Texts about and from 1966 British magazine Heatwave, which was linked to American Surrealists and radical unionists.
We group together here 2 texts about the UK Heatwave magazine, which existed for 2 issues in 1966 - and the wider political scene it was a part of, which included its links with the US Industrial Workers of the World and American Surrealists. There then follows a text from issue 1 of Heatwave.
For another, later text by Heatwave editor Charles Radcliffe and others, see here
The 1st text is from Not bored magazine, USA.
Heatwave thirty years later
(Not bored #26, 1996)
This originally-mimeographed magazine, published in July 1966, was reprinted as a photocopy in 1993 by Chronos Publications (BM Chronos London WC1N 3XX). Though only two issues of Heatwave were ever published, it remains a noteworthy publication. In their November 1966 pamphlet "On the Poverty of Student Life," the Situationist International -- apropos of "profoundly revolutionary tendencies in the critique of all aspects of the prevailing way of life" -- wrote, "One thinks here of the excellent journal Heatwave, which seems to be evolving toward an increasingly rigorous radicality." In December 1966, Heatwave's editor Charles Radcliffe was admitted into the Situationist International as a member of its British section. But within a year, the British section no longer existed: Radcliffe resigned in November 1967, and Christopher Gray, Donald-Nicholson Smith and T.J. Clark were excluded in December 1967. The British never did produce a review of their section of the SI -- though they did write a detailed manifesto in 1967 -- and so the reprinting of Heatwave #1 furnishes us with a rare opportunity to examine and evaluate a (pre)situationist discourse that speaks to us in our native language and not in translation. (Other situationist publications originally written in English were published by the American section of the SI.)
"On May Day , the first Anglo-American edition of the Chicago wobblies' The Rebel Worker was published here [in London] because a group of us felt there was an audience in Britain for an experimental, perhaps slightly crazed libertarian socialist journal," Radcliffe explains at the very beginning of Heatwave #1. "The Rebel Worker will continue to be published from Chicago; the London group will publish HEATWAVE." The Rebel Worker group in Chicago -- which seems to have included Franklin and Penelope Rosemont, and Bernard Marszalek -- was strongly influenced by the situationists: they rebelled against being workers. In 1965, these Chicago wobblies (that is to say, these members of the persecuted but undefeated Industrial Workers of the World) distributed copies of the situationists' reading and encouragement of the riots in Watts ("The Decline & Fall of the Spectacular Commodity Economy," first published in English and only later translated [back] into French) as well as their own pamphlets. Issue #6 of The Rebel Worker -- "the issue that started HEATWAVE" and is advertized in it -- contains an essay on subject matter that the situationists found interesting; furthermore, this essay bears the type of title ("The Precursors of the Theory of Total Liberation") that the SI favored in its publications.
This point of contact between the "old" form taken by the international workers' movement (as embodied by the Wobblies, founded in Chicago in 1905) and the "new" form taken by that movement (as embodied by the Situationist International) is highly unusual and very instructive. For one thing, situationist style demands that, in general, there be as few points of contact between the "new" and the "old" forms of struggle as possible. In this way, the SI attempted to prevent current struggles from clinging to spectacular fragments of the past and thus losing the ability or opportunity to construct a totally new world in part based upon what has happened since the crushing of the earlier revolutionary movements. But there have to be some points of contact between past and present, "old" and "new," for the latter to come into existence and sustain itself.
In marked contrast to the Wobbly/Heatwave group and perhaps to the British section of the SI as well, the Lettrist International and the other small European groups that came together to form the SI only found points of contact between itself and prior movements in the artistic field; none of their points of contact were in the field of the labor movement. Guy Debord's crucial June 1957 "Report on the Construction of Situations and on the International Situationist Tendency's Conditions of Organization and Action" is mostly interested in what, in 1957, was left of revolutionary surrealism, and not what was left of the socialist labor movement. And yet, from beginning to end, situationist theory relies very strongly -- perhaps even ultimately -- on terms and concepts drawn not from the vocabulary of art criticism or art history, but from the vocabulary of a German 19th century economist and the international revolutionary labor movement he helped to launch.
