Memories of 60s

Later part of 60s and early part of 70s played a major part in the radicalization of the youth of that era. In this article we focus on how the youth of that period were influenced by the turbulent events of that period.

60s started with major changes throughout the world . Ghana became the first African colony to become independent. Armed struggles started in Portuguese colonies in Africa and Asia. Algerian struggle for independence encouraged rest of Africa to fight against the colonial rule. Liberation movements embarked on armed struggle in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Zimbabwe , Namibia and South Africa against the colonial rule. At the same time liberation movements also initiated armed struggle in Asia in East Timor.

Three most tumultuous events of that era were as follows:

  1. Vietnam War
  2. Arab-Israeli war and the beginning of Palestinian struggle
  3. Death of Ernesto "Che" Guevara

Vietnam War

Although Vietnamese people were fighting against French and US for nearly 3 decades war intensified in 1960s. U.S rapidly increased it's forces in Vietnam to nearly half of million troops and carried out massive bombing campaign against Vietnamese people. Heroic struggle of the Vietnamese people led by Ho Shi Minh had a major impact on the students of 60s through out the world. Demonstrations were organized in Universities and schools against U.S actions in Vietnam. During the Christmas period in 1965 , U.S bombers carried out carpet bombing of North Vietnam continously. Demonstrations intensified around the world. Although the Tet Offensive by Vietnamese liberation forces in 1968 was defeated by a massive U.S force, it showed the strength and resilience of Vietnamese people. Students marched in campuses in Europe , Asia , Latin America and U.S against the brutality of U.S intervention. In France the demonstrations ultimately overthrew the DeGaulle presidency. In Germany radical students led demonstrations against established order.

Vietnam war continued until 1975 when U.S was defeated and was forced to withdraw from Vietnam. One can remember how Vietnamese liberation army liberated town after town , Khesanh, Hue, QuangTri, Danang and finally Saigon (Present day Ho Shi Minh city). One also remember the moment when Vietnamese tank broke down the gate of the U.S embassy while U.S troops were scrambling into helicopters to escape from the embassy. There were victory celebrations not only in Vietnam , but all around the world in many cities as students and progressive forces celebrated Vietnamese victory.

Arab-Israeli war and the beginning of Palestinian struggle

In June 1967 Israeli forces supported by U.S launched a surprise attack on Arab countries. Within 6 days entire armed forces of Egypt , Jordan and Syria were destroyed. Palestinians for second time in their lives were forced to flee from homes and refugees camps. For the first time progressive people around the world understood the plight and humiliation of Palestinian forces. Previously Arab Israel conflict was seen as a David and Goliath battle with Israel being portrayed as a David. But the events in 60s showed that Israel as the real Goliath and Palestinian as David. Israel with massive support from U.S continued to deprive the Palestinians of basic human rights. Palestinians after the Arab Israel war started the armed struggle under the leadership of Fatah, PFLP and other organizations grouped under Palestine Liberation Organisation(PLO). Their struggle were supported by students and progressive forces around the world.

Death of Che

In 1968 Che was captured by CIA trained Bolivian forces and was murdered. Che's death shook the progressive students and forces around the world. Students took to the streets around the world pledging that there will be thousands of "Che"s. Cries in the demonstrations were "We will follow Che's path".

These events in 60s and 70s molded the political conscience of youth. Many became activists and went on to form their organizations. These organisations such as Sendero Luminiso in Nicaragua over threw the Pro American dictator Somazo in 1980 after armed struggle. Struggle against colonial powers continued until Zimbabwe and South Africa became liberated.

The youth of 60s who are now in later 50s are still leading struggles around the world. It is significant to note that the leaders of Naxalites in India and Maoist in Nepal belong this generation.

August 2010.