Understanding ‘68

Che Guevera, Simone de Beauvoir, Deniz Gezmiş, Jean Paul Sartre, Rudi Dutschke, Behice Boran are among the names of the 1968 movement. The point that unified them in the different dimensions of the movement they experienced was the demand for “freedom”. 

1968 followed a different course in Europe and Turkey due to differing circumstances. 

In 1968, the young generation in Europe constituted the first generation to follow the Second World War. They rebelled against their families and society, challenging such preconceptions as the striving for high earnings, accumulation of assets and respect for authority. They gave importance to the aims of anti-authoritarian education, sexual freedom, the economic independence of women, rebellion against authority and the free University. 

As regards Turkey, the ’68 movement was more political in nature due to circumstances in the country. The 1961 Constitution played a big part in the atmosphere of freedom experienced with the entry of the Turkish Labour Party (TİP) into parliament. Debate contributed to the development of democracy and thought. This environment of hope was short lived and the ’68 movement was divided and torn apart, and a heavy price was paid. 

Some of the pioneers of the same movement in the West found a place for themselves in Social Democrat parties as part of the subsequent process of the 1970s when debate of issues like nuclear power stations and the deployment of SS 20 Pershing missiles came onto the agenda. They participated in the associated environmental and civil movements, and towards the end of the 1970s a new generation of young socialists united on the forum of founding Green Parties in various countries and taking up office. 

Western democracies showed that they were capable of renewing themselves and opening up new channels.

Years later, while they had a voice in political life, in Turkey first the 68’s were subjected to great oppression and violence in the military coup of 12th March, and then the 78’s in the 12th September 1980 coup. 

The fight for a better life, for freedom and equality made by Che Guevera, Simone de Beauvoir, Deniz Gezmiş, Jean Paul Sartre, Rudi Dutschke, Behice Boran and others living in different parts of this world has not lost its validity in the world of today.

Events of the Vietnam of yesterday are displayed in the 2000s in Iraq. There is an attempt to redraw the map of the Middle East. The divide between rich and poor is widening. We are required to be mere spectators. 

We have many grounds to revive the spirit of ‘68 and pass it on to new generations.

Their struggle has taught us to not to remain indifferent, but to react. 

We will continue undefeated to “ask for the impossible” in our country and in other places.

Ahmet Tüzün

Translation : Valerie Needham