Unfortunately, Marxism is a revolutionary philosophy of history and action that has never had an adequate appreciation for or relationship to the creative arts. Indeed, the very premise of the foundation of the Situationist International in 1957 was that it was urgent and (at last) possible to reconcile or realign Marxism with anti-bourgeois art, and thus begin again the proletarian assault on capitalism. But, despite its successes with re-introducing the "modern world" to revolution, the SI only transcended the contradiction between revolutionary politics and revolutionary art in its words. Significantly, the SI's most notable internal battles were fought between "artistic" situationists and "political" situationists, not between "proletarians" and "militant intellectuals," which would have been the case had the SI had been a "traditional" (i.e., Leninist, Stalinist, Communist, Trotskyist, Bordigist, or Maoist) revolutionary organization, which it obviously was not. But the SI cannot be spared from the criticisms that its members, whether they were "artists" or "politicos," were drawn from the bourgeoisie, and not from the working-classes; that the proportion of workers to nonworkers in the SI was even worse than the proportion found in the first congresses of the Russian Social-Democrat Workers Party -- a proportion that is mocked by the situationist Rene Riesel in his "Preliminaries on the Councils and Councilist Organization" (a text under discussion elsewhere in this issue).
The striking thing about Heatwave #1 is that it shows aspects of the "traditional," revolutionary socialist labor movement and the newly-emerging situationist project co-existing in a single, relatively coherent format. Written between July 1965 and June 1966, and presented in chronological order, the essays in Heatwave #1 are pretty much equally divided between texts written by members of the Rebel Worker/Heatwave group and texts written by nongroup members and originally published elsewhere. Among the former group of texts are short, precise and insightful articles about income policies and the Dutch trade union movement ("Strange Adventures in Holland," by Gaby Charing); the Puerto Rican riots that took place in Chicago during June 1966 (Bernard Marszalek's "Footnote to The Long Hot Summer"); and the Dutch "Provo" movement (Charles Radcliffe's "Daytripper: A Visit to Amsterdam: June 22, 1966"). The reprinted texts include news reports on and statements issued by the Provos in Amsterdam (one such statement, entitled "What is the Provotariat?" was originally published in French in the socialist workers' publication Informations, Correspondence Ourviers); a statement from a NYC group -- apparently lead by one Jonathan Leake -- called the Resurgence Youth Movement; and a flyer or two (one of which is about the war in Vietnam) issued by Wobblies in Chicago. The overall feel is inclusive, nonsectarian and in-touch: the "Advertisers' Announcements" page features spots for English luddites, Belgian provos, and the Solidarity group (an English version of Socialisme ou Barbarie in France).
It is also striking that several of the articles in Heatwave #1 are about cultural and personal subjects. Mixed in with the aforementioned essays on current events and oppositional groups -- all of which are sober, well-considered and "detached" -- there are several unabashed, "slightly crazed" and still fresh forays into pop culture. These include an addiction diary in the style of William S. Burroughs ("The Expanded Journal of Addiction," written during 1965, the year the censorship of Naked Lunch made it and its author international news items); a book review of Dave Wallis' Pop dystopian novel Only Lovers Left Alive (originally published in 1964 and reprinted the following year as a paperback); and a long piece by Charles Radcliffe (entitled "The Seeds of Social Destruction") on such "groupings of disaffected youth" as the Teddy Boys, the drag-racing Ton-up Kids, the Beats, the Ban-the-Bombers, the Ravers, the Mods and the Rockers.
The reasons for the inclusion of these articles into Heatwave are clear: pop culture, consumerism and subcultural "style" are phenomena that modern workers have directly experienced, have questioned deeply, and have understood at a profound level. It isn't at all relevant, important or even interesting that classical Marxism and its contemporary adherents disapprove of these phenomena as distracting, degenerate or "superficial." What is truly relevant, important and interesting is the question, Toward what end will modern workers put their understanding of these phenomena? Heatwave answers: Toward the autonomous creation of a society without classes and exploitation. If this goal seems fantastically out-of-reach to those who pride themselves on the "fact" that they "live in the real world," Heatwave is not worried. "Nothing can stop me! I'm the Hulk! I'm the strongest there is!" says a comic book hero on the page Radcliffe devotes to past issues of The Rebel Worker and to future issues of his own zine. "Careful? Ya never get to be a comic book hero by bein' careful," says another. And, of course, he is right.
(2) From; Red & Black Notes, Canada
Review: Dancin' in the Streets
Franklin Rosemont and Charles Radcliffe ed.
