urnal of Social Sciences April 2011
Students in Revolt The 1977 Student Protest in Bologna - Andrea Hajek Rethinking Student Politics in Communist Poland - Tom Junes Biography : 1960's Role Model Rosa Luxemburg Book & Author : Ingo Cornils on"Memories of 1968"
Negotiating a Public Memory of the 1977 Student Movement in Italy Andrea Hajek
Rethinking Student Politics In Communist Poland Tom Junes
Rosa Luxemburg: Marixist theorist, political activist, and 1960s Role Model Oscar Broughton
BOOK & AUTHOR
Memories of 1968 - Ingo Cornils Elke Weesjes
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of the recession in 2008, a new era of social and political upheaval seems to have risen. Students have shaken off their apathy and have become increasingly engaged in activism. Young protesters have taken over the streets of many European countries, marking a new wave of demonstrations against austerity measures being introduced by governments across the continent.
More than forty years after 1968, students are yet again in revolt. This year alone, a huge demonstration against tuition fees and funding cuts was organized in London, Algerian students protested against poor conditions in higher education and unpopular reforms and hundreds of thousands of Colombians joined street demonstrations against the policies of Students in Revolt: Then & Now Until recently, student revolts and student President Juan Manuel Santos. activism were associated with the 1960’s and 1970’s. As we all know, this was a period of The fact that, worldwide, students are intense student upheaval around the globe, gathering to protest, is a good reason to take with 1968 being a particularly tumultuous year. a fresh look at the history of student activism. Protests erupted on campuses in the United In this month’s issue Tom Junes presents his States and in Western Europe, but youth also PhD research project on student politics in revolted in Mexico, the Eastern Bloc countries, Communist Poland, Andrea Hajek focuses on South America and China. It was a revolt by Italy and analyses the 1977 Student Protests in the generation born after World War II against Bologna, whilst Oscar Broughton explores the the type of society that had been constructed life of Rosa Luxemburg, the Marxist theorist after 1945. Although there are many national who emerged on the intellectual and political differences, student revolts of the 1960’s arena of the student and workers’ movement and 1970’s had a profoundly international in the 1960’s and whose work is yet again being character, as events transcended national rediscovered by a new generation of student contexts and movements interacted with each activists today other throughout the world. Politicizing and radicalizing factors such as the Communist regimes in Eastern Bloc countries, the Vietnam War and civil rights movement in the US, De Gaulle’s administration in France and the Fascist past of Italy sparked demonstrations and revolts. Students fought against authoritarianism and censorship and for freedom and democracy. Wide scale student protests and youth activism peaked in the late 60’s and had died down by the late 70’s. The following two decades were characterized by a certain placidity and lethargy amongst students in Western Europe and the US. Yet with the beginning
CREDITS Editor-in-Chief : Elke Weesjes Executive Editor: Mark Fonseca Rendeiro Design: Michelle Halcomb
“Be Young and Shut Up”, May 1968 Poster with sillouette caricature of General De Gaulle
Editorial Board: Elke Weesjes, Mark Fonseca Rendeiro, Anouk Vleugels, Ruth Charnock, Nikolas Funke Questions and Suggestions: Send an e-mail to journal@ united-academics.org Advertisement: Send an e-mail to email@example.com
“Be Young and Shut Up”, Feb 2010 Poster with sillouette caricature of David Cameron
University of London
Work in Progress
I first set foot in Bologna almost ten years ago, in order to participate in an international student programme, but eventually decided to settle more permanently in the ‘red city’. Red not only for the characteristic red-brick buildings that populate the medieval city, but also because in the 1970s, Bologna was the showpiece of the Italian Communist Party (hereafter, PCI). At that time it was the largest Communist Party in the West and dominated the ‘Red Belt’ region of Central Italy starting in the late 1960s.1 Although the hegemonic position of the left has long waned, and the rightwing, xenophobe ideologies of the expanding Northern League are gaining ground fast, the memory of the 1970s is still very much alive, even among younger generations of left-wing activists. This first occurred to me when I moved to a student flat near the university zone. An Italian friend drew my attention to a curious commemorative 1 F. Mussi, Renato Zangheri, Bologna ’77. Intervista di Fabio Mussi (Editori Riuniti, Roma 1978) & M. Clark., Modern Italy 1871 to the Present (Pearson Longman, Essex 2008)
site, only two blocks from where I was living: it consisted of a commemorative plaque recalling the violent death of left-wing student Franceso Lorusso during riots in 1977, complemented by a glass plate covering the holes in the wall left by the bullets that were fired at him by a police officer. I had walked passed this site many times but without ever noticing it, and when I attended the following anniversary of the incident, I was amazed by the presence of many young people: if they had no direct memory of these events, what brought them to commemorate Lorusso? In this article I shall explain how I approached the memory 1977 in Bologna, and discuss some of the most important outcomes of this research project. In difficult legacy of the 1970s Italy The incidents of 1977 are firmly rooted in the atmosphere of the notorious 1970s: marked by an outburst of political violence perpetrated by both left- and right-wing terrorists, and in some occasions by the secret services of the state. The turbulent decade earned itself the
Protest in Bologna 1977
macabre nickname ‘years of lead’, where ‘lead’ functions as a metaphor for bullets. The negative connotations this period generally evokes are due, however, not only to the violent events in themselves, or their dramatized representations in the media, but they are also the outcome of the extremely slow and ineffective legal processes related to the many cases of (state) violence. Indeed, no culprits were identified or convicted in any of a series of major bomb attacks, with the exception of one, whereas several other cases of political violence have remained unresolved or disputed up to the present. As a result of this legal void, as well as of the reluctance of inability of historians and history teachers to address these delicate topics, there is no official, impartial and inclusive history of the 1970s. Despite a number of important social and cultural developments that have also marked this decade, over the years Italian culture has thus developed a ‘defensive amnesia symptomatic of an experience of psychological trauma or wound’.2 In other words,
2 R. Glynn, ‘Trauma on the Line: Terrorism and Testimony in the anni dipiombo’ in: M. Jansen and P. Jordão (eds) The Value of Literature in and after the
the lack or failure of attempts to come to terms with this past through trials, education and/or truth recovery projects has kept the wound open and obstructed processes of reconciliation. Bologna and the ‘trauma’ of 1977 Although the concept of ‘collective trauma’ has been subject to criticism3, in my thesis I argue that one specific incident that marked those years – the death of Francesco Lorusso in Bologna – most certainly represented a traumatic experience for the local community. On the morning of March 11, 1977, only a few months after the eruption of a new student movement in Italy, a small group of left-wing students clashed with student members of a Catholic association. Police forces were called to intervene in the situation which rapidly grew out of hand, culminating in the shooting of Lorusso by a young military police officer.4 We Seventies: The Case of Italy and Portugal. (University of Utrecht Igitur Publishing and Archiving, Utrecht 2006) 318. 3 See, for example Kansteiner (2002) and Weilnböck (2009) 4 F. Menneas, Omicidio Franceso Lo Russo: storia di un processo mancato (unpublished MA thesis, University of
may speak of a collective trauma because the incidents did not solely affect Lorusso’s family and close friends. The so-called ‘Movement of ‘77’ – of which Lorusso had been an active member – received a severe blow to its collective identity, while the tranquil and prosperous city of Bologna was turned upside down when Lorusso’s outraged companions devastated the city centre during a violent demonstration that same afternoon. This was followed by several days of violent police interventions directed at both protesters and by-standers, as well as an intervention from the army: photographs of soldiers in tanks stationed in the narrow, medieval university streets left an indelible mark on the public memory of those days. The local Communist authorities eventually lost most of their credibility and – in view of the party’s projected political alliance with the Christian Democrats (hereafter, DC) – initially distanced themselves from the student movement.5 All in all, the case of Bologna seems to fall within the definition of collective trauma as ‘a blow to the basic tissues of social life that damages the bonds attaching people together and impairs the prevailing sense of communality’6, affecting group consciousness to the extent of changing the group’s future identity in irrevocable ways.
