from Guy Debord

To Mustapha Khayati
Saturday evening [13 November 1965]
Dear Mustapha:

Yesterday I received from Raoul [Vaneigem] the corrected text of the Algerian notice,[1] but I find it to be bad, as I already wrote to him twice, making specific my arguments, one by one.

I especially feared that, in my blundering, I had arbitrarily selected the principal aspects of the SI so as to give a summarized notion of it. It seems to me that you have made the same points, and we think that this is good.

But [in Raoul's draft] there is a serious question of style. I am probably responsible for it since I insisted so strongly on what you had abridged. It appears to me now that I deceived myself, and that a text that would be 50 percent longer -- or even more -- would be better than the tone of the twenty-five lines typed by Raoul.

The decisive stylistic point appears to me to be the necessary use of formulas of the type "according to the situationists" -- "the SI estimates"--"the SI sees that," that is to say, an objective tone of the dictionary, a way of modestly presenting our central basis as a hypothesis (and in specifying as much as possible our use of certain terms). This is all the more necessary in that the analysis of the [main] text (The Class Struggles in Algeria) is largely verifiable in Algeria, and thus rather confirms our hypotheses. On the contrary, the aspect of "imperative conclusion" in the "Notice" that we have rewritten is terribly dogmatic.

This is emphasized by the terms that smell frightfully of vulgar political agitation ("everywhere in Algeria"!) or vague terms ("the new masters," who justify a "counter-revolutionary practice" -- it would be much better to say that they are the new dominant class), especially this "new proletariat" that is defined by nothing better than a "New Left" or which isn't in any case defined by its condition in modern history, but only by the voluntarist project that leads it to do without "the mediation of any leaders."

The voluntarist tone, in so few lines, is even so unfortunate that it goes from a literally Blanquist formulation ("a new revolutionary crisis prepares itself" -- instead of "has begun") to a final thesis that smells like Lenin on his worst days (What's to be done?): the SI "gives to revolutionaries the theory of their practice."

Finally, why say that the direct fusion of revolutionary theory and practice "remains the sole guarantee against ideology"? Remains after the end of what? After the experimentation with what? Why "remains"?

I quite loved the detournements of The Communist Manifesto. They were in a really Marxist tone, from the best era (as opposed to the old Social-Democrat Engels or the Bolsheviks). I believe that this "modesty" is finally much more ambitious than the bugle blasts of the SI's victory in federating the new proletariat! The disappearance of these detournements has increased the aspect of "dogmatic summary," or is it the generally trenchant tone that has brought on their disappearance, because they are a too-measured end for a text that is so triumphant?

I said to Raoul that I had only explained, through an excess of Gueuze,[2] the fact that you hadn't applied to his text an accumulation of personal criticisms, but a general negligence.

At first I said that perhaps it is me who didn't feel keenly the merit that you had given this text, but since I have found what appears to me to be the fundamental stylistic gimmick (running again to an indirect presentation of the hypotheses of the SI in the tone of the dictionary), I am completely persuaded that the current "Notice" is clumsily dogmatic and thus inadequate.

What do you think?

Have you received responses from Algeria?

I do not know if you were there when Raoul learned that his ex-wife[3] denounced him to the police (so as to protect her daughter) in so far as he was a "perverter of youth" and, for support, furnished the cops with his manuscripts. I advised him to abandon all discussion and all attempts to keep supervision of this child, in brief, to play the part of fire, which is the only possible retreat when relations on the terrain of bourgeois institutions terminate by slipping down to the bottom of the natural slope of such a terrain. Raoul could only deny that he meant to demoralize the girl. It is thus necessary to sacrifice the kid (or, rather, his abstract rights, which can only render him subject to a thousand instances of blackmail), since the mother had been or become so pitiful.


[1] "Notice" concerning the SI, an appendice to The Class Struggles in Algeria. [Translator: I have been unable to locate a copy of this "Notice." Note that, under the title Summary of 1965, a similar notice appeared at the conclusion of "The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Society."]

[2] A Belgium beer subject to a second fermentation.

[3] Theresa Vaneigem.

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

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