from Guy Debord

To Mario Perniola
Copy to the Italian section of the SI
6 April 1969
Dear Mario,

We were surprised to learn, through the comrades in Milan, that you still consider yourself in a position of simple “sympathy” with respect to the SI, that is, them and us. We thought that our meetings [with you] in Brussels and Paris hadn’t left any fundamental questions to be surmounted before communal action could be undertaken. Naturally, if such questions still exist, it would be better if we could recognize them clearly. Thus we will try to arrive at an agreement deepened by a debate, [lasting] as long as necessary, that would take place at first in Italy, obviously.

To respond to your letter of 19 March [1969], I will say right away that we are happy to be reassured by you on the fact that you are not a partisan of Plato! And we all think, as you do, that the revolution is not the end of history. On the other hand, I admit that we do not pose the question of organization on a metaphysical terrain.

Indeed, your letter enunciates two objections concerning the question of organization, the first of which seems to me to be abstract and completely foreign to the realities of which we speak, while the second poses a central problem and raises considerable difficulties.

On the first point, you seem to me to be at the farthest side of the real problem when you say that the schema of the “statutes” that we propose “could be acceptable in the case in which all the members of the SI live in the same town.” But that schema has been proposed precisely on the basis of the contrary reality (and even [if we all lived] in a single town, the situationists would not very often encounter conditions in which what they have to do and say would be suspended until a debate and a decision [made by] all present together). I believe that, on the contrary, it is in the case of a group that is always together that one should fear that true “concrete and personal interactions” do not come “to verify every day” the real accord on a central basis and individual autonomy. Indeed, nothing is easier than following the bad slope [of the] “natural”: to always approve the individual who appears “the best” on the questions that bring us together. One risks having a group that is always “intelligent” and “effective” – according to our criteria – that in reality depends upon the presence of the one who is the most capable of reacting correctly to the problems that come up (I am not even speaking of the cases in which the group could confidently follow an individual who deceives himself [so] brilliantly). It would be much better to support the inconvenience of several disagreements or false tactical maneuvers than to work [jouir] with such unanimity. But especially for the real activity of the SI (in a single town during a revolution, as much as in all of Europe during ordinary times), we clearly see that we are not only partisans of individual autonomy, but we are condemned to such autonomy. This “interchangeability” does not concern talents, tastes, the monolithic approval of a doctrine or of propositions and inventions that could arise. It is instead the lucid and correct recognition of a central basis on which everything becomes possible and beyond which everything seems unacceptable to us (that is to say: cannot be co-signed by the other situationists). Thus this “interchangeability” (always verifiable and provisional) is both a fundamental exigency and also [is] clearly limited. The personality of each, as well as the events that we encounter – at the highest degree: [that of] history itself – trace its narrow limits. But interchangeability, thus conceived, imposes itself concretely, as do its limits. Our friends in Milan have given a good extreme example of the concrete character of this simple interchangeability by noting that, in a revolution, any one [of us] risks dying during it. The “end of prehistory” from the point of view of action is subject to the laws of the “prehistoric” period at the same time that it critiques and dissolves them: the truths about conflicts, such as Machiavelli exposed, are more important than membership through words in any idyllic program of pure revolution. It is not a question of stupidly putting one’s trust in the intentions or illusions of individuals or pseudo-communities. “Interchangeability” in the SI cannot be a glorious utopia, but a limited concrete necessity that is concretely verified in practice.

On the second point, you are quite right to indicate that the relations of the SI (as defined until now) with councilist organizations presents grave difficulties. There is a risk of separation, if not hierarchical relations (though I have confidence in real councilists to not let it happen), between the coherence of the SI – even reduced to its real, non-“ideologized” propositions – and the confusion in which many councilist forces risk finding themselves. But do we render them a very great service by willingly accumulating idiocies and inconsequentialities with the sole goal of putting ourselves at their level? Until now, the rigor of the SI has, I believe, rendered great service to the thousands of revolutionaries (more or less completely, but, in any case, by radicalizing them a good deal) and, in return, I only see [that there are] two or three hundred jealous or vexed people – of whom almost all had quite mediocre intentions and more pretentions than possibilities. The fundamental point is that there still is no truly councilist organization [in existence]. I’m in agreement with you on the fact that we must try to help its formation in a more intelligent fashion, and to take up all these questions from now on. I would be even more in agreement [with you] on the radical transformation of our attitude when such organizations come into existence.

You are too kind to me when you say that, in April 1968,[1] I “so lucidly predicted” the resurrection of revolutionary agitation. No doubt that, at that moment, France was calm and the qualitative leap that would bring about the French crisis was still [off] in a vague future, but agitation had already been quite visible in the streets of five or six [other] modern counties. The problems that I posed to the SI then are, I think, still being posed – and [will be] for a long time. Simply put, I find that our conduct in May [1968] was good enough for these problems to continue to be posed among us and on a basis enriched by experience.

Best wishes,

[1] Translator: the date of Debord’s text “The Question of Organization for the SI.”

(Published in Guy Debord Correspondance, Vol "4": Janvier 1969 - december 1972 by Librairie Artheme Fayard, 2004. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! March 2012.)

To Contact NOT BORED!