from Guy Debord

To Donald Nicholson-Smith and Christopher Gray
16 December 1967
Dear Donald and Chris:

I have just received your first response to [Ben] Morea and Murray [Bookchin]. It is certainly a little hasty, because – since our last letter and [Robert] Chasse’s document – you must now know everything about the unacceptable manners of both Murray and Morea (and you also know that Chasse & Co. themselves are still not quite clear of this milieu). I find that you have been too patient and polite with Morea, that poor hothead, who openly insults us. This puts into doubt all solidarity in the SI, not only with the potential group in the USA (as the documents must have shown you subsequently), but also between London and Paris. It is time to correct this unfortunate impression, according to the terms of our last collective letter,[1] by reminding yourselves and by reminding the New York public, that you have more solid ties to us and more objective confidence in us than in someone like Morea.

I hope that the last phrase in your letter[2] cannot be interpreted as an evocation of the possibility that Raoul [Vaneigem] is lying. You understand that this would unfortunately signify a break between you and us. Donald has a long enough experience with the SI to know that we have never falsely accused anyone. Not [Herbert] Holl,[3] nor Morea, nor anyone else.

Raoul enunciated to the Bookchins all his critiques of activism, the style of the “little boss,” etc – and the Bookchins also know perfectly well the qualitative leap manifested in the disgust felt at the time of the fortuitous encounter that had experimentally verified at what point the only associate of Morea is really a mystic (see Chasse’s document for Murray’s subsequent maneuvers). It is correct that Raoul, right from the start, had manifested – and said – that he had little desire to meet Morea (he also knew the reputation of the Totalist[4]), but Raoul did not definitively refuse and due to principle affirmed this after the supplementary scandal of the fortuitous encounter with the Totalist (and, at the same time, Morea attacked Bruce [Elwell] in a ridiculous authoritarian style). Raoul did not go to New York with an imperative mandate from the SI that enjoined him to meet with everyone in whatever conditions existed. You did not propose such a mandate. For my part, I voted against such an idea because I believed that it would limit too much the margin of freedom of our first delegate in the systematic obscurity of the New York milieu. In any case, Raoul did not have such a mandate.

All the Americans isolate each fact and quibble about one or another theme, as if these themes reciprocally exclude each other! In fact, the entire process of Raoul’s conduct in New York was very coherent. It is we who make assurances that Morea is a cunt. The central reason [motif] that we advanced at first was, in their eyes, the most scandalous. The case of Hoffman is uncontested. It alone is sufficient from the SI’s point of view. (Lying cynically, Morea claims that Hoffman evolved since the time that Raoul had seen the despicable mysticism he exhibited after this “evolution”). Naturally, you understand why Morea prefers that the break with the SI becomes seen as a question of activity in the street. Thus, following his own schizoid interpretation, he would be the man of action who need not get along with abstract and even fearful theoreticians!

On their side, Chasse and his friends have a certain impudence in wanting to place themselves in Raoul’s place by deciding upon what he should have declared to be “peripheral” or central in his report to the SI. It so happens that, in his first oral report upon arriving back in Paris, Raoul had presented Morea’s collusion with the mystic as the worst and the central reproach against him. Since then, Raoul has maintained this judgment. Since this fact is true, that’s his right. And, since the fact is true, all the situationists must agree that it is a sufficient reason [for the break with Morea].

It is true that, if Raoul had been present during your visit to Paris, everything would have been clear in an hour, and our possible response to Morea would have been more complete. But it wouldn’t have been “more true.” The bugaboo of “activism” was raised so we could formally describe Morea’s activities. His public collusion with a mystic is the reason that requires the qualitative leap of a break that is even personal [as well as organizational] and the refusal of all dialogue. We say that, dialectically, our reasons for the break are not one or the other, but one and the other, without logical contradiction; the second reason reinforces and even transfigures the first. It seems strange to me that one must argue so much about such a simple affair.

The sole reproach that one could make of Raoul is that he wasn’t in Paris when you came there. In fact, I must say that, in Raoul’s presence and given the benefit of his complete report, we were even more in doubt about the necessity of responding to Morea. The importance taken on by the Morea question – truly “peripheral” with respect to the ensemble of the problems faced by the SI – is stupefying. It is high time to put an end to it by recalling what the SI is, and with what poor semi-irresponsible confusionists (Ben as well as Murray) the SI has been patiently discussing matters, and with a seriousness that they mock completely!

In the affair of the incitement to you-know-what,[5] our lawyer says that we might face five years at worst, but this worst prospect is not very probable. Nevertheless, he estimates that it is strange that they attack us concerning the detail of the posters, when he is quite sure that it is a maneuver from higher up, intended to harm us, on behalf of motivations that come from afar.

Best wishes,

P.S. I can truly not believe that your scruples with respect to Morea lead you to break with us here. If you must take this choice, I obviously would consider it to be the most regrettable since the beginning of the SI.

Thus, you understand that what I now add is only so that everything is quite clear between us, no matter what happens. If, from Chris’ departure for New York, you think you cannot send a letter of definitive break to Murray and Morea in our [collective] name and to all parties, as we have asked you to do in our most recent collective letter, I beg you to let us know. Then we will send letters, only on our behalf, that we are sure these individuals merit. And, naturally, you will then speak in America on the completely independent basis of your own group and a platform and principles of action and dialogue that would be fitting for you to adopt.

