London Letter, Desmond Hawkins

Desmond Hawkins, a fairly young man at the time of this ‘London Letter’ published in VolumeVII,

1940 of Partisan Review was a commentator on the left and aimed, in this almost casual piece, to make sense of the Fascist incursions into Europe in a register that would appeal to those on the periphery of the growing menace. He went on to become a featured naturalist with the BBC, and something of a media ‘National Treasure,” in time.

But his letter begins with the strangeness of of the war at hand as being a version of WWI.

“It is a new war. It may go on for years. But still the air of hallucination persists; the pattern is too familiar, too trite, to pass as new. We study the sequence events, the official statements, the music hall jokes and the moralising intellectuals, the appeals to Justice and to God– and oh yes. yes, without a doubt we Have Been HERE before! As for those of us who are not beyond ripe military age, have we ever been anywhere else? Is not the complete war-cycle the one major public event that has dominated out lives?”

The advances made by Germany–both technologically and psychologically –bred muted anxiety

among the anti-fascist journals and papers of anti-fascism, the blitzes along with parades of the

Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe on the ground and off, were the grounds for ‘Letters’ by

commentators in Europe published in the intellectual journals of London, New York, and Paris.

This simulacrum with variations is the trouble with the present generation, Hawkins argues that

those who might as well be living 25 years earlier,

‘As for those of us who are not beyond ripe military age, have we ever been anywhere else? Is not

the complete war-cycle the one major public event that has dominated out lives?’

The Covid pandemic has cast brain fog over London over 2020-2021, but in 1940,

‘And so the talking and the speculations goes on. The truth is that we are all waiting for the war to

take a decisive turn. AN eventful day and an imaginative boldness might imaginatively deflate it

, since it is so reluctant to get underway. The air of hallucination persists, and subconsciously peace is still the greater reality.’

Nicolas Calas: On Revolutionary Sadism—

WELCOME BACK TO ALL FOLLOWERS! Its been more than a year since I last posted here, and we were beginning the Partisanian WAR epoch with the start of World War II. Let’s forget the lockdown as best we can — and turn to a most eccentric, and satirical, document from Volume 7, No.1, 1940.

In 2018, the Marxist scholar Alan Wald wrote a piece called ‘The Trotskyist Time forgot,’ for the journal Against the Current, which examined and introduced the Surrealist poet, and ‘revolutionary cultural worker,’ Nicholas Calas. Wald focused on the ways in which Calas’s work was an early proponent of the links between psychoanalysis and Marxism and how it might be brought into closer theory and practice. The meeting and separating of political and psychological parties has continued through the 20th century, and often throws forward new ways of understanding the subject in Marxism. In the later 1970s, a book by Rosalind Coward and John Ellis called Language and Materialism — some of you may have read it — took on the questions of how Marxism and Psychoanalysis meet in the theory of the subject in language. It remains a basic book of post-modern theory and psychology.

Because the article by Nicolas Calas is so alien to contemporary political theory, while it also employs a strictly dialectical argument about sadism and masochism, I would love to hear from any of you about the character of this piece, how it makes its sense, and whatever else you think gives it value, or not.

{Partisan Review Editors’ Note]: We think our readers will be interested in the following selections from Foyers d’Incendie (‘Hearthstones of Arson’),a book of Freudo-Marxist literary and political criticism which was published last year by Denoel. The author is a young Greek Surrealist, a follower of Andre Breton. He prefaces his book with this axiom of Heraclitus: ‘if you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it, for it is painful and hard to find”.

I dream of someday seeing the Louvre at last really modernised. Then its directors will not content themselves with borrowing from a shop across the way a dress dummy’s pedestal for the Venus de Milo; they will install a complete system of cunning mechanisms, thanks to which the pictures and statues will be able to move about freely — advancing, retreating , turning on their axes as slowly as a sun or rapidly as a child’s topsail; all these metamorphoses will take place in the glow of many-coloured light projectors, while explosions of strange engines will fill the air with noises and cries of distress.

