from Guy Debord

To Paolo Salvadori
9 December [19]69
Dear Paolo:

I have received your two unnumbered letters (of 3 and 5 December). I reiterate my request to receive the posters from 19 November [1969] as quickly as possible.

As your letter of 3 December is very long, I must respond briefly to each point.

I have called the operation as a whole a "capolavoro" [masterpiece]: text and practical distribution [of Avviso al proletario italiano sulle possibilita presetni della rivoluzione sociale, Notice to the Italian Proletariat on Current Possibilities for Social Revolution]. Naturally the text can not claim to summarize in a poster all that one has to say on the question. Nevertheless, I believe that at this stage the attack against the unions is essential. Perhaps it would be necessary to say more clearly (more crudely) a banality such as: "the workers aren't in power in Russia." I know that this is evoked at the beginning of the "Summary of who the situationists are" [in Internazionale Situazionista #1], but in a very theoretical and summary fashion. At this moment, many workers can think that these bureaucrats in Italy, today, are their enemies, but also believe that Russia was correctly proletarian (before Khruschev? before Stalin?). I believe that the summary of the SI is good for the occasion. Do you know our summary of 1965[1] -- "international group of theoreticians . . . " -- that was printed at the end of the English version of "Decline and Fall [of the Spectacle-Commodity Society]" and on the poster that was the first edition of The Class Struggles in Algeria? That era has already changed. Perhaps two or three phrases from this text (our most general positions) could be used. If you do not know this text, ask me for a copy of it.

Your considerations on flowers prove the aesthetic delicacy of situationist thought. I have written a Chinese poem on the same question. Here is the translation:

In the state of the prince of Gon Dhi,[2]
There are only three flowers.
Is it necessary to throw them in the river that flows towards the East?
Its course is uncertain, but it never returns to its source.
Or must they wait for another spring in their country?
The men want more flowers, it is also necessary to have pao-tse.
Time is our friend and our enemy.

Pao-tse is a Chinese dish that one can translate by the word pizza. One must always have a certain banality in a classic Chinese poem and this one wants to communicate something like "man doesn't live on bread alone." I wait for your opinion of my work. Its philosophic profundity will certainly not escape you.

I have no intention of modifying your program of work -- especially from so far away. I only ask if you yourself think to continue it. I will soon send you a copy of the "provisional statutes." I do not have the publication by the I.C.O. [Informations et Correspondance Ouvriere] on the German councilist movement (which I read long ago). If Jon [Horelick] hasn't given you a copy, ask Rene R[iesel].

As for Silva, it seems obvious to me that it is necessary to replace [Robert] Chasse's article. It is impossible that Chasse's name figures among the several authors responsible for the group of texts brought together in this volume. Given what he had already done after [the conference of the situationists at] Venice, one could easily foresee the degree of extravagance to which he risked carrying himself later on. Since the choice is very limited, I believe that the article by Jon would be a good representative of our American publications.[3] This choice can help Jon support himself as a situationist in America, where his position will certainly be difficult at the beginning. For the retrocopertina [back cover], I still prefer the appeal from the Occupations Committee, which, "plastically," isn't very beautiful, but which is without doubt a real historical document. When the posters of the C.M.D.O.[4] were printed, the factories had already been occupied for five or six days and this precise poster[5] only had value because of the four that followed it in the series:[6] they have almost always been collected together in their precise order.

[J.V.] Martin has written me that the bureaucratic ordinances expedited by the New Yorkers have made the worst impression on Bengt [Ericson] and the two other Swedes. New York also demands of them that they accomplish such and such works in certain fixed periods of time. Without doubt, these [Swedish] comrades have their own uncertainties and worries that must be radically surmounted if they want to be with us later on; but one can understand that [Robert] Chasse's tone, which is already extremely disagreeable to us, has a disastrous effect on external friends.

Since Jon and Tony [Verlaan] are now in Milan, I think that you might better understand "the logic" -- if one can call it that -- and "gli scopi perseguiti"[7] of the New York operation. For us, it is clear that Chasse would like to exclude Tony by any means. At bottom, there have been conflicting styles of activity (or, in the case of the New Yorkers, relative inactivity) and clashes of personality. This has become pure and simple hatred. But it is clearly Chasse who has developed this hatred to the point of open aggression and by means of a scandously parodic "situationist" bureaucracy. I do not believe that we could have intervened earlier, without raising another problem (the independence of the sections on the tactical and disciplinary planes) and a new series of protests that would have been stronger than the suspicions already expressed by the Americans in Venice. The first letter from Riesel and I (on the absurdity of the dates) was already a warning for whomever wanted to read it. Moreover, I do not know if restoring an artificial peace in the American section -- of the kind that was on display in Venice -- would have been a good measure for the future. At the least, the abscess has now burst with an unequivocable clarity.

It will indeed be good that Eduardo returns to Milan.

Agreed upon the brochure.[8] I have the impression that the ensemble of the texts that you cite risks greatly exceeding fifty pages. I think that the motion for the dissolution of U.N.E.F. after [the scandal in] Strasbourg (which was quite long, but which I no longer have a copy of, and of which I can only find the fragments quoted in I.S. #11) was essentially written by Mustapha [Khayati], but without doubt with the collaboration of members of the suspended bureau of the A.F.G.E.S.[9] (perhaps Vayr-Piova?)[10] This motion was read at the beginning of the U.N.E.F. conference in Paris in January 1967 by Schneider,[11] the president. It elicited a general stupor and diverse rumors. Then [Rene] Vienet, who had slipped, completely abusively, into the delegation from Strasbourg, said that the stupid students indeed had not understand this text, and he re-read it [aloud] exactly and completely. After the preliminary vote required by this motion had taken place, and the Strasbourg delegation had immediately left the conference, many Leftist cretins cried out to them to remain, so as to explain themselves some more!

