Concerning the first texts of the discussion, the debates of 17 March, 7 April and 14 April, and other questions of importance

Dear Comrades:

The discussion of one of the points in my previous text has made it appear that I would like to place the debate on a terrain that doesn't interest me, and I must now agree that it was notably my fault.

1. What Francois [de Beaulieu] reproaches me for (the "laconicism" of my "attack" on him) is actually a blunder on my part in exposing a problem that I want to solve; and it's been made to appear that this is a personal conflict in which he who first reported the hostility didn't also have a clear conscience concerning the foundations of it.

In light of the fact that the collective organization has permitted me to make precise, for the others and for myself, what's causing the problem for me, and to collectively pursue a satisfactory solution to a badly posed problem, it seems necessary to me to state that, despite what is reassuring and normal, I was wrong to be maladroit to such an extent that my blunder objectively falls under the heading of a practical stupidity. That is to say, if it is good and normal that we can collectively resolve certain different questions, then it is much less so to waste our collective time in some sort of Socratic mode of inquiry. [1]

2. The question that I raised so badly was knowing, in the domain of the "community of tastes," which has or must have limits, the qualitative level at which his [de Beaulieu's] existence is defined. It is a quite different question from those asked by people who want to know why we have come to participate in situationist revolutionary activity (from the start, we have had all sorts of very dissimilar and good reasons to join, but current reasons are surely quite different from those of the past); it is a question of knowing if he [de Beaulieu] can now show a covergence with our perceptible apprehensions of the communal project, and what is this convergence? One understands that this type of interrogation can be pursued among us because the SI [Situationist International] must not be, and is not, an organization like the others.

3. The situationist organizational community isn't the pure and simple practice of a common project. Moreover, if precise points are ceaselessly to be made on this common project, if it must ceaselessly be enlarged, one can note that it is in the theory of our practice that differences already exist (the position of Raoul [Vaneigem] being, for example, the most "intransigent"). Without eliminating a priori the hypothesis of a purely theoretical divergence, only the [orientation] debate can illuminate the reality of pre-existing differences concerning our possible practice. This doesn't mean that we won't have disagreements, nor that we must at all costs be in agreement about everything, but that everyone must be involved in the discussion -- each must express his thesis, not just his more or less approved opinion on something already said. [2]

4. The situationist organizational community is also the place in which one can experiment with a style of realization and the practice of a communal project. Whether this style is good or bad from the perspective of History, to which this style corresponds more or less adequately in this precise period of class struggle, History and the proletariat will be the judges. But what is important is that the SI is a terrain of practical experimentation for one or several styles of life, combat, intelligence -- a fundamental condition of our accord is that we don't separate the realization of the "final goal" from the means of attaining it.

5. Thus, I am quite close to the perspective from which Raoul expressed certain choices for the SI, I'm completely in agreement with him concerning what these choices will bring us (cf. the end of the Treatise, To Have as Goal, Notice to the Civilized, [3] his text for discussion).

Thus, in comparison with what I've said loud and clear about being in agreement with almost everything in the text by Tony [Verlaan], I don't agreee with him that the taste for theory, and the taste for the practice of theory, are elements in our objective community of tastes. They are the bases. But what remains in suspense: which theoretical renewal? which style of practice?

6. As a slightly marginal methodological point, I can also say that I don't share the beautiful optimism of Christian [Sebastiani], when he writes: "it is because we have been capable, one more time, of making the truth appear among us that we will be capable of accomplishing what we have decided and will decide." It was a necessary condition to make the truth reappear, but it was not a condition sufficient to renew theoretical practice. It is only the changing [political] climate that has incited the first [orientation] debates, which now favor the appearance of a real discussion.

7. Concerning the "Manifesto," [4] I don't believe that it must necessarily be our most violent text. On the contrary, it must be sustained and elevated by a kind of Strasbourg-like blow. [5] Because the Poverty [of Student Life] was based upon and sustained for a sufficiently long time by a "positive scandal," it will be, as a function of "manifest critique," a question of creating a positive manifestation from a similar and enlarged base. It is only in this sense, and because the "Situationist Manifesto" will be a form of councilist proclamation, that one can speak of violence (the violence of total critique, the violence of the critique of the modern conditions of the Spectacle, the violence of anti-utopia). The "Manifesto" of the situationists must also be "prophetic," like that of Marx [and Engels]; but it [the situationist "Manifesto"] must also conceal fewer imprecisions, because it is called upon to immediately find its detailed verification.

8. Before considering the prioritized subjects that I have suggested, or the suggestions made by Christian, it is urgent that we first have a discussion about the councils; it would be a question of thoroughly resuming the first debates, in the sense spoken of by Guy [Debord], who reached the same conclusion that Raoul and I reached after beginning work on our collaboration on the book (the councils will be situationist). Having spent a little time and effort on the subject, [6] I know that, while it interests me, it doesn't impassion me. In my opinion, it would also be necessary to have some kind of precise mandates concerning this book's production. Now that we have the material means, it would also be necessary to preoccupy ourselves with a possible intervention in England, perhaps in the framework of the "Manifesto," which must in any case be at the center of our preoccupations in the months to come.

Note: written by Rene Riesel, 18 April 1970. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! August 2004.

Translator's notes:

[1] The word employed here by the author is maieutics.

[2] See Francois de Beaulieu's text on On the subject of the debate on the SI's orientation.

[3] All important texts by Raoul Vaneigem: Treatise on Living for the Younger Generations (1965), To Have as Goal Practical Truth (1967) and Notice to the Civilized Concerning Generalized Self-Management (1969).

[4] The situationists planned to write and publish a "Situationist Manifesto" modeled on Marx & Engel's "Communist Manifesto" (1848), but never did.

[5] In 1966, the SI helped a group of radical university students in Strasbourg cause a scandal, in part by donating to them a brilliant and soon widely read pamphlet entitled On the Poverty of Student Life. One imagines that a "Strasbourg-like blow" would involve the publication of a tract with a title along the lines of On the Poverty of Working for a Living.

[6] See the author's Preliminaries on Councils and Councilist Organization (1969).

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