from Guy Debord

To Guy Leccia[1]
7 December 1976
Dear Guy:

I am happy that the books pleased you. As far as financial considerations go, they will be brief: the books were a gift, naturally.

Descents into the post-Parisian hellholes do not fail to be frightening. There is still some novelty to experience, as biased as one might be. It is thus, since our arrival and by subsequent jerks and starts, we have seen that the efforts to rebuilt the road, at least in our neighborhood,[2] are done at night, to say it more modestly, between 10 in the evening and 3 or 4 in the morning, several nights in a row, with all the racket that this involves. I suppose that you will have difficulty believing it by reading about it, because we have the difficulty of believing it by hearing it. But, on reflection, one knows the rationality of the procedure perfectly well. By day, this work would inconvenience traffic [circulation], which is important in all the senses of the word. At night, it only inconveniences the inhabitants, who have become rare and who aren't worth anything. Has one not decided to build an atomic power plant on the Seine, just a hundred kilometers upstream? He who can do the most does the least.

A fortunate improvement in this poor delirium: the same Claude-Bernard butcher shop, which does not lack clients, sells real meat: in liaison with 80 farms of organic producers to which the shop openly refers; the shop has beef, veal and pork, as well as sauerkraut, ham, fowl, cheese, tomato sauce, etc. Everything is excellent, as one can verify with the first taste. Thus we thank you greatly for providing this address and we consider you to be our anti-pollution food savior, in the "town" as well as in the country.

We are hardly surprised to learn that our Lower Occitan Vellaves are still hardly protesters: I wonder who other than the peasants can have the "land" in the Haute-Loire? One can better understand the slogan in Le Lot, Sologne, Normandy, Corsica, and Larzac. It is already something to attack the parking meters. But I will have more confidence on the day that they sabotage the liquid-manure pipelines[3] to the neo-hog farms (or at least the metallic poles holding up the telephone lines).

Concerning the theoretical part of your letter, I will at first say that I am quite in agreement about the fact that the revolution must respond in practice to all ecological problems, in the largest sense of the word "ecology" (the increase in psychological troubles is perhaps as serious in the short term as the ravages of pesticides[4] and nuclear radiation, etc.); and what the revolution must do in response, that is to say, win in a short time, under penalty of losing the stakes themselves. It is not even necessary to see the collapse of the world -- which is already indubitable -- it is necessary to rectify it, to replace it. An immense work!

About recuperation, I think as you do, that it is also -- and perhaps principally from the historical point of view -- an effect of the crisis of society, of the weakness of the ideas held by power. In this sense, governments recuperate as much and sometimes more than the moderate or pseudo-extremist opposition, and it is a sign of the misfortune of all. I have often combated, among certain comrades, a slightly purist-moralist tendency to only see a disastrous loss of critical truth when a new theme is reprised and falsified in the current social spectacle, without seeing that this is also the necessary road for what can succeed in shaking a society. This simple discontent effectively expresses a kind of resentment among the owners. When one truly expresses a critique, one knows how to use it -- and it is in this that one can so easily distinguish the recuperators! -- and thus one has no need of abstractly playing [the part of] the owners. Such a conclusion does not prevent one from recognizing the social positions and the objective and subjective goals of the recuperators (governmental or careerist).

Concerning "the man and the work," I completely admit that one must not judge an author by his morality, his political (or social, etc.) behavior; said another way, on whatever is manifestly exterior to the work that is the sole point of departure for the discussion and the only reason that one speaks of this person in the first place. But almost all of the works today of which we speak have chosen to mix -- and above all because they are deprived of a truly decisive internal criteria -- into their very fabric the criteria of political truth or picturesque biography: because they believe they more or less need it to support themselves. And it is normal that "he who draws the sword dies by the sword." Thus, whereas it is completely unimportant that Shakespeare never saw Verona or Venice, it is not unimportant that a pompous mythomaniac like Malraux[5] never set foot in China during the 1920s, although he founded his violent, sophisticated and word-of-mouth publicity campaign on this adventure (but if The Human Condition was as intrinsically valuable as Don Quijote, this would not be without importance.) It is necessary to compare what is comparable; and the contrary of Malraux in that era was [George] Orwell when he wrote Homage to Catalonia, which is from all points of view a better book than, for example, The Hope, and which is also more truthful about the Spanish Revolution. Even today, it is infinitely less known. Politics intervened in it. The Leftist intellectuals from then (1937) wanted to hide this troublesome "opinion" and Malraux, who supported the Komintern, was supported by the Stalinists and the "Miterrandists" of the time and the Delfeil de Tons[6] of today support Malraux and not Orwell. One cannot deny that Sartre devoted half of his writings to the question of Communism, and as he is still deceived where this subject is concerned, or has always lied on the subject, thus half of his work is lost and the rest, in my opinion, is not great. On the contrary, the fact that Villon, socially, was a thief and an assassin takes away nothing -- nor adds anything -- to the authenticity and successfulness of his lyricism. Retz's Memoirs or [Baltasar Gracian's] The Court Gentleman appear to me to be admirable books, although I hardly love cardinals or Jesuits. Political fanaticism does not even blind me to the point of finding bad all of the political books written in perspectives that are contrary to mine. Tocqueville was an enemy of the Revolution of 1848, but the Souvenirs that he devoted to it is a masterpiece of analysis of historical action and, of course, a literary masterpiece as well.