The Louvre will no longer be a museum, for all the great museums will be nothing more or less than than palaces of dreams. What were the palaces, of Palazzo Vecchio, the Escurial, the Nypmhenburg, the Palace of Minos, The Kremlin, the palaces of God, of all the gods of all the ages? It took the bourgeois invasion to kill the Palaces– an invasion which, like everyonther one, understood nothing about the symbols cherishd by the conquered. The civilisations died and the palaces were destroyed, but it is better to burn them as the Tuileries were burned’ than to burn their soul as bourgeois officialdom did in chasing imagination out of them. What the bourgeoisie did not damn, it betrayed: it has made poets, prose, it has made of palaces museums, and of costumes,uniforms.

In Madness, the bourgeoisie sees nothing but the strait-jacket; in desire only the brown or black shirt; in pictures, it understands only the price. The Louvre , once the dream of kings, the dream of an emperor, has become an intellectual safe-deposit box for a society which thinks only of the stock-exchange.

Let us overthrow this society, blow up the exchanges, destroy the museums. In the carcasses of temples and palaces let us take over the thrones of kings and gods, on these peaks of the past let us sing a poetry made for everybody.

Passerby! When you walk by the Louvre, remember that the dream, too, must have its own Bastille Day!

DESIRE, in it’s dialectical progress, has a tendency towards either sadism or masochism, depending on whether the individual adopts a masculine or feminine attitude in his emotional life. From the standpoint of behaviour, the man animated by sadistic tendencies will seek to dominate and transform his environment, while the masochist will want to unloose forces whose only purpose from the point of view of behaviour, would be to make him feel the effect of transformations which he desires his environment to produce upon himself. Thus masochistic aggressivity exists at the expense of the environment. Since the revolutionary seeks to transform his interest in the adoption of a sadistic tendency. Actually, however, it is difficult, if not impossible, to establish a clean line of demarcation between sadism and masochism. These tendencies never exist in the unconscious and independently of one another; they form the two antithetical elements of every desire, which is itself simultaneously pleasure and paint. This a work of art may reveal masochistic tendencies in the painter, but by virtue solely of the fact that he has painted it, his work attests to a desire to transform his environment. Nurses’born’ to their calling are moved by feelings of compassion which are masochistic, but in so much as they they try to cure sickness they furnish proof that they too wish to transform their environment and masochism as the specific character of a complex of behaviour. When not only desire but behaviour too is dominated

Hitler incarnates to a greater degree, probably than any one before him the love of an entire people. In the Third Reich too many men preoccupy themselves with what HE feels , too many men want him HIM to love them, too many men want HIM to hate them. Hitler is the synthesis of two contradictory situations, each symbolised by the behaviour of two men, two veritably brother enemies, Goering and Thaelmann. As long as Thaelmann endures his sufferings there will be men in Germany who feel themselves obliged to suffer too. It is the terrible example of Christ crucified, of whom St. Paul made a masochistic symbol. To go to prison in order to suffer as much as Thaelmann, and to excite Hitler’s hatred is the pattern of the German Communist psychosis; that of the German fascist psychosis is to serve as Hitler well as Goering does. The antithetical movements of these two social psychoses are complete, and they have made of the Third Reich what it is today: the most dangerous of all centres of self-destructive forces of humanity.

The reinforcement of the sadistic current where the sadistic dominant already exists, and the reversing of the current in favour of sadism, as in Germany, the masochistic inversion has occurred — these are perhaps the most pressing of all tasks for those who struggle for a reawakening of revolutionary forces in the heart of the working class. It is sad, but there is not use hiding the facts: the revolutionary of the fascist or Stalinist epoch knows no longer what he should love. The violent desire for a transformation awakened in his heart by the October Revolution, has today turned against himself. This too is the conclusion forced upon one by a reading of Silone’s Bread and Wine, that most terrible of all indictments, so far as I know, of the moral decay of the masses in Fascist Italy. Economic and and political slogans are no longer enough to produce the transformation which the proletariat needs so badly; it is necessary to complement them with emotional slogans. Against fascist sadism love we must oppose revolutionary love, against fascist sadism we can no longer oppose Communist masochism or Social-Democratic humanism.

