from Guy Debord

To Jean-Pierre Baudet and Jean-Francois Martos
9 September 1987
Dear Jean-Pierre, Dear Jeff:

Since you have asked for my opinion of your anti-EdN[1] text (and I think, as you do, that its weaknesses will surely be exploited to the limit by such adversaries), I advise you, without the least hesitation, to renounce its publication in this form. Certainly the epigraphs and at least half the text constitute a very exact demonstration of many of the adversary's faults, if not all of them. But the general tone, the sequencing, a certain lack of clarity, and an air of obvious discontent that nevertheless strives to remain moderate seriously condemns the ensemble. It would be necessary to discard half of the development (I do not even speak of the illustrations, which are unworthy of a subject that does not make one laugh).

I will define the essential this way: if this was a polemic with people of good faith, on an external and important subject, then certainly your position would be quite clearly expressed and would be sufficient to relocate the subsequent discussions to the most profound and serious bases. But the very subject of your intervention, the occasion that has caused this necessity, is precisely the fact that these are not people of good faith; and that no discussion is possible and that it is this fact that you wish to indicate: the dazzling contrast -- perfectly visible since December [1986] -- between all that they claim and all that they actually are. You could very well abandon this debate, because each of you currently has better things to do with your personal efforts, but if you desire to continue it, then there is no other manner of doing so than in the truly radical line of what was evoked in the letter (by Jean-Pierre) of 3 July:[2] the denunciation of an imposture. That is to say, it is completely vain and even ridiculous to pursue a polemic on this subject with people who have written what they have written to do. It is necessary to come to definitive conclusions.

So as to be in conformity with the excellent rule of Clausewitz, "never critique a means without indicating another," I can easily evoke for you clear conclusions, which are very possible and of which the superiority is obvious. (This is, of course, very summarized, and does not at all constitute a plan). First of all, I believe that the title must instead be The Encyclopedia of Powers.[3]

1) Everyone begins to be disappointed, remarking that the EdN, after a very brilliant beginning, has visibly turned in a circle for the last few issues: not clearly showing what it wants to become; and even seeming unconcerned with knowing where its circular repetition of generalized blame (which certainly the era merits) leads. One begins to see why, by discovering the manner in which it envisions the least intervention into practice. The occasion that was given by the movement of the high-school students in November [1986] and the EdN's strangely impassioned judgment of a detail in these struggles.

2) The EdN is nothing other than a literary exercise. It is a matter of treating, for as long as this monotony can be maintained, a theme that is actually quite rich: the multiform poverty of the epoch, which -- naturally and by postulate -- is treated from above. This is the only goal. Thus, it is not necessary to identify this group too much with the Bakuninist reveries of the "Hundred International Brothers," but instead with certain tactics of the surrealist group on the terrain of galleries of paintings or certain journalists. (And the attempt of the EdN to regroup anti-nuclearists, since the old "anti-nuclear Left" is -- fortunately -- annihilated, resembles the intervention of the surrealists in the anti-fascism of 1934 ("Counter-Attack"), which was at the origin of the unfortunate Popular Front![4])

3) Through an interposed person, ([Guy] Fargette -- and you have already very well developed this aspect of presence/absence through the medium of F.) -- this band has acted just like the journalists of the moment: flattering the high-school students (by appealing to them to remain students) for all that they have not known and all that they have not done; in short, for not falling into the "archaic" error of wanting to restart [19]68 (of which the students are ignorant, while the EdN knows it by heart). If the movement of 68 had succeeded, there would not have been a place for the EdN (terrible impression of retrospective menace from the "writers," who thus feel a little like inhabitants of Versailles). And if 68 was only a little better known by the young rebels, it would no longer have had a place in the discourse of the EdN, which in no way envisions a new departure for the revolution, but which only makes abstract critiques of the Restoration, quite modernized in the accumulation of repressive procedures, but not at all new in theory after 68. The EdN wanted to be -- and was effectively until now -- the owner of the sub-critique of such an epoch of Restoration. (In the political meaning of the word, they are indignant liberals, who pretend to discover unexpected and unheard-of excesses.)

4) Above all, this group sought the old public of the pro-situs, who were always their commensals, by playing them music that they love. The fantastic number of plagiarized phrases in the EdN makes it the precise anthology of this style (and thus truly extremist on this point).

