Concerning the re-edition of
"The Poverty of Student Life" by Champ Libre

Editions Champ Libre has had the impertinence to re-publish The Poverty of Student Life without paying any attention to the firm protests that have been addressed to it by the most authorized and esteemable people;[1] people who, in Strasbourg as elsewhere, took an eminent part in the contestation movement of 1966 and even a little before that, and who -- one knows, moreover -- never lowered themselves to draw the least renumeration from a commercial publishing house. All those who know the past and present merits of these people will assuredly understand the reasons for their indignation. Their cause is that of those who resemble them.

Actually, unlucky Editions Champ Libre now does not fear to put on sale the celebrated pamphlet of Strasbourg, thus suddenly transforming it into pure and simple merchandise, and by that fact into a counter-revolutionary text. However, one is not ignorant that the obvious destiny of this pamphlet was absolutely free distribution.

The public was warned of this revolting recuperation, perhaps the most notable of the last decade, by a perfectly convincing document that was signed by Mustapha Khayati himself,[2] but which also faithfully expresses the sentiments of several others.

To injure contestation, the bourgeois or the bureaucrats have sometimes insinuated that certain people who represent contestation are not concerned with concrete reality, especially when it embarasses them, and do not believe all that they say, since one most often sees them escape under sophisms that do not even get along well on a single page. One does not know at whom this calumny claims to aim. But the targets are, in any case, those who do not disguise themselves under Tartuffe's wig, and who quite frankly and honestly expose to the face of the world, when they believe they must take a position on a practical terrain, all that they think and do. They are not satisfied with empty dialectics: they call a spade a spade. And they have perhaps acquired the competence and right to teach those who do not know what a merchant is.

In the current affair, the worst malevolence will be reduced to silence, because seldom has revolutionary theory been founded on a basis so solid and the justness of its practical application will be transparent to the eyes of all. One can not deny that whoever sells something at whatever price, no matter if it is a ton of wheat, a copy of a book or an hour of his time, participates in the commodity system, which is bad. Those who have more to sell than others are the worst: small or large owners of the system of venality. All those who sell revolutionary texts are nothing other than merchants, in the scientific sense of the term, but are the most perfidious of all and are often even the richest. When the Revolution, which could only will itself beyond this unfortunate system, judged it good to communicate its writings, it confided them completely innocently in pirate editions, and it is in this sense that the pirate edition is not a commodity.

This principle marks [apporte], one will agree, a decisive progress in revolutionary critique, a progress that at the same time allows for a greatly needed theoretical simplification: one no longer judges books, only publishers. Is he a merchant? Is he a pirate? Here is the touchstone of use value and the credo of global praxis. A commercial publishing house is guilty, whatever the books published. On the contrary, anything at all can be written in the new innocence of the pirate edition or the partial-pirate. The pirate edition, especially when it can use the techniques of modern reproduction, costs very little: it thus allows proletarians to induldge in their favorite practice without constraints, we would like to say the practice of the subversive gift, by offering up texts for free, notably at the bookshops. It would be good to crown the pirate edition of theory with a theory of the pirate edition. We give it here with the collective modesty that we have had for a long time, and that protects us from all star-making systems [vedettariat]. But as each will recognize our good faith and our coherence, one will also recognize in us the rigorous light that we ourselves have created on the spot.

What is actually more shocking than a worker who strikes so as to self-manage the production of watches, though the watch is essentially the instrument of the measurement of enslaved time? It is obviously a rich play-boy [English in original] who engages in the snobism of using his money to publish critical truths, though money is the essential instrument of the society of the lie. History and common sense confirm this for us. Has one ever found an aristocrat who supported the Revolution of 1789, or a bourgeois who financed Bakunin? But the recuperators of our times fear no paradoxes.

Sincere revolutionaries are so well-served by pirate editions that, without regret, they can leave the officially commerical publishing houses to the miserable people who read their books, or even compromise themselves by working under their command; the days when they did not ring the doorbells in vain are still happy!

Has there not been, in truth, something bizarre, shocking or never-seen-before about selling a book that condemns the commodity system? Who then believes in the sincerity of the author's unreasonable convictions? Can one imagine, for example, the Treatise on Living for the Younger Generations[3] distributed by something other than a pirate publisher? One would laugh.

But words are sufficient to support the trampled right: it is necessary to act, and the time has arrived.

Does one know that the same text that Champ Libre sells for 8 Francs has been available for eight months in the good bookshops, and for the price of only 6 Francs, as a pirate edition? This pirate edition is due to the courageous Editions Zoe, in Geneva. All real revolutionaries will make it a duty to buy their copies from them, and so boycott and ruin plutocratic Champ Libre.

Editions Zoe, in Geneva, are pirate since J.-P. Bastid, a collaborator with Mustapha Martens, feared exceeding the honest piracy of Editions Lattes and the Presses de la Cite, or that of the ultra-anarchists of the Super-Black Series, devotes a part of its useful production to it. Editions Champ Libre is completely the opposite, since it has previously refused to publish the astonishing From the Wild-Cat Strike to Generalized Self-Management presented to it by Raoul Ratgeb,[4] which forced this rebel to carry his manuscript to Bourgois [sic] 10/18, which published it as a pirate edition. Editions Champ Libre having already been unmasked when it refused the services of Khayati himself, and Vaneigem as well, who proposed to it that, for a reasonable sum, they would quickly compile anthologies of subversive texts from preceding centuries, because it is important to make them known to those who will know how to use them. One sees in these examples -- which are varied but which all, as if by chance, offend the most dignified signatories of the pirate editions and a stock of personalities so related to and so resembling each other in all the metamorphoses of their subversive rigor that it is almost impossible to distinguish one from the others -- how the essentially commercial activity of the detestable Champ Libre is finally unacceptable.

O radical-subjective virtue, you are only a phrase! Can one estimate as nothing the immense personal risks that we have courus jadis, our years of trouble and constant work in the service of the revolution, and our long-standing refusal of all concessions? If one neglects us, under the pretext that one doesn't know all of our talents, will one object to us at the moment that they become known? Is it not enough that the vampires of the mines and the rails suck our blood from morning to night in the factories where they exploit us? It is still necessary to tolerate the fact that a Nanti is laughing at us, and scoops the money up, whereas he does not even need it, by delivering Cieszkowski, Anacharsis Cloots and Bruno Rizzi[5] to all of the hyper-markets, to the consuming rabble, which just eats it up!


[1] Trans. See, for example, Mustapha Khayati's letter to Champ Libre dated 12 October 1976.

[2] Trans. See Khayati's Notice.

[3] Trans. In English, better known as The Revolution of Everyday Life, written by Raoul Vaneigem and published by Gallimard (a big commercial house) in 1967.

[4] Trans. Raoul Vaneigem.

[5] Trans. See Guy Debord's letter to Gerard Lebovici dated 16 April 1972.

(Perhaps written by Mustapha Khayati, circa November-December 1976. Published in Editions Champ Libre, Correspondance, Volume I, Paris: 1978. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! January 2006.)

To Contact NOT BORED!
ISSN 1084-7340.
Snail mail: POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998