from Guy Debord

To Daniel Denevert
26 February [19]72
Dear Daniel:

The fact that you are very eloquent in writing unfortunately encounters the circumstance that, at this moment, I have little time to write letters. There are many things in your letter to respond to, but I prefer to speak to you in person. I am also sure that one can speak of all that can be written, and that direct dialogue does not fail to get better with use.

To limit myself to the most general points, I find that the questions that you wish to deal with would make a very interesting book, and that you must undertake such a project. Like you, I think that the “dictionary” form is very difficult to write,[1] and even more so to read properly. But the rest is open.

It is true that, on one side of current revolutionary ideology [révolutionnarisme], there is an aspect of “longing for the golden age” that is not formally enunciated, but which one can detect, for example, in many pages by [Raoul] Vaneigem. One must critique it, especially if one estimates that the current (deteriorating) conditions of life can reinforce this emotional reaction (which becomes almost frankly ideological in the “ecological” current of the American Left). The loss of life is a quite real phenomenon (for example: anyone who has lived in Paris for the last 20 years can testify to a “loss of the town”), but obviously it only exists within the very heart of a form of life that is already fundamentally “absent.” In [The Society of the] Spectacle, I evoke the two or three past eras in which one can recognize a certain historical life and [also] the limits of these eras. Considered coldly, it appears that there’s not too much to lose[2] in the entirety of the old world.

Unlike you, I believe that “after the SI” there remain many essential ideas to discover (and some to be rediscovered). Moreover, the SI found very few essential ideas: two or three, which is an extremely rich result because many movements that have counted in history have only discovered one, or truly not even one. But we have also brought back into the game several old revolutionary conceptions (which must return, in any case). Given the historically favorable terrain, on the one hand, and our very weak means, on the other, I find that our strategy was quite remarkable in this [mixture of new and old].

In L’intelligence,[3] you write, “the SI itself has in part contributed to this submission to spectacular procedures” (by giving a certain preeminence to “what was positively realized”). Although there is some truth to this, the observation itself is a simply positivist truth. The proof is abstract, not historical.

1) If we haven’t enunciated – positively, I mean – the part of the negative that we have realized in theory and in actions, who has? If this [the negative] had never carried the risk of being contemplated as positive, it would not have entered into the historical struggle. Millions of proletarians have remained, as proletarians, purely negative for dozens of years. Things are at the point that no one recognizes it truly, not even them, who recognize themselves as falsely as voters or bettors with arbitrary schemes for picking a winner.

(Ah, the ruses of history were at play in the three preceding lines: three ballpoint pens came to their respective ends. . . .)[4]

2) One can now show precisely what – one can often see to whom! – the SI has left to make its eulogy. Of course, everything could partially have been done better: the proof is that this critique has been made within the SI for years, but it was only partially successful. Thus, one must show concretely what was missing. One can only judge it, in fact, according to what was successful. (Without it, there wouldn’t even be “judges” capable of judging the results of this operation.) Thus, one must critique the entirety as it developed.

It seems simpler to me for you to come have dinner at my place. This will allow you to avoid a supplementary trip. And I do not feel too pressed to see Sevran, having already seen Sarcelles. I propose that you come next Friday at around 7 pm, along with Paulette, whom I met last Sunday among some Portuguese comrades.

Best wishes,

[1] Translator: Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem had tried to write a Situationist dictionary in October 1962.

[2] Translator: in other words: “not much to be saved.”

[3] Pour l’intelligence de quelques aspects du moment. [Anonymous, written by Daniel Denevert, January 1972.]

[4] From whence comes the bad quality of the [handwritten] document.

(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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