injustice among Lorusso’s family, friends, and the entire student movement.7 Furthermore, media and authorities described his death as a tragedy, thus eliminating any human responsibility. 8 The violent reaction of the students to the fatal incident, on the other hand, was shrugged off as mere vandalism, and 1977 is then often presented – in the media an in official explanations – as an ‘apotheosis of the violence and death’ characterizing the ‘years of lead’.9 Former participants of the ’77 Movement, on the contrary, have strongly countered this interpretation and tend to purify the image of 1977, drawing attention to the various cultural elements of the protests. Therefore, by promoting a ‘counter-memory’10 of the events, they try to invest the Movement with a collectively shared, positive identity.11 During the 30th anniversary in Bologna, in particular, celebratory book presentations, movie screenings, photographic exhibitions and other explicitly cultural manifestations countered the stereotypical image of violence. Taking the 2007 anniversary as my point of departure, in this thesis I set out to analyze the various ways in which the incidents of March 1977 in Bologna have been transmitted to the present by different parts of the local community. The concept of ‘negotiation’ is crucial Negotiating the memory of March 1977 in the here. The competing restatements of reality local public sphere that are produced by official and counterAs a consequence, the chapter on 1977 has never been closed, first of all because the police officer 7 The legge Reale of 1975 legitimated the use of arms who shot Lorusso was absolved on the basis by police forces in situations of public disorder (M. Grispigni, 1977 Roma: Manifestolibri 2007) of a disputed law on public order: numerous 8 A tragedy refers to a situation ‘in which human requests to open up a new investigation have intention, motivation, responsibility, and guilt for the remained unanswered, leaving a strong sense of effects of a disaster cannot be identified and assigned’. Bologna) & S. Cappellini, Rose e pistole. 1977. Cronache di un anno vissuto con rabbia. (Sterling & Kupfer, Milano 2007) 5 The project was called the ‘historical compromise’ and was launched by the Communist Party secretary Enrico Berlinguer, after the coup d’etat in Chile of 1973 and in a climate of tension and anxiety about the return to an authoritative regime, as a necessary means of safeguarding democracy. (P. Ginsburg, A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics, 1943-1988. (Penguin London 1990) 6 J. C. Alexander, Towards a Theory of Cultural Trauma. In: Ibidem et alii, eds. Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity. (University of California Press, Berkeley-Los Angeles-London, 2004) 4.
(H. White Catastrophe, Communal Memory and Mythic Discourse: The Uses of Myth in the Reconstruction of Society. In: B. Strath, ed. Myth and Memory in the Construction of Community: Historical Patterns in Europe and Beyond (Peter Lang, Brussels 2000) 70. 9 S. Bellassi, Un trauma che si chiama desiderio. Per una storia del Settantasette a Bologna. In: A. De Benardi (e.a) Gli anni Settanta. Tra crisi mondiale e movimenti collettivi. (Archetipollibri Bologna 2009) 225. 10 M. Foucault, Language counter memory, practice. Selected essays and interviews (New York University Press 1980) 11 M. Galfré, L’insostenible leggerezza del ’77. Il trentennale tra nostalgia e Demonizzioni Passato e presente (2008) 75.
memories are mediated in the public sphere, which forms something of a background against which various parts of the social structure exchange and negotiate their views of the past. In other words, public memory is the outcome of a process of negotiation by different memory agents, which gives authority to one specific interpretation of the past.12 The big question in my thesis was therefore not whether any consensus has been reached with regards to the ‘incidents of March’ in Bologna, or how official memories have been contrasted by countermemories of 1977; rather, I wanted to know how the various ‘memory communities’ in Bologna have (re-)negotiated their memories of this past throughout the years, and for what reasons? Of course, the memory agents most directly involved were Lorusso’s relatives, who tried to keep his memory alive. This was done by creating public awareness of the injustice it felt had been done to Lorusso, i.e. through appeals and public letters to politicians. This often happened in collaboration with the Association Pier Francesco Lorusso, founded in 1979 by a group of former PCI members and exponents of Bologna’s ‘high society’ (i.e. lawyers, judges, magistrates), who were disappointed with the way the PCI had handled the events, and who therefore wished to distance themselves from a local administration they no longer identified with. Surprisingly, Lorusso’s family did not join: perhaps there was a concern that the emotional motivations that would have linked it to the association would have obstructed the transmission of a political statement. Nevertheless, the family used the association as an instrument through which to gain public support for the legal battle,13 primarily by organizing public debates either about Lorusso’s death, comparable events, or topics that could be related more widely to Lorusso and to the Movement of ’77. Between 1980 and 1987, for example, focus of the debates was on neo-fascist terrorism and the failure of the legal system to
12 A. King, ‘Remembering and Forgetting in the Public Memorials of the Great War. In: A. Forty and S. Küchler (eds) The Art of Forgetting (Berg Oxford-New York 2001) 149. 13 Virginio Pilo, personal communication, 30 March 2010.
bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. Thus, Lorusso’s figure was placed on the same level as the less ‘controversial’ victims of rightwing terrorism, and the different cases were connected through the legal failures they had all been subject to, in an attempt to make his memory more ‘shareable’ by a wider public. A similar ‘strategy’ was applied by local authorities, though for different purposes: one year after a highly traumatic neo-fascist bomb attack at the railway station in Bologna. PCI mayor Renato Zangheri reconnected the massacre with the memory of Lorusso, thereby promoting a generic, anti-violence discourse where Lorusso was stripped of his ideological identity so as to become no more than an innocent victim of violence, the mayor managed to offer a wide interpretation of the events of 1977 that would allow for the PCI to claim a memory of this event, and the community as a whole to reconcile with the party. A second way in which Lorusso’s family has tried to keep his memory alive was through an annual commemoration in front of the previously mentioned commemorative plaque, and the creation of monuments. The latter, in particular, have been the subject of many – often heated – debates, negotiations and compromises. In the early 1980s, for example, two proposals to dedicate public spaces in the city centre to Lorusso – connected however to the university world, so as to recall his status as a student and not as a victim of (police) violence – were blocked by local exponents of the centre-right Christian Democrat party. This conflict reached its climax in 1982, when the latter got engaged in a quarrel with the members of a radical party to the left of the PCI, who had placed an unauthorized commemorative plaque explicitly blaming the DC for Lorusso’s death on the street where he had died.14 Another occasion in which the local rightwing tried to prevent Lorusso from entering into the city’s public memory was when a bill proposal was made to the Regional Council, to finance an annual thesis prize in the name of Lorusso: again, this proposal – by a farmer participant in the student movement – was an attempt to 14 Assemblea studenti medi, Resto del Carlino, 12 March 1982, Bologna, II.
gain official recognition for Lorusso, and hence create more public consensus. However, local exponents of DC presented – together with members of a neo-fascist party – no less than 90 amendments against the proposal: most of these were suggestions that Lorusso’s name
Protest in Bologna 1977 be replaced by names of right-wing victims of political violence.15 Hence, questions were also raised as to who deserved to be remembered. It wasn’t until 1993 that the first official site in memory of Lorusso was created, a public garden just outside the historical city centre. However, it was also a site of great compromise. The public garden offered no ‘physical’ connection, for example, with the memory of March 1977: 15 B. Spini. Legge lorusso Marcia indietro, La Republica, 10 March 1990, Bologna, V; Tante rose per lorusso, Reso del Carlino, 12 March 1990, I; Veleno nella borsa di studio, Resto del Carlino, 13 March 1990, Bologna, II.
originally a beef cattle market, the choice of this public garden was justifiable, at most, by the presence of a student dormitory, again demonstrating the anxiety of authorities to draw attention away from Lorusso’s circumstances of death, an to turn him simply into a student. This form of selection was reinforced by the commemorative plaque in the public garden, which reads: ‘Francesco Lorusso, university student who died tragically on 11 March 1977’ (my translation). The particular use of the adjective ‘tragic’ implies a refusal to take any (moral) responsibility for Lorusso’s death, as we have seen earlier on, and the plaque has indeed been subject to much criticism from former participants in the Movement (see page 12). The text of the plaque as well as the very proposal of a memorial site for Lorusso had, however, also been much debated within the Topographical Commission, where some members had objected to the idea, as the incidents of March still evoked ‘a conflicting position which would be reinforced by the insertion of Lorusso’s name in the urban landscape’, and who observed the difficulties related to the task of finding ‘a subtitle which would be in tune with the wider sentiments of the inhabitants of the city’.16 Not surprisingly, the public garden had had a much weaker significance for the annual commemoration, much like a monument Lorusso’s parents managed to negotiate at the 16 Topographical Commission, minutes 141, 7 October 1993; Ibidem, minutes 143, 8 March 1994.
Photo by Andrea Hajek, 11 March 2008 . The commemorative plaque in the Pierfrancesco Lorusso Garden: apparently, stickers once covered the words ‘died tragically’ in the commemorative text ‘Francesco Lorusso, university student who died tragically on 11 March 1977’, probably out of protest against the moral implications of this specific word choice.
local Certosa cemetery.17 This demonstrates how important the physical location of an event is in the creation of a (living) collective memory,18 as well as the ‘memory work’ performed by a specific memory community. Lorusso’s family, nevertheless, accepted the public garden and was satisfied with the memory site, despite the negotiations and compromises: it was, in the end some form of official recognition.19 The former participants in the Movement of ’77, finally, have also had to reconsider their memory of the events, in particular with regards to the annual commemoration. Originally, students had commemorated Lorusso with a protest 17 J. Foot. Italy’s Divided Memory (Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2009) 406 18 District Council minutes 1276, 27 March 1992 19 The extreme importance of this acknowledgement from institutions for the family is also related to the fact that Lorusso’s father was an ex-military general, who obviously had a certain connection with and respect for institutions.
march through the city centre, in the afternoon of 11 March. This gave the students, in the first place, the chance to promote a counter memory of the events. Secondly, the commemoration offered a visible and noisy counterpart to the increasingly official ceremony in the morning, at the site of the commemorative plaque. Finally, the procession allowed for the participants to reinforce a sense of belonging and group identity, and was therefore not simply an occasion to ‘commemorate’ the past, but served to define communities in the present and for the future. Yet, if the commemorative procession managed to temporarily reunite the fragmented student movement, at the same time it accentuated deep and insurmountable internal conflicts. Indeed, debates over issues related to violence and terrorism as well as generational conflicts with younger students who increasingly claimed a memory of the protests of 1977,
ANDREA HAJEK is a Visiting Fellow at the University of London. She received her doctorate in Italian Studies from the University of Warwick (UK), with a dissertation on the public memory of student protests in the late 1970s. She is senior editorial assistant for the Sage journal of Memory Studies, and since 2010 she is also an assistant editor for the journal Modern Italy.
