Preface to “Remedy to Everything”
Gianfranco Sanguinetti [August 1978]
English translation. Preface to the First Italian Edition. Not Bored!, New York “Victory will be for those who will have been able
to create disorder without loving it.”
GUY DEBORD, [Theses on the Cultural Revolution],
Internationale Situationniste no. 1, [June] 1958
INTELLIGENCE is perhaps the best-shared thing in our country: everybody believes themselves to be so well provided with it that the very people who are usually the hardest to please in other matters (our leaders, for example), are not accustomed to wish for more than they already have. And since it is not likely that everyone is deceived in this matter, it must then be asked how, and by what necessity, or by what mysterious interests, this intelligence possessed by so many people is so little in evidence in our country — so little in evidence among those who, either because they are in power or else because they seek to be in power, continually tell us that if they are incapable, it is our fault, and that if Italy goes to ruin, it is not their fault.
The fact is that this country, which proclaims itself free and democratic, is in reality directed by a few hundred heroic imbeciles who fear more the consequences of intelligence in others than the consequences of their own stupidity, and who, moreover, put the brake on the former by all possible means so as to give free rein to the latter. Moreover, these imbeciles’ stupidity does not even run the risk of being publicly sanctioned in our sporadic electoral fairgrounds, although they make ample use of their stupidity daily and according to their own sweet will. In such a social and political organization, which these gentlemen have so opportunely shaped in their own image, it seems to me quite normal that any voice that stands outside the dominant mediocrity, and that will not compromise in any way with it, should naturally be reduced to silence with the aid of quasi-automatic mechanisms, which perhaps remain the only things still relatively efficient amidst the general inefficiency.
For my part, I have never claimed to be more perfect than anyone else: on the contrary, I have often wished that I had the prompt and keen intelligence and imagination possessed by others. I have only had the chance to set myself, from my earliest years, on a road along which I have encountered some of the best minds that this era has produced, in spite of itself; and I am not afraid to admit that this state of affairs has allowed me to harm this world, that is to say, to harm its owners — not as much as I have wished, but certainly much more than my own modest forces, if employed in isolation, would have permitted.
I naturally do not exaggerate these first results, since I do not content myself with them, just as I know that nobody could be sufficiently unjust to attribute to just one person, or to a few persons, the failings or the merits of the efforts to throw our class society into a war, one in which the multicolored forces of conservatism henceforth are on the defensive and in an ever-more precarious situation. Numerous young proletarians, despite the fact that they might not be known by their surnames or forenames — as well as favorable historical circumstances — have been the principle protagonists.
Furthermore, I can confirm, without being contradicted, that these last ten years of class struggle have already permitted us to reap some rewards, and have so clearly revealed the abjection and incapability of our enemies (bourgeois and Stalinist) that we can consider with extreme satisfaction the recent progress in the subversion of the entire dominant social order. Consequently, we might be permitted to await such positive developments in the future as the following one: the development, amidst the various occupations of mankind, of the one that coincides with that which I have chosen for myself in a time less propitious for certain choices than the present.
To work against this world, to obtain tangible results — that is to say, to not content oneself with the ideological compensation so much liked by the impotent “opposition” — is a long and exacting task, one that contains some drawbacks. But to work for this world is not much easier, and, whether objectively or subjectively, becomes more and more often almost impossible; and here I am not only thinking of the new selective unemployment into which our bankrupt capitalist system has thrown an entire generation of young proletarians (thus testifying to an imprudence and lack of foresight of which capitalism has not yet measured all the consequences). In reality, the question isn’t limited to Italy’s border, nor to the crass errors of our politicians and economists. All of the “very serious problems of our time” actually derive from one simple fact: that for one and all it is time to resolve all of the problems, and to resolve them directly, by oneself, as well as collectively.
What is demonstrated by the terror that this raw prospect provokes in all the bosses of alienation and their political and trade-union flunkies is the fact that the resolution of all problems is effectively possible, hereafter necessary, and urgent. No special demonstration of these facts are required, for our class society, which was already essentially uninhabitable, has now become visibly so. Anyone who cannot understand this has no hope of understanding the rest.
The politicians, economists, psychologists, sociologists, semiologists, intellectuals, specialists in public opinion and all the other imbeciles who whore around with power, unceasingly evoke these “very serious problems” without actually naming them. Those who drool and jump for joy every time their boss asks them to take in the smell of a new phenomenon by which the same crisis manifests itself — those who have such affection for definitions and etiquettes — now find a thousand pretexts for never mentioning what their sciences cannot resolve, the problems that they do not wish to see resolved by anybody else. In reality, their respective occupations henceforth consist in the main of showing that they themselves are necessary to their employers, and this is in fact their primary occupation in a period such as this one, in which the proletariat thinks that neither the imbecilic specialists nor their bosses are necessary. If such a phenomenon may seem strange, it certainly cannot be said that this phenomenon determines the true novelty of our epoch, for it is merely a consequence of it, and not even the most interesting one. If there is anything surprising in the phenomenon of general rout, it is only the lavish prestige that these specialists continue to enjoy among those who employ them, hoping for heaven-knows-what. In this, as in all the rest, they confirm the old saying: Like master, like servant.
Amidst the decomposition of the old world, false consciousness — which still reigns but no longer governs — has the nerve to take to task a whole generation of young proletarians, who have re-launched the offensive against the society of the spectacle, for not being able to resolve all the questions at the origin of both their revolt and the crisis in which all the appointed powers are floundering. The real situation is very different: what the young proletarians are in fact being taken to task for is posing questions that power cannot resolve, for it is power itself that is being questioned.
And these famous “serious problems,” which have been silenced or falsified by the enslaved thinkers — precisely what are they? Societies divided into classes, work, property, the very conditions in which one is forced to survive and produce, and to produce and consume the lies of bourgeois “democracy” and “freedom” and the bureaucratic lies about “communism” and “equality” — in a phrase, the society of the spectacle as a whole — stops functioning from the very moment that its reality is universally debated and is attacked by refusals that are not momentary or partial, but permanent and total.
All proletarians have been able to testify, at their own expense, that working for this world simply means exchanging one’s life and time for a miserable wage that nevertheless guarantees both survival and its perpetual precariousness. And it is precisely wage labor that is today questioned and finally refused in a thousand different ways and on a thousand different occasions. The Italian worker, still more of a dialectician than his or her boss when it comes to these matters, today is rediscovering a truth that old Hegel had candidly expressed, without really pondering the consequences or foreseeing the outcome: “To work means to destroy the world or to curse it.”
Up until now, workers have been restricted to cursing this world; now it is a matter of destroying it.
“Never work!” was inscribed on the walls of Paris ten years ago, during the May revolution; and in February these same watch-words reappeared on the walls of Rome, greatly enhanced by the simple fact of having been translated into Polish by the workers of Stettin, Gdansk, Ursus and Radom in 1970 and 1976, and into Portuguese by the workers of Lisbon in 1974.
