from Guy Debord

To Gerard Lebovici
29 September 1976
Dear Gerard:

Yesterday, as a registered letter, I returned to you the photocopy of the text by [Bruno] Rizzi. It is beyond doubt that the only solution is to publish the first part only. It is all the more legitimate that the author confessed that he changed his mind twice during the composition of the work. The first part was "conceived in London towards the end of 1938 and set down in March 1939." It is this part that interests us. In the spring of that year, drafting Chapter IV of the "third part," he was struck by the thunderbolt of a kind of revelation, most unfortunate, which he himself avowed placed his equilibrium and health in jeopardy! And I can easily believe it. He changed his position once more in the postface, passing from a supra-historical coldness that fearlessly expected the end of dictatorship to an apocalyptic commotion that wanted to stop the end of the world right away.

I believe that it would be indispensable to publish The USSR: Bureaucratic Collectivism with this subtitle on the cover: The Bureaucratization of the World, Part 1.[1] This general title has, in a certain milieu, a certain recognizability, like everything that one has tried to hide. The subtitle of the "first part" (The Property of Class) must be printed as a subtitle in the interior title-page of the book. I attach for you a model for the text on the back cover.[2]

I have the strong impression that the manuscript corrections are exact and thus to be kept, with perhaps one or two exceptions (they could be by the author). I have added about a dozen more, which are typographically easy to distinguish from the others.

In the notice on the back cover, I believe that I have skillfully established our right to publish separately half of a book that does not constitute a unity, so that the cretins cannot speak of masperization.[3] I think that the book must be published in this form as soon as possible: rumors circulate very quickly in the milieu, and you see the terrible blow that we can deal to the most advanced wing of recuperation, if no one arrives ahead of us.

I hope to soon receive good news of your exploits.

Best wishes,

Here is the most unknown book of the century, and it is exactly the one that, in 1939, resolved one of the principal problems that the century had encountered: the nature of the new Russian society, the Marxist critique of the form of domination that appeared in it.

It was in 1939 that the Italian Trotskyist Bruno Rizzi published, on his own, in Paris, the first and third parts (but not the second) of his book The Bureaucratization of the World, signed Bruno R., and drafted in French.

Quickly condemned by Trotsky and the Fourth International, Rizzi's theses, which contained the first definition of the bureaucracy as the ruling class [in Russia], was systematically ignored by two generations of fellow-travelers and pseudo-critics of Stalinism, who most often were the same people, changing their lies with the wind, always preparing to break down a door that had been open for thirty or forty years, yet selling their readers their keys to that door at premium prices, and finally always putting off the titanesque difficulty of the effort, which would put an end to their own employment. Rizzi's theses were not reprinted by anyone.

Others plagiarized Rizzi with an assurance that was more tranquil than that of those who preferred to ignore him. The few owners of this book, which was so well disappeared that there was not even a copy of it in the National Library, discretely took advantage of it to settle a point for the scholars and wanted to keep their reputations for being able to do so: since 1968, the diverse experts in contestation who hold positions among nearly all the French publishers[4] have exhumed all sorts of less significant writings, but never Rizzi, whom they all ignore.

An American, Burnham, was the first to make a name for himself by recuperating this proletarian critique of the bureaucracy in The Era of the Organizers,[5] in which he travestied Rizzi for his own profit by writing an inept eulogy for the tendency of the powers of decision-making and competent "managers"[6] to grow in the modern company to the detriment of the simple holders of capital. And, much later, the French journal Socialisme ou Barbarie,[7] picking up the denunciation of Stalinism, clearly found in this phantom work by Rizzi the principal source of its conceptions, with the result that the originality that commentators have agreed, late in the day, to recognize in this hearth of reflection that has since been extinguished assuredly appeared more considerable if everyone continued to hide the existence of Bruno Rizzi.

Today the reader will easily perceive several errors in the strategic comprehension of the forces in play at the very somber moment at which the text appeared. The uprisings of the workers -- from East Berlin in 1953 to Portugal in 1974-75 -- have improved Rizzi's theories. Our party was not made in a day; it has developed its truth over two centuries of changing struggles. Even today, it is not completely finished, because one can still survive and falsify alongside it. But the dominant society, which no longer knows how to manage itself, no longer knows how to respond to it.

The errors are more numerous and more clumsy in the following study (Que Vadis, America?), collected by Rizzi in the original edition of The Bureaucratization of the World and offered as the "third part" of the incomplete whole. The reprinting of an historical text must add nothing that could diminish the homogeneity, especially since the intellectuals of four decades have dared not respond to it.

[1] The book would be published in December 1976.

[2] See text below.

[3] Translator's note: a neologism, derived from Editions Maspero, which designates a text that has been butchered or falsified by its publisher.

[4] Translator's note: Here Debord clearly has the ex-situationist Rene Vienet in mind.

[5] Translator's note: James Burnham was an ex-Trotskyist who published The Managerial Revolution in 1941.

[6] Translator's note: English in the original.

[7] Translator's note: journal and group founded by Claude Lefort and Cornelius Castoriadis in 1949. Debord was briefly a member a member in 1961. The group dissolved in 1964.

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol 5: Janvier 1973-Decembre 1978 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2005. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! April 2007. Footnotes by Alice Debord, except where noted.)

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