Friday, May 09, 2008

The momentum of 1968

The season of celebration of the tumultuous events of 1968 continues in London tomorrow. A World to Win’s new publication 1968 Revolution, analysing the worldwide impact and lessons of those times will be on sale there for the first time.

The momentum of 1968 continued for some years, especially in US. It reached a high point in 1970 with the only national student strike in US history, precipitated by the May 4 Kent State college massacre carried out by the Ohio State National Guard. On May 9, more than over 150,000 protesters, mostly students, converged on Washington to protest against the killing of unarmed students.

President Nixon, Henry Kissinger and others were kept in the White House protected by armed military guards with machine guns. The White House was surrounded and protected by a cordon of bumper-to-bumper buses. Nixon was pushed to the point of physical and emotional collapse and withdrew plans for the invasion of Cambodia. The tide of public opinion shifted against the war in Vietnam.

Key facts from research regarding the historical impact of these events show that:

* nearly 5,000,000 American students joined the national student strike
* approximately 175,000 faculty members joined the protests
* over 35,000 national guardsmen were called into action in 16 states
* highways, expressways, city streets and railroad tracks were barricaded across America
* on May 16, 1970, Business Week magazine warned: "This is a dangerous situation. It threatens the whole economic & social structure of the nation."
* 100 art museums and galleries closed in solidarity with the student strike
* over 500 US GI's deserted each day in May, 1970
* after the Kent massacre, entire companies of US troops in Vietnam refused orders to invade Cambodia
* in solidarity with the US students, numerous US soldiers wore black armbands and refused to fight any longer in Vietnam
* on Armed Forces Day, May 16, 1970, there were marches, rallies and rock festivals at 22 US military bases involving 43 different anti-war veterans' groups
* Congress passed the War Powers Act preventing the President from invading a country without the approval of Congress
* in May, 1970, Nixon began his "enemies list" & started the paranoid campaigns that led to his eventual impeachment and resignation
* Nixon and the Pentagon were forced to de-escalate the war, remove US troops and negotiate peace in Southeast Asia
* the voting age was soon reduced from 21 to 18 in America for the first time.

Whilst these events document the dramatic potential for change contained in mass action, capitalist rule remained intact. Four decades of globalisation have increased the tension that burst in 1968 to an unbearable intensity. In 2008, billions in every country throughout the world experience the effects of climate change, illegal wars for resources and markets, a widening gulf between rich and poor, unsustainable levels of credit and debt, a global financial and economic crisis, and increasingly authoritarian rule.

With a rapidly increasing number of people ready to challenge the status quo, and Stalinism no longer able to stifle the building of an independent movement that can inspire and lead the challenge for power, the potential for a revolutionary change is within reach.

Gerry Gold

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