What separates good surrealism from bad surrealism

Art, spectacle and revolution

Surrealism and Situationist International are often mentioned in the same breath - in prosituationist recuperation the striking differences and demarcations between the two groups disappear. In order not to create the impression that in retrospect the theoretical discussion is trying to reconcile both currents, the text “The radioactive cadaver - a history of surrealism”, published by Raoul Vaneigem on behalf of the S.I. had written. The republication is done with the kind permission of Edition Nautilus. The still incomplete html version will be added piece by piece.

a story of surrealism

PDF version [archive.org]




Separate Knowledge, Separation of Knowledge, and Knowledge of Separations

Surrealism belongs to one of the final stages of the crisis of culture.
Among the unitary regimes - of which the best known example is monarchy by the grace of God - the uniting power of myth obscures the division between culture and social life. Just like the peasant, the bourgeois, the possessor of power and the king, the artist, the writer, the scholar and the philosopher experience their contradictions within a hierarchical structure which, from top to bottom, is the essentially unchangeable work of a god.
The more important the commercial and factory bourgeoisie becomes, and the more it organizes human relations in the rational way of exchange, according to the measurable power of money and within the mechanical certainty of the concrete, the faster the desecration takes place and dissolves the hitherto existing ones , idyllic relationships from master to slave. The reality of the class struggle comes to the surface of history with the same brutality as the economic sector suddenly placed at the center of all thoughts.
Once the state has been liquidated by God's grace - the form of which interferes with the further development of capitalism - the exploitation of the proletariat, the process of capital, and the laws of the commodity that bends both people and things to their demands become troublesome realities that do not let more be inserted into the authority of a provident God or into the fusion in the myth of a transcendent order. In other words, realities that the ruling class must hide from the consciousness of the proletariat if it does not want to be swept away by the second revolutionary wave, which was relentlessly announced by the Enragės (1), the Babeuf supporters (2) and some popular uprisings.
With the ruins of myth, which are actually God's ruins, the bourgeoisie is striving to create a new unity that goes beyond the divisions and contradictions that religion (in the sense of `` what collectively connects with God '' ) people who are lacking can be felt in themselves and among each other by releasing them through the power of illusion. After the failed cult of the Supreme Being and the goddess reason, nationalism presents itself through its variants from Caesarism Buonapartes to the various genres of national socialism as those necessary and necessary for the protection of the state (be it private and monopoly capitalism or socialist capitalism less and less adequate ideology.
Incidentally, Buonaparte's fall put an end to any hope of restoring a unified myth based on the empire, the arms prestige and the mysticism of a territory. However, all ideologies that have developed on the basis of the memory of the myth of God or the contradictions of the bourgeoisie (liberalism), or from the starting point of revolutionary theories (i.e. those that have arisen from real struggles and return to them with a consciousness which is inevitably the enemy of ideology in order to hasten the emergence of the classless society) have one aspect in common: the same concealment, this distortion, and the same contempt or misunderstanding of the real movement that appears in human practice. Radical consciousness is impossible to unite with ideology, which has no other function than to mystify it. Above all, the sensitive consciousness of the 18th Century real the pain of separation, isolation and alienation in the void left by the retreating divine consciousness. The disillusionment, which is to be understood as the end of the intoxication by the unifying God, thus accompanies the consciousness of the contradictions that have been deprived of their transcendent solution.
In the fragmentation of the sectors of activity, culture - just like the economic, social and political areas, becomes a separate sphere, an autonomous area. While the masters of the economy gradually ensure their rule over the whole of society, the artists, writers and thinkers are left with the consciousness of an autonomous culture, which economic imperialism will need a long time to colonize and which they will establish as a stronghold of freedom of purpose. in which they act both as mercenaries of the ruling ideas and as rebels or revolutionaries.
Dominated by their unhappy consciousness and despised by the financial, commercial and industrialists, most of the creators will then strive to make of culture a substitute for myth, a new totality, a place which, in contrast to the material places of the The movement of goods and the production of goods is returned to the saint. Since they rule over a fragment that cannot be reduced to the economy and is separated from the social as well as from the political, they of course cannot claim to bring the unified myth back to life - they only represent it. In doing so, they do not differ from the most conscious minds of the bourgeois class, who are trying to create a new myth and canonize all places where the economy does not come directly to the surface (for example, one does not try to make the stock market holy to speak, but instead the factories through the detour via the work cult). The "spectacle" is what is left of the myth that has disappeared with the unified society, an ideological form of organization in which the effects of history on people, who act individually and collectively on history, are reflected , degenerate and - as the autonomous life of the unexperienced - are transformed into their opposite.
Anyone who disregards how closely the culture and the organization of the spectacle are intertwined cannot possibly understand anything about romanticism as well as surrealism. All the new that was thought in these two movements was originally created by the rejection of the bourgeoisie, the useful and the functional. In the first half of the 19th century there is no artist who does not base his work on a contempt for bourgeois values ​​and the value of goods (which does not prevent him from behaving like a bourgeois and taking money where it is located - e.g. Flaubert). Aestheticism is regarded as the ideology of the anti-commodity value, which is supposed to make the world bearable, and it therefore possesses the secret of a certain lifestyle, a certain appreciation of being, which is opposed to being reduced to having - that of the capitalist. In this way, the culture within the spectacle provides models of enhancing roles. As the economy creates a cultural market by transforming books, pictures and sculptures into commodities, the prevailing forms of culture become more and more abstract and, as counter-blows, evoke anti-cultural tendencies. The more serious the economy becomes and the system of commodities is imposed everywhere, the more the bourgeoisie feels the need to renew the spectacle of its ideological free market, which is supposed to disguise the increased exploitation, which the proletariat rejects ever more violently. After the Second World War, the decline of the great ideologies and the expansion of the market (books, records and gadgets made into cultural goods) put culture in the foreground of thoughts. All the more so as the poverty of survival encourages people to live abstractly according to models whose fiction (predominance of images and even stereotypical images) needs a strong renewal for everyone. Surrealism will bear the cost of such a recuperation, which it has refused again and again, if not from the heart, then at least with the spirit.
But the culture is not a monolith, not a compact area. As separate knowledge, it also testifies to the separations; it is the place of partial knowledge, which appears as an absolute in the name of the irredeemably lost and yet again and again aspired to ancient myth. And the consciousness of the Creator changes again to the extent that (around 1850?) The culture becomes a secondary market and creates prestige "units" that take the place of profit within the spectacular organization or complete it and in any case interfere with him.
If the creator does not let the culture bubble burst, in which he mostly limits himself to reproducing his own reflection, he runs the risk of being transformed into a mere producer of cultural goods or an official of the ideological-aesthetic spectacle. As a person of denial due to the disrepute the business world brings him, he is also easily that of false consciousness. To the charge of the profiteer that he “does not stand on the ground of reality”, he replies by taking sides with the spiritual. Surrealism also still has traces of this absurd dispute between mercantile "materialism" and the reactionary or revolutionary spirit.
However, it happens to the most clairvoyant and sensitive of them that they identify with more or less sharpness their position with that of the proletariat. Hence a tendency that can be called that of "radical aesthetics" (Nerval, Stendhal, Baudelaire, Keats, Byron, Novalis, Büchner, Forneret, Blake, etc.), in which the search for the new unity cuts through the symbolic The destruction of the old world expresses, through a provocatively chosen freedom from purpose and the rejection of the commodity logic and the directly concrete that controls it and determines it as the only concrete one. Hegel embodied the historical awareness of such an attitude.
Another detour - via the "radical aesthetics" extended as "traditional ethics" - the consciousness of culture as a separate sphere and the consciousness of the thinker or artist alienated in the sheer powerlessness of the spirit develop a defense of creativity as one A way of authentic existence that is inseparable from the criticism of the commodity system and the survival imposed by it everywhere. Such a tendency is represented by Marx and Fourier.
Finally, there is a tendency which, without plunging into history as clearly as Marx and Fourier, establishes the liquidation of culture as a separate sphere through the realization of art and philosophy in everyday life as a principle. This line goes from Meslier via Petrus Borel, Hölderlin, Lasilly, Coeurderoy, Dejaque and Lautreamont to Sade and runs from Ravachol to Jules Bonnot. This line, or rather this mesh of lines that unexpectedly connect theoretically and practically, punctuates the ideal map of radicality. Emerging from history, it often returns to it by force - but without the clear awareness of its power over history and the knowledge of its real possibilities. In the decade 1915-1925 these isolated voices, strongly striving for unity, carried by the energy of human emancipation, could be heard with the help of history's revenge on all its ideological forms.
Dada shows at the same time the awareness of the crumbling of ideologies and the will to abolish them for the benefit of an authentic life. But Dadaist nihilism seeks to be an experiment of absolute, and consequently abstract, rupture. Not only does it not rely on the historical conditions that initiated its creation, but also by desecrating culture, ridiculing it as an autonomous sphere and playing with its fragments, it separates itself from a tradition of the creators who have the same goal of Pursued destruction of art and philosophy; who pursue it with the concern of reinvesting and realizing art and philosophy, liquidated as ideological forms and cultural elements, in the lives of all people.
After Dada's failure, surrealism resumed this tradition. He takes it up again as if Dada did not exist and the bursting of culture did not occur. He continues the hope cherished from de Sade to Jarry without realizing that the cancellation has become possible. He gathers the high hopes and makes them common, without revealing that the conditions for their realization are already in place. In doing so, he renews the spectacle that hides the story to be made from the last class - the proletariat as the bearer of total freedom. It is to his credit that he was a school that popularized the revolutionary thinkers instead of constructing the revolution. Surrealism was the first to prevent people from confusing Marx and Bolshevism in France, it was the first to see Lautréamont at the gun barrel and to plant De Sade's black flag on Christian humanism. His failure has been pure enough to leave him that glory.

