from Guy Debord

To Jaime Semprun
17 July [19]75
Dear Jaime:

I found your letter of the 9th and your postcard upon my return from a brief trip through the Cevennes and the Causses, the latter of which I found to be much more beautiful. The famous New-World was the ugliest level. We rested there for only 20 minutes, which was too long.

I marvel at the advanced state of the Précis de recuperation.[1] It would be a superb stroke to publish it in September, when the responses [les ramous] to La Guerre sociale[2] will certainly still be coming. Each one of those atrocious people will support the others in the feverish rage of all spectacular scum. As for a reprinting of La Guerre sociale, if this were to take place now, so many things have taken place that it would be good to anticipate a “Preface to the Second Edition”: I believe that it is easy to add four new pages to the book (I have never been able to master the calculation of the distribution of batches of printed pages, which is quite simple, but I believe that one can always add four pages, or a multiple of the number four, without upsetting the rest of the composed text).

The execution plan for the recuperators seems good to me and, moreover, when one has so many great things to say, almost any plan would be good. The only danger is forgetting an important current or a particularly revolting person. Because such people will surely boast that being forgotten is an implicit approbation of them. Thus, we must get together for one or two evenings, here [in Auvergne], to collectively conduct an exhaustive investigation into the lower depths of the Spirit of the Times. The peninsula,[3] in fact, can wait, if the rapid completion of a task that would be so useful in France appears possible to you.

As one would have expected, Soares[4] is fighting the trial of strength with the greatest weakness. He has only pretended to choose. Today, he claims to “explain” what is happening to his militants when it is already too late to act. And he is only thinking of retaining the forces he could effectively make use of if he dares to put them into action. But he cannot march with the workers. Thus, he effectively becomes a right-wing (democratic-conservative) critic of the blind movement that pushes the State towards a militarized bureaucratic solution. He detests the only left-wing critic even more than his Stalinist rivals, who want to abolish the very memory of Soares’ useless electoral heritage so as to annihilate, as fast as possible, the revolutionary current that Soares stupidly wants to lull to sleep in the end (and in this project the Stalinists are better strategists than he is). For a moment, at least, these elections would have given power to Soares if – impossibly – Salazar[5] or Caetano[6] had had the strange idea of organizing free elections that would have produced this result. But the militants having made their putsch[7] by themselves, and thus, despite themselves, unleashing a social revolution, there were no free elections, quite obviously, and, moreover, at the moment in which even free elections of the parliamentary type would no longer have had a sufficient legitimacy. Thus, I believe that Soares has the greatest chances of becoming the most recent of the right-wing enemies that the successive “provisional governments” have sought so feverishly for the last 15 months and will have his hand slapped after they have made good use of it. The Portuguese revolution is so modern that – not only does the combat itself take place on the most intensely spectacular terrain (measure the “progress” with respect to what Rosa Luxemburg denounced in December 1918) – but one can also say that the political-ideological products of the combat’s enemies resemble contemporary commodities that have reached such a degree of sophistication that use shrinks them down at great speed because they are less and less adapted to their announced functions and also because their obsolescence is built-in.

I have the impression that Soares, seeking help everywhere, has read your book. Did he find, all by himself, the argument (for once realistic and cruel) that the Stalinists “have created more anti-Communism in Portugal in a year of legality than all of the speeches by Salazar and Caetano did over the course of forty-eight years” (quoted in Le Monde on 11 July)? He only neglected to say, and this is his weak point, that this time its legality had the misfortune of coexisting with a revolution, which did not make the game easy for the Stalinists or Soares himself.

On 29 June, fighting against the strikers, the Minister of Transportation went as far as naively proclaiming the truth that the workers were, in this case and contrary to the Republica, engaging in a political strike and “attacking the Communist Minister so as to attack the Party to which he belongs.” But he finds this completely scandalous (counter-revolutionaries to be reined in!), as if he were governing Berlin in 1953 with the aid of Russian tanks: “We must dissolve the people and elect a new one!”[8]

I believe that the autonomous organization of the workers made great progress during the demonstration of 4 July. What about today? The leftist parties seem to want to support the Stalinists against Soares. After what Soares has done, and has not done, in the last few days, I strongly doubt that the factory assemblies will judge him worthy of being supported in any manner. On the contrary, what is certain is that, effectively, all that remains of the bourgeoisie, the petit-bourgeoisie, and the rich and average peasantry who are capable of expressing themselves politically so as to return back [to the way things were] will support Soares. But I hardly imagine that he can be of more use to them than Spinola.[9]

Although the Portuguese slowness continues (expressing the weakness of each position, as the soldiers[10] would like to make clear today that their totalitarian project will only be realized in 10 or 20 years!), everything seems to indicate that the rulers can no longer wait to play the final card: they threaten the population with a famine by autumn, and General Costa G.[11] (at least it isn’t Vasco G[11]: they are all generals now) has opportunely pronounced the condemnation that all the dominant classes have always made against all the revolutions: speaking of it too much, and not working at it enough.

Confirm if you are coming here on 5 August. Best wishes.


(Suite for Anne)

Dear Anne:

I have learned with shock [avec émotion] that you are 24 years old. After such a beautiful beginning, we eagerly await the rest!

Would you please buy me, in Paris, and of course bring here, 40 blue boxes of Capstan tobacco? (Take note that there is a green-box version, because recuperation is everywhere.) Attached is a check, drawn on the most Stalinist of banks.

Thank you.

I embrace you.

Together we will celebrate several birthdays and many on-birthdays (August accounts for 31 of them and sometimes even more).


[1] Summary of Recuperation (illustrated by many examples drawn from recent history) would be published by Editions Champ Libre in January 1976.

[2] Translator: book by Jaime Semprun about the 1974 revolution in Portugal.

[3] A projected book about Spain (cf. Editions Champ Libre, Correspondance vol. 1).

[4] Mario Soares, then Prime Minister (Socialist) of Portugal.

[5] Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, Portuguese dictator from 1932 to 1968.

[6] Marcelo Caetano succeeded Salazar in 1968.

[7] Military coup d’Etat of 25 April 1974.

[8] Bertolt Brecht (Die Loesung).

[9] General Antonio de Spinola, president of the junta.

[10] Translator: the Movimento das Forcas Armadas (MFRA), which led the coup on 24 April 1974.

[11] General Francisco Costa Gomez and Vasco Goncalvez – along with Otelo de Carvalho – formed a military triumvirate on 26 July.

[12] Translator: to our knowledge, this is the only letter by Alice Becker (aka Alice Debord) to appear in any of the eight volumes of her husband’s letters.

(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! April 2011. Footnotes by the publisher, except where noted.)

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