from Guy Debord

To A. Monteiro and friends[1]
Copies to all people concerned
Paris, 15 November 1975

Your recent invitations to bring me to Lisbon as soon as possible seem to call for a clear response. For more than six months, I have discerned several ambiguities concerning this question (which is obviously linked to the question of what you yourselves are, that is to say, of what you do and how you do it). But, with the passage of Manuela, who came to see me on your behalf on 30 October [1975], certain strangenesses and contradictions have reached the degree of stupefying paradox. Moreover, I specify that Maneula's remarks only expressed in a concentrated manner -- with a perfectly casual illogic -- the positions that I have already observed for myself or facts that have already been reported to me.

With the most tranquil assurance, Manuela expounded to me -- successively or simultaneously and always drawing the unique conclusion that I must immediately come [to Lisbon] -- the following points:

1) If you [the Portuguese comrades] have done nothing publicly notable for more than a year, it is necessary to congratulate you, because during this time the revolutionary process has bettered itself.

2) You have done a great deal by the excellent publication of your first analyses and perspectives during the summer of 1974 (which everyone remembers today, after such an accumulation of events, and yet without deploring your subsequent silence?); and at present you are resolved to re-take the floor, notably with a book and a film, since the [revolutionary] process has advanced enough to merit hearing from you.

3) I must be there, so as to agree with you on what isn't to be done.

4) I must be there so as to do it in your place.

5) I must be there now so as to embellish the consequences of all this.

And yet the fundamental strangeness of all this isn't expressed by the contradictions I have summarized above. It resides in the correlation that you implicity but constantly establish between the development of the Portuguese revolution and your existence as a group, if one can call you that. With the result that, each time you incite me to come among you, I only hear -- under the form of several attractive generalities -- praise for this revolution: as if you think (and this is quite bizarre) that you need to inform me of its existence and its importance, and as if such a reality actually consitites an argument in your favor!

You certainly know that, after what I have had the occasion to do for a great number of years, the first "duty" that I have with respect to the revolution in all countries is to demonstrate that in no way do I have the intention or the obligation to hold the role of leader (in the same way that others have failed the more simple obligation to prove that the success of their avant-garde critique does not oblige them to compromise with the dominant organization of things and thus be recognized and recuperated by it). It goes without saying that the real movement of the Portuguese proletariat has no reason to fear being led by me. But a particular group that holds itself next to this movement? Yes. It must fear this, as much as it can hope for it, according to its concrete intentions. I would obviously be disposed towards supporting the movement itself, not, as you say, with my "experience" -- everyone in Portugal has more experience with the current situation than I have had -- but with my talents that could be used by it (as an analyst of the relationships of the forces at play from day to day, and as a military expert) where the movement would give itself the forms of consciousness and practical organization that would require this use of my capacitues. But it is perfectly clear that you do not make yourselves part of such a movement in this sense.

Thus I find your manner of appealing to me to "come see" what you yourselves see in a sort of dazzled silence does not simply open on to something that would be useless but also something that isn't even innocent. Having never been a pure and simple "theoretician" of practice; being a foreigner (that is to say, someone who does not speak the language of the country); being unknown in this country (because I naturally do not have the intention of playing upon my slight "celebrity," which could only have a basis among the intellectual scroundels, who were slightly Leftist in 1973, Stalinist in 1974 and pro-proletarian today) -- obviously I can only intervene in the Portuguese movement with Portuguese people who were themselves concretely engaged in the process, which is so advanced today: that is to say, with you, if you answer to such a definition. (Of course, I could also intervene with other Portuguese people: but, for this to take place, it would still be necessary for me not to be identified with your particular politics, of which I certainly do not approve. And I am not the only one to disapprove of them.)

Manuela believed that he could reassure me on this point, by specifying that one didn't want me to command but only to give my opinion. However, I have observed that, in an infinity of circumstances, my opinion always imposes itself with an extraordinary facility (I want to say: in the groups that declare themselves to be advanced, and certainly not as quickly among the masses in revolution). And in this particular circumstance, it seems to me that the totality of your other opinions has ended in a radical abstentionism with which you are quite content.

In my opinion, such a doctrine is unsupportable. I do not even critique it from afar (it will be the Portuguese revolutionary workers who will judge you, and close up). But it is truly extravagant to propose to me to come there to share your place! In the name of that which you ask me to help [the Portugueuse proletariat], why haven't you judged it useful to be more helpful? Why would I do for you what you haven't esteemed it necessary to do for the workers? And if you think these workers, all of them having on each day the maximum possible awareness of their situation and their imaginable and practicable forms of action, have no need of you, then what need have you of me, who would help you to gloriously keep motionless the fifth wheel on the carriage of the proletarian triumph?