5) Furthermore, what is this group really? Who exactly is an Encyclopedist? There is an aspect of central-intelligence maneuvering through people whom one can always disavow, and an aspect of [publishing] on the author's account: like the publications of "The Universal Thought of the Nuisance," in which everyone can in sum pay to have his little work printed (or even to be relieved of this task by belonging to the mysterious Encyclopedist Club).

6) Furthermore, this is an Encyclopedia in which there is no new critical idea. It repetitively pronounces on all of the aspects of current society -- with good reason, furthermore, but also with much facility -- the same condemnation. As for individual polemics, if it is true that it is truly a novelty to see them now fulminating against the rioters (no doubt by using the style of an authority on the subject), they are most often devoted to plagiarizing from ridiculous "mediatic"[5] cadavers, always the same ones (find the truly obsessional list). In sum, they kill again their rivals who are better-known, but also quite a bit more discredited, in the "representation" of the epoch.

7) Incontestably, this literary enterprise has talent, although it is very clumsily repetitive in the continual and justified blaming of the current society, seen from above. But it has much less talent when it writes about subjects that concern it more directly: see the maladroitly Jesuitical and completely ridiculous tone of their attempts at justifications. Up against the wall[6] of practice, even if it is a question of a quite common practice, the real genius, the talent, is no longer present. Many of those whom they were about to dupe will lose their illusions all at once, simply because of the awkwardness with which they [the Encyclopedists] are suddenly allowed to "speak frankly."

8) The goal is principally to hold power over public opinion -- of which one will make use . . . -- and this by systematically plagiarizing all the other, more mediatic powers of the current period. Severe with those who do not even want to know them, they become very indulgent towards anyone in their meager [personal] associations. And you see how, even before attaining the least power, they imprudently employ -- enunciating after ripe reflection upon the official truth adopted by an unknown Council or by some loyalty to one-knows-not-what dynasty? -- the tone of power and authority. But who recognizes these things in them? Furthermore, they do not practice the ideas that they have adopted. And since it is practice that allows one to create ideas, they have no ideas.

This concerns the strategic sphere (but I repeat that this is not a plan; it is a vague set of directions and a general fashion of speaking that is adapted to the subject). It was also written very quickly and without being re-read. See what you can do with it. And this means mixing these remarks into the very many paragraphs of your text in which there is nothing to change or only a word or two [to change] so as to unify them, by placed them into such a "grid." In case you finally do so, I add several simple counsels on the tactical level.

a) It will be necessary to sign your names and not [sign it] "ex-Committee of 5 December." This polemic has lasted too long and thus make a pitiful rivalry between two organizations!

b) It will be necessary to summarize in 10 or 15 lines the activity of an ephemeral group, improvised so as to do what could be done in the course of the unexpected movement of the high-school students and the railroad workers (which greatly worried the government and resounded in Spain and China); and by not quoting from any document.

c) The center of the entire affair is the occupation of the Sorbonne. Here you should cite, in a brief narration, one or two phrases from your appeal.

d) It will be necessary to say that Fargette masperized[7] various documents. And to note that this was not even disavowed by those who were thus his accomplices (at least by their "informal leadership").

e) It would be indispensable to publish in extenso the letter signed by Sebastiani.[8] It is the clearest confession that they felt completely compromised by Fargette and that they have brought up the heavy artillery of authority and prestige. (What would they thus do with glory, if they have it?) And it would also be necessary for you to say that this letter has a tone that would horrify any individual who has a really anti-bureaucratic and anti-hierarchical personality.

I will stop here. This is already quite long, but I know well that this is not a matter of a small incident. I summarize: it is necessary to keep quiet or sound the bell about this illusionist enterprise. No one dares to say that "the King is naked," but the proper discourse of this monarch has cruelly emphasized his extraordinary lack of clothes.

Best wishes to both of you. See you soon.

[1] The Encyclopedia of Nuisances.

[2] See letter to Debord dated 3 July 1987.

[3] Instead of The Last Things of an Encyclopedia. See letter from Debord to Baudet dated 11 July 1987.

[4] See Georges Bataille, "Popular Front in the Street," Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939 (University of Minnesota, 1985).

[5] There is no English equivalent for the French word used here, which is mediatique. Rather than render it as "media," "mediated" or "mediatized" -- none of which capture this word's particular meaning -- we have used genetique (genetic) as our model.

[6] Au pied du mur, literally, "At the feet of the wall."

[7] Editions Maspero was a publishing house in the 1960s and 1970s that the situationists condemned for butchering the texts that they published.

[8] See letter dated 30 May 1987.

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

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