THE FAKE REVOLT by G. Legman (New York, Breaking Point, 1967)
This most sarcastic but overdue tract rips apart phoney youth revolt in psychopathic America, and by extension, “her cheap imitators”. The Fake Revolt was published this year. The author, G. Legman, is not of the age group he says has had it. I detect nostalgia for the simplicities of socialist revolutionaries in the 30’s and rationalisation of rile at missing out. Under the flash viciouis style lies a pessimist and a puritan, sometimes underestimating, always stimulating. He takes the Bomb as the supreme fact hanging over the world, fact making nonsense of all revolts stopping short of tearing down State and capitalism.
Legman picks on three blind alleys down which the rebellious have been led; gestures that merely raise the ante, e.g. sloganising, hitting cops; the cult of cool; and “perversion”, sexual and chemical, e.g. sadism (“The Atom Bomb is nothing but the Marquis de Sade on a government grant”) and LSD culture. He reserves his harshest tirades for youth’s misleaders—the camp controllers of fashion, the psychedelic businessmen, media-men and academics; these last, the potential critics of the system, silenced by their share in the national lolly.
Increasingly big business makes equally meaningless the idealist’s desire to improve the world and the disillusioned’s desire to escape its decay. Money and Power between them buy up most threats to the status quo. Sell out is the way out. Legman cites girls leaving their lovers for money bags, boys shedding communist skins when McCarthy turned on the heat, and worse still those who are waiting in the wings with ready made excuses for their tardiness in promoting revolution. “Everybody wants to be your bedfellow, the whole scene trembles continuously on the paranoid edge of violence.” Revolt is meaningless when consumer-oriented; revolutionary, no, deliciously revolting, yes.
Camp is apolitical, concerned with style not content. The daring pose or “revolution in dress” tends to disguise the reactionary vacuum in the mod psyche. Camp pleases the eye when you are out of your mind. Where else can one be when analysis of society’s dynamics reveal no easy political “way out”? So let’s be beautiful people.
After the sell out what’s left of revolt? Legman dismisses the civil rights workers for a start. “Getting bashed by the cops or by Southern sheriffs makes them feel involved.” Violence is implicit in revolt. He accuses the non-violent of shying from the guilt that attends the use of violence, settling for gestures instead of revolt leading to revolution.
s5PROVOS AND DIGGERS
He dismisses provocation likewise, without granting that to provoke is a way of trying out one’s strength by setting authority against people until people take sides or suffer. The Diggers he writes off as mock-pious fake Utopians. He ignores their entirely voluntary base: “How exactly is it a revolt against muddled middle class parents to try and crowd the government into becoming a parental welfare state composed of nothing but a mammoth Food and Drug connection.”
He points out that a drug scene is nothing new—the poet Theophile Gautier was turning Paris on to pot and long hair in the 1830’s, and nothing revolutionary—your parents booze themselves silly. He prefers to ignore that some drugs are more illuminating than others. Use these if you will. But don’t pretend to being revolutionary while laid up in your pad out of your skull, unfit for misleading even the thickest of fuzz, now battering your door down.
Curiously, with its tone of comprehending everything, The Fake Revolt omits mention of the ghetto riots, the Vietnam War and “The Resistance”. Events have overtaken the author, words like these no longer stand. “It cannot come out for anything radical without going to gaol so it has come out for nothing.” Other judgements are still sharp. “A hippie or a beatnik is a frantically self-advertising coward and parasite, all tired and beaten by a struggle in which he somehow never engaged” and “The revolt against punctuation, art anatomy and sexual normality replaces any revolt against the Atom Bomb and the profit system whose swansong it is”.
The best part of The Fake Revolt
is the analysis of “Cool” as leading to total affectlessness or the inability to feel and the fear of touch. Time will show whether <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: Love-
and Flower Power
have in the least checked the “new venereal disease”. Legman rightly diagnoses cool’s survival value or more than a matter of fashionable acceptance by Madison Avenue
. “Keep Cool”, common injunctive among the hip, has two disjunctive senses; don’t lose your head and/or stay out of trouble. In the latter and prevalent sense, cool smoothes over the widespread
failure of nerve outsiders complain of. Cool is then “a let-
out for every affectless person to do any and every rotten thing he or she is called upon to do by the Job”. Affectless persons deny to themselves that they are responsible for anything or can even touch anything and that anything can touch them. Cool destroys the individual’s inner world of feelings and sexual potency just as surely as it subsidises global world destruction. Save Earth Now.
s9POLITICS OF APOCALYPSE
Some hippies speak truer than they realise when referring to their “brothers” in advertising and the military; common to both sides is this affectlessness which does not preclude hate. Love-ins are the in-turned confirmation of excluded ones, those excluded from real overall control of their lives. Try loving adverts off the billboards, warheads off missiles; we can only tear them down. The cool types resist the loving types like conservatives resist change, afraid to take risks. As Legman suggests, what other release can cool people share but apocalyptic belief in the end of the world; quite feasible with the Pentagon and Kremlin planning planetary suicide. There is an alarming similarity between the contemporary revolté and the organization man when both crave a moral blowout, consciously or otherwise.
