THE PRESTIGE OF TERROR
by Georges Henein
To end up with feet in chains had been the aim of a life. But it is a birdcage with bars. Indifferent, authoritarian, without embarrassment, the sound of the world flowed and reflowed through the bars; the prisoner, inside, was free: he could take part in everything, nothing on the outside escaped him; he could even abandon the cage; the bars were stretched a metre across; he was not even trapped.
August 8, 1945
This is not a thesis. Because a thesis should be written not only with sang-froid and all the usual literary precautions, but also requires an accumulation of references and general statistical data to which I am loathe to sacrifice the reaction of disgust and fury that dictates this text to me. On top of which, the former audience for theses, now deserting all prolonged reflection, wallows in the reading of the many copies of “Digests” in circulation and the stories of intrigue, whether sentimental, diplomatic or criminal, that the press, worn-out by all sorts of ignominy, serves it each morning with breakfast.
This is not a thesis and will not be satisfied with being simply a protest. This is ambitious. This needs to provoke men asleep in lies; to give a sense, a target and a lasting impact to the disgust of an hour, the nausea of an instant. The values that presided over our idea of life and which looked after for us, here and there, those small islands of hope and intervals of dignity, are being methodically wrecked by events at which, to make matters worse, we are invited to watch our victory, to salute the eternal destruction of a dragon eternally reborn. But as the scene is repeated are you not struck by the change that is taking place in the features of our heroes? Even when it’s easy for you to see that, with each new tournament, St. George appears unceasingly more and more to look like the dragon? Soon St. George will be nothing more than a hideous variation of the dragon itself. And then, he will be a camouflaged dragon, an expert in making us believe, that – with a strike of his lance – he will strike the Evil Empire down! August 8, 1945, will remain for some an unbearable date. One of greatest dates of infamy established by History. Newspapers pass on with delight the effects of the atomic bomb – this future instrument of polemic – from people to people. Evening radio shows announce the entry of the Soviet Union into the war against the ashes and the ruins of Japan. Two events, probably of unequal scale, but which both participate in the same horror. Ten years ago, world opinion was trained into a state of excitement to protest against the use of mustard gas, dropped on Ethiopia by fascist aviators. The bombing of the village of Guernica, razed to the ground by German squadrons in Spain, was enough to mobilize – in a world still proud of its freedom – millions of just consciences. When London was in turn mutilated by fascist bombs, we knew on which side of the fires the values to be defended were to be found. Then when Hamburg burned with the same fire as London, we were taught of the beneficial effects of a new bombing technique called “saturation bombing” under cover of which immense urban areas were destined to be inevitably levelled. These perfected practices, these supreme refinements in murder possessed nothing that could enhance the cause of freedom, the family of man. We were more than a few, here, in Great Britain, in America, to believe them as detestable as the diverse forms of torment perfected by the Nazis. One day, it was an entire city “cleaned” by a terror raid; the next day, a railway station, into which thousands of refugees were packed, was, thanks to a scientific supervisor, riddled to death. These inhuman games appear suddenly derisory now that the atomic bomb has entered service and democratic bombers have tested its benefits on the Japanese people! In effect, what does the premeditated assassination of ten thousand, a few hundred thousand Japanese civilians matter? Everyone knows that the Japanese are yellow, and with extra impudence, evil yellow people (the Chinese represent the “kind” yellow people). Did not a character who is far from being a “war criminal” but rather Admiral William Halsey declare: “We are drowning and burning the bestial apes all over the Pacific, and it is just as much pleasure to burn them as to drown them”? These words so exultant and reassuring about the idea that military chiefs would like to do to human dignity, these words were pronounced in front of a news reporter… St. George exaggerates. He is beginning to seem to us as more repugnant than the dragon.
