from Guy Debord

To Raoul Vaneigem
Friday evening [18 October 1963]
Dear Raoul:

Following today’s parcel: I think that the rapid evolution of the conflict with Attila[1] (his clear, sovereign refusal to respond to accusations) renders obsolete the most recent discussions of his first theses, at least for the people in Antwerp, and especially to the extent that they are in Belgium, in his neighborhood, and this must above all signify to him that the dialogue has effectively ended.

I do not mean that it wouldn’t be good to discuss them (even in writing): it would be very instructive. I mean that we no longer want to continue the discussion in objective and quasi-academic terms while the adversary has made it known that he believes and will believe that all our interpretations mean nothing. We can only respond by declaring that we believe that he, in turn, means nothing (thus the follow-up to the discussion is placed in the perspective of “discipline” and break).

Thus, I believe it would be better to use your meeting in Antwerp to draft a collective declaration (Jan, Rudi[2] and you) on the basis of the letter of 11 December (from Attila): what the letter says; what we think about it; the decision to break. And to distribute this collective declaration to all our friends, as well as Attila himself. It would be best to limit it to 20-30 lines. But it is vital that the people from Antwerp have discussed and understood the problem (they shouldn’t sign it [just] to please you). Of course, if one of them has already written a response, we can distribute it as well.

Now for the practical questions of this break. We must obviously secure the entire stock of D.G.[3] in Antwerp. By a truly fortunate circumstance (all that is real is rational?), you are the director of D.G. You have its communications (the post office box) and we must not allow an instant more for Attila to sabotage our contacts outside the SI, as he tried to do within the SI.

This leads me to say that we must recover the key to your POB if you do not have it after returning from Spain. In case this presents difficulties (or if you find painful the discussions that it might involve), there exists a much quicker means in France, for around 30 or 40 francs: declaring the loss of a key, when one rents a box, involves changing the lock and getting a new key. All this is quite sordid, but in the last few weeks I have ascertained so many miserable and petty actions on Attila’s part that I wouldn’t be surprised if he tried to create difficulties concerning the key and the box. When his duplicity is smashed, he will have to recognize [in himself] a great capacity for cynicism (see his letter!).

Another practical question: with Jan, see what exact sum we must still give to the printer. I believe it is quite small. And, of all our debts, I believe that this one is the first that would be useful and possible to settle.

I have returned the Reich[4] to you (just four days!). It is very interesting, and I took forceful notes. Except after the third part – Chapter 7 – where everything quite obviously becomes nonsense and reaches a very visible final delirium. One must read his Marxist books (Foundation of Sexuality Morality). I believe that only one has been translated into French (The Sexual Crisis, Editions Sociales internationals, 1934). It is amusing that he managed to completely hide his Marxism in the American edition of Function of the Orgasm – the one that we read, translated [into French] in 1952. Nevertheless, it is clear that he situated himself in a political line very close to the workers councils (“Rationalization in the work process”). Reich admirably exposes how – and why – psychoanalysis became decomposed around 1925, and he understands what psychoanalysis hid from itself. Nevertheless, when he reveals this repression, it seems to me that me makes another concession, which led him to the strange therapeutic mechanism of his later years: the truly obsessional idea of the “natural” in erotic passion. One might say that, for Reich, if a man and a woman both attain “total orgasmic power,” this is good, no matter what preference or choice [of theirs] would already be neurotic. All the perversions are banished, and any choice from a category (even limiting oneself to women), or even any choice of one person rather than another, no longer has meaning in this healthy and robotic light. Besides, his idea of the essential value of the perfect orgasm must honestly be applied to the testimonies of “perverts” as well (like those in Maurice Heine’s collection),[5] who are clearly made to appear when, for Reich, the moment is perfect and very “Reichian,” if the surrounding social organization has somehow been eluded [déjouée]. (I am thinking of the case of the masochist who likes it when ladies walk all over him – in this same book – when Reich attaches a central value, not to the etiology of the man’s neurosis, which we know nothing about, but the “historical” formation of his amorous practices, which he describes.) Thus, why does Reich, who has shown the repression of psychoanalysis so well, repress the plasticity and the dialectic of desire behind the censorship of a “natural” [erotic passion] that ends up in a neo-Messmerist mechanism? I think that Reich’s imposed attachment to the natural can be explained by his liaisons with the workers’ movement of the period, [that is], the beginning of the period of Stalinist reaction. We will do better next time?

