Radio silence concerning FDR’s repudiation of debts

May 30th, 2023


Progressives are calling on President-elect Joe Biden and his Education Department to cancel student debt. IMAGE/YouTube/screenshot/Common Dreams

During your education, did you learn that during the 1930s the government of the USA unceremoniously repudiated a central provision of debt contracts that represented phenomenal sums? Do any history books analyze that act? Historical narratives are fashioned by mainstream thought, whose aim is to induce the belief that governments like that of the USA respect the sacred character of contracts, in particular those involving debts and property. However that belief is far from reality. The repudiation of the gold clause in debt contracts in the name of public order, of the general interest and of necessity is an important episode in “contemporary” history. Yet it is an episode that has been kept quiet, including in the USA itself. The unilateral repudiation of debt contracts, in whole or in part, to which various governments have resorted over the past two centuries is currently a highly important topic, at a time when more and more countries are approaching a new major debt crisis.

On 19 April 1933, six weeks after the start of his term as president, the Democrat Franklin Roosevelt announced that the United States would no longer repay its debts in gold, but rather in paper money – in dollars in the form of banknotes.

This decision was of very great importance, since many loan contracts stipulated that creditors could require that debts be repaid either in gold or in dollars at the rate of 20 dollars for a troy ounce of gold.

Loan contracts containing the provision (a “gold clause”) represented a colossal sum for the time: USD 120 billion, including 20 billion in debts contracted by the public authorities and 100 billion in private-sector debt. That sum was greatly in excess of the market wealth produced in one year in the USA (according to Sebastian Edwards, debt contracts containing a gold clause represented 180% of the GDP of the United States at the time [1]).

The annulment of repayment in gold was accompanied by a measure by which the government prohibited ownership of gold in an amount exceeding USD 100 and required all companies and all persons residing in the USA to sell their gold to the Federal Reserve. The government exchanged the gold for banknotes.

This decision made by President Roosevelt was approved by the US Congress in June 1933, and the abandonment of the gold clause in debt securities became law. The minority of Congress members from his party and the Republican party who opposed the decision loudly protested that it amounted to nothing more or less than a repudiation of debts and contracts. Lewis Douglas, Director of the Budget and one of Roosevelt’s closest advisers and collaborators, had tried to oppose the decision and had declared at a crisis cabinet meeting called by Roosevelt that the decision meant nothing less than “the end of Western civilisation” (Edwards, p. 58). Sebastian Edwards, a neoliberal economist, whose book cited above and published in 2018 is entirely devoted to this decision by the Roosevelt administration, titles the book’s Chapter 6 “A Transfer of Wealth to the Debtor Class” – a title whose meaning is quite explicit (Edwards, p. 57).

After having annulled the gold clause that had been part of all debt contracts, the US President announced a 69% devaluation of the dollar against gold (an ounce of gold would now be worth USD 35, [2] whereas it had been worth USD 20.67 previously). This meant that the United States itself and private borrowers who had “issued” or signed acknowledgements of debt including the gold clause would now not repay their debts in gold, but rather in strongly devalued paper money.

In February 1935, the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the decision to cancel the gold clause made by Congress and the President.

A fundamental element of the government’s legal argument before the Supreme Court was that in 1933, Congress was faced with an urgent need for “immediate action” to end the Depression. The action in question, which included devaluation of the dollar against gold, could only be effective if the gold clause was eliminated from both past and future contracts. Had the clauses relating to gold been kept, according to the government, it would have meant insolvency at the national level. That is why Congress – still according to the government –, faced with a deep recession, banking collapse and monetary panic, adopted the Joint Resolution which annulled all gold clauses. According to the government, such action was necessary if the country was to be saved.

Jurists who opposed the cancellation of the gold clause maintained that it amounted to expropriation without compensation. (Edwards p. 152)

Counterpunch for more

How faith can get in the way of seeking mental health care

May 30th, 2023


DRAWING/Celia Jacobs/Washington Post

In some faith communities, people hesitate to get mental health care. Here are some ways to make the process easier.

“Doc, I’ll be honest with you,” a new patient in my therapy practice said. “I don’t really want to be here, but I’ve tried everything else, and my sister finally pushed me to come see you.”