Chicago: Charles H. Kerr, 2004.
On the face of it, there doesn't seem to be much in common between the Industrial Workers ' of the World's revolutionary unionism and the surrealists' project of recovery of the unconscious. Yet, as Franklin Rosemont, the co-editor of this collection notes, he and his friends joined the IWW because it was the only group around which wasn't boring.
Rosemont joined the Chicago IWW branch in 1962 at the age of 19, shortly before he wrote his first letter to Andre Breton in Paris. As the youngest member of the group, forty-something Carlos Cortez was next youngest, Rosemont found himself saddled with the job of producing the local newsletter. The Rebel Worker lasted for seven issues running to a couple of hundred pages along with pamphlets and other documents. During its existence, The Rebel Worker also collaborated with a group of British revolutionaries who produced their own journal Heatwave for two issues before becoming the British section of the Situationist International.
If the popular image of the 1950s has been stifling conformity, then that of the 1960s has been resistance. And while the issues that the "old left" sought to address, such as class were still there, many felt the economic focus was insufficient. The grouping which produced The Rebel Worker grasped this and anticipated the Situationist International's emphasis on "the revolution of everyday life," when they argued for the need to be "revolutionary in everything."
This criticism was directed not only at the broader left, but also at the organization to which they belonged, the IWW. In the comprehensive introductory essay to this collection, Rosemont describes The Industrial Worker of this period as "an embarrassing anachronism aimed at a readership of retirees."
By contrast, The Rebel Worker was aimed squarely at a hipper audience. The first issue contained several articles on work and struggle not out of place in an IWW periodical, but the second featured Bob Potter from Solidarity (UK) on bureaucracy, The third contained an article on children by A.S. Neill, as well as poems by Benjamin Peret, Franklin Rosemont's analysis on mods and rockers, and Penelope Rosemont's review of Andy Anderson's marvellous book on Hungary 1956.
The only magazine similar to The Rebel Worker at this time was Solidarity, which was produced in London; indeed, The Rebel Worker group saw themselves as the US Solidarity group.
In 1966, Franklin and Penelope Rosemont took a trip to Europe and visited a number of continental revolutionaries including Andre Breton.
After Breton, they met Guy Debord of the Situationist International and brought back hundreds of copies of SI material to the US (for a long time the Solidarity Bookstore in Chicago was the only place to get SI material in the U.S.)
Later on the same trip, the Rosemont's visited the UK, where there was a mysterious falling out with the Solidarity group. While in the UK, they published the sixth issue of The Rebel Worker in May 1966 with the assistance of Charles Radcliffe.
Two months later, Radcliffe was instrumental in publishing what they considered to be the UK version of The Rebel Worker, Heatwave. Like Rosemont, Radcliffe has also contributed a long essay to the book explaining the background and history of the Heatwave group and in particular its relationship to the SI, of which it was briefly the British section. Radcliffe and Christopher Gray joined the SI shortly before the publication of the second issue in October 1966 and that was that. Radcliffe resigned from the SI the following year and the British group was excluded later. Gray later published the first book length collection of SI material in English, Leaving the Twentieth Century. Gray was also involved with the King Mob group and had the idea for creating a totally unpleasant pop group; group, and may have influenced King Mob sympathizers Jamie Reid and Malcolm McLaren with his idea of creating "a totally unpleasant pop group." But that's another story.
The final issue of The Rebel Worker appeared in December 1966. After that, the group sustained itself with leaflets, but according to Rosemont the group was starting to come apart. In August 1968, when Franklin and Penelope came to the Solidarity Bookshop for their regular shift they found the locks had been changed. They were later denied new keys.
Dancin' in the Streets presents a fascinating snap-shot of a long gone period in radical history. Its shortcomings are those of the Surrealist Movement and the IWW themselves. While rightly pointing to the need to take a radical critique beyond simple point of production issues, especially with the vast expansion of the reach of the law of value over the twentieth century, both these movements occasionally fall into a kind of volunterism which suggests that people should simply liberate themselves, without an analysis of why people don't.
