from Guy Debord

Gianfranco Sanguinetti
24 November [19]69
Dear Gianfranco:

Several hours after sending my letter #10 to the most beautiful schoolgirl in Milan, Jon [Horelick] came to my place with your letters #8 and #9. Thus, we are reassured by and very happy with what is taking place in Italy; and particularly with what you yourselves have done. To simply a little, I will gather together all of the general questions on the Italin situation in my response, which is attached to the letter [I sent today] to Paolo [Salvadori].

Your poster is magnificent![1] I will immediately make a French translation of it in order that it can serve in the way that the article on the "Sino-Russian" conflict did.

Transmit to Eduardo [Rothe] this response to the question that he posed to me concerning Neuberg's book Armed Insurrection. I find this book very weak. It is from the adventurist era [circa 1928] of the Comintern; that is to say, inscribed in a kind of putschist Zinovievo-Stalinism. Nevertheless, it makes several practical recommendations (many of which are superceded), and it is just about the only book on this subject. Moreover, with its title's power to shock, one can estimate that, in the current Italian situation, its publication by Silva would nevertheless be good. But Eduardo's preface must be very solid and quite long. It isn't only a question of updating it from the "technical" point of view, but also and especially this preface must explore theoretically (and as a precise historical critique) all that the Comintern was and, beyond that, all of the old workers' groups organized in more or less militarily disciplined parties since the Second International. Thus, it would be necessary to critique a half-century of workers' organizations, in which the hour of armed struggle is only a moment. It would be necessary to critique the same actions that are described in this book (for example, the Canton Commune in the light of [the book by Harold] Isaacs). It would also be necessary to envision the Spanish Civil War and even the Paris Commune. In an equal comparison with the military organization of Leninism without Lenin, it would probably be necessary to evoke the history of the "organizations of protection" of the Social-Democratic parties in this same era (the insurrection in Vienna in 1934, the proposition -- in Chakotin's The Rape of the Crowd by Political Propaganda -- of launching a putsch in the interior of the German Social-Democratic party in 1933, so that the forces of protection could take control of the party and launch an armed struggle against Hitler's coming to power). To summarize, it would be a vast work. Perhaps the armed struggle will be in the streets well before Silva's Italian edition of the book [is published]?

Now, from the practical point of view: I have this book, the edition published by the French Communist Party (undated, around 1928 or 1929), with a weak preface from the publisher, which must naturally be suppressed (fifteen pages). The rest of the book comes to two hundred fifty pages with around three thousand characters per page.[2] It is this [edition] that Eduardo has read. A photocopy must exist at [Rene] Vienet's place, but it is probably inaccessible at the moment. I can send to you the book itself, but it would be necessary to be sure that it arrives. A book (by Lewis Carroll) sent by Alice [Becker-Ho] to Maria-Cristina[3] was lost. I believe that, in present-day Italy, between the police officers and the postal clerks who have become enraged revolutionaries, one has a good chance of seeing everything they find interesting disappear en route.

Thus, tell me what I must do (I will ask Christian [Sebastiani] if he can find Vienet's photocopy).

The crisis of the American section seriously preoccupies us. [Rene] Riesel and I have spoken at length with Jonathan, whose position we fully approve. Furthermore, Tony [Verlaan] is more and more delirious, nothing can settle him down. Nevertheless, the worst development lies in the increased hardness of the position of Robert [Chasse] and Bruce [Elwell], who maintain the value of their ultimatum and seem to want an accord with Jonathan (but, on this basis,[4] the accord will not be possible), accompanied by the elimination of Tony. The specific responses of Jonathan (for example, on the fundamental fact that he hasn't constituted a tendency in liaison with Tony) and the attempts at "mediation" by Gianfranco, Riesel and I are absolutely not taken into consideration (except on the question of the obviously fantastic dates of the ultimatum).

The last "circular" (#2, I believe) from the New Yorkers places things at the point where one can no longer hope that the question will be resolved before [the delegates' meeting at] Luxembourg. I even believe that the simple fact of limiting the damage will be an intellectual and practical concern on the part of our delegates. All the same, we must also have the possibility of speaking about something else! Yesterday, Jonathan asked me if it would possible to unite the entire SI in Luxembourg, so as to know all about the American debate that, unfortunately, remained hidden at Venice! I have obviously responded that this is materially impossible. We estimate that three Americans must be present at Luxembourg (four, if Bruce has a position different from that of Robert!), but [each of] the other sections must send a single delegate bearing very precise instructions on this affair and also being mandated to choose, in a certain order of preference, the least bad solution from among the (relatively unforeseeable) positions that certain comrades will take on the spot. Thus, it is necessary that, from now on, all the sections study all of the "documents" exchanged by the Americans. It is also necessary that, as soon as possible, an exchange of letters between the European sections produces a communal position and the variants that we can accept. I will summarzie here for you the position of the French section at this moment.

We desire that all of the comrades remain in the American section, on a clarified basis and with more reciprocal confidence. We no longer believe that this will be possible without the pressure of the other sections of the SI and, even with this pressure, we are no longer sure that this result can be obtained.

If the rupture takes place, we consider that the facts are not contested by anyone in the American section (delay of correspondence, etc.), but the French section would be opposed to Robert and Bruce "on the same foundation" of the debate (to put oneself at the level of the New Yorkers' "legalism," cf. Article 7 of the "provisional statutes"). Here is our opinion on the content of the possible exclusions:

1) Without refusing the principle of the ultimatum itself, [its use] in certain very serious cases where a comrade must be summoned to publically make precise his position in a short period -- in a materially practicable period of time -- we do not allow that the authoritarian style of the ultimatum should be employed as the "first resort" where a slight delay of communication is concerned, that is, except for really dramatic or urgent situations. We believe (with Jonathan) that the style and tone of Robert and Bruce constitute an error -- in itself excusable and in large part explained by other, old or recent errors of adversaries. It is necessary and sufficient that this ultimatum is recognized as an error (in the sense that we do not want to accept it as a future rule in our relations) and that we will no longer speak of it (like other errors, such as those made by Jonathan and Tony).

2) We can not allow that comrades are excluded for remaining out of contact with their sections for three weeks.

3) A section's demand that it can set the precise place where one of its members must be located appears to us to be in contradiction with Article 3 of the statutes. One must bear in mind the fact that, during that last week, Jonathan was quite more useful with you, in Italy, than he would have been in New York.

4) We do not refuse to consider the possibility that Tony -- who perhaps wants to resign? -- might be excluded for certain of his positions against the SI or for several manifestations of excessive aggressivity; but this can only be envisioned after a precise debate on his case and absolutely not mixed in or amalgamated with the unfortunate affair of the ultimatum.

5) In the current circumstances, we will not in any fashion accept the exclusion of Jonathan, whatever the consequences.

6) In this affair, we will defend the points of principle and method above all tactical considerations.

Respond to us where this is concerned.

Cordially yours,

[1] Avviso [al proletario italiano sulle possibilita presetni della rivoluzione sociale, Notice to the Italian Proletariat on Current Possibilities for Social Revolution].

[2] Written in the margin: "In so far as the 'level of the language' is quite easy to translate."

[3] Companion of Claudio Pavan.

[4] Written in the margin: "That is to say: the ultimatum maintained."

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

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