The supersession of the economy is everywhere the order of the day, and proletarians, in refusing work, are demonstrating that they know very well that work is chiefly a pretext for keeping them continually under control by compelling them to perpetually occupy themselves with things other than their real interests. “The conservative slogan ‘A fair pay for a fair day’s work’ should be replaced with the revolutionary counter-slogan ‘Abolish wage labor!’ ” (Marx). Furthermore, even Lord Keynes had to admit, in his famous A Treatise on Money, that “for those with an eye to the future, the economic problem is not the permanent problem of the human species” and in this he has proved himself to be less obtuse than his contemporary epigones and fervent out-of-season zealots. The fundamental fact is not so much that, today, the material means for the construction of a free life in a classless society exist, but that “the blind under-employment of these means by class society can neither be interrupted nor go any further. Never before in the history of the world has such a conjunction existed” (Debord, Theses on the Situationist International and Its Time).
I know several workers who preoccupy themselves with political economy far more seriously than the wretched economist Franco Modigliani, and far more effectively than the inept Stalinist reactionary Giorgio Napolitano, but in the opposite perspective, that of the destruction of political economy. These workers put their theoretical discoveries into practice and their critique of the economic system supersedes and invalidates the unjustly famous critique that the economist Piero Sraffa thought he had made. And, inversely, these workers are beginning to theorize the first practical results of their direct experience with the fragility of the economy. They read Paul Lafargue’s pamphlet The Right to be Lazy, which — although it was written at the end of the last century and is thus ignored by our ignorant economists — assuredly remains the most important and most modern work of pure critique of political economy to have appeared since Marx’s time. Lafargue [who was related to Marx] foresees well in advance, and with great lucidity, the reasons that were to lead capitalism into modern consumerism, as well as the salient characteristics of what he calls the “era of falsification,” which has not yet ended. Lafargue points out the irremediable contradictions of this era, which are summarized and resolved by the refusal of work and the supersession of the economy.
Workers have finally been compelled to realize that the colors with which the dominant spectacle adorns itself in order to camouflage its monstrous features, are the same colors produced by the cancer factory at Cirie, a factory that, as everyone knows, was destroying the lives of workers with the same regularity that it was producing dyes. This factory can rightly be singled out as the admirable quintessence of all the others, the only difference being that the destructive cycle of the dye-factory’s productive forces was faster and more radical than in enterprises elsewhere. But all factories bear a close resemblance to the cancer factory.
Capitalism must reign or disappear, as was said of Louis XIV. But in order to reign, it must henceforth be able to constantly foresee the exact way to maintain, and constantly seek to avoid the rupturing of, the unstable equilibrium that exists between everything that it must impose and inflict on everybody — such as renunciations, sacrifices, restraints, boredom and nuisances — and the limits of what people can subjectively and objectively tolerate. Today, the very development of capitalism is such that, while people’s tolerance threshold tends to fall (as much for historical as for purely biological reasons), the quantity of everything that this type of society must impose on us (for its own particular necessities of survival) tends, on the contrary, to increase without limits and without discernment — that is to say, by its own movement, which is absolutely autonomous and independent of people’s real needs and even of the most primordial and irreducible exigencies of survival. The society of the spectacle-commodity — this immense immobile motor — must henceforth compel everyone to move in order to sustain it and defend its very anti-historical immobility. However, the Herculean Pillars of Alienation — the boundary that none should ever cross — are no longer far away, no longer at the far end of the world and human knowledge, but are now near to everyone, no matter where they are. And everyone should be capable of going beyond the Pillars, if one does not wish to negare l’esperienza di retro al sol, del mondo sanza gente [deny the experience, from behind the sun, of the world without people] — that is to say, the experience of the negative at work, which is already the practical negation of all the limits arbitrarily imposed on the majority of humanity, on the proletariat compelled to live in degradation, without ever giving any reality whatsoever to the proletariat’s talents, mutilated capacities or unrecognized desires.
Descartes used to say that “my third maxim is always to seek . . . to change my desires, rather than change the order of the world.” Now that times have changed, changing along with them people and their desires and aspirations, all certainty and all scruples must be abandoned. Our first maxim will thus be the reversal of the philosopher’s, namely, to always seek to change the order of the world, rather than change our desires. And the proletariat must this time seek not to fail, but to win — for only a violent desire for victory can ensure the victory of the proletariat’s most authentic (and also the least admitted) desires.
The entire industrial developed world hereafter presents itself as a never-ending sinister suburb in which Cirie, Seveso and their outskirts are simultaneously the anti-historical center and the image of its becoming so that this world can remain for a little while longer under the direction of those who declare themselves to be the politically and economically “accountable ones.” And modern spectacular capitalism can already contemplate its image — as if in a magic mirror that reveals the near future — in the (usually censored) pictures of the monstrous children born in Seveso.
Our bourgeois philanthropists may regret that this is so, but soon they will regret even more that it may not be so, because the quality of everything that this society imposes and inflicts upon us has already exceeded the threshold beyond which the painfully-maintained “equilibrium” is broken violently, and can only be re-established by further violence, but always more provisionally.
In such conditions, in which the development of class society in all its bourgeois and bureaucratic variants is in opposition to, not only the interests of the majority, but also the most simple and elementary conditions for biological survival of the species and individuals, as well as people’s very will to live. The proletariat cannot delay, not to mention, avoid a social war that has already begun. It will not be a matter of expending of all one’s forces in a multitude of little skirmishes, endlessly renewed and endlessly doomed to fail, skirmishes in the name of “the defense” of one doesn’t quite know what — “for wages, for work, for the country,” as the trade-unions and Stalinist scum bark. It will be a matter for workers to counter-attack by passing from the defensive to the offensive, and to win through-out the entire theatre of war, which is wide-world, as is the current crisis of power. For what is at stake today is nothing other than the destiny of the world. However, it is not at all in the name of some old, imagined, more or less “inevitable” and prophesied “historic mission” that the proletariat is called upon to become the class of historical consciousness, but because it is only from this fundamentally superior position that the proletariat can attack and successfully combat all the forces of unconsciousness, all of which are (the only things) represented “democratically” in present-day capitalism. These forces of unconsciousness nowadays manifest themselves in their failure, disasters and infamies.
Since its origins, capitalism has been fighting against every retrograde form of power and social organization that is opposed to its expansion, and has been doing so for a long time. Capitalism imposed itself and emerged victorious from the wars it waged because its activity (development and conquest) corresponded to historically determined necessities and possibilities, of which none of its ideologues were ever truly conscious, just as today none of the ideologues are conscious of the fact that the task of capitalism is historically finished. Now that it has conquered the world, become worn out by its very success, and become managed in a deranged way by the dull-witted heirs of past conquerors, capitalism must again confront no less than that which permitted it to attain such power: the proletariat. Social peace — which capitalism had so long enjoyed since the failure of the social revolution in Russia and the rest of Europe — had almost made it forget the existence of its old enemy (and this at a time when there is no doubt that capitalism has completely lost the combativeness it had in years past). And all of capitalism’s efforts hereafter will be geared toward preventing a social war for which it is not prepared and which it already despairs that it will lose, despite the fact that the presuppositions for this defeat have been created by its development (much praised until a short while ago).
The proletariat, by contrast, has always found itself at the center of a daily and permanent conflict that is sometimes overt, most often muffled and always violent, and that has lasted for a century and a half. Now the class that has continually been at war against the conditions of its own suppression must necessary perish or take the upper hand with respect to all the other classes, which are sometimes at war, sometimes at peace, but never so ready to attack or defend themselves as they are today. On the other hand, the very nature of this war requires that the propertied classes never destroy (that is to say, abolish) their enemy; otherwise they would abolish the very conditions of their own supremacy. The propertied classes need the proletariat, while the proletariat does not need them. This is the essential feature of the question. . . .
