from Guy Debord

To the Italian section of the SI
[27 May 1969]

Elements for your brief introductory note to [The Society of the] Spectacle.[1]

It seems to me that it is necessary to ask three questions.

-- Why we are obliged to re-publish an Italian translation (corrected, reviewed by the author. . . ) after the deplorable edition by De Donato in October (November?)[2] 1968. Give several beautiful examples, which start off the first part[3] of the chapter [newly] translated here.[4] Although this book had has a fairly large distribution in Italy, it cannot really be understood in the De Donato edition, which adds to the real difficulties of the book (born of the theoretical ignorance in the current Italian movement). Perhaps cite several critiques -- semi-eulogies -- in Italy that have understood nothing? Perhaps a case of cynicism, as in the Stalinist Paese Sera of Rome, 17 November 1968: "Dalla Francia, viene il pamphlet del 'situazionista' Debord che svolge essenzialmente la sua polemica contro il reformismo, contrapponendogli una 'teoria rivoluzionaria immediata e permanente.'"[5]

-- The place of this chapter in the book.

The first chapter expounds the concept of the spectacle. The second defines the spectacle as a moment in the development of the world of the commodity. The third describes the socio-political appearances and contradictions of spectacular society.

The fourth, translated here, and which holds the principal place in the book, rehearses [reprendre] the preceding historical movement (always going from the abstract to the concrete) as the history of the revolutionary workers' movement. It is a summary of the failure of the proletarian revolution, and of its return. It opens onto the question of the revolutionary organization.

The fifth chapter, "Time and History," treats historical time (and the time of historical consciousness) as the milieu and goal of the proletarian revolution. The sixth describes "the spectacular time" of current society as the "false consciousness of time," a production of "a foreign present" perpetually recomposed, [and] as spatial alienation in a historical society that refuses history. The seventh chapter critiques the precise organization of social space, urbanism and the arrangement of territory. The eighth links the dissolution of culture as a separated world to the historical revolutionary perspective, and ties an explanation of the language of this book to the critique of language. The ninth, "Ideology Materialized," considers all of spectacular society as a psychopathological formation, the summum of the loss of reality, which can only be reconquered by revolutionary praxis, the practice of the truth in a society without classes, organized in [Workers'] Councils, "where dialogue is armed so as to conquer its own conditions."

(Perhaps it would be necessary to evoke the multitude of detournements, especially of Hegel and Marx -- the first phrase of Capital and of this book[6] -- that is to say, the use of historical thought -- the dialectic -- and its historical use: the detournement and justification of its necessity in theses 204 to 209?)

-- Finally, "anecdotal" details.

This book appeared in France at the end of November 1967. It had an obvious influence on an advanced fraction of the revolutionaries who appeared, six months later, in the occupations movement (at that moment, the first edition was already out of stock. A second came out at the beginning of 1969.) When it announced "the harbinger signs of the second proletarian assault against class society" (thesis 115), it was still a question of a struggle of isolated elements "that begins under the aspect of crime." The month of May in France confirmed before the masses of the world that the workers' struggles "at first repress the unions" and that the rebellious currents of youth conjure up in their demands "the refusal of the old specialized politics, art and everyday life." And the struggles of the Enrages of Nanterre began, in January [1968], under the most "criminal" aspect one has ever seen in a university. It was already, openly a question at the level of society, as a great historical movement.

Quite surely, summarize or in any case correct these fragements of notes by adapting them. Write very quickly.

[1] These elements would be reprised in the Italian journal Internazionale Situazionista #1 (p. 83-84), published in July 1969.

[2] In September 1968.

[3] "Il movimento real che sopprime le condizioni esistenti" was rendered as "Una reale azione repressiva delle condizioni esistenti" in the De Donato edition.

[4] The fourth chapter, "The proletariat as subject and as representation," was translated in its entirety in Internazionale Situazionista #1 (p. 64 to 83)

[5] "From France, finally, comes the pamphlet of the 'situationist' Debord who essentially develops his polemic against reformism, by opposing to it an 'immediate and permanent revolutionary theory.'"

[6] "All of life in the societies in which modern conditions rule announces itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles" detourns "The richness of societies in which the capitalist mode of production rules announces itself as an immense accumulation of commodities."

Notes on the errors of the [De Donato] presentation of ["Basic Banalities" by] "Vaneigam"
(pages 2-3-5, and last page of the cover)

-- The Alba Congress was held in 1956.

-- In 1957, there wasn't "una mostra" [an exhibition] in Turin, but the founding conference of the SI at Cosio d'Arroscia, a village completely lost within the mountains, without any external witnesses.

-- I have been in contact with [Asger] Jorn since 1955.[1] He addressed himself to Potlatch, which we published in Paris. These contacts developed in 1956 (but I was not at the Alba Congress).

-- I do not believe myself to be a philospher, but it is definite that I have never been a "communist." These are the most disagreeable inventions.

-- I.S. [Internationale Situationniste] quite surely dates from 1967. The intention to make us appear dead for a long time.

-- The headquarters of the movement in Strasbourg! Amusing.

-- The slogan "Power to the imagination" is obviously not one of ours (but almost all of the others in May [1968], yes). This came from the pro-SI cretins of the "22 March [Movement]."

-- It is extravagant to mark the copyright of the SI, whereas we have not done so; this will exactly be the only excuse of Fantinel[2]-De Donato when they permit themselves to publish us in Italy. A "translation" that is so bad is unacceptable, but it is worse that they give themselves the appearance of having negotiated with us!

-- (Last page of the cover). Here the Alba Congress took place from 1955 to 1957. It is in fact a question of the 1st Conference of the SI, of which they do not know the location.

[1] Preceded by an exchange of letters in November 1954.

[2] Valerio Fantinel, translator of "Basic Banalities" and, before that, with Miro Silvera, The Society of the Spectacle.

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

To Contact NOT BORED!
ISSN 1084-7340.
Snail mail: POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998