Maitron the Historian


The S.I. on Jean Maitron, director of The Social Movement journal and its special issue on May '68. From Internationale Situationniste #12 (September 1969).

Submitted by libcom on September 1, 2005

The Sorbonne for itself (Workers Editions, October 1968), assembling documents on May-June 1968, is a book that claims historical objectivity. Published as a special issue of the university journal The Social Movement, it was put together under the responsibility of Jean Maitron, the journal's director, who has a certain reputation as a historian of the workers' movement, and even as a "libertarian." For the rest, it's best to note that the collaborators on this book included J.C. and Michelle Perrot, as well as Madeleine Reberioux, who is notoriously a member of the French Stalinist party.

This book speaks of the situationists, with many erroneous details, and reproduces some of our documents from May. However, after having notably declared on page 6 that, "We have refused all deletions (death to the ellipsis1 that reject I-don't-know-what to hell!)," the authors have nevertheless published our "Report on the Occupation of the Sorbonne"2 in the Masperized version,3 which makes one strongly miss the use of the ellipsis, which at least reveals that one has hidden something.

But Maitron goes further than this irresponsible reproduction of a falsification that has been recovered from the trashcans of the Masperizers. He masperizes in his own interest: [on] page 165, he presents an "anonymous tract" that "expresses quite well the view of the situationists." From whence comes this prescience? It is quite simple. It is a question -- this time, as an isolated text -- of nine repugnant, pro-C.G.T.4 lines originally published by the journal Partisans and used as an added-on beginning to a fragment of a tract signed by the C.M.D.O. The fact that one isolates this transplant proves that one knows that it is a question of an autonomous tract -- in a style that can be adopted by the Reberioux, the slightly contestatory Stalinists of this epoch. But the fact that one attributes it to the S[ituationist] I[nternational] shows that one wants to profit from the attribution risked by Maspero in his selection. Thus, we see Maspero's falsification as such, and he cheerfully uses himself as a reference, without, however, saying so expressly, but by dissimulating false information behind a false consciousness of internal critique ("expresses quite well the point of view. . . ")5

On 24 October [1968], the SI wrote Maitron a letter6 that, with supporting evidence, indicated to him the grossest falsifications concerning us in his book, and demanded from him "written excuses." For two weeks, Maitron didn't respond. Then [Rene] Riesel and [Rene] Vienet went round his place, insulted him as he merited it and, to emphasize their remarks, broke a soup tureen that, the historian says, was "a family heirloom."

Thus, we have shown to this individual that his specific dishonesty would not pass unremarked [inapercue], and can even disagreeably expose him to insult. Which, we believe, will give his emulators something to think about.7 The emotions aroused by such a simple gesture have shown that we haven't failed to attain our goal. On 17 November, a letter signed by the Stalinist Reberioux and her colleagues appeared in Le Monde, denouncing the fact that their "colleague and friend" Jean Maitron "came to be a victim in his home of a veritable aggression. Several young people, presenting themselves in the name of the Situationist International, and declaring themselves unhappy with a elaborated work, however in a manner to make their place among the currents of opinion, insulted him and broke diverse objects of his." The Stalinist-Tartuffian style is flagrant. One speaks of a "veritable" aggression because one knows that an "aggression" is precisely something else. It was committed by "several" young people, since there were two -- which is progress beyond the celebrated primitive numeration: "One, two, many." Moreover, Riesel and Vienet told Maitron their names and spoke for a long time about the precise letter that they had signed. The question is not knowing if the handiwork makes its place among all "the currents of opinions," but if he falsifies our own texts when he estimates it a duty to reproduce them, etc. Following others, in December 1968, La Quinzaine Litteraire, relying as always on the same good sources, added more: "This honest historian's work can not please everyone (...) Jean Maitron was the victim of a veritable aggression in his home. These individuals, claiming kinship with the Situationist International, claimed to be reacting when they came to his house to break a typewriter and art objects. Reacting against what? Their grouping is cited in the book, a document emanating from him that is widely available (beginning of confession? -- Note from the SI). Would they like to recall, by this aggression as stupid as it is monstrous, that in social movements, there are always the 'outsiders' who want to be such and do so in such a way that one can no longer conserve the esteem that one must have for all the courageous militants?" And on 5 February 1969, at the time of a radio broadcast, Maitron, without doubt still amazed at having survived this "monstrous" aggression, denounced the situationists who "have sacked" his hearth, and affirmed that he had no fear of them. As he had completely neglected to evoke any motivation for this "aggression," one can hope that he has no fear of us because he is henceforth resolved to no longer fake our texts. Which will be very good for everyone.

