Encyclopedia of Trotskyism On-Line: Revolutionary History
Rachel Stella (ed.), Death to the Pigs: Selected Writings of Benjamin Péret, Atlas, London 1988, pp.219, £6.50
The paucity of Péret’s works available in English is partially corrected by the publication of this volume. Contained here are some of his principal Surrealist poems and fictions, including the short novel from which the book takes its title. But of particular interest to the readers of this journal will be the dozen or so political letters – including several from the Spanish Civil War (in which Péret fought with the POUM, then with the Durruti Division), and the substantial biographical essay by the editor. The latter is an invaluable and accessible source of information on Péret’s long involvement with the Trotskyist movement, which started when he joined the Left Opposition at the end of the 1920s and continued, almost unbroken, until his death in 1959.
As a Trotskyist militant Péret was active, at various times, in Brazil and Mexico (where he was a leader of the group around Grandizo Munis in the 1940s) as well as his native France. It was a life of revolutionary distinction, and perhaps one episode from it, above all others, sums up the sheer proletarian spirit of the man. During the Second World War, Péret was called up to the French Army and given, unbelievably, the job of registering political suspects in the Nantes area (where he was also organising a clandestine Trotskyist cell). Péret took to the job with glee. He deleted all the names of the leftists – and inserted all the names of the local priests.
Péret was a great writer, and an outstanding revolutionary. It can only be hoped that more of his prolific writings, political as well as fictional, will be made available in English soon.
Jon E. Lewis
Updated by ETOL: 6.7.2003