Vital Signs

Sixty-Eighters

From the United States to France, from Germany to England, the post-World War II generation is now running the show. They have traded in their jeans and sneakers for political power. Thirty years ago, they rocked the boat at Berkeley, in Paris, and in Berlin; they marched against U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and supported the Yugoslav dictator, Josip Broz Tito, and his "socialism with a human face." They made pilgrimages to Hanoi, Havana, and Belgrade, and many of them dressed in the Vietcong's garb, or Mao's clothes. A certain bimbo named Jane Fonda even paid a courtesy visit to North Vietnam and posed for a photo-op with her rear on a communist howitzer. This generation protested against their wealthy parents, yet they used their fathers' money to destroy their own welfare state. A burning joint passed from hand to hand, as Bob Dylan croaked the words that defined a generation: "Everybody must get stoned."

This was a time which the youth in communist countries experienced quite differently. Prison camps were still alive, deportations were the order of the day from the Baltics to the Balkans, and the communist secret police—the Yugoslav UDBA, the Romanian Securitate, the East German Stasi, and the Soviet KGB—had their hands full. Western 68ers did not know anything about their plight, and they simply ignored the communist topography of horror. Back then, the 68ers had cultural power in...

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