eventually brought an end to the procession. The remaining ’77-ers’ were thus forced to come to some form of compromise and participate in the traditional commemoration in the morning, as one former participant explains: ‘It became necessary to “converge” in the morning ceremony and “share” this memory with those same institutions […] who were however, morally “responsible” for the incidents’.20 In other words, the former participants in the Movement had to renegotiate their collective identity and accept the presence of other memory communities whose vision of the past they did not share. Yet, no truly shared memory of 1977 has taken shape during these ‘shared’ anniversaries, as the former ’77-ers’ remain’ remain firm about the injustice done to their companion and to the Movement of ’77, while institutions have avoided dealing with the issue and fully acknowledging Lorusso’s significance in the public sphere. We may then speak of silent ‘pact’, a mutual tolerance in the name of a simulated reconciliation that will perhaps never occur. Divided memories What I hope has become clear in this brief exposition of my thesis is that public memories are not fixed in time or space. Commemorative rituals and sites are not static or pre-established occasions to honour the dead, where a single memory agent can claim authority over this past: they are, rather, processes in development that involve acts of negotiation, compromise and competition. Most importantly, they seem to involve a certain level of conflict of discordance: as Ann Rigney has observed, ‘consensus may facilitate inertia, and […] controversy rather than canonization may be the most important motor in keeping a memory alive’. In order to ‘survive’, it is then perhaps the best that the public memory of March 1977 remains a divided one.21
20 V. Pilo, personal communication, 17 March 2010, my translation. 21 The concept of ‘divided memory’ was introduced by Giovanni Contini (1997) in an essay on local memories of a Nazi massacre in a Tuscan village in 1944. More recently, John Foot has applied this notion to a series of incidents that have marked the Italian nation since Unification (2009)
Top: Francesco Lorusso, sitting in bottom middle Bottom: Memorial Franscesco Larusso
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University of Sussex
Marxist Theorist, Political Activist, and 1960s Role Model Luxemburgism Rosa Luxemburg has had a profound influence on the world. Her commitment to libertarian socialism has made her an icon amongst students of the left, especially in response to the authoritarianism of Stalinism and Maoism. Moreover, her devotion to the spontaneous potential of the masses as opposed to central party leadership over a revolution, has drawn the interest of anarchists, council communists and guild socialists.
Early Life Rosa Luxemburg was born on March 5th, 1871 in Zamoshc, Poland, into a Jewish family. At age five she was bedridden due to a hip ailment leaving her with a limp she would carry for the rest of her life. In 1880 the family moved to Warsaw where Luxemburg attended school. At 15 she joined the Proletariat Party, a Marxist group which had been formed in 1882. Here Luxemburg became involved in organizing general strikes against the Polish state, a tactic that she would advocate throughout her life. In 1889, at18 years of age, Luxemburg’s revolutionary agitation forced her
to move to Zürich, to escape imprisonment. In Zürich she attended university and studied history, philosophy, mathematics and economics earning her doctorate in 1898. She also continued her radical activities as a student, meeting members of the Russian Social Democrats and arguing aggressively against the self-determination of nations, which she felt weakened the international socialist movement. In 1893 she founded the newspaper Sprawa Robotnicza (The Workers Cause) to further this point. In that year Luxemburg also met her life-long companion Leo Jogiches, and together they founded the Social Democratic Party of the Kingdom of Poland (SDKP). While Luxemburg acted as speaker and theoretician for the party, Jogiches worked hard to organize the party. Jogiches and Luxemburg developed an intense and lasting relationship on a political and personal level. Coming to Germany Luxemburg left Zürich for Berlin in 1898 and married the typesetter Gustav Lübeck. She joined the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), the largest workers movement in the world at that
urg time.1 In this environment, she met influential people like Karl Liebknecht, Clara Zetkin and Karl Radek. Luxemburg began to define herself and craft her own brand of socialism. The first indications of this appeared during the debate within the SPD, over whether socialism should best be pursued through either revolution or reform. While Luxemburg headed the argument for a traditional Marxist revolution, Eduard Bernstein took the opposite view. According to Bernstein “with the growing development of society a complete and almost general collapse of the present system of production becomes more and more improbable.”2 Luxemburg launched a vicious attack against this view, which she summarized in her the pamphlet Social Reform or Revolution (1900). For Luxemburg if capitalism did not capitulate (validating Marx’s materialist understanding), socialism equals “anything you want to call it, but it is no longer the result of the material development of society.”3 Such
1 8 7 1 -1 91 9
statements highlight Luxemburg’s commitment to an orthodox Marxist analysis of history during this period. Together with other prominent members of the SPD such as Karl Kautsky the SPD was able to resist the revisionist crisis, which threatened to fracture the party.
