Volume 3 of landmark Vietnam antiwar opus out in time to oppose Iran War

At long last, volume 3 of my Voices from the Underground Press Series is out. The timing couldn’t be better as the drums beat louder for war in Iran.

The Voices from the Underground Series is a four-volume collection of histories of underground papers from the Vietnam era as told by key people on each of the papers, all of them just regular folks from varied backgrounds who answered the patriotic call to resist war and now share their heroic adventures. The underground press was the independent, antiwar press of the Vietnam era that told the true story, which the corporate papers suppressed, of what our government was doing behind our backs to the Vietnamese people in our name and with our tax dollars.

Stories in the series represent the gay, lesbian, feminist, Black, Puerto Rican, Native American, military, prisoners’ rights, socialist, new age, rank-and-file, Southern consciousness, psychedelic, and other independent antiwar voices of the era as never before told. The foreword in volume 3 is by feminist pioneer Susan Brownmiller.

If you experienced the Vietnam era but for some reason are now hazy on the details, or if you could never describe the intensity of the politics when your kids (and now grandkids) asked what life was like then, or if you succumbed to the fear that followed our country’s dramatic post-war shift to the right and covered up your experiences, as too many of our generation did, this book is for you.

If you are a progressive blogger, this book, and the entire series, is about the folks who did what you’re doing now by using what was then the new technology of offset printing. Marcos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos, one of the most important progressive blog sites today, connected the two generations in his foreword that appeared in volume 1.

And, especially, if you are of military age—this book is dedicated to you, our intergenerational peers, who have been called upon already to defend two sham causes in Iraq and Afghanistan and soon will be called upon—unless we start mobilizing now—to shed your lives in Iran. In this amazing book you will see how others who were your age but from a different era created a new society while finding the courage to refuse to fight even when those who would profit from war called them cowards and traitors for not submitting quietly.

Begin with Harry Haines’ story of the widespread GI antiwar movement, now largely hidden from the public debate, and in particular Aboveground, an antiwar paper directed at soldiers stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. Two appendices, by Haines and James Lewes, without a doubt the world expert on the military underground press, identify nearly 500 underground newspapers produced by or aimed at members of the U.S. armed forces, all branches, during the Vietnam War.

When those who want endless war cry “Support the troops,” remember that there is only one way to support the troops and that is to bring them home, away from foreign entanglements where they don’t belong; or not ship them there in the first place.

Does anyone really think the age of racism is over just because we have a black president? For background, read stories of the Black Panther newspaper by JoNina Abron, the paper’s last editor; and Palante, the newspaper of the Puerto Rican liberation group Young Lords Organization, by Pablo “Yorúba” Guzmán.

As anyone who breathes air knows, the Republicans’ war on women and the GLBT community is accelerating. Read stories of

  • It Aint Me Babe, the first national newspaper of the emerging women’s liberation movement, by members of the collective;
  • The Furies, published by twelve self-proclaimed revolutionary lesbian feminists from Washington, D.C., by Ginny Berson; and
  • Fag Rag, one of the most important Gay Liberation Front newspapers to arise after the Stonewall Rebellion, by Charley Shively.

Reflect on the war against union workers being fought in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, and everywhere else where Republicans have seized control of government. Then remember why labor unions are essential for a strong middle class as you read Paul Krehbiel’s story of New Age, an antiwar paper published by rank-and-file union workers in upstate New York.

These wars that are being fought now were all fought during the Vietnam era. Too many of us thought we had won. Could it be we relaxed? The lesson, and I’m not the first to declare it, is that freedom has to be won in every generation. It helps to know how allies from an earlier period did it.