The point to which we have been carried by the latest developments in politics and war means it is indispensable that the legitimacy of a cause be judged, essentially and before anything else, on the means that it puts into action. In aid of causes that still risk calling on the best of man, it is indispensable to establish an inventory of means that are unlikely to obfuscate the stated aim. The recourse to denunciation when faced with a passing need is quickly translated into a bureaucracy of denunciation. In one section of the population, this quickly forms into a habit of denunciation; in another section, a shame of denunciation. Direct the debate towards the ultimate aims for which people are calling, then we will stand up, check the pillars and appearance of the staircase, before double-locking the door and expressing ourselves only in measured terms and according to a suddenly academic type of thinking. The middle-of-the-road has become an institution – and it cuts the life of a nation, the life of each man, in two. And the same is true of other means that were stolen from the enemy to better dominate and destroy it, but which we discover – at the moment of victory – have been promoted to the rank of national deformities, intellectual defects carefully protected against possible revolts of reason. This is how the cult of the leader’s infallibility, the ecstatic reinforcement of false hierarchies, the seizure of all sources of information and all the instruments of distribution, the frenetic organization of lies by the State at all times of day, growing police terror towards citizens who still wish to remain relatively lucid, have become the generally accepted forms of political and social progress! And it is precisely against such a powerful show of aberrations that we must repeat, without respite, the following obvious truth:
That the proletariat would not consider rising up by recourse to the means by which its enemies debase themselves. That a type of socialism that owes its advent to the marvels of intrigue, denunciation, political blackmail and ideological fraud would be contaminated at its source by the very instruments of its victory and that man and peoples would sin through an excess of candour if they expected anything else from it but a change of the shadows.
August 8, 1945. While the gaping wound of Hiroshima still smokes – that martyr city chosen for the test of the first atomic bomb – Stalin’s Russia strikes a blow to Japan with the famous stab-in-the-back trademarked by Mussolini. Nevertheless he would be wrong to turn in his grave while dreaming of his copyright fees. Because we were not just happy to plagiarize his beaux gestes; we wanted to add to his historical contribution. Indeed, the text of the Soviet declaration of war informs us that the USSR’s entry into the war has no other aim than “to shorten the war” and “save human lives”! A ceasefire of small means – there it is, an end in itself, an end that, none will contest, is difficult to equal in nobility. And during the centuries to come, the troubadours of Outer Mongolia will have the time to provide the epilogue on the pacifist and humanist character of the Master’s decision. August 8, 1945, is one of the lowest dates in the career of humanity.
OF JUST WARS AND THE DANGER OF WINNING THEM
Many years before the world hurried into a war against fascism, bitter discussions were rife in the movements of the left between total pacifists and militants of the fight to the death against tyranny. One of the themes that returned again and again in this long exchange of ideas and arguments was that of “just wars.” With a still imperfect skill, total pacifists set about proving that no just wars existed; that to pretend to fight tyranny through war was to deliver oneself to the tyranny of a military machine without brakes, to pitiless exceptional laws, and politicians invested with the most arbitrary powers of which they were more or less freed of having to justify. War alone, in and of itself, constituted a tyranny that yielded nothing to the one you propose to defeat – or so said, without convincing us, the theoreticians of total pacifism. They were wrong. Just wars do exist. But the peculiar of just wars is not making them last long.
