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potlatch #9-10-11

information bulletin of the french section of the lettrist international

17 to 31 August 1954

special holiday issue

Translated by Reuben Keehan, Phil Edwards and Gerardo Denís

Artists' Day Out - Dahou, Debord, Fillon, Véra
Our Readers Would Have Rectified it for Themselves...
Destruction of a Lettrist Office
Dérive by the Mile - Bernstein
Take the First Street - Wolman
Best News of the Month
Waiting for the Churches to Close
Psychogeography and Politics
The Sovereign People
Ariadne Unemployed
An Example to Follow in the Place de la Nation

Artists' Day Out

An item entitled 'When the line is crossed, it's no longer the limit' was withdrawn from Potlatch #8 at the last minute. It pronounced the poverty of a poem by Louis Aragon, published by L'Humanité Dimanche regarding the armistice in Indochina ('Cease fire everywhere / Everywhere, cease fire' was the last line, but not the most laughable). The item in question hailed Louis Aragon as an ardent disciple of 'the socialist realist Ponsard,' but we were led to remove it by other considerations.

Of course Louis Aragon is laughable, but we refuse to laugh in poor company.

The theory of socialist realism is obviously stupid. However, if some poster produced in the USSR — or somewhere near it — can cause a less than advanced section of the proletariat to became aware of some kind of struggle to live, then we think it is more worthwhile than such and such a study — abstract, non-figurative or 'signifying the informal' (IMBECILES!) — appearing for the hundred-thousandth time to the acclaim of the Parisian galleries and salons of the 'new look' bourgeoisie.

French poetry no longer interests us. We're leaving French poetry and Burgundy wine and the Eiffel Tower to the tourist bureau. We can't give anyone the impression that we defend this poetry, when the only thing we do support is one type of political slogan over another ('My party has returned to me the colors of France...'), which might be quite a good joke if the sabotage of the revolutionary spirit couldn't be seen within it.

on behalf of the editors:

Our readers would have rectified it themselves...

A.-F. Conord, whose clumsy phrasology could not disguise the mediocrity of his thought, was definitively excluded on 29 August, accused of neobuddhism, evangelism and spiritualism. We hereby advise our correspondents of the new address for Potlatch:

Mohamed Dahou, 32, rue de la Montagne-Geneviéve, Paris 5e.

Potlatch will be returning to its regular weekly publication at the end of the month.

Issue #12 will be appearing on Tuesday 28 September.

Destruction of a Lettrist Office

The avant-garde is a dangerous profession. — Gil J. Wolman

On Sunday 15 August at 2230 hours, an empty car crashed at great speed into the bar Tonneau d'Or, at 32 rue de la Montagne-Geneviève, a well-known haunt of the Lettrist International. Four customers were injured. By stroke of good fortune, none of the lettrists who would normally have been stationed there at the time of the accident were present.

Dérive by the Mile

In an article published in the August 19 issue of France-Observateur, Christian Hébert proposes a radical solution to the problem of parking in Paris: the prohibition of all private vehicles within the city limits and their replacement by a large fleet of moderately-priced taxis.

This proposal has our unqualified support. We all know how important taxis are for the recreational activity we call 'dérive,' from which we expect to draw educationally conclusive results.

Only taxis allow true freedom of movement. By traveling varying distances in a set time, they contribute to automatic disorientation. Since taxis are interchangeable, no connection is established with the "traveler" and they can be left anywhere and taken at random. A trip with no destination, diverted arbitrarily en route, is only possible with a taxi's essentially random itinerary.

Aside from providing an egalitarian solution to a particularly irritating problem, the measures proposed by Mr. Hébert would have the invaluable advantage of allowing large sectors of the population to break free from the routes imposed by the Metrobus, and enjoy a hitherto rather expensive means of dérive.


Take the First Street

I went walking and did not get lost. The Avenue was wrestling openly at Général Tripier (7th Arrondissement). Bonne-Nouvelle was a dead end, as well.

While waiting for the city to be rebuilt, starting in the Eastern Sector (Porte de Vanves), the order changed as drifting set in.

Rue 'Servant with jerrycans, extension' — formerly rue des Cascades — annexes a part of rue 'Where no-one seems to notice or get in the way, extension' — formerly rue Ménilmontant — and the whole of rue Oberkampf, which was awaiting just that opportunity to disappear, and finishes at rue 'All these charms Eugénie that nature has showered upon you all these attractions with which she has adorned you must now be sacrificed, extension' — formerly Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire.

It may be picked up again later around an episode of rue 'That which can start anywhere, extension' — formerly rue Racine.

(to be continued . . . )


Best News of the Month

Stockholm, 23 August — A brawl provoked, according to police, by thrill-seekers, broke out yesterday in Stockholm, near Berzelli Park. Almost 3000 people participated in this 'riot for fun.' Several people were injured, including three police. One man severed an artery when he was thrown through a window, and a policeman had his jaw broken. There were thirty two arrests. (Paris-Presse, 24 August 1954)


The silence with which the newspapers have greeted us is greatly compensated for by a kind of regrettable legend spread by Chinese whispers in certain circles.

