from Guy Debord

To Jan Kotik[1]
28 December 1956
Dear Comrade:

Thanks to the Italians, we have become aware of what you wrote at Alba concerning issue #27 of Potlatch. We would like to briefly explain our point of view to you.

1) What is currently published in Paris is under our direct responsibility. We want to express the opinions of all those who are in agreement on the program defined in Alba [in November 1956]. But this is only possible through a precise discussion among us. If you disapprove of several points in what’s been published, you must write directly to one of the following addresses[2]: Potlatch, Asger Jorn, [or] Guy Debord.[3]

2) It was not necessary to invite [Christian] Dotremont to Alba, and it was impossible that an interesting collaboration could take place between us, because Dotremont has publicly taken reactionary positions. The “New New French Review” in Paris represents the most bourgeois tendency in culture, and this is equally so in politics. (Under the title “New French Review,” it was banned in France at the end of the Hitlerian occupation. It was able to reappear a few years later by changing its title and doubling the word “New.”)

The refusal to collaborate with reactionary elements doesn’t constitute a “confessional judgment,” but indispensible realism.

3) Intolerance shocks you because you know that an authoritarian, administrative leadership is harmful to the development of ideas and art. But in France or Italy, for example, where there is no direct constraint upon the cultural domain, the difficulty, on the contrary, is to distinguish, to critique what is new and valuable, and what is retrograde. The difficulty is consciously defining a platform of progressive action beyond the general confusionism.

4) Your current task, in the working-class democracies, is to join the real movement of modern art, but to march in advance [of it]: not to unconditionally accept its most advanced aspects and its most backwards aspects, en bloc, under the pretext of liberty.

We did not want to prevent Dotremont from writing: we wanted to not publish in the same journals as he does because we have never been accomplices of the ideology of the dominant class.

5) You know that Socialist Realism is outside history. But we know, also by experience, that the largest part of Western modern art is also outside history. We must keep in mind all aspects of our problems. What today numerically dominates Western art are old novelties that are currently harmful to veritable novelty; and, even more often copies of outdated novelties.

For us all, it’s a matter of surpassing together the current state of culture, through construction prospects that correspond with the possibilities and needs of our era.

We hope that you will write about this subject. We could even publish your point of view, if you like.

[Asger] Jorn, [Guy] Debord

[1] Jan Kotik, a Czech, was a signatory to the Final Resolution of the Alba Congress (cf. Guy Debord, Oeuvres, Gallimard, 2006, p. 240).

[2] Translator: we have deleted the street addresses in Paris.

[3] Translator: note the absence of Gil J Wolman, who seemed to be on the verge of resigning from the Lettrist International around 17 November 1956.

(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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