Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Salvador Dalí proposed to enslave “all the coloured races” as part of a new world order.

with 3 comments

Short Answer: Yes.

Salvador Dalí wanted to enslave races he considered inferior and establish a sadistic world religion, according to a newly discovered letter, which was written as fascism was on the rise in Europe.

The ‘I’ (the highly recommended daily, which the Tendance always buys) continues.

The Spanish surrealist proposed the enslavement of “all the coloured races” as part of the new world order, which would be “anti-Christian and materialistic and based on the progress of science”.

“The domination or submission to slavery of all the coloured races” could be possible, Dali said, “if all the whites united fanatically”.

In the letter, which was written in 1935, Dalí also insisted on the need for human sacrifices but did not specify what these should be.

This is worse than even a lifelong hater of Dalí would expect.

The letter is published in El País  (unfortunately you need an on-line sub for this article: El día que Dalí inventó una religión racista). There is a short report in Pousta, Dalí quería fundar una religión racista.

Dalí wrote the letter to André Breton, the French writer and co-founder of the Surrealist art movement.

Surrealism was offered an outline by Breton in 1924. It is “pure psychic automatism, by which it is intended to express…the real process of thought. It is the dictation of thought, free from any control by the reason and of any aesthetic or moral preoccupation.” His two Manifestes du surréalisme (1924, 1930) contain a lot more, including reference to Swift, “surrealist in his nastiness”, Sade,”surrealist in his sadism”, Rimbaud “surrealist in the way he lived, and elsewhere”. The first Manifesto declares its commitment to “absolute non-conformism”.

The second, declared their commitment to Historical Materialism, and Social Revolution, but not to the principle of “proletarian art”. Breton saw no signs of a separate working class literature and art even under the existing “proletarian regime” of the USSR. It would be, he asserted, citing Trotsky writing in 1923, be after a long and painful transition period, up to those living in a full communist future to develop their own forms of artistic development.

Nadja (1928), “un récit autobiographique” is, for many, Breton’s best book although  L’Amour fou, “le mot ‘convulsive’…pour qualifier la beauté”, (1937) rivals it. Both are published with the written text and (black and white) surrealist paintings, photos and images. There is this, amongst many memorable passages, from Nadja, “l’émancipation humaine à tous égards, entendons nous bien, selon les moyens que chacun dispose, demeure la seule cause qui soit digne de servir.” Human emancipation, in every respect, let’s be clear, with the means that everybody had, remains the only cause that is worth serving.”

Many of the Surrealists had deep ties to the left. in 1931 they published a Manifesto against the official ‘Colonial Exhibition’ in Paris: « Ne visitez pas l’Exposition coloniale » : le manifeste du groupe des surréalistes en 1931. Not content with protesting against the official event they organised their own counter-exhibition, “Surrealists and Communists in Paris A counter-exhibition that changed Western understanding of colonial cultures.”

Surrealist anti-colonial credentials were impeccable, despite accusations that they were publicity-seeking agitators and opportunists; their various tracts such as Don’t Visit the Colonial Exhibition railed against deportation of the Vietnamese, exploitation of colonies to fill the vaults of the French Central Bank, and the complicity of administrators, politicians, churchmen and industry in the repugnant idea of a Greater France. The empire’s colonial subjects were the allies of the world proletariat; it was pointless to distinguish between good and bad colonialism. Another pamphlet First Account of the Colonial Exhibition was published after a fire that destroyed the Dutch East Indies pavilion; the arrogance of the West considered its art superior to the native artefacts destroyed in that fire. The ‘savage’ was the justification for colonialism’s civilising mission, whereas for the Surrealists the savage was the superior civilisation.

There are plenty of political issues to explore in the relations between the surrealists and the political left, and particularly the fraught, eventually hostile, links Breton in particular had with the French Communist Party (PCF). There was also the transition of his founding surrealist comrade Paul Eluard to writing Ode à Staline (1950) or Louis Aragon from writing the 1920s fragments assembled as Les Aventures de Jean-Foutre La Bite to Editorship of the post-war PCF controlled Les Lettres françaises. The writer of the original surrealist manifestos, by contrast, protested against the Moscow Trials, in the late 1930s worked with Trotsky, and in 1938 they launched the Fédération internationale de l’art révolutionnaire indépendant. FIARI. In the 1950 Breton moved closer to anarchism, the Fédération anarchiste and wrote for the journal Libertaire.

