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1968 – Year of Revolution?

In December 2008, the Labour History Project held a seminar to mark the 40th anniversary of 1968.

Seminar Papers

  • Gordon Campbell – The Music of 1968
    There is a sort of hungover decadence to much of the key music from 1968. It in no way reflected the revolutionary optimism of Paris ’68. Instead, the music of 1968 had more in common with the frustrated rage of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and with the tragic, pissed-off sense of inevitability with … Read more
  • Keith Locke – Reminiscences of a Student Radical
    Keith Locke has been a Green Party MP since 1999. Looking back, 1968 was one of the most amazing years of my life. I was living in Canada at the time. I had gone there in 1966 to study for an MA in Sociology, and to continue my political activities. I had been engaged in … Read more
  • Peter Franks – The Nil Wage Order
    Peter Franks was a trade union official for over 20 years and now works as an employment mediator. He has published numerous articles on New Zealand labour history. His history of the printing trade unions, Print and Politics, was published in 2001. He is a long-standing committee member of the LHP. Was the 1968 Nill … Read more

Donald Anderson’s review

There was something in the air in 1968. A wave of revolt spread around the world. In France, workers and students famously almost brought down the government. Occupations, strikes, riots and mass protests occurred in the USA, Czechoslovakia (the Prague Spring), Italy, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Pakistan and elsewhere. In Vietnam, the Tet offensive was launched. This mood of rebellion spread to New Zealand. A major workplace revolt occurred against the nil wage order issued by the Arbitration Court. A worker-student protest, legend has it, almost ‘stormed’ Parliament.

Major – and successful – protests were held against a proposed US military installation called Omega. The ‘Peace, Power, and Politics’ counter- conference was held against the Vietnam War and SEATO. And there was much other activity too.

1968 symbolised the hope of a new generation that they could radically change the old establishment. In New Zealand, it led to a blossoming of struggle by workers, students, Maori, women, Pacific people, environmentalists and others.

On Saturday 6 December 2008, over 40 people gathered to listen and discuss whether or not 1968 was a year of revolution. We were entertained and informed by Lisa Sacksen’s paper on events in France in 1968 and by Toby Boraman’s presentation on the worker-student alliance in NZ and the ‘storming’ of Parliament (see Toby’s paper in this issue). Peter Franks spoke in his usual thorough and perceptive style on the movement against the nil wage order.

Memories of many of those present were rekindled by the reminiscences and analyses of prominent trade unionist Ken Douglas, former Resistance Bookshop operator Pat Bolster, and Auckland Progressive Youth Movement member Barry Lee.

Alex Burton’s cleverly-cut selection of New Zealand television and film selections brought alternating rounds of laughter and thoughtful murmurs from the audience. Our thanks to the NZ Film Archive for their assistance.

It was good to see new faces at the seminar, and to learn that some of the spirit of 1968 was still alive in New Zealand!

The afternoon ended with a comradely round of drinks, or two, at The Thistle Inn to celebrate the Christmas season.