Some weeks ago my mate Nobby Braumann sent me a book review about Jane Fonda, that is a review of a book about Jane Fonda (1). In the meantime the book too has arrived, been read, thought about. A good review, a good book (2).
The Reviewer, Rick Perlstein, notes the author, Mary Hershberger’s, tendency to "defang" (1a) Jane Fonda. Make her almost into a Sainte Nina Nitouche. Yes. She – Mary – does that. To Jane. For instance, all through the Hershberger book FTA is gentililly translated only as: "Free The Army". Yes, but… Jane Fonda, in her own book (3), has no problem with the GI’s ruder: "Fuck..The Army."
Does no one, except old me, remember that that once was a recruiting slogan: FTA ? Join the Army, for Fun, Travel, and Adventure ?
Sometimes even I, usually very fond of Fonda, do feel that she swerves a bit towards the right, towards her "respectable" origins. Leaves herself open to being misunderstood, criticised, by her (real!) friends of the left. For instance, Jane has apologised fulsomely for (being photographed) sitting on a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. This apology has been misconstrued in many ways. Me, I’d have said: "that anti-aircraft gun is a defensive weapon. It could harm no one but an intrusive bomber pilot, someone who has no business coming, bombing, killing, Vietnamese. In Vietnam, not America." But, obviously, I’m not Jane Fonda.
What Hershberger does, well, is to bring out that Jane Fonda was that rare peacenik who not only was first activated by a resister, RITA, soldier, but who – for several years – then linked her intense anti-war work to such GIs. A friend, a good friend, of the RITAs. A Frita.
That the gentle Jane Fonda was, and to some extent still is, the target of concentrated, vicious, attacks seems to have surprised many, to some extent even Hirshberger, who studied Fonda’s FBI dossiers in detail.
Resistance Inside The Armies is so dangerous to the establishments, the ruling classes, that even the most "gentille" Frita can expect ferocious reprisals. In a way, this confirmes their importance, their effectivity. That the contents of such attacks bear no resemblance to reality, indeed often stand truth on its head, is that surprising ? Fonda is attacked as anti-military – exactly she, who bust her guts working with, for, soldiers !
Reading both the Hershberger book and even Jane Fonda’s own autobiography I am again sadened by the lack, disappearance of the FTA Film, shot with Fonda and Donald Sutherland in Hawai, Okinawa, the Philippines and Japan in December 1971. FTA was released and immediately "murdered" in July 1972 (4).
Here we see that Jane Fonda’s work, with and for the American Soldiers, went far further than a simple critique of the Vietnam war.
anti-racism, discrimination against Black Soldiers, Americans
Labor Union struggles – here in Okinawa, but easily extended all over
Anti-imperialism – in the Philippines; us "Oldies" were really touched when the marchers sing the Internationale, a rarum in any American Film
Women’s rights, oppression, resistance, inside the military, but of course also outside. In Hiroshima, in Japan, the danger of past, of future, atomic wars. The US military attempts at re-introducing illegal nuclear weapons into Japan
How to deal – effectively – with pro-war, anti-Fonda, soldiers.
And – to terminate – a general attack on militarism, with – Donald Sutherland – making the point that there is always a danger for the ruling classes in RITA, that the guns can, sometimes, be turned around…
No wonder that FTA film was, apparently on direct orders of the Nixon Watergate White House, murdered. Neither Hershberger nor Fonda have yet pursued this trail, found that smoking gun !
The FTA film has, almost miraculously, been reborn. It now reappears directly in a "found" clean copy, and, in parts, with Jane Fonda both then (1971) and now (2005) in the brand new Zeiger documentary:
"Sir No Sir !" (5)
Unfortunately Hershberger does not mention "Iraq", nor that newest, best ? Fonda film (5).
Hershberger may be excused – concentrating on the GI and antiwar aspect of Fonda’s work – for failing to examine the "other" issues (unions, racism, feminism, imperialism, nukes…) – but it is a pity that she ignored, is apparently unaware of, the direct influence Jane Fonda had on the US Air Farce Rita in England. .
A complete description of Jane Fonda’s antiwar GI work should include the induced effects of her friendship, example, leadership on her British colleague and close friend - Vanessa Redgrave.
Fonda took Redgrave to the Ocean Park US Marine Corps base, distributed the local and West Coast GI papers there. The – at first anxious - Redgrave was "blown away". Enthusiastic. She soon felt "... I must initiate a similar campaign in Britain with the American GIs stationed on the giant USAF bases in East Anglia…"(6). She did. With further help from Jane Fonda, successfully. Of course the American Airpeople would have – sooner or later – organised themselves, but there is no doubt that the "induced Frita Redgrave" gave important start-up help. An unsung story, one of so many !
(1) Rick Perlstein: "Operation Barbarella"; London Review of Books (1). LRB Vol. 27 No. 22; 17 November 2005
(1a) Maxism: "pull her fangs out"
(2) Hershberger, Mary:
"Jane Fonda’s War - A Political Biography of an antiwar Icon";
New Press/ Norton – New York, 2005, 228 pp, ISBN 1-56584-988-4 (hc);
US $ 24.95
(3) Fonda, Jane Fonda – "My Life So Far"; Random House, New York, 2005,
600 pp, ISBN 0-375-50710-8, US $ 26.95
(4) FTA: Film – DVD/Video: with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, et al. 97 mins. For information, contact Max Watts, firstname.lastname@example.org
(5) "Sir ! No Sir !" Film – 2005, release pending.
Contact: David Zeiger, email@example.com
Displaced Films; 3421 Fernwood Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90039,
Phone: 1 323 906 9249w
(6) Redgrave, Vanessa: An autobiography; Arrow Books Ltd.
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA, England;1992
ISBN 0 09 983610 6
First Published in GB by Hutchinson in 1991