Mass Strike The events of the 1905 Russian revolution had a profound effect on Luxemburg. In response to the bloody massacre of 1000 people outside the Winter Palace, Russia burst into flames and a series of general strikes swept across the country. These events provoked two key debates within the SPD. First- the phenomenon of mass strike as a revolutionary method and secondly the creation of worker councils (Soviets). For Luxemburg both of these ideas represented new developments in the pursuit of socialist democracy. The first, the idea of mass strike, she summarised in her famous work The Mass Strike (1906) “the mass strike… is 1 W. L. Guttsman, The German Social Democratic Party such a changeable phenomenon that it reflects (Allen and Unwin, 1981) p.3 all stages of the political and economic struggle… 2 R. Luxemburg Social Reform or Revolution (Pathfinder its adaptability, its efficiency, the factors of its Press, 1973) p.1 3 R. Luxemburg, Social Reform or Revolution p.2
unionist opposition to this radical strategy. This distance between theory and practice within the SPD continued to grow as the First World War began to loom over Europe. While Luxemburg continued to oppose purely reformist tactics her supporters within the party began to grow ever fewer. After the election of Frederich Ebert to the position of party chairman in 1913, it became clear to Luxemburg that the revolutionary aspect of the SPD was all but dead. In response to this and the SPD’s open Government troops in action during the Spartacist Uprising support for the First World War, Luxemburg and many origin are constantly changing.”4 This description others left the party. Due to her opposition and indicates Luxemburg’s belief that this new form continued revolutionary agitation Luxemburg of resistance which was not lead by a particular was imprisoned for the duration of the war. It group but instead incorporated workers, students was during this time that she wrote The Junius and peasants simultaneously. Additionally the Pamphlet (1915) which would later become the spontaneous nature of this tactic meant that the ideological basis for the new group she would potentially dogmatic influence of a centralised co-found: the Spartakus Bund. This group was organised party over the revolutionary masses formed of many former members of the SPD who was also avoided so that theory was generated had also left in response to the SPD’s moderate through practice. The second key aspect of the position and support for the war. However at the 1905 revolution which influenced Luxemburg founding of the Spatakusbund Luxemburg was was the idea of establishing local councils, which outvoted on her policy of spontaneous theory characterised the revolution’s democratic core. based on practice, leaving the Spartacists in the The needs for these new models of organisation same detached theoretical position as the SPD.5 stemmed from Luxemburg’s understanding that the fight against capitalism had changed; 1917 meaning that those who fought against it must The success of the Russian revolution in February also change. This view summarises her unique 1917 sent shock waves reverberating around brand of socialism which, although it relied on a the world. In Germany especially the collapse central party to form a unity between individuals, of the Tsarist regime signified the dawning of also emphasised the need for spontaneous a new a socialist age which would soon spread action without the corrosive effects of central across Europe. For Luxemburg, 1917 proved discussion and leadership. that the critics within the SPD were wrong about Russia’s ripeness for social transformation.6 As The Spartakus Bund she outlined in her famous text The Russian The success of the 1905 revolution was Revolution and Leninism or Marxism (1918) the celebrated by the SPD at their Jena conference in the same year. However the tactic of mass 5 D. Howard The Marxian Legacy (Macmillan, 1988) strike was rejected by the party due to trade p.13
4 R. Luxemburg, The Mass Strike (Bookmarks, 1983) p.46
6 R. Luxemburg The Russian Revolution and Leninism or Marxism (University of Michigan Press, 1961) p.26
deposing of the Tsar and the setting up of the provisional government was the country’s first step towards democracy.7 However, while the SPD and much of the world celebrated the triumph of socialist democracy in Russia, Luxemburg critiqued the imperfections and experimentalism of 1917 and argued that democracy could not be sustained under these conditions.8 It was not long after that the rest of the world would also come to see this more clearly. Even Lenin slowly
began to realise the problems of reconciling a federation of decentralised communes, which 1917 had given birth to with a gigantic highly centralised product planning apparatus.9 Trotsky, meanwhile, began to argue that popular representation was inadequate in Russia given its size, level of material development and its lack of established democratic traditions.10 For Luxemburg these developments were no surprise given the vanguardist tactics which the Bolsheviks had employed to seize control of the revolution. As Luxemburg later argued, the “party’s task is precisely to avoid the temptation of seizing power.”11 Her resistance to central party leadership, favouring spontaneous action, continued to permeate her vision of socialism.
The Spartakus Uprising The defeat of Germany in 1918 sparked revolution across the country. All over the nation groups such as the Bremen Left, the Ruhr Red Army and the Munich council republic were soon declaring independence from the German state. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were released from prison that November and immediately began to reorganise the Spartakus Bund and founded the Red Flag newspaper. From the 29th to the 31st of December, Luxemburg and Liebknecht took part in a joint congress of the Spartakus Bund, Independent Socialists and the International Communists of Germany (IKD). This meeting lead to the formation of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), under the direct leadership of Luxemburg and Liebknecht. However, while Luxemburg supported KPD’s participation in the newly founded Weimar National Assembly, she was once again out-voted, and the KPD withdrew from the Reichstag. In January 1919 a fresh revolutionary spirit grasped the city of Berlin. Despite the optimism in the air, Luxemburg commented on “the overall immaturity of the German Revolution.”12 This opinion no doubt stems from her views of Russia and the obvious failure of democracy that had occurred. By the 7th of January the KPD was calling for a general strike in Berlin which was supported by 500,000 students and workers. However in the days following the Revolutionary Committee, which was established to manage the uprising, was unable to agree on how to proceed. In response the SPD minister Noske called on the Freikorps (Free Corps) to put down the uprising which they quickly did capturing and executing Luxemburg and Liebknecht in cold blood and dumping their bodies into the Spree River.13
7 R Luxemburg The Russian Revolution p.33 8 R. Luxemburg The Russian Revolution p.28 9 D. Schecter The History of the Left from Marx to the Present (Continuum, 2007) p.27 10 R. Luxemburg The Russian Revolution p.59 11 R. Luxemburg Our programme and political situation http://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/12/31. htm
12 R. Luxemburg Order Prevails in Berlin http://www. marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1919/01/14.htm 13 A river which runs through the heart of Berlin.
party’s task is precisely to avoid the temptation of seizing power.”
Work In Progress
RETHINKING STUDENT POLITICS IN COMMUNIST POLAND TOM JUNES Katholieke Universiteit Leuven – Uniwersytet Warszawski The mythical year of 1968 resonates as the penultimate moment in history symbolising student unrest. Much has been written about the student movements and revolts of the 1960s in the West and the Third World during the Cold War era. However, much less scholarly work has appeared on the topic of students within the Soviet bloc, who were very much a social group to be reckoned with.. This is partially explained by a limited availability of sources at the time and the priority of other research topics for historians and social scientists following the demise of communism in Central and Eastern Europe. Poland represents both a somewhat special case as well as an example to study student politics under communism. It
was in Poland that in March 1968 students took to the streets during a month-long nationwide revolt, which was observed by their peers in Czechoslovakia and the West. Yet, the 1968 protest movement – despite beingthe best documented feat of Polish student politics in the post-war era – was but one episode in a rich and turbulent history of student political activity in that country. In fact, students played a role during the many crises of the Polish Communist regime, while the official student organisational structure deviated from the model of the Soviet Komsomol. Above all, student politics was a generational phenomenon and it is no surprise that such political activity constitutes an element in the biographies and life stories of many members of the country’s present elite.
