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Paper, scissors, stone
About surrealism and politics we do not have much to say in common. For more than a year now we have been debating the subject and have met more challenges than we have reached standpoints to declare. We have hardly begun to find answers; we do not expect the compilation of responses here to find them, either. We donīt even hope that it will. The members of our group have different political experiences, knowledge and perspectives: Trotskyism, Anarchism, Stirnerism. Some are politically active, many are not. It is no wonder, then, that there are different views represented regarding what politics is, leading to different views about the nature of the relationship between surrealism and politics. (For example, whilst agreeing that surrealism and politics are different things, we deeply disagree on whether politics is a part of surrealism or vice versa, or whether politics is an entirely different sphere that surrealism may use, as a means, or leave alone.) Under all circumstances we find it important to continue the discussion.
In the meantime, however, we can communicate some of the stumbling blocks from our debates, along with some possibly polemical points.
I. Surrealism is a socialism.
II. By revolution we mean a paradigm shift of human relational systems in their entirety. Revolution regarded as a political power shift, with an unaltered (or even increased) exertion of force, we reject. As a practical-political revolutionary project which escapes this criticism is, for the moment, missing, we prefer revolt, the term as well as its content.
III. The political perspectives of surrealism cannot in any case primarily feed upon philosophical principles. Instead, its point of departure is the surrealist experience, which in its entire breadth is a bipolar experience; on the one hand, the experience of misery, of wage-slavery, the personality market, the hauntings of frustration, the whole destitution of the mind and the flesh; and on the other hand, the experience of poetry, of falling in love, of the re-enchantment of reality and the accompliceship of objects.
IV. Surrealism is a part of romantic anti-capitalism.
V. Modernity is the best as well as the worst thing that has happened to man - we must be able to see it that way as dialecticicans. How are we to find the specific (and often subtle) openings of our age, whilst at the same time remaning able to denounce it in its entirety?
VI. Other themes, which we suspect to be relevant to politics, that have surfaced during our discussions (without our having been able to agree - or reach towards any manageable wording) include consumerism, urbanism, pornography, pragmatism, duty, personality, carism, over-population, self-sacrifice, justice, democracy, religion, history.
VI. We live in Sweden. Sweden has for a long time been the showpiece example of a welfare state, where a strong social-democratic bureaucracy managed to combine Swedish companiesī predation in the Third World with a seductive social security at home. This has maintained an almost uninterrupted peace between the employers and the mighty labour unions, to create a wide and lame political and cultural offer of popular participation, so strikingly described by the expression "repressive tolerance" and so well examplifying the notion of spectacle. During the last few years, however, we have witnessed a "system shift". The relative social security is being removed and class differences increase. The neo-liberal rhetoric dominates even within the labour movement, as the welfare state is sold out, supervision increases, unemployment is the highest in decades and politicians hand over whatever they possessed of power to the capitalists that are called "the market", and now also to the bureaucracy of the European Community. The social democratic bureaucracy, that administered certain democratic features and fragments of socialist judgements, is simply replaced with a market bureaucracy. And the misery of civilised life calmly continues. If we used to perceive a special point in our seeing through and scandalising consent, perhaps the most important thing now would seem to be not making any compromises in the rejection of capitalism.
VIII. We sometimes forget that we want to change society.
IX. And how far has the decline of civilisation gone? What consequences would this have, on the whole, for the explanatory value or efficiency of arguments and deeds from the political sphere? And to what extent do these make any difference for surrealistsī resistance and initiatives?
X. Anyhow, we do not believe in the inevitability of any revolution; regarding the fate of society we are not optimists.
XI. We espouse utopian thought only as poetry and as anchorage for another mentality in which desire and the desirable are central, but it is quite conceivable that we all could move into a Fourierian phalanxtery.
XII. Surrealism probably has political consequences. It seems to imply a decisive critique of the present appearance of politics, and it ought to be able to leave devastatingly original contributions to politics. The failures of socialist politics so far depend to a great extent on its underestimation and neglect of the subjective and of the totality of life. Their reintroduction may belong to the specific contributions of surrealism.
XIII. We do not flinch before the destructive aspect of desire, without which the constructive aspect is unthinkable. The contemporary trends that do so - parts of the ecological, feminist and new age movements, which thereby betray their ecological, feminist and spiritual potential - we dismiss. We do not denounce that eroticism which, according to a well-known definition. "pays homage to life even in death". What we fight without reserve is that which Marcuse has called repressive desublimation; that levelling - ideological or commercial - which deprives desire and eroticism of their potential dimension of sacredness.
XIV. While the decline and fall of the left has already preceded that of civilisation, we see no reason not to maintain elementary socialist values and the validity of a dialectical - materialist analysis, as well as try to save some specific attitudes and means. This applies not the least to the spirit itself of a fresh, unruly defiance and uncomprimisingness of old socialism. How is this to be revived today?
XV. We would also like to remind, with alacricity, of the ambitions of socialism to abolish religion, family, private property, the monetary system, sexual repression and the State.
XVI. To the agenda, we would also like to add the revolutionary general strike, autonomous organisation in all forms, and the global development of an ecologically planned self-management.
XVII. One should also remember that a struggle situation may never be regarded as equatable with its leadership, who must not be given political support. Surelism reserves for itself the right to remain independent of all political movements.
The Surrealist Group in Stockholm
Aase Berg, Kajsa Bergh, Johannes Bergmark, Carl-Michael Edenborg, Mattias Forshage, Bruno Jacobs, Ilmar Laaban, H Christian Werner.
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