Dada and the questioning of culture

Dada arises at a turn in the history of industrial society. Imperialism and nationalism as ideological models that reduce people to citizens who kill and are killed in the name of the state that oppresses them, emphasize the distance between real and ubiquitous human beings and the spectacular image of abstract humanity, for example from the standpoint of France and Germany strongly contradicts. The organization of the spectacle, on the other hand, while it reaches its most Ubu-like (3) point of representation for freedom-loving spirits, at the same time draws towards itself almost all that culture has in terms of intellectuals and artists. Incidentally, this process ran parallel to the course of the official leaders of the proletariat in the warmonger camp.
In 1915-1918 Dada stepped in to condemn the mystifying power of culture as a whole. In contrast - and after Dada had proven himself incapable of realizing art and philosophy, a project that would have favored the victory of the Spartacists - Surrealism will only want to take into account the slackness of intelligence and the example of chauvinistic stupidity, which every intellectual who is proud to be one gives off from Barres to Montehus.
At that moment, when culture and its followers proved that they were actively involved in organizing the spectacle and collective mystification, suerralism defied Dadaist negativity - which, incidentally, found it all too difficult to start a positive project - and brought back the old ideological mechanism that turns every partial criticism of today into the official culture of tomorrow. It was only pop art that succeeded in recuperating late Dadaism as an ideological form of Dadaist radicalism. As far as recuperation is concerned, Surrealism, despite all unwillingness, will not be dependent on outside help.
The ignorance of the current of dissolution of art and philosophy maintained by surrealism is as pitying as the ignorance maintained by Dada of the other side of the same movement: the dissolution.
The poetic language dismantled by Lautreamont, the philosophy condemned in an opposite and yet identical sense by Hegel and Marx, the painting that reached the climax of its liquefaction with Impressionism, the theater that discovered the point of parodistic self-destruction with “Ubu” - all of this should be Dada to unite powerfully.
Is there a more plausible argument than Malevich's "White Square on White Ground" than the urinal shown by Marcel Duchamp in the exhibition of the Independent Artists under the name "Fontaine" and as the first Dadist collage poems cut out of newspapers and words were made at random! Cravan identified the artist's activity with defecation, and even Valery saw what Joyce wanted to illustrate with "Finnegans Wake" ‘: that there could be no more novels. Satie ended the joke of the music. While Dada was denouncing all the cultural pollution and the spectacular rotting, surrealism appeared with its project of great purification.
The artistic production then begins again against and without Dada - against and with Surrealism. Surrealist reformism deviates from the well-trodden paths of reformism in order to tread its new paths - Bolshevism, Trotskyism, Guevarism, anarchism. Just as the non-perishing economism becomes a crisis economy, the self-surviving crisis of culture becomes a crisis culture. Surrealism is the staging of everything that has existed in the cultural past in the form of refusal of separations, striving for abolition and struggles against ideologies and the organization of the spectacle.