But this shortcoming isn't a reason to avoid the book. Along with the texts and introductions, the book contains poems and drawings, and is a pretty funny read. About four years ago, I was staying with the editor of the now defunct journal The Bad Days Will End, and the subject of The Rebel Worker came up. Both of us had heard scattered references to the surrealist IWW journal from sixties, but neither knew where to obtain it. Charles H. Kerr has provided a valuable service in filling this gap.
Red & Black Notes
(3) From Heatwave no. 1
The Seeds of Social Destruction
Charles Radcliffe (July 1966)
One of the most interesting aspects of revolt within the more advanced capitalist states since the war has been the emergence, one after the other, of groupings of disaffected youth. Such groups are not isolated phenomena; they exist wherever modern, highly bureaucratised consumer societies axist; in the USSR (stilyagi), France (blousons noirs), Britain (mods and rockers), in Holland (provos). They have little immediately in common but their implicit rejection of the positions allocated to them in society.(1) Let it be understood this is not primarily a class matter but a matter of the wholesale destruction and frustration of dreams.
Adults, be they left wing journalists or right wing magistrates (2), can be relied upon to attack every aspect of youth rebellion and most revolutionaries likewise see in it no more than a symbol, or perhaps symptom, of capitalist degeneracy; they address their antique pieties to the 'problem' secure in the knowledge that it cannot really be important since it was never mentioned in the old revolutionary sacred texts (3). They have, as befits the changers of societies, been content to condemn without understanding, showing only their own pitiful ignorance and shallowness. By now it should be obvious - even to the traditional revolutionaries and other preservers of instinctive ignorance - that teen-groups are not merely the neatly tagged symbols of the alienation of whole sectors of youth from society at large but, in their extreme forms, amongst the few groupings in society which have presented, and continue to present an instinctive, sustained and potentially shattering social threat to stable society. Youth revolt is not necessarily a panacea; neither is it necessarily the precursor of social revolution; rather a grim-humoured reaction to the frustration implicit in this society and this manner of living. It is one of the few things in this society worth serious defence and support.I welcome youth's rage: I share it. I support their outrages because I wish for explosions infinitely more brain-peeling than in their wildest, most socially profane dreams. In this article - a short and necessarily limited introduction - I want to note some aspects of the post war unofficial youth movements in Britain.
The Teddy Boys...
... named after their preoccupation with Edwardian (1900-1914) fashion were the first really cohesive post-war youth grouping in Britain. Their emergence coincided with post-war 'reconstruction' and also with the consumer invention of 'teenage'; their number was increased by young adults whose youth had been lost in the 'pre-teenage'austerity of the early post-war years. The extravagance of ted clothes (drape jackets with velvet collars, elaborate brocade waistcoats, 'slim-jim' or 'country and western' ties', 'drainpipe' trousers with huge turn-ups and heavy car-tyre shoes and later Italian 'winkle-pickers'), the outlandishness of their hairstyles (massive duck's-arses at the back and Tony Curtis-type quiffs at the front and thick sideburns) and their aggressive arrogance earned them the immediate hostility of generations who had learned to see in thrift both a moral code and a social cement (4). Although many were only sartorial rebels, the teds, as a whole,
were the most overtly violent of all youth groupings; many carried and used coshes, flick-knives, 'cut-throat' razors and bicycle chains. They fought in gangs - usually a gang from one area against a gang from another area. They were broken up - either by each other or by the police. They were constantly harrassed and arrested and fiercely criticised by every element of respectable society. Above all they were feared.
In fact the teds' attitudes were closer to those of their 'elders and betters' than any subsequent groups: The teds were socially unacceptable precisely because they acted out the values of a world where force and corporate brutality were the officially postulated simple answers to all problems, because they were unable to accept the living death to which they had been so casually consigned or the non-sequiturs of a society which demanded of its citizens an uncomprehending acceptance of dumb non-violence towards internal authority and ferocity towards officially-designated external enemies. For all their failings the teds were able to sense their real enemies. In the end, however, they were the easiest rebels (en masse) to deal with; they were progessively conscripted out of existence. They had their last real fling in the mid-fifties; they tore apart cineemas like avenging furies and jived in the aisles to the early rock 'n' roll films. Now teds are conparatively rare, confined for the most part to the working class areas of the larger Northern industrial centres,
The Ton-up Kids
... the coffee bar cowboys arrived shortly after the teds, the product of a rather more affluent society. Motorcycle gangs in Britain have been relatively small and relatively well behaved; nothing like California's Hells Angels has ever happened here. The appeal of motorcycles - speed, power, danger - has been almost exclusively to working class youth. The middle-class kid typically has a small sports car; the working-class cowboy has a bike - cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, easier to tune, more exciting and less impersonal to use (5). Cowboys are not interested in converting anyone to their way of life; they vary so much anyway that almost the only real points of contact between them lie in their leather clothes, their bikes and the attitudes forced on them by society's reaction to their enthusiasms. Some gangs play 'chicken' games - most often a race against a record on a cafe juke-box - while others see their bikes mainly as an exciting means of weekend escape from employment, dull urban environment and nagging adults; speed is an optional, if delirious, bonus. Some aim simply to bug the squares, either in mocking the police who, particularly in the provinces, are quite scared of the cowboys, or alternatively in burn-ups round middle-class housing estates which stop only when a high proportion of inhabitants are openly annoyed or, better still, furious.
