The Violence of the Ideas and the Spirit of Violence in 1968 Cover Image

A szellem erőszaka – az erőszak szelleme? Az 1968-as mozgalmi hullám kontúrjainak változásai az újabb publikációk tükrében
The Violence of the Ideas and the Spirit of Violence in 1968

Author(s): Máté Szabó
Subject(s): Political behavior, Politics and society
Published by: MTA Politikai Tudományi Intézete
Keywords: 1968 protest wave; welfare democracies; student movements; violence; non-violent strategy; crisis of democracy

Summary/Abstract: The review considers four English language volumes that compare the dynamics of the protest wave of 1968 using various theoretical and methodological approaches. The studies focus mainly on Western Europe with perspectives on the USA, though some of the works also consider the Eastern bloc, specifically Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. The four books present interdisciplinary analyses of the issues of the 1968 protest wave and social movements in a complex theoretical-historical, historical, sociological, and cultural historical context. This literature review focuses on the topic of violence and non-violence, and presents the authors’ opinions on this issue. Horn’s text considers that the spirit of self-governmental democracy is the main message of 1968, but others also stress the revolutionary direct-democratic concept of the actors of 1968, which made the new left critical of representative democracy and led it to seek alternative paths. This conception also lay behind the anarchists’ occasional use of violence at demonstrations, and encouraged other aggressive subcultures to question state violence. In the theoretical and political background of all this was the concept of anti-imperialist resistance (connected to the Vietnam war), using the theory and practice of Marx, Mao, Marcuse, Che Guevara, Frantz Fanon, Castro and others. However, the political message of 1968 is not only complex – as some papers of Tismaneanu’s book pointed out – but contradictory as well. In the 1970s and 1980s in the West the non-violent civil disobedience of Gandhi was more typical of the development of protests in the counter-cultural, peace and ecological movements, rejecting the Marxism of the new left. Similarly, the oppositional movements of the eastern bloc used non-violent strategies in the democratic transition of 1989 during the reform transformation.

  • Issue Year: XXVIII/2019
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 99-114
  • Page Count: 16
  • Language: Hungarian