contribution to the "orientation debate"

Paris, 8 December 1970

I'd like to make clear my position on the tendency constituted on 11 November [1970] by Comrades Vienet, Riesel and Debord, and, at the same time, to make clear the reasons for my accord with all of the positions taken in their declaration.

The principal merit of this tendency is that it is the first concrete act taken in and for the SI [Situationist International] since talk of the crisis first began: all of the responses to the tendency have largely confirmed this.

In the manner of Italian truants, the tendency has said to all of the members of the SI: "Empty your pockets so we can see what you have and what you lack!" It's now clear that there hasn't been a hold-up like this for a long time!

The tendency is also concrete in the precise sense that, by speaking of the "crisis," it has made itself the party of veritable crisis and not its relatively painless supercession. In fact, no one can deny that, to this point, the debate on strategy and the crisis has been a debate between deaf people and has generally reconstituted the very comfort that it was intended to break up.

Every time that someone touches upon the punctum dolens ["sore point" in Latin], there is silence. This silence attained its paraoxysm after Guy's text of July [1970]. At the same time, the tendency has made the only response. Now, one can say retrospectively that, as far as the discussion has gone, it seems to have wanted unconsciously to exorcise precisely that which it pretended to speak about. Guy's July text has been greeted by three-and-a-half months' of silence, which avows that all are responsible for what has been lacking.

The tendency is most concrete in its opposition to the informal but generally dominant tendency [in the SI] that, with a certain smugness, is content to see in such-and-such an event the confirmation of such-and-such a part of our theory. This was, without doubt, the most discouraging aspect of those who were comfortable. Moreover, this comfort existed in inverse proportion to its real enrichment.

The riches, the money, the SI has recently spent doesn't make the group less poor. What it has lacked has been the desire to realize what each member surely thought every day: not a choice between drama and the passivity of routine, but the routine of real drama!

It's a banality that we must say: either this is a revolutionary organization, fittingly organized for the realization of our projects, or a circle of intellectuals who are united around their journal. The strange comfort that exists in an organization of struggle (such as the SI) exists in proportion to the weakness of that struggle.

Detourning Raoul [Vaneigem], I wrote in my text on the debate that it is truly shameful that today's the most modern and coherent international revolutionary organization is used so little and so sluggishly by its members.

Moreover, Raoul himself got it right when he said that it was distressing to try to tell each member how should he should comport himself: "One comports oneself spontaneously, namely, striving to be at the center of the organization." But he said this from the organization's extreme periphery.

Raoul seems to say now that, henceforth, the SI no longer exists; and he already calls for the historians to come up with explications. But he who has declared that he wants to make history doesn't give a fuck what historians will say about him post-festum, because he knows perfectly well what he has done, what he has succeded at, and what he has failed to do.

It is germaine to speak of "the slight degree of penetration of situationist theory into the worker milieu and the slight degree of penetration of workers into the situationist milieu." But it is equally necessary to remember what the SI, or each of its members, has accomplished. And it is necessary to say that, since one speaks more concretely [illegible].

What made the SI admirable in its first ten years of existence was the fact that, in a bad epoch, it was constantly good in its struggle. Should one conclude that, after 68, the SI found itself in a constitutional crisis of the kind experienced by the Communist League after the revolutions of 1848-49? No. First, because times are better today and because the SI is objectively better than the League. It isn't our style that needs changing.

But one can't say that the SI was unacquainted with the momentary return of a large movement, which it forsaw and prepared for so well. The little we did in 69-70 was correct. Since it isn't, in my opinion, the style of organization chosen by the situationists that has proven false, it is necessary for us to conclude that the fault certainly exists, but it exists in all that has been keeping the movement from progressing. Up until now, the absence has concealed the fault. The merit of the tendency is that it has finally revealed it.

One can say in a slightly general and gross fashion that the potency of creativity among us at all moments isn't inferior to the creativity that had been necessary to concretely imagine the existence of the situationist organization, that is to say, as it existed in 1957.

The futility of the "critiques" and chicanery of the Americans [Jon Horelick and Tony Verlaan] serve once more to change nothing: they substitute a veritable lack of real critiques for critiques that are really false; they substitute a lack of real activity for the uniquely artificial activity of making false critiques. As for the rest of what they say, they have already joyously embraced (cf. their letter of 18 November) the perspective of their small faction.

It is in this climate that so much foolishness has limped from Sperlonga [Italy] to New York. As Marx said, "We know well the role of stupidity in history." But we are here to prevent it from playing a role among us.

(Hand-written in French by Gianfranco Sanguinetti, member of the Italian section of the Situationist International. Translated by NOT BORED! August 2004.)

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