She said she had been trying to stay stoic in the face of hardship and accept God’s decree for her life. But many nights spent in prayer didn’t seem to help her heal from a childhood trauma that was retriggered by a recent incident.

In our sessions, she said that her reluctance to seek therapy stemmed from her belief that it would complicate her relationship with God. It would be as though she was asking for help from someone other than God.

review article shows that individuals across faith groups may use their religious beliefs as reasons to not seek help — a phenomenon known as spiritual bypassing — because they believe that God is testing them in a special way, that faith alone will suffice or that they are deserving of hardship.

As health-care professionals involved in mental health research and community and clinical work, we have seen this phenomenon in our own Muslim community. But we also know that while the concerns are real and rooted in a commitment to faith, they may also be the result of misunderstanding aspects of faith.

Teaching patients that God doesn’t want you to suffer

In many world religions, hardships and challenges are understood to be a part of life, but are never meaningless or intended to hurt people. Rather, the teachings go, God places us in difficult situations to help us realize our dependence on Him, illuminate our blessings in a new light or learn lessons that help us grow spiritually.

When you are going through a hard time — try to find the lesson in it, take actionable steps to move past it and use the experience to strengthen your trust in a loving God.

How to get mental health help

Faith can empower people to seek mental health care

In Islam, individuals are responsible for caring for their bodies and minds, and this includes seeking appropriate help. This message is echoed in many of the world’s major faith traditions, but perhaps not always underscored when it comes to mental health.

One of the ways we encouraged the patient, an observant Muslim, to seek therapy was by quoting this saying of the prophet Muhammad, “O servants of God, seek treatment. Verily, Allah did not send a disease but that He also sent its treatment or cure.”

This wisdom encourages the faithful to seek help for illnesses — including mental illnesses — and they can do this without thinking that they are betraying other religious ideals such as reliance on God or belief in fate.

And the care should be appropriate — we should seek help from professionals and not limit it to self-help books, online resources, or friends and family. Nonprofessional resources, even if well-meaning, can sometimes be detrimental without proper guidance.

Faith should help us feel empowered to seek help even if, at the outset, we are unsure of its effectiveness.

For the patient, discovering that her religion encouraged mental health care was a significant motivator in her decision to seek therapy. For others, seeking guidance from support systems or an inner reflection may help them reach the same conclusion.

Washington Post for more

(Thanks to reader)

Reclaiming Islam: Affirming our right to interpretation

May 30th, 2023


IMAGE/Duck Duck Go

This is a statement that affirms the original principles of Islam, as stated in the Quran itself. In the name of God, the merciful, the benevolent.

We are the Muslims who represent approximately 2 billion believers, and allies. We believe that all human beings have been created equal in the eyes of God. We affirm the oneness of all creation. We understand that harming one human being –emotionally, physically or systemically– harms all of humanity. We acknowledge that we humans have been placed on this earth as the earth’s stewards, and so entrusted with the task to protect all creation from harm.

We reject the idea that there is a singular interpretation where Islam outlaws LGBTQIA+ people or considers Queerness or trans identities sinful. We stand by our LGBTQIA+ community members and stress that labels of sinfulness put their health, basic rights and lives in danger. To quote the Quran: “Don’t let hatred of a people cause you to be unjust.”

Instead, we claim our God-given right to read the Quran for ourselves, to use our God-given intuition and reason to decide what is right and wrong without the pressures of self-proclaimed religious leaders and clergy-members.

We are the community of believers who choose the challenging way– the path that requires us to do the hard work of reading the Quran, learning Islamic history and about the life of Prophet Muhammad, and developing our critical reasoning and our natural intuition. We choose this path over blindly following religious leaders who declare their human, and often Quranically, logically and historically unsupported interpretations as unimpeachable.

We draw a distinction between scholars and religious “clerics” or “leaders.” Anyone has the ability and right to pursue deep study of Islam, and that deep study gives these scholars a stamp of credibility. It does not, however, put them on a pedestal. It does not make their interpretation of Islam immutable or unquestionable.

We remind those who call themselves faith leaders in the Muslim community that Islam put an end to priesthood and the concept of rabbis. We urge them to remember that Islam firmly establishes the spiritual relationship directly between man and God. With no intermediaries. Islam warns against worshiping humans and power, cautioning believers against idolatry, false Gods and prophets. It also states, unequivocally, that there is no compulsion in religion.