Do not forget that “just” wars, if they produce a Hoche or a Marceau, also produce a Bonaparte, which is a particularly diabolical way for them to cease being just. On the other hand – and with the absence of any Bonapartes on the horizon – a “just” war differs from ordinary expeditions of theft in what it imposes on those who lead it, a rhythm and a set of demands that are difficult for them to tolerate. To keep alive an undertaking based on popular fervour, those responsible for running the war must have the clear-minded boldness to let the moving forces on which they draw their strength retain their character of masses on fire – the mass in full progress and conscious of the direction of its élan. But the persistent rule with the leaders of peoples – often even those who appear to have returned directly from the firing line or the factory-floor meeting – is to erode their hierarchical weight by driving the motivating forces entrusted to them into the traditional frameworks of a country at war. And when I say “traditional frameworks” I mean the rationing of truth, the rationing of enthusiasm, the rationing of the ideal. I mean the arbitrary tightening of the moving forces of a nation, on the order of those who fear, in the “movement” of today, the “upheaval” of tomorrow. These traditional frameworks – simple masks placed on the face of whichever war so as to erase the expression of its originality and render it similar to all the others – can sometimes be borrowed from the archives of the War Museum, sometimes from the enemy’s practice. For the former, this is called “being inspired by the lessons of the past”; for the latter, “profiting from what your enemy teaches you.” The drabness of the living values of the present that we always seem ready to envelop in old sacramental formulae like a shroud, the transfer of the enemy’s methods and mental routines into the camp of justice, the way this war against fascism has gone, all offer us too many examples. I clearly remember the first Soviet war communiqué that finished by mentioning a German soldier, quoted by name, who went towards a Russian post declaring that he did not wish to take up arms against a proletarian State. The simple sentence of this communiqué gave off, in the face of history, a sound more striking than the motorized exploits that preceded and succeeded it. It bore witness, above the roar of battle, to the fact that the brotherhood of workers takes – and must continue to take – precedence over the division of men into ethnic and national groups. The good to be kept between us all was there – the virtue likely to crack open the worm-eaten framework of war between nations. And yet, once again, the workers were driven towards these traditional frameworks, and led astray. Instead of glorifying the Russian or German popular heroes of the past who had reached out in the cause of similar struggles for freedom, the Soviet propaganda services quickly indulged in a dreadful pathos, from which emerged some of the most sinister figures in Russian history. Prince Alexander Nevsky once again knew all the pomposity of glory because in 1242 he had the good luck to rout the Order of Teutonic Knights. Yet the memory of a Pugachev or a Stenka Razin – legendary champions of the peasant cause – was put on the backburner because they were judged to have been too badly mistreated by the authorities at the time. On November 7, 1941, addressing fighters of the Red Army, Stalin offered up to their courage some strange precursors: “Could you be,” he told them, “inspired by the courageous figures of your ancestors: Alexander Nevsky, Dimitri Donskov, Kuzma Minin, Dimitri Pozharsky, Alexander Suvorov, Mikhail Kutuzov?” 
Ancestral heroism has never, in any army, had much hold over soldiers’ morale. And among those ancestors sculpted into icons by Stalin and presented to the pious kiss of the masses, there was not a single one who had anything but a reactionary and detestable role in relation to the struggles of the Russian people to rouse itself from its terrible bed of misery. That such names of the heroic imagination could be twisted into defenders of the USSR provides enough to render senile a war that some expected to improve the world. What followed was equal to its beginning. The exhumation of Alexander Nevsky brought about a revision of eight centuries of European history. Borrowing not only from the past but the enemy, Stalin placed the Hitlerian theory of Europe’s mobilisation in opposition to an Asian assault, a return – pure and simple – to the most narrow-minded form of pan-Slavism. The debates in the different Pan-Slav Congresses that have been organized on Moscow’s initiative during this war have put back the intellect in the same way as Radio Berlin. The long development of Europe is no longer seen as anything but a pretext for racial divisions, a development prone to an endlessly reborn conflict between Slavs and Germans. The most recent Pan-Slav Congress (Sofia, February 1945) was devoted to the existence of a Slav bloc, the inheritor of a union forged through centuries of battles that date back to the victory of united Slav armies against the Germanic peoples at Grünewald (1410). Thus we end up fighting bloc against bloc, race against race, insanity against insanity! And so it is that “just” wars do not resist for long the slanderous contagion of ideas that they were asked to crush.  I say that we are currently witnessing a penetration of Hitlerian political behaviour into the ranks of democracy. This penetration scandalizes next to nobody; too many people find in it material convenience and moral comfort. This penetration sprawls across all the newspapers, in all the news that reaches us about the fate being prepared for the world. For example, the annexation of territories without the prior consent of their populations was generally considered as an outrage against the law, part of Hitler’s imperialistic frenzy. Yet, today, look how things are presented in a completely different way, with the only justification being national usefulness. This port is perfectly useful to me and I would like it accorded to me, declares one power – and if it is pointed out that it has always been part of another national unit, the power replies that while that may well be possible it really needs it and anyway victory gives it the right to petty theft. So, from now on, will it get not simply a port or an isolated city, but vast sets of territories that have become perfectly mobile and able to change owner in the space of a night? The transfer of populations also used to pass as a cruel process to which only the regimes of force allowed themselves recourse. These transfers are nevertheless today envisaged on a scale not smaller than that of Nazism’s darkest round-ups. Here, I will allow Louis Clair, one of the principal contributors to American magazine Politics, whose capacity for indignation continues to help us breathe, to speak:
The people are displaced like cattle; if you give me 500,000 Sudeten-Germans, I will work something out to hand over a certain number of Tyroliens; perhaps we could exchange a few Germans against some machine tools? Hitler, once again, has started up a mechanism that is beginning to take on worrying proportions… The speed with which the victorious powers are haggling over the only merchandise that, in spite of technical improvements, remains more in demand than ever – slave labour – is something truly obscene. 
