A New Dawn for the New Left: Liberation News Service, Montague Farm, and the Long Sixtiesby A. Hunt

Journal of American History

About

Year
2014
DOI
10.1093/jahist/jau466
Subject
History / History and Philosophy of Science

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653Book Reviews

Smith is persuasive on the relatively straightforward matter of the appeal of Judeocentric readings of history among Protestants. But although Smith’s survey data demonstrates widespread support for Israel among non-evangelicals, the book is less helpful in showing the appeal of Jewish history among

Americans in general. The author does indicate places where the Puritans’ Christian Zionism influenced American identity, but this part of the story is largely an aside compared to Smith’s concentration on a particular strain of biblical interpretation and its effect on Protestant attitudes toward Jews and Israel. Even so, this book is a valuable reminder of the larger context out of which contemporary bornagain Protestants operate—often neglected by their scholarly interlocutors.

D. G. Hart

Hillsdale College

Hillsdale, Michigan doi: 10.1093/jahist/jau458

A New Dawn for the New Left: Liberation News

Service, Montague Farm, and the Long Sixties.

By Blake Slonecker. (New York: Palgrave

Macmillan, 2012. xiv, 267 pp. $85.00.)

Ever since Jacquelyn Dowd Hall’s influential essay “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past” appeared in this journal in March 2005, historians of the 1960s have followed suit by no longer trying to pinpoint the “death” of protest movements.

Instead, newer histories tend to emphasize lasting influences and defy tidy periodization.

Blake Slonecker’s A New Dawn for the New

Left falls into this category. A lyrical and finely crafted narrative, his history of the Liberation

News Service (lns) and the Montague Farm in rural Massachusetts where the news service would eventually be based (after leaving New

York City), alters the traditional chronology of the 1960s by extending the era’s protest struggles into the antinuclear heyday of the early 1980s.

Founded in 1967 by the young journalists Ray Mungo and Marshall Bloom, the lns functioned as a wire service, a sort of radical Reuters, for a growing array of leftist and countercultural underground newspapers. On the eve of the anti–Vietnam War protests at the Pentagon in October 1967, Mungo and

Bloom organized a gathering in Washington,

D.C., of two hundred representatives from underground papers to urge them to subscribe to lns news bulletins.

Despite initial challenges, the lns thrived, launching the careers of a new generation of insurgent journalists. After an internal lns split in the summer of 1968, a faction headed by Bloom and Mungo “secretly created a rival lns at a farmhouse in western Massachusetts” (p. 35).

The Massachusetts “communards” (as Slonecker calls them) divided their time between countercultural rural living and producing wire copy picked up by hundreds of “rags” across America and overseas. Bloom’s suicide in November 1969, triggered by “sexual confusion” over his status as a closeted gay man, sent shockwaves through the commune but did not spell the lns’s demise (p. 64).

For the remainder of the book, Slonecker balances the history of life on the communal

Montague Farm with the demands faced by journalists that were part of the lns collective.

While Slonecker does an admirable job of tracing the evolution of the lns throughout the 1970s, he admits that the collective’s reach declined with each passing year. “As Movement momentum ebbed,” he writes, the underground shrank apace. Furthermore, those American newspapers that survived did so because they had talented staffs. Consequently, alternative newspapers that lasted into the late 1970s required less assistance from lns than earlier outfits that were less professional. (p. 173)

Like Hall’s “long” civil rights movement,

Slonecker’s “long” 1960s looks anemic by the second half of the 1970s. The lns ceased functioning in 1981, and while A New Dawn for the New Left does indeed elongate the 1960s timeline by leading readers into the antinuclear protests of the Ronald Reagan era, there is no denying that a skeletal lns—underfunded and depleted of talent—found itself limping to the finish line long before this. 654 The Journal of American History September 2014

Still, Slonecker has spun an extraordinary tale of the intersection of communal living and journalism. A New Dawn for the New Left takes its place alongside Abe Peck’s pioneering

Uncovering the Sixties (1985) and John McMillian’s brilliant Smoking Typewriters (2011) as essential reading on America’s once-thriving underground press and the era it helped shape.

Andrew Hunt

University of Waterloo

Waterloo, Canada doi: 10.1093/jahist/jau466

A Cultural History of the Radical Sixties in the

San Francisco Bay Area. By Anthony Ashbolt. (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2013. xiv, 255 pp. $99.00.)

Adding yet another voice to the study of U.S. radical politics in the 1960s, Anthony Ashbolt makes a case for San Francisco and Bay Area exceptionalism and writes against a tide of declentionists to explain how cultural radicalism grew out of radical political movements by absorbing and innovatively extending the politics of space and territory that framed New

Left rhetoric and activism. Ashbolt does not champion the cultural movements or life-style politics that thwarted radical political organizations such as the Students for a Democratic

Society (sds)—he remains an evenhanded critic throughout—but he sees value in movements that embraced a politic of space and territory and worries that narratives of decline too easily dismiss and oversimplify the complexities—and allure—of cultural activism.

Instead, Ashbolt makes the case that cultural movements shared and extended values that were central to radical political organizations, such as the quest “for community, for public space, for social relationships freed of authoritarianism, domination and exploitation” (p. 10). He argues that the concepts of free space, liberated territory, and internal colony animated new forms of action and inspired heretofore lumpen white middle-class students to join radical movements in a struggle for self-determination. Straight, white, middleclass, and male activists function as the protagonists of Ashbolt’s narrative, and vanguard organizations such as the Black Panther party or the Third World Liberation Front function as inspirations but are ultimately peripheral to the larger drama of middle-class activism.