We are aware that the status and power religious leaders have enjoyed is threatened by the empowered and learned individual. As more Muslims choose the challenging path, and follow the Quranic command to read and learn for themselves, the less need there is for intermediaries like Shaikhs, Imams and Ustads. We believe in an all-powerful God who has the capacity to enact and protect His own will and does not need the help of human beings who have appointed themselves His sole interpreters. As the Quran says, “All power and authority belong to God alone. Judgment alone belongs to God.”

Instead of aligning with ideologues and policymakers whose platform also includes discriminating against Muslims, we put our collective power behind fighting for the following:

A sustainable, beautiful, climate conscious planet that protects animals, plants, and humans.

A just, anti-racist society that fights all discrimination on the basis of race, sex, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, age or ability.

The right of all humans to practice their own religion freely, without discrimination or persecution.

The right to safe and equitable housing for all.

The right to universal healthcare.

The right to sustainable, clean and healthy food for all.

The right to free, equitable and secular education for all.

Freedom from financial exploitation.

Freedom from sexual exploitation.

Freedom from oppression, injustice and tyranny.

May God give us the strength to stand in our integrity and to continue to challenge all oppressive systems, especially those erected in His name. We pray that we are able to surrender to Him, to find inner peace, and honor Him by building a loving, benevolent and just world that honors the oneness and sacredness of all of his creation.

This statement has been signed by over 1000 people to date:

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Add your name here. Your name will appear within 48 hours of signing.

Reclaiming Islam for more

(Thanks to reader)

Some trans people find gender euphoria in being mothers and being with family

May 29th, 2023


Some trans people find gender euphoria in being mothers and being with family. rparobe/E+ via Getty Images

Since the beginning of 2023, 49 U.S. state legislatures have introduced over 500 anti-trans bills. While mainstream media increasingly cover violence and legislative attacks against trans people, many scholars and activists worry that focusing just on violence and discrimination fails to capture the full experience of being trans.

Drawing on the success of movements like the Black Joy Project, which uses art to promote Black healing and community-building, trans activists are challenging one-dimensional depictions of their community by highlighting the unique joys of being transgender.

My research on trans parents affirms the reality of trans joy. From 2019 to 2021, I interviewed 54 transgender women – both current and prospective parents – from diverse racial and class backgrounds across the country. I found that while many have navigated discrimination in their parenting journeys, they also have fulfilling parent-child relationships, often with the support of partners, families of origin and their communities.

Gender euphoria

Scholars and community members use the term gender euphoria to describe a “joyful feeling of rightness in one’s gender/sex.” It diverges from the diagnosis of gender dysphoria, or a sense of conflict between assigned sex and gender identity typically associated with feelings of distress and discomfort.

TheConversation for more

A nuclear Bacchanalia

May 29th, 2023


Insufferable pro-nuclear hyperbole saturates the media, but it’s fake delivered as fact

The pro-nuclear reprobates are enjoying their Bacchanalia. They are reveling in the tidal wave of propaganda they have unleashed across multiple media platforms. They are basking in their new-found role as the cool dudes on the block, the defiers of what they see as traditional old thinking that relegates nuclear power to the past.

While our blood pressure rises, faced with a lavishly funded saturation campaign that plants pro-nuclear falsehoods absolutely everywhere, the hedonists of nuclear are soaring on a fanfaronade of hot air (emanating from which orifice we shall not say).

They are trained dissimulators, skilled at delivering fake as fact. And they believe they are winning. But theirs is a vainglorious and entirely temporary victory, a conquest of cozenage.

There is a puncture in their balloon of bombast. And, like many a Dickens villain, they are due for their comeuppance. 

BeyondNuclearInternational for more

Indonesia telecom scandal buzzing with election intrigue

May 29th, 2023


Telecom infrastructure deals may have been riddled with corruption in Indonesia. Image: Twitter / Screengrab

Minister’s arrest on corruption charges may be linked to his party’s support for opposition presidential aspirant Anies Baswedan

JAKARTA – Valid or not, it is proving difficult for President Joko Widodo to fend off claims that a political motive lies behind last week’s arrest of National Democrat Party-affiliated (Nasdem) Communications and Informatics Minister Johnny Plate on corruption charges.

