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1968: What If We Had Never Tried?


Peter Cockroft


For those who don’t know me, I come from Lancashire in the North West of England. All of my grandparents were operatives in the cotton mills. In 1966 I became the first member of my family to go to university, at Manchester, and I graduated with what must have been a long service degree in 1971. 1968 in Britain was not the milestone year that it was in France or the USA, or indeed Poland or Czechoslovakia. British troops were not in Vietnam, at least not officially, and we had no draft. No great linkage formed with the working class movement, no Chicago and thankfully, nobody dead. From an international perspective England was dull. But if you were there, it was fabulous. In fact 1968 was the prelude, in student politics terms, to 1969 when things became much warmer. Late 1968 had seen a series of occupations of university administrations and in one of these, student burglars came across a treasure trove of correspondence between various Vice Chancellors discussing their problems with left wing students. It may seem quite predictable that the authorities would be talking to each other about us, given that we were threatening to burn the place down some time soon, but, perhaps because the time was overdue, outrage grew on our campus.