There were plenty of conflicts between Breton and other surrealists for a wider variety of reasons, and his efforts to exert control over the movement had got him early on known as the “”Pape du surréalisme.” But one thing could be aid to bring them together: antifascism.

André Breton, put Dalí on “trial” in 1934 for “the glorification of Hitlerian fascism” and he was suspended. He was permanently expelled from the movement in 1939. The French surrealist’s enduring loathing of the Spanish artist is celebrated by his anagrammatic sobriquet for the painter, Avida Dollars.

This letter continues,

He said there was a need for “new hierarchies and more brutal and stricter than ever before” to “annihilate” Christianity.

“I believe that we surrealists are finally turning into priests,” Dali added.

He appeared to be scornful of Christianity’s altruism, adding: “We don’t want happiness for all men, rather the happiness of some to the detriment of others”.

The letter, which was published in El País newspaper on Thursday, was recently discovered in the digitalised personal library of Sebastian Gasch, an art critic who died in Barcelona in 1982. It had been verified by another historian who specialises in the work of Dalí, William Jeffett.

The Spanish site Cuatro says, “Tras recibir esta carta, Bretón expulsó a Dalí de su grupo.” After receiving this letter Breton kicked Dali out of his (Surrealist)group. (Los planes secretos de Salvador Dalí, al descubierto: el artista quería fundar una religión racista

The artist’s fascination with Hitler and fascism are well known but until now there has never been such an explicit expression of its values written by Dalí.

In other comments, made at the time, Dali admitted that he found Hitler “exciting”. He also said he found Nazism “hyper original” because he thought it was an example of surrealist government, with the swastika as a surrealist symbol.

The letter was part of the reason that he was permanently expelled from the Surrealist art movement in 1939. He had also professed admiration for lynchings in the United States.

During the long dictatorship of General Franco between 1939 and 1975, Dalí chose to stay living in Spain while many artists like his contemporary Pablo Picasso went into exile.

Many Spaniards admire his work but find his attitude towards the Franco regime difficult to accept. In his native Catalonia, there are few monuments to Dalí in Barcelona.

Sources from the Fundación Gala Salvador Dali, which guards the image of the artist who died in 1989, told the i: “These letters relate to the first attempt to expel from the surrealist movement.”

As is well known there is a lot of material on Dali and fascism.


Written by Andrew Coates

September 2, 2022 at 5:36 pm

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. George Orwell’s excoriating denunciation – ‘Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali’ is worth reading (or, as will no doubt be the case for Coatesy re-reading) in the light of this.

    Jim Denham

    September 3, 2022 at 9:04 am

    • I did not like its tone when I read it, some time ago, it reminded me a bit of Radeck talking of Ulysses at the “Soviet Writers’ Congress as a “heap of dung, crawling with worms”. Checking, this is an example, “The point is that you have here a direct, unmistakable assault on sanity and decency; and even — since some of Dali’s pictures would tend to poison the imagination like a pornographic postcard — on life itself. ”

      The essay was flagged up on FB and having read it again, yes I agree.

      ” One ought to be able to hold in one’s head simultaneously the two facts that Dali is a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being. The one does not invalidate or, in a sense, affect the other. The first thing that we demand of a wall is that it shall stand up. If it stands up, it is a good wall, and the question of what purpose it serves is separable from that. And yet even the best wall in the world deserves to be pulled down if it surrounds a concentration camp. In the same way it should be possible to say, ‘This is a good book or a good picture, and it ought to be burned by the public hangman.’ Unless one can say that, at least in imagination, one is shirking the implications of the fact that an artist is also a citizen and a human being.”


      Andrew Coates

      September 3, 2022 at 11:25 am

  2. Regarding the El Pais paywalled piece – If you hit ‘reader view’ for just the text you do get it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: