Alan Gibson

1968 began in Vietnam

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It was the Vietnamese who kicked off, 50 years ago, what became one of the greatest years in recent history for political advance — 1968.

On 30 January that year an 80,000-strong combined force of the Viet Cong and the People’s Army of North Vietnam carried out surprise attacks on some 100 towns and cities, including 36 regional capitals, in South Vietnam.

The Tet Offensive, named after the Vietnamese New Year Tet holiday, was aimed particularly at the major command centres of the South Vietnamese Army and its then massive US military support.

News in brief

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Fat cats grab the most

The richest 0.1 percent of the world’s population have increased their combined wealth by the same amount as the poorest 50 percent since 1980, says the World Inequality Report, published in December. Around 76,000 people — the 0.001 percent — grabbed 4 percent of the all new wealth created over the past four decades. The richest 5 percent in the UK have an average wealth of £3.7 million, compared with £68,000 for the bottom 90 percent.

Preparing for Trump

Protest: Stories of Resistance

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The question on the book’s jacket, “Whatever happened to British protest?” is silly, particularly given the 20 marvellous incidents it records. But don’t let that put you off a really good anthology about protest movements in the UK. Starting with the Peasants Revolt of 1381 and finishing with the anti-Iraq War demonstration of February 2003, a series of writers provide real colour to each protest or movement with often moving short stories.

Architecture for all

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Even the UK’s most stolid institutions are waking up to the fact that, post-Grenfell, things are changing. Rather than award its annual top gong to someone responsible for designing a posh museum, sports stadium or residential block for wealthy people, the architects’ association RIBA has this year chosen Neave Brown as the recipient of its Gold Medal.

The fine art of revolutionary manoeuvre

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The tumultuous summer months of 1917 in Russia saw the right regrouping in an attempt to reverse the gains of the February Revolution. Alan Gibson describes the twists and turns which brought the Bolsheviks and the moderates together — but also laid the groundwork for the October insurrection.

‘In the menacing hour of grave ordeals at the front and complete internal collapse from the political and economic disorganisation, the country can be saved from ultimate ruin only by a really strong government in the capable and experienced hands of persons who are not bound by narrow party or group programs.”

How Lenin set the course for October

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Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia in April 1917, five weeks after a revolution had overthrown the hated Tsar. Alan Gibson sets out the pivotal role Lenin played in arguing that the revolution must go further than change at the top. His April Theses are an object lesson in audacity and leadership.

‘This is the ravings of a madman.” So said Alexander Bogdanov about Vladimir Lenin’s speech in the days following his arrival at the Finland Station in Petrograd at the beginning of April 1917 — a speech that Pravda published as The April Theses.

Art and revolution

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Roger Huddle is right to be disappointed by the Royal Academy’s Revolution exhibition (March SR). Thankfully, unlike the stolid display on show there, the Imagine Moscow show at the Design Museum makes an effort to bring to life the artistic dynamism that the events of 1917 propelled.

None of the six architectural projects exhibited were ever built, but the fantastic ideas behind them live on in cities across the world, though sadly more often than not without their original political aims.

Caught in the Revolution

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Helen Rappaport has skilfully woven together the accounts and reports made by more than 80 foreigners who were either visiting or working in Petrograd when, on International Women’s Day 1917, tens of thousands of women walked out on strike and began calling out more textile workers and their male colleagues in the engineering and munitions plants.

Their accounts of the following five days of escalating revolutionary turmoil are fabulous, not because of any political acumen — far from it — but because the revolution itself was fabulous.

Oslo

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The Berlin Wall has fallen, offering the chance to do what has so far proved impossible. That is how Norwegian sociologist Terje Rod-Larsen (played by Toby Stephens) argues the case to go ahead with the secret talks that resulted in the Oslo Accord of 1993 and the famous handshake between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin at the White House.

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