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

ends:

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

poets:

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

realized."

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)