68 movement

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Anti-war demonstration in the USA, 1968

Social movements of the New Left that were active in the 1960s and in some states in 1968 were particularly prominent in 1968 are summarized as the '68 movement .

They began in the United States with the civil rights movement of African Americans and sat down in protest against the Vietnam War continued. Similar protests flared up in many countries around the world, including the West German student movement in the 1960s , May 1968 in France , demonstrations in Great Britain , Italy , Japan , the Netherlands and Mexico . The Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia and the March 1968 unrest in Poland each had their own causes, but were also aimed at more civil rights and democratic socialism .

Economic development factors are a weakening boom and the first serious economic crises in the capitalist states since the Second World War , which went hand in hand with socially unequal access to education and prosperity. The global political framework includes changes in the Cold War , including the Sino-Soviet rift (since 1959), the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962), proxy wars between the USA and the Soviet Union and anti-imperialist liberation movements in the “Third World” .


The designation of various social movements of the 1960s as the "68 movement" and its participants as "68" is a retrospective, summarizing ascription. It does not refer to individual events of that year, but to an epoch of civil society protests that spanned at least a decade in several western states and took different forms from state to state. They began in the United States around 1960 with an expansion of the civil rights movement to include universities and quickly declined there in 1970 despite the continued Vietnam War. In West Germany they began around 1965 and reached their greatest mobilization in 1967. They began in Japan in 1965, in Italy in 1966, and peaked there in 1969, as did in Great Britain and the Netherlands. Only in France, Czechoslovakia and Poland did the most intense protests actually take place in the spring of 1968. Nevertheless, the terms “68er movement”, “ 68er generation ” and “68er” remained common because other common terms (student movement, youth rebellion, generational revolt, social protest, lifestyle reform, cultural revolution and the like) only cover partial aspects and apply to other events . Nonetheless, these protests of the 1960s had similar goals, and their participants were aware of that.

The publicist Rainer Böhme defines the eight million Germans born between 1940 and 1950 as "68ers". From 2005, this generation reached their retirement age. Contrary to the classification of the protests as a generation conflict or youth movement, several generations were involved. Stefan Hemler therefore describes it as a generational protest movement with international significance.


The 1968 movement is mainly perceived as a western phenomenon. 1968 had even "become a synonym for cultural westernization". In contrast, Immanuel Wallerstein interprets the civil rights movements of the 1960s as a global event directed against capitalism. He uses the term " world revolution ". Wallerstein starts from the assumption that capitalism exists as a world system, so that there can be no revolution at the national level. In the simultaneity of many uprisings - both in 1848 and 1968 - he recognizes real world revolutions. In 1968 the US hegemony was the most important common target.

Marcel van der Linden tried to explain why there were so many different processes going on within a short period of time in the late 1960s and early 1970s. On the one hand, he names three structural factors:

  1. The strong economic growth after the Second World War , which stalled in the crisis of 1966/67.
  2. Increased participation in education around the world, including university education.
  3. The decolonization that began after World War II and accelerated in the early 1960s.

In addition to these structural influences, he names several events that inspired other forms of politics: the Cuban Revolution, the Chinese Cultural Revolution , the Prague Spring 1968 and the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War. As a further argument, van der Linden cites mutual learning processes and international contacts. Contacts both between workers who, in the course of the rise of multinational companies , tried to organize a global representation of their interests, as well as between radical students and workers. In doing so, van der Linden draws attention to non-student movements, particularly the workers' uprisings in France, Italy and Spain.

The transnational dimension of the 1968 movement has been promoted through decolonization, anti-imperialism and resistance to various forms of neo-colonialism . Anti-colonialism in particular created a great bond between actors around the world. The focus theory of Ernesto Che Guevara and the writings of the Algerian liberation fighter Frantz Fanon formed a common integration framework and led to concrete organizational forms in the sense of guerrillaism. The Cuban Revolution (1959) and the Algerian War ( 1954–1962) can be seen as pioneers of the 1968 movement.

Roman Rosdolsky's 1968 published standard work On the History of Marx's Capital was for the New Left a decisive interpretation of Karl Marx's critique of political economy . It strengthened the West German movement in 1968 in their demand for an exit from the capitalist system. This motif of “great refusal” comes from the German-American sociologist and philosopher Herbert Marcuse . In his work, The One-Dimensional Man , published in 1964, he attempted to justify the liberated society in terms of reason and drive theory. In 1967 Marcuse carried out this theoretical approach in his lecture, The End of Utopia, given at the Free University of Berlin . According to the American social scientist Immanuel Wallerstein , the rebellious middle class is the characteristic of the international 1968 movement. Wallerstein sees this middle class and with it the capitalist world system go under.

The critical theory developed by Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno experienced its heyday in the worldwide protests of the 1968s . She wants to expose social mechanisms of domination and oppression. Your goal is a reasonable society of responsible citizens.

The 1968 movement was an international phenomenon. The first important event is the victory of the Cuban Revolution on January 1, 1959.


United States

There have been two major issues in the United States , everyday racial discrimination and the Vietnam War. In California, the Free Speech Movement demanded recognition of their rights to free speech and free research within universities.

In the 1950s, under the leadership of Martin Luther King, African Americans began boycotts, marches, and nonviolent protests. They wanted an end to racial discrimination. When Earl Warren , a former California governor, became a Supreme Court Justice, he managed to defeat the court in the Brown vs. To move the Board of Education at Topeka to vote against the doctrine of separate but equal that had been in effect until then . This principle was therefore unconstitutional from May 17, 1954. This decision marked the first change in African American lives since the Reconstruction .