Revolutionaries should be sadists.

To win over those men whom fascism has enlisted in implacable warfare by appealing to the sad-masochistic element in life, we, in our turn, have to act upon the same emotive centres with means just as direct and just as as violent. As the class struggle penetrates deeper and deeper strata of life, emotional conflicts begin to grow violent. If the overthrow of fascism is not to become a vain desire, it will be necessary to mobilise against fascism the totality of man’s powers: his physical strength, his economic force, his intellectual acquisitions and his emotive energy.

Fascism, therefore, must be fought with Freudian as well as Marxist weapons. And like fascism, communism will have to call on sadistic and masochistic love. Masochistic tendencies must be excited in the fascist masses, and sadistic tendencies among communists. Sadistic love must be directed against the father, and hatred of the father and of the Furhrer must be expressed as sadistic love. The masochistical element of the communists’ sado-masochistic complex should be turned, not towards another chief, towards a Stalin or a Thorez, but towards the brother. The dialectical antithesis opposes to the father-lover, a brother and not simply another Furhrer. The communist should detest the fascist leader to the point of wanting to exterminate him. But we must never forget that the dominant of the revolutionary complex is to be sadistic. This means that hatred of the father should always be stronger than love of the brother, for the desire to transform our environment should be greater than any other. For the fascist, on the contrary, love of the father-figure is stronger than any other feeling, since the fascist attitude is feminine and the expresses the passion of a woman for her lover.

The emotional behaviour of fascism– and this is its strength –finds itself adapted to the historical role which the economic structure of our age allows the bourgeoisie to play. This role is reactionary, and the political and emotional behaviour of fascism is already leading man towards a catastrophe. Communists too must adapt their emotional behaviour to the exegencies imposed upon them by the historical role they have to play. No transformation of economic life will be possible unless a desire to transform their environment animates revolutionaries. It is an imperious necessity, urgent and pressing, that the proletariat be dominated anew by sadistic behaviour.

That which the proletarian loves, does not yet exist; that which he hates oppresses him. Comrades, be cruel!

Nowhere is the force of the opposition offered to the conformist ethic by the revolutionary ethic expressed with greater violence than in love. It is urgent that the forces of revolution be re-trained, that the men of our party become cruel men, yet men who, remain capable of being moved and of loving, Sadism should not be created at the expense of of the general emotional development. Quite the contrary, we should consider this development an enlarging of the entire personality.

Let the child learn to do more than admire the the beauty of flowers and the intelligence of bees; let us show him the pleasure of killing animals! Let him go hunting, let him visit the butcher’s, let him enjoy suffering. If we want him to become strong, blood should not frighten him. Since he must hate, since he must suffer, since he will see beings dear to him die of hunger, of pain, of disappointment, let him be trained the better to endure the laws of such a life — the life of a society divided into classes, which is the only society we know and that he will be able to know. It is not for us to teach him to live in peace, if we want to make a fighter out of him. Since so much blood is to flow in life, let him get used to wounds and the taste and the smell of blood. The child ought not to turn his eyes away from life, but should look at it in the face! The bourgeoisie know what they are about when they give their children soldiers and canons for toys.Let us do the same, let us give our own children armies of leaden workers, barricades, buses, factories, and an enemy army as horrible as the heart desires, made up of capitalists, preachers and cops. For the the child, play should be a game of massacre. Our holidays need no longer be those of the bourgeois calendar; for chocolate Easter eggs let us substitute chocolate guillotines!

