The Third Place: Historical Case Studies for the SSE (Pt. III of III)

1968 should be remembered as a significant year in the development of Student Economy and Student Government, at least in the Western world. It was around this year that the various movements related to the Counterculture were fast approaching their apex. The effects of the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement left a lasting mark on the minds of young people, the mechanisms of which was facilitated through technological means. Although there had been dozens of wars and protest movements prior to the 1960s under the State of Total Mobilization, Technology has made it possible for people half a world away to learn what was happening in another part of the world. The Technology is related to the sophistication of mass communications applications which had been developing since its infancy in the First World War.     

Here, the concept of “Public Opinion,” the idea that there are prevailing views and perspectives shared by the Totality or the Student Body, takes on a different meaning. If Public Opinion used to mean the overall sentiments of the Totality or the Student Body, then the State of Total Mobilization introduced a new technological context. In essence, Public Opinion is no longer a form of Leisure, but instead a kind of Actual Arbeit created from the dissemination of mass media. This can be discerned from the fact that most people in general do not read or view any media in a leisurely manner anymore and how there are now journalists whose entire livelihoods involve reviewing all manner of content. We no longer judge any media based on a conceivable moral plane of “good” and “evil,” but whether the media itself has demonstrated a perceived mastery of its genre and presentation.

That sort of thinking can take on the form of people whose preferences in television news channels, for instance, are dependent on whether the content fits their ideological perspective. It can be inferred from the so-called “entertainment” (a more accurate term would be “infotainment”) that comes with the parroting of political talking points and the outright dissemination of political propaganda. Under those parameters, certain opinions become “facts” and certain facts become “opinions.” To cite the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War as examples, the imagery of Civil Rights protestors being attacked by riot police lends credence to the political power of the former and the delegitimization of those still supporting Segregation. Conversely, the imagery of the Tet Offensive also casts doubt on whether America is ‘winning’ the Vietnam War by simply touting higher body counts and larger US military deployments. In the fog of war surrounding 1968, one could lay claim to the argument that North Vietnam is going to someday exhaust the US and later succeed in taking over South Vietnam, which they did by 1975.    

Moreover, the ability to influence Public Opinion through Social Media, Commercial Media, and State Media is dependent on who controls those types of mass media. Anyone controlling the dissemination of content through mass media can promote any cause, policy, agenda or ideology of their choosing. Even the mere act of “censorship” represents the ability to which forms of information are acceptable and unacceptable. Is it any wonder why “Big Tech,” an umbrella term to describe the various privatized commercial firms situated in Silicon Valley, has been targeted by certain Liberal Capitalist political parties for trying to censor their ideological interpretations of Neoliberalism? Is it also too much of a coincidence that Silicon Valley itself happens to be located not too far from the Palo Alto of Part I or the UC Berkley of Part II?        

The argument that I am trying to forward is that Public Opinion can no longer be understood as it was originally conceived prior to the State of Total Mobilization. In the Enlightenment, Public Opinion used to mean that the State and Totality had their own separate views and perspectives. The State of Total Mobilization, through technological advances in mass communications applications, has made it possible for the State and Totality to be on the same footing. In other words, the State and Totality were no longer relying on their own separate sets of opinions and facts. Instead, they can now rely on a shared set of facts to draw their own opinions based on selected interpretations of those same facts.     

The moment we are able to grasp this possibility is when any discussion about the “Socialization of Young Minds” and the “Liberalization of Young Minds” can be entertained. The young people of the tertiary and secondary educational levels, because their consciousness has reached maturity in time for early adulthood, are able to develop their own views and perspective distinct from those of older generations. Neoliberalism relies on the Liberalization of Young Minds to promote its own ideological aims and the same can be said about Pure Socialism regarding the Socialization of Young Minds. A combination of literary, artistic, cultural, lingual, and technological means is employed to convey beliefs, values, ideals, concepts, thoughts, and emotions reflective of the opposing ideologies. The intended outcome of those methods is the accumulation of enough political mass to establish movements, organizations, parts and governments.    

The 1968 Protests provide suitable case studies to complete the discussion for this three-part Entry. Given its worldwide scale and scope of activities, I will be devoting some brief case studies to the various nations of the Western Bloc and Eastern Bloc. The nations of interest in the Western Bloc will include the UK, France, West Germany, Italy and Japan. Granted, the Eastern Bloc was not immune to the 1968 Protests, given the high-profile case of Czechoslovakia as well as similar protests in Poland, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union. However, I want to focus on the Western Bloc in particular because the Custodial-Care Function is technically a product of the OECD-Type Student Economy, which was already an organized entity by 1968.