Martin Luther King played a major role in the so-called bus boycott of Montgomery in 1955 . In December 1956, the US Supreme Court ruled that any form of racial segregation on buses was unconstitutional. Despite everything, the harassment against colored people continued. These abuses are summarized under the term "sophisticated American racism". Blacks tended to move to the big cities of the north. There they promised themselves work and a better social position than in the southern states. Over time this resulted in ghettos. These economic, political, social, and legal problems paved the way for the American civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Napalm attack in the Vietnam War
US Marines in Vietnam
Demonstration in the USA against the war

The American evolutionary psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker gives psychological and population - biological explanations for the phenomenon of the " baby boomers ", as the radical changes around 1960 are called in English. Pinker himself calls the phenomenon “decivilization in the 1960s” because the political and social upheavals in western countries had considerable aggressive side effects that had not occurred in the two decades before, such as a massive increase in murder and terrorism. He argues that because of the large number of young men in the population who were present as a result of the high birth rate (the so-called “baby boom”) after the Second World War, an increase in violence in societies was associated. In addition, the proportion of young people compared to their parents 'and grandparents' generation was, in relative terms, considerably higher than ever before, so that it was more difficult for the elderly to pass on the civilizational norms achieved to the numerous children and grandchildren ( James Q. Wilson ). The young generation in the 1960s was more horizontally networked through the emergence of an independent youth culture (music, clothing) and through the provision of new electronic media and was therefore able to orientate itself more towards peers (even distant ones) rather than the older ones. An additional phenomenon of the 1960s youth is an unprecedented mass prosperity, which goes hand in hand with a considerably higher education rate and thus a social advancement of broad sections of the population. According to the theory of Maslow's hierarchy of needs , this motivates more self-realization and satisfaction of individual needs compared to traditional social norms.

Martin Luther King was one of the first prominent Americans to speak out against the Vietnam War. He advocated cooperation between the civil rights movement and the peace movement. “He partly distanced himself from his dogma of non-violence by saying that he does not see why the state in Vietnam is using force against civilians, while at the same time the blacks of the USA should remain peaceful against this very violent state. In a war in which proportionally more blacks than whites fought, for a nation that is unable to sit on the same school desk with each other. King saw the root of all injustice in racism, militarism and materialism ”.

On August 28, 1963, the African American civil rights movement peaked when more than 250,000 people gathered in Washington, DC outside the Lincoln Memorial, listened to Martin Luther King's " I Have a Dream " speech . Among them were about 60,000 whites. On July 2, 1964, the United States Congress passed laws against political, social, and legal discrimination. In 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize. On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was shot. The student movements in the USA were partly based on the Black Panther Party and its identity politics.

Since the Tonkin incident in August 1964, the United States has been at war with North Vietnam. On the US side, it was mainly conscripts who fought. This led to criticism and opposition from the US population. Between 1965 and 1968 the war escalated. The USA used defoliant, so-called Agent Orange , which caused enormous damage to the population's health. This contributed significantly to the emergence of the 68 civil rights movement. On April 15, 1967, 300,000 people demonstrated in New York City against the American bombing raids on North Vietnam and demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Americans from South Vietnam. In October 1967 there were large demonstrations in Washington DC. These protests spread to Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin and Tokyo.

From the student-influenced anti-war movement, the hippie movement emerged with appeals like “Make Love Not War”. After the Tet Offensive by the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam , the people of the United States were dismayed by the extent of the war. In the 1968 election campaign for president, Richard Nixon successfully obstructed the ongoing peace negotiations to prevent peace between the United States and Vietnam before the elections. At the end of October 1968 Hanoi was ready to make substantial concessions that would have given President Lyndon B. Johnson the handle to a complete cessation of the bombing of North Vietnam. Nixon feared negative consequences for his own election campaign and recommended the South Vietnamese government, through Anna Chennault as middleman, to withdraw from the peace negotiations, to reject the agreement with Johnson and instead to rely on a much more advantageous one with a future President Nixon. Although Johnson was aware of this sabotage of the peace talks and viewed Nixon's behavior as treason, he did not go public with it because he feared that the FBI would expose the FBI's wiretapping of calls to the South Vietnamese embassy . These findings go back to research by Charles Wheeler , former Washington correspondent for the BBC , in 1994.

In 1968, numerous people demonstrated against the Vietnam War in the USA.


In Mexico , the student protests, with which large sections of the population expressed solidarity, were directed against the party of the Institutionalized Revolution (PRI) , which has ruled alone since 1929 . The decisive factor was the great social inequality in the country. They called for the release of political prisoners and for a public dialogue with the President.

The PRI created a political entity that formally employed large parts of the working population. Trade unions, farmers' organizations and municipal institutions acted as employers. Social benefits from above were paid for with political loyalty from below. The PRI systematically integrated social interests. It acted like a bridge between the local power blocs. "For a long time, the balance of power between a metropolitan coalition modernizing the country (entrepreneurs, urban workers and technocratic politicians) and peripheral power cliques (caudillos and caciques ) was successfully negotiated in their ranks and in symbiosis with the respective president ."

From 1940 the economy prospered. Industrialization and modern elements of a welfare state shaped the country. At that time, a wealthy urban middle class emerged. But social and economic inequality worsened, especially in the countryside. Major conflicts involved regional land battles. In 1958/59 a railway workers' strike was violently broken up. The authorities arrested 6,000 demonstrators. Even so, the political system was not questioned until the 1960s.

From 1959, the Mexican economy recorded high growth rates. This development promised social and economic stability. When Gustavo Díaz Ordaz took over government in December 1964, there was little evidence of the serious conflicts that lay ahead. There was a general dissatisfaction that resulted from growing social inequality. Even the urban middle class could no longer be easily integrated into the co-optative institutions of the PRI.

