from Guy Debord

To Constant
Sunday evening [26 April 1959]
Dear Constant:

I respond to your most recent letter, which crossed mine.

What you say about the majority of the SI is still true perhaps, formally, but it is necessary to see that in the last several months the really situationist minority has grown strongly. The fact of providing really new and important ideas in a general, vaguely modernist-nihilist ambience gives us a de facto authority. From now on, this minority will dominate the debate on ideas in the SI, and thus its propaganda -- that is to say, it will keep and reinforce its chances of promoting the concrete and fully active movement of which we proclaim the necessity. It is true that the most advanced positions are taken in Holland and France, but -- if we do our work well -- the extension of these positions will also occur in the other "sections" and this process will rapidly outflank the old artistic leaders of these groups.

For this to happen, it is obviously not necessary to rely upon the abstract accuracy of our ideas, but we must work to spread our problems -- and our attempts at solutions -- everywhere. Note, in this regard, that the official publications of the SI are now controlled by Paris and Amsterdam. It is for us to utilize these means, which also correspond to the centers where the new experiment is pushed the furthest.

I am completely in agreement about a collective publication on unitary urbanism. Together, we will speak again of the details. I only remind you that it isn't necessary to separate this project too much from the next issue of the journal [of the situationists], for which I have complete responsibility and the majority of which I hope to devote to unitary urbanism (with a sufficiently large part devoted to the [situationists'] conference in Munich and to a first text on the construction of a situation). Can we anticipate fragments in the journal and more complete texts in this [other] publication? Or would you like to gather together in this publication (what dimensions, approximately?) certain texts that have already been recently published at different times?

Like you, I refuse pragmatism as much as idealism, and antipragmatism as much as pragmatism, because these are profoundly superceded philosophical quarrels that pseudo-philosophical artists use to dissimulate [maquiller] the emptiness and repetition of their real production. In fact, I believe that the importance of dialectical materialism, its decisive (but still hardly exploited) progress in the history of ideas, is above all the supremacy of practice, the notion of praxis that contains and supercedes theoretical reflection, which is itself always inseparable from a praxis. Thus, those who still think in scholarly terms, but who vaguely see the unity of the concrete problem, are reduced to successively attacking pragmatism and idealism. This is the struggle on two fronts that [Asger] Jorn] led at the [Munich] conference. Which still had an aspect of diplomatic opportunism. And which still presented the danger of ending in a preference for one of the alternatively rejected positions. [Har] Oudejans is much closer to the concept of a total praxis, since his ideas of praxis and technique certainly do not reject theory. But he falls into the trap by defending pragmatism, which is a perfectly insufficient position, because it is incapable of employing the new techniques (it seems to me that the idea of pragmatism is more an adaptation to the world than a change of the world based upon an understanding of its own practical movement). In sum, what is still lacking in the SI is the dialectic. But we reject the old antinomies that freeze us in the appearances that are the inverse of our profound tendencies and wishes. As I have already said, the peril of being duped by these antinomies is infinitely greater on the side of the "old philosophizing artists" than on the side of men engaged in a new practical action.

An anecdote that summarizes well this remark. At the charming evening party held at the end of the conference, Madame Van de Loo, after telling me by way of a pleasantry that she was surprised to hear of practical actions involving me, whom she saw as a theoretician, was again surprised when I told her sincerely that "nothing has ever interested me beyond a certain practice of life." (It is precisely this that has kept me back from being an artist, in the current sense of the word and, I hope, a theoretician of aesthetics!)

I certainly hope that my article on you[1] appears in the publication about U.U. [unitary urbanism], but it will no doubt be necessary to make several modifications, because the tone of this article is obviously that of a preface to the work of a single person (a catalogue of photos or a theoretical work, it doesn't matter) and, I believe, hardly fits in a collective publication. I say this from memory, without having re-read the text. But it is definite that I have written it precisely in the perspective of a "preface," and, to the extent that it can be successful as one, your tone might displaced by it.

In conclusion: do your best; I approve in any case the usage to which you will put it. I would be very happy to see you, with Oudejans, in Paris.


[1] "Constant and the Path of Unitary Urbanism." See letter of 26 January 1959.

(Published in Guy Debord, Correspondance, Volume 1, 1957-1960. Footnote by Alice Debord. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! October 2005.)

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