January-May 1968: The Japanese Zengakuren

The Zengakuren was kind of a Student Government that the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) established in 1948. As with a lot of things associated with the JCP, certain members within the Zengakuren dissented from the JCP over how to respond to the US-Japan Security Treaty. Not everyone was in lockstep with the JCP’s decision, which led to the Zengakuren splitting into factions that sided with the JCP and those who opposed the US military’s presence in Japan.

The New Left factions which opposed to the JCP and the National Diet’s pro-Jeffersonian stances went on to form the Zenkyōtō. The Zenkyōtō were student organizations whose task was to organize the dissent of the Student Body toward a number of positions held by the Establishment. These organizations opposed the then-prevalent State Capitalism of the Zaibatsu (which had since been reorganized as the Keiretsu). As products of the New Left, they abhorred the failures of STEP (Soviet-Type Economic Planning). They also challenged the National Diet’s support of the Empire of Liberty, a policy that sparked their opposition to the JCP.

The operation of the Zenkyōtō warrants some special attention. In the basic organizational command structure of an SSE’s Student Government, there includes a sort of national legislature (I will refer to it as a “Supreme Student Council” with subordinate “Student Chambers”). Below that Supreme Student Council are other Student Councils whose jurisdictions cover the boundaries of Regional and Municipal governments. What made the Zenkyōtō so unique is that their initial concerns were exclusive to individual universities in the Japanese educational system. They acted as a kind of extralegal vigilante group that sought to challenge the OECD-Type Student Economy, albeit through direct actions that later resulted in altercations with riot police. The fundamental problem with them is that they equivocated dissolving the OECD-Type Student Economy with dissolve the universities in their entirety. This explained why a lot of their members resorted to violent measures because they believed that by combating the universities, they will in turn combat the National Diet’s policies. Of course, nothing really changed and what did change was a crackdown on dissent tantamount to repressive measures.

March 1968: The Italian Sessantotto

In Post-1945 Italy, the Parliamentary Democracy existed under conditions similar to those found in Japan and France. In essence, Liberal Capitalists and Social Conservatives found themselves having to coexist with Communist Parties whose members relied on Social-Democratic policies to gain political power. This is because the concept of “revolution,” as I had argued earlier in Section Four, was still being framed in terms of an “overthrow.” The real revolutions within the State of Total Mobilization are technological insofar they impact the Totalities of whole nations through subtle means. In Post-1945 Italy, the Parliament was defined by coalition government between an Italian Communist Party and an Italian Christian Democratic Party.

There are a number of interpretations concerning why the student protests in 1968 occurred. One argument is that the protests were directed by students who sought to rebel against Italian participation in the Empire of Liberty. Another argument suggested that the protests signified a changeover of cultural and social norms away from the traditional ones which survived the downfall of the Italian Empire and the Fascist movement. Then there is the belief that the protests represented a point of contention among those who wanted to Liberalize the Catholic Church and those who believed that the Italian Communist Party was too Neoliberal to even promote basic Social-Democracy.

The third interpretation is the most intriguing aspect of the Italian example. There were some opportunities where Italian Communists found themselves aligning with Italian Catholics. For the Italian Catholics, the appearance of a Suburbia led to the loss of cultural roots and a growing sense of social alienation. For the Italian Communists, this same Suburbia also resulted in the rise of unemployment and the lack of a social platform to address the concerns of young people. The convergence of shared beliefs coalesced among the protestors who clashed with police force in the “Battle of Valle Giulia.” And similar to the Japanese example, the student protests did contain certain youths who channeled their frustrations through senseless acts of violence that did not amount to anything. The consequence was the infamous “Years of Lead” which later dominated much of the 1970s and early 1980s.

May 1968: The French Mai 68

In France, the coalition government in the Parliamentary Democracy was defined by opposing alliances of the Communists and the Gaullists, the latter being the various political forces who rallied around Charles de Gaulle. The French case demonstrates that leadership in the Student Government is necessary in order to orchestrate serious changes to the Student Economy. Without any leadership, things will spiral out of control, and the importance of attaining power through the political process.  The student protests here began with an initial protest at the Paris University in Nanterre, which apparently began as an antiwar demonstration against the Vietnam War. The police response instead led to an escalation among the Student Body of the French educational system that finally reached critical mass by early May.