July 28, 1968: Mexican students in a burnt-out bus. Marcel lí Perelló

The student movement began on the fifteenth anniversary of the overthrow of the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista , on July 26, 1968. The students demonstrated as they did every year for Cuba, but this time they were brutally suppressed by the state security authorities. In August 1968, students at UNAM ( Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México ), the largest university in Latin America, began to rebel against the rule of the sole ruling PRI. Half a million people took part in the legendary “silent march” in mid-September 1968. Teachers, parents and workers expressed their solidarity with the protests. At no point were the protests limited to university topics. It was a student movement with no student demands. The release of political prisoners and a public dialogue with the President were requested.

Ten days before the start of the Olympic Games in Mexico, around 10,000 people gathered at the Three Cultures Square in Mexico City to wait for a speech by the student leader Campos Lemus. The mood was nervous after President Ordaz bludgeoned young protesters for weeks. When the student leader went to the microphone, soldiers opened fire on the crowd. Hundreds of people were killed in the end. The Tlatelolco massacre on October 2, 1968 suppressed student protests. The Memorial del 68 museum commemorates this tragedy.



In Japan , the Zengakuren student association had protested since 1959 against the security treaty with the US Army and its bases in Japan and against Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke , a former war criminal. Shortly before the contract was signed on June 22, 1960, demonstrators stormed the parliament building and persuaded US President Dwight D. Eisenhower to cancel his planned state visit to Japan.

In 1965, Zengakuren and Japanese unions began protests against the Vietnam War, which the United States also waged from Japan. In addition there was the socialist anti-war committee Hansen Seinen Iinkai and the grassroots democratic citizens' association Beheiren . Both were close to the Students for a Democratic Society in the USA, whose president Carl Oglesby spoke at the first Teach in Tokyo on August 15, 1965. They invoked liberal American values ​​in their protests against US war policy. In the fall of 1967, a student was killed in clashes between militant sections of the Zengakurs and the police. The Japanese anti-war movement then radicalized. On November 11, 1967, an opponent of the war burned himself to death in front of the residence of Prime Minister Satō Eisaku . On November 12, demonstrators disrupted his flight to the United States. In January 1968, the arrival of the US aircraft carrier Enterprise in the port city of Sasebo sparked unrest across Japan for days. Tens of thousands demonstrated in Tokyo alone and blocked the State Department with a sit-in strike. The news of this also influenced the anti-war protests in Western Europe. Fired by negotiations between Japan and the USA over the security treaty and the return of the island of Okinawa Hontō , the protests grew steadily in 1969 and reached their peak on June 23, 1970: Around 750,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the US ordered by US President Richard Nixon -Bombings on Cambodia .

The protests were also directed against the highly performance-oriented, school-based and authoritarian education system in Japan. In January 1965 there was a two-week lecture and seminar strike against higher tuition fees at Keiō University for the first time. Waseda University was the center of the student protests ; The supporters were mostly ideologically undefined left-wing fighting committees ( zenkyoto ). They also reached unorganized students and youth. By 1969, the protests had spread to 200 universities and high schools in Japan. At the University of Tokyo in February 1968, after a disproportionate police operation, around 10,000 students (two-thirds of the total) went on an indefinite strike and formed a combat committee. In October 1968 the entire university went on strike until its president resigned. After the police evacuated an occupied lecture hall with a massive contingent in days of battle, the protests gradually subsided. The members of the left-wing terrorist group Sekugunha , founded in September 1969, were arrested until 1971, murdered by competitors or fled abroad. Wing struggles between the traditionalist ( yoyogi ) and the new left ( anti-yoyogi ) continued until 1975 . Some of them were violently carried out and are said to have resulted in a total of 44 deaths.

Western Europe

Federal Republic of Germany

Student revolt in West Berlin


In contrast to other countries, the labor movement was also in the foreground in France. Their demands were aimed at better wages, shorter working hours and appropriate representation by works councils. The strong hierarchical divide in the companies should be reduced, as should the authoritarian relationships.

At the end of the Second World War, the Parti communiste français (PCF) was the strongest party. In the post-war period, French workers were mostly organized in the PCF. The French left then split up and the Parti Socialiste (PS) emerged. At the same time, the communist parties that fought against fascism in the Resistance were important elements of democracy. The political right was just as strong because the later President Charles de Gaulle managed to win over the Resistance. The Fifth French Republic , founded in 1958 under de Gaulle, benefited from a strong economic upturn. This boom changed the social structure of French society. Many farmers moved to the cities. There they "joined with immigrants to expand the working class to include a young, militant layer that is difficult to control by the union's bureaucracy".

In the early 1960s, workers were not adequately represented in their factories. Because of the political centralization, there were no regular works councils on site. This created authoritarian structures in the company. The workers were dissatisfied with the conditions under which they worked. When the effects of the economic recession were felt in 1967, they radicalized.

The Paris demonstrations came from the University of Paris-Nanterre . After an action against the war in Vietnam, members of the college founded the March 22nd Movement. Daniel Cohn-Bendit was one of the leading figures . After the attack on the German student leader Rudi Dutschke , many people expressed their solidarity. When the police violently ended demonstrations in Paris, numerous citizens protested in the province. On the night of May 10th, 1968, France experienced one of the most violent clashes since the end of the Second World War. Hundreds of thousands demonstrated across the country on May 13th.

Now it was no longer about the demands of the students, but about wage increases and the introduction of the 40-hour week. France's workers demanded a government of the people. 10 million workers were on warning strike, and they occupied their factories for three weeks. The workers adopted the forms of protest and political content from the students. Their demands were directed against the hierarchies in the companies, which were expressed in a large wage gap.

After de Gaulle's threat of a state of emergency and the announcement of elections at the same time, there was a strong pro-de-Gaulle rally on the Champs Elysées. At the end of June 1968, strikes and factory occupations subsided. Then the question was asked whether it was actually a social movement or rather a “fun event”.