With respect to myth – a very interesting subject of the past, despite what Attila says – I wonder if the last historically formed myth was not that of Don Juan. Appearing at the very end of the decomposition of unitary society, already an anti-myth in a sense because it proposed that one directly live a disappointing experience instead of passively identifying oneself with a reassuring image, and finally because this myth makes a great bridge between the old myths and the new spectacular attitudes! This myth – if it is one – already bathes in a certain historical current: the strongest of the Dangerous liaisons is finding it incarnated in a woman, thus connecting the women’s liberation movement of the 18th century to today.[6] It is a myth that, almost in itself, immediately encountered derision, lost the sacred, ended up as a kind of farce, like “the men joyously separating themselves from their past.” Today, it is a pleasantry (a “Don Juan” in popular language!), whereas one rarely jokes about Tristan, even when the news-in-brief mentions him. Thus, it is a ridiculous and accursed myth, lately come, infected by history and praxis. The other mythical souvenirs that have disappeared into the “mind of the dead” that globally weighs on the living are “respected,” though not understood. Don Juan, on the contrary, is carried in current history by the principle of the spectacle and is now called a “play-boy.”[7] These considerations are quite dubious. Thus, this time, I am not an authority on the subject!

Best wishes,

[P.S.] To transmit to Antwerp, perhaps with remarks of the following type. (Also, do not treat this as a “theoretical” problem. Tie it to calumnies and delirious practices.[8] Of the type K.P. 63 and Martin in the D.K.P. for the last ten years.[9])

Here is the frank revelation. A situationist = Attila by postulate. From the same postulate one draws the fundamental inability to think [about], to understand, not [Karl] Krauss or [Ernst] Bloch, but 10 pages in their language [German] by Attila himself, among all the others “who are not authorities.” (Nevertheless, if Nietzsche was the first European expert in matters of decadence, would we not be world authorities in matters of situationist theory?)

Attila was already God. Thus, he claimed the logical conclusion of God’s powers: the transcendence, not only of revelation, but also of obscurity. The right to contradict himself permanently by being always right.

He began (in August) by stopping all of our activity and [demanding] attention by crying: “Halt! I have something to say. Which is an indispensible preliminary to everything.” We listen to him. He says it. Faced with the reaction that it causes, he then says, “I didn’t say anything.” A double case of “Stalinist” autocracy towards poor reality such as we live it.

His argument “SINCE I AM A SITUATIONIST, and since it is impossible for a situationist to have said these things, I DID NOT SAY THEM” is the very movement of (sub)religious thought, applied here to a defense of the religion of Attila. The reality is “SINCE ATTILA SAID IT, and it is impossible that a situationist would say it, he is no longer a situationist.” As a result, his only defense is the insolent negation of the most minimal reality.

Among the other marvels of his letter, one sees that he rejects the description “artificial super-demand” when it comes to precise work (separating utopia from religion) that, fortunately, has been done by many people in the past, but wasn’t envisioned by his text and still less by my response. I would call “artificial super-demand” Attila’s manner of arbitrarily (and cynically) demanding still more preliminary information (both inaccessible and without possibility of direct use). Ernest Bloch is the most recent [example] of this whim.

One also sees the quietly confessed “error” concerning the principal conflict of our times. Attila read too quickly. It isn’t in the communist parties but “other socialist tendencies” (this is even more vague).

One also sees that Pauwels Kotanyi and Attila Bergier[9] do not lower themselves by studying the theory and program of a revolutionary organization through its publications, praxis or contact with those responsible for it. They read in the Sunday Times that Marx = Zen. That’s enough!

He [Attila Kotany] says, “I hope you do not expect a discussion in these conditions.” Here he is right to no longer defend his bas case. In these conditions, it is impossible that any of our friends will pursue a discussion. We must break with him immediately. We cannot tolerate any hestitation.

[1] Attila Kotanyi, a Hungarian architect and member of the Situationist International from 1960 to 1963 (for his exclusion, see Guy Debord, Oeuvres, Gallimard, 2006, pp. 663-667.)

[2] Jan Strijbosch and Rudi Renson, situationists in the Belgian section until 1966.

[3] Der Deutsche Gedanke #1. [This was the SI’s German-language publication. Only one issue appeared.]

[4] Function of the Orgasm by Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957).

[5] Confessions et Observations psychosexuelles, by Maurive Heine (1884-1940).

[6] Translator: a striking remark, given a) the SI’s unjust reputation for either ignoring or minimizing the oppression of women, and b) the “early” date of this letter, which was written when “women’s lib” was not yet the movement it would become, say, after 1968.

[7] Translator: English in original.

[8] That denounced the tracts of March and April 1963 apropos of the collusion in Denmark between Stalinist and Nashist galleries.

[9] Translator: “Martin” is J.V. Martin, a Scandinavian painter and member of the SI. The “DKP” was the Danmarks Kommunistiske Parti. We don’t know who or what “K.P. 63” might mean. Perhaps Kommunistiske Parti 1963?

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

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