Although a cloud had been hanging over him for months, it must still have taken the president’s nod to indict Plate for allegedly causing losses to the state of 8 trillion rupiah (US$536 million) in the installation of telecom base transceiver stations (BTS) in remote corners of the vast archipelago.

Nasdem has three ministers in the current Cabinet, but party leader Surya Paloh created tensions within the government – and sparked rumors of a pending reshuffle – after declaring his support for opposition presidential candidate Anies Baswedan last October.

Although there had been some friction between the two, Paloh’s move to switch sides clearly took Widodo by surprise because the bearded media baron had been the first senior political figure to support him when he ran for the presidency in 2014 and again in 2019.

With the Justice and Prosperity (PKS) and Democrat (DP) parties already lining up behind Baswedan, Nasdem’s support allowed the former Jakarta governor to clear the threshold of 20% of parliamentary seats necessary to be nominated for what is shaping up to be a three-way race.

Jakarta’s political elite are wary of Baswedan because of his links to Islamic conservatives and because of the belief he could attract substantial votes from among the 56% of the electorate that is under 40 and has differing political views.

Although his chances do appear remote at this point, his election would also represent a changing of the guard among the powerful politically-connected businessmen who surround the current government.

Asiatimes for more

Weekend Edition

May 26th, 2023

Military wins, Pakistan loses

May 26th, 2023


Shireen Mazari, former Federal Minister for Human Rights, announcing leaving PTI and active politics on May 23, 2023. On her right is her daughter Imaan Zainab Mazari Hazir IMAGE/Express Tribune

Has Pakistani military returned to politics?

no, because it had never exited

it’s just that first time in Pakistan’s history the army was openly challenged

Imran Khan, the former prime minister, was the person to do so

on May 9, 2023, Khan was kidnapped from the Islamabad High Court

Abdul Qadir Patel, Minister for National Health Services, insists

“When he was taken into custody by NAB, he was in an intoxicated state.”

NAB had accused Khan of corruption and so he was arrested

Khan’s party was corrupt but was in power for just four years

2 other major Parties PPP & PML (N) have been looting for a long time

not to forget the most corrupt institution in Pakistan, the army

(Gen Pervez Musharraf created the National Accountability Bureau in 1999

to fight corruption, but the bureau itself is involved in corruption

Supreme Court Justice J S Khawaja called it “institutionalized corruption“)

Patel also gave out Khan’s medical report to journalists

“The gentleman [Imran Khan] was examined and appears under stress with anxiety symptoms. There was extensive anger/anxiety about the events happening in the last few weeks. He had little insight into the seriousness and reality of the current situation. The mental stability is questionable. There were some inappropriate gestures.”

he then asked the Supreme Court

“If the Supreme Court deems Imran Niazi mentally unstable, we will accept the court’s decision.”

Khan’s supporters & perhaps, ruling elite’s peoples, went on a rampage

(it happens wordwide — government sends its thugs & blames opposition)

two days, May 9 & 10, 2023, army installations and properties were attacked

the Army struck with full vengeance after PTI supporters/members

everyone had to apologize for damage to army properties, out of fear

(seems similar to 9/11, 2001, when most countries had to loudly feel sorry)

poet Shahzad Sharjeel wonders

“How come May 9 [2023] is already referred to as a ‘black day’ but the days when [Pakistan’s first Prime Minister] Liaquat Ali [in 1951] and [two time prime minister] Benazir Bhutto [in 2007] were assassinated [at that time she was in opposition], or the APS [2014 Peshawar school] massacre occurred are not?”

PTI’s leaders are quitting in droves, except people like Yasmin Rashid

court releases Shireen Mazari, she’s rearrested, after 5th arrest she quit

Shireen Mazari

“I have condemned the events that took place on May 9 and 10. I have condemned all forms of disorder.”

I am leaving politics because of my children, family and health issues. My family and children are my first priority.”

