Books Movement Manifesto

THE MOVEMENT TOWARD A NEW AMERICA, assembled

Pilgrim Press, 750 pages, $5.95.

The media is the enemy. I'd much rather put the New York Times out of business than the New York City Police. It does much more damage.

Ray Mungo, founder of Liberation News Service, as quoted in Movement

VALUE systems are thrust upon us every day, and, living in the United States, we are not always able to accept or reject evaluations as freely as we might like. Thus, we grow up being taught- usually by the media- that war criminals are leaders, that genocidal war is something worth fighting, that academic freedom is more than a hollow deceit which allows universities to train students to kill Vietnamese.

In this context, the sloganistic rhetoric of the underground press can be seen as an attempt to reverse the present media-administered order of values and concepts. Obscenities or words like "America" and "pigs" are used freely, indeed deliberately, as a means of obliterating the false and hypocritical values often given to established institutions.

What I'm trying to do here is establish the basis that Mitchell Goodman uses to select articles for his Movement Toward a New America. Movement is not just a book about the revolution, a scrapbook of authentic notes from the underground; it is a truly revolutionary book, and as such it relies heavily- though by no means entirely- on selections from the underground press.

Goodman uses the underground press not only to discredit the bourgeois press usage of phrases like "academic freedom" and "Free World," but also to overcome the somewhat arbitrary tendency of the press to concentrate its coverage on spectacles. Reading the book, we are less likely to encounter the verbiage the New York Times brought us about Woodstock than fascinating pieces by John Holt and Weatherman Bill Ayers on the need for revolutionary forms in education, personal accounts of radicalization, and essays on the women's movement.

Both the book Movement and the movement itself are all too aware that a medium which devotes 101/2 feet of news coverage to Kent State and only 29 inches to Orangeburg- as the New York Times did- is a medium that we cannot trust.

To organize material for a movement which includes black, red, brown, women, gay, high school, and worker liberation movements- as well as one for rich white kids- is an enormous task, but Goodman and his collaborators have done an excellent job. The sections on the black community and on education are particularly well developed. One can only wish that all that has happened since the book went to press in May could be included, particularly insofar as the women's movement and the Chicano movement are concerned.

LIKE MOST revolutionary forms, Movement is constantly redefining itself, constantly telling us and itself what it is trying to do. And like the movement itself, the book is composed of several loosely-formed, overlapping structures which, as Kathy Mulherin, one of the collaborators, tells us, alternately fade in and out like different facets of an emerging personality.

Goodman himself tells us that the book is made up of essentially two elements: "1) the body of the cumulative experience, and 2) reflections and speculations on that experience." What emerges is a broad picture of a developing revolutionary society and much of what has created it.

We see first an underground press that is far removed from the long-standing tradition of austere intellectuality which has served to give us the technocracy that rules us today. And through its press we see: 1) a developing youth culture and with it a new life-style; 2) the emergence of the ghetto-street communities in urban academic centers like Berkeley, New York, San Francisco, and Cambridge; and 3) the development of an often bizarre political style that includes the Black Panthers, Norman Mailer's unsuccessful attempt to levitate the Pentagon, and the Yippies.

Seeing all this printed in its original form lends a sense of immediacy to the movement's struggle and reinforces the very real sense of what is oppressive in our society, of why we are alienated. It is in this way that Movement serves itself most effectively. By evoking this sense of alienation so powerfully, Movement becomes an effective organizing tool and goes a long way toward defining the self-conscious bonds of solidarity among youth.

All this is not to say that Movement Toward a New America pictures the movement as a simple glorious struggle which will lead to the creation of a utopian society. Much of the text and pictures are devoted to conveying the feelings of frustration, despair and hopelessness that characterize any revolutionary struggle. And the book is at its best in the "comprehension" sections which serve as a sort of "auto-critique" for the movement.

Before the first of these "comprehensions," Goodman quotes Kropotkin writing about socialist literature in the 1870's. Kropotkin says that socialist papers have a tendency to become mere annals of complaints, harping on the helplessness, the misery and the suffering of the oppressed. "On the contrary, a revolutionary paper must be, above all, a record of those symptoms which every where announce the coming of a new era, the germination of new forms of social life, the growing revolt against antiquated institutions." It is through adherence to these guidelines that Goodman has created an absorbing and powerful political tract.