from Guy Debord

To Piero Simondo
Saturday 23 February [1957]
Dear Piero:

I have received news of the visit from Oscar [aka Asger Jorn] to Michele [Bernstein]. And also a letter from [Walter] Olmo, which I beg you to thank him for.

I will briefly summarize what I know, that is, summarized by Michele, of the conversation (Oscar came by my place [in Cannes] on Wednesday the 20th, saying that he’d recovered from an illness).

1) Oscar at first denied all that he’d done. Then, finally, he confessed that he’d maneuvered us, you and us, in the Triennale incident.[1] And also that he’d deliberately maneuvered in Brussels against us with that business of the telephone and the telegram.[2] Note well that he said [all] this to Michele, but I doubt that he’d admit the same things to Ralph [Rumney]. Thus, on this point, I would insist on a written declaration.

2) He congratulated himself on having maneuvered us, because, he says, “one can’t change it, it’s the only thing that he knows how to do to advance a group: sow disorganization and see if something good doesn’t come out of it.” This is so idiotic that it seems to me it could be harmless if everyone in the group was clearly informed about Oscar’s comportment.

3) He says that any theory must yield to action and that we must pardon his caprices so as to not harm our collective action!

But collective action without theory is like using the subway.

And an example of collective action that is contrary to my theories would be participating in the French army’s repression in Algeria.

Thus Oscar has conducted himself like an odious imbecile, and must see the results: theory has sabotaged the action that he had prepared in Brussels.

4) He told Michele that one couldn’t truly understand his position without having read Form and Movement, his next theoretical work. This is unbelievable insolence because no philosopher, no matter how great, has produced a work that so radically overthrows all the givens of thought that he would be incapable of discussing [it] according to the old concepts!

And until today, Oscar has revealed infinitely few things to us in his [previous] writings; and, on the contrary, mixed into them are naivete and testimonies to ignorance.

Moreover, he believes he can display a great hostility to you, and show himself to be quite idiotic when he says that the Italians, in general, are “rogues, clever politicians,” etc.

Michele has indicated to him that any accord on these bases would be impossible. He has returned to Brussels, and must return to my place in a dozen days to meet me (I return to Paris in a week). Michele has warned him that the delay would [only] increase his wrongs.

I think that the 3rd and 4th points are absolutely unacceptable and that, if he doesn’t give in on the day that I meet him (he will have had plenty of time to reflect), I will have to break with him. I would like you to give me your opinion as soon as possible.

I still believe that, given a definitive choice, Oscar will give in (but it will be necessary to be careful in the future). If not, we will publish an issue of Potlatch around 15 March, and Oscar could have a very bad role in it.

Quite amicably to you all,

[1] Translator: Lettre ouverte aux responsables de la Triennale d’art industrial a Milan, dated 1 January 1957, published in Guy Debord, Oeuvres, Gallimard, 2006, pp. 276-277.

[2] Translator: see letter to Simondo dated 12 February 1957.

(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.)

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