The Brisbane Line

The printed word, in the form of radical pamphlets and news sheets, had always been vital to Brisbane's New Left, and the Cellar also provided a space for the latest incarnation of this tradition. A Young Socialist League newsletter remarked how a spokesman for the paranoid right claimed in the Telegraph that a professional communist agitator had been specifically imported from Monash Uni to disrupt Captive Nations Week (YSL Newsletter). The report was partially correct, in fact, Melbourne radical Dave Nadel, one of Australia's more famous student rabble-rousers, had been solicited by SDA to edit The Brisbane Line a new radical underground paper that will start publication next month (YSL Newsletter).

Envisioned as an Australian version of Village Voice and similar publications from the United States or Europe, The Brisbane Line was headquartered in The Cellar and proudly declared its independence: we don't have the printing resources of the establishment press but we do have one advantage, no-one can censor our Multilith 1250? (The Brisbane Line, leaflet).

Though lasting only three issues, the paper carried stories ranging from a thorough investigation of Black Power to a critique of educational training institutions. The Czechoslovakian crisis occupied a significant amount of space, including an interview with Brisbane academic Phillip Richardson, who had been touring Dubceks democratic socialist regime and been caught up in the Soviet invasion.

It was to some extent however, a fanciful exercise, as Nadel explains: It was an idea in Brian's head and like all of Brian's ideas he assumed because he thought it was a good idea it would work and that the Brisbane radical community would happily fund and support it. The closure of the paper then captures some of the realities of attempting to directly import the big 68 into a local context. The initial idea of starting an underground paper was absurd, Nadel explained, as American underground newspapers sell mostly to the American underground community, and about half their news relates to the underground community. There is no such thing as an underground community in Australia.

The above extract is from: Australia's most evil and repugnant nightspot - Foco Club and transnational politics in Brisbane's '68 by Jon Piccini.

Midway through 1968, in what can only be described as a hare-brained scheme, Dave Nadel was plucked from taxi-driving in Melbourne and employed to create a national weekly entitled The Brisbane Line. It was to have a much broader readership than the Student Guerilla, appealing to not only students but also blue and white collar unionists across the country, distributed through university and union outlets for 10 cents a copy. (Knight 2004)

The scheme came out of the working relationship that developed between the SDA and the Communist Party's youth wing, the Young Socialists League. The combined enterprise went under the name of the Brisbane Underground Machine (BUM). The plan was to produce a larger format A3 publication consisting of 10 sheets. The Multilith press, relocated to BUM headquarters in a cellar in the old Brisbane Markets, was pushed to its limits as was Nadel's ingenuity in coming up with material for the paper (Beatson 2006). The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia occurred as the first issue was due to come out and the ensuing crisis within the Communist Party dissipated support that was crucial. In the end there was never a dedicated writing staff, the editorial line was confused, distribution was never properly organized and only three issues were produced. SDA energies went back into producing the Student Guerilla.

The above extract is from: Alternative Media in Brisbane: 1965-1985 by Stephen Stockwell (see tile 11B)

The Brisbane Line (first edition: 22 August 1968) (2.7MB)

STOP PRESS: The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia was underway before the first issue of The Brisbane Line hit the streets. This lift-out leaflet (dated Friday 23rd August 1968) was inserted in the paper just before it was distributed.

Late news (lift-out) insert (513KB)