HISTORY AND INTERPRETATION OF
STUDENTS REVOLUTIONS IN THE SIXTIES:
A focus on Italy and China
Maria Clara Paradies
Sun Yat-Sen University – School of Business
HISTORY AND INTERPRETATION OF STUDENTS REVOLUTIONS IN THE SIXTIES:
focus on Italy and China
The aim of this paper is to discover which are the motives that encourage people to believe in ideals so firmly to fight for defending them. We believe in this theme because we think that the bravery to fight is not a symbol of only one country, but a common historic point to all the countries that believe in the importance of people’s ideals and principles. In this case we would like to analyse the students revolutions around the world in the 1960s and understand if there were common ideals that brought people to revolt against their political systems. In fact, during the 1960s decade something in the world happened that changed the way of think and the way of life of the society. We would like to tell something about this historic turning point and more about the meaning that we give to that fact, especially for Italian and Chinese cases. What is important for us is to remember that history and events can be found everywhere, in books or in the web, but then is the interpretation of these facts that influence the mind of the people who look behind and try to learn from the past.
1960s IN THE WORLD
The 1960s years are important for students’ revolutions that involved in different way
almost all the major countries in the world. The way to respond to the political and economic changing was maybe different but the reason that linked those events was almost the same: rebellion against something that was destroying someway the way of life of people. People mind has to follow a lot of steps before realising that the world has changed and that is time to move the lifestyle in the new direction, shouting the ideals if institutions don’t listen to them. In the past people had to do war to revolutionize the world, then the war became rebellion and nowadays the
rebellion is often a diplomatic meeting between political forces that reform social environment without shocks.
During the era called “The Sixties” there were a lot of rebellions around the world, which
involved students against political institutions. The social and political upheaval was not limited to Europe but included also nations as Japan, Mexico and China. In the United States The Sixties as they are known in popular culture today lasted from about 1963 to 1971. The term is used descriptively by historians, journalists, and other objective academics; nostalgically by those who participated in the counter-culture and social revolution; and pejoratively by those who perceive the era as one of irresponsible excess. The decade was also called the Swinging Sixties because of the libertine attitudes that emerged during this decade. The 1960s have become synonymous with all the new, exciting, radical, and subversive events and trends of the period, which continued to develop in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and beyond. In Africa the 1960s was a period of radical political change as countries gained independence from their European colonial rulers, only for this rule to be replaced in many cases by civil war or corrupt dictatorships. Several Western governments turned to the left in the early 1960s. In the United States President John F. Kennedy was elected as president. Italy formed its first left-of-centre government in March 1962 with a coalition of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and moderate Republicans and in Britain the Labour Party gained power in 1964. Also in China there was a big changing going on the second half of 1960, which involved university’s students that protested against the cultural privileges of the Chinese society. The conflict, almost civil war in 1968, was support by Mao Zedong that used this rebellion against the intern opposition’s Party. As we see all this events show that 1960s were years of
political unbalance and also the students needed to take part of this wind of changing. It would be interesting now to analyse more deeply the Italian and the Chinese situation during the 1960s decade in order to find the link of that rebellions even if the carrying out was not the same.
1960s ITALIAN CASE
In Italy what happened it’s not a fact, or an events, but a complicated plot of humans’ idea, behaviour and desire, expectation and disappointment. The peak of the revolution was in 1968 and we use to say also nowadays “it’s a 68” to indicate something that upsetting. In fact, the ’68 has been a rebellion that involved more than one generation, but with only one common point of view: the fracture with the social and political assets based on the authoritarianism. The ’68 born as an international spontaneous movement of rebellion which involved all the aspect of the ordinary life. The Italian students of high school and universities demonstrated against the USA’s capitalism, the
Russian imperialism that invaded the Cekia and they protested also to defend ideals as pacifism and parity. The rebellion came out also from the proletariat because their standard of work quality was very bad. In Italy the rebellion started later then the other countries as USA, France and China, but the motives where almost the same. Italian revolutionaries pretended to change the whole system where the rich class could have education and power while the poor class was intended to be poor. They pretend also to change the school system, because there was too much distance between students and professor and they wanted to have a human relationship not only institutional. The demonstrations were along the street or just invasions of school and firms. The slogans were against the National Party and the claim was “Fantasia al potere” which means that everything could happen in the leader class. The problem was also that the revolutionaries had not even the support of Communist Party, because this Party was inside a system and it could not approve a free movement, which was against also the Russian imperialism. The ideals to follow for the Italian revolutionaries came from China and they found the inspiration to claim in the Little Red Book, which contained the Mao Zeon’s thoughts. Mao was their principle’s chairman and they always looked at his rebellion in China as something to reproduce also in Italy to delete the distance between the different social classes. During the rebellion the Italian revolutionaries obtained a better relationship with the professors, more history taught and also the possibility to read newspaper in the school. From the newspaper the people could read what was going on around the
world and follow better what happened in also China. They discovered that Mao forced to burn the books in the streets in order to communicate that the people that studied till that moment, so only the rich people, would had received anymore more privilege than poor people. China was a big source of inspiration for Italians and when the rebellion was becoming very big also in Italy some Parties started to be founded. “Lotta Continua” was an example of a Party that was born to follow the revolutionary’s ideals. The rebellion went on for some years in Italy and the results were not as
the expectations. The student obtained more freedom in the schools as we said about newspaper, they obtained also more respect from the professors and their voice could have more importance in the school’s system. The proletariat also got a little better work standard quality, but the salary was still low. In general the results of the rebellion didn’t reach the expectations. No pacifism and parity was ensured and there were still different social classes in the Italian society.
