from Guy Debord

To Andre Frankin
26 January 1960
Dear Andre:

For sure, I don't at all rigorously hold you to your disappearance back to Liege. It was a misunderstanding that carries within itself its sanction: your precise absence, regrettable for everyone. We will do better next time. The arrangement of everyday events is sometimes extremely disconcerting, I know well, and I believe that it is better to risk being too sensitive than never taking these things into consideration (thus the weaknesses of the derive). On the other hand, I admit that all mistrust, and even outbursts of fury, are generally justified by the conditions that we make. At most, I will support the following practical code of conduct -- which can not be considered simply as a personal tendency: but also as a guide for communal action -- to place a priori confidence, in all cases, and only until the first proof of the contrary, in a certain number of recognized comrades, based upon objective criteria. (All this doesn't concern one's simple relations with the [Serge] Korbers [of this world], which are only the automatic relations that one has to have with honest or dishonest cafe owners.) Mistrust must then exercise itself in the constitution and up-to-date maintenance of such a list. But one gains time from it, at the least. From these precise conditions, communication is always good or at least a risk that absolutely must be run. I suppose that you think as I do, after all. I believe that it is necessary to add in this regard that [Henri] Vaume and Arlette are not only interesting people, but also obviously worthy of confidence. They manifest to you a friendship that extends to unilateral patience.

About the theses,[1] I think that it was good to publish them because they have a sufficient and clear point of application. And, as one can see from this issue, they immediately contributed to a discussion in the S[ituationist] I[nternational], which is only too fallible in this area. I would like it if you could publish in the next issue the most important developments, which still can't excede the dimensions of a long article, but is this a negligible form of communication? I believe that the "progress-ist" notion of the book excludes the pursuit of perfection, of an ordinary achievement. Formally and practically, theoretical thought advances towards its expression in a system of fragments, it seems to me.

I am content with what you have said about the Passage[2] because critique -- or eulogy -- has only veritable interest in opening on to the perspective of collaboration. And the idea that you evoked at the end [of your letter] is quite precisely the cinematographic project I have been working on since the end of work on the Passage. But this time it will present serious financial difficulties: this can only be a medium-length film (45 minutes or so), with fairly large material needs (it will be necessary for me to do a part of the filming in a helicopter, etc.). Thus, we have time to talk about it.

I see that you have perceived the differences in correspondence between the commentary and the images in the first and second parts of Passage. The detourned phrases are mixed throughout the film, but the majority of them are in the first part. My schema was the following: the film begins like an ordinary documentary, technically ordinary. It slowly moves towards the unclear, the deceptive (which can first of all be a manifestation of an "ideological" pretension on a clear subject), because the text appears more and more inadequate and emphatically enlarged in relation to the images (the tone of Lefebvre = Marx-Goldmann-Huizinga!) The question is then: what is the subject? This, I believe is a rupture -- an irritating and disconcerting rupture -- with the habits of the spectacle.

With the appearance of the first white patches, the film begins to contradict itself with every line -- and thus becomes very clear; its director takes sides against it. At the same time, it is explicitly, realistically, an evocation of a coherent and important private life. The form corresponds to the content. It isn't the description of such-and-such activity (the sea merchant, drilling for oil, a monument to be admired or be demolished, as in the magnificient Hotel des Invalides by Franja), but the center of activity that is empty. My film paints "real life," which is absent. It is this movement of negation, slowly enough unveiled, that I have tried to make the itinerary of the Passage. But very summarily and arbitrarily, it is necessary to say that its principal weakness is the fact that, contrary to the dominant opinion, which is dazzled by economic obstacles, the short film is unfavorable to a real experimental cinema (too brief). On the contrary, the short film favors perfectly measured expression. And yet, what is interesting to detourn is the fixed form of the traditional documentary, which, in this sense, binds us quite well to 20 intangible minutes.

Here [in France], we have fascism, to which the outcome of the crisis of May [19]58 was obliged to lead, despite the comical and hypocritical astonishment of almost all of the current commentators -- and the workers' movement is still absent. The 24th of January was a relative set-back for the [fascist] upheaval.[3] But, since then (I write this on the afternoon of the 26th), de Gaulle's weaknesses have been on display. A popular insurrection that doesn't advance, that is reduced to being on the defensive, has lost, one knows it. But this is only true because, normally, it is immediately combatted by the forces of repression. In this instance, the insurrection was only an appeal (more and more exigent and indiscreet) to the support of the army. And each hour that passes reinforces the challenge, dilutes the strong appearance of Gaullist power, which is uniquely its command of the army, which obeys it. But the army, if it isn't formally supportive, already knows its power to disobey, if one commands it to do so (it is obvious, at this stage, that power's only possible command is to vanguish its declared enemies, which are isolated after taking up arms, as in Budapest). Today, the colonels in charge of the parachutists in Debre have declared that their marching orders against the rebels have provoked a "crisis of conscience" among the officers. This is surely true, but of what importance in itself? In fact, when the army speaks in advance of a crisis of conscience, this clearly signifies the threat of using conscience to judge orders, which is the contrary of obeying them. Despite the 25 deaths on the day before yesterday, the current reality is even more gloomily comic than the "civil war" of May [19]58. This "Fort Chabrol" on an urban scale, and the grandeur of the patron of the bistro that, in the eyes of the world, suddenly equals the famous grandeur of the General [de Gaulle], where do they lead "a certain idea of France"? To the sewers of history. All these grandeurs are in agreement concerning worn-down myths: de Gaulle is quite happy to love France, and [happy] that Ortiz is French, since this is his last excuse to allow the riffraff who have made him king to dispute him for the pavement and give him his eight days' notice.

Obviously the interests of big capital, which have ruled so freely since 13 May [1958], aren't those of Ortiz. But, in a period of violent crisis, is the capitalist order maintained purely by the authority of M. Baumgartner or through irrational compromises with the civilian and uniformed shopkeepers? What bothers me is the fact that the common people of Algeria haven't read Arguments or Socialisme ou Barbarie. They have learned that their interests, condemned as much by the development of technocratic capitalism as by the absence of an economic basis for the army, are doomed to remain a vain appearance, a phantom floating in front of real French society, which doesn't so much live on the other side of the water [the Mediterranean] as in another era. But the common people are wrong: of what aren't they capable?

Cordially yours,

[1] "Platform for a cultural revolution," cf. I[nternational] S[ituationniste] #3, p. 24.

[2] [Guy Debord's film] On the passage of several people through a rather short unity of time [1959].

[3] "Week of the barricades" in Algeria, from 24 to 40 January 1960.

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 1, 1957-1960. Footnotes by Alice Debord. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! May 2005.)

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