Touched by enemy hands, the gold of the International turns to coal[1]

We believe we must indicate that individuals and "organizations" that have never had any contact with the SI, or with any form of critical thought, have been presenting themselves -- for diverse purposes -- as "porters" of radical theory. Inevitably, the ideological and recuperative nature of each of their gestures deprives them of the right to do so and unmasks them. It is as easy for them to seek to deceive us as it is difficult for us to deceive ourselves about them. The Situationist International owes itself and the historical project of which it is the expression a total rigor with respect to all that concerns its self-defense against any attempt, from wherever it might come, to recuperate or degrade it to the level of specialized thought. It is normal that our enemies seek to use us partially; in 1964, the situationists declared: "Just like the proletariat, we cannot claim to be unexploitable in current conditions. This must only entail risks and perils for the exploiters."[2] Revolutionaries do not play with questions of calumny and mystification, unlike the bureaucrats and politicians who rule thanks to the manipulation of lies.

In January [1969], some individuals write to the French section a particularly crude letter of denunciation concerning Claudio Pavan, Paolo Salvadori and Gianfranco Sanguinetti, who knew them well. Through this letter, these people intended to shake the position of three members of the SI -- so as to take their places -- , imagining themselves capable of compromising the objective confidence of shared relations with lies. But they committed the unpardonable frivolity of believing that they would not be judged by the SI as they had already been judged by three of its members: their letter only revealed all of the aspects of their poverty and, consequently, could not give rise to more than fives minutes of commentary among the other members of the SI. We gave them and their schemes a precise and definitive response.

These same people, reunited in the publishing house Ed[itions] 912 and the phantom organization that is its "political" support (Servizo Internazionale di Collegamento-I.L.S.[3]), vaguely saw the possibility for a commercial-revolutionary success in the distribution of the theses of the Situationist International. So far, they have published two books: a collection of extracts from the I[nternationale] S[ituationniste] (L'estremismo coerente dei situazionisti[4]) and a "critical edition" of Paul Cardan's text Modern Capitalism and Revolution.[5] Concerning the former, the impoverished extremist fury of the introduction and the appendix could not fool anyone; it was only a matter of empty proclamations, the theoretical inconsistency of which was rendered even more obvious by the texts that the editors had to awkwardness to place side by side. The latter contained nothing -- other than the article "Socialism or Planet," published in issue #10 of the I.S. and reproduced as an appendix -- that one could define as critique: in its ridiculous pretensions and real banality, their "critique" of Cardan's thought (one could easily recognize in it the same vein from which flowed the trivialities in the first book) and its object were perfectly homogeneous. As far as the tracts signed by the "radical" groups that exist even less than the I.L.S., it is not worth the trouble of going into them in detail: all of the manifestations of these poor wretches are contained in the unique mystification that constitutes their existence. The only "aptitude" of these individuals without aptitudes is lowering all that exceeds them to their level.

Obviously, the situationist spectre haunts the brains of these individuals: but in their illusory battles with the real, they only and unceasingly face the limits of their schizophrenic awareness. The unfortunate ambition that pushes them to play their role and the feverish obstinacy with which they mimic revolutionary critique covers them with ridicule; but they have a task to accomplish and they are not aware that, if they try to resemble the situationists, it is only so that they can falsify them and fragment their irreducible opposition. Covered by the fact that all of the texts by the SI can be freely reproduced, translated or adapted, they launch their products: those who are incapable of appropriating the use value of revolutionary theory can only transform it into an exchange value. It is only in a narrowly competitive perspective that one can understand why these unfortunate people continue to pursue us with their bothersome presence. We have no indulgence for those who seek to make commodities from our theses by re-selling a poor substitute at retail prices: the very theory that they stupidly try to utilize for their own ends can only turn against them and denounce them for what they are, [which is] nothing other than enemies. As the miserable level of what they can do or say is already a definitive judgment of each of their initiatives, it is possible that these individuals -- feeling the absence under their feet of a terrain that, moreover, was never theirs -- adopt a new disguise or, on the contrary, abandon their abbreviations and use their full names. It is only in this respect that it is not useless to relate them: Sergio Albergoni, Gianni Sassi, Carlo Gaja, Marco Maria Sigiani, Paolo Borro and Antonio Pilati. To them, one adds a fluctuating number of students and imbeciles of another type, recruited and regrouped on a sub-Leninist basis around the central kernel. The Situationist International will refuse any relations with anyone who compromises themselves with [any of] these people. At the moment in which their importunity[6] surpasses the current dimensions of background noise, we will find ourselves obligated to resort to a direct intervention that no one in their entourage will be able to ignore.