As if all this was insufficient, it must be noted that the logic of this conflict also contains the fact that, while the propertied classes are compelled to consider each of their victories as provisional and each truce with the proletariat as uncertain, the proletariat is for its part obliged by its conditions not to ever accept any peace if it is not the peace of the victor. It is precisely this fact that today impels proletarians to increase still further their immense demands in proportion to — and in spite of — their past defeats, which were also provisional. And so the workers of the entire world are continually plunging into the deepest despair and are, with an ever-quickening rhythm, being attacked by the forces that have narrowly eluded defeat. It is precisely in this way that proletarians are imposing on themselves the superior necessity of winning not a particular battle but the whole war.
Marx said that men only set themselves problems that they can solve; and I may add that today we have reached precisely the point at which it is no longer possible to solve any one of them without solving them all. That is why this pamphlet is entitled Remedy to Everything.
Our strength lies precisely in the facts that we have in front of us all the problems, and it is both necessary and possible that we solve them all. In contrast, the weakness of our (bureaucratic and bourgeois) enemies consists in the facts that they, too, have all the problems facing them, but that they experience the imperative necessity of not solving them all. In other words, they are in a position from which they are not really able to remedy any problem. This is precisely what the position of our enemies is today: they do not have the strength to solve any problem. They are not able any longer to even prevent others from solving these problems; nor can our enemies co-exist any more with all these problems. So we should not be surprised at the dismay and confusion that reigns hereafter in the ranks of our enemies.
Until ten years ago, it seemed impossible to a great number of people that anything could be changed; now it seems impossible to everybody that anything can continue as it was before. Two lustra have not gone by since the resigned thinkers of the impotent Left pompously decreed that this world had attained its definitive order and that there was no other “choice” than between the Russian, Chinese and Cuban lies that indolently nourished these thinkers’ dishonest controversies. The deluded [Herbert] Marcuse still claimed to prove the disappearance of the proletariat, which was supposed to have joyfully dissolved into the bourgeoisie, and [Henri] Lefebvre was already prattling about “the end of history.” In confessing so clumsily that the reality of that time was all that they had dreamed about, these two were simply mistaking their poor dreams for reality. But, from 1968 onwards, they have had to take their lumps for their stupidity: Marcuse resigned himself to keeping silent, while Lefebvre resigned himself to returning to speaking on behalf of the French Stalinists.
Now that the time of disorders is beginning to disturb again the sleep of ruling classes everywhere, these pathetic ideologues (badly in need of ideas) have lost even their respective publics — but they have also found undreamed of employment as defense lawyers for the old world. In Italy, where the crisis of power is greater than elsewhere, the ideologues have lost their retainers as a result. With each step forward that subversion takes, the ideologues hastily don again the toga of the elders of the Fatherland and begin rewinding their cuckoo-clock mechanisms so that they can — with the same affected and complacent conviction of priests in a church without faithful believers, because faith is lacking in the miracle they promise (history, enchanted, will stop when faced with their magic formulae) — bludgeon us unceasingly with the same old banalities about the defense of the republican order and the same old customary trivialities about democratic institutions.
Every time they display themselves on television or on the front-page of the newspapers, the ideologues impudently invite us to appreciate the delights of this “democracy,” which was born — goddamn it! — of the Resistance, just as they themselves were born from the estimable wombs of their mothers. These ideologues — all the Valianis, Amendolas, Asor Rosas, Moravias, Bobbios, Boccas et al. — do not want to understand that the violent and contradictory outbursts that feed the chronicles of the press only prove that their epoch is finished and that a new world is being born. These old caryatids, who hope to protect the desanctified temple (crumbling under the pressure of lies and abuses) for a little while longer! These extremists of consensus and fanatics of legality do not know that their laws do not command the future and that, before judging the new men, they should judge the old laws! The “democracy” and “freedom” in which these gentlemen revel and with which they wear out our ears and our patience: they are like colors for people who are blind from birth. The proof is simple. If they only knew the true sense of these words, the ideologues would not use them with such casualness when they speak about our miserable Republic. But when true democracy imposes itself — that is to say, when all powers of decision and execution will belong to the revolutionary workers’ councils, in which each delegate is revocable at any time by the base — then we shall see that the ideologue who today speak of “democracy” without rhyme or reason will fight against it or, more probably, will flee from it. Faced with the pre-emptory and insolent appeals that are bestowed upon us these days, young proletarians are forced to conclude that, if these venerated mystifiers are in such strong solidarity with the brave defense of all current falsehoods and abuses, then it is not at all by chance: the ideologues are well remunerated. How many millions does the honest Leo Valiani receive each month or each week for writing what he does? And what would he write about, if he had the life and wages of a worker? And Bocca? What about him? And the others?
Lichtenberg used to say that he did not know anyone in the world who, having transformed himself into a scoundrel for a thousand dollars, would not have remained an honest man for half of that amount.
Get thee gone, gross masquerade and charlatans of incurable evils! You fear too many things to be feared and respect too many things to be respected! You judge everything incorrectly, while people are beginning to judge you correctly! Haven’t you noticed that half the country laughs at you and the other half simply ignores you? Know, at least, that in view of the tragic-comic farce that constitutes your very existence, the court martial of our critique is going to celebrate its Saturnalia! And let no one reproach me for having to resort to invective. Ever since Dante, all those who have regarded powerful men and their servants with disabused eyes have always been compelled to resort to invectives. For it is not enough to judge the actions and discourses of men; one must also judge men from their discourses and from their actions.
Up until now, the entire country has remained the mere spectator of its ministers and of all those who deceive it and speak to it in its very name. However, it is now time for the country to begin to judge them, to, as it were, render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s — twenty-three blows of the dagger.
In epochs in which intelligence reigns, one can judge people from the use they make of intelligence. In centuries of decadence, which may include many intelligent people, people must be judged according to their interests and their merit. In those periods, such as ours, in which people of extreme mediocrity are the ones who confront the period’s major problems, one must consider the conditions in which people live, the pretensions of those who are in power, their fears and particular interests — and make from this mixture the measuring-rod of our judgment. If we watch the edifying spectacle that is offered daily by all the defense lawyers for the old world, who take the floor with ardor and haste in order to ejaculate their pleadings (either one at a time, or all-at-once), we notice that these defense lawyers are afraid that the last time ’round might have been their last, and that they all confusedly feel (not without reason) that the tribunal of history is about to execute a sentence that has been delayed for far too long. If these mercenary defenders of all abuses sometimes appear bold in the course of their vain orations, it is simply because fear, when it has exceeded a certain limit, blurs the boundaries between courage and cowardice and makes them produce similar effects for a few moments.