At what point does surrealism get rid of Dada? To answer this question is to assume that the Surrealists are transformed dadists and nothing is less certain. If one examines the early works of the first exponents of Surrealism, one discovers works that are personal and hostile to the prevailing tradition, but that are only slightly influenced by Dada's disruptive spirit.
The good relations with Reverdy, the publisher of the magazine “Nord-Süd”, the poems of Breton, Peret, Eluards and Soupault show sufficiently how attached these new voices are to a certain conception of literature. The first surrealists were particularly familiar with the sweetened Parisian version of Dada - Tzara's foolish antics, the opposition to futurism and cubism, and some personal feuds between various personalities. Grosz, Huelsenbeck, Schwitters, Hausmann, Jung and even Picabia remain largely unknown to them.
In 1917, Apollinaire's play “Les Mamelles e Tiresias” (“Tiresias‘ teats ”) was described as“ surrealistic ”. The word was used again in 1920 by Paul Dermee in the magazine “L‘Esprit noveau” (“The New Spirit”) and in 1924 by Yvan Goll as the title for a publication that would only have one number.
As early as 1919 this expression had a less blurred content. This year, for example, Aragon writes his first automatic texts, while Breton tries to outline a term in “Entree des mediums” (“The media enter”) which he will only explain in more detail in the “First Manifesto of Surrealism” . Even at the starting point, the term 'surrealism' ‘expresses a new search, it already bears the quality mark of a new cultural product and is strongly influenced by the concern to distinguish itself sharply from the other labels. The contradiction between the voluntaristic rigor and the compromise that the return to culture seeks to make an objective statement is one of the permanent ordeals that the surrealist group will keep dividing.
The magazine, founded in 1919 and ironically called "Littérature", initially retains some literary aspects and even the style of a traditional magazine. There the project to initiate a new way of thinking, feeling and living, which is that of a new world, gets lost and works out at the same time. In the decline that follows the triple defeat of Spartacus, Dada and the Russian Soviet revolution (recuperated by Bolshevism), surrealism promises and it keeps its promise to be the capricious consciousness of an epoch unconscious, a wisp in the night of National Socialism and National Bolshevism.
The table of contents of the first number of “Litterature” contained the names of Valery, Gide, Fargue, Cendrars, Romains, Jacob, Auric and Milhaud. The young Breton admires Valery, Reverdy and Saint-Pol-Roux, to whom he will remain loyal for life. But he is just as fascinated by Arthur Cravan and Jacques Vache, these two model types of authentically experienced Dadaist nihilism. Breton and surrealism themselves are, so to speak, the result of the two diverging tendencies.
Breton reveals the sense of such a train of thought in the following excerpt from the “Second Manifesto of Surrealism” (1930): “Despite the different paths taken by those who have invoked or relied on Surrealism Called, one will ultimately have to admit that the supreme endeavor of Surrealism has been to provoke a crisis of consciousness of the most general and serious kind in the intellectual and moral realm, and that one can only judge whether this result has been achieved or not can decide historical success or failure ''.
The connection to culture as an autonomous sphere can be read from the restriction to the "spiritual and moral area", while the "crisis of consciousness of the most general and most serious kind" indicates what surrealism superficially retains of the spirit of Dada becomes.
Because Dada accelerates the purging of the magazine "Littérature" ‘. At his instigation, the Lireraren quarrels turn into aggressiveness against the writer himself and find certain hostilities - such as against Max Jacob, Andre Gide and Jean Cocteau - a justified basis in the contempt of writing as a profession.
In 1920, number 13 of the magazine "Littérature" ‘was made widely available to Dadaist influence by publishing 23 manifestos of the Dada movement. At the same time, however, the break between André Breton and Tristan Tzara was announced.
If Breton's intelligence and reticent modesty gave surrealism a significant part of its spirit, then Dada, which revolutionary theorists needed most, has apparently lost much of its wealth and possibilities through an unfortunate reverse process by falling under Tzara's thumb, where the Poverty of thought and flatness of inventiveness are grotesquely connected with the tendency to prestige and the will to appear as a star.
What critical sense and clairvoyant belligerence would have been necessary to induce artists to give up art and understand everyday life as the subject of collective revolutionary work - that was missing from Tzara. The indecisive creators, who were basically more receptive to the stimulus of an artistic career than they would have led one to believe, quickly found an excuse in the constant repetition of the same jokes staged by Tzara and in the star role offered to them by Dada's "anti-art show" reconnect with the cultural activity. In doing so, they did not renounce their Dadaist contempt for art, but merely pretended to believe that the disreputation was only partial and that it only related to the then prevailing forms of literature, thought and art. Suealism was already floating in Dada's failures.
The investigation in “LitTéraTure” on the question “Why are you writing?” Does not have the radicalism that one can legitimately attribute to it at first. Certainly it reveals the general vulgarity of intentions, the lack of imagination of the novelists, the insanity of the rhymers and university thinking, but it also prepares the “discovery” of profound reasons for a new art of writing, feeling, and painting and paves the way for an expression that claims to be authentic and total.
Such a mode of expression was already available experimentally - as Breton claims in his "Conversations with André Parinaud '" (1952):
“In 1919 my attention was drawn to the more or less partial sentences which, in complete solitude, when sleep is approaching, become perceptible to the mind, without it being possible to discover their previous purpose”.
The practical results come to light in a work written by André Breton and Philippe Soupault, "Les Champs magnetiques" ("The Magnetic Fields"), which was written according to the dictates of the unconscious and which heralded the later experimental "sleep series" in which Desnos, Péret and Crevel express themselves without the mediation of the conscious.
When Breton took over the management of the new series of the magazine "Littérature" ‘in March 1922 and rejected both Dadaism and the literary faction (Gide, Valéry and the like), he had a replacement program, a positive project.
The break with Dada made a little further headway in 1921 at a public event initiated by Aragon and Breton, namely “Maurice Barrès‘ Indictment and Conviction ”.
Barrès was this literary anarchist of the "I-cult" who had become the singer of a greasy nationalism - in other words the perfect symbol for this intelligentsia of the "fin de siecle" which had joined the poetry of fanfare and, a contratio, the followers of a culture without "Spiritual blood stain" justified.
The judgment was made on 13. May spoken. A carnival doll represented the accused; Breton was chairman, while Ribemont-Dessaignes played the prosecutor and Soupault and Aragon, who had every reason to love Barrès in advance, provided the defense.
Nothing had been left untried to bring about legal proceedings and a clash in which the revolutionary factions would have recognized Dada's subversive activity. That was the price paid for saving the movement. Benjamin Péret, who will be animated by the same indomitable radicalism all his life, was very noticeable in the role of the "unknown soldier" because he gave his testimony in German. Otherwise, all statements emphasized the dirty nature of the old Barrès front-line fighters and everything that was related to the national character.
Victor Crastre rightly emphasizes the failure of the Barres Trial in his book "The Drama of Surrealism":
“The fact that the right did not react at all and the revolutionary parties remained silent, proves the failure. And at the same time there is a retreat to aestheticism, which triumphs only moderately at the Dada exhibition that opened on June 6th in the Galerie Montaigne, about which Breton will write: 'It seems to me that the confirmation of a whole series of extremely worthless' Dada '' acts in the process of seriously compromising one of the attempts to which I remain most attached. ' This bond forces him to try to save Dada from the danger of sterility. He sums up the plan for a congress to clarify the situation - it is the 'Paris Congress to Determine Guidelines and Defend the Modern Spirit', an ambitious project that was able to put poetry and art back on less sandy ground as the one in which they sank. It didn't happen. Writers and artists had made themselves known in and through the Dada movement. They did not want to compromise this reputation in an adventure that seemed to them hopeless, since they only harbored suspicion of this 'spirit' on whose behalf the Congress was to be held. After the failure, Breton and his friends limited their claims. They seem concerned with going in depth rather than expanding their efforts. They renounce any alliance. The very small group, by the way, is again limited to itself ”.
It should be emphasized that Picabia, the most coherent nihilist in the Dadaist group, had given his support to the congressional project. Tzara was against on the pretext that such a project had something of a constructive spirit about it, while Dada could be defined as pure negation!


During the performance of “Coeur ȧ gaz” (4) in 1923, Tzara asks the police for help and reports the troublemakers: Eluard, Breton and Péret. So the break was complete.
Different personalities now often gather around a nucleus that originally consisted of Breton, Aragon and Soupault: Eluard, Péret, Desnos, Vitrac, Morise, Limbour, Delteil, Baron, Crevel, Man Ray, Duchamp and Ernst. The years 1924-1925 are pivotal points. Before that, surrealism tore itself away from a Dada spirit to which it had never wholeheartedly attached itself; then he looks for an agreement with the communists - from the marginalized Leninists around the magazine “Clarté” (“Klarheit”) to the party Stalinists.
A period of fruitful experimentation resulted in the elaboration and publication of Breton's “Manifesto of Surrealism”, the publication of the journal “La Revolution surréaliste” (The Surrealist Revolution) and the opening of an “Office for Surrealist Research” '. The dreams, the automatic writing, the practice of Freud's theory, the invention of games, the wandering around and the chance encounters, the experiments with the media all contribute to the uniformity of the intellectual pursuits that shed a sharp light on human possibilities. Incidentally, the first issue of the “Revoluion surréaliste '‘ solemnly announces: “We have to come to a new declaration of human rights”.
Andre Masson, Mathias Lübeck, Georges Ma1kine, Pierre Naville, Raymond Queneau, Antonin Artaud, Jacques Prevert, Marcel Duchamp and Pierre Brasseur join the group as a surrealist movement led by Marco Ristitch emerges in Yugoslavia.
At the same time, Surrealism joins a carefully defined tradition that includes all those whose work calls for self-abolition in life (Sade, Lautréamont, Fourier, Marx, etc.), as well as the great dreamers (Nerval, Novalis, Achim von Arnim, etc.) .), the alchemists (Paracelsius, Basilius, Valentin etc.), the passionate, strange, fantastic spirits, the poets of black humor - an ever-enriching pantheon that can be changed (for example, Poe was taken in first and then chased away again for his contribution to police research).
Above all, the group adopts the Dadaist tactics of the scandal against the representatives of the ruling culture. At least two of them are said to shake public opinion at the time: the pamphlet “A corpse” to welcome the funeral of Anatole France and the incidents during the feast in honor of Saint-Pol-Roux.
Breton explains in his “conversations:“ France represented the archetype of everything we could only abhor. If for us there was one usurped call among all, it was his. We were completely insensitive to the alleged purity of his style, and most of all his all too famous skepticism disgusted us. He was the one who said the vocal sonnet (5) was nonsense even though his verses are "amusing". In the human field, we considered his attitude to be the most dubious and despicable of all - he had done what was necessary to earn the praise of both the right and the left at the same time. He was spoiled with honor and complacency and so on. We were deprived of any consideration.
Since then, this balloon has deflated so completely that it is difficult to imagine the anger that erupted on these four pages, which contained texts by Aragon, Delteil, Drieu la Rochelle, Eluard and me. According to Camille Mauclair, Aragon and I belonged to the 'genus of the furious oaks'; For example, he exclaimed: 'These are no longer the customs of career makers and Apaches, but of jackals ... Others went even further and demanded punitive measures. "
In July 1925, a celebratory dinner in honor of Saint-Pol-Roux, a poet admired by Breton and several Surrealists, offered the much sought-after opportunity to put an end to the literary rascal. Since the ambassador of France, PauI Claudel, had declared in an Italian newspaper that Surrealism and Dadaism had "one single meaning - namely homosexuality", the reply takes the form of an "open letter" written on oxen -Printed on blood-colored paper and pushed under each plate in the "Closerie des Lilas" (6). Breton's account of this is pretty well known:
“They were about to serve a rather pathetic hake in white sauce when several of us were already on the tables. Things finally took a bad turn when three of the guests left and shortly afterwards came back with the police. In the general confusion, however, the sense of humor meant that the very excited Rachilde (7) was arrested. "
As is well known, Michel Leiris narrowly escaped the Lünchen when he said “Long live Germany! Long live China! ”And“ Long live Abd-el-Krim! ”Shouted.