In January [1969], a tract was distributed in Trente under the title Boredom is always counter-revolutionary, signed, among others, [by the] "Situationist International." The text of this tract was constituted by a collage of phrases arbitrarily extracted from Raoul Vaneigem's book Treatise on Living for the Usage of the Young Generations. It was the initiative of two sociology students, Pasquale Alferi and Giuseppe Galante: passive consumers of situationist critique, they only know unilateral reception and spectacular utilization. This project dazzled their comrades at school with its politico-aesthetic audacity and, in their eyes (which respect any novelty), earned them one knows not what prestige guaranteed by the "SI" label, which must have seem quite enticing. The results only expressed their impotence and derisory ambitions.

The specialists of avant-gardism who reproduce the alienated conditions of the communications of the dominant world in their "subversive" practice, and the recuperators who, by circulating a little diffused "situationism" in the beautiful world, only degrade critical thought; those who choose the dubious pleasure of speaking in our name resort to falsification and thus show that they cannot even speak in their own names: their ambiguous and contemplative interest does not amuse us, nor does it honor us.


In the first half of May [1969], the SI broke off its relations with Mario Perniola,[7] who, over the prior years,[8] had contributed a bit to the diffusion of situationist theses in Italy. As soon as circumstances called for the abandonment of his position as sympathizer, which permitted him to maintain a contemplative role, reservations and obviously maintained and dissimulated deficiencies became manifest. One had at first witnessed his slow reaction to conditions created by the constitution of the Italian section of the SI (a persistent wait-and-see attitude that originated in the almost-complete incomprehension of situationist positions); then, his theoretical and practical deficiencies that rendered his affirmation of a total agreement even more illusory and unilateral; and, finally, the natural consequence of all this, the ideology of dialogue, a reflection of the ideological negation of isolation: the indiscriminate search for contacts with whatever group or individual, provided that he was "interested," and the delayed exigencies of a theoretical and organizational reorientation of the SI, maladroitly accompanied by protests of total agreement. After having accumulated a series of gaffs, which -- in the language of impotence -- signaled hostility, Perniola naturally moved on to overt hostility, by effectuating on the outside [of the SI] a series of maneuvers intended to present the results of his egalitarian proselytism as an accomplished fact and to introduce separation into the SI. We make it precise that Perniola was not excluded from the SI, because he never found himself in sufficient agreement with us to belong to it in the first place.

[1] This title is derived from the following story, told in Raoul Vaneigem's Treatise on Living for the Usage of the Young Generations (better known as The Revolution of Everyday Life): "In 1869, the Brussels police thought they had found the famous gold of the International, about which the capitalists were losing so much sleep. They seized a huge strongbox hidden in some dark corner. When they opened it, however, they found only coal. Little did the police know that the pure gold of the International would always turned into coal if touched by enemy hands."

[2] "Now the SI," in Internationale Situationniste #9, August 1964. Note that in Ken Knabb's verbose translation of this passage, the second phrase has been rendered as follows: "the best we can do is strive to make any such exploitation entail the greatest possible risk for the exploiters."

[3] The International Link Service.

[4] The Coherent Extremism of the Situationists (Milan, November 1968).

[5] Originally published in 1960-1961 by the French journal Socialisme ou Barbarie, this text was authored by Cornelius Castoriadis, who occasionally made use of the pseudonym "Paul Cardan."

[6] Yes, this is a word in English ("persistence in requesting or demanding") and it captures the two meanings suggested by the French: importuning and being bothersome or a nuisance.

[7] See letter from Guy Debord to Gianfranco Sanguinetti dated 13 March 1969.

[8] See letter from Guy Debord to Mario Perniola dated 26 December 1966.

(Published in Internazionale Situazionista: Journal of the Italian Section of the Situationist International, #1 July 1969. Translated from Italian into French by Joel Gayraud and Luc Mercier, Editions Contre-Moule, June 1988. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! June 2007. All footnotes by NOT BORED!)

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