from Guy Debord

To Daniel Guerin[1]
3 May 1966
Dear Comrade:

Your letter of 28 April is surprising: there’s nothing anonymous in the journal Internationale Situationniste. The texts that are not personally signed are obviously those that express our collective opinion and are generally drafted collectively. It goes without saying that, in a journal that claims to espouse a coherent platform, all the members of the editorial committee, at least, always take responsibility for every nuance of what we publish in this manner – this beyond the fact that I myself, as “director” of the publication, am considered entirely responsible for all the texts, as much “morally” as legally. Thus, it seems to me that your remark would only be legitimate in the case of one of those publications, more journalistic, at which each editor makes a profession of having no solidarity with all the other editors, and through which echoes pass that no one accepts responsibility for, or perhaps in the case of publications with clandestine pretentions, signed by indiscernible pseudonyms.

Moreover, I am precisely one of the editors of the note that we devoted to you,[2] and I can thus respond immediately with respect to it [and] with exactitude.

The term exhaustion, which you employ, implies a kind of literary condemnation of your pamphlet,[3] which is absolutely not our point. On the contrary, we wrote that your pamphlet contains excellent documents.

What we completely criticize is your analysis of the crisis of 1965 in Algeria, an analysis that appears incoherent to us with respect to these same documents as well as to the precise revolutionary positions that we know that you have defended.

Please note all the same that, in everything that we’ve written this time about Algeria, Harbi[4] and you are the only people whom we consider to be revolutionaries who deceive themselves. Of course, we do not recognize any of the other individuals mentioned to be revolutionaries.

Our critique of your pamphlet would only be unjust if the quotations that we drew from it (negligence of the logic of bureaucratic power among the Algerian leaders, recognition of the Stalinist states as “socialist countries,” the essential irresponsibility of Ben Bella in the actual functioning of his regime, etc.) were unilaterally selected and hid another aspect of your thought that is present in this pamphlet. Do you believe that our quotations were unfaithful? How so?

We haven’t at all intimated that you have some kind of agreement with Ben Bella. Your honesty obviously isn’t questioned by our critique. But your disappointing rallying to the person of Ben Bella appears to be an attitude that is at variance with your own theories, but, on the other hand, we are right to say that your support joins (or strongly recalls) a practical attitude that is unfortunately current in the ordinary people among our socialite leftists.

It is true that no one among us knows you, except through your writing. But we have only claimed to speak on the basis of accessible information. Your over-estimation of an “enlightened despot” of self-management is striking. Why do you defend Robespierre against the workers?[5] (And Ben Bella is a quite poor Robespierre.)

Of course, we will publish any response that you might make to our critique. And we would willingly accept an in-person debate about your Algerian preferences and perspectives.

Quite sincerely,

P.S. Yesterday I sent you several copies of Class Struggles.[6]

[1] Translator: a French anarchist and author (1904-1988).

[2] “Daniel Guerin’s Algeria,” I.S. #10, p. 80.

[3] L’Algérie caporalisée.

[4] Mohammed Harbi, counselor to Ben Bella, [and] champion of self-management. Arrested in Algers on 9 August 1965 during a meeting of the Organisation de la résistance populaire (O.R.P.).

[5] Translator: the French here, Pourquoi defendez-vous Robespierre contra les 'bras-nus'? is a refernce to Guerin's book about the French Revolution: Bourgeois et bras nues dans la Revolution.

[6] Class Struggles in Algeria, a tract distributed in Algeria in December 1965.

(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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