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The Long '68: Radical Protest and Its Enemies

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1968 saw an extraordinary range of protests across much of the western world. Some of these were genuinely revolutionary - around ten million French workers went on strike and the whole state teetered on the brink of collapse. Others were more easily contained, but had profound longer-term implications; terrorist groups, feminist collectives, gay rights activists could all 1968 saw an extraordinary range of protests across much of the western world. Some of these were genuinely revolutionary - around ten million French workers went on strike and the whole state teetered on the brink of collapse. Others were more easily contained, but had profound longer-term implications; terrorist groups, feminist collectives, gay rights activists could all trace important roots to 1968. Bill Clinton and even Tony Blair are, in many ways, the product of that year. The Long '68 is a striking and original attempt half a century on to show how these events - from anti-war marches in the United States to revolts against Soviet oppression in eastern Europe - which in some ways still seem so current, stemmed from histories and societies that are in practice now extraordinarily remote from our own time. The book pursues the story into the 1970s to show both the ever more violent forms of radicalization that stemmed from 1968, and the brutal reactions from those in power that brought the era to an end.


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1968 saw an extraordinary range of protests across much of the western world. Some of these were genuinely revolutionary - around ten million French workers went on strike and the whole state teetered on the brink of collapse. Others were more easily contained, but had profound longer-term implications; terrorist groups, feminist collectives, gay rights activists could all 1968 saw an extraordinary range of protests across much of the western world. Some of these were genuinely revolutionary - around ten million French workers went on strike and the whole state teetered on the brink of collapse. Others were more easily contained, but had profound longer-term implications; terrorist groups, feminist collectives, gay rights activists could all trace important roots to 1968. Bill Clinton and even Tony Blair are, in many ways, the product of that year. The Long '68 is a striking and original attempt half a century on to show how these events - from anti-war marches in the United States to revolts against Soviet oppression in eastern Europe - which in some ways still seem so current, stemmed from histories and societies that are in practice now extraordinarily remote from our own time. The book pursues the story into the 1970s to show both the ever more violent forms of radicalization that stemmed from 1968, and the brutal reactions from those in power that brought the era to an end.

30 review for The Long '68: Radical Protest and Its Enemies

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kieran

    Really insightful analysis into the protests that rocked the Western democracies in the late 60s and early 70s. The causes, events, and long term consequences are all assessed, and all far more complicated and tangled than you’d imagine.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Coates

    The book covers the significant and tumultuous protest events of 1968 from the perspective that these were a culmination of a groundswell of protest in the decade leading up to this year and with reverberations in the years that followed. As a detailed report of the protest movements as they manifested in the USA, UK, West Germany, France and Italy and morphed during the 1970s, the reporting is thorough and comprehensive although there was little mention of Canada and none of Australia. However, The book covers the significant and tumultuous protest events of 1968 from the perspective that these were a culmination of a groundswell of protest in the decade leading up to this year and with reverberations in the years that followed. As a detailed report of the protest movements as they manifested in the USA, UK, West Germany, France and Italy and morphed during the 1970s, the reporting is thorough and comprehensive although there was little mention of Canada and none of Australia. However, when it comes to analysis, the book was seriously lacking. Some insight into the period can be found in Charles Reich’s 1970 book ʺThe Greening of Americaʺ in which he described Consciousness I, that of traditional businessmen and farmers trying to get ahead, Consciousness II thinking that established Roosevelt’s New Deal and trying to make the "great society" and Consciousness III, that of the student movement of the time which embraced youth culture and a disinclination to join the power structures. Indeed, neither this work nor Theodore Roszak’s 1969 ʺThe Making of a Counter Cultureʺ appeared in the extensive list of references. Perhaps greater insight to the period is provided by Christopher Caldwell’s essay “1968: A Revolting Generation Looks Back” in which he described the separation of the youth movement representing a lifestyle or Woodstock wing of the political left, which claimed grievances against and alienation from society by such groups as women, gays and students and which had split from the traditional or socialist left, drawing a parallel with the cartoon Road Runner whose sawn-off branch remains while the tree crumbles with the pre-eminence of the political left at the expense of the traditional left. Nonetheless, for those of a certain age who were aware of what was happening at the time but too young to participate or even for those part of the protest movement, this is potentially an informative read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Sogge

