from Guy Debord

To André Bertrand and Daniel Joubert[1]
22 January [19]67
Dear friends:

Michele [Bernstein] has reported to us the telephone conversation with you and, in the meantime, Donald [Nicholson-Smith] received the two tracts.[2] We begin to see them disappear.

The tract by the ex-bureau members[3] is quite stupid. One can see in it the injured emotionality, the desire to be recognized by the SI on the basis of a single action, though they progressed so laboriously during this small scandal, and en bloc, though they were completely opposed to each other and did not hide this from us. It seems to me that all the quotations from my letters are exact. I find them perfectly correct on the subject, in the circumstances, and implicated by all the public statements of the SI up till now. (Do they believe that the SI has been successful until now due to naivete, sentimental effusion over the first to approach us, or idiotic confidence in irresponsible people?) As a general rule, all the letters exchanged within the SI – none were reserved “for [Mustapha] Khayati,” everybody knows everything – are not secret, except in very precise and very rare cases – which have nothing to do with the “judgment” of such people – of those letters marked “to be destroyed.”

In brief, we distrusted the uncertainties of the people from Strasbourg. Everything has finally proved that we were right. After the SI, contrary to our first plans, found itself engaged in the affair to such a point, we obviously had to supervise the often dubious people who publicly presented themselves as our partisans and who, for example, gave way in the face of the small scandal of the “solemn return,” which – if they were capable of understanding on their own the scandal that they produced, that is, the incident that began the entire affair – they would have seen it as obligatorily implicated by the scandal as a whole. If the ex-bureau members, moreover, haven’t seized their “chance” in the fact that our judgments of the them were made in evolution with the affair itself, this proves that they are, rather, of the inferior type (Frey-Holl)[4] who doubts his abilities and thus gloriously demands immediate, abstract and total recognition. Although this sad emotional disposition grossly deforms the subjectivity of their judgment, until now they haven’t told a specific lie. They have only the stupidity to gulp down and cover up the lies of the three excluded situationists.[5] We distinguish their responsibility, and we will not mix them in unjustly in our demolition of the [other] three.

The ex-bureau members are superbly unaware when they see themselves as executants in comparison to “theoreticians” in revolutionary “action”! Which action? The principal “action” in an affair of this kind was writing a pamphlet; and, additionally, knowing how to respond intelligently and clearly to certain subsequent questions. But they believe it is enough to get mentioned in the newspapers, and that they “took power” in Strasbourg!

The three excluded people who effectively manipulate them today (if only by persuading them with their pitiful lies for several weeks) “manipulate” them, if one can say so, just like they did Khayati until last week: indeed, in their participation in the SI, these three people principally and almost uniquely knew a hollow arrogance – compensation for the worst of their shortcomings – which is an attitude that I had already denounced in my report to the July Conference.[6] All of the ex-bureau members have to engage in a highly comic act of self-blinding to be ignorant of the facts that, on the question of their merits, the excluded situationists had been in absolute solidarity with the “rigor of the SI” – although they were so due to other motivations, which have now been overturned by opportunity, and although they had even been [self-appointed] informers for the SI concerning the probable intentions and abilities of the “students.” The three have almost never differed from Khayati's judgment, and then only in the degree of severity (Frey and Holl).

As for the three excluded people, the maladroitness of their new denials will be perceptible to those who know how to critique a text. It is quite true that there wasn’t a vote to exclude the liars and there couldn’t be one. The meeting of 10 January [1967] had unanimously decided, in advance, that any unmasked liar would be excluded immediately. And even this decision hadn’t been submitted to a “vote”: the one who refused to put his signature on this motion had effectively resigned when he defended the “right to lie within the SI” (Garnault and Khayati, absent from the meeting, didn’t physically sign it, but it is clear that they made known to us their adhesion to the motion, without which we could receive no one at the next meeting). Thus, five days earlier, the excluded people signed the reasons for and the binding order of their elimination. We can only affirm that they confessed their lies at the 10th hour rather than the 11th, but this formality hardly has meaning, even in an international treaty: it was obvious at the meeting of 15 January, begun at 9 PM in the evening. The minutes concerning their exclusion were set down when we declared to them that anything they could say at that point no longer had any interest to us (and thus they parted piteously). [André] Schneider himself, “in the early hours of the 16th,” had been able to see this text, already finished, and then put into the mail. The three had only spoken of an intention to resign – which they’d done secretly – after the moment when their lies had finally collapsed, that is to say, when they were already automatically excluded for the most ignoble reason, with the result that, for us, their supposed intentions in the past no longer had any value.