FOR WANT OF ANYTHING BETTER
When you ask yourself about the reasons that tend to change a “just” war into an ordinary war, into a basic war, and more generally when you ask yourself about the reasons that remove from the masses the control of the higher causes to which they are dedicated, you quickly find yourself shut inside a mind-blowing circuit. On the one hand, indeed, the scale and concentration of modern economic life has made of every party, every union, every government quasi-totalitarian organisms that carry out their role by giving way to their own specific weight and not at all by referring to the individual cells of which they are composed. These parties, these unions, these modern state governments are protected against the workings of critical reason (as well as, by the way, against affective jolts and the heart’s rebellion) by their own, sovereign inertia. These disconcerting edifices function through the grace of a special part of humanity, a humanity of initiates. To be allowed to present a motion at the end of the congress of a left-wing party tolerant of the occasional exchange of opinions, you need a year of extremely delicate manoeuvres through a maze of secretariats and committees that can only remind you of the mysteries of the inaccessible Tribunal where Kafka leaves [Josef K.] shaking in The Trial – the endlessly reflected image of our own anguish. And if the original trials are favourably overcome, if no faux pas has arisen to thwart the advance of your motion, then its object will probably be sufficiently faded as to excite only a retrospective interest, and almost pity for the person who risked giving it his backing. On the other hand, clairvoyant and energetic citizens, or even better, individuals who dispose of a certain intellectual prestige, who would be tempted to intervene so as to rectify the direction of a party, a union or a government, know too well that these different organizations have the means to weave around them a deathly cloth – a cloth of silence that in a short time will manage to cut them off from all public life. This cloth of silence has shut in forever a number of the most brilliant minds of Soviet society – writers, thinkers, journalists, activists; it is increasingly tightening in Europe and America, over other minds that are resistant and pure, exaggeratedly in love with freedom… There is something worse for the civilized being than the loss of power over the organizations that represent him and act in his name; it is the resignation to this loss. It is a resignation we are informed about through innumerable and flagrant signs; a resignation we recognize – in wartime, as in peacetime – by the standard attitude of gifted and cultivated people who are inclined to act – yet are nevertheless pickled in their own defeat. This resignation can be summed up in five words: “For want of anything better.” If one is a member of the Communist Party (or any other) without being the least bit reassured about its present or future policies, it’s “for want of anything better.” If one ends up putting up with a redistribution of land that one knows will give people neither happiness nor a smile nor wealth, it’s “for want of anything better.” If one votes for a candidate whose moral character disgusts you and whose political steadfastness promises to be dubious, it’s “for want of anything better.” If one subscribes to a newspaper that willingly and blithely sacrifices the truth to advertising and commercial considerations, it’s “for want of anything better.” The woman one kisses feverishly while mumbling eternal vows – “for want of anything better.” The cinema into which one dives, head down, to avoid an hour of presence on Earth – “for want of anything better.” The book with which we stay up late because it has received a prize, even though everything about it invites you to vomit up its contents – “for want of anything better.” The sublime head of a cult to which one rallies while sighing, immersed as one is in the repertoire of its grandeur – “for want of anything better.” “For want of anything better” becomes an investment, a philosophy, a civil status, a master, a witticism, an alibi, a prayer, a weapon, a whore, a sob, a waiting room, a pirouette, the art of begging for alms, a compass for trudging along without moving, an epitaph, an August 8, 1945… Two men, close in thought, are nevertheless capable of destroying each other because they have the same idea of “better” and this “better” fails them, so they fall back on two competing modes of compensatory existence, on two systems of beliefs and actions tangential to their common “better,” but non-tangential on the same side. So, from approximations to approximations, substitutions to substitutions, one finds oneself pushed back, imperceptibly, politely, into whichever abject corner where woodlice grow. One is alarmed, but wrongly: it isn’t a dungeon; it’s a home. It night and nothing more… In the distance the trains are whistling as if to leave… One would like to scream, to bring out the imaginary guards… Tomorrow morning, where will one be with oneself? Will you alone be allowed to pass? Yes, probably, you will be allowed to flee, to create a second life in the Congo. A life in a house on stilts with, in the shadows, the same triumphant cancer where the forces of boredom and panicked horror come to terms with freedom.
