The Inaugural R D Laing Lecture & Dramatic Reconstruction of the Dialectics of Liberation Congress (London, 26 October 2012)
THE DIALECTICS OF LIBERATION CONGRESS 1967: DIALEKTIKON 2012
The first bi-annual R D Laing Lecture will to take place at The Unitarian Church, Haverstock Hill, Hampstead, NW3 1NG on Friday 26th October 2012 at 8pm. The lecture will be in the form of a dramatic reconstruction of the Dialectics of Liberation Congress held in 1967 with audience participation in a discussion following the performance. See attachment for details and background. This promises to be a very exciting event, not to be missed. Admission is free but donations gratefully accepted.
The Director of Dialektikon 2012, Jacky Ivimy, writes: The Congress of the Dialectics of Liberation for the demystification of human violence in all its forms was a highpoint of the 1967 London ‘Summer of Love’. Inside the Roundhouse an international mix of philosophers and political activists, poets, artists and hippies met together for a fortnight of speeches, furious arguments, all-night discussions and an assortment of artistic happenings.
The Congress was the brainchild of radical psychiatrist RD Laing, then at the height of his fame, together with his colleagues David Cooper, Joseph Berke and Leon Redler. A response to the violence that seemed to be engulfing the world, the terrible war in Vietnam and the race riots flaring across the big American cities, but also to the invisible evils of the affluent societies of the West.
The most impressive of all the speakers were Laing himself, the Black Power leader Stokely Carmichael, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse, the visionary scientist Gregory Bateson and Thich Nhat Hanh, a virtually unknown young Buddhist monk whose teachings now have a world-wide following.
Each of them came at the problems facing the West from a very different angle. In a speech that had its audience scared, Carmichael called for the use of counter-violence against white society’s racism. Ginsberg answered him with flower power and the need for Bodhisattva conduct. Marcuse analysed the failings of the affluent society and looked to an ideal socialist future while Bateson saw the problems as deep in our mental make-up, needing the transformation of Freud’s royal road to the unconscious. Laing himself linked the violence of war to violence against the individual embedded in our social structures, within families and in the treatment of those classified as ‘mad’. And Thich Nhat Hanh spoke of the different viewpoints of East and West that lead to conflict. But all of them spoke also of hope, of ways they foresaw by which our society could be healed.
Afterwards Leon Redler, wanting to give their voices a wider hearing, turned the key moments from the speeches into a radio script. But the revolutionary wave of the 60’s ebbed away, the Congress was forgotten and the script remained in a drawer.
A while back Leon showed me his script and I was amazed at how forty-five years on the whole thing seemed to be speaking directly to our problems today – war, riots, alienation, the crumbling of our society – analysing the malaise, but also with visions of a way forward. How could we set up a dialogue with those voices? The idea came to recreate the Congress as performance, as a way of opening up the debate once more. With Leon’s generous help we’ve since devised DIALEKTIKON and taken it to Occupy London and Kingsley Hall (home to RD Laing’s famous experimental psychiatric community), playing to a full house and a full tent, and getting a terrific debate going afterwards at both venues.
We’re honoured to have been chosen to open the biennial Laing Lecture. Leon Redler will be giving the introduction and then we’ll re-enact a shortened version of those six key speeches, while afterwards everyone’s invited to join in the big discussion.