Anarchp-Dadaism stayed alive. On the cover of the first issue of the "Revolution Surréaliste", for example, there was a picture of the anarchist Germaine Berton surrounded by all the members of the surrealist group, which incidentally was much more provocative than conviction, since neither Bonnot nor Ravachol were part of the surrealist pantheon belong and - what is worse - Poincaré (8) will have Mecislas Charrief (9) beheaded without Breton and his friends moving. Yet this ferment of revolt and this correct way of denouncing the permanent scandal of the ruling social organization (which can be found again very clearly in the intervention for Violette Nozieres) will prevent the best surrealists from dreaming of a global revolution - like confused he might have been - due to the mediocrity of Bolshevism. Along with the cult of passions and especially love, this should protect the movement against any obvious compromise with infamy. (The temporary agreement with the Kronsadt murderer can be credited to the ignorance of Trotsky's role in 1919.)


Around 1924-1925 the movement was dominated by the opinion that it was time to add its political complement to the critique of aesthetics. Meetings took place between the Surrealists and the members of the “Clarté” group - Crastre, Fourrier, Bernier - who, as avant-garde intellectuals, are hostile to Barbusse conformity (10) and to the left of the Communist Party.
If not the support of the party, then at least gaining its favor, that meant for many to break with the literary figures more definitively than if they had continued to play the role of barbarians in culture at the risk of one day exercising their power there and to be recuperated. For them and for a few others, the image of the Bolshevik with the knife between his teeth used by the right was not without its charm. It was not known that the blood of the Machnowists and the left opposition covered that of the whites on its blade and that the knife would soon be used by the Stalinist reckoning.

Only Artaud, who was sensitive to the slightest sign of oppression, significantly distanced himself. The closer his friends "Clarté" got, the more he backed away until he disappeared completely. Soupault, Vitrac, Baron and a few others openly chose a literary career: they went out the other door and Breton greeted them as they left in the "Second Manifesto".
In 1926 the unsuccessful decision to found a new body, “The Civil War” together with the “CIarté” employees, clearly reveals the failure. It is too late for specialized politics and the specialization of revived art to unite to disintegrate.
But surrealist activity has never been as important as it was at this time. The surrealist spirit spreads internationally. In Belgium, René Magritte, Paul Nouge and Louis Scutenaire form a group in which ingenuity, informality and violence prevail for some time before they turn into a humorous madness full of Stalinist confessions much later.
The game of the "Cadavre exquis" - a poem from a drawing that is collectively made by participants who, apart from the point of connection, know nothing of what the others have written or represented - discovers the mind with more interest in language of the Dadaist collages again, the idea of ​​a poetry made by everyone, objective coincidence. The surrealist inclination for playfulness has thus found one of its best meaningful forms of distraction.
In 1927 Andrė Breton joined the Communist Party. He is divided into the “cell of the gas workers”, in which he displays a disarming willingness until he grows tired of bureaucratism, which was ridiculous at the time, leaves the party and gives up his illusions.
On the side of Artaud, but outside of his direct influence, there is a tendency to develop an aspect of surrealism that will prevail after the Second World War. In 1928 the first issue of René Daumal and Roger-Gilbert Lecomte's magazine appeared, “Grand Jeu” (“The Big Game”). Was an alliance possible? The attempt took place - but in vain. Daumal and Lecomte valued the discipline Breton required little. They also showed a certain contempt for politics at a time when the Surrealists were hastily politicizing themselves, and to this accusation, which of course could not be avoided, Daumal and Lecomte responded with warnings about the recuperation danger of Surrealism. There was a common interest in the union, but there was no passion on either side to emphasize the need. Finally a pretext was found for mutual distancing: a member of the "Grand Jeu", Roger Vailland, had written an apology for the Police Prefect Chiappe in a newspaper; for this he was weakly deceived by Daumal and Lecomte - but Breton was not used to tolerating the lack of violent reactions to such a violation. At that time he will turn more and more clearly to Gurdijeff, to the point that in 1933 he broke with Roger-Gilbert Lecomte.
The "Second Manifesto" looks like a general settlement. Baron, Limbour, Masson, Vitrac, Desnos, Prevert, Queneau ... Artaud in particular has to bear the costs of the operation. He had brought himself into disrepute, however, for having the police intervene against his friends when they tried to disrupt a performance at the Alfred Jarry Theater. What is less understandable, however, is how Breton was able to reconcile with Tzara, who in 1923 also reported Breton and Eluard to the police.
Bunuel, Dali and Char join the group. Surrealism prevailed in Prague with Vitezlav Nezval, Jindrich Styrki, Karel Teige and Toyen. In the same year Jacques Rigaut committed suicide, who, like Cravan and Vaché, was a living example of Dadaist nihilism.
On the front lines of the scandals, the psychiatrists are boiling over the calls to murder contained in Breton's "Nadja" - and targeting them personally. A new magazine is published with the necessary aggressiveness, although the title expresses a clear step backwards compared to the project of the “Revolution surrealist”. With a surrealism in the wake of a revolution that is itself being pulled by the Communist Party's locomotive, the die has been cast on poetry as well as on the revolutionaries. Fortunately, the content contradicts the title. For example, Crevel writes in the 3rd number of the "Surréalisme au service de la revolution" ("Surrealism in the service of the revolution") 1931 in a management report:
“Surrealism - not a school, but a movement - does not speak ex cathedra, but rather goes to the place where the action takes place for the knowledge applied to the revolution (through a poetic path). Lautréamont had said: poetry must be made by everyone, not by one. Eluard commented on this sentence as follows: poetry will purify all people. All ivory towers are smashed. ”And Crevel continues:“ By starting from Hegel like Marx and Engels - also in other ways - Surrealism goes as far as dialectical materialism ”.
Actually, Hegel, which the Surrealists put into practice late and, above all, poorly, is hardly made usable - not even in order to be able to avoid confusing the dialectic with Maurice Thorez ‘thinking. The lust for life will, however, be more important and the best thing about surrealist thinking will certainly be the analysis of lived moments which rediscover the dialectic better than Hegel's quotations and allow poetry to emerge better than a poem.
The excluded respond to Breton's insults with a violent pamphlet, "A corpse", which takes over the tone and title of the insults directed against Anatole France at the time. The “Maldoror Bar”, a premature attempt to recover goods, is ransacked by Breton and his friends. A film by Bunuel and Dali, "The golden Zeotalter" brings the old fighters and the right into anger. Among the bonmots inspired by anger, Georges Sadoul's letter to the "First" of the Sain-Tyr School (11) leads to repression against his author, while the critic of the newspaper calls for "Liberté" ("Freedom") that Péret should be shot because he wrote the "Life of the murderer Foch (12)" with an unforgettable tone of disgust.
At the same time, Maurice Heine wrote his beautiful foreword to De Sade's “Justine”. He will exert a greater influence on the Movement than would have been believed for the reluctance of himself and his friends.
In 1931 the flirtation with the Communist Party took a militant turn. The Surrealists join the party-controlled Association of Revolutionary Writers and Artists (A.E.A.R.). It is thanks to the power of a counterbalance that, at the same time, research on the "magical" ‘works to which Alberto Giacometti contributes the discovery of his" objects with a symbolic function "is expanding! In any case, the connections between alchemy and the path to creating new and sacred relationships set the tone for thought as the 'Aragon Affair' ‘prepares.
Although they neither approve of his spirit nor his form, the Surrealists advocate Aragon's long poem “Front Rouge” (“Red Front”), which Aragon wrote during a stay in the USSR. The embarrassment of having to justify a writer whose text already suggests the future patriotic songs is expressed in Breton's publication “Misere de la poésie” (“The misery of poetry”).
In the meantime, Aragon is sending very optimistic reports from Moscow about an understanding with the communists. While his travel companion Sadoul returns to Paris, Aragon stays in Brussels for a few days. But it would be best to let Breton himself report on his conversation with Sadoul:
“Yes, everything went well, the goals that we had been able to set had been achieved, but there was actually a big 'but'. An hour or two before their departure they were presented with a statement to sign, which included the task, not to say denial, of almost all of the positions we have taken so far: defection of the 'Second Manifesto', insofar - here I quote literally - it 'contradicts dialectical materialism'; Denunciation of Freud's teaching as an "idealistic ideology" and Trotskyism as a "social-democratic and counter-revolutionary ideology". Ultimately, they should undertake to submit their literary activity to the discipline and control of the Communist Party ‘. - 'And now ‘? I asked brusquely. And when Sadoul was silent: 'I suppose you refused!' - 'No,' he said, 'Aragon said that one had to submit if one - you as well as us - wanted to be able to work in the party's cultural organizations '. For the first time I saw this abyss open before my eyes, which has since grown to dizzying proportions, as the shameless idea succeeded in spreading, according to which truth must or must give way to effectiveness the conscience just as little as the personality is entitled to any consideration, or the end justifies the means ”.
In 1932 Aragon joins the communist party. In the same year Breton's "Communicating Tubes" and one of Crevel's best texts, "Diderot's Harpsichord" are published.


