Sat Feb 25th, 2006 at 06:23:31 PM EST
I was reading susanhu's diary Expression: 1966-67 over at Booman and that got me to thinking.
I am roughly of the same generation, perhaps 5 years younger as my university days were 1971-74. I was at the University of Essex, known to readers of The Daily Telegraph in England as Red Essex.
In the era that Susan was talking about Essex had been one of the hottest universities in Britain, along with the London School of Economics. Some members of the Angry Brigade had been there during the late 60s.
By the time I went there it was still known for having a strong activist core to the student body, so far to the left that the Labour Party on campus was considered to be extreme right wing and the few members of the Young Conservatives were beyond the pale.
The left wing had become organized and entrenched. The Students Council on campus considered itself to be a union in the organizing sense and we had frequent "strikes" and "sit-ins".
They were always expressing solidarity with trade union strikers, even extending the hospitality of the on-campus student accomodation to striking miners on picket duty at the nearby ports. For most of the student body, however, all it meant was not being able to get a beer in the bar due to large numbers of burly miners who appeared to be staging a "drink-in" there.
For me, my time there was, as universities have been since WW2, a time of experimentation with sex, drugs and other diversions. Occassionally I would even actually do some academic work.
If I belonged to any part of the student body it was to the apathetic majority for whom the activities of the militants were an irritant. Perhaps we were the first rumblings of Generation X, rather than the last hurrah of the Baby Boomers.
Maybe it was because we were British.
So read Susan's diary.
Were you a member of that 60's generation, or are you an X'er?
Do you think that the European experience of those years differed greatly from the American?
The one event that really affected me in the late 60s was the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. I was 15 and on a walking holiday with a dozen other boys from my school in Germany and Switzerland. We arrived in Bern on the day after the tanks had rolled. I remember to this day the group of Czech students huddled together in the foyer of the Youth Hostel, arms round each other, sobbing.
I also remember the torchlight demonstration in the centre of Bern that night. Dubcek! Dubcek!
Maybe that was why I wasn't a revolutionary at university, but it was probably because I couldn't be bothered.