1968 The Mysterious Chemistry of Social Change

by on April 6, 2008 · 0 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, Organizing, Peace Movement

The last thing the legacy of 1968 needs is nostalgic commemoration, writes Mike Marqusee. Even as it was happening, it was being packaged for consumption. Nor should we celebrate it in the name of some abstract spirit of resistance. It was a year of contradictions and confusions, many of which continue to confront anyone who wants to take part in a movement for radical changeYear Zero

by Mike Marqusee
1968 saw more young Americans drawn to the left than any time since the 1930s. In a Gallup survey of student opinion conducted in the spring (before the May events in France), 69 per cent considered themselves ‘doves’ on Vietnam, 16 per cent agreed that the war in Vietnam was ‘pure imperialism’ and 8 per cent identified themselves as ‘radical’ or ‘far left’ (a 100 per cent increase in a year). In the autumn, a Fortune magazine survey revealed that half of all college students thought the US was a ‘sick society’ and 368,000 of them now considered themselves ‘revolutionaries’.

The upsurges that convulsed the United States in 1968 were inextricably linked to global events, but shaped by factors peculiar to the national context. In this presidential election year, 500,000 US troops were in Vietnam, where a war that was supposed to have been won long before continued into its fifth year. At home, the country’s racial hierarchy had been under challenge from the civil rights movement for a decade. But socialist traditions were weak and there was no significant social democratic or communist party. This starting point accounts for many of the peculiar features of the American ‘68: its ideological and organisational chaos, as well as its willingness to experiment. Among young radicals there was a Year Zero mentality. [Go here, for the remainder of the article from blog redpepper.]

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