Now that these three, poor people have revealed their arguments, the fundamental absurdity of their position has become clear: why have they suddenly wanted to resign, and as a team, without ever having previously presented a single disagreement with the SI? It was necessary that they found themselves together that day. When did they “discover” hierarchy in the SI (since they had always hidden this important discovery)? The day of their exclusion? Earlier? But then why have they never critiqued and openly refused this hierarchy in the SI by easily applying our declared principles to all of us?

Another question kills them. One knows quite well why they respond, “It is they who lie!” because it is always the single impoverished defense of liars who have been caught. They had to say this, or confess [avouer] what they are, and what they have become is quite unmentionable [unavouble]. But we who, following their own hierarchical conception of the SI, could have thrown them out at any moment on the basis of any bad accusation whatsoever: why would we have detested them so much that we would want to definitively ruin their presence in the future revolutionary movement by describing them as purveyors of calumny? (Though I knew from several weeks earlier that Holl was a contemptible person, when this meeting began I didn’t have the least antipathy towards either Garnault or Frey). Why didn’t we accept their resignation, if they had really resigned, as each has the obvious right to do so? Re-reading Internationale Situationniste, one sees that we have indicated several instances of resignation (even for an individual as suspicious as Constant [Nieuwenhuis], whose resignation more resembled an exclusion), without ever worrying that there wasn’t a much larger number of exclusions in my statistics! Furthermore, the incoherence of all these people exploded here: the best technique for excluding many would be to allow more to join, obviously! This is what the ex-bureau members reproach us for not doing. One could draw from this truth [the alternate conclusion] that we should demand more coherence – and more knowledge, clearly understood – from the “contacts” who want to join us so as not to have to exclude them at all. With the result that, when we say someone is excluded, it is true. One must make it so.

The last three people to be excluded had participated so little in the SI that they do not realize how much their declarations perfectly adopt the tone and discoveries of Nash[7] and ten others: dictatorship, mania for exclusion, political discipline. As these three have claimed to be more coherent and better informed than the others, they are only more ridiculous.

[Daniel] Guerin is saddened by the blow that we have brought to the beautiful scandal of Strasbourg – without thinking that he had reached his end at the UNEF Congress and that this is only a paragraph in the general scandal that the existence of the SI is. We responded to him that the question of the truth in the revolutionary milieu is much more important than any good image (as we already told him concerning Ben Bella[8]). Moreover, we will not stop speaking about Strasbourg immediately. In a large tract[9] that you will no doubt receive on Wednesday, we only settle accounts with the three fakers, with a specification that any reader of good faith will find definitive.

Guy Debord

[1] André Bertrand, creator of the Return of the Durruti Column comics in October 1966, and Daniel Joubert, a student at Strasbourg who was involved with Notes critiques in Bordel.

[2] La vérité est revolutionnaire and De la merde en milieu situationniste, sent from Strasbourg by those excluded from the SI.

[3] Vous foutez-vous de nous? Vous ne vous en foutrez pa slongtemps, a text distributed by the members of the bureau of AFGES (cf. I.S. #11, pp. 23-31).

[4] Translator: “Frey” is Theo Frey, and “Holl” is Herbert Holl.

[5] Translator: together, along with Jean Garnault, the so-called “Garnautins.”

[6] Cf. Guy Debord, Oeuvres, Gallimard, 2006, pp. 1162-1169.

[7] Translator: Jorgen Nash, excluded in 1962.

[8] Translator: “The Algeria of Daniel Guerin,” I.S. #10, 1966.

[9] Attention! Three Provocateurs, a poster-tract dated 22 January 1967.

(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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