The cowboys, like most people, are unsympathetic to those who do not share their preoccupations; they are not particularly sympathetic even to each other. Birds (girls) are usually seen as sexual ballast; something to hold the rear wheel on the road and to be shafted afterwards. But again, most people are less honest about more or less identical attitudes to women, The ton-ups do not worry very much about tragedy, either on a personal or cosmic scale. Most of them have friends who 'fucked-up' on a run; they are philosophical about death; accidents are one way out of the fuck-up routine of dead end jobs in a dead end society. Most cowboys work simply to keep riding. They are not interested in success; they live for weekends, days off, nights at the few 'caffs' where the owners do not see social responsibility in terms of keeping cowboys out. They accept, more or less, that one day they will opt out and join the squares. Some compromise earlier than others by joining ton-up(6) priests collecting for charity or organising rock 'n'roll church services to spare the church the need to face its own total redundancy. Many tonups do seem compulsively respectable; appearing on TV panel discussions about teenagers (with all the painful insistence that under the rebellious exterior lurks humble goodness) end helping dear old ladies across the road. However, the last cowboy I knew well told me that most tonups think 'priests and that load of shit' every bit as bad as the 'snotties' (7). He seemed quite convinced that the rebellion went deeper, pointing out that the only reason tonups 'doing good' attracted attention was because it was so unusual. In any event he was able to get rid of a large number of Spies for Peace leaflets at London's ton-up centre - the Ace Cafe - after the 1963 revelations.
If the English beat movement had its roots in the beats of the USA, particularly as mythologised by Jack Kerouac, it soon developed its own character. Less interested in artistic achievement than American beats apparently were, the English beats were, for the most part, content to disaffiliate and leave it at that. They usually dropped politics, if they ever had any, when they went beat. The hard-core beat movement was
probably never more than a few hundred strong but its influence went much wider; over the last ten years any number of kids have gone beat. Once having done so it is inevitably more difficult to rebuild or prop up the illusions on which society functions. The beats are possibly the
gentlest of all the rebels; they have been attacked, and even killed, in those interstices of society where they have been involuntarily forced into contact with social delinquency but their main interest has been to keep moving, 'cutting out' of any 'scene' after a short time. Beat communities have been notably, and often chaotically, libertarian and notably short-lived. If the beat rebellion is essentially short sighted (within an unfree society every one, even the last comitted disaffiliate, is unfree and it is impossible to talk of rejecting society when to do so one has to be able to beg, borrow or steal the wherewithal for existence from people who, however reluctantly, continue to live within society) it is nevertheless magnificent in its nonchalant, long-haired contempt for 'straight' society and in its proud indifference to the dreary disgust of all the officebound pen-pushers, bureaucrats and wearers of the regulation weeds of the living dead.