THE RIGHT TO TERROR
For the past two centuries, everything has taken place as if each invocation to freedom, each uprising marked by its name, had to be translated – through a political and statist machine risen up at full strength through these jumps – by an increase in oppressive rules to which man is beholden though a gradual shrinking of life. Today, a new generation of Encyclopédists who proceeded with the same impertinence as the earlier one, would be made illegal or quickly reduced to begging. Everything is taking place as if man were looking into this long series of unhappy ambitions for a certain form of security in the terror. Erich Fromm’s bitter and severe work – The Fear of Freedom – teaches us just how much man fears a tête-à-tête with freedom, just how much he shirks the responsibilities that it assigns to him, just how much – in the current conditions of chaos – greyness, opaqueness and anonymity are desirable refuges for him from the vertigo of freedom. To this individual tendency to be panicked by the complexity of the world that assails us, large collective organizations have arrived with their decisive contribution. They have established, with deliberate rigour, this pathetic minimum of human stances that can only be transgressed at the wrongdoer’s risk and expense. Good citizens can now afford to give themselves a deep sleep, now that the atomic bomb protects them… The growing signs of terror cannot be mistaken. The most important is the progressive obliteration of the right to asylum. It is a bad idea to move somewhere as a political refugee in these deadly times! Since 1930, Leon Trotsky has been hunted like a wild boar across the whole European continent, from Turkey to Norway via Paris. Then came Vichy, which, with a remorseless hand, delivered up Pietro Nenni to Italy, Breitscheid to Germany and Companys to Spain. Vichy has disappeared but not this ineradicable aversion of the authorities – whether democratic or not – towards the political refugee, the last and most beautiful relic of human sedition. Another sign of terror is the organized deportation of workers, which will without question continue with the defeat of Nazism. Economists are on hand to keep watch over the growing efficiency of the cattle that have been outsourced to them as raw material for their experiments. The international conferences need rising figures! Another sign of terror: thousands of beings simply disappearing into the night. Gone without leaving a forwarding address because there is wood to be cut on the banks of the White Sea. You’ve been warned! The final note of sadness, this time in the domain that has always known how to escape from the pressures of the arbitrary regimes of the past, the domain of attacking thinking and political thought – which was yesterday still a beacon of hope – where we are witnessing a strange adaptation to the cruel and vain order taking shape beneath our eyes. It can be seen in the embarrassed timidity of a magazine like La Pensée, which, before the war, showed an agitating curiosity towards all the forms of our scientific and social future and, with an inquisitive breath, brought back to life the essential problems already won by the general aging of a society that does not tolerate if we do not age with it. In 1945, the big names who run La Pensée cover nothing more than a chorus of static formulae and debilitating reasoning. We find ourselves in the presence of a magazine that seems to have no other mission than to warn us that Marxist thinking is stuck in neutral. Today, that thinking behaves like a force that, instead of dominating the contemporary nightmare and plotting its guiding avenues of light, places itself in a secure test-tube where no explosive separation of the viable and non-viable, of the lively and the oppressive, of the actual and the out-of-date, need be feared for the present moment. Also, do we not see Aragon, in a sensational article, demand the removal of the works of M. Charles Maurras from the bookshops of France? Apparently, the author of such a demand does not realize that by doing this he admits the defeat of his own political message’s power of attraction. He would have us believe that Maurras and himself occupied positions diametrically opposed from one another, and that having renounced the idea of deciding between the two using reason, one after the other they leave it up to the less than recommendable arbitration of the police. Thus, when it is not working in the open, terror remains always latent, hovering just above the debate, ready to welcome the first wish, the first call of one of its loyal subjects. As for extraordinary individuals – particularly certain categories of intellectuals and writers who do not yet accept living according to a common trajectory – they