In fact, I especially detest the many groups of falsified revolution and as their world is vulgarly fake, their books are all failures, even as books.

As far as Charlie Hebdo, I understand your point of view, but I take a different position. In the same way that the half-full bottle is also, considered under a different aspect, a half-empty bottle, you are a little bit grateful for many of the things they say (although you have reservations about their talent, their principal goals, indeed, the sincerity of many among them), and I condemn them especially for what they do not say (Portugal, among a hundred other examples over the 18 months, in which nearly all of Leftism has hidden the principal revolutionary truth that is embarrassing to them). After all, with their beaks and fingernails they have established and censored a certain tribunal, although they affect a certain relaxation, and thus are "responsible" for what they have not said, so as to cite Sartre when they play the braggart.

Concerning their style of writing, I still think that:

1) They favor ambiguity and they use it very often (they also favor rapid writing, which is useful to journalists who perhaps ride bicycles but who are still not unemployed);

2) What is harmless and only a little compromised, because the violence of the tone -- you have studied it enough to be able to recognize it -- produces its greatest effects through isolated blows in a serious discourse, but devalorizes itself in all aspects when one makes systematic and professional use of it (this is why, for example, a slight injury caused by the hypocrites at Le Monde has more effect among the little family of politicians than two hundred pleasantries, most of them very just and cruel, that Le Canard Enchaine lavishes on them every week);

3) This style certainly is not imitating advertising, nor does it directly imitate Dadaism, but imitates the tardy imitators of Dadaism. As there are those who more and more imitate modern advertising, they all draw from the same banalized sources and naturally have an air of kinship. It is false freedom and false originality, because the function of the tone has changed. The real "Dadaist" tone (the first and best example being found in the art criticism of Arthur Cravan[7] in 1914) is a tone that directly offends the reader and his or her cultural values, and scorns the reader very openly, by taking all the risks, while the tone of Charlie Hebdo and the [...][8] advertisers (or Lacanesque professors) is the tone that crudely calls for the complicity of the reader -- and an always wretched position on language, whatever the apparent tone, whether it is a question of a 19th Century sermon or an electoral speech from today; it is a tone that puts itself at the level of the current opinions and prejudices of the reader (without improving what is good by deepening it nor distancing itself from what is weak), and that secretly scorns the reader by capitalizing on all the advantages.

But, finally, one can also say that it is necessary that there exists at this moment several small-time crooks of the Promised Land, who diffusing a little here and obscuring a little there, prophesize the delay of the appearance of some of the new questions -- which unfortunately are urgent -- since these questions are still not concretely dominated and since one contemplates them under the figures of the star. Lacking such people, there would certainly be others who would play the same role in the same places, that is to say, in terms of "marketing"[9] so as to "occupy the same niche" a little better or a little worse. You can no doubt consider all this with a more measured serenity in the calm of our mountains.

Best wishes. We embrace Marie-Christine.

[1] Ex-teacher who became involved in organic agriculture (surnamed "The Gaucho Salad").

[2] Excavation of a parking garage on the rue Saint-Martin, in front of the Saint-Nicholas-des-Champs Church.

[3] Put at the disposition of the farmers for free so that they could manure their lands. [Translator's note: "pipelines" was in English in the original.]

[4] Translator's note: English in original.

[5] Translator's note: Andre Malraux, author of The Temptation of the West (1926), The Human Condition (1933) and The Hope (1937), among other novels.

[6] Translator's note: a French journalist and humorist.

[7] Arthur Cravan, a poet-boxer, director of the review Maintenant, deserter from 17 nations, disappeared at night in a small, light boat in the Gulf of Mexico in 1918.

[8] Illegible word.

[9] Translator's note: English in original.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 5: Janvier 1973-Decembre 1978 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2005. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! April 2007. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted.)

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