DEBORD, Guy. Typed letter [to Renaud Burel] (signed “Guy”) dated 20/01/1991. n.p. [Paris], 20 January 1991. 1 p.; 21 x 30 cm.; black ink on white stock.

Typed letter [to Renaud Burel] dated 20 January 1991. This letter, however, was mailed to Francois Escaig.

This letter is a “correction” of an exercise proposed by Guy Debord to Renaud Burel in his letter dated 2 January 1991. He had then written the following: “In the periodical that you gave me the other evening [Mordicus], I identified a paragraph in which several contradictions can be discovered. Since I have said that your logic (with respect to a completely unworthy inheritor) appears a little weak to me, I now propose to you an exercise, which you can do together with your friend: what are the manifestly false points in these six short lines and to which intentions could they correspond?”

While we could not locate Burel’s (and perhaps Escaig’s?) response, we have identified the six lines that Debord was referring to. They are part of an article on the Red Brigades published in the first issue of Mordicus (“Affreux, sales et puissants”, pp. 4-5) in December 1990. It translates as follows: “Many have wondered about the possibility that groups like the R[ed] B[rigades] could have been manipulated. However, inifinitely more powerful than all conspiracies and conspirators, the “manipulation” by society, the economy, and the media trumps the will of the individual. Only an attack against these real powers can threaten those rule the world and render their actions meaningless” (p.5)

The letter by Debord is a line-by-line rebuttal of these six lines. An English translation of that letter can be found here: It is reproduced below for the reader’s benefit:

Several inconsistencies

No one was ever interrogated about the manipulations of the R[ed] B[rigades]. Three or four individuals established the fact with certainty and the others swallowed it all. In those six lines,one must especially see that “individual will” designates both the provocateur and individual critique.

What does “the attack against the real powers” mean? Did not the RB want [to make] such an attack? Perhaps they did “disquiet the masters of the world,” but to arrive at “rendering their maneuvers derisory” it would be necessary to also vanquish them (the intentions, even the true ones, cannot be taken as identical with the results). Is not critique a real attack, too? It is at least a real protection from attack. Does one want to pretend that “individual” critique is necessarily unreal and in sum harmful to real struggles, which must go to the fore with confidence? Police manipulation is only a particular possible case of general manipulation, quite certainly. And the manipulation of the workers by their union leaders was only another particular case in its time.

An “attack against the real powers” (meaning Mordicus?) is necessarily made from an assemblage of individual wills. But must they only think about the great (powerful) forces of society, forces that “escape” them? But would there not also be particular forces whose action could escape them even better?

One cannot know if the intention of this specialist of “the attack against the real forces” is here to justify the gullibility of the past or to cover adventurous errors to come.