“The constant release and arrest and the ordeal it put my daughter Imaan under had an impact on my health, too. Due to these reasons, I have decided I will quit active politics. And I want to add that from today onwards, I will not be a part of PTI or any other political party.”

last year, Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir apologized to the army

her fault: “abusing and defaming the senior command

in simple English, criticizing the army

in Pakistan, after Muhammad & Quran, Army is the most sacred entity

Chaudhary Fawad Hussain, senior leader & former minister tweeted:

Ref. My earlier statement where I unequivocally condemned 9th May incidents, I have decided to take a break from politics, therefore, I have resigned from party position and parting ways from Imran Khan

Maleeka Bokhari told the press about her “dissociation” from PTI

“I condemn the events that transpired on May 9. For every Pakistani, the events that took place on May 9 are very painful.” “No one forced me into making this decision.” “As a lawyer, I want to play a positive role in Pakistan. I also want to spend time with my family,” “When a red line has been crossed, then action should be taken in line with the law.”

PTI’s Abrarul Haq quit & stated that emotionally he’s connected to the army

“When I went to the Kaaba for Hajj, instead of praying for something else, I prayed for martyrdom. The passion to do something for Pakistan has always been with me,”

(why spend precious foriegn exhange just to ask for martyrdom from Allah

Haq could gain martyrdom anytime; he just have to annoy the army)

PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi was rearrested on May 22, 2023

moments after his release from prison by the Islamabad High Court

Qureshi is PTI’s vice-chairman & the former foreign affairs minister

anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan has been missing for more than a week

Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar is so right when he says

“This doesn’t bode well for politics in general and those who are beaming at it today will surely regret it tomorrow.”

last year, the army had menaced Khokhar to not talk about missing people

Imran Khan, like other politicians, lies a lot — a bit too much

but sometime he also speaks unvarnished truth, like the following:

“People [of my party] are not quitting; they are be­ing forced to leave the party at gunpoint.” “The political parties could not be dismantled through such tactics.” “A [political] party could only be ceased with depletion of its vote bank.”

“We had all heard about forced marriages in Pakistan but for PTI a new phenomenon has emerged, forced divorces.” “Where have all the human rights organisations in the country disappeared?”

army’s power flows thru the barrel of a gun & support of coward politicians

Pakistani Dawn’s editorial Fear tactics describes the military’s methods

“It is a familiar story. A political party, thinking it can take on the country’s all-powerful establishment, crosses a red line and quickly finds itself losing a ruthless, one-sided war of attrition. One by one, its leaders are picked out and isolated. They may find themselves being summoned by powerful officials. Others are picked up in unmarked vehicles.

Those in hiding learn their families are facing harassment. Ominous phone calls from untraceable numbers and blackmail are par for the course. There is no respite, and the unspoken message, hardened over years and years of such forces operating with complete impunity, is that no one — no judge, no lawyer, no rights organisation — is coming to help. The only way out is to do exactly what you are told.”

Pakistan’s army loses external wars badly, in a humilating manner

at internal wars, it’s good at silencing, disappearing, killing its opponents

it’s reported that some former PTI leaders have a plan for a new party

they may join hands with a sugar baron and politician Jahangir Tareen

it has happened in the past with Pakistan Muslim League (N)

A S Akhtar points out that PTI’s demise won’t bring any progressive relief

“I am not naïve enough to believe that a progressive politics can or will be constructed on the ashes of the PTI, at least partially because the latter can be resurrected by the establishment in a new form to suit its needs.”

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told reporters

It is under consideration to ban PTI.” “The PTI has attacked very basis of the state, that never happened before. It can’t be tolerated.”

who is Asif fooling?

the basis of Pakistan is people not the bloody army

it was Pakistan’s army that attacked the very basis of the state in 1971

it was in 1971, that the army attacked over 50% of its population

the atrocities, rapes, killings, destruction by the army broke Pakistan

the eastern wing called East Pakistan seceded and became Bangladesh

politicians in Pakistan, like elsewhere, are corrupt, selfish, liars, cruel, …

but the most harm done to Pakistan is not by politicians but by the army

the cycle of military interventions, overt/covert, will continue

with what face and moral authority could Pakistan support Kashmiris

India’s fascist Hindutva regime will point finger at burning/bankrupt Pak

last week I questioned: “End of Imran Khan’s PTI?”

it seems the PTI we knew is finished

perhaps Khan will chose new people to run for the parliament and senate

Khan has people’s support but will he be able to win majority? doubtful

let’s say Imran Khan fails to gain enough seats to grab the premiership

another drama will unfold; the governing coalition will disintegrate

whatever happens, for a long time to come, military rules, people suffer

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

Kissinger’s bloody paper trail in Chile

May 26th, 2023


IMAGE/Build Up That Wall Blog/Duck Duck Go
Henry Kissinger (the one wearing eye glasses) IMAGE/Yalibnan/Duck Duck Go