If the politicians and intellectuals became so agitated about the word “courage,” it was mainly to ask each other what is it exactly? If, after such an outcry, they were unable to give themselves an adequate answer, one doesn’t have to look very far for the reason. As a general rule, people always speak most about that which they lack most; this is especially the case in situations in which the lack is severe. So where a poor person might speak about money, Franco Rodano speaks about courage. Lama, Moravia, Arpino, Calvino, Vasco Pratolini, Elio Petri and a hundred others — each trying to out-do the others — have discussed it. Even the vile Antonello Trombadori has held forth on the subject, and, on at least one occasion, has recklessly spoken of rope in the hanged man’s house. Nearly all of these cowardly blow-hards have spoken of “courage” simply to accuse Montale and Sciascia of cowardice — simply because they had the minimal courage to express publicly the disinterest in and disgust with the Italian State, which the Stalinist Amendola is afraid will collapse before he has had a chance to share it with the Christian Democrats.
All of this shows that one could say about courage what Marx used to say about consciousness: it is surely not people’s consciousness that determines their social condition, but, on the contrary, their social condition that determines their courage and their cowardice. To become sufficiently instructed about our leaders’ supposed “courage,” it is enough to remember that, in this class society, the temporariness and fragility of the social position occupied by the usurpers is as insecure as ours. For the rest, it goes without saying that nobody is asking them to be courageous.
Cowardice has existed in all times, even if not all times have had the chance to witness cowardice in power. In our time, cowardice would like to be in the majority, but it already is the majority of the government. Cowardice has its heroes and publicly bestows upon itself the very dignities and honors that had in other times been reserved for courage. The entire political-intellectual controversy about “courage” has only and perfectly brought to light the great cowardice of all those who participated in the controversy, for if one cannot give oneself courage, one cannot rid oneself of cowardice, nor even hide it. I have never known a coward who had the simple courage to recognize himself, even if it was only to hide himself better.
These recurring soft and boring “polemics,” which constitute the main pastime of all the eunuchs of power (the intellectuals), make manifest the incurable weakness of the participants in them. The arms of their “critique” have no cutting edge, because they are (as Camoens would say) “coveted by the rust of the peace” that they have for too long enjoyed. It is well-known that weakness is precisely the only defect that cannot be corrected, precisely because its effects are unforeseeable and even more prodigious than the effects caused by those with the keenest passions.
The archaism of the institutions that these courageous gentlemen wish to defend (if only to avoid the misfortune of having to defend themselves on their own) — these archaic institutions, which they do not even know how to work any more — doesn’t serve to make these cowards venerable or better respected. Quite the opposite: they discredit themselves daily; they age even more quickly than their coryphaei. And as the decadence of these ideologues becomes all the more obvious, and as their ability to do harm decreases, they inspire a scorn that is all the more universal. The political world has thus fallen into a disastrous imbecility, and this at the very time when society as a whole has become more intelligent. Perhaps ironically, the intelligence of society as a whole and the imbecility of the political class do an equal amount of harm to power, which finds itself constantly attacked from the outside and undermined from within.
The imminence of social war has already set into motion all individuals and all classes in society, because the social war, in bringing the interests of all into play, confers an interest in it upon everyone, and calls upon each and all to chose a side. On one side: all those (the capitalists and the bureaucrats of the so-called Communist Party) who today fear a war that they can no longer succeed in preventing. And on the other side: all those who have no power over their own lives, and know it.
In the following chapters, I shall be writing against the existing order of things, but I shall do so in relative disorder. It would be bestowing too much honor on my subject to treat it in an orderly fashion, because I wish to show that it is incapable of any. Saint-Just said, “The present order is disorder made into law.” And before ending this preface, it is doubtless scarcely necessary to say that Remedy to Everything neither seeks to be, nor can be, a remedy for everyone. It proposes, in fact, to be injurious to many, and it hopes to be useful to an even greater number. The usefulness of such a pamphlet will thus be measurable beginning with the damage it is likely to cause, directly or indirectly, immediately or in a little while, to the proprietors of alienation. All that is harmful is, thus, not necessarily useless; but all that is useless is always harmful. I hope I am being clear. But if someone were to persist in not understanding, I would be less concerned about this than he himself should be. It has been said that this period can no longer be insensitive to anything it produces; and, if it produces certain books, this indicates that it has also produced people who are able to read them.
Both the owners and the salaried critics of this world will be exasperated and vexed when they note that only their indomitable enemies have the ability to really understand this book. The ruling class will see, with justifiable anxiety, that its true problems have been exposed and precisely by those who work consciously toward the subversion of class society. Our ministers and our politicians will be disturbed, not without reason, by having to read our writings if they wish to contemplate themselves as they really are, and by contemplating themselves in the perspective of the destruction of all their power. The heads of the bourgeoisie’s secret services, appointed in the last ten years or so to commit provocations, assassinations and State terrorism, will be understandably by infuriated at seeing their maneuvers unmasked by the very people against whom these political crimes were conceived — even the death of Moro will finally appear in its true and sinister light. The decomposing upper classes are certainly not going to forgive me either for this particular pamphlet or for the rest. Some of them — like Indro Montanelli, the right-wing editor and journalist, who two years ago already had the pleasure of doing so — will wish to accuse me of being a traitor to my class, since I have turned all of my inherited weapons back against the above-mentioned upper class, from which I came. Indeed, I am honored at being accused of such a thing, as there is no humiliation or anything else, for that matter, that this bourgeoisie has not amply deserved. The working class, which has been betrayed the most often by its pretended representatives, will have some reason to congratulate itself in taking into account that, una tantum, the opposing class is afflicted by the same fate as it is.
Remedy to Everything will thus be a settling of accounts with all the malavita that the ruling class imposes “democratically” on the ruled class, and it will be a settling of accounts with those particular personages who have, until now, abused the patience of the exploited class (or, rather, the silence to which it has been reduced) with impunity. As in hell, here, too, shall be found different ditches, into which the damned — bourgeois and Stalinist, professional liars and trade-union bureaucrats, politicians and intellectuals — have been thrown. At the end, I would like to be able to say to the reader, following Dante: “You can henceforth judge these people/whom I have accused above, and their faults,/which are the cause of all your misfortunes.”
Preface to the French Edition
of “On Terrorism and the State”
Gianfranco Sanguinetti, January 1980
English translation. Preface to the French Edition. Not Bored!, New York
IF MANY BOOKS have appeared on terrorism in Italy, few are as closely read as this one, and none has been so ignored by the press. Published at the end of April 1979, and gradually distributed in a small number of bookshops, Del Terrorismo e dello Stato was out of print by the end of the summer, and has not been republished until now in Italy because of some difficulties that a stupid and vulgar judicial-police prosecution created for me, which I shall come back to. It is more interesting to ask oneself, firstly, the reason for this near-silence that has surrounded a book that deals with a subject that is mentioned daily, but always in the same lying manner, on the front pages of the Italian newspapers as well as on the radio and State television. These media have indeed spoken about my book in an ad hoc feature that preceded the news, but, as was reported to me by several people, only in order to make it said, in turn, by a heteroclite heap of experts on terrorism summoned for the occasion, that the theses of this book “are not convincing.” The most curious thing is that neither the television nor the newspapers that spoke about this book have ever dared to evoke those famous “theses” on Italian terrorism, which they are, nevertheless, quick to qualify as “not convincing.” Were they afraid, on they contrary, that these theses might be convincing, to silence them with such zeal? Were the media and the “experts” afraid that my arguments might be considered to be more persuasive than their clumsy fantasies about terrorism, since all these people have made it their duty not to mention them? Why so many precautions? What the devil is there written in this book that is so scandalous that it must be kept secret by those very people who have believed themselves to be under the obligation to speak about terrorism? So, does On Terrorism and the State contain State secrets?