The Ban the Bombers
The beat movement reached its height at much the same time as the anti-war movement - in the late fifties and early sixties; in fact the two groups were deliberately confused with each other by press and public. The more deracine elements of the anti-war movement often looked beat and often associated loosely with beats. The political adults distrusted beats, partly as scavengers and partly because they made the already too unrespectable political kids look even less respectable - this last factor may yet turn out to be the beats' most singular and most valuable contribution to British politics. The young people who made the nuclear disarmament movement the largest and most influential youth movement in British history (8 ) were the post-Suez generation. The Aldermaston March, started two years after Suez in 1958, became the centre of those young people's activities; a happy-serious carnival-protest, a gathering point for remarkably varied people ranging from hardened-arteried veterans of various Communist Party front groups to dedicated Quakers, from old ladies with curious pasts to dedicated wild-eyed kids burning with self-sacrificing seriousness. After the second march the image was permanently fixed - youth. A great deal of space has already been devoted to the ban-the-bombers and most people who read this will either know (or not care) why such a generation emerged, what it did, why and how it did it and how in the end it declined and shattered into its myriad components as CND ceased to be umbrella enough for all the disparate ideas which had been attracted to it. CND educated youth - usually out of CND and into all the sad little splinter groups that are the only authentic, political., British, folk-art form.
...were possibly the least distinct and, in their classic form, shortest lived group of all. They had some beat characteristics and rather tenuous connections with the anti-bomb movement but their main preoccupations were jazz clubs and jazz festivals; this was the period when ersatz traditional (trad) jazz, as purveyed by Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball and others was inordinately popular. (Partly trad 's popularity arose in reaction to the decline of the small fifties' beat scene; it was easy to dance to and jazz clubs were among the few places where teenagers could do more or less as they wished without adult interference. Partly it arose because the musicians did not take themselves too seriously and were often simply good-time ravers (9).)
The raver movement took its 'ideology' from the stale-ale-and-spermatazoa humour of the musician-ravers and its dress, if loosely, from that of the Acker Bilk band - 'music-hall-cum-riverboat-cum-contemporary-folk-art' with C N D symbol decorated bowlers, umbrellas, striped trousers, elegant jackets. The chicks had long hair, wore ban-the-bomb type uniform (duffle coats, polo-neck jerseys very loose around the hips, and jeans). The ravers moved not only in the world of British 'jazz', but also on the fringes of the beat and political worlds. Chris Farley, now conoected in some way with Bertrand Russell's Peace Circus, once interviewed a group of ravers at the Beauliea Jazz Festival for Peace News and was obviously distressed by the fact that most of them had no practical programme beyond the election of Acker Bilk as Prime Minister. One West Indian observer (10) described them, in 1964, as "mainly frantic English teenagers inspired in recent years to new heights of happiness by the indestructible and tireless Negro 'faces' happiness habits nightly in the West End. In their over-enthusiastic aping of Negro dances, over indulgent drug taking, they actually outdo their mentors in self destruction if not in jail sentences".
The ravers were, on the whole, distrusted by other groups with whom they came in contact; the beats used the term 'raver' derogatorily and the nuclear disarmers treated the ravers' 'superficiality' with superior amusement and occasionally annoyance. (The fact that many of the serious kids are now regretting their aloofness is a reminder that we all change.) The ravers, as such, died with the trad jazz boom but the 'philosophy' continues and there are once again groups calling themselves ravers. The term has likewise regained its approbatory meaning after its frequent critical use by the CND generation.
The Mods and Rockers...
... began attracting attention in 1963; the mods as a developing group (11), the rockers as a yet-unchristened continuation of earlier streams - the teds and, more particularly, the tonups(12). The mods (modernists) originally favoured short-hair, wool shirts, casual suede or corduroy jackets, lightweight ankle-length trousers and casual sneaker-type shoes -- very much of the continental type. Mod girls wore collaborateur-type hair styles, drape leather overcoats and calf-length dresses which came up as time passed but were, in the early days, extended to ankle-length for visits to clubs, etc. The rockers were the entrenched traditionalists of teenage fashion -- long ted-style hair, sideburns, jeans with large turn-ups, leather jerkins or bum-freezer jackets and winkle picker shoes. The girls' clothes echoed those of the boys - at least [out] of working hours. At work they were in the teenage fashion mainstream. Rockers were barely a group as such; they were put together by the mods as 'them' figures - hot, breathy, archaic squares to the mods' ice-cold, up-to-the-second hipsters. In 1963 the first fights between the two groups broke out - in the City of London during lunch hours. What usually happened was that a group of mods began jeering at - and later bundling with - a rocker delivery boy. But such fights were nothing to those which broke out at the various seaside resorts during public holidays the following year. By then the mods were a large group and their outlook was formed.
