Age of Protest

We are living in an age of restless youth, agitating students, revolutionary movements, and man-made powers of monstrous destructive potential.”

So reads the introductory blurb promoting Norman F Cantor’s The Age of Protest. Some may of course consider this a-so-last century read. Published in 1970, Professor Cantor limits his record of dissent and rebellion to the twentieth century. In this very century, the 20th, newspapers, wireless/radio, plus films more or less created a world of working class culture. One of media’s big mistakes by the way. Not forgetting to mention the two world wars which disrupted the outmoded 19th aristo-society desperately trying to survive in the age of the common man. Ineluctably of a conservative frame of mind, the author nevertheless reveals the emergence of protest as a viable force for reform.

Professor Cantor traces: the thread through bohemianism, international communism, and anti-colonialism in the twenties; fascism and Nazism and protest as a way of life in the period extending through the Second World War; the Afro-Asian and early civil rights movements of the fifties; to the passionate concerns of the late sixties.

In God’s country Hippies, Berkeley, the New Left, Black Power, Vietnam – the names conjure up a graphic image of a tormented society throughout the world. In France, President De Gaul dissolved the National Assembly before hurrying into retirement. The French government harried by occupations, wild-cat strikes and general dissatisfaction was only to happy to obey the presidential order. An election was then held and the Gaullists were voted into power again – with even more seats. Yes, there’s no accounting for an electorate’s behaviour. In the UK too there was also a certain rumbustiousness and discontent amongst young folk. Grosvenor Square and Red Lion Square were just two of the focal points of tumult. Yes, this was the decade of the sixties. Almost fifty years ago.

The anguish of the nineteen sixties can lead, in Professor Cantor’s view, to the hope of the future. However, the author warns, we must not dismiss radical protesters as trouble-makers. We must listen to their protests and utilise them constructively. Professor Cantor explains not only what form protest takes but why people protest.

When Professor Cantor wrote this civilised history of 20th century protests right-wing governments and even those of a leftish bent could see they were on very shaky ground. An earthquake of great proportions was threatening their cosy ( for some ) little societies.
Need they have worried? Really?

In the year 1970 Nixon was in the in the third year of his first administration. Although at the start North Korea had captured a U S Navy spy ship, the SS Pueblo, lurking off this sensitive state’s coastline. Notwithstanding the fact that LBJ was still president and Nixon was president elect, Tricky Dicky was inaugurated just minutes later. In the same year, 1969, a North Korean fighter downed a USAF spy plane. Eight or nine of its 30 man crew were saved by the Soviet Navy. The reaction from President Nixon was described by Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor at the time, as ‘weak, indecisive and disorganized.’ And what with the Silent Majority who elected him president? Yep, kept mighty silent. SHUSH!

Do you know Trump has had exactly the same sort of trouble with the North Koreans. Has the Don punished them? Well, he’s gonna – some day.

Since then, things have been going swimmingly for Nixon. Tricky Dicky was again elected in 1972: and by a massive landslide. Vietnam was all but lost despite Nixon’s awesome escalation of the air and land conflict. And during all these political ups and downs Nixon went cap in hand to Red China looking for succour . Quite pathetic really.

Nixon resigned what with impeachment hovering in the background and problems piling up. However, Gerry Ford, Nixon’s vice-president took over the presidency and gave his former president a clean bill of health. Ford lost to Jimmy Carter but Ronald Reagan defeated Carter and went on to serve two full terms. O K, several Reagan senior aides were banged up for treating with the Iranians. Yes, just like in westerns – selling rifles to Native Americans. Then Bush Senior took over. Republicans held the presidency in all for 12 years.

Next the US electorate had Bill Clinton for two terms. Bush Junior followed. Junior was a two-term president into the bargain. Now, at this very moment we have Donald Trump!

Although potential draftees, i.e. eligible for military duty, Bill Clinton, Bush Junior and Donald Trump did not serve in Vietnam. Clinton and Trump did not even sport a US service uniform. Oh, yes, Bush Jnr did his time in the Air Reserve in balmy Florida.
Flashback – Here, in the UK seventies, Edward Heath served as PM for four years or so. Mrs Thatcher then followed. She won three elections on the trot until the Conservative Party sacked her. John Major took up the slack and then got elected as PM in his own right. David Cameron served as prime minister in the Coalition government and then in his own right. Now we have Theresa May.

Right-wing governments are so slippery. Watch em! They seem to be down for the count but they manage to stagger up no matter what. You’ve heard that sophisticated advice from ringside. Do ‘im, boy! Finish ‘im! Chin ‘im, lad! He’s on the ropes! WATCH out for the sucker punch! Oh, I warned ‘im.’ He’s down. Get UP! Yes, that sort of thing. Don’t forget! Watch em! Don’t forgot that history lesson, will you? Yes, Wat Tyler seemed to have it made then was clubbed to death with a mace. Gruesome. Rules of chivalry? Don’t be daft, Lad. There’s no bleedin’ rules when it comes to right-wing governments.

By Hugh Markey

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