realize the options that they have chosen. This document throws a splendid light on the bomb [at the Piazza Fontana] in Milan (the French police, who have studied street battles at the Japanese and American police academies, seem to have dispatched several researchers to the academy of the political police in Italy since then). And also on the easily manipulated number of deaths in May [1968]. He who can lie like the State is already in position to know like God the precise number of police officers who find themselves killed in a confrontation provoked by the killing of around twenty people. If the Mexican police have advanced in this prospective, they can announce the day before that there will be thirty dead at the plaza of the Three Cultures,[4] so that the five or six hundred other bodies never will have had an official existence.

[J.V.] Martin has written to us that he is in agreement that Hamburg should be the meeting place of the delegates [from the Situationist International]. He proposes 18 September [1970]. At this moment, Raoul [Vaneigem] is at his place to help him publish issue #3 of the Scandanavian journal.

Here, the comrades of the editorial committee have begun to draft I.S. #13. The first results appear encouraging.

It is necessary to finish Silva's translations as soon as possible, so that this "anthology" can finally appear! I believe that you have lost too much time to re-translate everything. Can you not arrive at a satisfactory result by replacing the too literary phrases and stylings that seriously veer from our dialectic -- and from the certain brutality of our language? Do the best. But it seems to me that (the mistranslations of all kinds excepted) we must prefer a translation a little less good that comes out soon, rather than a perfect translation that will come out in 1971. History runs quickly, the old world is behind it!

As for De Donato, I am surprised to discover that he is a man of such courage. It is sure that this new challenge[5] expresses how little thought he gave to our protests in 1969. One can no longer wait. It is necessary to prevent him, like Beriou,[6] from continuing to publish things that are so offensive to our ears. But as his case is much more serious than that of Beriou, I have the impression that it would be necessary to get to him the diversions that have permitted a certain bourgeois in Turin from reflecting upon his ignominious imprudence one evening. Our meeting tomorrow will advise you of our communal opinion on the question.

I have seen the inscription of the conscious vandals in the same arrondissement, but not on the "plateau Beaubourg." Thus it has many editions.

Today I sent the book for Paolo [Salvadori] (Gustave Lefrancais).[7]

Cordially yours. See you soon, I hope.

P.S. Three days ago, the tomb of Maurice Thorez -- near the wall of the Federated -- was "profaned" by quite amusing inscriptions.[8] The Stalinists begin to understand: they have cited the event much more briefly than the incident at the "Lenin Museum."[9]

[1] Gianfranco Sanguinetti wrote on 27 May 1970: "In a workshop, a certain number of wildcat workers started a strike that paralyzed it and, naturally, other workshops; and, as the condition to cease the strike, proposed that Mr Agnelli throw out of the factory the workers who continued to work: in this fashion, they summoned the patron to deprive himself of his 'best' workers!"

[2] Written in the margin: "Obvious sign of this regression: all the clashes (the actions of small commando units) took place in the Latin Quarter, the only spot where these fish can find a drop of water; and in [19]68 they always claimed that they would march towards 'the common neighborhoods.'"

[3] Alain Geismar, union leader (S.N.E.-Sup.) in May [19]68, then in la Gauche proletarienne.

[4] So as to land an arresting blow on the student revolt that developed in Mexico in July 1970 and that threatened the holding of the Olympic Games in October [of that year], the Mexican police opened fire, using machine guns, on the six thousand demonstrators assembled on 2 October at the plaza of the Three Cultures, then unleashed a night-time wave of arrests and summary executions over the entire country. [Translator: I am unable to account for the fact that, although written in June 1970, this letter seems to refer to events that only began to take place in July 1970.]

[5] The publisher De Donato put on sale a falsified translation of "Basic Banalities" by a certain "Vaneigam."

[6] Jean-Yves Beriou, cf. I.S. #12, p. 101.

[7] Gustvae Lafrancais, member of the Paris Commune. A refuge in Switzerland, he published a Study of the Communalist Movement of Paris in 1871 in Neuchatel.

[8] Of which l'Humanite reported the following: "The Commune is the dictatorship of the proletariart. Russia is the dictatorship of capital."

[9] Who had been placed in a bag on 29 March 1970 by a group that claimed Lenin for itself alone.

(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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