To the tendancy of 11 November


1. The critiques that you have formulated in your letter of 24 November [1970], which responded to my letter of the 19th [November 1970], make clear to me the route that I didn't take the first time. It is best that I respond point by point. I have said that I've made my last gamble; I exchange three cards and raise my bet.

2. I knew quite well that the problem of the non-production of #13 [2] wasn't the center of the crisis. But, in my eyes, it wasn't superficial in the sense that it was the visible concretization of the "refusal to take responsibility." I belonged to the Editorial Committee [as did Rene Riesel and Rene Vienet] and this Committee had several things to do. My inactivity has been made clear. I have ringed my critiques and self-critiques around this non-production. But they must be extended to all domains of situationist activity.

What does it mean to refuse to take responsibility? To refuse to take its responsibility; it is also to take responsibility for not taking any. It is having neither the will nor the passion to defend what one holds dear. It is to believe objectively the conditions in which the truth cannot be verified; in which the inequality appears de facto since inter-situationist creative rivalry in the always-more-exhaustive radicalization of the organization that must always be carried to greater coherence doesn't exist; in which delays can be dissimulated and never corrected. In such conditions, the "silent ones" are objectively accomplices in such a state and work to maintain it; silence must ipso facto be a lie. And in this sense, the hypothesis raised in your Declaration, according to which certain people possess "hidden goals" or an "absence of goals," finds its objective terrain. (One such hypothesis can be rejected, but not ignored. On this point, my meaning is close enough to the attitude of Comrade [Raoul] Vaneigem). Only a saboteur aiming at the disappearance of the SI through inaction, would consciously behave in such a fashion.

There is more than a refusal to take responsibility; there is also the matter of taking initiatives: proposing and realizing what one proposes. Here, in short, is what appears to me now, as I begin to awaken from my long, lethargic slumber.

3. I don't want to repeat here what Guy already wrote to Comrades Horelick and Verlaan in his letter of 28 October [1970], in which he methodically responded to all of the points that their text raised, however vaguely. I think that these two American comrades have the best intentions when they denounce the crisis in the SI and the "generalized silence with respect to the bases of participation. . . ." On this level, their attitude is less criticizable than mine. They want to bring the SI out of its malaise and, they say, to participate in "its salvaging." But I find that they're going about it very badly. They are "voluntarily vague" on the subject of the self-critiques that they must make; but when they are precise, they fall into error. They see well a part of the failure; but they don't see what this failure is. For example, why do they take up the "disappearance of Chevalier" as "origin [...] of the type of exclusion determined by the unexpected failure in banalized situations"? Likewise, it is upside-down for them to write: "By his moral style (what the critique takes as his "bad humor") [3] and his automatic invocation of all sorts of qualifications in relation to the nonexistent condition, the letter from three comrades (Riesel, Vienet and Debord) [4] shows the depths of a shared failure in the SI." It would be necessary to read what was written, and not what was really there, to come to such a conclusion from our letter, which responded tersely, no doubt incompletely, point-by-point, in an "administrative" tone, and by providing the information necessary to get things straight. As for the hypothetical return of old comrades, Guy has sufficiently developed his critique of it. One can see in it the perfectionist idealism of the organization [...] It would be necessary to abandon what was once shared by all. Moreover, as no one is particularly cited, all this becomes obscure. So that my position on the eventual reexamination of old members of the SI is clear, I would add that it would be difficultly acceptable, but not entirely unacceptable, that a comrade could give his resignation for one reason or another, and still retain the possibility of one day asking to be a candidate for admission -- as was done with Mustapha [Khayati] in Venice, [5] but this aspect of the problem, if it merits being briefly discussed again, wasn't envisioned for this particular era. [6]

I don't know very exactly what the American tendency really is, nor what it effectively wants, but I approve of its bases.

4. In the current situation, it is for me a question of providing proof of my capacities and their complete utilization. In the framework of the Editorial Committee, "The Perspective of the power of the Soviets in Russia" would certainly be among the most important points to be treated immediately. I could supply a complete overall plan and the sketch of an introduction. I could also contribute to the "exact definition of the collective activity of the SI organization" by writing the text "Preliminaries to all future practice."

5. I didn't think that my first text was the place to say what I thought of [Raoul] Vaneigem's response. I'll say it here.

You have received two responses [to the Declaration], sufficiently different in form and content. I have tried -- without being entirely successful -- to extract the key aspects of the non-functioning of the SI and to draw out my responsibility and guilt (I haven't cited examples of small importance that are already known and would be too tedious to repeat here).

Vaneigem is more general. The bet that he made is founded on what one knows he is capable of doing and what he has already done. Loud and clear, I have stated the points on which I find myself in agreement with him. There are two that seem questionable here. First, I don't think [as Vaneigem does] that "the tendency constituted on 11 November [...] has the merit of being the last abstraction to be formulated in, for and in the name of the SI." If it is indeed true that your tendency is formulated in, for and in the name of the SI, it isn't in the manner of an abstraction. The Declaration poses in their simple authenticity the problems that are -- or have been -- in everyone's heads. It sets a final term for all that has been tolerated until now; it is the point of departure of all situationist activity to come. Second, your tendency cannot judge "its critique sufficient in itself": it would then be in contradiction with itself. On the contrary, it will be the responses to the Declaration that will be judged insufficient or not. That is to say, I believe in the sincerity of Comrade Vaneigem's engagement. His text merits further clarification: notably on the first three questions that are "lamentably eluded" in my first text, which are no better treated in his (not much of a consolation for me!).

It was certainly my silent inactivity that made me write that "there wasn't any truly serious research work, individual or collective." I must add that only I am to blame. I have been so absent that I don't remember the work other comrades did; and I understand your indignation, because I didn't have any right to write that. I can say nothing more on this point, except that it bothers me the most.

7. It is true that it was "after having totally refuted the idea that the non-production of #13 was the center of the criris" that [Rene] Riesel addressed the question of lifestyle. It was when I said to him that I didn't understand very well the critique of our [chance] meeting as an example. Rene definitely responded that "the little band goes to dinner"; but what I most regret in my letter of the 19th [of November 1970] is that he didn't make this critique clear to me before the publication of #12. It seems useful to me to add the following concerning the "little band." There were several of us that evening, and consequently we might have given the appearance of being a little band. But it is no less true that we were not; I can say with the spirit of a little band: little happiness comes from making misery felt by all, or from the relations of misery and the miseries of relations and their satisfactions. I recall very well that this was criticized when a veritable little band lived at Le Glou. [7] I have no penchant for this kind of miserablism. I have never and will never eat this bread.



Note: written by Christian Sebastiani, 28 November 1970. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! August 2004.

Translator's notes:

[1] Copies were distributed to all the situationists, not just Guy Debord, Rene Riesel and Rene Vienet (the tendency of 11 November).

[2] The last issue of Internationale Situationniste was #12 (September 1969). A 13th issue was planned, but never completed.

[3] Parenthetical remark by author (Christian Sebastiani).

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

[5] 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 at the Conference at Venice in September 1969 so as to pursue membership in a Palestinian liberation group.

[6] That is, the post-Venice era of strategic re-orientation.

[7] Jacques Le Glou, a member of the Libertarian Group of Menilmontant. Note well: in the film version of The Society of the Spectacle (1973), Guy Debord, quoting Shakespeare, refers to the members of the SI as "We merry band of brothers."

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