Beyond the comic aspect of this incident -- "they have indulged in important depredations," writes the Proletarian Revolution of December 1968, which speaks of "fascism" and even incites "counter-violence" -- there is an important question. In our opinion, for the revolutionary movement that currently constitutes itself, the #1 objective -- even before the elaboration of a consequential theoretical critique, the liaison with the democratic base committees in the factories, or the paralysis of the University -- is practical support for a demand for truth and nonfalsification. This is the preliminary and the commencement of all the rest. All that is falsified must be discredited, boycotted, treated like scoundrels. When it is a question of systems of lying (as in the cases of the bureaucratic Stalinists or the bourgeois), these are naturally the systems that must be destroyed by a great social and political struggle. But this struggle itself must create its own conditions: when one has trouble with individuals or groups who want to place themselves somewhere in the revolutionary current, it is not at all necessary to let them pass. By doing this, the movement will break at the base with all conditions of fakery that have accompanied and provoked its disappearance for a half-century. According to us, all revolutionaries must now recognize as their immediate task the denunciation and discouragement, by all means and at all prices, of those who want to continue to falsify.8 We absolutely do not want "the esteem that one must have for all the courageous militants." Courageous militants have done too much harm to the proletarian movement; and cowards still more. We would actually like to be 'outside' the miserable generalized compromise of the last few decades, and more and more numerous are those who know that there is no longer anything to do with(in) it. As the letter says, but which Maitron didn't understand quickly enough: "Do not doubt, Sir, that the class consciousness of our epoch has made sufficient progress to know how, using its own means, to demand an accounting from the pseudo-specialists of its history, who claim to continue to subsist on its practice."

To respond in advance to those who will still say that the situationists always insult everyone to the same degree and disapprove in the absolute, we will cite two books that have made a great place for our documents or for an analysis of our action in May [1968]: The Revolutionary Project by Richard Gombin (Editions Mouton, 1969) and Newspaper of the Student Commune by Alain Schnapp and P. Vidal-Naquet (Seuil, first trimester, 1969). Although we are in disagreement with the methods and the ideas of these authors, and thus with the quasi-totality of their interpretations, and even with certain facts, we willingly recognize that these books are honestly composed, that they correctly quote from the examined documents in their original versions; and thus that they provide the materials that can serve to write the history of the [May 1968] occupations movement.

Unattributed; probably written by Guy Debord. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! February 2006. From

  • 1Trans. Literally, the perforated lines (pointilles).
  • 2Trans. Signed by the Council for Maintaining the Occupations (C.M.D.O.), 19 May 1968.
  • 3Trans. The version as it was published by Editions Maspero (Paris), not the Situationist International, which re-printed the original in Enrages and Situationists in the Occupations Movement (1968). "Masperized" quickly became situationist slang for texts that had been edited to the point of falsification.
  • 4Trans. General Confederation of Workers, a Stalinist organization.
  • 5Trans. Note that the first three paragraphs of this text are replaced by a summary in Ken Knabb's masperized version, which has long been the only English translation available, that is, until this one.
  • 6Trans. See letter from Guy Debord et. al dated 24 October 1968.
  • 7Trans. Note that the rest of this paragraph is replaced by a summary in Ken Knabb's masperized version.
  • 8Trans. Note that the rest of this paragraph is replaced by an ellipsis in Ken Knabb's masperized version.



15 years 5 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by BNB on January 25, 2009

full text, better translation


15 years 5 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by radicalgraffiti on January 25, 2009

do you do any thing but advertise

Submitted by BNB on January 25, 2009

well, let's see.

how about the contents of that very web site? as you no doubt saw before making your post, this site contains

1) never-before-translated works by the FHAR, Debord, Vaneigem, Sanguinetti, Riesel, the EdN, Castoriadis et. al

2) the collected works of the Surveillance Camera Players, a well-known anti-CCTV group

3) photos of squats, community gardens and eviction protests in the Lower East Side of Manhattan circa late 1990s

4) documentation of anti-gentrification struggles in Brooklyn NY in the late 1990s

5) shall I go on? the site is packed full of things lib-coms, situs, anarchos, council communists, etc might find interesting

PS. the name/address of my web site is not (an "org" is most def not a "com")

And what about you, Radical Graffiti? It would appear that, like me, you are a writer of graffiti?