Great Britain

In Great Britain , the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) formed in 1958, an extra-parliamentary protest movement against NATO's nuclear armament , which also influenced anti-militarist protests in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The Cuban Missile Crisis made it lose weight. An intellectual New Left emerged around the London magazine New Left Review , founded in 1960 . This helped prepare for the Labor Party's electoral success in 1966, but rejected Prime Minister Harold Wilson's policies towards the apartheid regime in Rhodesia , its restrictive immigration policy and higher university fees for foreign students as discriminatory and racist.

From autumn 1966, more than half of all LSE students went on strike against the election of a white Rhodesian as director of the London School of Economics (LSE) and disciplinary measures against its student representative. In March 1967 they occupied the LSE for nine days. In July 1967, left-wing students in London held a two-week congress with well-known US anti -Vietnam war opponents such as Herbert Marcuse , Stokely Carmichael and Paul Sweezy . Members of the West German SDS also helped with the preparation. The congress called for cooperation with revolutionary liberation movements in the “Third World”. In June 1968, with the help of Daniel Cohn-Bendit (a leading participant in the Paris student protests), the Revolutionary Socialist Students Federation (RSSF) was founded. The Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC), which was also newly founded, organized several anti-war demonstrations in London until October 1968, most recently with around 100,000 participants. They remained largely non-violent, among other things because the LSE management allowed the occupation of university rooms to protect demonstrators. In January 1969, a new LSE administration prevented further occupation, de-registered and fired those involved. By then, student protests at British universities had died down.

Although the '68 movement remained smaller in Britain than elsewhere, it had significant global influences on the arts, fashion, pop and rock music . The Beat Poetry Festival in June 1965 in the Royal Albert Hall is considered the prelude to a western counterculture .


The economic split between northern and southern Italy or between the local population and immigrant workers in northern Italy, as well as an educational system that was shaped by fascist ideology for many years after the war, were important issues of the 1968 movement in Italy. Likewise the "betrayed resistance" of the Resistenza , which did not want a revolution after the end of the war. In South Tyrol , the focus was on the New Left.

The conservative Democrazia Cristiana ruled the country since 1948. You faced with the Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI) the strongest communist party in Western Europe. By the early 1960s, the PCI succeeded in systematically keeping it out of power. From an economic point of view, Italy developed from an agricultural to an industrial country after the end of the Second World War. The migration of workers from southern Italy to the north gave rise to anonymous satellite towns. The state did not compensate for the emerging unease in circles of the population who were excluded from the economic upswing through social policy measures. The Italian economic miracle of the 1950s was divided.

In addition, the education system had to be reformed. The teaching content at the universities was still fascist.

For Italy's intellectuals it was about the continuation of the resistance of 1940. It was about the question of why the resistance fighters did not dare revolution. This idea of ​​"betrayed resistance", which the PCI did not pursue after 1945, played a major role in 1968.

In 1960 dock workers, former resistance fighters, students and young people demonstrated in Genoa against a congress of the neo-fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano . The harsh police intervention sparked a wave of protests across the country.

Young scholars developed their idea of ​​a Marxist social theory called operaism . In this theory there is a society without parties and without hierarchical structures. It inspired the protests at universities and in factories. In the autumn of 1968 the demonstrations reached their peak. Workers and students protested in solidarity.

After the Democrazia Cristiana ruled alone for years, the socialists took part in the leadership of the state in 1962/63. They wanted to isolate the communists. The reforms of the school and university system resolved in this constellation aroused exaggerated hopes and accelerated the 1968 movement. Historians speak of a failure of this center-left experiment. They consider it an important starting point for Italy's 1968.

In the late 1960s, the prominent publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli pleaded for the abolition of capitalism. He was in contact with the extremist groups Lotta Continua , Potere Operaio , il Manifesto and the Red Brigades . Because he feared a coup from the right, he founded his own group, the Gruppo d'Azione Partigiana (GAP). The CAP should use violent means when necessary to achieve its political goals.

In Italy there are mainly three interpretations of the 1968 events:

  1. They are a revolt of petty-bourgeois students against globalization.
  2. A second attempt at interpretation pays tribute to the socio-cultural change that the 1968 movement triggered without recognizing any political consequences.
  3. The third attempt at an interpretation looks at the Catholic dissent, the differences of opinion among Marxists and takes the point of view of the avant-garde cinema.

Historians view the 1968s in Italy as a traumatic break between students and the educational system. The young generation had been disappointed by the state institutions.


In May 1965, the Provos group came into being in Amsterdam . They stood in the tradition of anarchism and surrealism , wanted to promote the autonomy of the individual and subvert strategies of appropriation of modern capitalism through imaginative, satirical and effective provocations. Some representatives were already active in the anti-nuclear weapons movement Ban de Bom in the 1950s. The happening artist Robert Jasper Grootveld denounced the enslavement of people in consumerism , around 1964 with the weekly ritual of the anti-smoking magician around an Amsterdam statue donated by a cigarette manufacturer. With White Plans, the Provos proposed concrete improvements in everyday life, such as free bike rental stations for Amsterdam's city center, occupying and converting vacant or demolished buildings, sex education and counseling, and re-clothing and re-education of the Amsterdam police. In doing so, they responded to the violent police operation on March 10, 1966 against attempts to interfere with smoke bombs during the wedding procession of Princess Beatrix and Claus von Amsberg . After that, participation in Provo actions quickly decreased, so that the group disbanded in May 1967.

The Student Vacancy Movement (SVB), founded in 1963, tried to pragmatically solve student problems such as a lack of apartments and scholarships, overcrowded lecture halls, etc. The SVB later adopted the ideas of the Critical University and the Council University from the West Berlin SDS, but no general political goals. The protest against the Vietnam War remained low. Following the occupation of the University of Tilburg and a building of the Universiteit van Amsterdam in May 1969, the Christian-liberal government coalition decided on a relatively far-reaching university reform in 1970, which gave students at all universities in the country more participation and de-hierarchized the governing bodies.