Concerning the Italian pro-situs: without any doubt, the principle of the break in the chain [invitation to join the SI] must only be applied to those individuals who are responsible and well informed. If there are ignorant young people still incapable of understanding what it is a question of, and thus incapable of making a choice with full knowledge, then it suffices to tell them that relations with them can possibly begin when they have left the bad organizations with which they are objectively involved or when they have understood a precise problem and have openly taken a position based on the conclusions that they have drawn.

It is very good to read Hegel, but if Tito C. has only done this in the current period, then it is obviously too little. Cesoni and his wife must be encouraged to become more than disciples. But if they are still disciples after six months or a year, it will be necessary to consider them to be definitively incapable. Have they at least made an attempt at praxis? (I believe that it is a good thing in their favor that they have not become hostile after the quite tough manner in which you have treated them -- but there are several intellectuals who never surpass honest and empty good will.) With the workers, it is always necessary to let them take the initiative where new meetings are concerned, because they have a thousand-times justified distrust of all revolutionary theoreticians who seek them out. In I.S. #11, we say that we expect that the workers, driven by their own problems, will find us. And actually, it was in May [1968] that the first came -- materially -- to the buildings that we had occupied, to begin to talk to us, while several among them had been reading us for a long time. This is not to say, of course, that we must not go to the doors of the factories on certain occasions, nor that we must not try to get the workers to read our publications.

In France, we have seen a flowering of pro-situ texts, especially after May. Generally they are very poor. The most simple repetitions.

In the texts by Eddy,[12] one discerns a personal work (upon theoretical influences that are not too hidden), rather than the style of the recuperators. I have not read the very long text. On the other hand, I distrust this attempt at self-management by the editions of the "Saggiatore"! Do you know anything about them?

But perhaps these texts justify a discussion so as to formulate a certain degree of agreement (or, on the contrary, to end in a clear opposition). One thinks that, to a great extent, this genre of text is written primarily for you.

Without doubt, you will see arise texts that always get better: Italy is becoming a good school for revolution, the courses are lasting longer in Italy than here in 1968, and the instruction has several chances to be completed.

I gather that, since you wrote your letter, you have received the stupid plan for [the meeting in] Luxembourg. Here [in Paris], we no longer have any news from New York. From the moment that the sections began to take positions against their manoeuvre, the New Yorkers have enclosed themselves in a silence that is in vivid contrast with the storm [precipitation] of ultimata and exhortations that preceded it.

Cordially yours,

[Summary of 1965]

The journal Internationale Situationniste is the expression of an international group of theoreticians who, in the last few years, have undertaken a radical critique of modern society: a critique of what it really is and a critique of all of its aspects.

According to the situationists, a universally dominant social model, which tends towards totalitarian self-regulation, is only apparently combatted by false contestations permanently posed on its own terrain, by illusions that, on the contrary, reinforce this model. Bureaucratic pseudo-socialism is only the most grandiose of these disguises of the old hierarchical world of alienated labor. The development of capitalist concentration, and the diversification of its function at the global level, have produced the forced consumption of the abundance of commodities, as well as the control of the economy and all of life by bureaucrats, through their possession of the State; or direct or indirect colonialism. Quite far from being the definitive response to the incessant revolutionary crises of the historical era begun two centuries ago, this system has now entered into a new crisis: from Berkeley to Varsovie, from the Asturians to Kivu, it is refuted and combatted.

The situationists believe that the indivisible perspective of this struggle is the actual abolition of all of class society, commodity production and the salariat: the supercession of art and all cultural acquisitions, put in play in the free creation of everyday life, thus realized; the direct fusion of revolutionary theory and practice in an experimental activity that excludes all petrification into "ideologies," which are the authorities of specialization always in the service of the specialization of authority.

The factors that pose this historical problem are the rapid expansion and modernization of fundamental contradictions at the interior of the existing system; between this system and human desires. The forces that have an interest in resolving these contradictions, and that are the only ones with the capacity to do so, are all of the workers who have no power over the use of their own lives and no control of the fantastic accumulation of the material possibilities that they produce. The democracy of Workers' Councils, deciding everything by themselves, is the already-begun model of this resolution. The movement of this new proletariat to constitute itself as a class, without the mediation of any management, is the intelligence of a world without intelligence. The situationists declare that they do not have interests separate from those of this movement in its entirety. They do not establish particular principles on which they would like to model a movement that is real, that is actually producing itself before our eyes. In the struggles that are beginning in several countries and on diverse questions, the situationists put forth the totality of the problem, its coherence, its theoretical and thus practical unification. Finally, in the diverse phases that traverse this general struggle, they constantly represent the interests of the total movement.

[1] See below.

[2] Allusion to the birthplace (Italy) of Cardinal Retz, the Prince of Gondi.

[3] The Recuperation of Marcuse [English in original], which appeared as a supplement to S.I. #1 (December 1969).

[4] Reproduced in Enrages and Situationists in the Occupations Movement.

[5] Occupation of the Factories.

[6] Power to the Workers' Councils; The End of the University; Abolition of Class Society; [and] Down with the Spectacle-Commodity Society.

[7] The goals pursued.

[8] Project for a pamphlet on the Strasbourg scandal.

[9] General Federal Association of the Students of Strasbourg.

[10] Bruno Vayr-Piova, cf. Correspondance, volume III, p. 206, note 3.

[11] Andre Schneider.

[12] Edgardo Ginosa, author of the tract mentioned in the letter to Paolo Salvadori dated 24 November 1969, note 6.

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 4, 1969-1972. Footnotes by Alice Debord. Translated from the French and, where necessary, from the Italian by NOT BORED! July 2005.)

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