from Guy Debord

To Gianfranco Sanguinetti
6 December [19]69
Dear Gianfranco:

The day before yesterday, I wrote to the schoolgirl whom I love. I hope to have a response soon.

I expect to receive from you as soon as possible the posters (I have only had two copies, friends carried them off; and, at this moment, it is necessary for me to have at least one so as to re-read and definitively correct the translation that I've made). I also expect several responses to diverse questions posed by my letters numbered 13 and 14. Moreover, would you like to send a copy of I.S. #1[1] to the following address? Harbi Mohammed,[2] B.P. 10, Timimoun (Saoura), Algeria. This is the famous Harbi whom we critiqued in The Class Struggles in Algeria. After several years in prison, he is now in a surveilled residence in the extreme south of Algeria. He wrote to me to ask for more documentation concerning the SI. He has personally paid very dearly for his theoretical errors.

The Roman comrade[3] sent me a note and several press clippings. Here [in Paris] we also find that the conviction of Tolin[4] is an interesting symptom. On the one hand -- at the level of the analysis of the Italian section -- it is obviously a test: if the protests are weak, without doubt others will soon be repressed (it is also a "trial balloon" so as to divide the "respectacle Stalinists" from the Leftists; of course, with the presence among the defense team of a Stalinist lawyer, the so-called Communist Party continues its ambiguous game as much as possible). On the other hand, at the level of conduct, it is a supplementary alarm signal: the current "comfort" of the Italian section risks being interrupted soon. Anticipate [hiring] a lawyer capable of making the best juridical defense possible, and intelligently making the political defense that you must also and especially proclaim (more durably and more "theoretically" than the unfortunate Tolin). Especially anticipate, as much as possible, escaping from a sudden arrest. At least avoid being picked up together. It would be useful for us here to have a list of well chosen addresses (in Italy), so as to send them a tract printed in France, if such vicissitudes happen before a general clash.

The Roman comrade has given me the same information concerning the project to dissolve the Leftists groups that Comrade "Bergamasque #1"[5] provided in his letter of 2 December [1969].

Concerning this letter: I am completely in agreement with our friend that "fascism" is not imminent, in the real sense of the term (in the anticipated crisis, the organized fascists will only be shock troops in the service of the bourgeoisie, having at most the function of the "C.D.R."[6] in 1968 in France). But I believe that, "theoretically," one cannot underestimate the possibility of a military intervention -- which remains rather improbable. C[laudio] certainly has reason to say that the adequate form of government for modern, spectacular capitalism in Western Europe is Social-Democracy. Nevertheless, it is necessary to bear in mind several elements:

1) To live fast in the present-day European crisis, "Social-Democracy" is wearing itself out. Indeed, one sees that it is a hundred times inferior to the illusionist power of its true ancestors: Ebert and Kautsky.

2) Choosing and realizing everywhere the form of political power that best suits it is a rationalization that capitalism, even modern capitalism, has never been capable of doing. The fact that the Stalinist forces in Italy and France must be integrated into neo-Social Democratic power renders the problem still more complicated.

3) France and Spain -- certainly different where the processes of formation of their current political regimes is concerned -- have both arrived at being modern industrialized countries in which power is quite far from a Social-Democratic management.

4) During the Algerian War (a phenomenon that remains peripheral, although not devoid of several important political implications), we -- the people from S. ou B.[7] and ourselves -- thought that Leftist cretinism, which everywhere announced that fascism was at the door, was derisive. We were even opposed to the exaggerations of those who underestimated the possibilities of a victorious putsch by the French army. On this last point, we were at least half-reassured with the help of theory, rather than with counting on the forces really ready to oppose such a putsch. History "gave us reason," but this didn't mean that we truly had reason, at the level of the theory of praxis that had completely understood the moment. We didn't deny then that several regiments of parachutists could seize the ministers; and that the proletarian reaction (in those conditions) risked being weak. But we thought that the interlude would be brief, because such a regime could not govern an advanced country. Nevertheless, one could not deny that the interlude risked having several heavy consequences and, for example, for us. It appeared to me more and more clearly that, in April 1961, the putschist generals wanted to launch airborne troops into Paris. De Gaulle had clearly given the order to open fire [on them], and thought to arm the workers at Renault (thus relying upon the C.G.T.), because the execution of that order by troops or the police remained strongly problematic. In fact, the insubordination of the (non-professional) soldiers, who numbered more than 40,000 in Algeria -- their direct sabotage, supported by the appeals to "legal" power -- broke the movement in one or two days. This was the first reaction to the putschist enterprise from the objective reality that it had neglected. But, just the same, this objective element was a precise subjective reaction, which perhaps might not have taken place, or might have been repressed with energy and success if Generals Challe and Salan[8] (who could marshal tens of thousands of trustworthy men in shock troops, often foreigners, and the better part of the officers' corps) had had the resolution of a prince such as Machiavelli had in mind. Naturally, the generals had no knowledge of Marxism. Taking power in France didn't seem to them to be an enterprise with a socio-economic future. Their problem was more "technical": they depended entirely on France for their supplies of munitions and gasoline. Thus, it would have been necessary to immediately get the troops into France. The government had left them few transport planes and the soldiers at the aerial bases mutineed. Thus, the putschists lost the first night. There was time to act the next day, but by beginning to shoot. Salan had reconciled himself to this, but Cahlle, a true cretin, wanted only to bluff, as if one could next win the Algerian War "in three months"! Thus, the internal incoherence of the enterprise (which could have been avoided) condemned it immediately; but not its objective incoherence, which would only have appeared later, after its "success." Irrationality has its place in history, particularly in reactionary movements.

