1968 and all that

IssueMay 2008
Feature by Dennis Gould

The Easter 1968 issue of Peace News had the following content... Obituary of Martin Luther King. A translation by Ronald Sampson of Leo Tolstoy’s Waging Peace Against Our Governments. Stan Scott’s review of Wilhelm Reich’s The Function Of The Orgasm. Bernard Power-Canavan’s powerful cartoon “one dollar” and John Arden’s “Personal Column” which reminds us “The best wheeze ever pulled was the ‘Spies For Peace’ over that RSG [Regional Seat of Government] ... 1963 ... at Easter.”
     I mention this diversity within Peace News only to remind us all that what happened in 1968 – the Paris student & worker uprisings and the anti-Vietnam war actions plus student take-overs of colleges in Britain – came out of a decade of changes.
     Personally: I left the Royal Engineers in 1958, became IVS volunteer on voluntary workcamps; spent my “university” year at Woodbrooke College (Brum.) - Quaker-founded & -funded; set up Selly Oak Colleges’ CND Group; got Housmans Bookshop to bring bookstall to filmshow (Concord Films); took part in Committee of 100 nonviolent civil disobedience actions; graduated via arrest, police station and prison cell to become Peace News circulation manager....
     Every evening somewhere in London there were meetings, vigils, demonstrations. In 1963, I co-edited/published two essays by Nicholas Walter (from Colin Ward’s magazine Anarchy) which became Nonviolent Resistance.
     At this same period both music and poetry were loosening up and from folk music came the Anti-Polaris Singers and Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan. Adrian Mitchell and Michael Horovitz were performing live - Poets! Remember in 1965 the Royal Albert Hall held its first sold-out POETS’ gig: Poetry International.
     Features Editor Tom McGrath wrote a major article on this coming together of Christopher Logue and Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso and many more.
     By 1966, PN had published poems by Gary Snyder and Denise Levertov. Pamphlets of Ginsberg’s Wichita Vortex Sutra and Adrian Mitchell’s Peace Is Milk followed in quick succession. Kenneth Rexroth, San Francisco catalyst poet & critic, was interviewed.
     Peace News Christmas issue (23.12.66) carried in-depth articles on Vietnam .
     Just as important in creating a climate where students (and workers) lost their fear of authority and, rather than present petitions or lobby the bureaucrats, simply took over the institutions – whether school, college or university. Whooooops! ANARCHY! So?
     The creation of CND and, even more so, the Committee of 100 led many people from all walks of life to meet each other. To share ideas, duplicate pamphlets, edit, print and publish magazines of a libertarian and pacific nature.
     These same people took these ideas into their work and study places. Peace News itself separated from the PPU in 1962 in order to focus on popular anti-nuclear movement.
     Freedom (published by Freedom Press) found itself alongside a (new) monthly called Anarchy edited by Colin Ward, which over ten years (1961-1970) revealed the positive creativity of anarchism at that time and is still well worth reading for its contributions to Libertarian Education; The Myths of Mental Illness; Spies for Peace; Workers’ Control; Ecology; Sexuality; Theatre; Cinema; Prison Reform; Literature; and so much more...118 issues. Each issue one subject. Every issue a brilliant cover design, almost all by Rufus Segar.
     These magazines were joined by Oz, International Times (IT), Frendz, Zigzag, Rolling Stone... and many more.
     All these changes helped to lead to what the television and national media know as “1968”. They rarely noticed or reported pacifist or anarchist influences or events. Seemed unaware of the Arts Lab in Drury Lane (started by Jim Haynes) where food served was wholefood ie unrefined food... fresh vegetables and fruit... cheaply!
     Anyone could walk in and book a slot. Independent films, community theatre, talks & shows, poets and musicians – all performed unusual things. With the Sound Structure Quintet I performed PB Shelley’s powerful ballad of nonviolence The Mask of Anarchy – written after the Peterloo Fields Massacre in Manchester in 1819.
     I saw Bob Dylan’s film Don’t Look Back at the Arts Lab.
     I visited Hornsey College of Art after reading of its occupation by students and publication of a document - An Arts Revolution - to pick up a copy (Penguin Books later published a Penguin Special based around Hornsey multi-documents.)
     Other colleges were occupied and there was a spirit of anarchy, an awareness of anarchism: a politics of taking control/wresting control from static bodies.

Topics: History