When Breton is saddened by Aragon's cowardice, his outraged friends traditionally respond. Several of them publish texts hostile to the “Front rouge '‘ author. Eluard in particular is not afraid to write: “The incoherence becomes a calculation, the dexterity becomes an intrigue, Aragon himself becomes someone else and his memory can no longer cling to me. To protect myself from this, I have a sentence that no longer has the exchange value between him and me that I have attributed to him for so long, a sentence that retains its whole meaning and for him, as for so many others, a punitive judgment against you Thoughts that have become unworthy of his expression: 'All the water in the sea would not be enough to wash away a spiritual blood stain.' ”(Lautréamont). Eluard knew how to speak of the hanged man when there was talk of the line. A few years later, hand in hand with Aragon, he would play the role of a Stalinist fashion star, happily rhyming party, fatherland and freedom. When Breton implored him in 1950 to stand up for her former friend Zavis Kalandra, who was sentenced to death in Prague, Eluard replied, without quoting his favorite maxim: “I have too much to do with the innocent who loudly proclaim their innocence do to preoccupy myself with the guilty party proclaiming their guilt aloud ''. Kalandra was executed.
In 1933, Breton was the first to leave the A.E.A.R. excluded: "The reason for the exclusion," he explained, "was a letter from Ferdinand Alquie to me, which was printed in the 5th issue of the" Surréalisme au service de la revolution ". In this, by the way, extremely moving letter full of libertarian spirit, the civic and moral conceptions that prevailed in the Russian film 'The Way to Life' were sharply attacked. Regardless of the opinions expressed in this letter, several of which I could not share, the intensity of life and revolt that pervaded it seemed to me to require publication. So there could be no question of the revocation requested by me. '‘
In the following year, a surrealist group around Georges Henein emerged in Egypt. In Brussels there is a special issue of the magazine “Documents 3 ′‘, which deals primarily with the “Surrealist Intervention” ‘and in which several texts stand out due to their violent tone and clarity. But the year 1934 was mainly marked by the homage to Violette Nozières. In the young, sentenced to death parental killer, the Surrealists greet the symbol of active resistance against the oppression by the family. It is less understandable, however, that at the same time the two Papin sisters, who in their own way illustrated Swift's "Advice to the Domestic Servants" by murdering their mistress and her daughter, did not see a similar demonstration. However, the political events precipitated.
Relations between the Surrealists and those in charge within the Communist Party have become increasingly hostile. In 1935 it breaks because of an incident. On the eve of the Stalinist-controlled writers' congress for the defense of culture, Breton, whose testimony we have to refer to here again, meets Ilya Ehrenburg on Boulevard Montparnasse at 10 p.m.:
“I hadn't forgotten a certain passage in his book about the work of a writer from the USSR, which was published a few months earlier, and which included the following to read: 'Surrealists do want something from Hegel, Marx and the revolution But there is one thing they reject - and that is work. They have their own pursuits. For example, they research homosexuality and dreams ... One struggles to swallow an inheritance, the other his wife's dowry, etc ... 'After I gave my name, I slapped him several times while he tried to bargain miserably. without even raising a hand to protect his face. I don't see how I could have returned the favor to this professional slanderer ... '‘.
After grueling discussions with the organizers, Crevel committed suicide on the eve of the congress so that Breton would not be withdrawn from the floor. His gesture, as well as Antonin Artaud's solipsism, contain the immediate, spontaneous and negative answer to the problem that surrealism had based on false elements: how can one on the basis of autonomous sectors (which have already been objectively destroyed as human values ​​by the power of the spectacular commodity system are) and parceled activities (which, however, are raised to totalities - art, politics, thinking, the unconscious, survival, etc. - and are presented as positive) to achieve a unity of the individual with himself and with others! How could Surrealism, since it neglected the Dadaist striving for a point of total negativity, historically justify its will to a passivity and a global revival?

