I have always been a liberal Democrat. Over the past few years I’ve grown more curious to learn about the various trains of thought that make up today’s progressive movement. And as an illustrator, I am always looking for places that will publish my work. A coworker, who is more knowledgeable about these matters and seems a more committed leftist, recommended that I try reading and submitting my cartoons to Z Magazine, a progressive magazine that is based in Boston. Ever since the first issue arrived at my mailbox, I’ve been a fan of this magazine. It covers the efforts of activists around the world to press for a more radical progressive vision to resolve the problems of the environment, the problems of poverty and the exploitation of marginalized groups, of the need to reign in corporations and the need for a more just economic system.
Z Magazine was founded in 1987 by two of the founding members of South End Press (http://www.zmag.org/zmag/zmagabout.htm). It was inspired by the movie Z, by Costa-Gavras, that tells the story of repression and resistance in Greece. At the end of the movie, instead of listing the cast and crew, Costa-Gavras list the things banned by the Greek junta in the movie. They include: peace movements, labor unions, long hair on men, Sophocles, Tolstoy, Aeschylus, strikes, Socrates, Ionesco, Sartre, the Beatles, Chekhov, Mark Twain, the bar association, sociology, Becket, the International Encyclopedia, the free press, modern and popular music, the new math, and the letter Z, which in the movie symbolized “the spirit of resistance lives.” In the spirit of the movie, Z Magazine is dedicated. In each issue, Z Magazine begins with this statement:
“Z is an independent monthly magazine of critical thinking on political, cultural, social, and economic lie in the U.S. It sees the racial, gender, class, and political dimensions of personal life as fundamental to understanding and improving contemporary circumstances; and it aims to assist activist efforts for a better future.”Z Magazine highlights writers as diverse as Lydia Sargent (co-founder of Z Magazine), Noam Chomsky, Harvey Wasserman, Margaret Kimberly, and various activists and freelance writers. I am a big fan of the various cartoonists who regularly populate the Z pages. Ted Rall (http://www.rall.com/ ), Keith Tucker (http://www.whatnowtoons.com/) , Carol Simpson , Tom Tomorrow (http://www.thismodernworld.com/) and various other cartoonists create scathing political satire that is difficult to find in more mainstream magazines. Two cartoonists are especially influential to me. Matt Wuerker works in a traditional crosshatch style that harkens back to the great political cartoonist of the late 19th and early 20th century like John Tenniel, Thomas Nast, and Frederick Opper. Andy Singer (http://www.andysinger.com/) works in a similar crosshatch style, and I think his funny and succinct cartoons are some of the best observations of consumer culture today.
During the past year, I have several favorite articles. One article, in the April 2008 issue by Zoltan Grossman, chronicles the history of social movements during the 1980s. As a teen and young adult during that time, I enjoyed reading about the anti-apartheid movement, the Central American solidarity, the nuclear freeze and the anti-nuclear protests, Act Up, and the defense of abortion clinics. Zoltan does a good job of putting these movements in the context of the Reagan year, and in pointing out the successes and failures of these movements. He points out that the movements of the 1980s had trouble integrating class and anti-imperial politics with racial and ethnic politics and identity politics, except for a brief period when Jesse Jackson created his Rainbow Coalition in his 1988 Presidential run.
In the September 2008 issue by Lydia Sargent points out the contradictions in criticizing China for muzzling dissent in the Olympics while the U.S. media plays down anti-Iraq war demonstrations that draw hundreds of thousands. Sargent reminds the reader that the Olympics has always been a reflection of the dominant idealogies and values of the societies, whether it be the Nazi attempts to display their Aryan superiority, a venue for Cold War rivalry, and a venue for the corruption, commercialism and politics of the host cities. She then looks at the background behind the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City: the massacre of hundreds of students in Ttateloco Square who were protesting for greater political freedoms in Mexico; and the reasons behind the potests of Tommie Smith and Juan Carlos. They were a part of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, founded by sociologist Harry Edwards, which had 3 demands: restoration of Muhammad Ali’s boxing title; the removal of Avery Brundage as head of the U.S. Olympic committee because he was a white supremacist; and to boycott South Africa and Rhodesia from the Olympics because of their apartheid policies. The two Olympians protested specifically to cast a light on the troubles the African American community were facing in the U.S. at the time.
The July/August 2008 issue featured an article by Alice Leuchtag about Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s attempt to be represented in the 1964 Democratic Convention. Hamer was a leader of the civil rights movement in Mississippi who believed that the only way to fight the segregated Mississippi political system was to establish a racially integrated Democratic Party. They founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and during the Freedom Summer of 1964, volunteers went into homes, churches and cotton fields to sign up 60,000 members. They selected 64 black and 4 white delegates to go to the Democratic Convention and to challenge the regular Democratic Party’s all white Mississippi delegation and to be seated in their place as Mississippi’s rightful delegation. LBJ didn’t want to show any disunity in his election fight against Goldwater, so he did what he could to quietly shunt the integrated delegation to the side. The protests of Hamer and the integrated delegation during the 1964 convention opened up other Southern states to greater African American political participation.
My favorite article is an obituary about Utah Phillips by John Pietro in the July/August 2008 issue. He was a veteran of the Korean War, a drifter who entered a Catholic Worker home and was influenced by Ammon Hennacy, an anarchist and an associate of Dorothy Day. From there, he added the influence of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, the Borscht Belt comedians and various country musicians. Phillips joined the Industrial Workers of the World, and became a lifelong member and global labor activist.
In the July/August 2008 issue, the Z Magazine staff made an appeal to the readers to encourage others to subscribe to the magazine. I make this post because I think Z Magazine is a wonderful magazine that exposes ideas and points of view that you won’t find anywhere else. Our country needs to hear from a diversity of opinions, and I personally have gained much knowledge and have had things to ponder about. I may not always agree with what is written, by I have benefitted from being challenged and from seeing the work of activists from around the world. To learn more, go to http://www.zmag.org/zmag.