Politics

Underground presses outside the UK often dealt with specific political issues. US presses expressed the countercultures that had grown out of political movements such as Civil Rights and liberation movements, and groups opposing the Vietnamese war. In communist states, notably Czechoslovakia and Poland, underground presses were part of the Samizdat movement, which copied and distributed publications and media that had been suppressed by government.

IT and OZ did not take a direct political stance. The emerging UK counterculture was not as urgent as the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam struggles of the period, which belonged primarily to America. The UK counterculture set out to challenge grey British culture through personal liberation and free expression. The first issue of International Times calls for an appropriately gentle type of activism:

This counterculture 'started out in a duffel-coat in the direction of Aldermaston'(OZ 48, Winter 1973). The young generation of the time had witnessed the cohesive direct action of the peace movement in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They were politically aware but also disillusioned by the movement's failure to effect immediate change.

Rigid social boundaries were beginning to be loosened through a series of reforms in legislation (in the areas of divorce, abortion, censorship and homosexuality for instance) and through the growth of drug culture (particularly marijuana and LSD). Thus the counterculture began to experiment with these new possibilities.

It satirised 'grey'culture and the dehumanising world of work, advocating play as its voluntary, therefore liberating, alternative. In 'What Went Wrong', an obituary for Oz Magazine printed in its final issue, the magazine's politics were described as 'a politics of gesture, a species of street theatre, a series of provocations'. In other words, inconservative 1960s Britain the simple fact that these publications existed was a countercultural, and therefore political, gesture.

Instead of taking a definite political stance IT and OZ were eclectic. Over the years (IT ran from 1966 to 1986 and Oz from 1967 to 1973) they gave space to a bewildering range of countercultural ideas from pacifist mysticism to militant radicalism. Oz handed over editorial power for 'single issue' issues of the magazine including women's liberation, gay liberation, (notoriously) 'school kids' and (curiously) alien enthusiasts.