BRETON, André. "The Lighthouse"

BRETON, André (1896/02/18) - (1966/09/28). Poète surréalisteCAMUS, Albert (1913-1960)Russian Revolution.- Kronstadt (1921)art: artistic movements: surrealismTAILHADE, Laurent (1871-1919). PoèteARAGON, LouisCLARK, John P. (New Orleans, USA. 21/6/1945 - )ARTAUD, Antonin (1896-1948)CREVEL, René (1900-1935). Poète surréalisteDESNOS, Robert (1900-1945)ÉLUARD, Paul (1895-1952)ERNST, Max (1891-1976)LEIRIS, Michel (1901-1990)MASSON, André (1896-1987)PÉRET, Benjamin (1899-1959)QUENEAU, Raymond (1903-1973)BAUDELAIRE, Charles (1821-1867)RIMBAUD, Arthur (1854-1891)JARRY, Alfred (1873-1907)SADE, Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de (1740-1814)LAUTRÉAMONT (pseud. d’Isidore DUCASSE) (1846-1870)SCHWOB, Marcel (1867-1905)CLORE, Dan

It was in the black mirror of anarchism that surrealism
first recognized itself, well before defining itself, when
it was still only a free association among individuals
rejecting the social and moral constraints of their day,
spontaneously and in their entirety [1].

Among the higher
spheres in which we encountered each other in the days
following the war of 1914, and whose rallying power never
failed, was Laurent Tailhade’s "Ballad of Solness," which

Fair-eyed Goddess, send us now thy dawn,
Bathed in vermillion, Salaminian light!
Strike our hearts so tattered and forlorn,
Anarchy! O torch-bearer of morn!
Crush the vermin, banish now the night
Raise high to heaven, upon our tombs be borne
Above the raging tides that Tower bright! [2]

At that time, the surrealist refusal was total, and
absolutely incapable of allowing itself to be channeled at a
political level. All the institutions upon which the modern
world rested—and which had just shown their worth in the
First World War—were considered aberrant and scandalous by
us. To begin with, it was the entire defense apparatus of
society that we were attacking: the army, "justice," the
police, religion, psychiatric and legal medicine, and
schooling. At that time, both collective declarations and
individual texts (by Aragon; by Artaud, Creval, Desnos, and
Eluard; by Ernst, Leiris, Masson, Peret, Queneau and myself)
attested to our shared willingness to see them recognized
as plagues, and to fight them as such. But to fight them
with some chance of success, it was still necessary to
attack their armature, which, in the final analysis, was of
a *logical* and *moral* kind: the so-called "reason" which
was in current use, and, with a fraudulent label, concealed
the most worn-out "common sense," the morality falsified by
Christianity for the purpose of discouraging any resistance
to the exploitation of human beings.
A very great fire smoldered there—we were young—and I
believe I must insist on the fact that it was constantly
fanned by what was taken from the works and lives of the
Anarchy! 0 bearer of torches!
whether they were named Tailhade, or Baudelaire, Rimbaud and
Jarry—whom all our young libertarian comrades should know,
just as they should all know Sade, Lautréamont and Schwob
(of the Livre de Monelle).
Why was an organic fusion unable to come about at this time
between anarchist elements proper and surrealist elements? I
still ask myself this twenty-five years later. It was
undoubtedly the idea of efficiency, which was the delusion
of that period, that decided otherwise. What we took to be
"triumph" of the Russian Revolution and the advent of a
"workers’ State" led to a great change in our perspective.
The only dark spot in the picture—a spot which was to
become an indelible stain—consisted of the crushing of the
Kronstadt rebellion on March 18, 1921. The surrealists never
quite managed to get beyond it. Nevertheless, around 1925
only the Third International seemed to possess
the means required to transform the world. It was
conceivable that the signs of degeneracy and repression that
were already easily observable in the East could still be
averted. At that time, the surrealists were convinced that a
social revolution which would spread to every country could
not fail to promote a libertarian world (some say a
surrealist world, but it is the same thing). At the
beginning, everybody saw it this way, including those
(Aragon, Eluard, etc.) who, later on, abandoned their first
ideal to the point of making an enviable career out of
Stalinism (from the point of view of businessmen). But human
desire and hope can never be at the mercy of traitors:
Drive away the night! Crush the vermin!
We are well enough aware of the ruthless pillaging to which
these illusions were subjected during the second quarter of
this century. In a horrible mockery, the libertarian world
of our dreams was replaced by a world in which the most
servile obedience is obligatory, in which the most
elementary rights are denied to people, and in which all
social life revolves around the cop and the executioner. As
in all cases in which a human ideal has reached this depth
of corruption, the only remedy is to reimmerse oneself in
the great current of feeling in which it was born, to return
to the principles which allowed it to take form. It is as
this movement is coming to its very end that we will
encounter anarchism, and it alone. It is something that is
more necessary than ever—not the caracature that people
present it as, or the scarecrow they mae of it—but the one
that our comrade Fontenis describes "as socialism itself,
that is, the modern demand for dignity of humans (their
freedom as well as their well-being). It is socialism, not
conceived as the simple resolution of an economic or
political problem, but as the expression of the exploited
masses in their desire to create a society without classes,
without a State, where all human values and desires can be
This conception of a revolt and a generosity inseparable
from each other and (with all due respect to Albert Camus)
each as limitless _as the other_—this conception the
surrealists make their own, without reservation, today.
Extricated from the mists of death of these times, they
consider it the only one able to make appear again, to eyes
more numerous with every passing moment,
The Lighthouse that towers above the waves!
January 11,1952

[1Translated from French by Doug Imrie and
Michael William. This text appeared originally in the French
Anarchist paper Le Libertaire, and an earlier version of
the translation was published in the Canadian anarchist
publication Any Time Now. This translation has since
appeared in Mesachabe. The translators note that the poet
who wrote "The Ballad of Solness," Laurent Tailhade, was
blinded in one eye by a bomb thrown into a cafe by an
anarchist during the turbulent period of the 1890s which saw
widespread despair and resort to "propaganda of the deed"
Yet Tailhade wrote his "Ballad" in praise of anarchism only
four years later, in 1898.
I am grateful to Dan Clore for bringing this translation to my notice

[2*translation by John P. Clark (inserted into text by editor)