There is an abundance of scholarly literature concerning student politics in various countries and different eras. However, the subject is somewhat blurred by diverging approaches and understandings of the phenomenon. This problem,combined with the specific character of the Communist system against the backdrop of the Polish historical context, required the working-out of an adequate conceptual framework for research. Firstly, it was necessary to specify what is understood by the term ‘student politics’. Student politics can be defined as struggles by students-as-a-group to influence a set of relations in the educational
Student Protest in March 1968, Warsaw University
or broader national sphere.1 Moreover, the character of these struggles is to a large extent defined by the specifics of the environment. As such, students represent a social group that possesses a special societal status with a ‘total’, albeit temporary, social role.2 The intellectual environment in which students reside provides 1 Badat, S., Black Student Politics, Higher Education and Apartheid. From SASO to SANSCO, 1968-1990, (Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council, 1999). pp. 19-21. 2 Allerbeck, K. and L. Rosenmayr, Einfürung in Die Jugendsoziologie. (Heidelberg: Quelle & Meyer, 1976). p. 162.
them with a critical disposition and their social and intellectual status combines with their youthful inclination to draw upon certain historical experiences and traditions, which can induce a missionary calling towards society.3 Although the student body is divided according to political affiliation and degree of participation, it can be mobilised towards a specific political goal thereby overcoming these divisions.4 As such, student political activity is the result of collective action based on a set of convergent ideas and implies a form of movement and organisation. Whereas the latter is a collective structure based upon political, social, religious or cultural affiliation and can be legal or illegal, the former denotes a social movement based on collective action under student leadership aimed at influencing societal developments in the educational or broader political sphere. A student movement can operate within the framework of a broader social movement thereby serving as a recruiting ground for the movement’s elites or, in turn, function in a vanguard role for said movement.5 3 Marsh, A., Protest and Political Consciousness, (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1977). pp. 199-214.; Vos, L., ‘Student Movements and Political Activism’, in A History of the University in Europe. 4: Universities since 1945, W. Rüegg (ed.), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011). p. 277. 4 Fendrich, J. and R. Turner, ‘The Transition from Student to Adult Politics’, Social Forces, Vol. 67, No. 4, (1989). p. 1050; Hamilton, W., ‘Venezuela’, In Students and Politics in Developing Nations, edited by Donald K Emmerson, 350-89. London: Pall Mall Press, 1968. pp. 352-53. 5 Altbach, P., ‘Students and Politics.’, in Student Politics, S. Lipset (ed.), (New York: Basic Books inc., 1967). pp. 82-87.
Secondly, student politics is determined by the problem of generations, as the student body changes quite rapidly over time as it is depleted and replenished by successive age-cohorts with frequent regularity.6 Moreover, young people experience historical events differently than their elders, thereby developing their political views in a distinct way. Binding collective customs, social usages, beliefs and ideas that individuals acquire while
generation. Generations can be divided into subgroups, where respective common experiences differ from one another in specific ways despite sharing the same overall historical experience. Members of such ‘generationunits’ are united by a similar consciousness amounting to a particular common identity. Thus, differentiated and even antagonistic generation-units are oriented toward each other and represent the same generation
Student Strike 1981, Warsaw University
coming of age at a certain time in history lead to a generation-specific mentality.7 Furthermore, a generation’s identity is often determined by a ‘generation-event’ that was critical during its members’ socialisation. The more generationevents, the more potential political generations can arise. However, generations are not necessarily composed of like-minded individuals, as different trends can exist within a single
6 Berger, B., ‘How Long is a Generation?’, The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 11, No. 1, (1960). pp. 1213.; Ryder, N. ‘The Cohort as a Concept in the Study of Social Change’, American Sociological Review, Vol. 30, No. 6, (1965). pp. 857-58. 7 Mannheim, K. ‘Das Problem der Generationen’, Kölner Vierteljahrsheft für Soziologie, No. 7, (1928). pp. 164-65.; Mariás, J., Generations. A Historical Method, (Alabama: The University of Alabama Press, 1970). pp. 114-15.
because of this mutual orientation. Conversely, a generation often becomes identified with the values of a single generation-unit because its ideas and actions were the most influential, as they appeared to be most in harmony with the prevailing historical experience of the generation as a whole. When small groups of students become politically active they can in turn influence the wider generation leading to something of an ideological convergence that can be perceived as a specific ‘generation style’. Generation styles can be identified by discerning intellectual trends that became polarised within a certain zeitgeist. This amounts to a generational perception of student politics through the represented ideology – i.e. the generated ideas and actions of student movements that arise
during an era.8 Subsequently, to apply this conceptual framework to the setting of Communist Poland it was also necessary to take into account both the influence of national historical traditions of student politics and the specifics of the Communist system. The historical context is certainly not without importance in the case of Polish society with its deep historical consciousness. Much of the characteristics of post-war student politics would to a degree be influenced by these historical traditions.9 Polish students had been politically active ever since the emergence of modern student movements in the early 19th century. Their actions usually centred on conspiratorial activity, but at times this could evolve into full-scale protest and strike movements while also playing an active role in the insurrections of their respective eras. Whereas, initially, the student context adhered to a revolutionary liberalism, an evolution took place towards a more socialist, anarchist or more nationalist orientation towards the late 19th century. Finally, Catholicism and a specific ideology of agrariansm would manifest itself producing an ideologically diverse student environment in the 20th century. The first type of organisational form was that of a clandestine conspiracy while in the latter half of the 19th century mutual aid societies were created signalling the beginning of the tradition of student self-government. The re-emergence of a Polish state after the First World War facilitated the creation of sponsored organisations i.e. student organisations that were affiliated and under the patronage of political parties or the Church. It should also be underlined that the history of the Polish student 8 Mannheim, K., ‘Das Problem der Generationen’, pp. 310-29.; Spitzer, A., ‘The Historical Problem of Generations’, The American Historical Review, Vol. 78, No. 5, (1973). pp.1356-58.; Fogt, H., Politische Generationen: Empirische Bedeutung Und Theoretisches Modell, (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1982). 9 Junes, T., ‘A Century of Traditions. The Polish Student Movement, 1815-1918’, Central and Eastern European Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, (2008). pp. 77-102.; Pilch, A., Studencki Ruch Polityczny w Polsce w Latach 19321939, (Kraków: Uniwersytet Jagielloński, 1972).; Pilch, A., “Rzeczpospolita Akademicka”. Studenci I Polityka 19181933, (Kraków: Księgarnia Akademicka, 1997).