As Henry Kissinger reaches 100 years of age on May 27, Chileans are preparing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the bloody military coup that the former US national security adviser helped orchestrate in September 1973. Kissinger’s controversial career is littered with scandals and crimes against humanity: support for mass murderers and torturers abroad, domestic wiretapping, clandestine wars in Indochina, and, as Greg Grandin reminds us, secretly sabotaging the quest for peace in Vietnam. But his pivotal role in the covert US efforts to undermine democracy in Chile, aiding and abetting the rise of the infamous dictator Augusto Pinochet, will always be the Achilles’ heel of Kissinger’s much-ballyhooed legacy.

The declassified historical record leaves no doubt that Kissinger was the chief architect of US efforts to destabilize the democratically elected government of Socialist Party leader Salvador Allende. Once Allende was overthrown, Kissinger became the leading enabler of Pinochet’s repressive new regime. “I think we should understand our policy—that however unpleasant they act, this government is better for us than Allende was,” he told his deputies as they reported to him on the human rights atrocities in the weeks following the coup. At a private June 1976 meeting with Pinochet in Santiago, Secretary of State Kissinger offered platitudes rather than pressure: “My evaluation is that you are a victim of all left-wing groups around the world,” he told Pinochet, “and that your greatest sin was that you overthrew a government which was going communist.”

? Between Allende’s election on September 4, 1970, and his inauguration two months later, the CIA launched a major covert operation to block his ascendance to the presidency. Ordered by President Nixon and overseen by Kissinger, the operation—code-named FUBELT—led to the assassination of Gen. René Schneider, the pro-constitution commander in chief of the Chilean Army. But the operation failed to foment a military coup.

The day after Allende’s inauguration, Nixon scheduled a meeting of his National Security Council on November 5 to establish what US policy toward Chile would be. But Kissinger requested that the meeting be postponed by a day to give him time to personally present this pivotal memorandum to Nixon and persuade him to reject the State Department’s position that Washington could establish a modus vivendi with an Allende government. Kissinger lobbied the president to adopt an aggressive, if covert, effort to “oppose Allende as strongly as we can.”

? In his presentation to the president, Kissinger acknowledged that Allende had been legitimately and democratically elected—“the first Marxist government ever to come to power by free elections”—and would adopt a moderate position toward the United States. In Kissingerian logic, that made Allende even more of a threat. Among the rationales Kissinger presented for destabilizing Allende’s new government was one key factor: “The example of a successful elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact on—and even precedent value for—other parts of the world, especially in Italy. The imitative spread of similar phenomena elsewhere would in turn significantly affect the world balance and our own position in it.” As Kissinger advised the president, “its ‘model’ effect can be insidious.”

? Kissinger successfully persuaded the president to approve this clandestine destabilization policy. At the NSC meeting the next day, Kissinger reiterated his arguments for intervention. “Developments in Chile are clearly of major historic importance, and they will have ramifications that go far beyond just the question of US-Chilean relations,” his talking points for the NSC meeting dramatically began. “The question therefore,” Kissinger stated after outlining the purported threats to US interests of a successful Allende government, “is whether there are actions we can take ourselves to intensify Allende’s problems so that at a minimum he may fail or be forced to limit his aims, and at a maximum might create conditions in which collapse or overthrow might be feasible.”

Portside for more

Where has all the rage gone?

May 26th, 2023


Students hurling projectiles against the police on the Boulevard Saint Germain, Paris, May 6 1968. PHOTO/Bruno Barbey/Magnum

In 1968, fury at the Vietnam war sparked protests and uprisings across the world: from Paris and Prague to Mexico. Tariq Ali considers the legacy 40 years on

A storm swept the world in 1968. It started in Vietnam, then blew across Asia, crossing the sea and the mountains to Europe and beyond. A brutal war waged by the US against a poor south-east Asian country was seen every night on television. The cumulative impact of watching the bombs drop, villages on fire and a country being doused with napalm and Agent Orange triggered a wave of global revolts not seen on such a scale before or since.