The surrealists denounce the Moscow trials. They are approaching Georges Bataille, whose movement, “Contre-Attaque” (“counterattack”) wants to be an “anti-fascist fighting association of revolutionary intellectuals”. Yamanka founds a magazine in Tokyo. Roland Penrose is organizing an important exhibition in London. Benjamin Péret publishes the volume of poetry “Je ne mange pas de ce pain-là” (“I won't eat of this bread”), in which poetry really seeks its practice by helping to liquidate the police, the Calls on priests, employers, money, work and all other dumbing down forces. Péret, who boldly takes his position, volunteers to side with the anarchists in the Spanish Revolution. He will be the only surrealist in this fight that all of his friends enthusiastically declare theirs - but from afar.
The preoccupation with painting, which seems to have come to the fore again since the break with the communist party, does not prevent the line of the lesser political evil from continuing to be pursued. At that time it consists in rapprochement with Trotsky and the Fourth International. In Mexico, Breton publishes the manifesto “For an independent revolutionary art” together with Diego Rivera and the author of the “Crimes of Stalin”. Dali, whose game of a born idiot finally became too much for the surrealists, is excluded and from now on he will unreservedly deal with peeling out a technique from the principle of obscurantism and the symptoms of dementia praecox that avant-garde advertising will use for a long time . Despite the anagrammatic mocking name - "Avida Dollars" - with which Breton branded him, he still has the merit of being able to identify art and goods openly and to chase after money, contracts and honors without shame, whatever Ernst, Miro, Picasso and all that the artists, however great their talent, just act ashamed.
Breton reconciles with Artaud and Prévert. Basically nothing should have separated them. Prévert and Péret drew from the same source, while Breton had many similarities to an Artaud who would have become master of himself. All four lead an uninterrupted, hard fight against the surrealist ideology and the increasing recuperation of the movement.
Surrealism, however, is from its origins an ideology and it is condemned from the beginning to play the game of the new and the old of culture - unless, for example, the simultaneous victory of the Spanish revolution over the Stalinists and the Fascists would have made its correction and transformation into a revolutionary theory possible. But by ignoring it and refusing to accept it, their struggle sounds like a glorious song of defeat. Artaud, Breton, Péret and Prévert form the last square that will never arise because it has nothing left to lose.
In contrast to them, Salvador Dali accepted surrealism as an ideology with full spacetime. He joins fascism, Catholicism and Franco, just as Aragon joined Stalinism. Eluard will then take the same route.
“After I found out in Mexico,” says Breton in his “Talks”, “that Eluard's poems had just appeared in the magazine 'Commune', the organ of the 'House of Culture', I of course hurried to send him a letter to inform about the earlier unqualified behavior of this organization towards me, and I had no doubt that he would immediately refrain from it. But I hadn't received an answer from him and on my return trip I was dismayed when he pretended that such cooperation did not require solidarity on his part and that he had come to the conviction that a poem by him could prevail everywhere due to its inherent quality, so that in the last few months he had just as much enjoyed working on fascist publications - those were his own words - in Germany and Italy as he did on 'Commune'. I limited myself to drawing his attention to the fact that such an attitude led to the denunciation of any previous agreement between us and made any new meeting unnecessary. "
In 1940 the deaths of Klee, Maurice Heine and Saint Pol-Roux, who were not members of the Surrealist movement but had a strong influence on it, heralded the end of the great period. Neither Breton nor Péret said their last word, but they will be alone - or almost alone - continuing the surrealism by hand. In the summer of 1941 Breton traveled to New York, where Ernst and Masson followed him. Péret chose Mexico.
In the United States, only the Avida Dollars version of Surrealism is known. With Marcel Duchamp's help, Breton managed to publish the magazine “VVV” in which he published the “Prolegomena” for a “third manifesto of surrealism or not”.


After 1945, surrealism gradually disappears. He survives himself without purifying himself. He is still determined to embark on the mystical-alchemical path, while his political interventions are increasingly marked by confusion and idiocy. In 1946 he protested against the French repression in Vietnam in the leaflet "Freedom - a Vietnamese word". “Opening breach” attacks Stalinism, but in 1956 the Surrealists express their hope that after the 20th Congress of the Russian Communist Party and Crushchev's speech the party cadres will be renewed; After giving this good advice, all that remains for them is to greet the Hungarian revolution with "Hungary, a rising sun".
In 1960 some of them took the initiative for the "Declaration on the right to refuse to serve in the Algerian War" - the so-called "Declaration of the 12". In 1968, however, Kuba applauded everything that continued to be called surrealist!
In between, the surrealists work together with the anarchists of the “Monde libertaire” and for a while they join the “global citizens” movement of Garry Davis.
Before the war, the magazine "Minotaure" was the last fermentation center for surrealist ideas. "Neon" (1948-1949), "Medium" (1953-1954), "Le Surréalismus même" ("Surrealism itself" (l958-1959), "La Brêche" (1961), "Brief", "L ' Archibras “bear more and more relentless testimony to the decline of the movement.

Besides such personal works, surrealism seems to come to terms with the repetition, the imitation of the masters and the sad mutual eulogies. Many are getting used to the prevailing incoherence. Some are silent, while others prefer to follow René Crevel's path. Indeed, the end of Surrealism, the last movement that honestly believed in the purity of art within the commodity system, is fraught with suicidal cases: the painter Ashile Gorky (1949), the painter Oscar Dominquez (1958), the poet Jean-Pierre Duprey ( 1959) and the painter Wolfgang Paalen (1959), without mentioning Karel Teige, who committed suicide in Prague to avoid being arrested by the police.
On June 7, 1947, a leaflet by the revolutionary surrealists, the group of Belgian dissidents, correctly warned the rest of the movement. There Paul Bourgoignie, Achille Chavée, Christian Dotremont, Marcel Havrenne, René Magritte, Marcel Marien, Paul Nougé and Louis Scutenaire declared:
“Owners, crooks, druids, druids, you haven't done enough yet: We still want to join Surrealism in our attempt to bring the world and desire in the same direction (…). At first it should no longer be used as a flag by the glorious, no longer as a springboard by the cunning, no longer as an oracle chair by fortune tellers, it will no longer be the philosopher's stone for the thoughtless, a slingshot for the shy, the card game of the Be lazy, the brain canalization of the incompetent, the stroke of the "poet" or the glass of wine of the literary. "

But then the signatories declared, in order to make the full extent of their protest clear and to reveal even more the ridiculousness that would from now on cling to the declining surrealism, that they wanted to place their full confidence in the Communist Party!




