Surrealpolitik: Dancin' in the Streets

Authors: Charles Radcliffe, Franklin Rosemont

Quick Summary

Franklin Rosemont's introduction does a good job of bringing together several key strands of thought, e.g., working class rebellion, Bugs Bunny, Karl and Groucho Marx, theatrical activism, and surrealism.


There are 20 quotes currently associated with this book.

Despite battles with landlords, harassment by tourists, and mounting police terror, the Beats and their allies -- old-time hoboes, jazz musicians, oyster pirates, prostitutes, drug-addicts, winos, homosexuals, bums and other outcasts -- maintained a vital community based on mutual aid, and in which being different was an asset rather than a liability. (page 9)
Tags: [Activism, Community]
Recognizing that certain rare moments in our lives radiate wonder, excitement, curiosity, and pleasure, we maintained that the central aim of poetry was to multiply those moments of perturbation and thus to create the conditions for a new (poetic) way of life for all. (page 11)
Tags: [Revolution]
Such fleeting and occult demonstrations did not enjoy a wide resonance. And yet Rhapsodism had ways of making its subversive presence felt. (page 11)
Tags: [Activism, Impact]
This anarchistic anti-campaign, typically ignored by the many historians of the Beat movement, was a scathing satire of Establishment politics and an assertion of the rising new radicalism's sweeping rejection of the entire military-industrial-political swindle. (page 13)
Tags: [Activism, Humor, Carnival]
Unlike the upper- and middle-class New Left, which was just gaining a toehold on some of the more well-to-do U.S. campuses, the Rebel Worker group was made up entirely of young wage-earners. (page 14)
Tags: [Activism]
We disdained what we called the "traditional Left" as little more than a "loyal opposition" of the old order. We saw ourselves as the radical negation of that order in its entirety, left-wing and all. We rejected, as if by instinct, the stifling ideological compartmentalizations which seemed to us to typify the overall bureaucratic sterility of so many leftist orthodoxies. Their indifference to "culture," for example -- except as the direct expression of a "political line" -- convinced us that their vision went no further than a "planned economy." What excited us, on the contrary, were the limitless possibilities of the free imagination in conditions of playful anarchy. (page 15)
Tags: [Politics & Art, Activism, The Left]
In some respects the Anti-Poetry Club could be considered the last bow of Maywood Rhapsodism, but it was also the nucleus from which the Rebel Worker group soon emerged. The Club was a souped-up Chicago-style mix of surrealism, Bugs Bunny, the Marx Brothers, Ernie Kovacs, Stan Freberg, and Bob Kaufman's Abomunism, but so heavily spiced with our own humor and revolt that it had a distinctive "flavor" all its own...

After a few meetings, however, it was clear that the Club had nowhere to go--that every meeting would be the same, that the Anti-Poetry Club was getting to be as boring as the Poetry Club...Several of us circulated a statement dissociating ourselves from those who had turned the Club into a repetitious farce devoid of even the slightest subversive quality. (page 16)
Tags: [Activism, Humor, Impact]
In glaring contrast [to the IWW], the left groups we ran into -- the many varieties of social-democratic, Stalinist, Trotskyist, and Maoist organizations, as well as others that appeared to be foundering somewhere in-between one or more of these ideologies--were repulsively middle-class, authoritarian, dogmatic, narrow-minded, sectarian, humorless, and utterly incapable of even the smallest original idea. Most of them were hung up on electoral politics, and spent an inordinate amount of time denouncing sects even smaller than their own...

We recognized the IWW as "Joe Hill's union" and the direct heir of 1880s "Chicago Idea" anarchism--a fundamentally anti-authoritarian group that left open lots of room for individual and small-group improvisation; the only group in which we could develop our wide-ranging inclinations: to rethink revolutionary theory, to explore the subversive possibilities of popular culture, and above all to pursue our passion for poetic action: that is, for life as adventure. We knew that IWW perspectives had a place for all these, and that no other group would even tolerate them. (page 17)
Tags: [Surrealism's Promise, Revolution, The Left]
The [IWW] was on the U.S. Attorney General's list of "subversive organizations," and...IWW members were automatically disqualified for Federal government jobs of any kind...Thompson, the IWW's own in-house historian, had served a few years at San Quentin in the 1920s for "criminal syndicalism" (i.e., IWW organizing). (page 18)
Tags: [Backlash]
T-Bone [Slim]'s audacious imagination, flamboyant wordplay, and black humor, along with his marvelous maxims ("Wherever you find injustice, the proper form of politeness is attack"; "Half a loaf is better than no loafing at all") and his ability to regard old problems from the most improbable new angles (with results worthy of Alfred Jarry's Pataphysics), convinced us that the IWW project of working-class self-emancipation went hand in hand with all that we meant by the word poetry. (page 20)
Tags: [Activism, Revolution]
Such theatrical protests would become common later in the decade; in this as in many other matters Wobblies led the way for the New Left and the counterculture. It was not just an accident that some years later the whole Living Theater troupe joined the IWW. (page 26)
Tags: [Politics & Theatre, Activism]
Among the things that distinguished us from the New and Used Left was the fact that we laughed not only at the society of scissorbills and squares, but also at ourselves. We also realized that The Revolution itself was funny. I am absolutely serious. What on Earth could be funnier than overturning 500-odd years of capitalist slavery? (page 33)
Tags: [Activism, Humor]
In miserabilist society, most people don't recognize the real problems because they are too busy trying to justify their misery. (page 36)
Tags: [Apathy/Resistance]
What distinguished the Rebel Worker group from all the other groups that claimed to be against capitalism? What made us so different? The answers are obvious: humor, poetry, and breadth of vision -- which are a large part of what make a revolution revolutionary. Our critique focused not only on Capital, work and the workplace, but also and above all on everyday life. Our aim, as our Philadelphia correspondent Judy Kaplan put it, was "to be revolutionary in everything." (page 38)
Tags: [Activism, Humor, Revolution, Carnival, The Left]
In our dream, revolution was a joyful jubilee. (page 40)
Tags: [Humor, Revolution, Carnival]
Our indifference to the usual labels was inseparable from our rejection of the traditional left's ideological pigeonholing, and its pitifully narrow vision of life and the world. None of us regarded revolutionary theory as dogma to be memorized, or a "finished program" that needed only to be carried out. Theories at best were inspirations to play with, challenges to be taken up, suggestions to build on, or take apart, or push into unexpected directions. This open-ended outlook, largely inspired by the IWW hobo intellectual tradition, is also characteristic of surrealism. (page 41)
Tags: [Surrealism, Surrealism's Promise, Revolution, The Left]
Ecological awareness and a specifically wilderness-inspired radicalism were central to the two principal sources of the Rebel Worker perspective: the IWW and surrealism. (page 42)
Tags: [Surrealism, Activism]
[T]he fact remains that the central elements of the situationist project -- rejection of the pseudo-world of the spectacle; support for workers' self-emancipation, the passion for freedom and true community, revolt against work and affirmation of play, détournement, revolution as festival, "consciousness of desire and desire for consciousness" -- were all essentials of surrealism's project long before the S.I. existed. (page 63)
Tags: [Surrealism, Situationism]
Humor, which has long been neglected by many so-called revolutionaries in their attempts to prove to themselves that their intentions are together noble and serious (no doubt also because of the desolation and barrenness of their thinking), ought to be given the recognition it has long deserved and regain its rightful place in the revolutionary struggle. (page 198)
Tags: [Humor, Revolution]
Humor is not resigned; it is rebellious. It signifies the triumph not only of the ego but also of the pleasure principle. -- Freud (page 198)
Tags: [Humor]