"It was the 8:15 every morning until I discovered Cannabis,
"I arrived in Europe from Australia in 1969. My idea was to settle permanently in England - it seemed very interesting: the Beatles, rock music, sex and drugs and so on. I spent a year in Italy before coming to England and during this time I became politicised. I was properly introduced to Marx at the time and during the students revolts of '68-69 I became a convinced Marxist. I came to England in 1970, eager to become involved. I had no money and had to find work quickly.
I met some guys giving out leaflets in Oxford Street, from an organisation called Help, which Richard Branson had set up. It gave help to young down and outs, druggies, lost children and so on. They needed people to give out leaflets: badly paid, but a job straight away, working with people who seemed to be like myself. I got on well with Branson and he was setting up a new magazine that was to be the backbone of Help, 'Student' magazine. I'd written a lot in Australia and had pretensions to becoming a journalist, and he suggested I work on the magazine, which I did.
The editorial board was made up of pretty interesting people, but we soon realised that 'Student' was just a vehicle for selling advertising, for bringing in money and thus its motivation became questionable. The more we began talking about real political stuff, talking genuinely about the contradictions in English society, the more Branson became worried and clamped down on us writing that kind of article. In the end 'Student' was just a cover-up job. It did sell, it was probably well-received at the beginning, but it was not intended as an organ of youth dissidence, it was just the usual advertising hype.
We confronted Branson with our views, and with the facts that we weren't willing to continue working if we weren't allowed to write what we wanted. Branson got very uptight and gave us an ultimatum: knuckle down to the line, or leave. He wanted to get rid of everybody but me, I don't know why. There were six or seven of us and we decided unanimously not to back down. he fired the others and in solidarity I left too. There was another complication with Branson: I had started chatting up his charming and beautiful sister; he wasn't keen on that. The office was in his house and I became close to one of his girlfriends too. He didn't like that at all and we had a physical fight about it.
In retrospect I don't think the underground was truly political though at the time I thought it was. But looking at the publications appearing at the time - "IT", "OZ", "Friends" - I also think that we were the one trying to clarify politics, deal with local and national issues, with the class struggle. But perhaps we were too political for our readers, in terms of what they wanted, and the movement we were part of really wanted. Because the circulation started to drop. But we did try to find a clearer approach to the real problems of disorder and oppression."
- Stan Demidjuk
The interview texts are from
"Days in the Life: Voices from the London Underground 1961-71" by Jonathon Green,
used here with permission. Any reproduction is prohibited without permission from the author.
Days in the Life excerpts © Jonathon Green
contact: Phil Franks (freax AT philmfreax.com)
Freax/Friends website produced by Malcolm Humes