Significantly, the "First Manifesto of Surrealism" begins by questioning this way of life, which has been called "survival", in order to distinguish it from the exciting and varied life:
“Faith goes so long to life, the most fragile in life, in real Life, of course, until it is lost. Man, this resolute dreamer, more dissatisfied with his lot from day to day, is hardly able to fully grasp the things which he has managed to use and which he owes to his casualness or effort, almost always to his effort, for he has consented work, at least he didn't resist trying his luck (what he calls his luck!). A great modesty is his lot: he knows what women he has had, what ridiculous adventures he has embarked on; his wealth or poverty are nothing to him, in this respect he remains a newborn child and as far as the consent of his conscience is concerned, I admit that he can do without them. "
This fact of unbearable mediocrity, recorded by Breton, only lacks the presence of history. Certainly the longing for a “master's life” that goes around in the surrealist dream points to the greatest myth of the uniform epochs through which the individual adventure, even if it was only that of the most modest of human beings, was inextricably linked with the cosmos a whole web of fictional realities and real fictions, in which every event was considered a sign in a magical mood in which the words and gestures set off mysterious currents of spiritual electricity. Surrealism never succeeded in analyzing the collapse of myth and its recuperation as a spectacle by the bourgeoisie. He is content with registering the stampede of anger and impatience at the end of the road, where from Romanticism to Dada the hostility of creative people towards the oppressive union of a lifeless spirit and a spiritless life under the pressure of the commodity system is expressed has been.
The romantic revolt from Shelley to Karl Sand and Lacenaire was followed by the aggressive aestheticism of Villiers de L‘Isle-Adam and the fall into symbolism and mannerism of decadence and death, which was carried over to the theater stage. The bloody farce in the years 1914-1918 was intended to give the gruesome visual art of Rollinat and Huysmans a real content, including the baroque scenery, which expressed the inclination to a refined life in contradicting ways. Nationalism had succeeded in giving the sad festivals of the end of the century the apotheosis of a great celebration of death. A few million corpses reawakened the zest for life. And when, through the movement of the councils and Spartacus, the proletariat took the floor again in the name of history, the greatest hope for the possibility of a radically different life was justified than for the only conditions that it can introduce - the liquidation of the commodity system and the Christian bourgeois civilization.
In this area Dada was not mistaken, and some Dadaists even less than others. Breton is just as mistaken when he wrote in the 5th issue of the magazine “Litterature” in 1922: “If his strength had not failed, Dada only desired - in this one should do him justice - everything thoroughly Surrealism will understand even less than Dada to what extent and in what way the Kiel sailors, the Spartacus workers and the members of the first Russian councils are putting the project into practice.
After the suppression of the revolution from Berlin to Kronstadt via La Courtine (13) and the Ukrainian level, Dada remains the only movement to demand, in a confused and clear way, the global destruction of art, philosophy and culture as separate sectors, as well their Realization in a unified social life. In the whole guilty conscience of surrealist reformism one finds traces of the reluctantly denied and repressed accepted global revolutionary project.
In the 4th issue of the “Revolution surrealiste” Breton proclaims: “There is no work of art that is compared to our complete one Primitivism can withstand ”and Aragon in the pamphlet“ A corpse ”speaks of“ the wretched little revolutionary activity ”“ that has taken place in our East over the past few years ”. In spite of its correctness, the first utterance is still that of an unsuspecting person and the second that of an idiot - the time that follows will sufficiently show that it was only a matter of words with no practical consequence. The Dada spirit lives on as a verbal form, while Surrealism imposes a different content on it.
The gloom of everyday life, however, is the stirrup that enables surrealism to mount the racing horses of the dream. It does not serve as a backdrop for escape and mystery, as some Stalinist thinkers claim. On the contrary, it is the center of despair from which every hope arises again - but through the detour of culture.
Of the great witnesses of the suffering, two died: Cravan and Vaché. The first set sail on a stormy evening in the Bay of Mexico, while the other, who had written from the front: "It would get boring to die so young", is in Nantes, the war is hardly over, life takes. Later it is Jacques Rigaut, Raymond Roussel and, from the surrealists, René Crevel. Crevel, who, like Artaud, was affected by the preponderance of non-life over all human occupations and wrote the following sentence in a text about Paul Klee, which Surrealism was supposed to develop for its benefit: “We neither like the asparagus of the poor, nor do we the leek of the rich. "
Survival as a lack of real life and as an immediately perceived reality finds a mirror in Dada that “makes shame even more shameful”, and in suicide the negatively expressed denunciation of his logic of death.
In surrealism, which as ideological is a static conception and only exerts pressure on history with the weight that it gives it, (in contrast to the revolutionary theory that emerges from history and comes back to it in order to move it speed up), survival, suicide, and death form a point of departure that life, at an absolute distance, must negate before returning to it to change it.This is the metaphysics from which the Surrcalists will try to work their way out by betting on the bad horse of Bolshevism.
That is why the first issue of the "Revolution Surrealist" is full of newspaper clippings about suicide. In the survey: "Why do you commit suicide?", Antonin Artaud's answer is undoubtedly exemplary:
“I suffer terribly for life. There is no state that I cannot attain. I am quite certain that I have been dead a long time ago, I have already committed suicide. That is, I was suicided. But what would you think of a previous suicide that would turn you around - but on the other side of life and not that of death? "
Artaud's path through life is clearly mapped out. In the nihilism that Dada could not achieve but wanted as a basis for the rebuilding of the ego, life and social organization, Artaud chooses the return to the dissolution of the ego into the spiritual totality. Postwar Surrealism will come closer to such a position and thus return to its starting point by transcending it but avoiding Artaud's clairvoyance and the drama it experienced. Few surrealists become as courageous and aware of their own alienation as he does: "I am unhappy as a person who has lost the best in himself", as well as their own fragmentation: "I don't want to be a bartered anymore (...) than The dead are not separated from the others. They are still walking around their corpses. I am not dead, but I am separated from myself. "
In 1924 Artaud lost the hope of a classless society and the realm of freedom, which Surrealism had so passionately maintained. When the revelation of Stalinism tarnished its effect on the hearts of Breton and his friends, Surrealism made Artaud's conclusion intellectually owns his decision to experience the drama of everyday alienation as the cosmic tragedy of the spirit.
After all, Surrealism was not that advanced in 1924. The survey on suicide also poses the problem of life. All possibilities of freedom and all freedoms of the possible are linked to the prerequisite for a possible death. Incidentally, Breton comments on the survey as follows: “How dry do all these eloquent, literary or farce-like answers appear, and why is it that they do not have anything human? Take your own life - have you not considered what is in such an expression in terms of anger and experience, disgust and passion? "
In the inhumanity of survival, surrealism also discovered the sign of the old world and its structures of oppression. Even if he lacked much in the ability to judge the further development of commodity fetishism, it must be said in appreciation that he only very rarely violated the revolutionary ethic of freedom, to use a favorite expression of Breton here. He denounced the oppression almost continuously and the violent tone compels sympathy.
But these young men, who should have asserted themselves as theorists and practitioners of the revolution in everyday life, will be content with being its artists, skirmishing against bourgeois society as if it were up to the Communist Party to take the offensive . This explains why important goals are pursued without the profound conviction by which they should be shown to the anger of the proletariat in the oppressive sectors to be destroyed, and that the powder ships that are allowed to run out end up as fireworks.
For example, the struggle against Christianity, already abandoned by Bolshevism, suffers from such modesty. Apart from the harmless pictures - Clovis Trouilles and Max Ernst's Holy Virgin, who hits the child Jesus with the halo on the backside, surrealist painting is careful not to deal with this topic.
Once and for all Artaud responds to the Christians who might annex him through one of these miracles, which they understand perfectly, by clearly stating: "I disregard the Christian virtues and what they replace with Buddhas and Lamas" ("Quarrel between Snot and God ”). Péret, who always remains true to the image of him published in the “Revolution surrealiste” under the title “Our colleague Benjamin Péret insults a priest”, frees modern poetry from its boring peals and gives the words the promised action back:
“Cardinal Mercier saw you a few days ago
How you rode a policeman like a mulle bucket overflowing with hosts
Cardinal Mercier you smell of God like the cattle shed of dung and the dung of Jesus
("Cardinal Mercier died")
Or, for example, in "The Paul Boncour Law":
,, ... Then the people who crush the senators like dog excrement will
look each other in the eye
like mountains laugh
and force the priests to kill the last generals with their crosses
and they become the priests with the flags
beat and massacre like an amen. "
In "The Immediate Action" Magritte, Mesens, Nouge, Scutenaire and Souris create a practical program:
“We are convinced that what has been done against religion has remained almost ineffective and that new means of action must be considered.
At the moment it is the surrealists who are best suited to such work. In order not to lose time, one must aim at the head - spread the shameful history of the religions, make life impossible for young priests, contribute to the disreputation of the bitterness of all organizations and sects such as the "Salvation Army", the evangelists, etc. by makes them laughable by all the means the imagination allows. Just imagine how exhilarating it would be to be able to propose to the best part of the youth a well-prepared and systematic disruption of sacred services, baptisms, confirmations, funerals, etc. Instead of the crosses that you meet on the roadside, you could also put pictures that invite you to love, or texts that poetically praise the surrounding nature, especially when it is unattractive. "
