In response to demands from French Communist Party officials for surrealists to define the nature of their relationship to communism, André Breton published Legitimate Defense (1926), a pamphlet in which he described surrealism’s ideological and political stance and identified some of the principal debates and challenges that the group faced in Europe. What lie at stake in the surrealists’ effort to encompass metaphysical and dialectical methods are both the legitimacy of their claims on the term revolutionary and their insistence on a revolution of the mind. In this context, the author examines Breton’s concept of the “marvelous” that affirms the feasibility of equilibrium between the work of the mind and political engagement. He compares Breton’s stance to that of a group of Martiniquan students in Paris, who in 1932 published a legitimate defense of their own. Unlike Breton’s pamphlet, the Martiniquan publication wholeheartedly embraced the communist Third International organization and the universal application of Marx’s dialectical materialism, and associated surrealism with a form of human expression rather than with a radical revolution of the mind. Nevertheless, the Martiniquans embrace Marx’s dialectical materialism without questioning why Marx’s scientific explanation of universal history failed to account for the absence of a Black proletariat in Martinique. The author’s comparison between Breton and the Martiniquan texts concludes that the most evident difference between them is the ease with which the Martiniquan students embrace surrealism without sensing any possible contradictions, thereby perceiving ambivalence as a countercultural strategy.
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Research Article| November 01 2021
In Legitimate Defense: Surrealism, Communism, and Their Confrontation in France
Nka (2021) 2021 (49): 192–201.
Gerard Aching; In Legitimate Defense: Surrealism, Communism, and Their Confrontation in France. Nka 1 November 2021; 2021 (49): 192–201. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-9435793
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