In 1969 the Amsterdam Kabouter Movement was born . It also relied on anti-authoritarian and decentralized forms of organization and action. Its members built children's playgrounds on fallow land, beautified buildings with flower boxes and squatted empty houses. In February 1970 they declared the Orange Free State , in June 1970 they won five seats on the Amsterdam City Council. Provos and Kabouters were anchored in the milieu of a counterculture, were non-violent and were largely tolerated by the authorities. Accordingly, no left-wing terrorist group emerged in the Netherlands.

Austria and Switzerland

In Austria there was Viennese Actionism with Action Art and Revolution ; also the Arena 1976 and the WUK 1981, the former as the successor to the Arena 1970 as part of the Wiener Festwochen.

The globe riots broke out in Switzerland . There were strong components of the 1968 movement that propagated a new lifestyle based on folklore. The direction was promoted by the author and mythologist Sergius Golowin . The Junkere 37 discussion panel in Bern was a focal point of the current. In Zurich, on the other hand, a counter-movement formed: in autumn 1969, at their instigation, the students of the University of Zurich, in a strike vote with a three-quarters majority, approved a regulation according to which the student councils, in which all students were compulsory, did not make any statements on general political issues were allowed to announce more.

The Progressive Organizations of Switzerland (POCH) were founded as a communist party as part of the 1968 student movement .

Eastern bloc


In 1946 the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) came to power on its own. The party enjoyed recognition among non-communists for its active resistance against the German occupation and took over all power in the state in the February revolution of 1948. She promised a socialist path that would do justice to the country's democratic traditions. But after Stalin's death in 1953 there were no significant forces within the party who would have supported de-Stalinization . In 1954, Slovak communists were sentenced to life imprisonment for “bourgeois nationalism”. Between 1948 and 1954, Czechoslovakia reportedly had 150,000 political prisoners out of a population of 14 million. Young people and intellectuals in particular protested against the failure to come to terms with Stalinism.

Archive for Christian Democratic Politics (ACDP). Tony Kerpel

In 1960 the country received a new constitution. The Czechoslovak Republic became the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. The new constitution should proclaim the victory of socialism. The ideological consequences affected real life. There was now neither class struggle nor a dictatorship of the proletariat. State and party wanted to recognize and satisfy the needs of the population. However, the Communist Party was led by the same people who were responsible for cracking down on opposition leaders in the 1950s. The de-Stalinization that started at the 22nd party congress of the CPSU in October 1961 happened half-heartedly.

The new constitution reduced the already limited powers of the Slovak state organs. This exacerbated the Slovak-Czech conflicts. The Czechoslovak Prime Minister Antonín Novotný became an attraction for nationally conscious Slovaks in the period up to his disempowerment in 1968.

The biggest political problem was that the government rhetorically promised reforms even though they preserved Stalinist structures. In the second half of the 1960s, Novotný's power stood on feet of clay. Nevertheless, he turned against the reforms of the economic and political system that had been demanded by scientists since 1964. Alexander Dubček led the reform movement and later became the leading figure of the Prague Spring. In the Eastern European region, the Prague Spring and its suppression by the Red Army of the USSR were key events that spanned Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Romania. In the Soviet sphere of influence, the Eastern Bloc , profound social changes took place under very different circumstances.

The only half-hearted de-Stalinization of Czechoslovakia, the Slovak-Czech conflict, liberalization and democratization, and above all economic reforms were the main themes of the Prague Spring. Warsaw Pact troops violently put down this attempt at “socialism with a human face” on August 21, 1968.

Within the socialist camp, the action was particularly sharply criticized by Nicolae Ceaușescu , the general secretary of the Romanian Communist Party and chairman of the State Council of Romania .


October 24, 1956: Gomulka's speech .

In Poland, Władysław Gomułka took over the chairmanship of the PVAP after October 1956 and initiated some reforms aimed at de-Stalinization , but gradually withdrew them and disappointed expectations of democratic socialism. Well-known intellectuals published the 34's letter against censorship and economic decline in March 1964 . They were exposed to a state smear campaign. The internal party struggle for direction intensified: the conservative dogmatists around General Mieczysław Moczar , head of the Polish security authorities, began an anti-Semitic campaign against Poland's reform communists, among whom were people of Jewish origin and former Stalinists.

On January 30, 1968, the authorities banned all further performances of Adam Mickiewicz's national drama " Ancestral Celebration " in Warsaw because it had received anti-Russian applause. Protesting students under Adam Michnik then gathered in front of the author's monument . 3,000 Poles signed their resolution to the Sejm . The Writers' Union publicly criticized the cultural policy of the Gomułka government as dictatorial. When state security members beat up his spokesman, Stefan Kisielewski , the protests spread to the universities. On March 9th and 11th, 1968 tens of thousands of Warsaw students demonstrated for the lifting of censorship and against Gomułka, praised the Czechoslovak reforms and defended themselves against a violent police operation for eight hours. There were spontaneous protests in many large Polish cities. The state media kept silent about this and stylized the already imprisoned Adam Michnik and Karol Modzelewski into ringleaders. General Moczar launched an anti-Semitic campaign against “incitatory Zionists” and enabled Gomułka to remove competitors and opponents from the state apparatus on the pretext that they were “Zionists”. The state body Trybuna Ludu called for a “complete cleansing” of Poland from alleged enemies of socialism, “ nihilism ” and “ cosmopolitanism ”. On March 24, 1968, the traditionally loyal Catholic Church of Poland protested against the campaign for the first time; thus began a rapprochement between the clergy and the Polish intelligentsia, which contributed to the success of Solidarność in the 1980s . On March 28, 1968, another 3,000 people called for an end to censorship, free trade unions and an independent youth movement. The regime then closed entire university faculties. A seventh of all Polish students had to re-enroll; 34 lost their place at university. A total of 2,739 people were arrested, 890 of them for more than a day. Under government pressure, more than 11,000 Polish Jews, mostly artists and intellectuals, emigrated from Poland by the summer of 1969. Supporters of the PVAP took over their homes and professional positions.


