from Guy Debord

To Jonathan Horelick and Tony Verlaan
14 September 1970
Dear friends,

Since [René] Viénet told me that, at this moment, we shouldn’t write to you in New York, I’m sending to you, via Rangeley,[1] a copy of my letter of 8 September[2] and the document that accompanied it. At the same time, I’m sending a copy of this letter to New York, but without the documents.

Comrade [René] Riesel told me, at our last meeting, that I hadn’t understood that, in your letter of 17 August [1970], Tony claimed that the telephone conversations between Christian [Sebastiani] and Paolo [Salvadori] had not been mentioned at the meeting of 7 August. I have thus promised to send you my testimony on this point.

Naturally, these conversations were mentioned (at least twice) during the debate, and it would be that much more impossible for Tony to have forgotten this fact because he himself knew a portion of these telephone conversations before the meeting of 7 August. In fact, several days earlier, in Amsterdam, it was Tony who informed me that there was, underneath the apparently metaphysical affair of Gianfranco [Sanguinetti]’s “exclusion,” a ridiculous story of a motorcycle. Me, I absolutely did not know this fact. Tony knew it through a telephone call from Paris (and the French [situationists] who had informed him of it could only do so thanks to these unfortunate phone calls, since until 7 August there had been no written document on the subject from Italy).

I make all this clear to you, but I believe that it will be useless, because, after the precise translation (made with Alice[3]) of your first point, I understand that Tony does not deny that the assembly of 7 August knew of the existence of these telephone calls. He only denies that their content had been reported in the same terms that Riesel’s letter had employed several days earlier.

I will say the following.

1) It seems to me that the entirety of these telephone calls haven’t been reported with sufficient precision, and [they] especially haven’t been reported with comprehension of the real meaning that they have. That is the most important point.

2) It is extremely difficult to compare the phrases written down by Riesel and the phrases spoken aloud by Christian in a very differently oriented debate, and which was a dialogue. Here our memory can not be as reliable.

3) Personally I have the impression that the phrases written down by Riesel can be placed in the contexts of his (quite blind) confidence in Paolo and his acceptance of the irregular exclusion of Gianfranco, an acceptance that was uniquely based on the (real and serious) fact that Gianfranco didn’t protest at all. On the contrary, the very narrative given verbally by Christian on 7 August can be placed in the opposite context of a rejection of Paolo and his finally understood methods. About this slight considerable difference, I have the impression that the same words were said. I am completely sure about your last two quotations and almost sure of your first one. But as the order of the elements is different, one can understand the meaning completely differently. (It is not to specialists in detournement that one must teach this type of evidence!)

The French comrades [in the SI] explain their ten days’ of silence by the fact that they were waiting (“with anxiety,” Riesel says of his own impression at the time) for a first written text, which strangely was delayed. This attitude, which in itself would be completely correct, emphasizes even better the impropriety [l’incorrection] of telephone confidences personally accepted and already transmitted to comrades abroad as facts that merited being transmitted.

When the French comrades learned that it was a matter of a motorcycle accident, they did not think and describe the thing as being essentially burlesque. When they were able to learn that it was quite simply a story of a woman (in the most archaic and idiotic form), they didn’t notice it. And when they finally discovered that Paolo had engaged in unacceptable conduct, they didn’t estimate any less that Gianfranco also merited disappearance [from the ranks of the SI]. For my part, I think that Gianfranco committed a single serious mistake (and the only one that could concern us) by letting Paolo act without protesting. This can, nevertheless, not be placed at the same level as the abuse committed by Paolo in our name. Finally, it seems to me that the circumstances left to Gianfranco several particular excuses and that the general excuse hadn’t been the only faulty one at the organizational level.

Best wishes,

P.S. Just as we do not receive our directives from stories of pseudo-love (in this sense, not only alienated but truly ignorant stories have flourished among the situs), a curious conception of personal sympathy risks dominating the relationships of a group in which there is so little real and merited sympathy. Apparently the three French comrades didn’t love Gianfranco, and it isn’t at all their duty to love him! If the correction for which all of us must be the guarantors was suspended for someone who wouldn’t be sympathetic enough for the others, we would logically arrive at the result that it will be necessary, to be [a member] and remain in the SI, to seek out and flatter the sympathy of this or that person. Marvelous result! Thus one day we would see baseness and prostitution join in with the ignorance and inactivity of those who, in the group, remain worthy and proud.

[1] In Maine.

[2] Translator: Debord wrote two important and/or potentially relevant letters on 8 September: one to Horelick and Verlaan, the other to Gianfranco Sanguinetti, neither of which mention an enclosed document.

[3] Translator: Alice Becker-Ho, who unlike Debord could speak English fluently.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol "4": Janvier 1969 - december 1972 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2004. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! March 2012. Footnotes by the publisher, except where noted.)

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