Notes on Coherence


Without coherence -- that is to say, without the real recognition of a certain progress in this direction, let us say, since Gotenborg[1] (this progress seems blindingly obvious to me), and the permanent perfection of this progress -- the SI of today must be considered to be without interest (and thus, given the part that we have played in it, of negative interest for us).


The primary condition for coherence is obviously the choice of people who join the SI. The greatest obstacle to coherence is the refusal of this choice or its quantitative and qualitative sabotage.


Coherence implies that, as [both] precondition and consequence, none of the situationists can be regarded so inferior (or superior) with respect to the others that dialogue with him [or her] on a single subject would be impossible. A fortiori, none of us can ever feign such a "regard."


Coherence finds its only measure in communal praxis (even when this praxis is limited to theoretical activity for some time).


We must base trust between us upon coherence. And not the reverse.


We must be able to trust each other in the present (always tacitly renewable) and never abstractly in the future. If we admit that our agreement must be unbreakable, then it is no longer anything. Not only is the complex richness of the future trampled -- for the group and for each one of us -- but one also ends up rendering current deficiencies uncorrectable and intangible. (In reality-in-movement, in which things that don't get better get worse, the situation will no doubt end up much worse: providing future weapons or intelligence against us to people who, despite all of our "good intentions," will quickly pass through the SI and then combat it, which has already happened.)[2]


When one asks, as Attila [Kotanyi] has, to humanize our attitude towards "errors" that one or the other of our comrades will inevitably commit, one is fundamentally mistaken: one speaks as if the exclusions, motivated by individual or collective anger (it matters little which), were intended to "punish" a single "mistake." In reality, each exclusion has responded to a consistent and significant series of hostile gestures, not to punish them, but to defend our very "existence."


When Attila speaks of quasi-constitutional guarantees to avoid "liquidations" or the problem of controlling information, he in fact poses the question of power within the SI. [And he does so] In terms that are applied to power in global society rather than in a free association of individuals (who forbid themselves from using the dubious services of "disciples"). I believe that this is the root of the misunderstanding with Attila at Antwerp.[3]


What clearly characterizes power in global society is the exploitation of the work of others. I believe that in the SI no one has neither the will nor the means to exploit the "work" of anyone else. (The contrary opinion was held by Frankin,[4] but it was frankly crazy. If one were to follow it on this ridiculous sub-economic terrain, one could just as well say that Frankin himself had exploited the editorial work that I have done on all of his formulated ideas, which even Arguments would refuse to publish. But the flaw in his reasoning comes earlier: Frankin presents several "heretical" ideas, which he only formulated in the course of his dialogue with the SI, as recognized economic values, and then suddenly claims private ownership [cave canem]![5] He has ceaselessly poured out these ideas in letters to and personal conversations with all the Morins[6] of the world, which is quite fortunate because these people have stolen from him without compensation.) Even Lefebvre, when he is so inspired by us,[7] doesn't "exploit" our work. He is simply a bit inelegant on the intellectual plane, because he retreated from a communal action (true dialogue) with us. And that is what is serious.


If we consider the SI to be the equivalent of a form of society and manage it as such, our anti-hierarchical principles would obligate us, the very next week, to lead a phalansterian life[8] in which ludic communism had to be realized upon the basis of poverty (needs and labor measured in an egalitarian way). If we estimate that our humor doesn't go that far, we must no longer accept the torturous rhetoric of the "as if," which is opposed to the dialectic of the real.


A second vital condition of coherence is that the situationists debate their possible actions, at each step, in the perspective of actual execution (knowing what they are doing, what will be what and where, accounting for a decent percentage of delays and errors), and not in the perspective of an intimidating eloquence that, each time, could designate what is the most urgent and the most central as always elsewhere (which isn't an alternative solution that has been proposed against this type of real action, but the art of skimming over this action by washing one's hands of it).

(Unpublished text, drafted by Guy Debord around the time of the public break between the situationists and Henri Lefebvre, circa February 1963. Post-humously published in Oeuvres Completes, Gallimard, 2006. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! January 2010. All notes by the translator.)

[1] The Fifth Conference of the Situationist International, held in Goteberg, Sweden, on 28-30 July 1961.

[2] A reference to the Nashists' attempt to fill the SI with members from Scandanavia.

[3] The Sixth Conference of the SI was held in Antwerp on 12-16 November 1962. Among other issues, the question of situationist coherence was debated.

[4] Andre Frankin, a Belgian situationist, resigned from the SI in September 1961.

[5] Latin for "Beware of dog."

[6] Edgar Morin (born 1921) founded and directed the magazine Arguments (1954-1962).

[7] The situationists accused the sociologist Henri Lefevbre, with whom they had developed a relationship between 1960 and 1962, of plagiarizing their text on the Paris Commune.

[8] A reference to the self-sustaining cooperative communities founded by the followers of Charles Fourier.

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