Tuesday, May 22
A Most Violent Year
"It was neither the best nor the worst of times. But in contrast to the relative placidity of the 1950s, the events of 1968 opened up previously unimaginable vistas to people all across the globe. 'We knew about the Paris commune,' the surrealist artist Jean-Jacques Lebel tells Mitchell Abidor in May Made Me, a new collection of oral histories of that year. 'This was going to happen again' in May 1968, he had felt. 'So you could have the near orgasmic joy of taking part in something much greater than yourself.' The protests began with calls for an end to same-sex dormitories at French universities and quickly developed into a general strike involving some 10 million workers from every segment of French society. By the end of that year, students and, to a lesser degree, workers in nearly every part of the world would rise up. The spirit of 1968 was not merely political. Simultaneously individualist and collectivist, as well as both sober and psychedelic, it was cultural, economic, sexual, hedonistic, spiritual, and transcendental. In a few of its more crucial aspects, it was a wild success. Two 68ers—Jack Straw in Britain and Joschka Fischer in Germany—became foreign secretaries of their countries. The women’s movement, galvanized in large part by the unrelenting male chauvinism of 1968’s leaders, intervened in history, as did movements for racial and ethnic equality. Protests against the war in Vietnam played a role, however indirectly, in ending it. Soviet-style communism did, eventually, topple. Universities were transformed, as was, for a brief moment in time, the Catholic Church. Conscription ended. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix changed music. ..."
In August 1968, Warsaw Pact tanks invaded Czechoslovakia, putting an end to Alexander Dubček's reforms.