In an article published in “Intervention surrealiste” in 1934, which scandalously did not want to deal with any further, Pierre Yoyotte sets the tone for a discussion that should have led to a large-scale action: “Officially, the communists have the discovery of psychoanalysis repeatedly treated with an extremely imprudent distrust, which would have enabled them to combat the emotional processes of family, religion, fatherland, etc. with complete expertise. "
Without really being serious about this project, Rene Crevel provides a delicious psychoanalytic explanation for “Jesus” in his book “Diderot's Harpsichord” (family and complexes, family of complexes, family complex):
“Jesus, the masochistic wimp who turns the other cheek after being slapped on the first, was not one of those who contented himself with simply going back into the womb.
He had to go back to the innermost part of the genital organs of the producer, becoming a part of it - let's say the right testicle - since the trinity, as far as its appearance is concerned, is to be interpreted as the three-part entirety of a male sex - a banana and two mandarins, since the oriental style only allows comparisons with fruit (...)
Before the masochistic apotheosis, there had been some pleasures, what the French call tandelei outside the door - the baptismal show with John the Baptist, the small, fragrant intimate toilet with the hands of the holy women and above all the Holy Communion with bread ( we know what the long loaf of bread can represent, as well as we know that the painters who painted so many famous pictures after this Lord's Supper never put split rolls on the table, which in turn are symbolic of the female sex). (...)
Centurions like beautiful younglings with their calves tightly wrapped in gold gaiters appeared around them
so naked when the knee came out. (...)
Jesus, crouched under the cross and clad in a very elegant white robe, offered the spine from the moment he set out: from the minute Pilate washed his hands in innocence, the sexual symbolism had become clear. Jesus fell and got up again, that is, he had had an orgasm, he was ready to have an orgasm again, he had had another orgasm under the scourge of the athletes with the suggestive dress.
Well, just as the young bride cries “Mutti” in her fear of lust, so he kept calling out to his father. (...) But then there was the sponge soaked in vinegar, that is, the contempt of the most beautiful of the mercenaries for this rag who wanted to be his rag. Thus the legionnaire, who at the foot of the cross did not fail to recognize experienced hips among the huddled whores of Mary Magdalene, will not honor Jesus with the slightest prostate discharge. He is content to pee in his mouth.
Then the debauchery ends for three. Between the two bargains - the two chestnuts (the juicy, divine oranges are so shriveled and withered that they are only poor chestnuts) - Christ is only the shadow of a wretched curler. "
Finally, to name the main critical and practical guidelines that Surrealism was able to develop further in its revolutionary specificity and that can be found almost only as drafts, it is worthwhile to provide the following exemplary proof of the popularity of the anti-Christian sentiment among the people: after the " Humanité ”(14) had reported how, thanks to some courageous young people, a burning church could be saved, a reader sent a letter as a protest, which“ Le Surrealisme au service de la revolution ”published in its 2nd issue:
“Dear comrades! I am sorry for the rapporteur, who can say that, thanks to the courage of some young people, we have succeeded in protecting a building that should have been in ruins a long time ago. "
Right after Christianity - and apart from capitalism, against which the Surrealists adopt Lenin's arguments - the family is most loathed. The trial of Violette Nozieres, who had murdered her father, who was the driver of the train of the President of the Republic and who had tried to rape her, offered the longed-for opportunity. Eluard dedicated some of his most sincere verses to the young parricide:
“Violette dreams of untying the knot
Has solved
The snake knot of the bonds of hideous blood. "
Another symbol that Benjamin Péret does not fail to greet is "The Death of Mother Cognacq" (15):
“Unfortunately, the old Cognacq died
like France she died
From her willow-green paunch
large families arise
who got a fire shovel for each child
no more old cognacq
no more children after eighteen others
come at Easter or Christmas
and pee in the family cooking pot
The old Cognacq died
we dance we dance
around her grave crowned with a shit heap. "
Péret still lays the greatest enthusiasm in expressing his contempt for the fatherland, France, Gallic vulgarity, the cops and the army. One could cite him tirelessly:
"Finally this badly cooked sperm squirted out of the mother's brothel with an olive branch in the ass." ("The terrible Briand")
“The cows' ears are trembling
- one sings the Marseillaise
Los children of the feces bin
brush our snotty nose in Poincare's ear. ”(“ The Stabilization of the Franc ”)
And above all from these two classics: "The heroic death of Lieutenant Condamine de la Tour":
“Rotten Condamine de la Tour
The Pope makes two hosts out of your eyes
for your Moroccan sergeant
and your tail becomes his general's staff
Rotten Condamine de la Tour
Rot you boneless carrion. "
And from the "funerary inscription on a war memorial for the fallen", which Peret sent to a competition of the Academie Francaise:
“The general told us
with your finger in your asshole
the enemy is going
It was for the fatherland
So we went
with the finger in the asshole ... "
In Breton, the scattered elements of a libertarian theory are germinally present. The problem raised in a footnote to the “First Manifesto” provided the material for discussion:
"I am allowed to make some reservations about responsibility in general and the forensic views that determine the degree of responsibility of an individual: total responsibility, irresponsibility, limited responsibility (sic) - difficult as I find it, the principle of guilt at all to acknowledge that I would like to know what judgment will be found for the first criminal acts of an undoubtedly surrealist character. Will the accused be acquitted or will he only be given mitigating circumstances? It is a pity that the crimes of the press are hardly prosecuted, otherwise we would soon be attending a trial of this kind: the accused has published a book that offends public morality; on indictment of some of his "most honorable" fellow citizens, he is also charged with defamation; A whole series of other, seriously incriminating charges have been brought against him, such as insulting the army, inciting murder, rape, etc. The accused immediately agrees with the prosecution to "brand" most of the ideas put forward. In his defense, he confines himself to assuring that he does not consider himself the author of his book insofar as it can only be viewed as a surrealist production, which excludes any question of the merit or non-merit of the person who draws for it; that he did nothing but copy a piece of writing without expressing his opinion, and that the text is at least as remote from him as it is from the Chairman.
What is right for a book publication will be right for thousands of acts once the surrealist methods begin to meet with some benevolence. A new morality will then have to take the place of the previous morality, which is the cause of all our evils. "
What could not have been extracted from this last paragraph! Calling every legally punished act surrealist had in the first stage emphasized the general alienation, the fact that nobody is himself, but above all obeys the inhuman part that the conditioning by the state and its mechanisms introduces into everyone. Then it was easy to choose between those actions that are “punishable” from the point of view of the law, precisely the logic of death, to the inhumanity imposed by power, and those that, on the contrary, arise from a reaction of the will to live distinguish. It is amazing that the memory of the following famous phrase can embarrass Breton:
“The simplest surrealist act is to go to the punishers with revolvers in their fists and blindly shoot as much as possible into the crowd. Anyone who has not felt like doing away with the current system of humiliation in this way at least once in their life - clearly belongs in this crowd himself and has his belly constantly at gunpoint. "
That was enough to explain that such an act would have done nothing but openly and plainly expose the logic of a socio-economic system that kills man by reducing him to the state of an object. Not only is the criminal irresponsible, but the hierarchical social organization with its lackeys - the judicial officers-cops-bosses-chiefs and priests - is to blame for all the actions that punish them. But Breton escapes this sense of the negative and consequently just as little understands its positivity. Nevertheless, he does not miss the possible point of cancellation and he continues to write more clearly:
“In my opinion, the justification for such an act is by no means incompatible with the belief in that shimmer that surrealism seeks to discover deep within us.I only wanted to make room for human despair here, because nothing on this side of it can justify this belief: it is impossible to give it one's approval and not to it. Anyone who claims to live this faith without truly sharing this despair would very soon reveal himself to be an enemy in the eyes of those who know. ”(Second Manifesto.)
So if it is true that extreme despair can inspire unlimited hope, then the area of ​​concrete struggle must also be illuminated. Once one has reached the desperation that, within the logic of death implicit in power, leads to shooting into the crowd, only one kind of suspension is possible - the liquidation of power in the name of a dialectic of life and all its hopes. At that moment, as the mirror of the power of death, surrealism should have founded an anti-surrealism - in other words a revolutionary surrealist project that would have united the fight against all forms of oppression and the defense of every positive spark in everyday life in the same practice.
Of such a project, which the Situationists would develop as early as the 1960s, there is only a glimmer here and there among the Surrealists, which illusory unifies their lack of coherence through the lyrical tone:
“Inspired by your sex like a catacomb flower
Well students know old depraved journalists false revolutionaries priests judges
Shaky lawyers
That every hierarchy ends there. "
(Breton: "Homage to Violette Noziéres")
Whatever opinion one may have about it, poetry as an invitation to practice and here as a movement to liquidate the bourgeois order continues in Breton's attack on the psychiatrists:
"I know that if I were insane, after a few days of internment, I would use an easing of my delirium to kill in cold blood anyone I could get my hands on, preferably the doctor. Like the madmen, I would at least gain the advantage of a solitary cell. Maybe they'll leave me alone. "