Manual for Revolutionary Leaders, 1st ed.
Added by Unknown 1685 on May 3rd, 2021
Type of Work
5 × 9 in
"The author of this book is listed on the cover as M. Velli—or Michael Velli—a collective pseud-onym for Lorraine Perlman and Fredy Perlman—meant to call to mind Niccolò Machiavelli. Lorraine Perlman writes in Having Little, Being Much that by the early 1970s, Fredy saw a pressing need to “discredit manipulative political organiz-ers. Libertarian-sounding programs contained implicit assumptions which Fredy was determined to expose. When someone shouted, ‘All power to the people!’ Fredy heard, ‘All power to the leader!’” Manual for Revolutionary Leaders was compiled as a satirical documentation of examples of leftist leaders whose goals were primarily to empower themselves as leaders. “Generation of Revolutionaries,” the opening chapter, was written by Fredy Perlman. The second and third chapters, “Rise to Leadership” and “Seizure of State Power,” are a series of direct quotations from various political leaders, such as Marx, Lenin, and Mao, alongside occasional quotes from figures of the New Left like Tom Hayden and Bill Ayres, and other contemporary leftists like John Sinclair. These were collected and assembled by Lorraine and Fredy Perlman, and strung together with narrative vignettes written by Fredy. They are marked as quotations by a shift from roman to italic text. In the first edition, the quotations are unattributed. In the second edition, attributions are listed on the last pages of the book. Lorraine Perlman wrote later that the reason for putting together the book was “to criticize the direction of our contemporaries’ radical activity. We assumed that when the lust for power was shown to result inescapably from the development of the leftists’ mild-sounding starting principles, the goal of seeking state power would be discredited.” To their distress, many readers missed the fact that the book was satirical and read it with earnestness. The cover image is a 1937 drawing by Miguel Covarubias called Rangda (Reina de las Brujas)(Queen of the Witches). Rangda is represented in Balinese mythology as an old woman with unkempt hair, sagging breasts, and claws, who leads an army of witches. The type on the cover is set in blackletter, which was a favored typographic style in fascist Germany. In the first chapter, the text calls on individuals to take greater ownership over their own lives and actions: “totally powerless individuals are the same individuals who do the building, the transporting, the operating, the repairing, the thinking. ... This paradox is the great wonder of the Western world ... it is possible for the same individuals to poison the air during the working day and to breathe the poisoned air while resting at night, since it is not these individuals who poison the air; it is General Motors.” Perlman also notes later that it is paradoxical that “an individual can publish books without writing, editing, or printing” them. For example, someone at Penguin can be the publisher of a book that they neither wrote, edited, or printed. The book is lavishly illustrated with collages and image insets. A full spread collage in this section includes a reproduction of Henri Matisse’s The Dance, depicting five figures holding hands. A similar, simplified rendering of this image is on the cover of Perlman’s The New Freedom, and on the back cover of Lorraine Perlman’s Having Little, Being Much. Lorraine Perlman said later that they thought of that image as a happy ending, of people all together, getting along. Elsewhere on the page is a cut out of the top of the Capitol Building in Washington, D. C., with light rays emanating from behind it, and photographs of workers in hard hats. In the lower right a cash register is in the foreground of a photograph of a destroyed city corner, possibly after a natural disaster. The whole set of collages sits on a moiré halftone yellow, green, and red background. Another notable collage shows an outline of a person, maybe Lenin, superimposed over a photograph of the interior of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, a striking and opulent modern building completed in 1963 on the campus of Yale University. The figure is filled in with photos of crowds and laborers. In the second chapter of the book, every paragraph begins with a blackletter drop-cap letter super-imposed over a portrait of a revolutionary leader (e.g., Mao, Lenin, Trotsky, Nehru). The typographic treatment calls to mind religious illuminated manuscripts. For the Perlmans, the idea of a “revolutionary leader” was an oxymoron. Lorraine Perlman writes that in the last chapter, “Fredy incorporates other quotes into a sobering description of the demise of a revolution. The vignettes at the beginning of the chapter illustrate Fredy’s hopeful vision of how authority can be resisted; then he shows how seemingly trivial acts of acquiescence imply renunciation of one’s ‘self-powers.’ The Manual ends with the victory of the Leader/Prince, the reestablishment of law and order (the police apparatus remains intact; the legal structure revises nothing but terminology) and the work concludes with Machiavelli exhorting his superior to Study War.”33The Co-op acquired a book binding machine in 1973, but both this book and I. I. Rubin’s Essays were bound by hand. They sawed off the back of the signatures, glued the pages, and attached the cover later." The Detroit Printing Co-op by Danielle Aubert.