to the tendency constituted 11 November 1970


It won't be a defense that I will present. It is assuredly difficult to respond at such a late date and in a satisfactory manner, since you now think that "that an authentic accord must be made . . . by all." But it is precisely this difficulty that is presented to the "silent tendency." It is this difficulty that the tendency intends to surmount on the terrain of the minimum possible future agreement. I must declare immediately that if my response is rejected, I am not going to form another tendency (alone or without other comrades), which, in forceful opposition to yours, might be called "For inactivity in the SI [Situationist International]." I must also make clear that you alone can judge if my response is or isn't in contradiction with my real existence, if it is abstract or not. Thus, everything I write will henceforth be retained against me. You want an ad hominem critique, we procede ad libitum. In the course of this text, I will respond to two points of your Declaration; I will develop others; I will formulate some reflections on the fact that three comrades feel they must constitute the first real tendency (chronologically speaking, the first tendency was formed fortuitously: all comrades in attendance the evening of its constitution must have adhered to it, because, since then, they have enlarged upon it), a tendency that asks for more than a simple adhesion of principle. I will say that you have had good reason for constituting this tendency by bringing out its aspects and extensions; I will give my opinion on several precise points that Rene [Riesel] made when I happened to run into him briefly on the evening of the 12th [November 1970], that the comrades most specifically addressed [by the Declaration] were Raoul [Vaneigem] and me, and that "a certain lifestyle" was particularly reproached by it. I don't know if Comrade Vaneigem knows these details, but I obviously will respond in my name only. Two aspects appear clearly in your Declaration: the collective inactivity of the last two years [2] and the silence maintained by certain comrades on this lack of activity. The deepening of the crisis, to the point of no return, is the result of these two phenomena. You intend to break that silence, and thus to force the others, those who still remain mute, to break their silence.

As for my silence, by the force of things, I have nothing to say. I kill myself. I have let go in letting me go. It is impossible for me to bring the future out of a silent past. It is impossible for me to begin with myself and others before we have completely liquidated all silence with regard to the past. I hold to this today.

Since the beginning of the strategic debate, no theoretical divergence [among us] has appeared, and we all knew it wasn't likely to happen. The essential divergence has been the effective lack of practice, which we have identified during this period of responses to the debate, which objectively and immediately reclaims a real practice, whereas the first response implicated by "the burning questions accumulated by the facts themselves and by the first written critiques" must be collective and in practice. All has not been said, but nothing has been done.

The last text to take up the debate (Remarks on the SI Today, by Guy [Debord]) was dated 27 July [1970]. Soon it would have been four months of silent inactivity if you hadn't intervened. The perfectly justified rage that produced the Declaration is due to the fact that there are always the same comrades who take the initiatives, denounce the malaises, who are the conscience that speaks for an organization that must be what it isn't.

What has happened since July 27th? What needs to be done? What have we done? Everyone knows the answers. Putting aside the amorous misadventures of Paolo [Salvadori], [and] the American question, which have taken up a bit of our time, there are three of us in Paris to write #13 of the French journal.[3] (Comrade Riesel had already concluded in his "Notes for the meeting of 12 May 1970" that: "the editing of issue #13 of the journal will permit us to see if we are at least capable of making an issue equal (necessarily superior) in quality to those already published. This test may be the last.") What's posed is the problem of the non-editing of this issue. It isn't difficult to find a precise and complete description of the reason why it hasn't been produced. In his Remarks, Guy wrote: "in Paris, for two or three months (this makes four more!), [4] we assisted in the fantastic spectacle of the three comrades [on the Editorial Committee: Rene Riesel, Christian Sebastiani and Rene Vienet] [...] find themselves overcome by stupor in the face of the 'ordeal' of constructing and writing the 13th issue of the French journal." As for the rest, Guy didn't pose the question; he responded by describing the difficulties encountered by the Editorial Committee. But one can pose and re-pose this question indefinitely: "why do they have a hard time conceiving and especially communicating [...] the essential points that their issue will make," etc. Will this have been because the Committee didn't successfully appropriate the methods that were "officially" theirs for several years? Why? etc. If someone asked me, "Why does the earth turn?" and I answered by clearly explaining the physical or astronomical laws that are involved, at the end of the day, someone would still say, And yet it turns! Moreover, in what concerns us, the only response is the most trivial one: the Editorial Committee hasn't worked on the construction of a journal of the SI (and I less than all the others). On why no work has been done, each member of the Committee has added to the atmosphere of generalized nonchalance that hovers over our meetings. (Here, a parenthesis. I don't believe I do anything that could be qualified [illegible] #13 in nearly seven months wasn't at all euphoric, especially when one is the one responsible. And if the one responsible keeps quiet, he is also the guiltiest. -- It is understood that I don't bear all of the misfortunes of the SI on my shoulders: I know well that in the matter of collective inactivity there aren't any innocents. And I would literally have been annihilated if the others had engaged in tireless activity.) Thus, the climate of the last era was fixed a variable gray; several glimmers from time to time dissipated the fog. The most down-to-earth engagements weren't kept; the routine, the negligence, the mail, more and more invaded the editorial space, which was already quite small to begin with. There wasn't any serious research work, individual or collective; nothing really interesting was expressed; nothing novel. One had the impression that all it took to publish an issue of the journal of the SI was meeting, sitting down at a table, taking up a sheet of paper and a pen, choosing an article and writing it down without lifting the pen from the paper (I caricature, but just a bit, knowing well how this kind of technique can be applied to several brief notes. -- But starting with the least important subjects is already a bizarre method; for example, subjects that weren't subjected to the smallest debate: the modernization of modern ideology, the point concerning the United States, productive forces and revolutionary movements, [and] the power of the Soviets in Russia. Apart from the "Notification" [to the readers] and "The Death of Surrealism," which have already been written, all the other articles need to be started.) We have put the cart before the horse, and when we looked for someone to pull it, there was no one there. I can give many examples that aren't serious in themselves, but reflect the boredom and dissatisifaction, unacknowledged by all [in the SI], of dealing with this dispassionate nonchalance, which doesn't uniquely illustrate the unique inactivity of the Editorial Committee, but also [everyone's] indifference to the precise problems of the objective pressure put on us in the interior of the organization. Over the months and months, the language in which everyone recognized themselves as acting consciously no longer existed. If it is true that "nothing is made without being supported by the interests of those who have collaborated on it" (Hegel), then one immediately sees what can be said when nothing has been done.