If the Vietnamese were defeating the world’s most powerful state, surely we, too, could defeat our own rulers: that was the dominant mood among the more radical of the 60s generation.

In February 1968, the Vietnamese communists launched their famous Tet offensive, attacking US troops in every major South Vietnamese city. The grand finale was the sight of Vietnamese guerrillas occupying the US embassy in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and raising their flag from its roof. It was undoubtedly a suicide mission, but incredibly courageous. The impact was immediate. For the first time a majority of US citizens realised that the war was unwinnable. The poorer among them brought Vietnam home that same summer in a revolt against poverty and discrimination as black ghettoes exploded in every major US city, with returned black GIs playing a prominent part.

The single spark set the world alight. In March 1968, students at Nanterre University in France came out on to the streets and the 22 March Movement was born, with two Daniels (Cohn-Bendit and Bensaid, Nanterre students then, and both still involved in green or leftist politics) challenging the French lion: Charles de Gaulle, the aloof, monarchical president of the Fifth Republic who, in a puerile outburst, would later describe as chie-en-lit – “shit in the bed” – the events in France that came close to toppling him. The students began by demanding university reforms and moved on to revolution.

That same month in London, a demonstration against the Vietnam war marched to the US embassy in Grosvenor Square. It turned violent. Like the Vietnamese, we wanted to occupy the embassy, but mounted police were deployed to protect the citadel. Clashes occurred and the US senator Eugene McCarthy watching the images demanded an end to a war that had led, among other things, to “our embassy in Europe’s friendliest capital” being constantly besieged. Compared with the ferment elsewhere, Britain was a sideshow (“…in sleepy London Town there’s just no place for a street fighting man,” Mick Jagger sang later that year): university occupations and riots in Grosvenor Square did not pose any real threat to the Labour government, which backed the US but refused to send troops to Vietnam.

In France, the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was at the peak of his influence. Contrary to Stalinist apologists, he argued that there was no reason to prepare for happiness tomorrow at the price of injustice, oppression or misery today. What was required was improvement now.

By May, the Nanterre students’ uprising had spread to Paris and to the trade unions. We were preparing the first issue of The Black Dwarf as the French capital erupted on May 10. Jean-Jacques Lebel, our teargassed Paris correspondent, was ringing in reports every few hours. He told us: “A well-known French football commentator is sent to the Latin Quarter to cover the night’s events and reported, ‘Now the CRS [riot police] are charging, they’re storming the barricade – oh my God! There’s a battle raging. The students are counter-attacking, you can hear the noise – the CRS are retreating. Now they’re regrouping, getting ready to charge again. The inhabitants are throwing things from their windows at the CRS – oh! The police are retaliating, shooting grenades into the windows of apartments…’ The producer interrupts: ‘This can’t be true, the CRS don’t do things like that!’

” ‘I’m telling you what I’m seeing…’ His voice goes dead. They have cut him off.”

The police failed to take back the Latin Quarter, now renamed the Heroic Vietnam Quarter. Three days later a million people occupied the streets of Paris, demanding an end to the rottenness of the state and plastering the walls with slogans: “Defend The Collective Imagination”, “Beneath The Cobble- stones The Beach”, “Commodities Are The Opium Of The People, Revolution Is The Ecstasy Of History”.

Eric Hobsbawm wrote in The Black Dwarf: “What France proves is when someone demonstrates that people are not powerless, they may begin to act again.”

I had been planning to head for Paris – it was something we had been discussing at the paper – but then I received a late-night phone call. A posh voice said, “You don’t know who I am, but do not leave the country till your five years here are up. They won’t let you back.” In those days, citizenship for Commonwealth citizens was automatic after five years. I would not complete my five years until October 1968. Already Labour cabinet ministers had been discussing in public whether or not I could be deported. Friendly lawyers confirmed I should not leave the country. Clive Goodwin, the publisher of our mag, vetoed the trip and went off himself.

I went a year later to help Alain Krivine, one of the leaders of the May 1968 revolt, in his presidential campaign, standing for the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire. As we touched down at Orly airport, returning from a rally in Toulouse, the French police surrounded the plane. “Hope it’s you, not me,” muttered Krivine. It was. I was served an order banning me from France which stayed in force until François Mitterand’s election many years later.

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