Trotsky / Breton / Rivera

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Mar 6 10:38:22 MST 2003

Natalie Corvington wrote:
> I'm not sure I understand: if Freud can be discounted for making 
> biologically determinant statements about the aggressive nature of man, 
> surely Marx could be dismissed for his occassional slips into discussing 
> the weak nature of the female which makes her unsuitable to work long 
> hours. 

I am not familiar with this. I would however assign much more weight to 
Engels's Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State, where 
following Lewis Morgan, he argues that such systems reflect an earlier 
history of the family when women had more respect and honour. In his 
attack on the bourgeois family, Engels anticipates many of the themes 
found in woman's liberation literature of the 1970s and onwards.

> Maybe it's true that too much of Freud's theory was based on his 
> repressive models of integration into the social order to be salvagable, 
> as the schizoanalysists think.  But I'm finding a lot of use for Freud's 
> "The Uncanny" in talking about German Surrealist Hans Bellmer's dolls: 
> maybe this means my research is "unscientific."  I guess I can't care 
> too much since the rhetoric of science is used to justify entirely 
> subjective perspectives all the time.

Finally, when we turn to the German sculptor Hans Bellmer, we see 
graphic images of cruelty toward women that no artist could represent 
today, at least in the name of social and political emancipation. During 
the 1930s, Bellmer constructed life-sized dolls out of wood, metal, 
plaster and ball joints that were then twisted out of shape. He 
published photos of his work in surrealist journals to produce, as he 
put it, a mixture of "joy, exaltation and fear." The knotted-up sex 
dolls were supposed to help the viewer recover the "enchanted garden" of 
childhood. They also were meant as protests against Nazism, because they 
rejected the Ideal Form of the Aryan body. If this was his goal, one can 
only wonder why they only assaulted women.

Not only does Bellmer's work draw from Freud, it also hearkens back to 
Marquis de Sade, who was a patron saint of the Surrealist movement. The 
catalog explains, "Apart from these photographic records of imaginary 
misdeeds, Bellmer writes openly of a drive to master 'victims', and to 
this end he poses all his poupées very voyeuristically. With the first 
doll he goes far as to design an internal mechanism filled with 
miniature panoramas as a means to 'pluck away the secret thoughts of the 
little girls'."

When the surrealist artists were not twisting women apart or turning 
their vaginas into man-eating clams, they were putting them on 
pedestals. To a large extent, this reflected the disenchantment with 
Futurism and other forms of modern art that celebrated technology and 
progress. In some ways, surrealism represented a kind of Late 
Romanticism that rejected modernity in the same way that earlier 
versions did. So, for many surrealists, courtly love is a natural 
outcome for a psyche that refuses to conform to a bourgeois society that 
has enshrined science and logic. If bourgeois society promoted 
Enlightenment values, the surrealists would have none of it. If so much 
of modern culture stressed progressive values, surrealism for its part 
would champion dreams, fetishes, hysteria, mystery and nostalgia for the 



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