Excite Desire! Monogamy does not yet exist. After the butcher the prostitute! It is up to her to give the child a taste, and not a digest, for love. The child will not learn to love works of art by visiting museums, What he wants and what his heart appreciates are movies and photographs to excites senses. The child wants to become a man and identify himself with persons stronger than he, and to him and to him strength means muscle and sex. He goes to the athletic field and the brothel,, for it is there he can measure his powers. Let us encourage this healthy tendency, let us make him strong. Before he loves, let him learn to love physically. if he shows any inclination, the desire, he desire to think and feel, to take for his hero an Einstein, a Picasso, a Stravinisky, will come to him of his own accord, without his being pushed. Cruel, but not hard, cruel but but sensitive– this is the way we want him to be. His will turn his head from no spectacle then; everywhere he will be one who acts; his influence will be activating; no thought no feeling, no action will frighten him. His voice will have the vehemence and the passionate content of the most gratuitous act, and his most daring action will have the beauty and clarity of the purest thought. No extravange will frighten him, for his thought and his action will always be ready to support each new audacity. From now on let us teach the child to look straight at madness!

When he wants to read, put in hi hands the works best calculated to excite his desire. Show him the succulent dreams, the syrups of passion, the wines of blood, the burning kisses, the moist looks, all that bread of life, the whole body of love!

Rimbaud is not the anklet example of a paranoid intellect put at the service of reaction. Marxism is in the same boat. Bernstein’s reformism, the reformism of DeMan and of Stalin use Marxism to turn it against the proletariat itself, the only social force which is able ti bring about the new order. Having falsely interpreted the writings of Marx, reaction has gone on to attack psychoanalysis. Not only Adler and Jungbut even Freud tries to enroll psychoanalysis among the forces of regression. Jung does this in consciously in a reaction spirit, Adler in the petty-bourgeois and social democratic spirit which characterizes his whole attitude, while Freud does it out of weakness. He compensates for his scientific audacity by an astonishing conformism.

One might say that he is frightened by the practical conclusions to which his genius has led him. Morally, Freud expresses the bourgeois attitude, and he seems to want to destroy his own work by appealing to the only power left to reaction today, the power to kill. As if to repay the the recognition which the bourgeoisie, after scoffing at him for so long, has finally given him, Freud wishes to endow death with a power equal to life. by raising it to the rank of an instinct. The instinct of death will save Freud, the bourgeois Freud, from his own revolutionary daring, “is vis vitam para mortem“.

But we have already said that Freud is only an unconscious reactionary. This is why it has remained for Jung, a conscious reactionary, to do the job of expounding a doctrine of human behaviour and a morale which have as their perpose the adaptation of man to death. Jung compares the life of a man to the sun’s daily course. A rising a zenith and a setting are discerned. Man reaches his zenith in his fortieth year; that is why it is such a critical age. For Jung one of the greatest sources of the troubles of our day is that false morale which consists in trying to stay young when you no longer have enough physical strength for it. We no longer know how to grow old, he laments. The analogy drawn by Jung between the sun’s course and life of man is purely arbitrary and rests on no causal connection. If the night has such a profound effect upon our lives, it is because it reminds the unconscious of the condition of uterine life. But man, in his effort of adaptation draws further and further away from intra-uterine life, reacts against tendencies of return, and tries more and Moreno overcome the night. Already our cities have given up sleep and do their best to prolong the day artificially.

If death is not a biological process and already tends to be outworn , then old age is no longer a biological necessity, and we must overcome that too. Any process that moves us away from death cannot fail to be painful. But phylogenetically, such a process is progressive. Jung’s theory, which from the viewpoint of politics, can only serve reaction. When the over-chief grows old he becomes a King. He will call upon an ethics of old age for the emotional aid he will need. And therefore it is the duty every conscious revolutionary to fight old age, to fight all forms of reaction, all reactionary manifestations of political and moral life and all reactionary interpretations of form or of matter. Because we unconsciously suffer at the idea of having to forsake a world to which we are attached, because our attitude is algolagnic, even those who are most revolutionary among us have to be alert to avoid being carried away by the powerful currents which run counter to our aspirations. We must keep in mind constantly that everything can be interpreted in terms of regression, fascism and death!
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