from Guy Debord

To Sylvain[1]
29 February [19]68
Dear comrade:

First, I ask you to excuse the delay of the present response (different kinds of work, etc.). You must meanwhile have received a package of several copies of diverse publications by the SI; we will send each one to you. No question of paying for them. We will also read issue #5 of l'Hydre de Lerne.[2]

There are many things in your letter with which we are in complete sympathy. I enumerate them while providing some specifics on the points that you have raised.

We are completely for the autonomy of groups, against recruitment, the turning of members into brigades, the formal false-agreements between people who are not actually linked by collective activity. We are numerically a tiny group, distributed over four or five countries; and thus we have tried to organize ourselves as a function of the most urgent practical tasks that we have set for ourselves.

From this point of view, I must say that we are perfectly unaware of the more or less half-situationist groups evoked by your letter or by issue #5 of the H. de L. bulletin. In all of France, we are currently in contact with only two active groups: the Enrages[3] in Nanterre and Alarm[4] in Nantes, both completely autonomous and, in the case of Nantes, explicitly anarchist. (As you must have heard, the A.I.[5] has sunk into a lamentable parody, and we have only wanted to keep in contact with two or three of the most radical individuals who have left this organization.)

It is true that there are among us some artists and intellectuals, but clearly fewer than at the beginning. But these are, rather, anti-artists and anti-intellectuals, which is gloriously proved by the anti-careers that we have all made. There are indeed one or two pseudo-students [among us], but they are the exception. You know what we think of true students. And the most advanced tendencies that have appeared in this milieu only have a future by leaving it behind.

We absolutely do not doubt the fact that our positions are comprehensible by the proletariat and the lumpen. Fortunately! But we are happy to learn that things have indeed begun in Lyon. It goes without saying that "complicated" or theoretical language, for which one reproaches us, isn't an art that we cultivate so as to dazzle university people, and that it isn't the only language that we recommend for all future moments of revolutionary activity. It appears to us that "complicated" language corresponds to the beginning of theoretical reconstruction, which truly isn't a luxuary for an era that has been so misled and impotent in this respect. This theoretical activity obviously still has a lot of work ahead of it. But we think that every practical widening of current struggles must immediately correspond to new forms of "speech": schematically, we say, on the one hand, the clearest style in the conventional modes of communication (the tract or the poster, for example); on the other hand, the experimental use of the new modes of communication (a question sketched out preliminarily by the article by [Rene] Vienet[6]). In both cases, one can not say that the difficulty resides in the comprehension of theoretical language.

I do not believe that your festivals can frighten us. Likewise, I do not think that you can be frightened by our attempts at practice. Moreover, it is necessary to believe that certain people create for us a strange image of repose, so as to avoid thinking a little harder. For example, I ask myself from whence did the comrade who wrote the first article in H. de L. #5[7] draw the extravagance that I have a father who is a "very rich industrialist" and that, without this fact, the situationists "would be nothing," at least in France! It is difficult to imagine a weaker reasoning supported by a more ridiculous [deconnante] imputation. The drolest fact is that we are in agreement with this comrade that the class struggle exists! If he believes us to be partisans of ideology, then he obviously hasn't read us. He must know a curious species of "situationists" with whom we are unacquainted.

More concerning a direct dialogue dialogue between us (which would be desirable): we have no specific contact with the people in your region. Two months ago, we met a comrade from the Coeurderoy group:[8] Ali. We hardly know the positions of this group, and we are not even sure that it truly exists as a coherent group, capable of realizing the few actions that it envisions (cf. the O.G.[9]). Thus, your "strong suspicions" about the Alpin group and the SI are not at all grounded (I said at the beginning that we do not have or engage in this type of political contact other than in Nanterre and Nantes).

Now, concerning your two examples of "lies" in I.S. #11:

1) You are surely right about the false date of the Congress at Bordeaux. It isn't a lie, but an error. We set it from quite far away and, several months afterward, we were deceived by our memories. What importance can this erroneous date have for our remarks? Furthermore, we are ready to rectify it!

2) As far as the existence of a "second A.F. [Anarchist Federation]" formed at Bordeaux, this is not a lie, it is a judgment on our part (with which you might not be in agreement). If, for you, the unacceptable side of the A.F. is especially or uniquely the association of owners who dominate it legally -- one knows well that the split has reproduced nothing identical to this association --, for us the unacceptable side is especially the confusionism, the mixture of irreconciliable elements, the lack of intellectual rigor and even dishonest information (the Hirtzlers,[10] the F.I.J.L.,[11] freemasonry and now the pure invention about the fortunes of a member of the SI). And when you say that the encounter with Dargoire has proved that the split-off is not an organization, so much for the better: it is a useful awakening, but it is also a way of confirming that such a perspective had been desired by certain people and finally not provided.

We know well that the majority of the A.F. was not in agreement with the conduct of the [Maurice] Joyeux group. If we reproach this majority with something -- and we are only mixed up in this affair to the extent that the M.L.[12] began to attack us over and over again -- it is exactly for letting itself appear co-responsible for idiotic practices that were imposed upon it bureaucratically. I repeat that we did not know any member of the A.F. before this crisis started and that we are completely uninterested in creating problems for Joyeux or influencing anyone in the A.F.; and at the same time we don't think that the individualists in the A.F. feel the need to shake off the dust that we believe is more respectable.

It is completely true that it would be abusively restrictive if one had to critique just one of our theses; and we are ready to discuss any new revolutionary thesis. The rather humorous requirement for the "anti-public relations"[13] was only intended to discourage the young snobs who have absolutely nothing to say to us except "bravo." There have been some.

Greetings to the classic proletariat from the bizarre proletariat. And fraternally.

Guy Debord

[1] Anarchist in the Hydra of Lerne group, from Lyon.

[2] Bulletin of anarchist liaison.

[3] Around Rene Riesel.

[4] Around Yves Chotard.

[5] Anarchist International.

[6] "The situationists and the new forms of action against politics and art" (cf I.S. #11, p. 32-36).

[7] "After the failure of Lyon-Dagoire," signed Nerslau from the Bakunin Anarchist Group, Lyon.

[8] Anarchist Group of Liaison and Revolutionary Research, Lyon.

[9] "Take the assault, at the time of the Olympic Games, in a university city."

[10] Michel Hirtzler, from the Tribune of Cultural Action.

[11] Translator: see letter dated 9 April 1967.

[12] Le Monde Libertaire. [Translator: see the documents relating to Guy Bodson.]

[13] Translator: English in original.

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 3, 1965-1968. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! September 2005.)

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