The opening weeks of May saw massive protests conducted by students, professors, and other sympathizers that began in the wake of initial protests at the University in Nanterre. An antiwar protest on May 2 led to the closure of the campus the next day. The protestors barricaded the area for the next three days until they were dispersed from the premises by riot police. It sparked the beginnings of a student movement that rapidly grew on May 7, eventually escalating into industrial action by older adults at the factories about a week later.

Although the national labor unions in the country called for a one-day strike, the union members continued, causing entire industries to shut down over the next several days. As more and more people joined the strikes, they sided with the student protestors by calling for higher wages and fewer hours in the workweek. An estimated 10,000,000 people were on strike by May 24. The strikes forced the Gaullists to work with the national labor unions to devise a “generous agreement,” which unfortunately did not appease the people on strike. The major disruptions to the French economy forced the Gaullists to retaliate and crack down on dissent through the political process in June. Since the student protests resulted in the economic maelstrom that characterized much of May, it is clear that there was no central leadership or any tangible set of goals to strive for.    

May 1968: The West German 68ers

The concept of a “Long March through the Institutions” is a Heideggerian idea that has its origins in the student protests of West Germany. The idea itself best describes how the student protests went on to affect the domestic and foreign policies of West Germany in later decades. In 1968, the political legitimacy of West Germany over part of the German-speaking world came into question. Practically every single aspect of the “West German” was also being scrutinized as well. There was a long-standing belief among the demonstrators that West Germany still retained the vestiges of the Hitlerists, that the German-speaking world still needed to wipe the slate clean in order to truly achieve a “coming to terms with the past,” a phrase best understood by German speakers as the Vergangenheitsbewältigung. In order to do exactly that, the parliamentary consensus forged by the CDU/CSU, the SPD, and the FDP had to be challenged.

The West Germans who partook in the protests in West Germany became known as the “68ers,” the majority of whom were born under the Hitlerists and the Bonn Republic. In a shrunken, weakened and badly mauled German-speaking world, these young people could not fathom why the older generations were too unwilling to discuss about their actions under the Hitlerists. They believed that in order to set a different course for the German-speaking world, there needed to be a different National Consciousness that reflected the conditions of West Germany as a nation. This National Consciousness has gone on to become an integral component of the National Identity in West Germany. The obvious problem with this has everything to with East Germany.

The National Consciousness of the “East German” differed from that of the “West German.” Their conceptual understanding of the Vergangenheitsbewältigung is that the Soviet Union fought the Hitlerists to give the German-speaking world another chance at redeeming itself. Instead of languishing in the old past like the “West German,” the “East German” would build a new future that they could be proud of.  This mentality was also extended to the personal level, where attempts were made by the East German government to reform people and reintegrate them into a new National Consciousness. After East Germany was absorbed into West Germany, the “East German” persisted throughout the regions that once defined the former East Germany. It continues to form a cultural divide reflected in the social attitudes of “West Germans” and “East Germans.”    

May 1968: The British Art School Occupations

Lastly, the United Kingdom had its own student protests in 1968. But unlike most of the student protests covered so far, which involved riots, clashes with police and people descending into senseless acts of violence throughout the 1970s, the ones here were relatively non-violent. And, unlike the one which occurred in the western half of the German-speaking world, the legacy of the British Empire had yet to be questioned by young people. The British Empire, although it continued to exist by 1968, was a far cry from the heights of power and prestige that it had once enjoyed at the beginning of the 20th century. It is not surprising to learn that the British student protests revolved around the role of art education. But even so, the level of discontent and disgust toward the status quo among the British protestors were still on par with their foreign counterparts.

What sparked the art school protests were concerns over the funding of the universities in the British educational system. Important issues were raised about the financing of libraries, campuses, and accommodations to the Student Body. Another issue was the fact that the curriculum related to the arts were taking too many cues from the then-prevalent paradigm of Fordism-Taylorism. In essence, one cannot manufacture individual works of art en masse, but one can duplicate the same works of art through reproductions, photographs, and videos. The consequence of those arrangements is that they failed to foster creativity and authenticity to the point of fostering social alienation and isolation.   