In the GDR since the suppressed uprising of June 17, 1953 and the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, no open, politically organized resistance against the SED dictatorship has been possible. There were only isolated protests against the general conscription introduced in 1962 without the possibility of conscientious objection . The construction soldier service introduced as a compromise in the National People's Army became an important starting point for later GDR opposition groups.

The protest potential of youth culture in the GDR was evident in a diverse "niche culture ", in everyday and consumer behavior. Western beat, pop and rock music became so popular that the government initially reacted with concessions. At the Germany meeting of young people ( Whitsun 1964) around 500,000 visitors were able to listen to the radio program DT64, which was specially set up for beat music . The state record company Amiga released the Beatles' first long-playing record in the GDR in June 1965 . In October 1965, however, a controlled press campaign against " bums and similar elements" began. The City Council of Leipzig withdrew permission to perform for around 50 amateur bands on October 31, 1965 at short notice. Two high school students called for protest with hand-stamped leaflets. The GDR State Security warned the school administrators of an impending "beat uprising" and thus made the protest public. Around 800 fans came to the Leipzig beat demo . An enormous police force beat them up, arrested 267 young people and forced around 100 of them to work. The "Beat Rebellion" and the riots in West Berlin's Waldbühne at the Rolling Stones concert on September 15, 1965 prompted State Council Chairman Walter Ulbricht to turn around in cultural policy. In December 1965, the 11th plenum of the Central Committee of the SED banned all imports of western beat music, performances by western bands and their imitation in the GDR.

Since then, the Czechoslovak capital, Prague, has become a popular travel and vacation destination for many GDR citizens. There they could consume western films, music, media and books and meet western visitors. Since the Prague Spring a debate began in the GDR intelligentsia about analogous opportunities for humane socialism in the GDR. Reform communist texts were translated into German and illegally distributed. The Ministry for State Security registered a “wave of democratization” at the Humboldt University in Berlin : Its students felt encouraged by the Czech, Polish, West German and French student demonstrations to put up signs and posters in order to initiate a discussion of errors and reforms in the SED. The Protestant student community in East Berlin, which had invited Czechoslovak speakers , was also observed .

Since May 1968, the GDR authorities only allowed travel to Czechoslovakia with a visa and began a propaganda campaign against the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ). As a result, large numbers of GDR citizens, students, apprentices and workers traveled to Prague the following summer. After the Soviet troops marched into Czechoslovakia, younger workers in particular protested against it at company meetings in the GDR. Slogans such as “Freedom for Dubcek ” or “Have the courage to truth” appeared on motorway bridges, house walls, on leaflets and in spontaneous chants . By October 1968, the GDR reportedly punished 1,189 people for such prohibited expressions of sympathy. 75% of them were under 30 years old; 8.5% were school and university students. Some children of senior SED officials received prison sentences of several years.

These protests are considered to be the forerunners of the peaceful GDR revolution of 1989 . Many of its participants had seen the crackdown of the Prague Spring. According to Bernd Gehrke , “in 1967/68 new opposition milieus emerged whose continuity lasted until 1989 despite various changes” and which “repeatedly promoted new and changing political activities or group formations”. This opposition emerged from the "networking and partial overlapping of milieus of the critical Marxist and Christian intelligentsia as well as the subcultural youth movement". In the GDR, many people hoped that the Prague Spring would succeed. After its failure, protests and arrests took place. Belief in the reformability of real socialism waned.

Most of the GDR citizens were well informed about the West German 1968 movement. At that time the blues scene emerged in the GDR, which was at its peak in the late 1970s. The turmoil at West German universities, however, often triggered a lack of understanding, for example with the later Chancellor Angela Merkel , who viewed the Federal Republic of Germany as a functioning welfare state.


The 1968 movement brought about social change and a new political culture. These included the increasing participation of minorities in public life, changing gender roles and public commitments to homosexuality. Extra-parliamentary opposition formed in France, Italy, the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States.

While the activists of the 68s often branched out into authoritarian organizations such as the K groups or took part in the “Long March through the Institutions” , the following generation of young people, which formed in the student strike in 1976/77 as an alternative movement with its various political counter-movements, took over the forms of protest and media of the '68 such as leaflets, alternative radio stations and film groups or their own forms of publication such as the Stattzeitungen .

To financially support alternative projects and later also squatter initiatives, in 1978 in Berlin founded the self-help network and the alternative redevelopment agency STATTBAU.

For the international spread of the 1968 movement, press images and television were important, i.e. the media that were new for the time. Worldwide there was a progressive democratization and the establishment of non-governmental organizations . The politicization of privacy is attributed to the protests of the 1968s.

In the zeitgeist of the 68s, the transnational structure of the Catholic Church favored the emergence of liberation theology . The Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965 called for a comprehensive renewal of the Church. Against this background and in view of the life situation in Latin America, which is characterized by poverty, oppression and injustice, the Medellin Bishops' Conference in 1968 accepted the idea of ​​the theology of the poor. Similar concepts developed in South Africa and Asia. The "black theology" that emerged from the American civil rights movement saw itself as a radical form of liberation theology.