In general they owed much to the West Indian hipsters (faces); much as the white-negro hippies of the USA took the soul-ethos from the urban ghetto Negroes so the mods reflected, in a slightly less conscious way, some of the patterns of British Negro existence. Their coolness, their drug-taking (primarily of the goof-ball/lid-flip type at first), their musical taste and many of their expressions (eg, 'face') derived, more or less directly, from actual or fantasy life-patterns of the hip 'Spades'. (At least in this sense the mods were a sophistication of the ravers). The mod's rebellion was perhaps more experimental than any other groups' - except possibly the beats and the disarmers - and the mods despised the rockers and others precisely because they were bedded in the past. "You can tell us by the way we walk - feet out. Rockers are hunched. We hope to stay smart for ever, not shoddy like our parents". The mod distaste for parents and rockers was reciprocated. "I can't think why he turned out like this. We always gave him everything he wanted and we have good values for him to see" ... the harrassed parent of an arrested mod. "Orgy - kids shagging birds all over the shop; all bloody sex and pills. It's no way to live:'... a rocker on a typical mod party in a disused
London house. Mods, despite the time they spend decking out scooters with ephemera and accessories, have a less emotional relationship with machinery and a less mechanical one with girls than most rockers. For all that they are less tied up with 'going steady' than the rockers. They distrust particularly the rocker's attempts to fit into adult society: "We don't talk politics or religion - we hate attempts to make religion with it. Its always rockers on those telly prograrnmes".
At the height of the mod 'thing' in 1964 mod fashions were changing at break-neck pace. Beatle-type clothes has been exhausted, along with Beatle-music; by the end of 1963 and mod clothing, at the beginning of 1964, reflected the taste of the new London in-groups - The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Yardbirds. Later West Indian blue-beat music was 'in' beyond the small circle of very hip faces with whom it had been the music for some time, before it too was overcome by the next enthusiasm.
The whole furious-consumption programme of the mods seemed to be a grotesque parody of the aspirations of the mods' parents, typically lower-middle or upper-lower class suburban. The leaders of mod fashion were changing and re-fashioning clothes over night to keep up with each other; the situation became so desperate towards the end of the year that the reigning 'faces' simply refused to allow new faces to take over. By the end of 1964 the hard-cult was over, although the mods still exist, largely as loosely organised scooter gangs. There may still be a few minor mod-rocker skirmishes to keep blimpish magistrates busy and furiously absurd in those quiet seaside towns where the bourgeois go to living-die like hanpy squires and the kids go to explode the unholy peace of a death structure. But if the heyday of the mods is probably over the youth rebellion is not, as is indicated by the recent case of the Matlock Hills Trogs (13) and many other continuing elements of humanising chaos.
The Future - Can't get no Satisfaction
The various youth groupings I have discussed are not part of a cohesive movement; some presented a violent threat to good order, some presented an ideological challenge, some merely an annoyance. Their attitudes were and are varied; the teds a partial reflection of the violence of adult mores; the tonup kids robelling at those points where their will crossed society's; the ban-the- bombers a complete rejection of their birthright (the majority were almost certainly war babies; the movement, perhaps significantly, arose in the first of the post war years in which there was no conscription); the beats rejecting everything; the ravers living for kicks; the mods annoyed by and determined not to emulate the shoddiness of their parents. The backgrounds too were different, although attempting to classify heterogeneous youth groupings is dangerous. Broadly the ton-ups, rockers and teds were working class. The ban the bombers were broadly middle class. The mods, beats and ravers come between the two. But class origins, for the most part, are irrelevant to the youth revolt. Between the groups there was and is little contact. Teds fought each other, mods fought rockers, ban the bombers and beats co-existed, ban the bombers hardly ever associated with those right outside politics, except, rather awkwardly as preachers. There has been some interchange between the groups. A number of beats came from the cowboys and, rather curiously, became mods, typically at that stage when mods were discovering British R'n'B. The art school beats were not only the first r'n'b audiences - listening to the early protagonists of the music like Cyril Davis and Alexis Korner - but became the first real popularisers of the form. As mods adopted some of the more obvious characterists of the beats so some beats became, almost by accident, mods.
