Philosophy behind ‘L’

Jean-Paul Sartre, perhaps the most adulated of all the twentiethcentury
philosophers in the French pandemonium, believed
that the supreme and most necessary task for a human being was
to “live authentically”. He preached that to avoid “the sin of living
inauthentically”, one should do what is forbidden because it is forbidden.
Transgress, he counseled, for transgression is a way to “transcendence”. In
other words, do evil to save yourself from boredom. He proclaimed that
the poet Charles Baudelaire’s soul was “an exquisite blossom” because
he “desired Evil for Evil’s sake”. [3]
Georg Lukács, the Hungarian theatre director and writer on literature
and aesthetics, interested me the most. He was the son of a wealthy
banker who had been raised to the nobility. He grew up in great luxury,
but was preoccupied with his own metaphysical misery. He explored his
emotions, his “self”, as an indecipherable mystery, from which he sought
distraction in aesthetic excitement. He understood the good to be what
was natural, because nature was innocent; and innocence was wild,
and wild innocent nature was cruel; so cruelty was good. His erotic
relationships and marriages brought him no relief, being complicated by
his idea that the consummation of love was suicide. When he embraced
Communism it was in the hope that the Party would rescue him from
himself by forcibly putting an end to his contemplative existence. He
equated Revolution with Apocalypse. Beyond it lay a new condition
of being in which everyone would be disburdened of his individuality
and dissolved in an homogenized collective. This at last would finally
provide meaning to life. In the passionate pursuit of this end, there
was no crime, no act of violence, no cruelty – be it torture, terrorism,
murder – that was not justified, was not positively good.
But he held that only the man who understood profoundly and
completely that murder is absolutely wrong could commit the murder
that would be supremely good; the entirely – and tragically – moral
murder. Such a one is the terrorist. He is a heroic martyr because when
he murders for the Communist Party, he does so with awesome courage,
knowing full well that he himself must thereby suffer. There is no
greater love than to lay down the life of a fellow man. [4]
He put this grotesque idea of his into practice when he became
Commissar for Education and Culture in the Hungarian Soviet
Republic, which lasted, under its leader Béla Kun, from March until
August 1919. It has been said of him that he “advocated a strategy of
terror, to isolate every individual by a reign of terror, causing panic and
distrust; arousing self-accusations of guilt by administering random
punishment. …The steam roller of terror and random victimization
aims to pulverize individualities into a quaking mass that seeks security
through submission to totalitarian command.” [5]
Like others who tried to establish Communist republics in the
midst of the political chaos of Europe at the end of the First World
War – Béla Kun himself, Rosa Luxembourg in Berlin, Kurt Eisner in
Bavaria – Lukács was Jewish by descent. He and all of them, following
Karl Marx, repudiated their Jewishness. But Lukács wrote about politics
in religious mystical terms. If the Party puts you to death it needed
to be loved for doing it. It is the same concept as that of the Catholic
Inquisitor when he expected the heretic to love the stake as the flames
cleansed his soul by torturing his body to death. “Death for the sake
of the Utopian Community makes the loss of life worthy.” Faith in the
Utopian Community – aka the Communist Party – “replaces the need
for individual immortality”.
With all this in mind, I developed my fantasy of revolution and
dystopia. Mrs Thatcher is voted out, the Left comes in. Strikes, riots,
street fighting, deadly clashes with the police who find themselves
unable to cope with the continual onslaughts, cause Labour leaders
to take extraordinary powers to deal with the emergency. The Royal
family seeks refuge in Scotland. Twelve members of the Cabinet form
themselves into a Council of Ministers to govern by edict. But they
are soft and fearful men and women. They know that bad things will
happen, and they don’t want to be held responsible for them. So they
invite a charismatic celebrity, recognized by millions of young rebels as a
revolutionary leader, to join them, and into his hands they put absolute
power. The man’s name is Louis Zander, commonly known as “L”. He is
a writer, an aesthete, an avant-garde theatre director, a Marxist theorist.
He has revelled in the Performance Art of Vienna. He has a taste for
blood and death. He has written plays. He knows how to direct a cast.
People obey him. Of Jewish extraction, he is fiercely anti-Jewish. His
family is exceedingly wealthy. His banker father was ennobled. He has
no scruples whatsoever about dealing mercilessly with those who do
not obey his orders. He has minions to carry out his will. He also coopts
the private militia of his political arch-rival the neo-Nazi leader,
Edmund Foxe, who agrees to work with L because he sees such an
alliance as an opportunity to seize power himself. The Red Republic
of England is established in late 1987. It lasts for five seasons, coming
to an end in early 1989 after L has chosen to die (what he conceives to
be) a martyr’s death.

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