What happened to the generation of 1968?
Carlos Eduardo Rebello wrote: :... Conh-Bendit, shortly before the French May, attended classes given by Fernando Henrique Cardoso, then an exile in France. Well as the French tag goes:*tel mâitre, tel valet*... And, after all, backing NATO bombing of Yugoslavia is almost nothing compared to the fact that Cardoso, without firing a single shot, has, this last weekend, collapsed almost completely Brazil's long-distance telephone systemn (and Brazil's connections with the outside world) by means of his donation of all telephone exchanges (formerly state-owned) to a confederacy of the most unsavoury bourgeois interests... BTW, what has happened to these 68ers? Their ideas were, at the time, so interesting, so devoid of economicism, so highly political..."Imagination in Power", would be a superb slogan even today. Has someone some ideas on the subject?
I can't speak for the rest of the world, but I know that in Australia I was always uncomfortable with the '68 generation all being tarred with the same brush. Sure we listened to the same music, those of us who read read the same books (I still have my battered old paperback Marcuse ... ) and we all went to demonstrations together.
But on my campus there was always a palpable 'divide' between the 'Labour Club' activists and the 'hippies'. It become most pronounced when a film crew came to town to make a film called "Demonstrator", which stereotyped and trivialised student protest in a blatantly propagandistic way. They recruited on campus for long haired young people to perform as paid extras. The Labour Club (whose claim to fame was sending $200 of student union fees to the NLF) tried to organise a boycott, but the 'hippies' seemed to have no problem with getting a little extra dope money ...
Since then, one guy I was arrested with (Mike Jones ? - I was very impressed when he gave his occupation as "professional protestor") is I think an investment consultant, or broker or something, Jim Percy went on to found the Australian branch of the SWP (I may be wrong about this, but he was certainly the leader until his death a few years ago) now the DSP (and publishers GreenLeft Weekly), most of the more colorful Sydney left identities seem to have gone heavily into bookshops, Albert Langer, the most charismatic of the Conscientious Objectors, last I heard is still active as a sectarian Maoist, but almost devoid of a following ... Most of the others I know from that era, if they aren't reformed junkies are just doing middle class type things people are doing everywhere else (making a living, raising a family) bemoaning the demise of the left in Australia.
The point of all this is that the 60s, except perhaps for the music, was exceptional more for its mythmaking than anything else. To me (the film) Woodstock marked the end, not the beginning of the 60s era. To me Woodstock was a sign that the 'Movement' didn't really know where it was going, once it had celebrated the fact that a lot of the old inhibitions and restrictions were irrelevant, that certain taboos had been broken, that it was okay to have fun. It was left to those who had drawn on the traditions of activism that went back to the 50s, 40s, and 30s, to carry the struggle through the less colorful avenues of unionism, literature, bookshops even, and party activism. Which is not to say that these traditional modes of struggle weren't rejuvenated and strengthened and supported by the more flamboyant energies and manifestations of the mythical 60s. The Union supported Green Bans in Sydney might be seen as the origins of the activist green movement in Australia.
It seems to me too that we are dependent on leader figures for our mythmaking. There is a lot of this "whatever happened to ... ? " lately. (Could it be the recent confirmation that Timothy Leary was an FBI informer? :-) Not all of them are gone - Angela Davis recently toured Australia quite successfully. But I see a great contrast to the focus on leaders with the Third World revolutionary movements. The CIA we know, was obsessed with tracking down Che Guevara, presumably with the idea that he was some kind of McCavity, a Mastermind of some kind. The Nicaraguans in their struggle - for all their faults and weaknesses - recognised the tactical weakness of 'the leader' figure (caudillismo). At least until they drifted, or were pushed into a presidential style 'democracy', the Sandinistas were a 9 man junta. The ambush of Carlos Fonseca did not decapitate the Sandinista movement, nor did the capture of Tomas Borge ... I could go on, but no doubt most on this list could find their own examples.
We seem to have come, by different ways, to the same conclusion. I, for one, have not been a 68er (I'm 42), but I'm old enough to remember the mythical Rio de Janeiro of the 60s (or better the mythical Ipanema of the time- our Village), where- following the final demise of the old CP after the 1964 coup- middle-class radical people fought the military dictatorship mostly by means of tuning their emancipated personalities into works of art. After all was said and done, a lot of noble remnants were left, from the psychodelic cloaks made by Helio Oiticica and the interactive sculptures by Ligia Clark (*trepantes*- a _double entendre_ between "fit to climb" and "fit to f*k")to Caetano Veloso's lyrics (*é proibido proibir*-It's forbidden to forbid), and - last but not least - the various memoirs of people who engaged in armed struggle in the narodnick-like exemplary actions of the time.
However, I today stopped at the University bookstore and ran across a copy of the armed struggle memoir by Alfredo Sirkis, which I browsed, and was somewhat annoyed to re-read it and find the account of the kidnapping of the W.German ambassador put at the same level with the account of how the author lost his virginity to the sound of a Gal Costa record... By the same token, I feel also somewhat annoyed to find the best 60s satyric writers today trying to make fun of the Cardoso government by means of a supposedly humorous review called *Bundas* ("Butts") that tries to mingle political satire with the most obvious- and generally known worldwide- of Brazilian sexual proclivities. Well, perhaps the point was not an issue of too much leaders, but of their conspicuous _absence_.
Perhaps the greatest spontaneous political theorethicians of the 60s were Clem Greenberg and Harold Rosemberg, in that they proposed beforehand that the gratuitous individual act to be, in itself, a higher form of knowledge. That creed, openly embraced by the affluent youth of those Keynesian times, seems to have prevented natural -and even healthy - petty-bourgeois feelings of resentment from being channeled to the higher level of organized power - or party - politics.