movement was characterised by the appearance of intergenerational conflict – a rebellion of the young generation of students versus the old ruling class. These elements – or rather the memory of them – would influence student politics in the postwar period as students at different times would become inspired by the historical myth of previous generations. These historical traditions fit the definition of what can be coined as the ‘classical student movement’ in which students saw themselves as having a particular role to play as a group in society. Such a student movement, be it social or political, was focussed on the broader society. It did not necessarily need a political programme, but could be aligned in its orientation with a broader social or political movement through which it could manifest itself for a longer period of time. Its national characteristics were in turn determined by the traditions within the student context.10 The fact that postwar Poland was a Communist state had its effect on the nature of student politics of the era, which were characterised by certain limitations. The Communist Party dictated higher education policy, engineeringa youth policy and applying various forms and degrees of repression, which conflicted with the traditions and mores of the student milieu. It is this conflict that constitutes the structural setting for student politics under communism – one of regime control versus student conformism, pragmatism and resistance. The foremost way in which the regime strove to exert control over students was through a sponsored organisation, set up as subordinate and complementary to the Communist Party.11 Such forms of organisation in Communist Poland can be classified in three categories:political organisations, social organisations and institutions of self-government;each with a respective level of control and regime sponsorship. The common denominator of these organisational forms was that they were legal under the Communist system. Of course, independent and oppositional student activity 10 Vos, L. ‘Student Movements and Political Activism’. p. 277 11 Poggi, G., Catholic Action in Italy. The Sociology of a Sponsored Organization, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1967). p. 51.
influenced the character of student politics as well. The political activity of radical students, who distinguished themselves by their will to act politically notwithstanding to which ideology they adhered, is most apparent in this area. Other activity was related to the presence of the Roman-Catholic Church – by default an ideological foe of the Communist regime – within the student community. Moreover, there was activity influenced by youth counter-culture. Finally, there was the type of action that can be dubbed as apolitical, but nonetheless posed a challenge to the regime. Another important element to take into account was the way in which the Communist system influenced the social composition of the student body, since the regime aimed to change the social structure of society at large and, by proxy, the student context was no exception to this form of utopian social engineering. Thus, the traditional divide between ‘town and gown’ carried less weight under communism than it did in other societies. Therefore, student youth had more in common with their working-class age-peers and were more capable of finding a mutual understanding.12 This in turn necessitated qualifying the primacy of the milieu component of student politics under communism in favour of the generational component concerning political consciousness and the motivation for political action or protest.13 It is also interesting to note that intergenerational conflict under communism could manifest itself in two ways: a young generation coming into conflict with a ‘gerontocratic’ elite or a ‘revolutionary’ intergenerational conflict incited by the regime’s elite to use the younger generation to destroy the old order.14
12 Hyman, H., Political Socialization: a Study in the Psychology of Political Behavior, (New York: Free Press, 1969). pp. 39-40. 13 Abbott, J., Student Life in a Class Society, (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1971). pp. 14-16; Holmes, R., ‘The Politics of the Knowable. The Relationship between Intellectual and Social Factors in the Student Dissent’, The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 23, No. 2, (1972). pp. 189-90. 14 Bengston, V., ‘The Generation Gap. A Review and Typology of Social-Psychological Perspectives’, Youth and Society ,Vol. 2, No. 1, (1970). pp. 7-32.; Feuer, L., The Conflict of Generations. The Character and Significance of Student Movements, (New York: Basic
While the above emphasises the overall importance of generational analysis, what also makes the contextual aspect interesting is that it constituted a breeding ground for the future elite and in this way the evolution of student political consciousness would be of the utmost importance for the future of the country. Thus, for historians and social scientists alike, an analysis of student politics under communism can provide valuable insights for the study of post-communist societies and elites. In my dissertation, using a variety of sources, I provide a generational analysis of student politics in Communist Poland by looking at ideas, actions and organisational forms that existed and developed in the student milieu from 1944 to 1989. The main problems that are analysed concern the student generations and their characteristics; the importance of certain crisis moments in forming certain specific generations; the political and ideological differentiation and its evolution in the student milieu; the effect of regime youth and higher education policy; the influence and role of regime-sponsored organisations; the emergence of student opposition and role of the radicals; the role of the Church; and the impact of counter-cultural and transnational influences. As such, I present a sequence of student generations coming of age under communism,facing the changing realities of life in postwar Poland and how this influenced their political consciousness. TOM JUNES obtained an Hons BA in History at the University of South Africa and an MA (cum laude) in Eastern European Studies at the Catholic University of Leuven, where he now teaches Polish history. He is currently a visiting researcher at Warsaw University while completing his PhD thesis titled “Generations of Change. Rethinking Student Politics in Communist Poland, 1944-1989” which he will defend in July at the Catholic University of Leuven. Books Inc., 1969).
“Memories of 1968" Cultural history and literary imagination
Ingo Cornils and Sarah Waters, Alan O’Leary and Yang Lan from the departments of German, French, Italian and East Asian Studies at the University of Leeds to organise a conference in 2008. The ‘Memories of 1968: International Perspectives’ conference, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of ‘1968’ was held in April 2008. The organisers had two aims: firstly to bring together and compare representations of 1968 in different national contexts both within and outside Western Europe and secondly, to bring together specialists on 1968 from a range of different scholarly disciplines.