Indeed it does: this book contains State secrets. The fact that it is the State’s own secret services that organize and pull the strings of terrorism — is this not, then, the main secret of the Italian State? And it is precisely this fact that is broadly substantiated in On Terrorism and the State.
What really is not convincing is not my arguments, but the contradictory behavior of the State and its faithful servants, in respect to my book: on the one hand, they speak about it in order to say nothing about it, if only to have Italians think that what I have to say “is not convincing”; on the other hand, a few days after the televised “account,” the political police and a judge known for the unfortunate zeal with which he tries to make believable all the official lies on terrorism, initiated a complex and obscure judicial-police prosecution of me. So am I to think that I have committed the crime of not having been “convincing”? If our Legal Code were to make provisions for such an offense, there wouldn’t be enough prisons in Europe to contain our politicians, journalists, judges, policemen, trade-union leaders, industrialists and priests. No: it is not about being unconvincing, nor I am accused of being so, but rather it is about the fact that I have been too convincing in accusing the State of these crimes, and that this same State has now attempted to take revenge — but, as one will see, with the embarrassed awkwardness befitting those who are guilty and wish to pose as innocent. The men who govern this State are, as one knows, the same as at the time of the massacre at the Piazza Fontana [in 1969], and, in order not to be placed in the position of being accused, they are, as it were, continually obliged to accuse other men of their own and other crimes as well — as if these men wished to give a supplementary practical confirmation to Madame de Staël’s theory, according to which “the life of any [political] party that has committed a political crime is always linked to this crime, either in justifying it or in making it forgotten by dint of power.”
A series of disparate accusations, so grossly abusive and arbitrary that they collapsed one after the other — practically without my attorneys having to intervene — thus followed upon each other for six months and, according to the whims of the one who dreamed them up, they ranged from the offense of smuggling to that of terrorism, naturally including the possession of arms and subversive association.
Of all these accusations, which could get me twenty to thirty years in prison if the letter of the law was kept to, or could, on the contrary, cover with ridicule those who brought these accusations against me, there are two that, if really kept to and in a certain manner, could have some basis in reality, whilst the others are completely false and absurd.
I have indeed been a smuggler; I am proud of it. Haven’t I, starting in 1967, smuggled into Italy from France the driving ideas of modern revolution: the ideas of the Situationist International? And I also admit that the conditions in which the Italian State has found itself since then is ample proof that this smuggling of the French disease has not been to its advantage: the contagion has been more rapid and far-reaching here than elsewhere, and the illness here is fatal from now on. Unfortunately for my prosecutors, according to our Code — as well as according to the Treaty of Helsinki — the smuggling of ideas is not punishable, and it is well-known that, when the Italian State deals with ideas, it is certainly not in order to clear them through customs. The accusation of smuggling thus miserably collapsed, even if it sought in desperation to camouflage itself behind pretexts of common law.
As for the accusation of subversive association, although I do not know what is precisely meant by subversive association according to the old fascist legal code still in use, I acknowledge that this also could have some foundation, since I belonged — openly and not clandestinely — to the Situationist International up until its dissolution in the far-off year of 1972. I find merely laughable this inquisito post mortem against the SI: on this account, a judge more concerned with equity should also start an inquest against Marx’s Communist League and the International Workingmen’s Association, and put out a warrant for the arrest of the descendants of all those who sheltered Bakunin during his stay in Italy.
The accusation of possessing arms rests upon absolutely nothing, and it certainly has no more foundation for having been brought several times, each time unsuccessfully, against me. Contrary to what President Pertini may babble, the civil war has not yet begun — the proof of this is that he is still President of this thing that resembles a Republic — and thus it is useless for me to possess arms. In any case, he who accuses me of possessing arms should first of all find them, or, at the very least, plant them in my home; up until now, neither of these things have happened.
But where arbitrariness is heaped upon the most dumb-witted arrogance is when this same public prosecutor claims that “from the contents of the documents of the Red Brigades, close links exist between the ideology of this group and that of the Situationist International, of which the said Sanguinetti is the representative.” Despite the fact that the Italian section of the Situationist International did not exist after 1970, and that I could not thus have been its “representative” — and despite the fact, ignored only by the ignorant, that the SI never had an ideology, because it fought against all ideologies, including the ideology of armed struggle — two more things must still be noted. First of all that it would be less unproductive if the judges were to instruct themselves before making such accusations, and secondly that it is much easier to make “close links” between the police-ideology of the above-mentioned prosecutor and that of the Red Brigades (RBs), than between the ideology of the RBs and Situationist theory. And nothing in the world is more radically opposed to what I have written on the subject of the RBs than what the RBs tell us about themselves, with the support of the entire bourgeois and bureaucratic press. Finally, I note, so as not to dwell upon a too facile argumentation, that it is easy in Italy to procure for oneself the publications of the SI, and that there many people who know these publications, contrary to what this or that imprisoned Autonome may say; and anyone can ascertain that in no case do there “exist close links” between these writings and the documents of the ghostly RBs, as the impertinent prosecutor nevertheless claims.
In a parallel manner — and at the same time that the authorities were carrying out their clumsy persecution, greatly reinforced by blows below the belt, but which had the merit of being public and official, as incriminations, searches and phone-tapping are — some obscure and vile characters, easily identifiable from their police behavior, and with less scruples but without more success than the police, operated in the shadows in attempts to provoke or intimidate me. Not being an intellectual, nor having to live from what I write, I have thus never claimed to receive any better public recognition than this for what I myself publish at my own risk and peril, and in a time and a country in which none dares run the risk of telling people what is not desired that they should hear — namely, the plain truth about terrorism and the rest.
For the benefit of the foreign reader, and to give Italy the publicity it deserves, I shall add further that some foreign travelers were arrested at the border by the Italian police, and forcibly driven back to a large town and there interrogated for a long while, for the sole reason that they had in their possession a copy of this book; that the Italian judiciary had likewise opened an inquest against those who had distributed copies of it; and that DIGOS [Direzione per le investigazioni generali e per le operazioni speciali] without even a confiscation order, arbitrarily seized the few copies it could find.
Hereafter no doubt remains if ever there was any: I have told the truth. And, by the evil that is wished upon me, I understand that my work is good; I surely would not have aroused such hatred if nobody had listened to me. In fact, of the many people who have read what I have written (people who are of different ages, conditions and opinions), many have approved, few have doubted and not one has refuted me.
