Issue 11 October/November 1999



From the late 1960s to the early 70s the underground press flourished in New Zealand. No less than seven major underground papers were published, including Cock, Earwig, Counter-Culture Free Press, Ferret, Uncool, Midnight Rider and Itch. These magazines were anti-authoritarian in tone, although some were crude and sexist at times.

Favourite targets of the underground press were the police, the secret police (Security Intelligence Service, or SIS), prime minister "Piggy" Muldoon, and the censorship laws. Many of the magazines were visually explosive, influenced by psychedelia and underground papers overseas, especially Earwig and Uncool.

Most of the underground press had a strong anarchistic influence. Even Midnight Rider, basically a fanzine of folk and country music, with no clear political stance, contained two articles on anarchist politics; it published a huge article on the Dutch anarchists, the Kabouters (who were the successors to the Provos) and reprinted an article by the American anarchist Murray Bookchin. The Kabouters were one of the first radical ecological groups in the world, and their mix of traditional socialist anarchism, the counter-culture and ecology appealed to many.


"The 51 lockout had provided the example of what could be done with a simple little printing press hidden away in someone's basement..."(Chris Wheeler)

Cock, edited by Chris Wheeler, was an irreverent, scandalous and subversive magazine of political satire. Cock became a legend; it was the most aggressive and effective of the underground magazines, constantly making fun of those in authority. Based in Wellington, Cock ran for 17 issues from 1967 to 1973. Its stated aim was to expose the absurdities and scandals of the New Zealand system, to "help overthrow the New Zealand government - by ridicule".

Chris Wheeler has described Cock as anarchistic and anti-authoritarian - and also influenced by Camus' philosophy of the absurd. Thus his political stance was "stupidity rules": to treat those in authority absurd and laugh at them. So Cock made fun of the SIS, the RSA, politicians, and those who supported the Vietnam War, all without any overt political line. It published lists of SIS secret agents, and the secret telephone number of the SIS, forcing the SIS to change the number. Not surprisingly, Cock was dragged through the Indecent Publications Tribunal.

In the beginning the political stance of Cock was vaguely anti-authoritarian and liberal, being anti-police brutality, and for freedom of speech and the abolition of censorship. But by 1969 it had become more anarchistic. It started to print cartoons about alligators that became revolutionaries, became disillusioned with party politics (both National, Labour ("Fat Norm is a Tory") and Values), union bureaucrats, and the Marxist left (it said that "the only threat the Coms offered to the National Party was that of boredom").

Finally, in Cock 15(1972), the magazine declared itself for the Kabouters - the Dutch anarchists - which was probably the first constructive proposal it had made.


Earwig (1969-73) was an Auckland underground magazine edited and printed by Heather McInnes and John Mime. Earwig was hippyish and contained poetry and short stories. Articles covered such topics as marijuana and women's liberation. Strictly speaking Earwig wasn't a political magazine, having more of a "peace and love" view of the revolution. But it did at one stage describe its stance as anarchist, and John Mime (who was later involved in the PSA union) certainly knew about anarchism. Some regarded the publishers as "hippy anarchists".



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One of the more unique underground publications was Counter-Culture Frees Press (1972-4) edited by Malcolm Gramophone of Waitati (near Dunedin). Gramophone was an anarchist and an eccentric. He changed his name from Malcolm James to annoy his father, and when he and Fran O'Sullivan had a child it was named God Gabriel Galaxy Gramaphone. Fran O'Sullivan later became editor of the National Business Review in the 1980s.

Gramophone travelled around in a garish yellow ambulance called the Intrepid Traveller. He was famous for his Underground Brewers' Bible (1972), which was the standard work on New Zealand home brewing for years. The book, also known as Anarchist handbook no. 1, was first published by Gramophone's own press, which he called Kropotkin Press.

Counter-Culture was the most openly anarchist underground magazine around at the time, It reprinted sympathetic anarchist articles from overseas, and carried reviews of anarchist books. Gramophone also used the magazine to praise the Dutch Kabouters for wanting a "decentralised socialist counter-culture.. .based upon mutual aid and respect for nature".

Gramophone is one of those characters who is hard to define. He had a conservative background and tended to mix conservative and radical views. He drew on the left and the right, anarchism, nationalism (he was a Republican) and freakism ("liberated people" as the new age of Aquarius, back to the land groovers). He was for a small-businessperson capitalism and opposed to big-business monopolies - especially "beer barons"!

Gramophone was also involved in the Values Party and believed in their reformist version of decentralisation as a "dispersal of political power to local government". He wanted a "Republican style State" while saying that he was not concerned with the State.