from Guy Debord

To Mustapha Khayati
Sunday 13 February [1966]
Dear Mustapha:

The "remnants" of The Old Mole[1] have survived without incident: one has covered the neighborhood with a short tract[2] and there has been a thick group of police officers -- in civilian clothes and in uniforms -- two metres from the door, "protecting" and, at the same time, surveilling the place. They seem to believe that the "terrorists" will take up our challenge on the field!

We continue our battle for Raoul [Vaneigem]'s manuscript. Theo [Frey] -- or someone else -- has advanced a precise work on the subject sketched out by Raoul in the last chapter (measures to abolish the old power and reconstruct the economy); it would be good to communicate several of the results to him. Raoul would benefit from writing more clearly what is only evoked in disorder there; because we note that the accusations of naivete are concentrated on the last chapter. This is unfortunate, because the "second degree" of "naivete" that there is in the Treatise [on Living for the Younger Generations] is excellent, to be totally defended: it is the naive -- new -- look aimed at a habitual world, which it puts completely in question and judges in the name of another model. And, in another sense, the confusion of the last chapter -- the propositions made in a disordered fashion -- permit the accusation that we are naive (under-estimating the reality of a problem; not tiring oneself by disentangling the complexity). Naturally, a bad faith critique could amalgamate these two aspects, despite their enormous quantitative inequality.

Relations with England develop quite quickly. I have met a French deserter[3] who has passed several years in England and knows well all of the new radical groups[4] that try to constitute themselves at this moment. He tells me that I.S. is quite widely read there for a long time already. Thinking himself to be perfectly bilingual, he has undertaken a translation of "Basic Banalities": we will see. Furthermore, P[ierre] Guillaume has met an editor from New Left Review[5] who spoke to him of a project to publish a translation of a situationist text (on the problem of art) in this journal. There is also a project for a bookstore in London that would be even more modern than that of Pierre.

I have not seen Herbert [Holl] for several weeks (in fact, no one has seen him), but at our last meeting he was finally making progress: more sure of himself. I spoke to him of our conclusions concerning the relations at the frontier of the SI (conclusions that seemed to please him; particularly the critique of a certain sticking-point [enlisement] and the clear precisions on the particular position of Rene [Vienet]). I told him [Herbert] that we attribute to him a probably-sufficient theoretical knowledge -- he has several reservations on this point -- but that the central problem is "What does he want and know how to do?"

He spoke to me of a study that he envisions (perhaps with Theo) on the vast problems sketched out by the last chapter of Raoul['s book]. Thus, we will finally be able to "judge" him. Thus, he begins to come out of his shell, as you say, and it is actually better that he works on something other than the [situationist] dictionary.

As for Anton [Harstein], he seems to be following quite exactly the program that you proposed to him. Not theoretico-automatic writing, but taking notes on great readings (Lukacs, Korsch). Thus, I believe that, concerning these two friends, in whom we recognize a strong chance for success in their movement towards access to desirable coherence, it is not necessary to absolutely reject their intention of participating in the [creation of the] dictionary, but in showing them, as you propose, that this is difficult -- that, without a doubt, this isn't the best and most effacious way of beginning (even for Herbert; and for Anton, this is really obvious). In any case, no one has taken responsibility for a word. Above all for the simple reason that none of us will finally have "ownership" of a word (perhaps the semi-ludic distribution of the words to be defined has slightly masked this evidence?). One can only speak of the responsibility that you've taken (with the direct collaboration of the group that is in Strasbourg, plus Raoul perhaps), so as to build -- starting with several concepts to be treated before the others -- a model of the writing that, if it seems adequate, will be extended to the other concepts of the complete list. It is definite that this experiment must be undertaken by you [the Strasbourgians] as a group, in an already coherent manner, so as to orient what follows; and one can hardly finish the more or less parallel work in isolation. On the contrary, an execution of this kind can be envisioned during the final phase (but completed, all the same, by a collective revision).

I still haven't seen [Daniel] Joubert. It is useless to say that all that he's done suggests an immense mistrust (always expressed in the crudest terms). In Le Monde, I saw an advertisement for Le Semeur[6] proclaiming that it was "For an irreligious Christianity." At my place, this scoundrel has already affirmed that he is a Christian by denying religion, God [and] the immortality of the soul, and I passed on it. In the only letter that I have ever written to him,[7] I used the formula "to abjure the forms" [but not the substance]. We are the judges of those forms. And I don't see how they can ever be satisfactory. For more than two hundred years in Europe, having to abjure has been a very bad beginning for revolutionary thought. Engels has these problems in his youth and one fears that they didn't remain something for him to think about in his old age. It is not necessary that the SI ever has its "Father Gengenbach."[8]

Concering Denise Cheype.

1) It would be an unjust limitation of your liberty if "the coherence" of the SI would prevent you from associating yourself with or seducing any young woman; and even (the two aspects being obviously linked) it would be exaggerated and unjust to throw serious reproaches at Denise, as if she were worse than any young woman whom we have met (it seems to me that she isn't better than any young woman and that this is the origin of the problem). With the result that, without doubt, it would be legitimate and would only depend upon personal tastes if you, you alone, were to see her on a personal basis, just as Ndjangani [Lungela] is the only one who has continued to make it to Paris.