are, they also, caught up in the wind of terror. Their only hope is to turn the wind around; that is to say, to practise terror. They are fascinated not by a Gide or a Breton, but by a Lawrence of Arabia or a Malraux in his Chinese period. For the most part, they love this war because it has allowed them to come to terms with themselves by blowing up a train, demolishing a viaduct, before returning to their apartment, to their dull mistresses and to their faithful daily routine of striking stories. The modern intellectual asks, deep down, for no other gratuity from a world he no longer has the honesty to challenge than the chance to embody, if only for the space of a chapter, the role of the outsider adventurer, using this artifice of a vocation to salvage some of the élan that everyday life has amputated.
In the collective slide towards a condition of security, who will release the switchblade? Who will do justice to what men are going to get used to taking as their right to terror and almost as a normal culmination of their old aspirations for freedom? Not a party, for sure, nor any of the totalitarian organizations destined to guard men. Not a party, but perhaps supporters of a new type who will abandon classic forms of unrest for highly exemplary gestures of upheaval. Many have hoped that resistance movements in Occupied Europe would finally carefully handle a breach in the political and social impasse of our time. The mass parties have been the first to sniff out this danger. Really now, were people getting ready to get rid of the parties’ services? Was the popular will now claiming it could do without an intermediary? The scare did not last long. In the same way that the military forces of the resistance were quickly integrated into the permanent framework of the army, so the political forces did not take long to follow suit – mixing flattery with intrigue – to win back the mousetrap of the Big Parties. The episode – I nearly said “incident” – was over. But something else became possible; in fact, it became the only possible thing. The era of guerrilla politics began and it is in this that we should entrust our reserves of confidence and enthusiasm. It’s probably easy to announce the attraction that this guerrilla and the exploits that will inevitably mark him out. We could nevertheless consider the valiantly independent attitude of Camus – and, for other things, of a Breton, a Calas, a Rougemont – as an indication of the future. The machinery of terror is still far from free of hesitations or cracks. Thus it is at the point where this machinery makes itself the most threatening – and as it advances in its renewed threats – that all our spirit of refusal should be placed, all that there is in the world, at any given moment, of beings in a state of refusal. And that it be done with brilliance! That it be written as a troubling example in the consciousness of the masses! And that it be transmitted and amplified across the vast human prairie, by contagious furrows of grandeur! At this point, I hear ringing out murderously sarcastic remarks: “So! You aim to discredit political parties, to destroy their prestige, to compromise their action; so you are following the insidious work of the fascists before and after fascism, who threw doubt on all the instruments of relief and progress!” In reality, I am pursuing nothing; I do not want to pursue anything other than a certain logic of freedom. The fascist phenomenon, seen in the light of the evolution of the parties, served only to speed up decisively the development of the moral and material elephantiasis that affects the powerful institutions of the “left,” in which the voices of the mass are lost almost as easily as those of individuals. The ultimate aim of the guerrilla who signs up now is not to eliminate the parties in aid of some new system of exercising political life; it is to rip away from the parties the monopoly of social thought that is rusting away in their working groups; it is to remove, in the ideological arena, their right to act onto which they hold all the more now that they have clearly decided to do nothing with it, except for the most ulterior and devious uses. It is about – to grasp the problem as tightly as possible – to reduce the parties to a condition of being purely receptive towards the ripening and general movement of ideas, and purely administrative as to their execution. In brief, it is about forcing the parties to recognize the ideological pockets that are born outside of themselves and to drain towards practical action all that is valid and that comes out of the turmoil thus fomented. We should be on our guard: the objective situation of the parties has considerably changed over the past 20 years. They are all tending towards becoming para-statist organizations, appendices