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potlatch #3

information bulletin of the french section of the lettrist international

6 July 1954

Translated by WNLA and Gerardo Denís

Guatemala is Lost - Bernstein, Conord, Dahou, Debord, Fillon, Wolman
All is Revealed - Bernstein
Slum Construction - Conord
Best News of the Week
Pin Yin Against Vaché - Debord

Guatemala is Lost

On 30th June the Guatemalan government, taken over the previous day by Colonel Monzon, capitulated to the aggression mounted by the U.S.A. and its local puppet, C. Armas. In the same vein, it will already be too late when even the most ignorant leaders of the European bourgoisie understand the point at which the success of their 'infallible ally' has menaced them, locking them into an irrevocable contract as badly paid gladiators for the American Way; condemning them to march blithely and patriotically into the blows of history simply to earn their flag its 48 gold stars.

Every June, since the assassination of Rosenburg, the United States government appears to have chosen to mount a bloody challenge to all those in the world who want and know how to live freely. The Guatemalan cause was lost because the men in power did not dare to fight in the arena which was truly theirs. A declaration by the Lettrist International (Make Them Swallow Their Chewing Gum) dated 16th June — three days before the surrender — warned that Arbenz had to arm the unions and rally all the workers of Central America for whom he represented the only hope for freedom. Instead of calling for spontaneous popular organisation and insurrection, he sacrificed everything to the demands of the army; as if, as in any country, the army wasn't essentially fascist and always geared towards repression.

Such men were judged in advance by the words of Saint-Just: "Those who make revolution by halves only dig their own graves." This tomb has also been opened for our comrades in Guatemala — dockers, lorry drivers, plantation workers — who were abandoned without a fight and who are being executed at this very moment.

After Spain and Greece, Guatemala now finds itself amongst those regions which attract a very particular form of tourism. We look forward to making this trip ourselves one day.

for the Lettrist International:

All is Revealed

These are the people who are known as "Lettrists," as others were known as "Jacobins" or "Franciscans" . . .


Slum Construction

Within the framework of the social policy program of the past few years, the construction of slums as a means of dealing with the housing crisis is continuing at a fever pitch. One cannot help but admire the ingenuity shown by our Ministers and our town-planning architects. In the interest of maintaining harmony, they have developed a few standard slum types that can be used anywhere in the country. Their preferred building material is reinforced concrete. With this material, which lends itself to the supplest of forms, they construct only square buildings. The best example of the genre seems to be the genius Corbusier's Cité Radieuse although the projects of the brilliant Perret run a close second.

In their work, a style develops that sets the standard of thought and civilization for the mid-twentieth century. It is the "barracks" style. The 1950s house is a box.

Decor determines gesture: we will build passionate houses.


Best News of the Week

Perpignan, 30th June (France-Soir) — A car accident, which occurred this morning at 4.30am near the village of Saises, took the lives of the Reverend Father Emmanuel Suarez, Leader of the Dominicans, and Father Aureliano Marinez Cantarino, secretary general of the same order. The two priests were returning from Rome by car and were on their way to Spain. It appears that Father Centarino, who was driving, had been overcome by fatigue and fallen asleep at the wheel. The car, which was travelling at high speed, crashed into a tree killing both occupants outright.

Pin Yin versus Vaché

The great vogue for war and for "war letters" forces us to be made aware of the most disgusting acts of heroism as well as the most beautiful testimonies of desertion.

But this apology for fleeing back home, which generates the essentially symbolic symbols of Jaques Vaché, ("I will never win so much from war") is no longer satisfying. We prefer the mutineer who wins.

We know how these great names build themselves up. Don't forget that Jaques Vaché was entirely conditioned by the military system of the moment. (On the other hand Arthur Cravan appears to have made a daredevil voyage from one extreme to the other, without even a single necessary visa.)

We do not wish to question the grandeur of Vaché's individual act of resistance, but, as we wrote in October 1952 concerning the hapless Chaplin-in-the-limelight : "We believe that the most urgent expression of freedom is the destruction of idols, especially when they claim to represent freedom." (Internationale lettriste #1 [Position of the Lettrist International]).

We acknowledge judgement only of that literature which functions as an imperative of our propaganda: the distribution of Vaché's "Letters" amongst French high school children carries only certain elegant formulations to various flat negations which are in fashion.

However, in a small book which remains relatively unknown; the Journal of a Young Chinese Revolutionary (Libraire Valois, 1931), Pin Yin, a young sixteen year old student who followed the Peoples Army on its march to Shanghai, gives us his two descriptions of red youth: "As regards my parents, I naturally did not want to leave them. But we must no longer think in this way, because the Revolution will have to sacrifice a small number of men for the happiness and well being of the majority..."

We know the end of this story; and of the twenty years of power of the General who still survives in Formosa; and of the executioners of the Kumintang: "...but we will never feel suffering, we believe that tomorrow will be calm and beautiful; a sun as red as blood, and in front of us a great path bathed in light. A beautiful garden."

The voice of Pin Yin reminds us of the repercussions of the day when our friends and most stout accomplices — at what speed in kilometres per second is the earth's rotation — have left or disappeared. At least the best reasons for a civil war will not be in short supply.


Potlatch is sent to various addresses supplied to the editor.

Editor in Chief: André-Frank Conord, 15 rue Duguay-Trouin, Paris 6.