s10POLITICS OF SEX
The sexual byways he deplores so self-indulgently I don’t know about, not having been to the States. Every man to his own taste, provided he destroys himself only. Legman’s anxiety for good clean fun is rather tasteless (would he be more at home with a marriage canonised by the State in Moscow’s Hall of Weddings than with Californian rites by surf and moonlight?) and a trifle paranoid (he waxes quite hysterical over kinks and orgiasts). But he’s right in this, the newsy interest in freaked out orgies and cool sex points back to widespread dissatisfaction—failure in more normal terms; that disappointment having its roots in authoritarian suppression (the family as prototype of the State) and commercial exploitation. Genuine sexual freedom depends not on exploring sidelines in sensation but on a social revolution.
s11HELL’S ANGELS AND TRIPPIES
The Fake Revolt relates the Hell’s Angels’ celebrated cool to the cool of the so-called transcendentalists. Both are en route to an identical nothingness. One through body smashing violence, usually indiscriminate, the other via mind-blowing drugs, again with few redeeming exceptions. Modern experience is chaotic, everyone being subject to a constant flood of stimuli, nearly impossible to evaluate it all for the purpose of action. Hell’s Angels and transcendentalists react identically to this chaos. In trying to shortcut the route to salvation they abdicate their chances of freedom. They decline the long and hard road of self-discipline only to be disciplined by the machinery of the state or the vagaries of their machines; or to be dissolved in an impersonal Nirvana, perhaps finally a personless mushroom cloud.
The flirtation with Nazi gear
and the fascination of the Hell’s Angels betray the hippies’ repressed dream of violence. If they live such symbols, only to provoke, as some will say, why isn’t provocation more
the mode of these new quietists? No, the average hippy is in a double bind. If hippies really understood the violent society against which they have reacted they would have the grace to admit that their professed non-
violence can only be skin deep unless violence be exorcised by a serious discipline.
s12A NEW HITLER
What worries Legman most, to quote him at length, is “the attempted gathering of this proudly self-styled ‘underground’ brew of lumpen elements, under the riotously phoney leadership of lunatic promoters and publishers, and the penthouse direction of the wilier New Left waiting for the day it can sell out its noisily Fake Revolt”. Who to? “It is precisely this angry grumbling wildcat hostility to everything that will make the Fake Revolt the chosen vehicle of the next Hitler” … “the New Left is essentially a front operation or Social Democratic Trojan horse intended to set up cadres to welcome the new Hitler when he comes”. Who’s plotting what? I feel Legman’s extreme suggestibility, which has yielded this explosive tract, has here got the better of him; and that there is no such total conspiracy because there is no one with the necessary world view to launch and maintain it.
s13THE TOTAL REVOLT
The lash of all his whipwords leaves one smarting. Cleverly Legman never reveals from what superior standpoint he judges the Fake Revolt. Is he a lone figure crying out for a movement to share his attitude with? Is he trying to tell people how to make a revolution? If so, then take this; “the new revolt nowadays consists therefore of a bunch of inarticulate long-haired adolescents without leadership and without a programme”. Never mind the authoritarian tone, he is trying to say why we all cheat ourselves of revolution. Total revolt is needed. Partial revolt is easily recuperated by establishments and contained as a profitable sideshow or safety valve.
Legman, I repeat, is not of the generation he writes of, broadly those now between 15 and 25. Thus his detached fury and total lack of sympathy. Previous generations have bequeathed this one a fouled-up world. The best of the present generation, Legman warns, are now destroying themselves in search of kicks, rather than get down to destroying that lousy world of their parents. I would add we will not destroy that world until one and all have working knowledge of the power structures that daily divert and suppress our rightful rage; meanwhile conscious people cannot live such knowledge without diversion.
Revolution in your own soul is the hippy recipe to save the world. Forget the dead and dying elsewhere on whom your economic freedom is predicated. Such a revolution does not touch the modern state and its supporters. To believe otherwise is gross bad faith or mere transcendental naivety. Why underestimate the enemy or deny him existence? This hippy half revolt is inherently élitist, unsympathetic in practice to the wage slaved proletariat, bourgeois in its economic base, and
riddled with mystical initiations. All the wishful clap about turning on straight people one by one cannot disguise the hippies’ basic treason to their fellow men (sorry, beings), their otherworldly denial of the glaring social and economic problems beyond those that affect them individually this week or next. Cool it baby, what bag are you in, I’m an individual.
When it suits them the totalitarians of business, politics and culture can trade in such a movement for a new one more along their lines. The German State changed the far-out “Wandervogel” of the 20’s into the “Hitler Jugend” of the 30’s. From 2 Balfour Place, here in London, “The Process” (symbol ), in true élitest style, calls the young and confused to renounce the difficulties of living-in-the-world in favour of joining their spiritual stormtroopers of Mayfair, <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: Greece">Greece and Xtul, Mexico.
Innocent mystics capitulate to diabolic mysticisms. Like “the national interest”. The missing element—social perspective.
May I leave you with the expensive doublethink of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, speaking to students at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Is it true that you told the Beatles that the Ban the Bomb movement was silly?”
“Yes, I told them that. We must concern ourselves with meditation. Besides if one country bans the bomb, it will then be helpless and defenceless.”
“Maharishi, there is a great deal of opposition to the Vietnam War, many students are under the threat of the draft. Should we resist?”
“We should obey the elected leaders of this country. They are representatives of the people. …”