Other stories in volume 3 of the 4-volume Voices from the Underground Series:

  • Bob Hippler recalls fast times in the Motor City with his history of the first ten years of Detroit’s Fifth Estate, the longest-running underground paper to emerge from the sixties.
  • Peter Jensen takes us to the end of the Oregon Trail where an alien force had taken over our country; it talked peace and made vicious war; it owned both political parties; its media reported inflated, daily body counts for generals in Saigon and Washington; and the Eugene AUGUR was all that was left of the opposition.
  • David Doggett tackles the question of how a bunch of Mississippi white kids, descended from rednecks, slave owners, and Bible-thumpers, published for four years in the state’s capital The Kudzu, a running diatribe of social, economic, and political revolution, a proclamation of sexual liberation, illegal drugs, and heretical mysticism.
  • Tim Wong reflects on his own eight and a half years of alternative journalism in Madison, Wisconsin, the Midwest city most closely associated with the antiwar movement and counterculture of the Vietnam era, and how it chronicled the transition from the sixties to the eighties.
  • and more.

I’m the editor of the series, as well as a contributor. My story on the East Lansing-Lansing, Michigan, underground press, which was my base during the early seventies, appeared in volume 1 and I wrote editor prefaces to all four volumes.

To learn more about the Voices from the Underground Series, read more testimonials, view the entire four-volume table of contents, watch a few cool videos, read some funny stories, and order your copy of volume 3— as well as volumes 1 and 2 if you don’t yet have them, visit www.voicesfromtheunderground.com.

While you’re at it, order a set for your local school library. Besides helping them stretch their shrinking budget, you’ll get a tax write-off for supporting your favorite educational institution. (Don’t trust me. Ask your favorite tax preparer for specifics.)

Volume 4 is due out in August with a foreword by Mumia Abu-Jamal. Reserve your copy now.

Chicago Friends and Friends-to-Be: Please Join Me at Printers Row Lit Fest

Words matter, who says them, their context, their connotations.  That’s why veterans of the Vietnam era now have to write their memoirs to reclaim the story line that the right wing has twisted. But that also was a lesson we learned during the Vietnam era. And so that’s why we had to create our own media to end the war.

That media was called the underground press.

The underground press was the antiwar press, the non-corporate press, the dissident press. Underground papers were everywhere. There were hundreds, maybe thousands of them. They were published and read in high schools, in college communities, in big cities and small, in expatriate communities of Canada, and overseas.

There were over 400 papers published by or directed to members of the military, all branches, at bases in the U.S. and around the world. When the right wing said “Support the troops” even as they sent soldiers overseas to die needlessly and then spit on them by cutting the education benefits of those who survived, these were the troops I most supported.

Underground papers were unanimous in their opposition to the war but they spoke to their own unique audiences. Papers in my four-volume Voices from the Underground Series represent the gay, lesbian, feminist, Black, Puerto Rican, Native American, Asian-American, military, prisoners’ rights, psychedelic, rank-and-file, Southern consciousness, new age, and other voices of the what was known as the counterculture.

When an earlier version of Voices from the Underground first found print in 1993, the stories were met with rave reviews from those in the media who understood that the U.S. had been the bad guy in Vietnam. But the country overall was not ready to accept any U.S. image other than that created by the “greatest generation” during World War II.

Today, after a string of invasions of one form or another that include Panama, Grenada, Nicaragua, Chile, Iraq, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, our image is sadly but deservedly tarnished and patroits are looking again for lessons from Vietnam.

So, soon after a review copy of volume 1 arrived at the Chicago Tribune in late January, I received an invitation from the organizer of the Chicago Tribune Printers Row Literary Fest to speak at this year’s event. I’m deeply honored and excited about the opportunity to share stories, re-unite with old friends, meet veterans and students of the period, and answer questions.

If you’re from Chicago or anywhere nearby, I hope you can make it. I’ll be appearing twice:

Saturday, 6/4/2011, 10 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.

Program:  Ken Wachsberger in conversation with Bill Ayers 

Location:  Hotel Blake


Sunday, 6/5/2011, 1 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.

Program:  Panel Discussion: Matthew Carlson, Matthew Ehrlich, and Ken Wachsberger moderated by Alison Cuddy, to be broadcast on C-SPAN

Location:  University Center/Lake Room

If you missed the period, this will be a major adventure for you, and a good time.

After my talk Saturday and before my talk Sunday, I’ll be hanging out with my friends from the Chicago chapter of the National Writers Union at Table 247, located on Dearborn Street between Harrison and Polk Streets.

I look forward to seeing you there. If you can’t make it but are interested in purchasing the book, you can order it through my website.