from Jean-Pierre Baudet

To Guy Fargette
Paris, 22 February 1987
Copies to the people concerned

Will the bad day days of the ICO end?[1] How long are we still supposed to find, under the cover of chronologies with objective pretensions, petty judgments, smuggled in like contraband, by which one sets oneself up to give lessons?

On page 30,[2] you see "crystallize a weak tendency to occupy the Sorbonne (still closed!). Twenty people force the doors around 7 pm, so as to invite in several hundreds who remain in the neighborhood to hold an assembly inside. This laborious repetition of a well-known scene, as well as 'the appeal to the population' that resulted from it and that abstractly extolled the extension of the movement, was taken seriously by one or two hundred participants, of which the largest part -- perhaps aware of the artificial aspect of their actions -- would disperse even before having decided anything concrete, and especially not upon a permanent occupation of the place, which was a manner of invalidating such an appeal, which had little meaning when the assembly from which it emanated was not there to receive those who responded to it."

Thus, you are in agreement with the press, which recognized in the event an irresponsible minority, constituted of nostalgic sixty-eighters.[3] The activism rang false, all of the journalists agreed on it, faced with a movement that was [supposedly] stricken with a reassuring and permanent deambulatory contraction, that is to say, a movement of which the orthodoxy only existed in the heads of those who pell-mell reconciled themselves -- in an exacerbated, uneasy confusionism -- with the refusal to be political, the refusal to go too far, the refusal to remake [19]68: an illusory and negative orthodoxy that you take on your own account, because it was a Polish-style "self-limitation."

Did the pure identity of this movement have the duty, so as to avoid the risk of any evocation, to prohibit itself from flowing towards the Latin Quarter, the place of all historical simulacra? Was it also not necessary to reconsider the [very] fact of demonstrating, which unfortunately recalled a hardly presentable alterity? At the very least, it was necessary for you to condemn this occupation of the Sorbonne that precisely inflicted a beautiful affront to the thick separation the media built between [19]86 and [19]68.

This was not very representative, this episode that was capable of ruining the good reputation of a movement that only "occupied" the premises of the rectors, the instructors, the student cards and the master-dogs of Jussieu: a movement that only knew this unique example of real, spontaneous and free occupation.

The "radical-objective" critic that you behaved like can concentrate his condemnations (concerning the flagrant heterodoxy in the style of the occupations) thanks to an old equivalence, capable of convincing any bureaucrat's soul on the spot: minority action, thus unjustifiable. And so as to confirm the pertinence of your rejection, you find individuals sufficiently extra-terrestrial to occupy the Sorbonne and leave it at that: thus they issue an appeal to the population: not to assemble in Jules Bonnot Hall[4] -- as you let it be understood so as to poke fun at a purely imaginary failure -- but to be in solidarity with the striking students. This appeal did not claim to be the only one, the most important one, nor better-worded than the others, which proliferated at about the same time, proof that there was a need for it in the atmosphere of the time. This appeal claimed simply to exist, like the others. It also claimed to address itself directly to the population, before the apprentice-unionists sought the official protection of their main offices. It even took pride in not emanating from proto-bureaucratic puppets like Darriulat or Desir (who went into action two days later).

For what reasons must this appeal and none other be qualified as abstract or artificial? What scientific parameter permits you to separate the spontaneous and occasional chaff from the wheat of representation? Personal antipathy? A panting form of legalism?

As for the supposed inconsequence of the occupiers, who not doubt -- to escape your thunderbolts -- had to perish at the gun slips of the building, besieged by troops, you avow further on that "around midnight, the two or three hundred individuals who still remained there began to flee charges by the police, who had cornered the neighborhood. The last fifty occupants of the Sorbonne, faced with the CRS, who had been requisitioned by the Rector, would evacuate the place without resistance," a scene -- the dilettantish atmosphere of which irritates you -- that is captured by the attached photograph. . . .

Even better, one finds the following on page 35:

After midnight, several maniacs for rioting, seized in their turn by the compulsion to repeat (which, the day before, had carried others to try to occupy the Sorbonne and make an 'historic' appeal to the population to spread the movement), strove to ignite several cars and to erect several barricades improvised from construction sheds. Everything was reduced to a strange simulacrum of a riot, in which several shop windows were smashed and a few shops looted (perhaps two or three). Right away, the falseness of these actions came into view: the largest part of those who occupied the streets did not seek this kind of result and listlessly opposed it. It was enough to move fifty meters beyond la place de l'Odeon to suddenly find oneself in the bottlenecks and consumptionist traps of Saturday evening.

