from Guy Debord

To Andre Frankin
28 December 1958
Dear Frankin:

Your letter, being quite rich in news on diverse subjects, calls for several responses.

President de Gaulle and the trade in money are the details of the week. The center of the problem is the total disappearance of political opposition -- or of the legend of worker opposition: in this case, even the disappearance of a legend can be a real defeat (necessary or not for a subsequent advance), because, if the Left has become conscious of the extreme and ridiculous debility that it has reached under the impressive mask of its bureaucratic organizations, its adversaries have also become conscious of it. As strange as this might appear to us, the majority of active reactionaries see the P.C.F. [Parti Communiste Francaise] as a dangerous revolutionary force. It isn't necessary to underestimate the power of the FLN as political opposition to the new French regime (that which Mascolo calls "the Algerian Party"). Without even speaking of the intentions of the FLN, the limits of its means have been shown in the unfortunate campaign of terrorism in the mother country (and, up to a certain point, in the military sabotage of the referendum and the elections in Algeria).

This new conjunction makes it seem that nothing must be done immediately to dramatically oppose the sovereign capitalist reaction and its right-wing allies: the Poujado-military fascists of Algeria. The short expiration-date of the fascist menace has been delayed. But the eventuality of a last clash with the workers has for the moment disappeared. Thus we see the more or less rapid evolution of the new regime toward extreme or fascist authoritarianism, at first in the [State] institutions (cf. the new laws on the "protection" of the prestige of the juridical authorities) and the U.N.R., which certainly constitutes a mass party.

Thus, it is clear that the most probable outcome in Algeria -- one that, at the moment, everyone, including the F.L.N., accepts -- is a prolongation of the war by a certain number of years.

The good things you say about Kateb Yacine surprised me a lot. I don't know him personally. The Algerian friends who do know him a little describe his work as displeasing.[1] I tend to reproach him for writing a sub-Rene Char poetical prose that is only revalorized by an exoticism that is made to please the Platonic intellectuals of the Left in these years of war. But I don't know the positive sides of Kateb. I will try to bear them in mind.

I don't know if one can qualify the romanesque conceptions of C. Frere[2] as "French." France has so many faults, we need not add any more. I still haven't read C. Frere but, after his declarations, I think that his ideas about the novel, about writing in general -- which reveal "a talent" -- are the expression of the little personal tastes that one can have. In fact, I am perfectly indifferent to the people -- with or without talent -- who want to show the beauty or ugliness of their immortal love, or what merits being immortal. I am not hostile to them. I perceive the nuances of their work in the same way that I know how to play chess. But I have never accorded any attention to this game, which is difficult, nor to these objectives, which aren't French but truly global to the extent that bourgeois civilization has, at present, constructed the first world-wide cultural unity. Thus, I am a bad judge, even a bad observer, of such exercises.

Who is H. Broch?[3]

Glissant?[4] I met him once. But he hardly spoke. I admit that he was deceived when he did speak. In French literary sociology, without doubt he plays a role similar to that of Kateb (the colonialized man who enters into the literature of the exploiters with his own values intact). But the bad conscience of Leftist intellectuals is less impressionable than that of an Antillesian: there isn't an armed uprising in the Antilles. It is true that everyone begins to speak in abundance of diversions (it was more original to do so four or five years ago), but note well: the use of the idea of diversion, which is the already dominant trait of capitalist society, is reformist trash or neo-capitalist "public relations." For us, by contrast, the veritable perspectives of diversion absolutely implicate a prerequisite social revolution.

And it is around these future possibilities of diversion, and especially their usage, that the proletariat's class struggle must recognize and win what we have called a "battle of diversions," which gives itself unknown to current revolutionary forces.

In my opinion, "diversion" is one of the essential points in the complex problem that must be resolved by the future revolutionary movement in the industrially developed countries (the other point being that of the form of organization).

It is obvious that a civilization of diversions, even one that is "situationist," will not be completely rosy. Neither paradise, nor the end of history. One will have other misfortunes (and other pleasures), that's all.

But, as you say, this is no reason to sit on one's hands. Here comes 1959.

Quite amicably,
G.-E. Debord

P.S. N. Arnaud[5] has become a pataphysician. Regrettable.

[1] Cf. "The Expression of the Algerian Revolution and the Imposter Kateb Yacine," by Abdelhafid Khatib, Potlatch #27, 2 November 1956.

[2] Claude Frere, sociologist and novelist.

[3] Hermann Broch, Austrian writer.

[4] Edouard Glissant, writer in the Creole language.

[5] Noel Arnaud, founder, with [Christian] Dotremont, of the Group of Revolutionary Surrealists, 1947.

(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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