DIALEKTIKON 2012

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

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

Jacky Ivimy

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