Certain comrades have been criticized more or less severely by the SI. In paragraph 10 of the Remarks, Guy notes the symptom that "the least critique is resented as a total calling-into-question and greeted by absolute defiance." He was especially surprised, at the time of the meeting of 14 July [1970], by the reaction of Rene-Donatien [Vienet] to the critiques that only he [Debord] had addressed to him, and by the passivity of the other comrades present on that day. In paragraph 8, Guy remarked that in deciding certain questions a "choice" was "imagined" between "drama and passivity." Henceforth, because of this and indifference to his respect, today the problem can be treated, but "only in the mode of drama."

I have been slightly criticized within the SI, and I am the first to welcome it. Will it be that I don't merit critique? No. Will it be that I haven't been as present as the others, not dynamic enough (without hiding the fact that no one has been "admirable" to the others since this thesis was adopted). I have said loud and clear that the members of the Editorial Committee haven't upheld the promises that they themselves made. Appended to explications that in fact didn't interest anyone, "I don't have the time" was the phrase that passed for an excuse. It is only a matter of knowing if it is necessary to take one's time, if it is necessary to take time to take one's time. Here's another thing that the Editorial Committee hasn't been able -- or hasn't wanted -- to learn how to do. (Another parenthesis. Despite all this inactivity -- the unhappiness with it can be put on the back pages -- I can't see where, when or how I have behaved in a "vainglorious" manner, without mentioning that this phrase is always used in a derisive sense, and which I understand to mean being satisfied with being in the SI and not giving a fuck about anything, a smug contentment with oneself in the contemplation of one's own passivity, a documented euphoria sprinkled with a delirious arrivisme. [5] Such an attitude can effectively be the corollary of an ideology of and in the SI; but not forcefully. This ideology is the corollary of a theoretical inactivity. The theory stops superceding itself; it sucks its own blood; it cleans away its own proper substance; it becomes pure thought, definite and immutable. Ideology takes flight on the cadaver of theory.)

The tendency of 11 November (no relation with the armistice) [6] isn't a remedy in itself for the malady that it denounces. A tendency is the place to discover this remedy. But this tendency, with all its future implications, is the first remedy for all the blah-blah-blah. The first split that it demands is a break with all that has existed in the SI for months. The reaffirmation of our specificity was one of the points of our program; the criticized period has invalidated this will. The SI is no longer an informal group that meets its own definitions of a revolutionary organization. There is no miracle recipe. The will and the desire to be what one has several times chosen to be don't exist. And one learns this at a cost. A heavy blow on the skull does more than several amiable slaps. The recovery will be difficult, because the slumber was deep. Without prejudging future remedies -- and which are the sources of my fate -- I know in advance that the slightest breach will be sanctioned on the field. This is the last gamble I make on the table of the revolution.

My lifestyle is certainly very critizable. When someone asks me, "How do you see?" I always respond, "badly" -- but "I see better than a minister," said an old tramp to my friends. But what I don't accept are the reproaches that Rene [Riesel] addressed to me on the evening of the 12th [November 1970]. He said he was shocked to see me in the company of Mustapha Khayati [7] and several others [illegible] by chance at a street corner. I must declare that I hadn't any contact, more or less continuously, with this ex-siutaionist [since September 1969] and that it pleased me to be in his company as the result of I-don't-know-what penchant for indulgence towards this poor, lost companion. Moreover, like everyone else, I find it unnerving enough to see Mustapha used as an intermediary in affairs that concern us and even in apartment affairs. I wasn't shocked that Rene thinks so. What surprised me was the fact he didn't make his feelings known before. Rene missed an opportunity to critique me on an aspect of my life that he finds worth critique. Moreover, I responded to him that we [Mustapha and the others] weren't at all a "little band," that we simply went to dinner. Perhaps Rene didn't make his critique at that time because he thought it appeared useless. Likewise, did it appear useless to criticize our inter-situationist style of relations before having the greatest possible certitude that such behavior wouldn't be repeated? This merits being written about only to the extent that I've been furnished with precise answers.

If I have "spoken," and not in as radically laconic a fashion as Raoul, whose letter of resignation I immediately saw, this is because I have been the most silent comrade.

Once more, as Sade said; since you work to destroy all breaches, without letting any continue to exist, as it is necessary that one restore all.

Note: written by Christian Sebastiani, Paris, 19 November 1970. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! August 2004.

Translator's notes:

[1] Guy Debord, Rene Riesel and Rene Vienet.

[2] E.g., since November 1968, almost a year before the publication of Internationale Situationiste #12 and the convocation of the VIIIth Conference of the Situationist International in Venice, Italy, both of which took place in September 1969.

[3] Number #13 of Internationale Situationiste was planned, but never completed.

[4] Parenthetical remark by the author (Christian Sebastiani).

[5] A French expression that can be translated (awkwardly) as "upstartism."

[6] Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I.

[7] A member of the French section of the SI, the Tunesian-born Mustapha Khayati was and still is best known as the author of On the Poverty of Student Life (1966). He resigned from the SI in September 1969 so as to pursue membership in a Palestinian liberation group.

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