You are hardly linked to the great success already attained by the Portuguese proletariat. Even if you were better linked to it, I would not be in agreement with your triumphalism concerning the current situation (and, in reality, you have only developed this abstract triumphalism from a position of being almost-passive admirers). In my opinion, the Portuguese revolution is normally following the course of proletarian revolutions (and to say this is to praise it highly, rather than claiming that it is developing its methods and goals in insulated novelty), and it is in fact following this course with sluggishness. What is original and completely new in the world -- and has permitted this slow maturation -- is the extreme, burlesque weakness of the counter-revolution in Portugal, the universal association of all the powers in dissolution, from the Salazarist generals to the Stalinists and Leftists.[2] Thus, the slowness of the Portuguese revolutionary development is not a subjective "merit" of the Portuguese proletariat. It is an objective merit of the era: the wearing out of all the ideological forms of recuperation and the growth of social disorder have already greatly embarassed all of the foreign States, limiting and slowing their possibilities of intervention. In my letter of 8 May 1974, from afar, I characterized for you the situation created on 25 April [1974][3] as fundamentally being "a race" between two movements: "on the one hand, the bureaucracy of the parties and unions in rapid formation; and, on the other hand, the army, the base of which can find itself in rapid dissolution." This is indeed what has happened since then. Up to the winter of 1975, one assisted in the failure of the bureaucratic formation. During this time, the army did not decompose; for several months, the soldiers were connected to and in liaison with the council movement,[4] which is normally developed in the factories. The process thus gives us a reason for not saying that it has won. The process of which you speak is not some exterior demigod that guides history. It is combat at every moment. Each idea, each argument, each perspective developed in this permanent discussion counts and will continue to count in the subsequent confrontations. I do not ask what has given you grounds to believe that you can assume the quality of some kind of "Old Guard," an elite troop that someone (the Process in person?) would like to keep in reserve, on this side of the combat, and to engage only at the end, in the extension of the victory. You do not have this quality and no one would recognize it in you.

There is always something vital in discussions: for example, the future depends on the manner in which the actions of the last shock-troops deployed by the weak government (the A.M.I.),[5] etc., will be countered. But, while the Portuguese proletariat has gone further than the May 1968 movement [in France], in 18 months you have certainly not attained the importance and usefulness that the C.M.D.O.[6] acquired in 18 days: a place from which "the process" expresses what it is and what it can do. If, in an instance of euphoric madness or terrible modesty, you think that the proletariat does not have need of you, so as to attain the desired result at the proper time, then what have you done to make this immense experiment known to a world that is still unaware of it? (So as to facillitate help from abroad and to retain the maximum of true conclusions in case there is a defeat that a kind of somnambulism has always prevented you from concretely envisioning, but the hypothesis of which you can not set aside, because I'm sure you retain sufficient historical sense to prohibit you from euphoria on this point.) Because a veritable victory in Portugal could more quickly take Europe where it wants to go and, inversely, a local defeat could be re-played elsewhere and often.

To summarize: despite the position (without doubt the most advanced in the whole movement) you took in the summer of 1974, the little you have done since then, and the laughable manner in which you theorize your attitude and results, assuredly do not permit me to approve of your "completely bad" politics, "bad" in Hegel's sense: "Because it is quite necessary to call 'bad' a work that is not a work."

In all the echoes that return to me, the atmosphere surrounding your group -- like the quality of your historic operations -- is lamentable; nothing has been collectively done so as to turn to account those who are there by immediately eliminating (for firmly given reasons) those who manifestly should not be or should no longer be there. Thus, one tells me that Patrick [Cheval][7] is there but "does nothing" (he did something elsewhere, when he was better surrounded). Last winter, the mythomaniac Slavia[8] made herself your emissary. I have seen what has become of Eduardo [Rothe][9] as the result of accumulating in twenty countries the failures and proofs of his incapacity: he is a liar and is malevolent towards everyone, starting with you. Etc. You know this chapter better than I do, and these people do not make one feel like going to "see" the interior. And seeing is nothing when, after nearly a thousand particular details, one simply draws the single, vast and general conclusion that "all advances well"; what is necessary is knowing how to conclude.

Finally, all of these reasons -- which I have expounded for you only because, very strangely, you are unacquainted with them or have forgotten them -- do not mean that I never undertake anything that is in agreement with strategic reasoning and the determinants and evidence that it imposes. For me and a quite small number of others, people exist who merit being followed far, simply because one recognizes in them a certain quality of possible life (and this is the same where revolutions are concerned; it is necessary to do for them all that one can actually do). And so, to give an example that only applies to the circumstances in Portugal, Leonor corresponded to this definition, at least in my opinion. But one tells me that she died in Mozambique, which is another proof of the fact that everyone has not found that it is necessary to live the revolution in Lisbon with you.

Guy Debord (Glaucos)

[1] Translator's note: Alonso Monteiro collaborated on the translation of Debord's The Society of the Spectacle into Portuguese. See letter dated 15 May 1971.

[2] This situation was described by Guy Debord on 19 August 1975 in the lyrics he wrote to the tune of Boris Vian's "Deserter": "The Complaint of Costa Gomes."

[3] Translator's note: On 25 April 1974, in a bloodless coup, the Armed Forces Movement (a group of middle-ranking officers in the Portuguese military) overthrew the Salazar-Caetano regime, which had ruled Portugal in an authoritarian manner for 48 years.

[4] Translator's note: German in original.

[5] Agrupamento militar de intervencao (the Military Intervention Group), created on 25 September 1975 by the government. On 7 November [1975], the A.M.I. blew up Radio Renaissance (of clerical tendencies) before being dissolved later that same month.

[6] The Council for the Maintenance of the Occupations.

[7] Translator's note: Resigned from the Situationist International in January 1970.

[8] Adventuress, surnamed Slava, who ran aground in Florence.

[9] Translator's note: Excluded from the SI on 21 April 1970.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 5: Janvier 1973-Decembre 1978 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2005. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! March 2007. All footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted.)

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