from Gerard Lebovici

To Mustapha Khayati
24 October 1976

I have indeed decided to re-publish The Poverty of Student Life without asking for your opinion[1] nor that of its first publisher, the U.N.E.F.[2]

If you were, in complete independance, the only author of this treatise, I would respond to you all the same that it is useless to want to play [Georg] Lukacs when one doesn't even have the notoriety, and when all obscurantist attempts at censorship will always be treated with the same scorn.

But you know that you alone didn't write this text, and especially that you have acted in this affair like the delegate of a certain movement, like one of the students it has influenced in Strasbourg. Your nostalgic pretension is vain, given that this is a document that belongs to history, which is something you make yourself forget.

We do not recognize in you any authority to say that "this text must not be made."

There are "Garnautins"[3] who say that you yourself belong to an "official power" (I.S. #11, p. 30); but they deceive themselves. Today you seem to distinguish, in publishing, between "the official commercial form" and the dissimulated commercial form. You certainly have your reasons for this. One will not be able teach someone who is a Marxist that, in a society of commodities, a critical theory can only enter in wide contact with individuals by passing through the means of an object for sale; and that the "many pirate editions" that you applaud are themselves commercial to the extent of their means. Finally, if you specifically evoke Champ Libre, I console myself in thinking that, since you have proposed to me, but without success, to publish Mr [Raoul] Vaneigem in the collection of your [situationist] friends, you do not judge these editions to be abusively commercial and, in any case, not more so than others. Very probably you know that it isn't for an excess of commercialism that Champ Libre is detested and boycotted by the press and the recuperated-intellectual milieu.

One sees what pleases you about "pirate" editions and, for example, in the Dusseldorf "pirate" edition[4] in which you have allowed The Poverty of Study Life to be presented as drafted by "Khatayi, Vaneigem and others," while you know better than anyone that, contrary to the accounts of others, Vaneigem didn't write a line of it. And why not, while you are at it, add as author Mr Jean-Pierre Bastid, who currently works at a literature that would truly like to be salably commercial?

One sees what pleases you in the tri-lingual and frankly Masperized[5] edition of The Poverty of Student Life that was audaciously published by Mr [Rene] Vienet in 1972 in an "Asiatic Library" under the mark of Champ Libre; and why you are not "formally" opposed to this re-edition: you are generously mentioned in it as the copyright owner.

You apply a kind of division of work between, on the one hand, the estimable "pirate" publishers, who will be reserved for distribution to several pseudo-initiates -- or, as in Dusseldorf, for falsification -- of certain critical and revolutionary documents; and, on the other hand, the rest of purely and simply "commercial" publishing, which, symmetrically, will only be the workplace for the more or less shameful subsistance-labor of ex-subversives who have little money. But no one will believe this irreality in order to please you. Your deficiencies are not the general laws of History.

And now you try to identify yourself with "the class consciousness of our era." If someone has something to fear from this consciousness, and its practical means, everything suggests that it is you.

G. Lebovici[6]

[1] See Mustapha Khayati's letter to Champ Libre, dated 12 October 1976.

[2] The National Union of French Students, which funded the publication of On the Poverty of Student Life but certainly didn't know, let alone approve of, its contents. Radical students diverted U.N.E.F. funds to the Situationist International, which wrote the text and helped distribute it.

[3] A disparaging nickname for the Strasbourg situationists who were excluded from the Situationist International in early 1967. See Guy Debord's letter to the rest of the SI, dated 15 January 1967.

[4] Note by Alice Debord: In fact, an edition of The Poverty of Student Life was published by Editions Zoe of Geneva simultaneously and in competition with this one. (See Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 5: Janvier 1973-Decembre 1978, Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2005, p. 374.

[5] Situationist slang for "bastardized."

[6] Though signed by Gerard Lebovici, this is in fact a slight revision of the text written by Guy Debord and sent to Lebovici on 19 October 1976.

(Published in Editions Champ Libre, Correspondance, Volume I, Paris: 1978. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! March 2007.)

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