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Bunúis na réabhlóide, 5/5

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Rudi Dutschke may have come up with the slogan “long march through the institutions” in 1967, but the concept predated the Sixties. Former Trotskyist Peter Hitchens offered an earlier example which he found in one of historian Peter Hennessy’s books.[1]  In 1945, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), Harry Pollitt (1890-1960) told his members who were studying at Cambridge University that “the Party required them to get Firsts and to secure high positions in the State”. As far as these left-leaning intellectuals were concerned, promoting the Daily Worker and fraternising with the proletariat were now passé.[2]    The concept of an elite group of intellectuals that would dominate society was advocated by an Italian Marxist named Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937). He anticipated that “the great masses of the population” would consent to such an arrangement. Anyone who demurred, however, would be subject to “The apparatus of state coercive power”.[3]  For Roger

Bunúis na réabhlóide, 4/5

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For anyone older than me by at least a decade, the 1960s must have been a confusing time. Revolution was in the air and old certainties were under fire. But who was leading the revolution? While it was the young who were being targeted with the “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” message encapsulated in Ian Dury’s 1977 song, those actually upending societal norms could hardly be described as teen rebels.   At the older end of the spectrum were Pope John XXIII and Margaret Sanger, both in their seventies when they launched their respective revolutions in religion and sex. But even Timothy Leary and George Martin were middle-aged when they put their stamp on Sixties culture.  Then came 1968 and the student protests that flared up across the western world.  These were led by people who were genuinely young. Peter Camejo was in his mid-twenties when he organised demonstrations at Berkeley University against the war in Vietnam.[1] In Berlin, many thousands of miles from California, prol

Mná na hÉireann

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My last post made me think about something that had never before crossed my mind. What was it like to be a woman in 1960s Ireland?  But how could I know? Not only am I a man, I have no sisters and the only female presence in our home was my mother. And I never discussed such things with her before she died in 1974.  Although my first teachers in the convent school I attended were female, boys and girls were taught in separate classrooms and never allowed to mix. Male teachers only were employed in the single-sex primary and secondary schools I went to later. At my Holy Communion and Confirmation ceremonies girls and boys were separated by the long aisle that divided the church from the altar to the entrance. And of course, my years as a Mass server were all male affairs too. It was not until I turned 14 that I had my first real contact with girls. The Legion of Mary organised afternoon dances (or reunions) for its younger members at a time when social outlets for teenagers were few and

Bunúis na réabhlóide, 3/5

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The swinging Sixties didn't just swing on the dance floor. This was the decade of sexual liberation. English poet, Philip Larkin, commemorated its advent in a famous verse he composed in 1967.  Sexual intercourse began In nineteen sixty-three (which was rather late for me) - Between the end of the Chatterley ban And the Beatles' first LP.[1]  Irish politician, Oliver J. Flanagan, agreed about the timing (kind of), but framed his reflections in more prosaic language. In March 1971, during a heated debate on The Late Late Show , Flanagan claimed that “there was no sex in Ireland before television”.[2]  Of course neither man was being literal. It wasn’t that people didn’t engage in sexual activity prior to 1960. In their different ways what Larkin and Flanagan were highlighting was a significant shift in public attitudes towards sex, which they subsequently associated with the early years of the decade.  Yes, the Chatterley case, pop music, and television, probably helped fuel the