My '68: From observer to participant

Submitted by AWL on 16 May, 2008 - 11:43 Author: Pete Radcliff

Like many teenagers in 1968, my political education was as an observer for many years of a number of major struggles throughout the world. The civil rights movement in the US; the events in China, which were mystifying as portrayed by the media and explained meaningfully by no-one, and the horrors of the US war in Vietnam.

The first half of 1968 started out again as another of watching, but this time the intensity of the experience was ratcheted up by the Prague spring of “Socialism with a Human Face”, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam and most excitingly the May-June events in France. A friend and I started getting Black Dwarf, a paper of the “new left” and often, even to us, pretty pretentious politically, and Socialist Worker, which we came across whilst in Manchester city centre and started from then going into town especially to buy.

We started to read about trade union struggles of which I had a vague knowledge as my uncle, a Liverpool member of the SLL, had been frequently seen by my family on the TV.

At 16, I guess we felt a little self-conscious compared to the revolutionaries we saw when we bought papers off them. They were probably only three or four years older than ourselves. We presumed they probably weren’t interested in us. So we started purchasing Marxist books and started studying.

In October I traveled down to London for the big Vietnam demo and then I at last decided to make the jump into meetings and organised politics.

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