    Being part of the generation of ‘68, I opened this book in hopes that it would cast fresh light on the history of my times. The word “long” in its title held out that possibility. But I closed the book with those hopes pretty much dashed. For it pays scant attention to the activism, engagement and organisation-building inspired or begotten by that generation. At least not the kinds I’ve seen, studied and in some cases been part of since around 1967 – work for change in Latin America and Africa, Being part of the generation of ‘68, I opened this book in hopes that it would cast fresh light on the history of my times. The word “long” in its title held out that possibility. But I closed the book with those hopes pretty much dashed. For it pays scant attention to the activism, engagement and organisation-building inspired or begotten by that generation. At least not the kinds I’ve seen, studied and in some cases been part of since around 1967 – work for change in Latin America and Africa, for peace, environmental sanity, tax justice, promotion of civil and economic rights, anti-corporate research, alternative media, et cetera. Where these matters do get a mention, the tone is dismissive, if not cynical. The writer’s extensive and uncritical use of British government archives, where in-house memoranda of top bureaucrats are preserved, reinforces this impression. He prefers to highlight episodes of violent protest. Whereas non-violent activism, which since the sixties has mobilized many more people and helped set public agendas in scores of places, is barely mentioned and appears nowhere in the index. Where the writer could have provided balanced accounts of protest episodes and movements, he emphasizes the backlash against them. He is careful to chronicle who among high-profile personages of the protest generation ended up defecting to mainstream political or corporate life. He hardly bothers with the many others who pursued, for better and worse, emancipatory pathways after 1968. In short, I sense that the writer couldn't muster much respect for and interest in the persons and politics on which his book pivots, and was unimpressed by any positive contributions they've made. With the exception of some bits about France, where more nuance and detail are on offer, this book was a long, dispiriting slog.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    One of the first whole books I’ve read wholly dedicated to the subject and I really enjoyed it. Chapter 11, “Defeat and Accommodation” is particularly interesting as it analyses ways in which soixante-huitards have been said to have “sold out” on their ideas/aims of the period. On a more negative note, I was disappointed by the half-hearted attempt to draw Northern Ireland into the discussion by making surface-level comparisons with other nations. Also disappointing was realising the chapter on One of the first whole books I’ve read wholly dedicated to the subject and I really enjoyed it. Chapter 11, “Defeat and Accommodation” is particularly interesting as it analyses ways in which soixante-huitards have been said to have “sold out” on their ideas/aims of the period. On a more negative note, I was disappointed by the half-hearted attempt to draw Northern Ireland into the discussion by making surface-level comparisons with other nations. Also disappointing was realising the chapter on “sexual liberation” was actually the token “women” chapter - the implication being that the main aims/outcomes for women of the period were purely sexual. That said, there was an interesting overview of how sexism manifested in the protests of ‘68. Overall I thought it was a really great book, and one which provided many opportunities for further reading and analysis. It also raised some questions for me, but the fact that I disliked some things about the methodology does not outweigh the positives!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alan Shaw

    This book covers a lot of territory and time, not just 1968, but the far extended rippling from that year that is still surely going on. Whilst there is a lot of valuable and interesting material presented throughout the book I found the style of presentation frustrating and hard-going and I was frequently annoyed by the constant dropping of seemingly random anecdotes to make a point that often seemed to leave me thinking "so what?" Nonetheless it was worth reading.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Howells

    I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages, but having done so I feel quite underwhelmed. It’s detailed (in terms of facts) but still quite bitty, it didn’t flow as a narrative and even with nearly 350 pages of text, I felt most of the sections just didn’t elaborate enough. Never mind, The good thing about the 60s is that it’s a period which doesn’t suffer from a shortage of books.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Adam Becket

    Really good read, for someone who knew little to nothing about radical politics in the 1960s. Less of a narrative structure, more of a sweep through factors and countries. A good start for someone looking to get into the topic!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    I confess that I only picked it up and started to read it, but I was disappointed to see that out of over 300 pages, only 40 pages of it were devoted to the U.S. events in 1968 -- and the Vietnam Conflict and its protest here was covered in only FIVE pages!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    An overview of a year that almost saw a world wide revolution, it covers not only the year itself but the aftermath.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Rueda

  11. 5 out of 5

    Keith

  12. 4 out of 5

    xhxhx

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jon A. Gaasland

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mr Stephen J. Thomas

  16. 5 out of 5

    Differengenera

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kin

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cristina Kroon

  19. 5 out of 5

    MR HUGH C M McALOON

  20. 5 out of 5

    Peter De Cauwer

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ben

  22. 5 out of 5

    James

  23. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Mullen

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chris Caden

  26. 5 out of 5

    Bas Hellings

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bri

  28. 5 out of 5

    Balázs

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Elias

  30. 5 out of 5

    Julia

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