‘1968’ was the year of worldwide student protests, demonstrations, uprisings and strikes. The events were international in character and often occurred in connection with other movements across the world. Nevertheless the way these events are remembered does not tend to cross any national boundaries and studies into 1968 are often severed from a wider international context. The absence of an authentic and dynamic representation of the international character of the events of 1968, motivated
The volume ‘Memories of 1968’ draws on selected papers from this conference and looks at the cases of France, Germany, Italy, the United States, Mexico and China. Acknowledging the tension between historicisation and memorialisation, contributors discuss contemporary debates surrounding the memory of 1968 in different countries, analysing the key narratives and representations, as well as the main lines of division and controversy within these debates. The orthodox discourse on 1968 is contested and, as such, the myths of 1968 are challenged. Emphasising the complex and nuanced memory of 1968, some authors focus on personal testimonies of activists or interviews with bystanders who did not participated in the protests, whilst others examine the representation of 1968 in film and fiction. ‘Memories of 1968’ contributes to a closer understanding of the nature of a given national culture, of its limitation and 25
Ingo Cornils future possibilities. It encourages further comparative research on representations of 1968 across contemporary societies. Underlining that 1968 is alive in many people’s memories, this fascinating collection of papers re-evaluates how events are remembered and negotiates not only with the past, but with present circumstances and future possibilities.
Q&A Q: The so called ‘memory turn’ in scholarship happened some time ago, for decades scholars have been using biographies and oral testimonies, whilst acknowledging the tension between the historicisation and memorialisation. Why has it taken so long (relatively speaking) for scholars studying ‘1968’ to catch on to this trend? A: Theory is only useful if it has practical application, or helps us to understand complex issues. The ‘memory battles’ over the Holocaust, the GDR dictatorship, or German wartime suffering, to name but three very different discourses, had very different timelines. As our book makes clear, the memory discourses surrounding ‘1968’ run along very different lines in different countries (for instance, if we compare Germany and Mexico). While ‘1968’ has been remembered by the participants, it has not always reached the history books. As to research, ‘1968’ has been studied by a new generation of scholars in the last 10 years who have very different questions to those who have their own memories of the events. One characteristic focus of the new generation is on the transnational aspects of ‘1968’. Our volume tries to acknowledge this debate and move it forward: to what extent can we really speak about a ‘global 1968’ if not only the events were so different in different parts of the world, but also their afterlives? What happens if memories are stirred, and judgements on the past are re-evaluated, for 26
example in the context of more recent global events such as the collapse of communism, or 9/11? Q: A number of authors who contributed to ‘memories of 1968’ challenge the ‘orthodox discourse’ on 1968 and contest the ‘official’ story. In what ways are their studies the result of the aforementioned ‘memory turn’? A: Cultural memory is normally settled when a generation passes on its legacy to the next, i.e after a 40-year cycle. In the case of ‘1968’, the participants did most of the talking initially (unless silenced by the state), while the majority has kept quiet. But until memory is solidified and collectively accepted, it remains ‘communicative memory’ and open to revision. In the case of (West) Germany, the status of ‘1968’ has see-sawed from ‘aberration’ to ‘positive watershed ‘ and ‘refounding of our democracy’ to ‘ground zero of all that is wrong with the country’. Several contributors challenge a given interpretation, or demonstrate how a given interpretation is challenged. The case of the Right in Italy or the ongoing debate over the merits or otherwise of the Chinese Cultural Revolution are perfect examples of this phenomenon. It is interesting that these (dissenting) voices to ‘official’ narratives come out in alternative channels (oral history, websites). Q: In recent years many conferences have been organised where scholars from different countries came together to put national histories and cultural experiences in an international context. At these conferences, parallels are often drawn and comparisons are made, but unfortunately not many comparative studies come out of these initiatives. Why do you think this tends to happen? A: It is very difficult to formulate a theory that a) encompasses complex national events, and b) allows their comparison on a global level. You get too many variables, and a comparison might end up being too general (2008 saw a number of ultimately unsatisfying attempts).
Q: Is the same true for the ‘memories of Enzensberger), but that’s what makes the 1968, international perspectives’ conference field so fascinating. It isn’t done and dusted which you organised 3 years ago? (yet). A: My colleague Sarah Waters and I believe that we have made our argument by situating the discussion in its context, stating our research questions, and presenting exemplary findings in a logical and structured way. As such I think that the conference was successful in encouraging comparative research on the subject of memory and 1968. Q: Scholars who attended the conference and contributed to ‘Memories of 1968’ come from different countries, but also from different disciplinary backgrounds. How important is the interdisciplinary approach when it comes to understanding ‘1968’? A: An interdisciplinary approach is absolutely crucial. International events like the Vietnam war influenced local events, theory informed practice (see Herbert Marcuse), practice informed theory (see Jürgen Habermas). Historians can tell us what happened, but literature, as well as film, drama and art, allow us to look inside people’s heads and understand their emotions, motivation and dreams. Cultural Studies (milieu, counter culture, music) need to work together with Social Sciences (protest movements) and media studies (role of newspapers, flyers, posters) to complete the picture. Memory Studies help to frame our understanding. Some say ‘1968’ was so complex that the best we can hope for is a collage (H.M.
Q: In the introduction to the volume ‘Memories of 1968’, Sarah Waters asks the question; ‘Is a transnational cultural memory of 1968 possible?’ What is your answer to this question? A: It probably is - looking at encyclopedia entries, BBC documentaries or the plethora of books on ‘1968’ (e.g. Mark Kurlansky, Gerard DeGroot), this theme is already treated as a global phenomenon. Yes, there are variations, but the main narrative assumes an intercultural connectedness, a global sense of rebellion against authority and established order. The fact that Western student leaders met and exchanged ideas and tactics; that protest forms were copied, supports this view. On the other hand, as we demonstrated with Yan Lang’s piece on the Cultural Revolution in China, that was a very different phenomenon and not at all what French or German students believed it to be. Martin Klimke has recently demonstrated how ideas and tactics went back and forth between the USA and West Germany in his excellent ‘The Other Alliance. Student Protest in West Germany and the United States in the Global Sixties’ (Princeton University Press 2009). But he could only do that 40 years after the events. It may be that the various afterlives of ‘1968’ need a bit more time to come together.
INGO CORNILS attended the University of Hamburg and the University of California at Santa Barbara. He came to England in 1987 as DAAD Lektor at the Leeds Metropolitan University from 1987 until 1990. At the University of Leeds, he worked as Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of German and the Language Centre (as Director of Language Centre Modules) from 1990. He joined the Department of German full-time in August 1999, served as Head of Department 2002-2005, and as Head of the newly merged Department of German, Russian and Slavonic Studies (GRASS) from 2007-2010.