There were the usual sets of concerns about the Vietnam War and the other events which aroused these student protests around the world at the time. But in general, the real proposals put forward involved giving greater autonomy to the Student Body and would in turn lead to the development of a Student Government and Student Economy. It would also allow the Student Body to properly confront the OECD-Type Student Economy and strive toward replacing the Custodial-Care Function with a more suitable alternative. The problem with that is that they lacked a vision on how to replace the OECD-Type Student Economy and the Custodial-Care Function.

A Detente with the Arbeiter?

All of the case studies that I had just listed involved trying to challenge the status quo. The student protestors in each country had their own ideas on how to confront the OECD-Type Student Economy. The Japanese believed that the dissolution of the OECD-Type Student Economy is inseparable from the dissolution of the tertiary educational level. The Italians recognized that the “Political Left” and “Political Right” shared the same set of concerns, albeit from their own perspectives. The French saw the student protests as an opportunity to engage in nationwide industrial action. The West Germans believed that an old legacy needed to be questioned by the implementation of a new one. And the British saw the student protests as a way to address the issues related to a particular educational curriculum.

The students in each example, based on their motivations and actions, had access to the same flow of information. They had access to the same set of basic facts, expressed in their own languages, and even arrived at similar conclusions. Their countries were integrated into Thomas Jefferson’s Empire of Liberty insofar as these five countries were under the political-economic decision-making of the Democratic-Republican Party. We can reinterpret the events of 1968 from an economic perspective, seeing how the British Pound Sterling, the French Franc, the Italian Lira, the West German Mark, and the Japanese Yen were all beholden to the US Dollar under the Bretton Woods System. And their countries, because they were integrated into the Empire of Liberty, were subjected to the Liberalization of Young Minds in the form of access to Commercial Media.

Speaking of which, another argument can also be made that a Socialization of Young Minds and a Liberalization of Young Minds were both occurring around the same timeframe. This fits neatly with my earlier argument in Section Four that the various movements of the Counterculture were eventually coopted by Neoliberalism by the 1980s. There was genuine dissent and that dissent had to have relied on a Socialization of Young Minds to gravitate the student protestors around a shared set of goals and provide them with an organizational foundation from which to conduct their activities. At the same time, their activities were met with varying levels of responses by the Liberal Capitalists, who sought to preserve the OECD-Type Student Economy.

The response to these student protestors by the governments covered here, I believe, led to subsequent attempts to prevent another Counterculture from ever happening again. The Custodial-Care Function received its contemporary form throughout the 1970s and was able to consolidate the legitimacy of the OECD-Type Student Economy, allowing it to present a National Consciousness more receptive to Neoliberalism. By controlling the national educational system in this manner, the Liberal Capitalists would then be able to promote their own Gestalt (Figure), which they could use to defend themselves against the Gestalt of the Arbeiter after the Death of Bretton Woods. I have referred to this Gestalt before as the “Yuppie,” a kind of personality who is receptive to the ideological premises of Laissez-Faire Capitalism and Social Liberalism. Is it too much of a coincidence that certain ideas from the New Left and the New Right would later go on to be coopted by the Liberal Capitalists to create the Yuppie, thereby bolstering the ideological defenses of Neoliberalism by the 1980s?

It should not be too much of a stretch to believe that this same Gestalt emerged in the wake of Deindustrialization, the emergence of Globalization, and the rise of a “Knowledge Economy” whose economic growth stemmed from the tertiary educational level of the OECD-Type Student Economy. We can even argue that the senseless acts of violence perpetuated by the more radical elements among the student protestors helped played a role in ushering the Gestalt of the Yuppie. Since the personalities associated with those violent acts were too unstable and incapable of leading real political-economic change, the Liberal Capitalists found other ways to coopt the more moderate elements through their Liberalization of Young Minds. That does explain why the Social-Democratic parties throughout the Western world were incapable of continuing their old policies after the Death of Bretton Woods, not to mention why a lot of them later wound up adopting new policies which are favorable to Neoliberalism.      

But with the rise of the digital realm and Social Media by extension, new opportunities for the Socialization of Young Minds and the Liberalization of Young Minds have emerged since the 1990s. Today, it is now possible for someone to start a political movement that gained momentum in the digital realm and eventually reached critical mass in the Real World. The Gestalt of the Arbeiter continues to exist, even in the digital realm, because the digital realm itself is in final analysis an extension of the Real World which exists offline.   

Categories: Third Place

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