All these movements can be seen as the groping of youth towards explosive self-expression and show that young people are not content simply to become the well ground sand in the joints of a crumbling, oppressive, adult-delinquent society. They are expressive both of consumption-crazed society and of rebellion against corrupted mores; both a visible and audible symbol of a society whose effusions, institutions and attitudes are hopelessly disoriented and no longer completely intelligible to anyone, least of all to those authoritarians who have unconsciously created them, and a reminder that it cannot long continue without the chaotically engineered safety valves finally breaking down and shattering both their own Heath Robinson ingenuity and the society they protect. In a society which has everything, everyone wants nothing.
What is important about the youth revolt at this stage is not so much what it is but that it is: that, in some ways and however hesitantly, however unsurely, youth recognises its exploiters and is, if only temporarily, prepared to pay them off in a currency they can understand. The explosions are imperfect and impermanent; the rage is fused and canalised; the violence is exploited and utilised; the dreams become advertising slogans. But the revolutionary of all people must be able to sympathise with and encourage such revolt; if nothing else it increases the bourgeois' suicidal paranoia which is, in a very real sense, the revolutionary's best friend. The suburban mental derelict, his world threatened by the phantoms of disquiet - car tyres deflated, windows smashed, flowers stolen, sleep destroyed, business threatened by THE CONSPIRACY, status constantly challenged by neighbours and business colleagues, wife at the mercy of ravaging back-door tradesmen, sanctum permanently challenged by nameless youth tyrannies - sees in all youth a savage innocence and a mindless threat to his well being; his mind (torn already by the frustrations of working into an emotional gutter), his body (obese on the non-foods of a death-oriented society), his prestige (so intangible, so dependent on irrelevancies and re-actions which can never be based on concrete evidence) are not enough to address the challenge.
It is this disquiet-factor that all rebel youth has in common, that threatens the carefully moulded suburban fantasies whose function is as a contraceptive against reality, sexual, social and cultural. It is this, together with the unrepressed violence and viciousness of those in authority dealing with youth rebellion, that should have told the revolutionaries they were dealing with rather more than a symptom of the degeneracy of a system. For the facts proclaim that youth revolt has left a permanent mark on this society, has challenged assumptions
and status and been prepared to vomit its disgust in the streets. The youth revolt has not always been comfortable, valid, to the point or helpful. It has however made its first stumbling political gestures with an immediacy that revolutionaries should not deny, but envy.
1 At least in sensing this much the authorities show themselves more aware of the reality than most revolutionaries.
2 For example Paul Johnson and J.B. ('Call me Fathead') Priestley in The New Statesman and the magistrates who dealt with teds, mods, rockers and ban the bombers.
3 The reaction of the Communist Party to USSR youth rebels is instructive and hilarious; Moscow teengangs are dismissed either as 'high spirited student-types' or 'bourgeois-minded, jazz-corrupted decadents'.
4 Ted fashions were a curious throw back to the Good Old Days (otherwise known as GOD) when gay irresponsibility was the chief social virtue and wars were theoretically still heroic, romantic and colourful. They were also a powerful reaction against the drabness of the war and post-war years. They were a conscious imitation, by working class youth, of aristocratic fashions at the last point in time when a really rigid class (and parallel fashion) structure existed. Had the teds been Edwardians they would have been unable to wear such clothes. In an odd way therefore these clothes seem to have been both a case of following upper class fashion ideas (albeit archaic ones) and snubbing the upper class by doing so.
5 I remember doing the ton (100 m.p.h.) with a cowboy on the A.1, in Durham; after stopping the cowboy rubbed down his bike and checked it for damage, treating it with a care and respect that really astounded me.
6 Though members of the famous 59 Club - a respectable, priestridden rocker club - were at the 1964 Clacton riots.
7 One of a wide variety of designations for the police - an abbreviation of 'snot-gobbler'. Other terms include the slightly square 'rozzer', 'shit-sucker', 'copper'(square), ', 'gestapo', ' fuzz', 'law'.
8 Anyone who doubts that CND was primarily a youth organisation should read contemporary reports of Aldermaston marches.
9 See, for example , George Melly's delirium-fest autobiography, Owning Up (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
10 C. Lindsay Barrett in Revolution, January, 1964.
11 They were actually beginning as early as 1962.
12 The two terms are now used synonimously.
13 See Freedom, April 30, May 21, May 28 .
Generation X (Library 33)
Only Lovers Left Alive (Pan)
Mods, Rocker and the Revolution (Rebel Worker pamphlet 1)