from Guy Debord

Eduardo Rothe
3 January [19]70
Dear Buenaventura

Thank you for your letters of 17 and 27 December [1969]. I have greatly appreciated your study of "the theme of fire in German romantic thought."[1] I believe that it is exactly what had to be said on this question; bearing in mind one or two limitations that are unfortunately imposed by the conditions of the universal expose. My congratulations to your collaborator.[2]

Concerning the future activity of the Italian situ[ationist]s, we are in agreement with you: all of the friends should now return. Concerning the questions of "defensive coherence" that you raise, I have reminded our friends (who easily agree) that, in this domain, one obviously can not know the exact extent of prudence to observe; and that it is thus necessary to systematically choose to err on the side of being a little too prudent, rather than on the other side. Of course, it is not necessary to drift too far. I find that, in the final analysis, you are right. But exactly because there are several reservations, I suppose that you should take care not to "provoke" these reservations by an ornamental ludic excess added to the same construction, which is obviously very serious.

On the situation of the process in general. The arresting blow [coup d'arret] is truly severe. This isn't an isolated provocation (of the sort that it did not happen "by chance," nor was it the deed of just anyone, nor did it happen at any old moment). It coincided with the renewal -- "general"! -- of the collective [labor] contracts and one tells me that one thousand five hundred man-hunts have begun, not only for Leftist ideologues, but also for the advanced workers who made themselves conspicuous during the most illegal aspects of the wildcat strikes. This is the equivalent of a classic repressive effort to decapitate a revolutionary workers' party that, under the circumstances, still doesn't exist formally (that is to say, which is less well-armed in liaisons and capacities of organized analysis than a consciously constitued party that experienced a period of clandestinity).

I believe that what takes place in January (to be precise, in January-February) will provide us with the decisive specifications on the future of the process. I believe that, if the current arresting blow prolongs its effects -- and, to begin with, it is a recoiling effect, but later this can be a veritable discouragement, with the fall of many people into isolation -- I thus say: prolong its effects for more than several months, one will see the collapse of this moment of the movement. The professor,[3] a little more optimistic than I, says that, if this period lasts longer than a year, we will see these same results. Naturally, in this case, the experience will have formed many revolutionary proletarians, and will have greatly changed the social climate and even the intellectual climate. The current critique would spread itself further, although perhaps in delicate conditions (if, for example the Stal[inist]s participate a bit in power). But the proletarian movement that doesn't fail to return (perhaps quickly) would be another movement, consequently higher than the principal [political] party, but lower than the point reached -- and especially the speed acquired -- in November [1969].

On the Italian section itself, the carrier of this letter (with whom I am completely in agreement) will explain to you in detail the larval crisis that we have discovered through several discussions in Paris and then systematically examined in twenty hours' of new discussions.

One the one hand, a qualitatively false report of your discussion of Valeri[4] was given to me by G[ianfranco Sanguinetti] (the Professor was present; and let him speak). This recital was relatively unfavorable to the real position of C[laudio Pavan] and yourself. Meanwhile, everything was presented as an already decided detail; but this demonstrates (the verification of the reality of your debate[5] having been obtained at the first instant of the examination that we then made all together) that the organizational document of the Italian section still hasn't settled all of the prehistoric problems. From from it!

Another conversation between G[ianfranco] and I on the question of the lawyers[6] and the mythological heritage of the [fruit] preserves[7] revealed -- on the part of G[ianfranco] -- an objectively aggressive illogic that went as far as unconscious insolence founded on a sort of bourgeois pseudo-elegance, which was as ill-advised in his case as it would be for anyone else who has the honor of speaking to people such as us.

Thus I immediately and roughly revealed this impertinence. This provided the occasion to examine a certain number of intersubjective difficulties,[8] notably the uncertainties of Gianfranco on several questions. After this very long discussion, G[ianfranco] admitted the truth of all of our critiques; and all sorts of good resolutions were adopted by all. This was nothing extraordinary, but the new points are that this time we approached the concrete basis of these irrational difficulties and that we clearly proclaimed (ten times) that this "theoretical" explanation and these programmatic resolutions only have meaning as a function of a practical realization of all of these decisions; a realization that must begin immediately, pursue itself under the conscious and permanent control of all, and be completed -- in a very short period -- in one manner or another, but radically.

At the moment, I believe that it would be very good if the Italian section admits one or two new comrades (so as to come forth all the better from its too "familial" mode of being together). Of course, without losing from view the level to be maintained and without hiding from the potential situs any of the problems that have arisen or the manner of resolving them. In other words: it is necessary to have done with all confusion, and not "enrich" the section with new members who risk increasing the confusion.

Cordially yours,
Colin Decayeux[9]

[1] Allusion to Il Reichstag brucia? (Is the Reichstag Burning?), distributed in Milan, starting 19 December 1969, signed Gli amici dell'Internazionale [The Friends of the International]. [Translator: this text concerns the bombing of the Piazza Fontana in Milan on 12 December 1969. Because this bombing was used as a pretext to round up "the usual suspects," Debord uses a certain amount of code to express his thoughts in this letter to the writer of that tract.]

[2] Puni Cesoni.

[3] Paolo Salvadori.

[4] Ennio Valeri, object of a debate at the heart of the Italian section due to his text on the break with Sylvain and Sigiani.

[5] Written in the margin: "of the debate on Valeri."

[6] Written in the margin: "and on several other details."

[7] An ancestor of Gianfranco Sanguinetti made his fortune in the packaging of preserves.

[8] Written in the margin: "of the Italian section."

[9] Accomplice of Francois Villon. Pseudonym employed by Guy Debord with certain comrades. [Translator: it is possible that the salutation "Dear Buenaventura" is an allusion to Buenaventura Durutti, an anarchist much admired by the situationists.]

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

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