Your procedure indubitably gains strength to the extent that it does without argumentation and that the trial -- as in certain courts of exception -- immediately begin with the sentencing. From the moment that one accepts, as a premise and without further ado, that it was a question of maniacs, the compulsive form of their activity flows from the source: in this providential phrase, the syntactical succession takes the place of logical demonstration. These people are not maniacs because one has established the proof of their compulsion to repeat, but their activity is compulsive because they are labeled 'maniacs.' This construction, which suits the pen of a particularly malevolent journalist and would work in a Sunday newspaper, recalls a type of reasoning that Hegel already took pleasure in delivering up to ridicule:

Our way of seeing moreover excludes the allegedly psychological conception that, as a good servant of envious jealousy, explains any action by attributing to it an affective movement, by presenting it under a subjective light with the sole aim of affirming that the active subject only acts under the control of a small or large passion, dominated by a mania and cannot -- surrendered as he is to passion and mania -- pass for a moral individual. Alexander of Macedonia conquered a part of Greece, then Asia: consequently, he was inhabited by the mania for conquest. If this was the case, this could only be motivated by the maniacal search for glory, by the thirst for conquest, and the best proof for his dependence on passions is that he acted in this fashion so as to be covered in glory. What schoolteacher has not given the demonstration that Alexander the Great, like Julius Caesar, who was dominated by similar passions, must be considered an immoral being? From this especially derives [the fact] that the schoolteacher, as far as he or she goes, appears to be endowed with a human excellence that these other people lacked, and can prove this purity from the simple fact that he or she has not conquered Asia, nor triumphed over Darius or Porus, but lives in peace and lets others live in peace." (Course on the Philosophy of History)

The same a-dialectical impoverishments still hide the same bad-tempered moralism: did these five barricades (at which young punks from the outskirts of the city, Parisian high-school students and adults of every shade and hue found themselves together fraternally, but no doubt they did not have the "ardent souls," the beautiful souls and valiant hearts for which your prayer on page 45 advised people to seek) have to wait to be built until a sounding from the IFOP[5] came to determine in advance if they should remain abandoned, "refuted" by the absence of generalized imitation? Assuredly the artist-painter, the worker and the unemployed person -- who, for being barricaders in such a moral gaff, were among the 28 people who were questioned and kept in [police] custody for a prolonged period -- did not correspond to the descriptive files of a responsible student worried about his professional future; and perhaps they merited, in addition to the rigors of the police, being repudiated by an aspiring-legislator of your type? In a world that inverted, would it even be necessary to consider your text as an act of solidarity, not scandalous, on the part of someone who otherwise passed as estimable? Therefore, it is necessary to recall that no doubts about the strategic quality of those barricades at that moment permit anyone to declare such infamies post festum, even if they were drafted in a sufficiently hesitant style so that the reader has to wonder if the author regrets that there were barricades or that there were too few of them (floating semantics are convenient in such cases).

The sectarian limitations that I take as the essential here all the more demonstrate the detestable wisdom of a schoolteacher for whom, in December 1986, there was no vast, rich and complex movement, and who found for himself and his experiments the road or roads that allowed him to go beyond himself and to licitly critique certain marginal forms among others, because they would work against the aforementioned dynamics (I imagine that a movement as powerful as this one would also be able to gather into itself all of the experimental heterodoxies and still abandon none of its authentic supports); instead, it was a question of a movement that was perfectly obstinate, that ran in place and only knew a progress in spirit: a movement with respect to which everything else had to wait for the marginal experiments that would make for the conditions favorable to fly off the handle -- which finally did not take place. In this context, the actions with a strong symbolic charge, renewing [contacts] with a revolutionary past, had nothing fundamentally bad about it, being on the contrary capable of breaking the false, imaginary harmony in which the media tried to fix the young people and in which they only too often recognized themselves. The occupation of the Sorbonne and the barricades of 6 December [1986] -- being completely typical of actions in which one does what one can with what one has on hand -- remain completely irreproachable from this perspective.

The principal quality that you revealed in summary (initially "terrified at the idea of creating the least historic event -- identified with a catastrophe --, the movement jostled against the limits that it had timidly fixed, up to appealing to the entire population against governmental despotism," p. 39) you yourself prohibit its development by -- not without personal rivalry, I suppose -- censoring this and that from the episodes that clearly contributed to it, episodes that, from what one can see, you sometimes only presented as a malevolent observer.

In any case, you have already obtained a durable and certain result from this text: that of assuring yourself the enmity of the deceased "Committee for the Generalization of the Movement" and the people who still associate with its members.


[1] A reference to Fargette's journal, The bad days will end, which took its name from the title of an essay Guy Debord published in Internationale Situationniste #7, April 1962. The ICO (Informations et Correspondance Ourvrieres) was a "workerist" journal with which the situationists often disagreed.

[2] The bad days will end, #3, December 1986.

[3] A reference to the partisans of May 1968.

[4] The name given to the Richelieu Ampitheater during the May 1968 occupation of the Sorbonne.

[5] A "market intelligence" research group.

(Published in Jean-Francois Martos, Correspondance avec Guy Debord, Le fin mot de l'Histoire, August 1998. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! June 2007. Footnotes by the translator.)

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