from Guy Debord

To Constant
3 March [19]59
Dear Constant:

I think that we understand [each other]. I spoke of solitude as fundamental acceptance.[1] But it isn't beyond doubt that solitude is preferable to a compromised collective acyion. Everything depends on the tactics that we take, and on the results. Parallel to the explosion of COBRA, the explosion of lettrism in 1952 also involved the liquidation of an enterprise that had begun to present economic perspectives and that cut a figure of a quite well-known and effective avant-garde (in Paris). No one more than I consciously chose that explosion and the corollary solitude. In this case, as in the case of COBRA, it is even more necessary today that rigor, leading up to the explosion of the movement, has become an absolute necessity.

On the other hand, I do not believe I have shown indulgence for the painters (although you certainly must know better than I the small ruses and the ideological irresponsibilities in this milieu). You say that I haven't accepted poems in Potlatch. It is true: and now no longer. But have I accepted the reproduction of paintings in I.S.? Or commentaries on paintings?

There is an important point in my last letter that I see badly interpreted. Fortunately, I have never said that it would be necessary "to reject" sociologists or architects while accepting painters! Here exactly are my thoughts on this question:

1) I have said that we will also have difficulties with sociologists, architects, etc., because they are generally, at the start, prisoners of their practically divided activities, as painters are prisoners of painting. And we can not content ourselves with any privileged trade, all of which must be placed in the perspective of an experiment in total praxis (cf. the text that I sent you yesterday[2] and its relations with politics. And involvement in politics poses other difficulties.)

2) Despite its inevitable difficulties, it is quite obviously not necessary to reject but, on the contrary, to attract sociologists, architects, etc., for a collaboration with us that is broader and more conscious.

3) From now on, it isn't doubtful that an architect who adheres to our projects is much more interesting than a painter and would permit a superior collaboration (although still insufficient).

4) The most urgent problem, tactically, is to at first balance, then as soon as possible surpass the number of painters in the SI with the largest possible number of architects, urbanists, sociologists and others. And this as soon as possible, with the only reservation that their agreement is serious. Afterwards, a favorable development must create new unitary activities among certain individuals (this can not proceed without a more advanced economic basis).

Parallel to the propaganda effect of uniting other specialists, it would be necessary for us to convert new painters into situationists. I believe that, in the German group [Spur], there must be one or two people who are at this moment capable of a brutal evolution. It is only necessary to make ourselves clearly understood. Do you think to make, at [the conference of the situationists in] Munich, the presentation on the death of the traditional arts that I proposed?

It seems to me that, in our era, the future creators of new activities will normally come from the decomposed, individual arts -- provided that they are young and aren't already fixed in them with satisfaction (in the experiment of "extremist lettrism," I saw at least 4 or 5 of these "young artists, the most gifted of the new generation" who, then and there, preferred to abandon all activity, all careers in the artistic domains of which we together have seen the emptiness, and who also found themselves incapable of pursuing the revolutionary replacement.[3] This is a minimally honest attitude, which responds to your question, "What will remain of them afterwards?" If they do not understand anything, no problem. And if they do understand, they are placed in front of the alternative of real creation or silence.)

Actually, I believe that declarations against functionalism are not a serious platform for propaganda among the best current architects, who have known for a long time its empty results. But, under different forms, this spirit is without doubt necessary for the struggle on other planes. Because the urbanists, the Leftists and the aestheticians who are outside of architecture -- reasoning on the organization of future life -- are only aware of the appearance of functionalism and treat it as if it were a definite certitude.

I know very little of the constructivist avant-garde between the two world wars. Without doubt, I neglected it as a purely plastic research, which excuses nothing: in the period preceding the Report [on the Construction of Situations],[4] I had a tendency to very summarily regard the entire Kandinsky-Mondrian phase as being already attained and summarized by Malevitch's famous square.

Concerning the program to constitute the Bureau of Research [in Unitary Urbanism]: if you find a lot of interest in the sociological work that I loaned you, I can establish a preliminary list of points in which a "psychogeographical" vision separates itself (moving towards complexity and enrichment) from the ecological vision of a town, despite/because of the intelligence of this reformist urbanism.

Through the arguments made by your letter, I find out again that we are in agreement concerning our goals.

Regards to you all,

[1] Translator: at the conclusion of the letter dated 28 February 1959.

[2] Translator: "Inaugural declaration of the IIIrd Conference of the Situationist International to revolutionary intellectuals and artsists," cf. I.S. #3, p. 22.

[3] Translator: it is possible that here Debord is thinking, among others, of Gil J Wolman.

[4] Translator: before June 1957.

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

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