Protests of 1968
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Background speculations of overall causality vary about the political protests centering on the year 1968. Some[who?] argue that protests could be attributed to the social changes during the twenty years following the end of World War II. Others[who?] argue that protests were a direct response to perceived injustices, such as those voiced in opposition to the Vietnam War.
After World War II, much of the world experienced an unusual surge in births, creating a large age demographic. These babies were born during a time of peace and prosperity for most countries. Permissive theories of childrearing, popular in the West, taught them that their happiness was important to others. This was the first generation to grow up with television in their homes. Television had a profound effect on this generation in two ways. First, it gave them a common perspective from which to view the world. The children growing up in this era shared not only the news and programs that they watched on television, they also got glimpses of each other–s world. Secondly, television allowed them to experience major public events. Public education was becoming more widely attended and more standardized, creating another shared experience. Chain stores and franchised restaurants were bringing shared shopping and dining experiences to people in different parts of the world. These factors all combined to create a generation that was more self-aware and more united as a group than the generations before it.
Waves of social movements throughout the 1960–s began to shape the values of the generation that were college students during 1968. In America, the Civil Rights Movement was at its most violent. So, too, in Northern Ireland, where it paved the way for an organised revolt against British governance. Italy and France were in the midst of a socialist movement. The New Left political movement was causing political upheavals in many European and South American countries. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict had already started. Great Britain–s anti-war movement was very strong and African independence was a continuing struggle.
The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War was another shared experience of this generation. The knowledge that a nuclear attack could end their life at any moment was reinforced with classroom bomb drills creating an atmosphere of fear. As they became older teens, the anti-war movement and the feminist movement were becoming a force in much of the world.
The feminist movement made the generation question their belief that the family was more important than the individual. The peace movement made them question and distrust authority even more that then they had already. By the time they started college, many were part of the anti-establishment culture and became the impetus for a wave of rebellion that started on college campuses and swept the world.
The college students of 1968 embraced the New Left politics. Their socialist leanings and distrust of authority led to many of the 1968 conflicts. The dramatic events of the year showed both the popularity and limitations of New Left ideology, a radical leftist movement that was also deeply ambivalent about its relationship to communism during the middle and later years of the Cold War.
Protests were held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, as the first mass protest in Yugoslavia after the Second World War. (The Communist world had already seen at least one mass protest after WWII by 1968 - the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.) After youth protests erupted in Belgrade on the night of July 2, 1968, students of the Belgrade University went into a seven-day strike. Police beat the students and banned all public gatherings. Students then gathered at the Faculty of Philosophy, held debates and speeches on the social justice, and handed out copies of the banned magazine Student. Students also protested against economic reforms, which led to high unemployment and forced workers to leave the country and find work elsewhere. Tito gradually stopped the protests by giving in to some of the students– demands and saying that –students are right– during a televised speech. But in the following years, he dealt with the leaders of the protests by sacking them from university and Communist party posts. The protests were supported by prominent public personalities, including film director Dusan Makavejev, stage actor Stevo Zigon, poet Desanka Maksimovic and university professors, whose careers ran into problems because of their links to the protests. Protests also broke out in other capitals of Yugoslav republics - Sarajevo, Zagreb and Ljubljana - but they were smaller and shorter than in Belgrade.  
In Poland in March 1968, student demonstrations at Warsaw University broke out when the government banned the performance of a play by Adam Mickiewicz (Dziady, written in 1824) at the Polish Theatre in Warsaw, on the grounds that it contained "anti-Soviet references". It became known as the March 1968 events.
In the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovakian citizens responded to the attack on their sovereignty with passive resistance. Russian troops were frustrated as street signs were painted over, their water supplies mysteriously shut off, and buildings decorated with flowers, flags, and slogans like, "An elephant cannot swallow a hedgehog." Passers-by painted swastikas on the sides of Russian tanks. Road signs in the country-side were over-painted to read, in Russian script, "ñ" (Moscow), as hints for the Russian troops to leave the country.
The protests that raged throughout 1968, were for the most part student-led. Worldwide, campuses became the front-line battle grounds for social change. While opposition to the Vietnam War dominated the protests (at least in the United States), students also protested for civil liberties, against racism, for feminism, and the beginnings of the ecological movement can be traced to the protests against biological and nuclear weapons during this year. Television, so influential in forming the political identity of this generation became the tool of choice for the revolutionaries. They fought their battles not just on college campuses but also on the television screen by courting media coverage.
Mexico City, West Berlin, Rome, London and many U.S. cities saw relatively small protests against university administrations. Some countries, like Spain, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Brazil, had more widespread protests against repressive governments. In Paris, Italy and Argentina, the students were joined by the labor unions.
In the United States, the Civil Rights Movement had turned away from the south and toward the cities in the north with the issues of open housing and the Black Consciousness Movement. The Black movement unified as a movement and gained international recognition with the emergence of the Black Power and Black Panthers organizations and their support of violence as a means of protest.
The German student movements were largely a reaction against the perceived authoritarianism and hypocrisy of the German government and other Western governments, particularly in relation to the poor living conditions of students.
The environmental movement can trace its beginnings back to the protests of 1968. The environmental movement evolved from the anti-nuclear movement. France was particularly involved in environmental concerns. In 1968, the French Federation of Nature Protection Societies and the French branch of Friends of the Earth were formed and the French scientific community organized Survivre et Vivre (Survive and Live). The Club of Rome was formed in 1968. The Nordic countries were at the forefront of environmentalism. In Sweden, students protested against hydro-electric plans. In Denmark and the Netherlands, environmental action groups protested about pollution and other environmental issues. The Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland began to start, but resulted in the conflict now known as The Troubles.
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