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European Critique of the Inadequate Program that has Just been Presented to President Kennedy and Governor Rockefeller by the Academic Staff of Universities, Colleges and Research Institutes for New York City and the Cambridge-Boston Area, with the Aim of Overthrowing the Absurd Procedures of "Civil Defense" in the United States

Guy Debord & Asger Jorn

January 1962

WE SHOULD LIKE to point out the absurdity and complete emptiness of the declaration made by you as the "Civil Defense Letter Committee" in The New York Times of Saturday, 30 December 1961 (international edition), unless one considers it only as a pure declaration of personal conscience against the new American defense policy. We regret the fact that there cannot be found a single element of real importance in all your oppositions, and we propose that you join us in a concrete attitude toward our common aim. We therefore suggest that you adopt the positive program of the "European Committee for the Pursuit of Human Expansion," which proposes to create a new cultural Renaissance, a new practical liberty.

For this, it is necessary to subscribe to our three fundamental demands:

1. I promise that I personally shall never, under any circumstances, set foot in an atomic shelter. It is better to die standing with all the cultural heritage of humanity, the perpetual modification of which must remain our task.

2. I refuse to have anything whatsoever to do with the new aristocracy of the caves, and never to drink in the company of an owner or builder of an atomic shelter; for this subterranean aristocracy, even if it manages to survive the disaster, will be of the quality of sewer rats, and could in no case be considered a continuation of the human race.

3. At this point in our current situation, it is not so much the thermonuclear war, but rather the threat of this war, that shows the absolute bankruptcy of all the politicians of the world. The capitalist or bureaucratic leaders of both East and West already make use of their bombs every day, in order to secure power for themselves. Only if one realizes that they have placed themselves beyond the law can one establish a new legality. I therefore pledge myself not to expect the necessary upheavals of society to come from any of the existing formations of specialized politics.

In the first stages, one can demand a neutralization of the defense program of States by their transference into an Armed Force controlled by the United Nations. At the same time, military programs of conquest could be submitted to a world organization such as UNESCO, though [it would be] radically transformed and divested of its dependence on state bureaucracies. This organization would coordinate the development of spatial/interplanetary activities of different groups into a perspective of human solidarity. Only the unification of our military traditions of the whole world toward a spatial expansion can guarantee world peace, the alternative of peace and war being false, because in fact there is no choice. The choice that imposes itself upon modern man is the continuation of imperialist competition of human destruction or the Renaissance of humanity on a spatial scale.

But the new frontier of mankind is not only in Outer Space; it is in the radical transformation of life on this planet. If the nations can come to an agreement to maintain peace by transforming it into spatial expansion, then — on the question of total expansion of mankind — we cannot come to an understanding with the "nations." We are not unconditional partisans of peace: the profound error of American intellectuals is their defense, devoid of imagination, of the actual peace that they wish to preserve. Nobody really likes this peace, which nourishes not only the menace of such a war, but also the total alienation of actual daily life, and the absolute boredom of a society on the road to cybernetization. Peace remains, like this life itself, without importance, and what is important is human expansion: the creation of events that suit us.

We are going to inform you in greater detail in our review MUTANT, which will appear in the spring, of your underdeveloped attitudes, as well as those of the Russians. We hope that many of the subscribers to your manifest will join us in this perspective, which can give a future to your direction.