from Guy Debord

To Jaap Kloosterman
6 March 1982
Dear Jaap:

Your letter of 20 January has been transmitted to me here in Arles, where I will be until the end of April.

I am very happy to learn of your project to write a book about Poland. It would be immediately published in France at least. It would be better if it were brief but published soon, while the fighting continues, and before a hundred falsifiers have embroiled the subject.

By treating the question on its real basis, it would be quite clear that the revolution and counter-revolution in Poland constituted two of the greatest events of the half-century and were of an immediately global importance, as they demonstrated the universal complicity of all the powers and their "information," which now becomes even more cynically full of lies than a month ago.

The Polish workers have been magnificent and remain so. The "double consciousness" of the Walesist leadership, although in this case carried to a strange degree, is not without precedent in history: it has been produced each time that, faced with an urgent strategic choice, those who are responsible decide to eliminate from their calculations the only possibility that is absolutely certain, quite simply because they subjectively do not like it. From that instant, it does not matter what other possibility appears to them be the most desirable, even if it is impossible, and thus they struggle to attain it or for its half-realization at a later time and inevitably fail; and while they estimate that their enemy "must" understand their good will and their sacrifices, they fall back on seeking another outcome that pleases them less, but that is equally impossible, etc. Thus, what must happen happens inevitably on the day chosen by the enemy. And since they have struggled for an impossible perspective, they have in fact and above all untiringly condemned all of reality and are thus powerless to confront it. Thus, Blum refused to wage war in 1936, and Allende refused to fight the civil war in 1973.[1] It is surprising that a Polish worker,[2] even one advised by a pope, could not be sure of what he demanded of the totalitarian bureaucracy and so it was suicide to try to please it. Those who out of good faith attributed "realism" and even prudence to a crazy politics of charlatanism, and thus quite simply postulated a miracle, were quite stupid. Walesa seems charmed to have learned the trade of union leader by deceiving the workers here as elsewhere, but in an historical environment in which this trade could no more be practiced than potlatch could be practiced in the management of a multinational. In England, his talents would have won him a seat in the House of Lords. But there he would have needed the direct intervention of the Virgin Mary, at the very least, to become the king of Poland, armed with the power to veto and divide the country once more: [perhaps] with the nuncio of the pope and some viceroy sent by the Czar in Moscow.

I think that you are right to not continue the polemic with Miguel [Amoros]. It is hardly very interesting, and especially given the fact that the time for it has passed. Certainly his honest pamphlet will never fall under the reproach of having abused the "poetic license" of agitation! It is not with this genre of writing that one stirs men into action. And, if such an intention no longer appears to him to be the order of the day, one can no longer find in his pamphlet a clearly convincing, strategic exposition of what has happened, and through which interactions, over the course of the last few years of Spanish history.

In fact, during the current period, I am obliged to conclude that there is nothing to attempt in Spain with the reduced forces that one could encounter there, although several individuals could find themselves to be excellent in a subsequent period. The "involutionist"[3] masters of ceremonies have not ceased to gain ground. The Constitutionalists display their absolute will not to oppose them, hoping that things will remain where they are. They even keep a democratic silence on the "syndrome"[4] of modernist industrial food production. It is even true that Gonzalez is ready to put himself at the service of a dictatorship that would be quite liberal if it would allow him to figure in it. The extremists, with the exception of half of the Basques, wait for better days and it seems to me they even fear this is not possible in the long run. Justly disgusted with the Constitutionalists, the proletariat, vomiting out the soldiers, still says nothing for itself about this battle between vain shadows. This silence is certainly the most menacing element, which slows to a very striking degree the completion of the task of the people of the pronunciamento,[5] a task that nevertheless is easy if it is simply a question of finishing off the trampled puppets of the Cortes. But the soldiers themselves are Spanish and nothing takes place on time.

I believe that the action undertaken over the course the last two years in Spain[6] has essentially failed. One can, in summary, cite three causes:

1) The first and most important concerns the end of the democratic "transition," marked by the fall of Suarez (Miguel [Amoros] is wrong to prefer him, according to the chronology of the enemy, to the putsch of [General] Tejero: thus one accepts the illusions that the enemy has scattered and that what failed was more importance than what had already been quite successful). All of the conditions, which were bad at the start, have changed for the worse due to the clear confession of the fact that the Constitution, of which one speaks more and more, has only been a fiction and by this one can measure the total absence of popular reaction. Before, Suarez could fear, among other things, the reactivation of the revolutionary front. One could play upon it, on the condition that one had several [other] cards for bluffing. Suarez's successor and the King are subject to the orders of the majority of the generals, and these two no longer fear the excesses of their bad humor. The action [we attempted] thus began too late, almost absolutely so, this being due to the facts that there were no Spaniards available outside the prison, and that (given the characters) the most simple practical bases could only be obtained slowly, with difficulty, dramatically. When there were Spaniards and several foreigners who were capable -- if this word is not excessive -- of acting on this terrain, things were made more complicated than facilitated. All that I have said in this paragraph, although simple, could vaguely be admitted point by point by almost everyone but, I believe, the ensemble is not exactly understood by anyone in Spain.