of the States, and the very idea – and the function – of a party of opposition is mortally affected by this change. In England, the United States, in France and Belgium, the opposition is more often than not in solidarity with the powers-that-be, when it is not the enemy. The parties have to fit their ever-clearer obligations to independent thinkers to this role. The first of these obligations is the transfer of ideological activities to groups that remain exterior to the vicissitudes of the parties and their gradual collapse within the framework of States. But above all, this guerrilla will only have a lasting effect in the measure that he knows how to encourage – in his struggle against the bureaucratic pragmatism of the parties – a dive into the cold currents of utopia, a renaissance of utopian conjecture with all that that entails of the edifying and joyful. A dozen or so years ago, we could take as a rallying cry words such as those of Nikolai Bukharin, the penultimate great theoretician of socialism: An analysis of the real state of things lets us glimpse not only the death of society, but also the death of its concrete historical form and the inevitable passage towards a socialist society – a passage that has already begun, a passage towards a superior social structure. And it is not about only moving to a superior way of living, but one precisely superior to the one it has today. Can we speak of this form of superior social form in general? Does this not lead us towards subjectivism? Can we speak of ordinary objective criticisms in this area? We think so. In the material domain, such a criterion is represented by the power of the output of socialized work and the evolution of this output, because this determines the sum of superfluous work on which depends spiritual culture. In the domain of immediate inter-human relationships, such a criterion is given by the size of the field of selection of talents-creators. It is precisely when the output of work is extremely high and the field of selection extremely large that we see the maximum amount of interior improvement of life for the maximum number of men, taken not as an arithmetical sum, but as a living whole, like a social collective. 
Today, we cannot do less than ask ourselves where is it this “maximum of interior improvement of the maximum number of men”? Alas, there is no doubt that the road taken since April 1936, that is to say, since we were thrown these words of hope, has only taken us further away from these Bukharinian views; it has only been sealed up, stage by stage, by the advent of an inflexible conformity that reduces “interior life” to its most humble and fearful expression. There is no doubt that to this criterion of “interior improvement” has been substituted the reverse criterion, and wishing only one proof among thousands, the most eloquent is none other than the “liquidation” of Bukharin himself and the lack of noise that this “liquidation” made in the socialist camp and among the intelligentsia. To this conformism so rife in all domains – excepting certain terrorist refinements that these gentlemen always take great pleasure in innovating – it is only possible to oppose successfully those forces that Bukharin most criticized: the dream of Icarus, the wild spirit of anticipation of Leonardo, the adventurous tests of utopian socialists, the generous and softened humour of a Paul Lafargue! For its disciples scientific socialism has deteriorated to the point of being nothing more than a pompous exercise in recitation. The atmosphere and social ideas need to be aired out if we want to create a future for man that does not wither before it is born and which does not break with, through unjustifiable disciplines, its faculty to always begin again. Against this hideous union of conformism and terror, against the dictatorship of “means” oblivious to the ends it itself recommends, the Mona Lisa of utopia can, perhaps not win, but release her smile fly and return to men the Promethean spark in which they will recognize their hidden freedom.
IT IS NOT THE TIME TO RESTORE THE IMAGE OF THE ILLUSIONS...
1. Stalin and Eternal Russia, Walter Kolarz (Lindsay and Drummond, London, p.87).
2. “Dragged by necessity, against our better wishes, to accomplish day after day, a series of acts in all ways similar to those of the enemy, how do we avoid extending the shared limit?” worries André Breton. “Be careful: from the very fact that we are forced to adopt his methods, we run the risk of being contaminated by that which we believe we are defeating.” In Lumière Noire, André Breton, cf., “L’Arche,” no. 7.
3. European Newsreel, Louis Clair, cf. Politics, June 1945.
4. “The Fundamental Problems of Contemporary Culture,” Nikolai Bukharin (Les documents de la Russie neuve, Paris, 1936).