[. . .][6] positions on the New York question.

1) It is true that the question of organization must now be posed among us in a new, larger context. We will certainly have to define and practice a veritable autonomy of action among the national groups (which cannot be a question of teleguiding) when they come into existence. We recall that such an SI grouping wasn’t (and still isn’t) realized in New York. If the current SI has assuredly the right and the obligation to intervene “from the exterior” in New York, we [also] recall that this can only be on the basis of the only game-rule that is currently agreed upon by us: that is to say, as a single coherent group in which the conduct of each member engages us all, and not at all as a federation in which the London group would reserve a right to the special supervision of the English-speaking countries.

2) In New York, Raoul had been the delegate of all the members of the SI. We could only disavow his public break with Morea if one of the following conditions were met: a) if the collusion of Morea with the mystic – a detail that determined his definitive choice to refuse a meeting in which all the other objections had been marked – if this fact was alleged calumniously; b) if one allowed that such collusion need not be sufficient reason for a public break in the name of the SI. Neither of these two points are supportable to us.

3) We recall that the sole form of break that would involve us all – you and us – is the one announced by Raoul, and not the grievances or quarrels (serious or not, here it doesn’t matter) of Chasse and his friends, who still aren’t members of the SI. It is remarkable that, in his document, Chasse would like to make us admit that all of us would in truth be automatically involved by his personal breaks and [the] motivations [for them]. We have already responded to him.[7] I must add that, if Chasse himself minimizes in a slightly shocking fashion the question of the Totalist (which nevertheless was useful to him while Raoul was in town, to discourage Morea), this is probably because Morea speaks truthfully when he indicates the existence of Chasse-Hoffman relations in the past. We believe that nothing is more important to clarify our positions and the real problems for the confused American “avant garde” than this absolute condemnation of mysticism (the severity of which surprised them all). We do not scorn Americans in general to the point of believing that concessions unworthy of us here would still be good enough for them! Even if it is difficult, we must maintain the same degree of consciousness everywhere.

4) As you know, in our letter of 14 December to Chasse, Tony and Bruce, we affirmed that we would no longer have any contact with those liars and cretins, Murray and Morea. Our reasons are unassailable. Even you have agreed with this attitude in advance, except in such case as Morea critiques himself for what we reproach him for (but he responded with new insults). We will never go back on our decision. Non possumus.[8] You must also surely be aware that your break with us on this point would be very harmful practically to our shared project: not only the SI, but the movement that the SI could help to form. Nevertheless, we would prefer this [delayed][9] blow to a quicker progress that that is achieved by renouncing the exemplary basic principles that have founded our current collective activity – which isn’t the only thing we’ve had to congratulate ourselves for. (As you know, this isn’t a sacrifice to moral purity, but a dialectical consideration of the general sense of this activity and its results.) Thus, you have to take responsibility for such a break if you are persuaded that your dialogue with Morea is more pressing than the maintenance of the affirmed principles of the SI until now (coherence, involvement of all in [the activity of] our delegates to the extent that they do not betray their mandates at all).

5) We have agreed to sign with you a response to Morea uniquely on this basis: that – in the infinitesimal possibility that he sincerely does not know – he is informed, obviously not about all the disagreements between us that Raoul – or Chris, as well – could tell him about in a direct discussion, but, rather, the serious facts that justified Raoul in refusing to even meet him. Morea will claim that it was all because of calumnies by Chasse and Tony. We would respond that Raoul had ascertained these facts himself. How have you been able to mislead yourself where this is concerned? It was clear between you and us that the very improbable reprise of dialogue with Morea would be begun[10] with is own disavowal of the mystic, and his excuses for the trenchant tone that he adopted, as if he were completely innocent and a victim! Morea responded that the guy is no longer a mystic (which is false) and added a number of other insults. Following our agreement with you in Paris, you no longer have the right to respond to him (we do not envision here a tactical mistake in dealing with New York, but a basic principle).

[1] To Morea, dated 5 December 1967.

[2] “Could anyone, somewhere along the way, have distorted Raoul’s attitude? If not, we can only conclude that someone, somewhere is lying.” [English in original.]

[3] See letter to Andre Bertrand and Daniel Joubert dated 22 January 1967.

[4] Translator: Allan Hoffman, a member of the Black Mask group.

[5] Incitement “to theft, debauchery, rioting and murder (of leaders)” in the poster-comics that announced the publication of issue #11 of Internationale Situationniste.

[6] Illegible word. [It is probably the word “five.”]

[7] Translator: see letter to Robert Chasse, Bruce Elwell and Tony Verlaan dated 14 December 1967.

[8] Translator: in Latin, “we cannot,” not even upon pain of death.

[9] Translator: The word retardeur in brackets, apparently employed by the book’s publisher.

[10] Translator: Here the French text employs the word suspendue (“suspended”), which is clearly the opposite of what the context suggests.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol "0": Septembre 1951 - Juillet 1957: Complete des "lettres retrouvees" et d l'index general des noms cites by Librairie Artheme Fayard, October 2010. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! February 2011. Footnotes by the publisher, except where noted.)

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