from Guy Debord

To the French section of the SI
Copies to the other sections
1 September 1969

Note on Rene Riesel's propositions concerning our publications.

The text distributed by Rene on 26 August [1969] opportunely opens a discussion that is urgent. I believe, as he does, that we must adopt several conclusions, at least as far as the principal bases of our choices, before the conference [of the Situationist International] at Venice and submit those conclusions to the conference. It seems to me that we have to consider three questions that are closely linked together. A) The renewal of the French journal, which is necessary in any case. B) The excessive slowness, and especially the completely unsatisfactory style of work, that characterized the editing of issue #12 [of Internationale Situationniste]. C) More generally the reality of equal participation in all of the activities of the French section (even independently of the fact that this activity is very intense or very slow, although there has obviously been an interaction between the degree of this reality and the degree of this intensity). Rene has proposed several measures that can respond to the first two points, but, although he has evoked the third, he hasn't treated it specifically.

A) I agree with Rene's propositions for the future journal, and notably the proposal to limit the personally signed articles to the expression of eventual tendencies or of really advanced and personal hypotheses (which are almost the same things): in a journal like I.S., facile or even literary participation through a personal article is a form of sub-collaboration.

I am also in agreement that the coordination of the editing is entrusted to a veritable "editorial committee" of three members, renewable after several issues, if we specify at the same time that this doesn't authorize other comrades from not controling or not contributing to this editorial work. For the reasons that I mentioned in my letter of 28 July [1969], I will not be part of such a committee.

B) Everyone has been very slow in producing issue #12 (myself included). Except for the communal completion of the characterization of May [1968] in "The Beginning of an Era," there has been a kind of generalized indifference concerning the production of this issue. In a new distribution of tasks, certain members haven't proposed anything, nor have they chosen to draft anything that others have proposed. What is worse, certain subjects taken up by several comrades haven't been treated yet (nor even sketched out) in six months. Example: the critique of groupuscules by Raoul [Vaneigem] and Rene -- one or two notes taken by [Rene] Vienet -- definition of the term "situationist" by Mustapha [Khayati], etc. The majority of the time, such projects have been renounced. When it was necessary (the last example cited), I wrote the article myself in extremis. Mustapha is far from being the one who collaborated the least in the production of this issue; by a very bad calculation of the organization of his own time, culminating in an extraordinary off-handedness concerning his obligations to us, he only deprived us of an indispensible article, which several others had to replace in a haste that was not worthy of the subject.

I can not believe that I had to write 70% of this issue; and in any case I can not deplore too much, in petty quantative terms, a fleeting tendency [on my part] to the abusive "exploitation" of a certain editorial competence. Meanwhile, it is certain that the satisfactory maintenance of the preceding style of the journal, combined with such "work" habits, completely prevented the new situationists from themselves acquiring a sufficient mastery of expression. It appears to me more serious that I was forced to burden myself alone with 50% of the qualitative contribution necessary for the production of this issue. I believe that one of our issues has never been made under such shocking conditions. Today, we are, in principle, twice as big as we've been![1] Thus it is obvious that, despite a lot of nice chatter about equality, coherence, [and] attendance [presence] not representation, all the objective conditions are in place for this journal (very important for the conduct of the SI in general) to purely and simply become the expression of only one of us: on the condition that he wants to think and write a little, a completely contemplative section is ready to say only "Amen." In themselves, such objective conditions can be refused and transformed, because, all the same, certain people among us believe what they have written relative to the SI and the revolutionary movement; truly have no desire to become stars; and thus are capable of replacing the others where their responsibilities are concerned.

C) The absence of a minimum of correct activity on issue #12 is only a sympton of a crisis of real participation in general. (Rene justly noted that, during the last six months, no one got involved in the least theoretical activity -- books, pamphlets -- nor in practical activities that one can consider to be truly very absorbing.) The roots are old: I had already critiqued this tendency at the time of the VIth Conference.[2] I do not believe that there are among us comrades who are incapable of participation (and if by chance there is one who is incapable among the most recent situationists, it is obvious that we can not come to this conclusion until we have engaged in a real communal activity). On the contrary, I think that certain members do not want this precise form of participation, or at least want to avoid it as much as possible. We have seen several striking contradictions between what certain members declare and the laughable things they do at our meetings. It would now to necessary to banish this sort of vulgarly "amiable," collegiate complicity and to envision the question [of these contradictions] with seriousness.

What are the simple or ambitious tasks that the French section can at present set for itself? It appears beyond doubt that the preliminary task must be to really be a section of the SI.

I believe that, for the last month, almost everyone has become aware (thanks to the delay of [issue #12 of] the journal, Mustapha and the "Arab problem"[3]) that the following choice imposes itself on us: fix and firmly maintain another style of activity; or let the lack of seriousness spread, keep only vague relations with each other, in planning the next six months of our inactivity (and, if possible, spare ourselves from the ridicule of making any engagements since everyone regards them, in advance, as destined to not be kept). But, in this case, it is obvious that the Conference of the SI which follows the one to be held in Venice [on 25 September 1969] must declare its French section dissolved, and elect another one![4]

If we choice the first route, it seems to me that the remedies are simple:

1) Without a rule-based legalism [juridisme reglementaire], but with a sufficient precision, decide what concretely constitutes a real participation in the French section.

2) Absolutely refuse all formulations blemished by ideology: we must never write differently from what we are.

3) Demand all of the comrades who do not want to engage themselves on this minimum basis that they resign without delay from the SI.

This said, the development of the actual [revolutionary] movement and even the development of the SI since April 1968 leads me to estimate, more than ever, that the SI can go further, and can still have much interest in the following phase. The examination of the January-June period of this year certainly doesn't confirm Rene's formula, according to which "we are the most unmerciful judges." But, without doubt, it will be necessary for us to make this true once again.


[1] The French section admitted five new members all at once in 1968.

[2] The VIth Conference [of the SI] was held in Antwerp between 12 and 16 November 1962 (cf. I.S. #8, p. 67).

[3] Mustapha Khayati came to engage himself "in a participation in the activities of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, at the heart of which he believed he discerned a revolutionary proletarian faction" (cf. "Notes to serve as the history of the SI from 1969 to 1971," in The Veritable Split, reprinted by the Librarie Artheme Fayard in 1998).

[4] Allusion to Die Loesung (The Solution), a poem by Bertolt Brecht, written after the workers insurrection of 17 June 1953 in Berlin: "After the insurrection of 17 June / The secretary of the Union of Writers / Distributed tracts in the Stalin Allee / The people, one could read, had through fault of its own / Lost the confidence of the government / And only through redoubling its efforts / Can it regain it. Wouldn't it be / Simpler then for the government / To dissolve the people / And elect another one?"

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

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