Additional information


  • Don Kent (director): 1968 - The global revolt (1/2) (1): “The Wave” (1965–1969) and (2): “The Explosion” (1970–1975) , France, 2018, two parts , additionally 190 min.
  • 1968 mm - sex and rock-n-roll. Directed by Jerry Rothwell, Felix Kriegsheim, Stefano Strocchi. Germany, 2017 (3 episodes of 52–55 min. 8mm films from private archives. Three episodes, first broadcast on May 25, 2018)


Historical overall representations
  • Manuel Seitenbecher: Mahler, Maschke & Co. Right thinking in the 1968 movement. Schöningh, Paderborn 2013, ISBN 978-3-506-77704-1 .
  • Jens Benicke : From Adorno to Mao. About the bad repeal of the anti-authoritarian movement. ça ira, Freiburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-924627-83-6 .
  • Friedrich Koch : Sexuality and Education. Between taboo, repressive desublimation and emancipation. In: Yearbook for Pedagogy 2008: 1968 and the new restoration. Frankfurt am Main 2009, p. 117 ff.
  • Detlef Siegfried: Furor and Science. Forty years after “1968” In: Zeithistorische Forschungen / Studies in Contemporary History. 5, 2008, pp. 130-141.
  • Stefan Hemler: The protest of a generational social movement. Considerations for possible explanations for '1968'. In: Jörg Calließ (Hrsg.): The reform time of the successful model BRD. Those born later explore the years that shaped their parents and teachers. Evangelical Academy Loccum, Rehburg-Loccum 2004, ISBN 3-8172-1903-2 , pp. 235-262.
  • Hanno Balz: The Janus-headed revolt: The global 1968 between genealogy and updating. In: Social. History Online 5. 2011, accessed August 30, 2015 (PDF).
Single regions
  • Claus-Jürgen Göpfert, Bernd Messinger : The year of the revolt - Frankfurt 1968. Schöffling, Frankfurt am Main 2017, ISBN 978-3-89561-665-5 .
  • Georg Weber (Hrsg.): Rebellion under arcs. The Bern movement in 1968. Zytglogge, Basel 2017, ISBN 978-3-7296-0960-0 .
  • Johannes Grötecke, Thomas Schattner: “Freedom's youngest child”. "1968" in the province. Searching for traces in Northern Hesse. Jonas, Marburg 2011, ISBN 978-3-89445-453-1 .
  • Udo Benzenhöfer : Das kleine 68: Protests by medical students in Frankfurt am Main around 1968. With a contribution by the former Frankfurt AStA chairman Hans-Jürgen Birkholz. Klemm + Oelschläger, Münster 2011, ISBN 978-3-86281-017-8 .
  • Martin Klimke: The Other Alliance: Student Protest in West Germany and the United States in the Global Sixties. Princeton University Press, 2011, ISBN 0-691-15246-2 .
  • Bilgin Ayhan: The 1968 movement in Turkey and Germany in comparison: A theoretical comparison of the 68 movements. VDM, Saarbrücken 2009, ISBN 978-3-639-14360-7 .
  • Norbert Kozicki: Departure in North Rhine-Westphalia. 1968 and the aftermath. Klartext, Essen 2008, ISBN 978-3-89861-956-1 .
  • Karl Stankiewitz: Munich '68. Dream city in motion. Volk Verlag, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-937200-46-0 .
  • Stefan Wolle : The dream of a revolt. The GDR 1968. Links, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-86153-469-3 .
  • Michael Schmidtke: The Awakening of the Young Intelligence: The 68s in the Federal Republic and the USA. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2003, ISBN 3-593-37253-3 .