Nevertheless, I believe that it is necessary to anticipate the repression of which the existing regime [in Italy] is capable, perhaps accompanied -- or completed -- by the repression of which the Stalinists are capable. I do not know which groups will be utilizable in Italy, where there is no Foreign legion, nor parachutists who have practiced for fifteen years in colonial wars. But the army can be put into action by the government with a slight official modification of politics towards the "center-right" and the simple program of defending the republican order.

The story of Bengt[9] is bizarre. Excessive modesty -- of the kind displayed by Robert [Chasse] at the beginning of the American section -- or conflict because the three Swedes would like to be admitted [to the SI] all at the same time? Without doubt, [J.V.] Martin will clear the problem up [at the delegates' meeting] in Luxembourg.

After Martin's statement of opinion on the American affair, the future unanimity at Luxembourg against Robert and Bruce [Elwell] is so obvious that one can even ask if a New York will come. Here [in Paris], we are exhausted (I mean: our patience is exhausted) by this affair, which has taken up more than half of our last two meetings, with an additional twenty hours spent by two or three of us. We do not want to enter into any consideration of showing indulgence towards the New Yorkers. If the organizational document of the Italian section justly declares that a rejected demand for exclusion doesn't oblige us to automatically exclude he who demanded it, but forcefully raises a profound problem concerning subsequent accord, it is certain that there is an even stronger reason that an exclusion that has been arbitrarily announced and then rejected by the SI as a whole can only return against its authors.

I plan to meet Tony [Verlaan] in Amsterdam next week, but a note from Jon [Horelick] received this morning informs me that he will be in Milan, which is where Jon will be when he returns from Yugoslavia. Transmit my regards to them.

I expect the Bergamasque[10] in Paris on 27 December. Will you be here then or beforehand?

I leave next Tuesday for Brussels, where I will work a bit with Raoul [Vaneigem]. One also wants to once again drink the beloved beers of that country. All the same, write me at my place, I will return at the end of the week.

Greetings to all,

P.S. Each week, we say our good-byes to Mustapha [Khayati] with an emotion that obviously gets colder. According to the most recent news, he will remain another month in Paris. Then he will leave: for London. After London, he will work at the Institute for Social History in Holland. Finally, without any further ado, he will run to what he calls his duty, towards the fire of revolution: that is to say, to Milan, where he reckons to stay the whole time that it will be necessary to draft the article on the [Workers'] Councils that he firmly promised to give you. And afterwards, the great departure, the hot sands, the sound of gun-fire, the army [djich], the raid [rezzou], Lawrence, Abd el-Kader, etc.

This all becomes increasingly comic. My hypothesis is the following: the burning revolutionary situation that he described to us at [the conference of the SI in] Venice, and that was met with general scepticism, doesn't exist in any way in the Middle East, and Mustapha begins to glimpse this. Thus, he expects that history will bring about the situation that he presented to Venice as actually present ; and, at the moment that it does, he can disembark on the terrain with the satisfaction of having foreseen it correctly. One knows that the movement of the observer who displaces himself is at the heart of the theory of relativity and that Mustapha's application of this theory to political analysis is a striking innovation.

[1] Written in the margin: "Plus the poster." [Translator: I.S. stands for Internazionale Situazionista.]

[2] Mohammed Harbi, cf. Correspondance, Volume III, p. 58, note 5.

[3] Eduardo Rothe.

[4] Francesco Tolin was sentenced on 1 December 1969 to seventeen months in prison for "incitement to crime and apology for violence."

[5] Claudio Pavan. [Translator: a bergamasque is an 18th century musical form that was invented in Bergamo.]

[6] Committees for the Defense of the Republic.

[7] Socialisme ou Barbarie.

[8] Maurice Challe and Raoul Salan, two of four putschist generals (along with Andre Zeller and Edmond Jouhaud).

[9] Bengt Ericson.

[10] Claudio Pavan.

(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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