Guy Debord, René Riesel & René Viénet
11 November 1970
Translated by Ken Knabb
THE CRISIS THAT has continually deepened in the SI in the course of the last year, and whose roots go back much further, has ended up revealing all its aspects; and has led to a more and more glaring increase in theoretical and practical inactivity. But the most striking manifestation of this crisis (ultimately revealing what was precisely its original hidden center) has been several comrades indifference in the face of its concrete development, month after month. We are quite aware that no one has in any way expressed this indifference. And that is precisely the heart of the problem, for what we have really been experiencing, behind abstract proclamations of the contrary, is this refusal to take any responsibility whatsoever in participating in either the decisions or the implementation of our actual activity, even at a time when it has been so indisputably threatened.
Considering that the SI has carried out an action that has been at least substantially correct and that has had a great importance for the revolutionary movement of the period ending in 1968 (though with an element of failure that we must account for); and that it has the potential to continue to make significant contributions by lucidly comprehending the conditions of the new period, including its own conditions of existence; and that the deplorable position in which the SI has found itself for so many months must not be allowed to continue we have constituted a tendency.
Our tendency aims to break completely with the ideology of the SI and with its corollary: the miserable vainglory that conceals and maintains inactivity and inability. We want an exact definition of the SI organizations collective activity and of the democracy that is actually possible in it. And we want the actual application of this democracy.
After everything we have seen these last several months, we reject in advance any abstract response, any response that might still aim to simulate a comfortable euphoria by finding nothing specific to criticize or self-criticize in the functioning or nonfunctioning of a group in which so many people know so well what they have lacked. After what we have all seen for months regarding the question of our common activity, nothing can any longer be accepted as before: routine optimism becomes a lie, unusable abstract generalization becomes a dodge. Several of the best situationists have become something else; they dont talk about what they know and they talk about what they dont know. We want a radical critique a critique ad hominem.
Without prejudging any later, more considered and serious responses they may make, we declare our disagreement with the American comrades, who have constituted a tendency on completely futile bases. At the present moment the infantile futility of pseudocritiques is a bluff as unacceptable as the noble generality of pseudocontentment; both are evasions of real criticism. Other comrades have for months never undertaken to respond in any manner whatsoever to the mass of clearly urgent questions pointed to by facts themselves and by the first, and increasingly specific, written critiques that we have been formulating for months. The very terrain of the scandal and of its denunciation have expanded together and any silence makes one directly complicitous in all the deficiencies. Let no one believe in our naïveté, as if we were putting forward here some new exhortation aimed at arousing the members against some incomprehensible and paralyzing fatality an exhortation that would meet with the same absence of response as all the preceding ones! We are quite aware that some of you have not wanted to respond.
This shameful silence is going to stop immediately because we demand, in the name of the rights and duties given us by the SIs past and present, that each member accept his responsibilities right now.
At this stage there is obviously no need to reiterate the central questions regarding which we await responses. Everyone is aware of them and they have already been put in writing. Let us simply say that we will naturally accept no response that is in contradiction with the actual practice of the person who formulates it.
If certain members have hidden goals different from ours, we want those goals to be brought out into the open and to be expressed, as they should be naturally, in distinct actions carried out under distinct responsibilities. And if anyone doesnt have any real goals, as strange as it seems to us that anyone would want to conserve the miserable status quo ante, let us only say that we will not contribute to covering for some glorified pseudocommunity of retired thinkers or unemployed revolutionaries.
Our tendency is addressing this declaration to all present members of the SI without distinction or exception. We want it to be clearly understood that we are not seeking the exclusion of anyone (and much less will we be satisfied with the exclusion of some scapegoat). But since we consider it very unlikely that a genuine accord can be arrived at so belatedly among everyone, we are prepared for any split, the dividing lines of which will be determined by the forthcoming discussion. In that eventuality we will for our part do everything possible to make such a split take place under the most proper conditions, particularly by maintaining an absolute respect for truth in any future polemics, just as all of us have together maintained this truthfulness in all the circumstances in which the SI has acted until now.
Considering that the crisis has attained a level of extreme gravity, we henceforth reserve the right in accordance with Article 8 of the statutes voted at Venice to make our positions known outside the SI.