Web links

Commons : Demonstrations and Protests in 1968  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: sixty-eight  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Norbert Frei: 1968. Youth revolt and global protest. New edition, Munich 2017, pp. 209–213
  2. ^ Rainer Böhme: Revolution of old age: The 68ers are going to retire. Federal Agency for Civic Education, March 25, 2008, accessed on February 8, 2016 .
  3. Stefan Hemler: Social Movement or Generational Conflict ? A mediation proposal in the battle of interpretation around 1968. In: Processes. Journal of Civil Rights and Social Policy . tape 42 , 164 H. 4, 2003, ISBN 3-8100-2440-6 , pp. 32-40 .
  4. 1968 - Everything just history? (PDF) In: Research Journal Social Movements. September 2008, pp. 5, 21 , accessed on November 11, 2015 .
  5. Immanuel Wallerstein: utopianism . Historic alternatives of the 21st century. Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-85371-184-7 .
  6. Marcel van der Linden: 1968: The riddle of simultaneity . In: Jens Kastner, David Mayer (eds.): Weltwende 1968? A year from a global historical perspective . Mandelbaum, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-85476-257-7 , p. 23-37 .
  7. Jens Kastner, David Mayer: World turning point 1968? A year from a global historical perspective. (PDF) Archived from the original on February 15, 2016 ; accessed on November 11, 2015 .
  8. Michael Heinrich: Annotated literature list on the criticism of political economy . In: Elmar Altvater, Rolf Hecker, Michael Heinrich, Petra Schaper-Rinkel (eds.): Kapital.doc . Münster 1999, p. 188–220 ( online [PDF; accessed February 9, 2016]).
  9. Timeline for the 1968 international podium. (PDF) 2008, archived from the original on October 1, 2015 ; accessed on August 30, 2015 .
  10. The dream of America without racial barriers. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  11. ^ The Court's Decision. Separate Is Not Equal. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  12. December 1, 2005: 50 years ago. Rosa Parks initiates bus boycott in the USA. In: Zeitgeschichtliches Archiv-WDR.de. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  13. ^ A b Christoph-Mathias Krones: The civil rights movement in the USA. From slavery in the southern United States to the White House. (PDF) In: Diploma thesis. 2010, p. 66 f. , accessed August 30, 2015 .
  14. Steven Pinker: Violence. A new history of humanity . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2013, ISBN 978-3-596-19229-8 ( online [accessed on February 9, 2016] English: The better angels of our nature . Translated by Sebastian Vogel, paperback, 1211 pages).
  15. 1968: Martin Luther King murdered. In: ag-friedensforschung.de. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  16. ^ About the USA. In: usembassy.de. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  17. Hanno Balz: The Janus-headed Revolte: The global 1968 between genealogy and updating. (PDF) In: Social. History Online 5. 2011, accessed August 30, 2015 .
  18. Bill Davidson: Demolish the Statue of Liberty . In: Der Spiegel . No. 14 , 1968 ( online ).
  19. ^ Late effects of the use of chemical weapons in the Vietnam War. In: agentorange-vietnam.org. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  20. The Vietnam War. A chronology. Archived from the original on October 2, 2015 ; accessed on August 30, 2015 .
  21. David Taylor: The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon's 'treason'. In: BBC . March 22, 2013, accessed April 15, 2019 .
  22. ^ A demonstration during the Vietnam War, USA, 1968. In: gettyimages.de. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  23. a b Dossier Latin America. Political history of Mexico. Federal Agency for Civic Education, accessed on August 30, 2015 .
  24. From Mexican Miracle to Bloody Nightmare. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  25. Humboldt thematic archive: Revolts of 1968 and forty years after. In: goethe.de. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  26. Bloody Protests in Mexico City: The Tlatelolco Massacre. In: Spiegel Online. October 2, 2014, accessed August 30, 2015 .
  27. ^ Memorial del 68. In: deutschlandradiokultur.de. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  28. Norbert Frei: 1968. Munich 2017, pp. 154–164
  29. Stefan Ulrich: France's communists part with hammer and sickle. In: sueddeutsche.de. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  30. ^ György Széll: 1968 and the social sciences. (PDF) Retrieved August 28, 2015 .
  31. ^ Peter Schwarz: 1968 - General strike and student revolt in France. Retrieved August 28, 2015 .
  32. a b Old Left - New Left? The social struggles of the 1968s under discussion. (PDF) In: Rosa Luxemburg Foundation Texts 57. Peter Birke, Bernd Hüttner, Gottfried Oy, p. 23 f., 117 f. , accessed on August 28, 2015 .
  33. ^ France in May 1968. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  34. ^ De Gaulle and May 1968. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  35. Battle without mercy . In: Der Spiegel . No. 20 , 1968 ( online ).
  36. 68 is current, but we don't need a memorial stone. In: Interview with Alaine Krivine. bfs - Movement for Socialism, accessed August 28, 2015 .
  37. ^ Norbert Frei: Paris in May. Die Zeit, February 14, 2008, accessed on February 9, 2016 .
  38. Wolf Lepenies: A Carnival of the Revolution in Paris. welt.de , January 9, 2008, accessed on August 28, 2015 .
  39. Norbert Frei: 1968 , Munich 2017, pp. 180–187
  40. a b c Stefan von Kempis: The long 68th Italy's view of the protest movement forty years ago. (PDF) 2008, accessed on August 30, 2015 .
  41. a b The 1968 Italy. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  42. ^ A b Aureliana Sorrento: 1968 in Italy. In: Frankfurter Rundschau Online. July 29, 2008, accessed August 30, 2015 .
  43. ^ Youth movement in Italy: Protest with force. In: Zeit Online. April 8, 2009, accessed August 30, 2015 .
  44. Norbert Frei: 1968 , Munich 2017, pp. 174–179
  45. Georg Weber (Ed.) Rebellion under arcades. The Bern movement in 1968 Zytglogge Verlag, Basel 2017, ISBN 978-3-7296-0960-0
  46. Valentin Landmann , Harro von Senger , Peter Wiesendanger : The other 68er, Münster Verlag, 2018, ISBN 978-3905896947
  47. On the sunny side . In: Der Spiegel . No. 34 , 1964 ( online ).
  48. a b c Reinhard Veser: Der Prager Frühling 1968. (PDF) State Center for Political Education Thuringia, 2008, p. 11 , archived from the original on October 1, 2015 ; accessed on August 28, 2015 .
  49. ^ Constitution of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Retrieved August 30, 2015 .
  50. 1968: Memories and Legacies of a Global Revolt. In: Bulletin Supplement 6 (2009). German Historical Institute Washington DC, accessed February 9, 2016 .
  51. Daniel Passent: A white spot is removed. Die Zeit, February 26, 1988, accessed February 9, 2016 .
  52. Norbert Frei: 1968 , Munich 2017, pp. 197-202
  53. Review of: Building soldiers in the GDR. In: Sehepunkte, Edition 11 (2011). Retrieved August 28, 2015 .
  54. Norbert Frei: 1968 , Munich 2017, pp. 203–207
  55. Bernd Gehrke: The 68er protests in the GDR. In: From Politics and Contemporary History 14–15 / 2008. Federal Agency for Civic Education, March 18, 2008, accessed on February 8, 2016 .
  56. ^ Eckhard Jesse: The year 1968 and the citizens' movement in the GDR. (PDF) In: Forschungsjournal NSB, vol. 21 (03.2008). 2008, p. 57 , accessed on August 28, 2015 .
  57. Dieter Althaus: And it was the summer of 1968 in the GDR. (PDF) Retrieved August 28, 2015 .
  58. 1968 revisited. 40 years of protest movements. (PDF) Heinrich Böll Foundation, May 2008, p. 7 f. , accessed September 8, 2015 .
  59. ^ Mareike Lühring: Liberation theology. Latin America Institute of the Free University of Berlin, accessed on November 12, 2015 .
  60. Klaus Aschrich: Writing theology: Dorothee Sölles way to a mysticism of liberation . tape 14 . LIT, 2006, ISBN 3-8258-9953-5 , pp. 108 f .