Since the first edition of this book, many events have succeeded each other, which not only do not necessitate the slightest modification, but even confirm, as much in the whole as in detail, all the arguments and conclusions contained it in. We have witnessed the elimination of Alessandrini, a magistrate who had become cumbersome, first, for having taken apart the faked trial of the alleged perpetrators of the Piazza Fontana bombing, and, second, for questioning an ex-head of the SID [Defense Intelligence Service] about false testimony he — as well as other high officials, Andreotti and Rumor, among them — had given during the same trial. (This second action was taken just a few hours before Alessandrini was killed, officially by subversives.) Then we saw a disciple of Aldo Moro, the Honorable Mattarella, President of the Sicilian region of the country, meeting the same fate as his master and for the same reason on the eve of the formation of the first regional government of compromise between Christian Democracy and the Italian Communist Party [CPI]. Similarly we have seen, and on various occasions, several policemen getting themselves bumped off in order to get passed, in the heat of the moment and without opposition, the lois scélérates [villainous laws] that supersede and invalidate the still-too-tolerant fascist laws, as well as the republican constitution. But the most important of all the novelties that have occurred in the last year is surely this one: the CPI, seeing its prospect of an active and immediate participation in power vanish with the death of Moro, adopted a position of retreat, from which it participated actively in the spectacle of terrorism and its spectacular repression. This is clearly the principal novelty that has occurred since the publication of the first edition of this book, and it deserves a few words — because it shows, once again, that not only do the Stalinists know perfectly well that it is power that directs terrorism, but also that they know that he or she who seeks power today in Italy must also know how to direct terrorism, a fact that is so true that even a Socialist minister declared it recently in an interview. “In Italy,” he said, “it is with terrorism that one conducts politics.”
Until 7 April 1979, the CPI contended itself with hurling stupid, ritualized appeals against terrorism — appeals that accepted as true all of the official versions of the outrages and thereby proved the CPI’s good will toward Christian Democracy and its function as everybody’s bad conscience. But since that fateful day, the Stalinists — through the intermediary of their own magistrates — have begun to put to profitable use their vast and rich expertise, honed for nearly half a century, in the discovery of supposedly guilty persons, in the staging of fake trials, and in the production of false witnesses and pre-fabricated evidence.
So the CPI’s double aim was to display its merits and worthiness to the Christian Democrats, and to dispose of a limited but embarrassing political force that was to the left of the CPI and an insult to it, namely, the Autonomes, in whom the Stalinists found the exclusive culprits for ten years’ of assassinations, massacres and terrorism. There wasn’t a single crime committed in the 1970s that did not find its perpetrator in such-and-such Autonome. From insoluble murders to the Moro affair, from kidnappings that remained mysterious to thefts of works of art and race-horses — all were solved, suddenly, as if by magic; and each crime had a perpetrator and each perpetrator found his proper reward in a prison sentence. In order to obtain such a harmonious settling of trials in this decade, l’estro dell’armonia e dell’invenzione [title of a collection of concertos by Vivaldi] of a single Stalinist magistrate certainly wasn’t enough: the entire occult and public organization of the Party was mobilized with the aim of proving that Autonomia was the armed struggle, and the sole Autonomous leader remaining at liberty, the naive Pifano, was — as if by chance — caught holding “the bag,” which literally contained two Russian missile launchers, which were obsolete, supplied to him by the PFLP, a Stalinist Palestinian organization that, by the admission of General Micelli himself, is notorious for its ties of reciprocal gratitude to the Italian secret services. Thus, if the links between Autonomia and terrorism couldn’t have been proved, the zealous Pecchioli [a Stalinist leader assigned to “problems of the State,” that is to say, terrorism] was able, a few hours later, to proudly declare to Parliament that, in view of such a telling fact, nobody any longer had any right to doubt that the Autonomes constituted the strategic leadership of terrorism — as had been already upheld without any proof by the Stalinist magistrate Calogero. The poor Autonomes — who, for their part, never had much of a clue about either terrorism or revolution — have thus ended up, like a coveted prey, in the sack of the Stalinists and the judiciary, without even understanding why or how! One now hopes that they will make better use of prison than they did of their freedom in their attempts to enlighten themselves.
As much in their ingenuity as in their vulgarity, these admirable methods of Stalinist accusation are not very original, but bear a close resemblance to those used in the famous Moscow show trials of the 1930s, the only difference being that the arrested Autonomes have not yet declare themselves guilty of all the crimes they are accused of. One must not harbor resentment for the Stalinists because of the incongruity of such a legal procedure: undoubtedly, if the Stalinists’ well-tested and infallible system had the police force under its control, and could use it at will in their interrogations, the legal proceeding would quickly disappear.
For the secret services and the Christian Democratic gangleaders, who have had to endure so many legal humiliations in the last few years — not, of course, owing to the honesty of the judges, but to their incompetence — these great trials of the Autonomes, so skillfully staged, open up unhoped-for prospects and new horizons for action. In fact, since these trials, the spectacle of terrorism has made immense progress. If temporarily disagreeable legal consequences had up until then prevented the secret services from going too far, the way the Stalinists proved themselves to be skillful and unconditional allies of the State gave the secret services grounds to believe that, like Ulysses, they will make for themselves, as Dante says: ali al folle volo, sempre acquistando dal lato mancino [wings to fly madly, always gaining more to the left].
In taking this step, the CPI bureaucrats do not do anything other than what they are capable of doing and incapable of not doing when they find themselves within reach of power. They know perfectly well that they have, this time more than ever before, all the motives for being dishonest, for it is at the current moment that their historic undertaking is passing, and it is natural that they should bring the whole of their forces into play when the whole of their fortune is at stake [cf. Machiavelli’s Discourses]. Moreover, the CPI bureaucrats have a further reason to show without delay all of their dishonesty, because they are certainly not unaware that it is solely on account of their dishonesty — and not for their well-hidden virtue — that the bourgeoisie can employ them in its service. And, more precisely, the Stalinists know full well that they must continually invent and discover conspiracies against bourgeois democracy, be it to pretend to love this democracy more, or to show the world all the dangers it would risk being exposed to without them.
If the CPI behaves like this in public life, then it must behave with the same despicable baseness in its “private life” at the factory, informing the boss on which workers are “terrorists” to be fired and denounced to the labor court, for the sole reason that they are insubordinate and practice absenteeism, that is to say, for the sole reason that they struggle.
Contrary to what the crafty Berlinguer has hoped, the bosses and the most informed men amongst the Christian Democrats have come to the opposition conclusion — namely, that the more the CPI shows its usefulness without being in the government, the more pointless it is to make the Stalinists an official part of it. The result is that all that the Stalinists may do in order to be in power at all costs is, quite to the contrary, that which keeps them away from it — in the process alienating what had remained of the electorate’s sympathies for and illusions about the CPI. But this is the drama of the Stalinists, and it is not our concern, at least in as much as they have not become nasty enough to revert to practicing their favorite art, which is to say, political crime. In the meantime, and for that which immediately concerns us, it must be noted that bourgeois terrorism and Stalinist terrorism, which have the same aim, are showing themselves for what they have always been, and give the working class an excellent opportunity to recognize and combat all of its enemies, bureaucratic and bourgeois.
