One of us remembers him at the College de France in 1966, sitting in on Hyppolite's course on Hegel's Logic, and having to endure a final session at which the master invited two young Turks to give papers. "Trois etapes de la degenerescence de la culture bourgeoise francaise," [three stages of the degeneration of French bourgeois culture] said Debord as the last speaker sat down. "Premierement, l'erudition classique"[at first, classical erudition]-he had in mind Hyppolite himself, who had spoken briefly at the start of things-"quand meme base sur une certaine connaissance generale. Ensuite le petit con stalinien, avec ses mots de passe, 'Travail,' 'Force' et 'Terreur.' Et enfin-derniere bassesse-le semiologue." [even if based on a certain general knowledge. Then comes the little Stalinist cunt, with his words from the past, 'Work,' 'Strength,' and 'Terror.' And finally - the last degradation - the semiologist].
Eric Hobsbawm's "history of the short twentieth century"-his "report," as one wag put it, "to a Central Committee that just isn't there any more." The very idea of pressing too hard on Hobsbawm's omissions and excuses as a historian was denounced a priori by NLR as "anti-Communist." One law for young-Hegelians, it seems, and another for unrepentant Stalinists. To have been over-optimistic about the revolutionary potential of the Watts proletariat is one thing; to have spent one's life inventing reasons for forced collectivization, show trials, the Great Terror, the suppression of the East German and Hungarian uprisings, and so on ad nauseam, quite another. The former is the ranting of primitive rebels, the latter the hard analytic choices of Marxist history.