from Jean-Francois Martos

To Gianfranco Sanguinetti
Paris, 3 June 1981
Dear Gianfranco:

I have recently received two documents that you already know: one is the correspondence between you and "Cavalcanti,"[1] which guy [Debord] has made available to me and Michel [Prigent]. The other is Els van Daele's "Postface to the Dutch translation" of Terrorismo.[2]

Given the critiques of you that are developed in these texts, tacere non possum,[3] it is thus necessary that I give you my opinion of them, holding myself to the strict truth.

Beyond the reasons that you have given (for example: the fact that you are actually in Italy permits you to "see better" rather than being "more deceived"[4]) to affirm that real Leftists kidnapped [Aldo] Moro, you have not at all explained how or why you changed opinions and developed the point of view, initially expounded by Guy, that the RBs[5] are manipulated. Thus, apart from the fact that you missed an occasion to immediately create a scandal greater than that of "Censor,"[6] Guy was right to ask you if this was a matter of pressure from the Doge[7] or something else.

As far as knowing if "the theory and practice of terrorism" are "divulged for the first time," and if the truth about terrorism can be read "only here," your book can in fact be a question of the kidnapping of Moro rather that State terrorism in general, since Victor Serge, for example, already spoke of it in 1925. I am quite in agreement that the truth of the kidnapping of Moro had still not been published in Italy since Terrorismo was already at the printer when you received a copy of Guy's "Preface to the Fourth Italian Edition,"[8] and I also recognize that this truth was more dangerous for you to publish, for example when your house was set on fire: your courage need not be further demonstrated. But I think that, so as to avoid any confusion, especially after your correspondence with "Cavalcanti," it would have been clearer to signal the forthcoming existence of the "Preface to the Fourth Italian Edition" after you made precise the conditions that preceded the publication of these two texts -- even if this was not easy and posed tactical problems.

When you asked me, last August [1980], about the critiques that I might make of your book, they appeared to be of two kinds: the style and a certain "tradition" of critical theory, which the new conditions of an epoch must necessarily require one to surpass (without going into detail, the old truths easily become a new ideology if one does not take care). Thus one cannot indefinitely advocate the "true democracy of the Workers Councils" (p. 58) without falling into an attitude that is too fixed, at once mechanical and unilateral. And does it suffice, as we discussed then, to expect that the proletariat will create new forms of organization for itself? By posing the question in Song of a night of rioting ("the Stalinists can reclaim self-management and the workshop council, [but] we no longer want to receive counsel, nor remain workers, nor self-manage slow death. As for the factories in which they would like to enclose us, they will disappear as places of separated production" . . . "It is necessary that the proletariat takes hold of this theory"), I came to the limits of a certain critical discourse on the proletariat, on the necessity of self-explanation of the struggles by those who make them, and thus on the necessity of the theoretician to aim at his own suppression as a theoretician, as the "voice of those who still do not have speech." If not, one arrives at contradictions of the type that consist in wondering if the workers can expect more from you or what gifts you can give them, as on page 39, in which you detourn Machiavelli -- and the detournement perhaps appears, if not "excessive" (Nothing but a pawn[9]), then at least a little too stiff. The style of "Censor" seems less well suited for Terrorismo. In the same perspective, the affirmations on page 9 that "the civil war has not yet begun" and that "it is useless to take up arms" would present [Jacques] Mesrine and the prisoners in Segovia as "deluded" simpletons or "naive fanatics of armed struggle" (page 41). Therefore, reality seems more nuanced to me: there is not, on one side, a "wild[cat] worker" who possesses the attribute of revolutionary activity through spontaneous strikes and sabotage, and, on the other hand, individuals or groups who can only take up arms in a period of generalized insurrection. And when you advance (despite everything) the idea that the revolutionary efficacy of terrorism has always been very limited, "as all of history since the end of the 19th century has shown" (page 135), this is not sufficient to invalidate the critique made by Els van Daele when he affirms: "By only implicating in his critique State terrorism (the E.T.A. and the I.R.A. want to conquer the State, while the RBs and the G.R.A.P.O.[10] want to defend it), and by presenting this idea as if it were a general critique, Sanguinetti -- at the beginning of the tenth chapter of his Remedy for Everything[11] -- shows all of armed struggle in an unfavorable light."

This said, I believe that the central truth of your book is so completely scandalous that I affirmed it when I wrote my reader's review[12] and I also believe that the fact that, as its defender, you find yourself alone in Italy can only honor you still more.

As all of this is now discussed by several comrades, and so as to make precise to them what I think, I have also communicated this letter to them.[13] And, awaiting your response, or better still hoping to see you if you come to Paris, I send you and Katarina my best wishes.


[1] Cavalcanti was a name adopted by Guy Debord in his correspondence. See his letter to Sanguinetti dated 21 April 1978 and Sanguinetti's response, dated 1 June 1978.

[2] Sanguinetti's "On Terrorism and the State." See letter dated 12 May 1981.

[3] Latin: I cannot keep quiet. In 2012, Sanguinetti wrote a letter to Mustapha Khayati in which he answered both Marcos' insinuations and explained Debord's role in them.

[4] Quoted from Sanguinetti's long letter to Debord dated 1 June 1978.

[5] The "Red Brigades."

[6] Pamphlet written in 1975 by Gianfranco Sanguinetti and signed "Censor."

[7] Sanguinetti's attorney, Aliberto Mignoli. Cf. Sanguinetti's recollections about "The Doge".

[8] "Preface to the Fourth Italian Edition of The Society of the Spectacle."

[9] Anonymous pamphlet published in French, in Paris, February 1981.

[10] The E.T.A. and the I.R.A. were and still are armed separatist movements in Spain and Northern Ireland, respectively. The G.R.A.P.O. (Grupo de Resistencia Anti-Fascista Primero de Octubre) was founded in 1975 as the armed wing of the then-illegal Spanish Communist Party.

[11] The vast work by Sanguinetti, of which "On Terrorism and the State" composed a single chapter.

[12] Jean-Francois ("Jeff") Martos translated "On Terrorism and the State" from the Italian into French in 1980.

[13] Guy Debord, Carlos Ojeda, Michel Prigent and Els van Daele.

(Published in Jean-Francois Martos, Correspondance avec Guy Debord, Le fin mot de l'histoire, 1998. Translated from the French and footnoted by NOT BORED! May 2007.)

To Contact NOT BORED!
ISSN 1084-7340.
Snail mail: POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998