Guy Debord to Gianfranco Sanguinetti
21 April 1978

Since the bombing in Milan,[1] the “Red Brigade” has made constant progress in the inflation of the stakes – Moro isn’t Calabrese[2] – but not in its methods: they have always known how to kill efficiently, and the execution of their attacks still suffers from the same poor, illogical staging, full of hesitations and contradictions.

The Leftists, who are as stupid as their intentions and strategies, have never operated in this manner by themselves. To begin with, if they weren’t sheltered, they would have acted in a way that less time was lost since the kidnapping (because the possibility that they are already infiltrated or one day will find themselves denounced at some level, or that they’ve done something stupid, or will encounter some kind of bad luck would have obviously have occurred to at least one of them). They would have immediately, clearly and with the greatest insistence demanded something: either the liberation of prisoners (as was the case with Baader), the distribution of their propaganda, or the revelation of certain recent practices by the semi-Stalinized, Democratic-Christian State through confessions extorted from Moro or quite simply attributed to him. But they are quite indifferent to the fate of the accused in Torino; they have no discernible critique; they do not want to compromise the State’s personnel, who, for their part, have shown no fear.

I suppose that the intelligence of the Italian people, who do not express themselves in the mass media,[3] have understood a large part of this. From whence come the diverse new developments of the last few days. Moro will be “suicided” to better give the impression of a style of terrorism that has been translated from the German (and then his body will be found in a lake[4] that might exactly contain another body, but one will correct oneself that the aforementioned body was found elsewhere, because one must have realized that this simple coincidence would be strange, and that the news about the incidents that happen in the most remote areas are more accessible to the carabiniers than to the urban terrorists). In Hollywood one says, “Cut! Re-do the scene. It isn’t natural.” Then Moro will no longer be a suicide, and one will then want to change things quickly. Etc.

The affair is obviously conducted by enemies of the historical compromise,[5] not revolutionary enemies of the State. Leftists are ordinarily so naïve, even in Italy, that they fall quite willingly on such occasions into fully theological discussions of the problems posed by revolutionary violence, like that choir boy[6] who in his outmoded aestheticism of “anarchist attacks” had feigned to believe that Oswald killed Kennedy. Discussions like this: “If God existed, would he kidnap Moro?” But shouldn’t one instead ask, “Perhaps Censor[7] exists and he has changed his politics?”

The Stalinists obviously know who has struck this blow against them. The fragile basis of their politics is the idea that all the Democratic-Christians are officially their friends. Some of their friends are now placing pressure on other friends of theirs. The Stalinists say that one must not give in. How could they say anything else? The omerta[8] will govern their relationships until the end. But who in fact applies this pressure, pushed to this point? The things that are said are only calculated signs of a confrontation that is taking place elsewhere. One has taken great risks to show that the entrance of the Stalinists into the governing majority has not brought back order, quite the contrary. One must not forget that, if it is true that, from the point of view of the revolution and also from the point of view of Agnellian modern capitalism,[9] Stalinist participation absolutely will not change the nature of class society, there exist other capitalist sectors whose interests and passions are completely opposed to the costs of this change, and that it openly constitutes a casus belli.

The Stalinists are cruelly blocked (Euro-Communism has already failed, in France as in Spain). But if today’s public is surprised by such enormities, the Stalinist leaders, and a few other old anti-fascists, on the other hand, have seen all this before, and better, in another Spain, during their youth, when Andres Nin[10] was kidnapped: that’s when they learned to say nothing. And just as they defended the Spanish Republic by keeping quiet in the International Brigades, they now defend the Italian Republic. And the Republics that they defend do not last long.

Their obligation to keep quiet about diverse political crimes, because they were killed during previous ones – this facet of the problem is very well known by their enemies and justifies so much audacity – isn’t simply founded on their own Stalinist crimes of another era. Through their silence, they collaborated in the attack of 1969, from which the rest has come. Because they did not believe that they knew, then they knew it without knowing it, then knew it without reaching any conclusion [concerning the fact] that the State initiated the terrorism in Milan (he who seeks invitation to one end of the State’s table, despite his own shady antecedents, will never say aloud that the plates are dirty), Italian politics have entered into this obvious madness. There wasn’t a public “Dreyfus affair,”[11] not because the scandal was less great, but because no one ever demanded a true conclusion. Thus Italy, which has experienced a “creeping May [1968],” has worsened its sickness by a “suppressed Dreyfus affair.”

Perhaps those who ordered the kidnapping of Moro did not exactly calculate all of its consequences and their interaction with each other, but they have certainly weighed these consequences. They are completely ready to obtain a change now, and they are now objectively constrained to obtain it. The people who have done this have shown, by the same token, that they could do even worse. It is the supporters of the historic compromise who are now provoked and terrorized. One has already seen how they have reacted. If this pressure doesn’t soon succeed in producing a kind of sweetness, a forceful blow will be obligatory.

The experimenters who operate in Italy and begin to make Italy into the European laboratory for counter-revolution are used to the general complicity of all those who have a voice, a complicity that, pushed to this point, gives the country the false appearance of general imbecility. But one knows very well that there have been one or two exceptions. I know a man who spends his time among the “sfacciate donne fiorentine,”[12] and who loves to slum with all the drunkards of the bad neighborhoods. But he understands all that takes place. He showed it once. One knows that he could do it again. Thus today he is considered by some people to be the most dangerous man in Italy.


[1] At the Piazza Fontana, on 12 December 1969.

[2] While Luigi Calabrese was “only” a police inspector (he was in charge of investigating the Milan bomb, and ended up murdered on 17 May 1972), Aldo Moro (kidnapped on 16 March 1978) was a former prime minister.

[3] English in original.

[4] Here Debord refers to the bizarre events of 19 April 1978, during which the Italian Army – prompted by a false claim attributed to the Red Brigades – searched iced-over Lake Duchess for the body of Aldo Moro, who was in fact still alive at the time. (He wasn’t killed until 9 May 1978.)

[5] The historic compromise was a proposal made by Aldo Moro to bring the Italian Communist Party (“the Stalinists”) into the ruling coalition. It was strongly opposed by anti-Communist elements in both Italy and “the international community” (NATO, the CIA and the White House).

[6] Raoul Vaneigem.

[7] The pseudonym (and character) created by Gianfranco Sanguinetti, the true author of the Veritable Report on The Last Chances to Save Capitalism in Italy, published in August 1975 and shortly thereafter translated from the Italian into French by Guy Debord.

[8] The code of silence used and enforced by the mafia.

[9] Umberto Agnelli, the president of Fiat Motors.

[10] The founder of the Spanish Communist Party, later a leader of the PUOM, who was kidnapped and murdered by the Soviet Union’s secret police in June 1937.

[11] Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French Army, was falsely accused of passing secrets to the German government in 1894. He was exonerated in 1906.

[12] “The immodest ladies of Florence.”

[13] Guido Cavalcanti was a contemporary and close friend of Dante Alighieri.

(Published in Editions Champ Libre, Correspondance, Vol. 2, Editions Champ Libre, Paris, 1981. Translated from the French and footnoted, except where noted, by NOT BORED! August 2012.)

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