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"The immediate task...is the spiritual liberation of the proletariat from the tutelage of the bourgeoisie."
- Rosa Luxemburg

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Lemur (Lemur catta) (1/16)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Forecast is Hot continued


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Free Territories of the Imagination

While much of the New Left commenced what our friend Herbert Marcuse over-optimistically called "the long march through the institutions"—which by and large turned out instead to be a retreat in which the institutions gobbled up what little was left of the New Left—the Chicago Surrealists stepped up (and never quit) their "cultural guerrilla warfare" against these institutions, and their efforts to open "free territories" of thought and creativity outside them. Hostile to the whole gamut of "official media"—which, no matter how "open" they may pretend to be, exist solely to maintain the hegemony of the exploitative system—surrealists have initiated and supported a multitude of efforts to develop truly oppositional counter-media and other counter-institutions. From this angle surrealist groups could be regarded as highly mobile utopian communities, sowing seeds—utopian instants—of what can be.

In an unfree society, such spontaneous "free territories" come and go. The fact that few last more than a moment does not, however, make them any less momentous.


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The Marvelous Against Religion

Among the most insidious counter-revolutionary institutions are the churches, merchants of the "mysterious" and perpetuators of all forms of servility. In the U.S., where open criticism of religion is a taboo rarely violated even by the orthodox Left, the Surrealist Movement has never concealed its atheism or its antipathy for all priesthoods. In part, surrealism's critique of religion parallels that of other revolutionary currents. One need not be an anarchist or a feminist to be aware of the inherently authoritarian and patriarchal character of religion, or a student of Marx and Weber to know that churches tend to be an integral part of the ruling class and the state. And of course Freud laid bare the sexual roots of religious belief as well as the neurotic, constricting role of religion in emotional life. It was as poets, however, that we developed a specifically surrealist critique of religious institutions, and a strategy to oppose them.

The fundamental experience of poetry enabled us to recognize religionists as the colonizers of the Marvelous: brutal exploiters whose means and ends are explicitly anti-poetic. Before the rise of the advertising industry, churches were in fact the most virulent institutionalized expression of the hatred of poetry. Religious belief-systems, a major obstacle to individual self-discovery, exemplify the imagination in chains.

Here as elsewhere, however, surrealists continue to insist on an open-ended and dialectical approach. Our resolute antagonism to the prevailing religious powers has never diminished our sympathetic interest in a wide range of hermetic and gnostic heresies and heterodoxies, or in the inspiring mythologies elaborated by the tribal peoples of Polynesia, Melanesia, Africa and the Americas.

Superseding all approaches based on rationalism, surrealism's guerrilla war on religious oppression advances on firmly poetic ground, emphasizing the freedom of the Marvelous, eroticism and humor. Our aim is not to win points in a debate, but to uproot paralyzing fears, to stimulate emancipatory desire, to open the doors of poetry for all. The practice of poetry is not only the best means of discovering the sacred (in its secular sense, of course), but also the only means of preventing its reification into religion or other forms of inhibition.


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Abolishing Whiteness

Although most of the original members of the Chicago Surrealist Group were descended from European immigrants, none of us ever identified with "white" society. In the entire history of surrealism, moreover, "whiteness" has never been a positive value. The movement's founding poets, whose rejection of the culturally vacuous Euro-American white power structures was absolute, made no secret of the fact that they found a large share of their deepest inspirations and brightest hopes in the nonwhite cultures of the world, from Africa to Oceania, from Brazil to Zuni.

Surrealists in Chicago, even before the formation of the group, were active in the more militant wing of the Black freedom movement, and strongly influenced by such figures as Malcolm X, St. Clair Drake, Patrice Lumumba, James Forman and C.L.R. James. We demanded full equality for all racial minorities, but we agreed wholeheartedly with those Black and Native American revolutionaries who rejected the liberal program of "integration" (liquidation) into the dominant white culture. Eventually we came to recognize that combating what James Baldwin called "the lie of whiteness" was, in itself, a revolutionary priority. Far from being a tangible entity, much less a scientific category, the "white race" is a historically constructed reactionary social ideology—in other words, a deadly fiction—and those who believe in it, or accept its guidelines, are inevitably, however unwittingly, part of the problem.

Like everything else that is revolutionarily good, beautiful and true, surrealism is treason to the so-called "white race." The realization of Lautréamont's "poetry made by all" demands not only the affirmation of blackness but also the abolition of the repressive, racist myth of whiteness.

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