The active servility with which the entire left-wing intelligentsia at first tolerated, and then made its own, the official accusatory theses on terrorism and the Autonomes could well seem puzzling to anyone who might not know that the intelligentsia has always behaved in this manner every time that they have the opportunity to behave otherwise. The State/Stalinist version of the facts has been accepted point-by-point, and thus approved for being publicized, without the slightest respect for historical truth or so-called intellectual dignity. It is well known that, for half a century, the role of the Italian intellectuals (Stalinophiles for the most part) has been irreplaceable in the diffusion of the lies on the subjects of socialism and revolution. Today, when they can no longer lie about Soviet or Chinese or Cuban “socialism,” the intellectuals are reduced to spreading, without restraint, lies about bourgeois democracy, which — to safeguard — they would gladly make any and every sacrifice, even the sacrifice of doing without it. Thus it was without protest and in homage to the fetish of democratic guarantees that a governmental decree was passed on custody, which increased the penalties for terrorist offenses and “the possession of subversive documents” [punishable by up to four years in prison], and that the new arrangements about detention on suspicion make it possible to hold an accused person in prison for twelve years without trial. Henceforward, the Italian judiciary, whose obsequiousness has never been a state secret and does not need to be proved, will not any longer have to prove the guilt of whoever they wish to condemn to prison for twelve years, and that is only to begin with. From now on, accusation coincides completely with sentencing, and the fiction of democratic legality in Italy has been done away with even as a fiction. Italy is [as suggested by the first article of the Italian constitution] a democratic republic founded upon the exploitation of work and upon lettres de cachet.
In a passage in The Phenomenology of the Spirit, a book that is little known to our intellectuals and quite relevant to the terrorism of governments, Hegel says:
“The government can only thus present itself as a faction. That which is called “the government” is only the victorious faction and, exactly in the fact of being a faction, it immediate finds the necessity of its own decline; and the fact that this faction is in power renders it inversely faction and culpable party. . . . Being guilty substitutes itself for being suspect, or has the same signification and effect.”
When the arbitrary no longer fears appearing as what it has always been, when being guilty or innocent no longer has any importance since conviction becomes the sole certitude, he who fights against the arbitrary no longer has to fear being guilty: sentenced for sentencing’s sake, one might just as well be convicted for committing an honorable crime. One cannot let oneself be governed innocently. And so, while waiting to destroy all prisons, let us give the enemy good reasons to fill them, surely not by falling into the well-set trap of terrorism, but rather by combating openly, and by all means, all those who today make use of and practice terrorism: the ministers, politicians, bosses and policemen.
Nowadays, intellectual Jesuitism calls the arbitrary “democracy,” the freedom to lie “freedom,” and systematic and obligatory denunciation “testimony”: Sic delatores, genus hominen publico exitio repertum et ne poenis quidem umquam satis coercitum, per praemia eliciebantur [thus informers, a species discovered for the public ruin, and never controlled enough by legal penalties, were enticed by rewards], as Tacitus used to say — Tacitus, who nevertheless, unlike our modern intellectuals, swore he preferred the dangers of freedom to the quietude of slavery. These same intellectuals, after having discoursed far and wide on courage, have proudly concluded that today one must have the courage to be cowardly. The reasoning that is most in fashion these days is simple: if one loves democracy, it must be defended; to defend it, one must fight its enemies; in order to fight the enemies of democracy, no sacrifice is too great; the nobility of the ends justifies the ends; no democracy for the enemies of democracy! That which was not essentially a democracy has now ceased to be one visibly.
So who are these enemies of democracy? The enemies of democracy are all those who objectively put it at risk, by propagating ideas that are incompatible with it, and all those who, by not upholding the right of this State to exist, objectively support its enemies. In a word, the enemies of this “democracy” are precisely all those who practice it.
If, in 1924, instead of Mussolini, there had been this democracy in power — this democracy that is so sincere, so eager to pretend to be the opposite of what it effectively is — we can be certain that the means of accusing Leftists of the murder of Matteoti [a Socialist leader and Member of Parliament who was killed by the fascists] would have been found, just as, today, Leftists are arrested for the murder of Moro. But, since he had less need of lies than the current State does, Mussolini did not feel the need to employ intellectuals such as Leo Valiani [a “former” Stalinist who was appointed an Italian “Senator for Life”] to speak to us about the crimes of the State with the same admiration that one would display in speaking of the virtues of Cato.
I know full well that the Italian intelligentsia have a number of reasons to be fearful and dishonest; I even know by heart their arguments to justify themselves, and I would never dream of refusing them the freedom to be despicable. What I find tedious is that these intellectuals constantly intervene in the newspapers and weeklies when the subject of terrorism is broached, as if some obscure force was pushing them to publish proof of their obtuse baseness, and as if they had to convince somebody of it — and this at a time when it should have been clear to them that they should confine their baseness to their works, so that it would be known to neither posterity nor their contemporaries.
For instance, not one of these great reasoners on the question of terrorism has formulated this most simple and reasonable of questions: If the ghostly Red Brigades were, as is said, a spontaneous grouping of subversives, and if [Antonio] Negri and Piperno were, as is made out, the heads of the RBs, then why should these artful RBs allow their leaders — who, however, declare that they are not leaders of the RBs — to be imprisoned without ever seeking their exoneration, even if such an effort was only in order to reclaim them for the revolution? If, on the other hand, Negri and Piperno are not the heads of the RBs, and are not even among the ranks of its militants, then these facts should give all the more reason for the hypothetical subversives of the RBs to help get these men publicly cleared of all charges against them. And this for three good reasons: so as not to let leaders be wrongly attributed to them without protest; so as not to be accused of letting innocent people be condemned in their place; and finally, because the RBs are protected by anonymity and therefore have no fear of clearing those currently accused.
Since, on the contrary, none of this has happened, it must be concluded that the real heads of the RBs have the same desire as our State to make it widely believed that Negri and Piperno are in fact the RBs’ leaders. This new convergence of interests between the State and the RBs has nothing fortuitous or extraordinary about it, and can only bemuse the stupid, who do not perceive that the RBs are the State, that is to say, one of its multiple armed appendages.
But, even these few simple deductions, which alone should suffice to prove the enormity and fragility of the generalized lie about terrorism, are too bold to be formulated by our freethinkers, who are so free that they manage to think no longer. On the contrary, they glut themselves with clumsy sub-Machiavellian theories, like that which sought to prove that the dissolution of Potere Operaio, which occurred six or seven years ago, was a diabolical simulation that was designed to allow its leaders and militants to devote themselves all the better to armed struggle. And this is reiterated for months without it being noticed that the hypothesis is absurd, and this for the same reasons that it puts forward: if Potere Operaio was really the cover for terrorist activity, why then would its leaders have deprived themselves of a such a valuable legal screen?
The truth is quite another thing entirely, and, as usual, it is sufficient to discover it by reversing the shameful lie with which it had wished to camouflage itself: for surely it is not Potere Operaio that pretended to dissolve itself all the better to devote itself to terrorism, but rather the famous Italian secret service SID that has pretended to dissolve itself all the better to make its past terroristic acts better forgotten and to practice its current ones better. Other salaried thinkers, from Scalfari to Bocca, use the same equally fraudulent reasoning when, while admitting (as I have shown) that the strategy of the RBs aims, among other things, to prevent the CPI from coming to power, they make this fact stem not from the aversion that the Stalinists arouse in certain sectors of Italian capitalism and the secret services, but from the aversion Soviet Stalinists feel for their Italian counterparts. Our small-time thinkers then conclude that Moro was kidnapped with the aid of the KGB and the Czechoslovakian secret services. Italian capitalists, the military, and agents of such Italian secret services as the SISDE, the SISMI, the CESIS, and the previously mentioned DIGOS, along with American President Carter, would have been glad to see the CPI in power in Italy, but unfortunately that is not possible because the Russians and the KGB do not want it. What bad luck! If behind the Moro affair there is the KGB, who then is behind the bullshit of Bocca and Scalfari? Is it possible that they could have hoisted themselves up to such heights with their own strength?
