Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Cole's take on Expulsion
 Some people enjoy expulsions as a theme of anecdotes from yesteryear, something that was important in modernist movements and political movements back in the days, and which may still be a current ingredient in activities to the extent that the groups are "dogmatic" and has not adapted to modern times.
    Speaking of the contexts that I am acquainted with though, expulsions is not a matter of dogmatism, in the sense that it is not the question of differences of opinion being a reason to expel someone. There are groups where the line is laid down by a leadership, maybe even a leadership in another country, or an extraterrestrial leadership, but of course surrealism has no such leadership. In a struggling nonconformist group expulsions are entirely about confidence.
    A person may have some weird opinions, or may neglect their tasks, or may ruin certain events by being very drunk or very depressed or very stupid, and that will be causing various practical problems, but is rarely a reason to lose confidence in a radical sense. But if a person shows that it may for example deny its friends and disregard its convictions and belonging and ambitions just to get an article into a paper or get a commission on a painting or receive a prize or get picked into the critics selection, then that proves that the person lets its career weigh as much as or more than demands that poetry might put on us, especially in the form that one interprets and organises them within the framework of the collective, and, consequently, that this is an illoyal and unreliable person who should not be allowed to be in a group where it should be possible to trust each other. If a person is simultaneously member of another organisation which puts strong demands on its membership, and which might just one day by decree demand the person to change strategy completely or change circle of friends (such as in a communist party or a religious sect) then it is obvious that the double membership threatens the integrity of the group and the person is unreliable.
    Exactly how much one feels one should have a right to demand from one's comrades is of course entirely dependent on how much one perceives is at stake. Most people should be able to understand that in a situation of dramatic social upheavals, and/or massive physical threat from fascists, and/or intense attention from the police and secret police, then it becomes more sensitive with whom one forms affinity groups and shares one's dreamworlds... Then surrealists are nonconformists, have no love for the current order of things, and no obligations towards the current power structures, in fact they typically rather desperately dream of dramatic change. And this is exactly that which was the point of the situationists when they claimed (wrongly, by the way) that it was the discipline and expulsions which was the best thing about the surrealists: they implied that everything was at stake all the time and revolution could come anytime. In most cases this is a tactical misjudgement, but strategically it has some obvious points: a reminder of the necessity to maintain nonconformism and not make compromises that will demand hard work in defense, not form alliances that will obstruct any radical moves.
    Well, in fact, this is probably to a great extent the very same thing that is the dogmatism of dogmatic groups of the sectarian type: the temperature is turned up enough for the participants to really believe that everything is at stake all the time and everyone who is not with us are against us, and an erroneous stand on the situation in Ukraine or the revolution in Iran or the Nth council of the christian church must be a sign of a profound tendency to betray.
    From a methodological viewpoint, the advantages of a contrary strategy are obvious. The anarchist strategy, usually employed by surrealists, is rather that there is a point in gushing forth one's confidence and one's innermost ideas to anyone who wants to join the playing and seems basically serious about it. This has a utopian dimension in itself, that it makes sense to treat superficial social relationships as if they had already been filled with a profound content in terms of one's most passionate shared interests, and thus it is reasonable and rather important as a political strategy. Secterian suspiciousness is not only dreary and a turn-off and a prelude to massive empirical disappointments, but it also goes hand in hand with a "fascist type of human" or whatever a Reich would have said.

    In the Stockholm group we have hardly ever used the tool of expulsion. We usually expect lack of trust to be mutual and obvious, and keep empirically studying it if it's not. Nevertheless it would seem that several partings of way have occured rather too late. We happily make mistakes and sometimes learn from them. We don't care very much if ex-members or hangarounds praise us or badmouth us in connections where we have no interest of appearing, we survive if they claim to represent us, we have more interesting things to consider if they claim they know what the group is all about and that their own more or less bitter afterthoughts are highly relevant to the group several years after. This is sometimes on the comedy level, and the agents are indeed often still valued friends. Since the social circumstances in the country have been relatively peaceful, it is currently only in computer-game terms that we have died a few times over, shot in the back and sold out by a few eager carreerists, bitter blackmarket dealers, impulsive flibbertigibbets, or political opportunists. So far.
    But even if our inertia then might make ruckus-seeking anecdote lovers disappointed, we are happy to equally disappoint the humanist advocates of civil politeness. Surrealist activity is not an area where it makes sense to pay respect to the integrity of private life, individual choices and each and everyone's specific constellation of compromises, shortcomings and banalities; it is rather the opposite, an area where the individual's resources is pooled into a collective organism of collective sensibility and collective criticism where each participant contributes to developing how it should act to live up to the demands of poetry in hard times. As surrealists, we have a fruitful relationship with truth and personal friendship and even weakness itself, and respect for that which deserves respect, but we don't do civil manners and courtesy.

Stuck's take on Expulsion

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