2) In the current conditions, all of the Spanish comrades, with the exceptions of several quite notable nuances and disagreements, conclude that it is necessary to temporally forget, to work very prudently, to not spread illusions, to act defensively (?) or to go into hiding, if not exile. I can only say that this is not, in the ensemble, quite exact and that several among them have very good motivations for thinking in this way. I do not believe I can share their pessimism about an absolutely general and fatal passivity or especially about this passivity's duration. But then nothing can be substituted for their own decisions and in Spain less than anywhere else. It follows that, according to the actual convictions of the Spanish comrades, the prisoners in Segovia are now absolutely condemned until there is a subsequent reversal of the total politics in the country. It is thus quite natural that retrospective half-doubts about the efficacy of what could have been done in the preceding period accompanies certainty concerning the quasi-uselessness of what can be done now.

3) The appeal of September 1980,[7] although it reached a good number of people, had a weak practical echo in the autonomous, revolutionary milieu: there were more people distributing it than discussing it and, in these discussions, the best propositions for actions did not impose themselves. This was followed by a great demoralization, very understandable in the prison itself but quite premature elsewhere, and it has become worse since January 1981. I pass over the role of several half-crazy people, one of whom did not create problems because he was completely crazy, and two or three of whom were probably provocateurs who, for want of logic, were not quickly recognized by everyone else. A constantly impassioned atmosphere (sometimes because of my personal involvement) complicated the simplest questions: it is more uncomfortable to be loved in Spain than detested in all the other countries. Finally, as you yourself have seen at the start of the race, for any given horse, there is someone who finds it urgent to critique the bridle.

In sum, I believe that a dozen good occasions have been lost. It is impossible to go further, against all the objective conditions and almost all of the subjective ones.

Thus, Fanelli[8] remains the only foreigner who has obtained great results in Spain. History thus seems to establish that the three necessary conditions are not understanding Spanish and only meeting those who understand neither French nor Italian. Unfortunately, I have only benefited from the third of these conditions.

For your possible edition of Segovia, you can add the circular[9] as a postface, since those who were the most directly involved desire it if there will be an edition published in Spain.

I have admired the photos of the bookstore in Amsterdam.[10] It is truly regrettable than one has never seen a showcase so well-made in a French-speaking country.

Can you tell me when we can have the texts by Ascaso and Durruti? Alice [Becker-Ho] will translate them, and it will be necessary to anticipate when this will be done.

Best wishes,

[1] Translator's note: Leon Blum was the leader of the French "Popular Front" in 1936-37. Salvadore Allende was deposed in 1973 (it is said that he killed himself rather than surrender to the putschists).

[2] Lech Walesa.

[3] Translator's note: not a reference to an established political party or ideological grouping, but an informal reference to supporters of the status quo. Often opposed to "evolutionists."

[4] In May 1981, a syndrome of so-called atypical pneumonia affected 25,000 people and caused more than 1,200 deaths. It was officially attributed to toxic rapeseed oil, but actually caused by the agricultural use of an organo-phosphate produced by Bayer.

[5] Translator's note: the pronunciamento of 29 January 1981. See letter dated 25 February 1981.

[6] Translator's note: effort by Debord and others to obtain the release of libertarian and "autonomous" revolutionaries held in the prison in Segovia, Spain.

[7] Appeals from the prison in Segovia.

[8] Giuseppe Fanelli, Italian revolutionary, Bakunin's emissary in Spain in 1868. Although he did not speak Castellan, he was successful in constituting the first Spanish sections of the International Association of Workers.

[9] Translator's note: the Circular to all the Internationalists, written by Jaap Kloosterman and published in Dutch, English, French and English, by the Federation of the Dutch Region of the International Friends and dated 9 June 1981.

[10] Which mostly displayed books by Guy Debord and the situationists.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 5: Janvier 1979-Decembre 1987 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2006. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! May 2007. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted.)

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