from Guy Debord

To Patrick Straram[1]
3 October 1958
To Straram

1) The theoretical objective of the S[ituationist] I[nternational] is the construction of situations. At least (we are already on this road) to build several ambiances -- or fragments of ambiances -- for experimenting with transitory behaviors.

To the extent that a notable development of realizations of this sort will not take place without liaison with the social and political climate, and will even need (cf. unitary urbanism) to affirm itself in relationship to the delay of certain liberatory socio-economic trends that we have observed since the beginning of 1958.

The historical appreciations of my "Report [on the Construction of Situations]" (which were made on the basis of the revolutionary events of 1956) must be corrected in a more pessimistic direction. The rapid halt of the Stalinization of the USSR, the immobilization of the Polish Revolution, the passage of China to the camp of Communist dogma, the incapacity of the French proletariat to aid even a little bit the insurgent Algerians and, consequently, the collapse of bourgeois democracy in France [all] mark the phase of reaction into which we have now entered. One fears that the camp of revolution will be frozen for a more or less long time, and that dictatorship as a form of government will extend itself to the "free world," starting with Europe.

In these conditions, we foresee a longer period of (pre-situationist) transition. Which gives it a larger place than we primitively envisioned it.

2) Our fundamental practical objectives are propaganda (theoretical development of our positions, publicizing this theory) and the assembly of those who have found the same objective problem, that is to say, the same impasse, and often the same beginnings of a solution in the different advanced sectors of modern culture, in a united action of a new type (this theory and this assembly being inseparable from an extension of practical experiences). To reach this superior cultural creation -- that which we call the situationist game -- we now think that it is necessary to be an active force in the actual field of this era's culture (and not on the fringes of it, as we cheerfully were in 1952-1953). This real action isn't devoid of perils: the ideological and material powers of artistic commerce can, in the end, carry off and dissolve us. Nevertheless, we have had -- in reaction to the confusionism of Isou's Lettrism, which [Gil] Wolman sustained up to the end, in a subsequent phase of the L[ettrist] I[nternational] -- to renounce the pure (inactive) extremism that Wolman and I represented in 1952.

3) The case of the French section of the SI: this administrative division into national sections was only adopted at the conference at Cosio d'Arroscia under the pressure of the right wing of the Italian section, which wanted to keep a certain autonomy. Since then, these problems have been sorted out. The general tendency is toward centralization. However, the situationist sections in Germany and Scandanavia are still quite inactive; the one in Algeria (where Dahou is) is obviously absolutely ghostly. The French section, which is cosmopolitan, has up the present served as the center (geographical position, French is the only language common to all), and has begun the publication of a journal. At present, the political conjuncture here in France already poses the problem of transferring this center to Belgium or Italy (police surveillance, including telephone wiretaps and risks that jeopardize the publication of issue #2, which will come out in November, I think).

4) It would be quite unrealistic for me to define for you the current positions of the SI without knowing your attitude towards the "minority of 1954." I think that our opposition back then, even if it was aggravated by subjective interpretations, rested upon real divergences. But it seems to me that the sequel has shown that these divergences, which today are totally superceded, were less important than the positive value of the conceptions that we formulated together in 1953-1954. This is my conclusion. If you and Gilles Ivain [Ivan Chtcheglov], of whom I've heard nothing for several years, think that you have moved in a direction that hasn't deviated from our former communal positions and that is in the general style of the SI's research, then I would be happy if our dialogue is re-opened.

Your move,
1, impasse de Clairvaux, Paris, 3rd
TURbingo 25 24

[1] Former member of the Lettrist International.

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

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