---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 09 Sep 2002 13:50:16 -0700
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Underground paper leaves city, not roots
Underground paper leaves city, not roots
September 5, 2002
BY BILL McGRAW
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
The Fifth Estate always was a made-in-Detroit product.
Published in funky old buildings around Wayne State University, the paper
blended ultra-radical politics, a sense of humor and an in-your-face
attitude. It explored issues that lurked outside its door, such as the
effects of factories and ghettos on humans.
It was a winning formula. Of the hundreds of underground papers that arose
across the United States in the 1960s, the Fifth Estate is the oldest
survivor. It grew increasingly radical over the years, and developed a few
thousand loyal readers around the world.
But now, after 37 years, one of the last remnants of Detroit's rich
counterculture era has left the city.
The Fifth Estate has moved to Pumpkin Hollow, a rural commune outside of
Nashville, Tenn., whose members have ties to the paper and Detroit.
The Detroit-based volunteer staff, some of whom have worked on the paper
for more than 25 years, said they no longer had time to put out the paper
four times a year. They will continue to contribute.
They've handed over the Fifth Estate to a new editorial team that is young
In the current issue, Andy Smith, 35, a member of the new team, pledged to
carry on the Fifth Estate's "implacable opposition to authoritarian
In an interview this week, Smith, a college writing instructor who fell in
love with the paper while growing up in Southfield before moving to
Tennessee, said: "The Fifth Estate is sort of like my dream project."
Peter Werbe, 62, of Oak Park, a Fifth Estate staffer for much of its
existence, praised the new crew as vibrant and engaged.
"Had it not been for them, the issue before the summer issue would have
been the last," said Werbe, host of the Sunday "Nightcall" show on WRIF-FM
While not a household word, the Fifth Estate is legendary and/or notorious
among those who pay attention to the world's noncorporate media.
Julie Herrada, of the University of Michigan's Labadie Collection of social
protest literature, called the Fifth Estate "a very significant example of
a radical newspaper" because of its longevity and content.
"The Fifth Estate is the longest-running
English-language anarchist paper in North America."
Founded in 1965 by then 17-year-old Harvey Ovshinsky, who went on to become
an award-winning TV and film producer, the Fifth Estate initially covered
music, sex, youth rebellion, drugs and Vietnam War protests like
underground papers in other cities such as the Berkeley Barb and Ann Arbor
Then, in 1975, just as its staff was making it more mainstream, the Fifth
Estate got really radical.
Werbe, who had worked on the paper from its earliest days before leaving in
the early 1970s, returned with several others and seized control. They
transformed it into a journal of anarchist ideas.
The Fifth Estate began publishing sweeping critiques of modern industrial
society in articles that were thousands of words long. It ran the work of
far-left European intellectuals. It questioned the need to acquire things,
slammed leftist political groups and printed a poster that proclaimed:
"Workers of the World, Relax!"
Said Werbe: "We essentially demanded 'Utopia now!'
Through it all, it retained its belligerent attitude and irreverent style.
It never stopped carrying news of Detroit.
In the mid-1970s, a Fifth Estate staffer, saying he represented the Workers
Revenge Party, presented the severed head of a pig on a platter to the
startled members of the Wayne State Board of Governors. Accompanied by a
photo, the main headline in the next issue blared: "PIG'S HEAD MEETS HEAD
One radical critic called it "the Mad magazine of the left."
"We want to continue printing cutting-edge articles," Smith said. "And we
want to reach out to more people. We might be small, but we're not going
Subscriptions have not moved yet: 4632 Second Ave., Detroit 48201.
Contact BILL McGRAW at 313-223-4781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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