from Guy Debord

To Jean-Francois Martos
26 December 1990
Dear Jeff:

Thank you, once more, for the documents you have transmitted to me.[1] And I have not forgotten the many years, during which I have not been in contact with anyone else [other than you], and how precious your support was.

I re-read Gondi once more: last summer and even the book on his life by Beraut; and nevertheless I cannot recognize where your very timely citation came from ("things of which the basis is not good and of which the appearances are bad"). I suppose that it is in Memoirs? But where?

I send you a kind of business card[2] that I made last year with the surprising articles that place such generous confidence in my competence.

I believe that Alice [Becker-Ho] has begun with a master blow, opening a direct road to the very center of the questions of the dangerous classes and secret languages link up; and these two realities will probably recover a great topicality soon. You will remark her discretion, worthy of her subject.[3]

The mediatic[4] government staged its politics of distraction in front of the high-school students of 1986, "better than in 68," by recognizing that, this time, the demands of the students were marvelously acceptable (learning to read, not being extorted for money in the schools, etc.). One could certainly not, as one says, refuse them these things. And, as the society that has been maintained after 1968 has become completely incapable of meeting these demands, one must make them the most generous promises; and, as in mythomania, the inflation of promises allows society to gain a little more time. And, next time, the students will become even more extraordinarily agreeable, for the society of 1910, that is. Not demanding drugs, nor absinthe, they will only demand pure water, which does not send one to the hospital. And when they push to the point of madness their utopian demands, which are impossible to satisfy although we have [allegedly] attained wealth, it will be necessary to send them tanks and kill them as in Peking. Today, the most revolutionary cry that is heard is: Vaulx-en-Velin![5] I think that you have noted a fact that was quickly mentioned, a few days after the confrontation at the Pont de l'Alma. The firemen summoned to Montfermeil, under the pretext of a false fire, were caught in an ambush, in which one awaited them with paving stones and iron bars.[6] Our sold songs testify that it is, after all, normal -- when one is very needy -- to "burst the belly and the satchel" of an omnibus conductor. But to attack firemen, this was never done when Paris existed; and I do not even know if this had been done in Washington or Moscow. It is the perfected expression and the practice of the dissolution of all social ties. Vamos![7]

Walesa is finally the King of Poland, and I bet that soon he will name himself the Captain of Dragons, as well. He will take all of the phynance, kill everyone and leave.[8] Gorbachev no doubt will do the same, the only perspective for Russia being famine this winter and an imminent civil war. I foresee that Russia will surpass, in the disorder and its duration, China in the 20s and 30s. And China in the 1990s will rejoin it in this beautiful fall that the energetic Deng has only delayed for a few years with a bloodletting. And Gorbachev or his successor will probably try a political blow in the manner of Deng, but perhaps it is already too late for this kind of energy.

Although the governments hereabouts are in truth terrified by the threats that weigh on so many of their colleagues, as if they were the only ones in peril, officially, one congratulates oneself on the beautiful and happy unity that the entire world has attained since it has rallied to spectacular-commercial democracy (free elections, free mediatic information, and freedom without any restrictions on free enterprise). The current role of Iraq is to show this fully operational unity by the fact that this gloomy country is the only one excluded; and what it costs when one finds oneself excluded. But, in reality, the Western powers know that their economy and their society greatly risk showing themselves to be as illusory as those of Gorbachev, and just as suddenly. The emptiness that threatens the powers on the Eastern side can only unbalance the rest of the ship, which has already taken on so much water!

I am thrilled by the use that Fargette, who is indeed obligated to defend himself, has made of Panegyric.[9] If I now spread panic about the catastrophic breakdown of society, this must be to get revenge for always being deceived, for making extreme and highly oppositional analyses, but always at the wrong moment![10] This must be sweet music to the ears of the mental defectives of the ex-Encyclopedia.[11] And since the march of the entire century depends on my whims alone, the sad results confirm well my harmful casualness and sinister mentality. It is quite normal for a police officer to diagnose my suicidal penchant. Why have I not given to them, to them all, the pleasure of killing myself sooner?

The book about Gerard [Lebovici][12] was only a mediatic swindle of a new type. To announce that one will speak of a burning question, so as to assure the launching of some kind of book: same below. Then to speak coldly of another thing. It is "changing the subject," like the Socialist Party announced around 1970 that it wanted "to change life," but more radically.

Since you have not spoken of it, I [must] suppose that you are completely up to date concerning the calumnies that showed up with respect to "Champ Libre" at the very moment of the death of Floriana [Lebovici], or more exactly, three or four days beforehand, while she was in agony.[13] I think you were sufficiently warned of this and especially the dissembling news of Anita Blanc,[14] since she found herself with the necessity of covering up her great responsibility in the matter. I do not quite know if the odious attempt of the two degenerated inheritors (trying to censor the book by Dumontier,[15] for which a contract had already been signed, and thus desiring to vomit upon twenty years of the respectable activity of their parents, which they affect to love so much) was directed against me or against the spirit of 1968: moreover, I have the tendency to not very clearly distinguish the nuances that this year's repression can establish between these two displeasing realities.

If I do not know if someone here or there, or especially in your entourage,[16] thinks that I often let myself pursue diverse kinds of unfounded suspicions against the most loyal and the best-intentioned people; being driven [in this thinking] by the vain vanity to make it believed that I would [eventually] be found out to be an enemy,[17] after 40 years of always-fruitless efforts; given that these same Tartuffes[18] have already tried to bonnir[19] about me that the capacity to read and understand what one writes to me can completely fail me at the moment that one enters the terrain of this obsession -- if I do not know all this, I say, I would have you know that it is obviously easy to manipulate an ignorant and pretentious lunatic, jealous of the entire world, and an amiable coward who has passed his life in unconditional obedience to that lunatic.[20] One cannot ignore that many traits of the epoch are favorable to the effacement of many memories. Perhaps this has been envisioned for "Champ Libre": an immediate liquidation into the ridiculous. And perhaps this will still happen, but at least it will not happen with the same people.