1960s CHINESE CASE
In China the revolution is called “The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” and it’s a radical movement that closed schools, slowed production and virtually severed China’s relations with the outside world. It was cultural because it meant to alter the values of society in the Communist sense, it was great, because it was on a mammoth scale. So we can say that it was a unique experience for the 1960s generation and also for the old generation of revolutionaries. It began in 1966 and lasted for two years in its intense form, lingered on for another year and a half, and was not officially declared over until 1977. Lin Biao, the author of the first edition of Little Red Book, and Mao’s wife Jiang Quing supported Mao’s initiative. The revolutionary student and youth
fighting against the party were called “Red Guards” and they criticized the Communist Party. On August 16, 1966, millions of Red Guards from all over the country gathered in Beijing for a peek at the Chairman. On top of the Tiananmen Square gate, Mao and Lin Biao made frequent appearances to approximately 11 million Red Guards, receiving cheers each time. Mao praised their actions in the recent campaigns to develop socialism and democracy. One point at issue was the educational
system, and particularly the fact that urban youth (especially the children of privileged officials) appeared to have a better chance of getting a university education than the children of rural peasants. Mao feared that Chinese society was becoming rigid, and to prevent this he relied for support on the military and on youth. During a preaching in 1967 Mao Zedong divided the Cultural Revolution in 4 parts even if it was still going on. He said that the Great Cultural Revolution could be divided from a political and strategic point of view. The first part, the mobilization phase, goes from the Yao Wenyuan article to XI Plenm in August 1966 while the second part goes from the XI Plenum to January 1966. The third part is the period of Patriotism article and the last one is the part where the bourgeoisie try to obtain ideological power, so it’s a decisive phase for the struggle between the two classes.
The result of the revolution is that it greatly affected the CCP leadership. When the long-postponed ninth congress of the CCP was finally convened in April 1969, two thirds of the old members of the Central Committee were missing. Mao's attempt to maintain a state of permanent revolution had been immensely costly. Years of work and progress were sacrificed: A whole generation of youth went without education; factories and farms lay idle. China fell even further behind the industrialized powers of the world. As the Cultural Revolution died down, Zhou Enlai, who had been premier since the founding of the People's Republic, quietly took control. Deng Xiaoping and other "pragmatic" leaders were reestablished. The party and government relaxed their control over the people and granted certain civil rights in a new constitution adopted in 1975. Of course researchers think that to obtain this results maybe we don’t have to destroy all this economy and above all human people.
THE REBELLIONS’ EFFECTS
As history can tell us, also the art as paint and music and sports change with people. This because the art is the expression of a soul and the soul lives in people and the people live in the world. So the soul expresses what the people feel in the world and the feeling is infected by the big
political, social or economic events. That’s why during all the rebellion in the 1960s the art felt to
change the way to represent the world. Pop Art born and adapt itself to the new cultural requirements. The economic boom was coming out and so the painter tried to recreate what they saw: a lot of industrial products that were affecting the whole world. Pop because of “popular”
which doesn’t mean “of the people” but product of the mass. During the 1960s also the music was developing in rock’n’roll music. The sound reproduced the sense of unease, of protest of rebellion of that time. Music became an instrument of non-traditional and non-conforming, which pretended to be a provocative sound. And as we said also sports was affected by the politics. The world sports events at that time displayed as a helpful and important way for politics to talk worldwide. An example of this are the Olympic Game in 1968 in Mexico City where the Americans Smith and Carlos made a anti-racist protest lifting up on the podium the closed hand with a black glove as symbol of the Black Power movement (then the Olympic jury banish them for other Olympic games). That is just an example of what happened in the second half of 1960 all over the world from America to China, from Europe to Africa. The youth protest ended at the beginning of 1970 without big results for the revolutionaries but leaving a big sign in the history. Someone obtain something, others nothing, but everyone in the world who participated to a demonstration knew that the own thought, the own voice join up other thousand voices was a way to communicate to each State that there’s a people which think and which has ideas on its soul.
In conclusion the 1960s decade especially the 1968 as the “burning year” was characterized by the politic and ethic rebellions of the students all over the world. The attention was all addressed to the ideals that were ignore before from common people. In the West we started to talk about the pacifism, woman rights, the power of few persons on the people, the interest for the environment and also in the Orient people were claiming the students’ right to education and protesting against the power of bourgeoisie. We can’t say that the rebellions changed everything and that the peace
and the parity started to triumph from that point, but we can say that those years sign the history with the people voices. Those years were very hard for everybody in the world. The institutional system, the political system and the justice system were called into questions. The world was changing because of the progress, the consumerism and the industrialization and the people felt that everything was going too fast and they wanted to claim to orient the world in the opposite side. The majority of the people in the world wanted the parity between social classes, they wanted peace, while the Vietnam's war was just going on. The students and the youth were the people who were going to live in the new world, which was developing, and they were disappointing it. Youth and students’ aim was fighting to create a world in which all their ideals and principles could be
respected. Today we must give credit for that young people, for them bravery and their consciousness that all their collisions could have been avoid. After all we have to say that it’s important to fight for what we believe in, because having ideals means having freedom. This is the biggest teaching that we would like to underline, because everybody in the world has to find the bravery to build the future that dreams.
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