2) Furthermore, Jean [Garnault] and Theo certainly have good reason to qualify as incoherent the situation in which Denise associates with you [the Strasbourgians] as a group, that is to say, to begin again, on some sort of "fractional basis" (!), an invasion [of the SI] that is indecent before anyone has reacted to it and that would be consciously hostile to those who have come to be opposed to it. Not only where she is concerned, but also concerning all of the [Maximilien] Rubels in her entourage, it is not necessary to leave any doubts concerning her association with the SI or a "tendency" in the SI that would be defined precisely by the qualitative threshold that one either accepts or doesn't accept a Marxologue of this type! Concerning Denise, Raoul has said that he had at first been very embarassed by his incontestable blunder, but that now he is happy because this development served so promptly as a revelation. Thus, I believe that, if Denise comes to Strasbourg to stay at your place, and if the others do not encounter her, this would be perfectly just on all aspects of the problem.

3) Well beyond the problems "of young women" is the question of the personal relations that we each have with friends, vague liaisons of fondness, etc., which appear clearly illustrated by this story. None of us, obviously, would have the lack of awareness to be associated on the personal level with absolutely repugnant or suspect people. For all the other individuals, this remains in the domain of personal taste. Nevertheless, if a personal relation of one of us one day wants to know all -- or almost all -- of the others, to be present at all of the meetings, and to get involved in the settlements of our problems, this obviously ceases -- by its own "praxis" -- to be a personal relation. The problem of a collective relation would obviously be posed. This isn't necessarily bad, of course, but this would call for a collective decision. The fact that such an association, become collective, would present itself as an ultra-rapid multiplication of juxtaposed pseudo-personal relations, not as a frankly theoretical discussion within the group, would only be a derivative aspect -- and rather negative. If the individual in question is rejected in the aftermath of the collective reaction, it would be necessary to agree that this individual would be less "neutral" than before. And this individual's pretensions, and the bad welcome that he or she would encounter, would create in this person a certain mood. Thus, this requires, for whomever would continue such a personal association, an extremely prudent attitude as to our affairs and the unquestionable manifestation of the personal character of the subsisting relation. All this is only envisioned as a function of the real relations around the SI (the attempts at infiltration and the false testimonies by the modernist intelligentsia). In other conditions, this salad wouldn't need to be sorted out. But, in better conditions, there wouldn't be any need for the SI.

I'm working a lot, although delayed by an accumulation of appointments, meetings [and] correspondence. The short notes[9] (the list that we stopped adding to) takes up a little more space than foreseen: I haven't ceased to find small marvels to integrate: Mothe[10] in Spirit, the judgment of Winock,[11] the book by Amedee [Henri Lefebvre], etc. I read Domenach.[12] He cites Feuerbach, though very quickly and badly. But there were other pearls. Finally, the journal [Internationale Situationniste] will appear next month.


P.S. An issue #4 of Accion communista [Communist Action] has appeared so as to further complicate things. Weakly still more perceptible. Thus, we revise our schema: half-approval, half very clear critique. Title: "Contribution to the Programme of Workers' Councils in Spain"[13] (the perspective of the Workers' Councils is their best practical idea, and issue #1 opens with a note that speaks of a programme in formation, calling for contributions in an identical spirit[14]).

[1] The Old Mole bookstore -- created in December 1964 by Pierre Guillaume -- a depository, among others, for the journal Internationale Situationniste, sold the remnants of burned books after it was damaged by a Molotov cocktail.

[2] A tract (13.5 x 21 cm) announcing that "After the attack, 'The Old Mole' bookstore, 1 rue des Fosses-Jacques, Paris, 5th, will sell remnants of the still readable, burned books, Friday, 11 February [1966] at 6 pm. In the following eight days, 'The Old Mole' will sell at a 15% reduction other copies of the books that the Molotov cocktail makes one think aren't left indifferent."

[3] Phil Travers.

[4] Among which were a group of Londoners (proclaimed "libertarian socialists") close to the Wobblies (the Unstables) from Chicago, whose bulletin, Heatwave, echoed the American's Rebel Worker. [Translator: note that the name "Wobblies" has nothing to do with "instability," but instead refers to members of the Industrial Workers of the World.]

[5] From London.

[6] [The Sower, the] journal of Protestant students.

[7] Cf. Correspondance, vol. II, p. 290-291 [letter dated 13 May 1964].

[8] Ernest de Gengenbach, ex-seminary who became a surrealist in a cassock.

[9] Drafted by Guy Debord for the journal Internationale Situationniste.

[10] Daniel Mothe, former member of Socialisme ou Barbarie (cf. I.S. #10, p. 78).

[11] Michel Winock (cf. I.S. #10, p. 73-74).

[12] Jean-Marie Domenach: "To Have Done with Alienation," Spirit, December 1965 (cf. I.S. #10, p. 81-82).

[13] Cf. I.S. #10, p. 27-32.

[14] Contando con las aportaciones y criticas de todos los que estan de acuerdo con nosostros . . . " [Translator: "Counting on the contributions and critiques of all those who are in agreement with us."]

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 3, 1965-1968. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted. Translated from the French and, where necessary, from the Spanish by NOT BORED! August 2005.)

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