Equivocal West European Responses to 1968-Inspired Terrorism
1968 was a seminal year for many radical young people in Western Europe. It was the year in which the US effort in Vietnam peaked and began to meet with formidable opposition in the theatre itself (symbolised by the Tet Offensive) and at home (culminating in university campus disturbances, in President Johnson’s decision not to seek another term and in the violence in Chicago that accompanied the Democrats’ Convention). All this naturally triggered many anti-American demonstrations throughout Western Europe - for example, in London’s Grosvenor Square, the home of the US Embassy. At the same time, many students throughout Western Europe were outraged at the scandalously over-crowded and inadequate facilities that had come to prevail during the 1960s in many underfunded universities, which had no previous experience of coping with large numbers, many for the first time from nonelitist backgrounds. With deference a thing of the past, students were ready to take to the streets and, when appropriate and possible, to forge temporary alliances with discontented factory workers. In France, in particular, radical groupings achieved a great momentum and came near to overthrowing President de Gaulle’s Government in May 1968. But this was also the year in which the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia and thereby ended Alexander Dubcek’s idealistic ‘Prague Spring’. And when Jan Palach, an outraged student activist, committed suicide by self-immolation in Wenceslas Square, he almost single-handedly ensured that radical youth in Western Europe would not be tempted in any significant numbers to join pro-Moscow parties and front organisations. Instead, they became easy targets for sectarian radical groupings such as followers of Leon Trotsky, Che Guevara, Mao Tse-Tung, and Frantz Fanon.
KeywordsGrand Coalition Political Violence Italian Authority Frantz Fanon Christian Social Union
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