Whatever it may be, this curious and most stupid theory, which the untimely Pertini hastened to make his own after the event, clearly serves to reassure the bad conscience of all those who would have us believe that this State, since it is at war with terrorism, could not conduct it.
For my part, I note with a legitimate satisfaction that my book, which has firstly reduced to silence those who are paid to speak, has also obliged them to commit themselves to an interminable series of blunders in order to maintain the opposite of the truths that have at last begun, with the publication of this book, to circulate freely in the country.
In a quite different sense, one could in this context, however, evoke Russia. For present-day Italy and Stalinist Russia are perhaps the only States in the world to have been maintained exclusively due to the efforts of the secret police: in Stalinist Russia, “counter-revolutionaries” were discovered everywhere, and every and any opponent was accused of being one; in today’s Italy, “revolutionaries” are discovered everywhere, and every extra-parliamentarian — even the most timid — is hit with this accusation. Negri, Piperno, Scalzone, and the rest are, according to the judges and journalists, the leaders of the Italian revolution, the “brains” and its strategists. I have defended them here as innocent men and I would never dream of defending them as revolutionaries, as they are neither guilty nor revolutionaries. In reality, all these autonomous leaders are nothing but naive politicians, and even as politicians they are imprudent and failures — one has never seen revolutionaries going to dinner with judges, as Negri did, or dining and conversing with an ex-minister of the likes of Mancini, as Piperno did — and they are not revolutionaries in any sense for so many other and equally obvious reasons that it is pointless to recall them. The Italian revolution follows quite another path and quite another set of ideas, and it readily leaves these leaders, brains and strategists behind, in the same way that it leaves behind all those who have understood nothing about terrorism, that is to say, counter-revolution.
The passion of the freest people, the ancient Greeks, for solutions to riddles (which they considered as the Hic Rhodus, hic salta of wisdom) is well-known. Confronted with the riddle, the wise man had to find out how to solve it at the cost of his life: it was a contest in which he who could not bring it off could beg no indulgence. If one believes a legend recounted by Heraclitus, as well as by Aristotle, the most wise of the Greeks, Homer, died of despair because he could not find out how to solve a riddle. He who does not solve it is deceived by it; he who lets himself be deceived is no wise man; he who is not a wise man dies, because the wise man is a warrior who must either know how to defend himself or succumb, and because it is in the fight alone that he must prove who he is.
An eminent Hellenist has remarked that the formulation of a riddle “harbors the distant origin of the dialectic, called upon to blossom without breach of continuity, starting from the sphere of the riddle — according to the structure of the Agon as according to the terminology itself.” Nietzsche himself had already said that the dialectic “is a new form of art of the Greek Agon.”
So Italian terrorism is the last riddle of the society of the spectacle, and only he who reasons dialectically can solve it. It is because of this lack of dialectic that the riddle of terrorism continues to deceive and mow down all the victims liberally sacrificed on the altar by the State, because it is on this unsolved riddle that the State provisionally maintains itself. It is thus necessary and sufficient to solve the riddle, not only in order to put an end to terrorism, but also to provoke the collapse of the Italian State. Only he who has an interest in this collapse will be able to solve the riddle of terrorism practically. But who has an interest in deciphering the riddle of terrorism? Clearly nobody, except the proletariat, for only the proletariat has the necessary urgency, motives, force and capacity required to destroy the State that deceives and exploits it. The aims of the provocations of the last few years and the pedagogic campaign of indoctrination of the masses that followed it were to teleguide people’s thinking, to oblige them to think certain things. With terrorism, the State has hurled a mortal challenge to the proletariat and to its intelligence: the Italian workers can only take it up, and, in doing this, prove that they are dialecticians, or they can passively accept “inevitable” defeat. All those who today talk about social revolution without denouncing and combating the terrorist counter-revolution have a corpse in their mouths.
Having attained the height of imposture, the State has never felt so sure of itself, but in this it deludes itself more than it thinks, because it has succeeded in deceiving people less than it had hoped, and even less than what had been required. But, most especially, this discredited State deceives itself in thinking itself always to be believed, in other words, in thinking that the lies propagated by all the organs of information on the subject of terrorism would be sufficient to corrupt the whole population for the simple reason that it can listen to nothing else. The proletariat, which has no means of freely expressing itself (a fact that is well known), also cannot even express its legitimate incredulity with respect to the tragic-comic farce of terrorism — short of shutting the mouths, once and for all, of all the sycophants who speak about the proletariat in the manner with which we are all too familiar, as well as the mouths of the sycophants’ mandators, who are also the mandators of terrorism and the beneficiaries of exploitation.
This said, never — not even in time of war — has the Italian State feigned to use systematic intoxication to corrupt so many minds at such little expense.
In present-day Italy, all that which is manifestly false — and only that which is false — finds a place, is sold, is bought and is a source of profit. The staging and propagation of the terrorist infection is a colossal and viable enterprise that ensures the jobs of thousands of journalists, cops, secret agents, gentlemen of the robe, sociologists and specialists of all denominations. “Only the truth has no clients,” as Montesquieu said in less deceitful times; but this is because only the truth has no need of them.
I hope that this preface will contribute to help the foreign reader understand which forces, which interests and which fears have made Italy, in scarcely ten years, the country of falsehood and enigma — to take up the title of Anton Ciliga’s famous book on Stalinist Russia. On this peninsula — whose vestiges of past grandeur attract so many foreign visitors, this birthplace of modern capitalism, seat of the papacy, center of Christianity and Euro-Stalinism, the privileged place for counter-revolutionary experimentation, from the Counter-Reform to the current undertakings of the secret services and the Stalinists, touching on fascism along the way — today there are putrid wastes that contain the decomposition of everything that has marked this millennium. Today in Italy, the entire population is plagued by the fetid miasmas of Christianity, capitalism and Stalinism — each one at the highest stage of infection; each one sustaining the others (if only for one instant longer); one and all imminently faced with the menacing aspect of the most-modern of revolutions; one and all trying to find the position from which they could set in motion the most merciless and desperate of all repressions; one and all arguing about the most efficacious way to condemn history, when it is history that has condemned them.
But whatever vicissitudes may await us, the sole certainty is that events will oblige the Italian proletariat to make its own the words of Lucius Junius Brutus: Juro nec illos nec alium quemquam regnare, Romae passurum [I swear that I shall never let those men nor anybody else rule Rome].
¶ Correspondance entre Guy Debord et Gianfranco Sanguinetti. April-August 1978 — in French
¶ Correspondance entre Champ Libre et Jean-François Labrugère & Philippe Rouyau. August-September 1980 — in French
¶ ELS VAN DAELE, Postface à la traduction hollandaise du « Terrorismo e dello Stato ». May 1st, 1981 — in French
¶ JEAN-FRANÇOIS MARTOS à Gianfranco Sanguinetti. Paris, June 3, 1981 — in French
GUY DEBORD, Preface to the Fourth Italian Edition of “The Society of the Spectacle”. January 1979
Translated from the French
GIANFRANCO SANGUINETTI, On Terrorism and the State (April 1979)
¶ Sobre el Terrorismo y el Estado, Spanish translation