from Guy Debord

To Marcel Marien
Tuesday, 19 March [1957]
My dear Marien:

The article by Stalin is entitled “The Trotskyist Opposition, Today and In The Past” (speech delivered at the October plenary session of the C[entral] C[ommittee] and the C[entral] C[ommission] of C[ontrol] of the C[ommunist] P[arty] of the USSR), published in French on 12 November 1927.

I copy the passages concerning the testament:

Some words on the subject of “Lenin’s testament.” The partisans of the opposition have cried, you have heard it, that the Central Committee of the Party is “hiding Lenin’s testament.” This question has been examined on several occasions by the plenary sessions of the CC and the CCC [a voice: “dozens of times”]. We have proved many times that no one is hiding anything, that “Lenin’s testament” had been addressed at the 13th Party Congress and the “testament” had been read to the Congress [a voice: “very true”]. Everyone also knows that the Congress unanimously decided to not publish the testament, among other reasons that Lenin himself didn’t desire it and did not demand it. The opposition knows all this well, which hasn’t prevented it from declaring that the Central Committee has hidden “Lenin’s testament.”


One claims that Lenin, in this testament, proposed to the Party Congress that it examine the question of the replacement of Stalin as Secretary General of the Party by another comrade. Yes, exactly. We cite this passage that, moreover, has been read to the plenary sessions several times:

“Stalin is crude, and this fault, which is tolerable in our milieu and the relations between us, becomes unsupportable in a man who occupies the position of Secretary General. Thus, I propose to the [assembled] comrades that they examine the question of the replacement of Stalin by another man who distinguishes himself from Stalin by the sole fact that he’s more tolerant, more loyal, more polite, and more attentive to the comrades and less temperamental, etc.”

Yes, comrade, I am brutal towards those who fail to speak, decomposing and destroying the Party.


It is characteristic to see that, on the subject of Stalin’s faults, the testament doesn’t say a word and doesn’t make the least allusion to them. One simply speaks of Stalin’s brutality. But this brutality is neither a political fault nor a political deviation, and cannot be so.

Here is the corresponding passage in the testament:

“I will abstain from characterizing other members of the Central Committee and their personal traits. I will simply recall the October episode of Kaméniev and Zinoviev wasn’t due to pure chance any more than non-Bolshevism to Trotsky.”

Here I retake the narrative. You will remark that Stalin abstained from justifying himself against the grave accusation of lacking loyalty, and that the second quotation appears to be crudely truncated. All the versions published by the opposition, which are much more probable, include a phrase that I cite here from memory: “I simply recall that one must not rigorously hold to the October episode of Kaméniev and Zinoviev, although it wasn’t due to pure chance or non-Bolshevism to Trotsky.”

These two details leave one thinking that, at that moment, the Central Committee and the Central Commission of Control were already quite sure to not raise any objection – and put their trust in Stalin against Lenin, who thus took on the figure of an idiot who, from the point of view of bourgeois politeness, was shocked by the crudeness of Stalin – but still not sure enough to simply deny the existence of the testament.

All the discussions in the Party, such as those presented in “The International Correspondence” of 1927, shows the extreme moderation of the accusations against the opposition of the time. Everything concerns the question of discipline, which one reproached the opposition for having violated twice thereafter.

I hope that these quotations will be useful to you. They demonstrate, in any case, that the “hidden testament” isn’t a melodramatic story that one still tells, but the occasion for many debates, with the conclusions tied to the successive relations of force in the Party. The testament was truly occulted in the beautiful era of Jdanov,[1] the Moscow Trials, and the “history of the CP of the USSR.” No doubt Stalin couldn’t have hoped for so much in 1927.

An idea came to me the day after your departure, unfortunately. I do not believe that it has immediate application, but perhaps next year? It is this: you are probably right – as a quarterly journal legally registered in Belgium – to want to have a press representative at the Cannes Festival. Thanks to my family and other relations in that town, I could stay there during the entire Festival. There would be multiple advantages in this.

1) Publicity for Les Levres nues that would thus place it at the rank of the great spectacular journals – Les Temps modernes doesn’t even have the means to support more than an editor at the Festival.

2) The scandal of my reappearance in the spheres that have been closed to us since 1952,[2] as you know, after the Festival’s organizers had us arrested, en masse, at the moment we threatened to sack their offices and – so they claimed – defenestrate their personnel (but this last reproach is unjust).

3) Four or five pages of cinematographical news, good or at least striking, I believe, because I have completed a new procedure to critique films.

To me, the difficulties that one could set up for you to get an invitation sent to you do not appear [to exist] – but one must expect anything with these people. Finally, what is sure is that in 1952 we had access to invitations through the editorial committee of the journal Ion (which only had one issue), and others as film producers [in our own right]. Moreover, the Festival is interested in assembling the greatest number of representatives from the international press, and it only costs it a permanent invitation to all the film theaters. I do not think that you would be suspected of having a too-lively hostility towards this lamentable institution.

Another difficulty is time. It is perhaps [too] late for these steps this year (I do not know the exact date of the Festival), and I have so many things to do in Paris at the moment that I can’t envision any trips for a month at least. The sole chance this year would be the exhibition beginning at the end of April. But I believe that it is much more advanced. Nevertheless, could you inform us about their intentions?[3]

Quite amicably,
G.-E. Debord

[1] Jdanov, member of the Politburo, directed cultural politics under Stalin.

[2] On the occasion of the demonstration against the Cannes Festival by all the lettrists, [who marked the event] with the tract Fini le cinema francais.

[3] Translator: it doesn’t appear that the editor(s) of this collection were able to determine to whom Debord was referring; we certainly can't.

(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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