The stories that reach us from time to time from various parts of the so-called intellectual world are wild accusations raised with the same conviction by the same people every time: the intolerable arbitrariness of a phoney "director of the board" who exercises dictatorial control over the conduct of the lettrists; the use of standover men and pressure by every means; participation in all sorts of smuggling for which the pseudo-ideological movement is merely a front; being in the pay of Moscow or Tel Aviv, thank you very much . . .

As ridiculous as this enterprise might sound, it builds into a sort of 'lettrist cycle' somewhere between Breton novels, Fantomas and the rue Xavier-Privas.

Certain individuals excluded from the Parisian group have devoted their lives and their capacities for mythomania to the invention of these anecdotes, which could discredit us far more easily than the debate over ideas. All this is hardly any more serious than the famous formula (Mauriac's, it seems): 'The lettrists should be killed at birth.'

Another idiot (Pierre Emmanuel) spoke clearly, after the Easter 1950 assault on Notre Dame, of 'bashing the heads of the troublemakers against the steps of the alter.'

The foolishness of a provocation, however, will only be enough for it to be tolerated for so long.

A recent plenary meeting agreed on the necessity of cutting these rumors off at their source with all desirable energy: 'Events should be made to take a turn so serious that it inspires fear in even the most disbelieving' (Report by Jacques Fillon).

A special group has been charged with this undertaking.



To the pope: The papers are in a safe place. The festival can wait.

To the "little French girl": Bring back some of that sweet grass.

To the night at Vauban's: We're making progress. You, cloud, pass overhead.

Waiting for the Churches to Close

In spite of the 1793 calendar which tried to impose a new dating system, the unpleasant word "saint" continues to sully the walls of a great many Paris streets, whose naming it governs.

For several months now, it has been our pleasure to campaign for the elimination of this term, both in correspondence and in our conversations.

Street names are transitory. What will remain of them in future, except perhaps L'Impasse de l'Enfant Jesus (15th Arrondissement), kept as a reminder?

Already the Post Office bows to the will of its public: letters are delivered to boulevard Germain and rue Honore.

We invite all right-thinking people to join in this public health effort.

Psychogeography and Politics

It has come to my attention that China and Spain are one and the same land, and that it is only out of ignorance that they are considered to be separate States.

- Nikolai Gogol

The Sovereign People

The magazines of our 'democracies' furnish widescale consumption of royal families.

Their circulation would suffer greatly in the event of an English republic – they cheered when the television gathered huge crowds of fervent idiots on the footpaths the day of the coronation. And even with the hearty main course that is the Queen of England, the meal of stupification must from time to time come up with a variation: a round of dethroned, exiled or potential Kings, having themselves lauded all over the Mediterranean, from Marseille to Cyprus – via the mountains of Grammos perhaps?

But while tales of Princess Margaret's debauches (very minimal, very minimal. . .) are beginning to bore our gossip-mongers, and evidence is emerging that the public itself has never really had much of an interest in the complexes of the deplorable King Baudouin of Belgium, a royal family – or as good as – has turned up on our doorstep. An individual known as the Count of Paris, returned from abroad thanks to the ill-advised abrogation of the Law of Exile, poses for photographs in all his smug decadence. Fortunately, ugliness doesn't sell: of the eight or nine princesses available for the admiration of their loyal subjects, not one is pretty or even desirable. (A possible exception is the little one of eleven or twelve years; but who knows what she'll turn out like. . .)

All the same, a Count of Paris in the outer suburbs is a wonderful recreation of the golden age of fiefdom, tribute, servitude and the gibbet.

Look at his debonnaire suzerainty, it's so delicately attentive to the several million inhabitants of the same capital that brought the Convention and the Commune to power.

The debris of the condemned classes is gathering together. A whole current of opinion has been created in favor of this intelligent bourgeois king, of this king in Mendès France. . .

We know that wherever reaction has triumphed in the past forty years, it has done so by the détournement or parody of a revolutionary ideology, or by social means.

This constant process reinforces the certainty of seeing this ideology achieve at its real ends.

Ariadne Unemployed

At one sole glance, one can discern both the Cartesian layout of the so-called labyrinth at the Botanical Gardens and the following warning sign:


There could be no more succinct summary of the spirit of this entire civilization. The very one whose collapse we will, in the end, bring about.

An Example to Follow in the Place de la Nation

Extracts from a letter from Bolivia published in Fourth International:

The second anniversary of the 9 April revolution was celebrated in very particular conditions: the masses were determined to advance along the road to revolution, while the government brought to power by these masses had already strayed a reasonable distance along the road to capitulation in the face of imperialism.

At the head of the throng are the miners with the tools of their labor, carrying rifles, small and medium machine guns and sticks of dynamite, firing their arms in the air: rat-a-tat-tat go the machine guns. It is a sign of joy, but also one of combat. . .

Next come the oil workers: trucks fitted out with heavy machine guns, jeeps with clusters of workers, rifle on shoulder, and a heavy machine gun mounted on the hood.

Following them is an endless mass of farmers of extraordinary poverty but incredible spirit. . .

The farmers are not carrying their rifles over their shoulders – as the workers generally do – but ready to fire with their fingers on the trigger...

Editor-in-Chief: M. Dahou, 32 rue de la Montagne-Geneviève, Paris 5.