In the developments that you designate so well as "integrated negation," I believe that one can now begin to distinguish a double function: at first to deny or at least disorient all approaches to a true critique (in the minoritarian milieus) and then to gather together the masses of actually discontented people, by the breaking up of all their anger (mixing together at a fine level the most well-founded and the most delirious ideas). It seems to me that this is the real function of Faurissonian reasoning,[21] of which [Jean-Pierre] Voyer, from the "Marxological" side, was one of the inventors. I begin to think that the spectacle, which has developed to the point of hypertrophy all that tends towards baseness in each person, has destroyed more in the heads of our contemporaries than in the city of Paris, which is saying a lot. See what I saw about logic on pages 39-40 of the Comments,[22] but this is even worse in [the current] decomposition. I recently had the occasion to see by chance (chance for me, because I think that this was secretly arranged in the insane intention of making oneself an admirer of me, which was an intention that was quite disappointed) the meeting of a stupefying band of extremists-composites in which there seemed to cohabit -- as in a happy fusion, in a vehement whirlpool of permanently super-accelerated fuckery -- fugitive elements that were clearly recognizable: Maoists, Nazis, extremists, anarchists, racists, pro-situationists and even Debordists.[23] I do not believe that there was among them a single true disinformer. It seems to me that, at this point of acceleration, their special autonomy no longer needed one.

As you are my historian par excellence (because I have guarded against many others, one knows it well), I communicate to you a semi-confidential text intended at first for translators who are too confident in their competence, but which can also aid the reader.[24] I also attach another letter,[25] which concerns my most recent difficulties in Spain, more comical than previously, fortunately.

You will excuse the slowness of my letter, I hope, given its share of varied information. Cuidado![26]

Our best wishes to Etiennette and you.

[1] See letter dated 11 September 1990.

[2] We made it a separate text, rather than an attachment to this one.

[3] Note by Jean-Francois Martos: attached to this letter was a copy of an article by Giorgio Agamben on Alice-Becker Ho's The Princes of Jargon (Editions Gerard Lebovici, 1990), entitled "Parole segrete del popolo senza luogo," published in Luogo Comune #1, November 1990.

[4] There is no equivalent for the French word used here (mediatique), which means more than simply media-related or mediatized, and suggests the spectacular.

[5] On 6 October 1990, a major riot broke in Vaulx-en-Velin after the police killed a young handicapped man named Thomas Claudio.

[6] This has happened so many times -- the same sort of attack, the same targets, the same outskirts of Paris -- that it is not possible to precisely identify the incident that Debord is describing (and lamenting!). It would seem likely that it took place in 1990.

[7] Spanish: let's go!

[8] References to Alfred Jarry's character, Pere Ubu.

[9] The first volume of Debord's autobiography, published by Editions Gerard Lebovici in 1989.

[10] Thus begins two whole paragraphs of very darkly sarcastic remarks, made in response to the things that Guy Fargette had been saying about Debord.

[11] The Encyclopedia of Nuisances, with which Debord, Martos and Jean-Pierre Baudet had been skirmishing since 1987.

[12] Master by Marc Francelet and Francois Caviglioli.

[13] The inheritor of Editions Champ Libre, later re-named Editions Gerard Lebovici, Floriana died of cancer on 19 February 1990.

[14] In Christophe Bourseiller's gossipy The Life and Death of Guy Debord (Plon, 1999), Anita Blanc is quoted as saying that Gerard Voitey (a lawyer and friend of the Lebovici family) told her that Debord told him to purchase Editions Gerard Lebovici, in direction contravention of Floriana's wishes that the house either be continued by her children or liquidated, but never sold.

[15] Pascal Dumontier, The Situationists and May 68: Theory and Practice of the Revolution (1966-1972) (Editions Gerard Lebovici, 1990).

[16] Perhaps Jean-Pierre Baudet is the person Debord has in mind here. In November 1988, Baudet's Expurgated Summary of Gunther Anders' book Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen was the cause of a falling out between the two men. Debord objected that Baudet's summary, which was written in French, used words that did not appear in the original German, but were familiar from Debord's own writings, especially Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (1988), which made it appear that Debord had plagiarized from Anders.

[17] That is to say, a CIA agent or an agent of the KGB: see Debord's ironic use of such preposterous allegations as a kind of business card.

[18] Hypocrites.

[19] Argot for "gossip."

[20] Unless we are mistaken, Debord has Jean-Pierre Voyer and Raoul Vaneigem in mind. After being rejected by Editions Champ Libre in the 1970s, these two teamed up several times (as writers using pseudonyms) to attack Debord personally.

[21] Robert Faurisson, denier that the Nazis really used gas chambers to exterminate Jews, gypsies, et al.

[22] Chapter X, which begins: "According to the basic interests of the new system of domination, the dissolution of logic has been pursued by different, but mutually supportive, means. Some of these means involve the technical instrumentation that has experienced and popularized the spectacle; but others are more linked to the mass psychology of submission."

[23] Yes, we cannot deny it: there are aspects of this story that seem paranoid, even delusional.

[24] Summary Note from Editions Gerard Lebovici on the difficulties of translating Guy Debord's Panegyric.

[25] The letter to Anagrama dated 7 June 1989 was not attached in the version being translated here.

[26] In Spanish: "be careful!"

(Published in Jean-Francois Martos, Correspondance avec Guy Debord, Le fin mot de l'Histoire, August 1998. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! July 2007. Footnotes by the translator, except where noted.)

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