Huber’s Letter to Contat concerning Sartre’s Preface
April 19, 1988
Dear Sirs, dear Madams,
in the French edition of "SPK - Aus der Krankheit eine Waffe machen" (SPK - Turn Illness into a Weapon) Sartre’s Preface is missing. In 1979, you wrote in the magazine "OBLIQUE" that the reason for this had escaped your notice. On the assumption that your information need still exists – a need that came to my notice only recently –, I’d like to name the causes and inducements.
Since 1971, I had been detained in prison as the founder of the SOCIALIST PATIENTS’ COLLECTIVE (SPK) for urban guerrilla. The SPK-publications that had been prepared by me, in particular the book SPK - Turn Illness into a Weapon, containing Sartre’s Preface, had already been published in German in 1972, while the editions to be published abroad were on their way. My then-defence-lawyer, Mr. Eberhard Becker from Heidelberg, as a student a member of the Federal Executive Board of the SDS, had reported me on that in prison like this. I had succeeded in persuading him – and through him also other leftist lawyers – to contact Horst Mahler, and later on also Mrs. Meinhof, Ensslin, Baader and others, in order to build up a political defence also for the RAF, meanwhile imprisoned.
Mr. Becker, on the occasion of one of his visits in prison during November 1972, had brought along with him a letter from Mrs. Meinhof, which was meant for me, and which he read to me aloud. From that letter resulted that Mrs. Meinhof and her group were equally enraged and angry, but also disappointed, and, especially as far as Mrs. Meinhof was concerned, they were also desperate that Sartre not only had invoked the SOCIALIST PATIENTS’ COLLECTIVE to carry on its practice independently and autonomously, but, more than that, he had also vindicated, in clear and unequivocal words, the SPK to both a revolutionary tradition and a modern philosophical stringency (signifier/signified).*
By the way, all speaks in favor of the fact that Sartre, by far the more independent philosopher of illness, corporeity and freedom, if compared, for example, to Merleau-Ponty – , that Sartre, before arriving at his decision, had examined with particular prudence and conscientiousness at that regard. And it is surely in this context that just recently and once again the Italian Periodical for Politics and Culture INVARIANTI has called attention to the burning actuality of Sartre’s Preface: for the Age of the Computer and its catastrophic effects on the whole world, the class antagonism lined out by Engels and Sartre, culminating in the alienation of the patient as being signified by the medical doctor, the signifier, can be attacked only in the way that has been fixed and practicated for the first time by the SPK (cf. INVARIANTI, No. 1, 2, 4; 1987/88). (The Patients’ Front, on request of the editorial team of INVARIANTI and for the purpose of its publication, had translated among other texts Sartre’s Preface into Italian and made it available (cf. ASSEMBLEA No. 7, 1984). This way, we could make Sartre’s Preface available again, at least for Italy).
(Add-on by Huber, after phone call, 19th of April, 1988).
Merely because of solidarity with this group of co-detainees, I therefore took the decision, that for the time being all SPK-publications abroad, as far as they could not be stopped, were at least to be published without the preface of Sartre. However, I had also attached the condition to this that the co-detainees now should finally take the opportunity to seize collectively the intentions introduced by Sartre in his preface, and also the complete contents of the SPK, and to carry them forward productively. Already before Sartre’s visit in Stammheim in 1974, Baader had advised against continuing, because in prison it would be too strenuous. Attempts in the direction given by me only Mrs. Ensslin had made, but she, too, soon ended them after Mrs. Meinhof – in her attempt to write political speeches in court for other RAF-prisoners – had grasped the matter, aimed at by Sartre, the wrong way, as she had attempted, for instance, to simplificatingly re-superimpose on the doctrine of the signifier, and its handling by Sartre, the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production as the main contradiction, which the SPK, in her opinion, had ignored (Mrs. Meinhof had mistaken the basic contradiction for the main contradiction and the principle of historic materialism*).
* Add-on by Huber, 1995
Nowadays and actually:
Basic contradiction: Contradiction and identity of illness and the Capital.
Main contradiction: Patients’ class against the medical doctors’ class.
In concluding, I’d like to mention that Sartre himself, as well as nobody else, ever was given by me an explanation about the whole thing concerning the preface, because I had been barred from doing so by the manifest and expected complications with the authorities for others at my side and for the class (well understood – – ). At this regard, too, I thought it more important to continue with the SPK-cause, and that from then on in solidarity with Sartre, following his warnings and encouragements given in the last paragraph of his preface, instead of contributing to my personal justification.
Habent sua fata libelli (Terentianus Maurus)
With best regards
Huber, W.D., Dr. med.
Translation (September 2008):
Kurd Ch. Schager, Dipl.-Angl., M.A.soc.ling., PF/SPK MFE