(This is a re-print from the December 1983 Beachhead 15th Anniversary issue)
By Rick Davidson
“Write your feelings about the Beachhead,” I was asked. “I’ve got mixed feelings,” I said. They replied. “Write whatever you want,” they replied.
So how about a little history? The first issue of the paper was green; an appropriate color since when it came to putting out a community newspaper we were all as green as you could get. The “we” I’m talking about was a group of radicals who happened to be working together in the Peace & Freedom (PFP) – a new 3rd party dedicated to Peace in Vietnam and Freedom for minorities here at home. It also happened that we all lived in and loved Venice. We felt the best approach to building a new party was to build from the grassroots. Everyone knew that there had to be plenty of roots in Venice since there was so much grass around. (couldn’t resist.)
Our most pressing need was to reach Venice residents. Sure we had meetings, I mean like every night, but you couldn’t get all the forty thousand Venetians in the PFP office; we figured it would take about 2000 meetings to meet with all the forty thousand – we were just too impatient – there had to be a better way. Some wanted to put out a magazine; radio, one offshore past the three mile limit; a film would be fun; but a newspaper was the obvious solution.
We conceived the paper as a poem. It had to be a political statement about our thoughts on Vietnam, racism, sexism, police brutality, land reform, etc., and since our politics included art, people’s art, we wanted a paper that would express that too; and we wanted it to be free: rather than “sell” it to some of the people we would “give” it to all the people. It would also be a collective effort where decisions about the paper would be made by those doing the work – participation was open to anyone … people’s democracy in action.
We named it the Beachhead because we felt we were creating a beachhead in Venice from which to extend the struggle throughout LA, California, and the US of A… a struggle to transform America into a more humanistic society. Even though we were all in the Peace & Freedom Party, we did not all agree on how the transformation would have to take place. Some of us felt it could only happen through socialism; some felt it would have to be an anarchistic society; and some felt, we found out the hard way, it should be a libertarian society … later some of the libertarians suggested selling the beach to private enterprise because it would be more efficient and cut down on the costs to the public. NO, we were not of one mind. “Let a thousand flowers bloom” was expanded to include bushes, weeds, stones, you name it, it was growing in Venice. You can imagine, our editorial meetings were pure theater; theater of the absurd, more times than not.
The staff of the Beachhead has changed over the years. New people join as others leave – some leave Venice, others just left Beachhead work due to more pressing political work. Venice Peace & Freedom activists were running all over LA, California, and the US, including Hawaii.
There was always a struggle to balance and integrate the issues of the Vietnam War with the issues of Venice. We wore two hats: Peace & Freedom and Free Venice. TO most of us there was a direct connection between the policies waging the war in Vietnam and those trying to drive people out of Venice, but it was not always clear to everyone. More time was spent in political debate than the actual process of putting out the paper. When it happened simultaneously it really showed in the paste-up.
I continue to write and support the paper because I feel it is important to have a people’s paper – the politics of the, what’s its name … the Evening Outrage, certainly aren’t mine. And sometimes the politics of the Beachhead aren’t either, but at least I feel I have some access (limited at times) to “our” Venice paper.
So I say thanks to those willing to spend their Saturdays writing, editing, pasting-up, printing and distributing, as well as trying to get funds to pay for it, but I do have a few criticisms I want to share:
(Of course, there is no page 28, since the issue only goes up to page 16)