Marching This Way And That

In his later years, Rayner Heppenstall described himself as a “freelance reactionary”. Here is his amusing capsule summary of les événements of 1968, from The Sex War And Others : A Survey Of Recent Murder, Principally In France (1973):

“Paris always had the best riots. Those of May 1968 marked the clear emergence of a new criminal class, that of the Western World’s countless superfluous undergraduates. Our own welfare kids had done a fair amount of marching this way and that and shouting ‘Fascist!’. This word they had no doubt picked up from their Left-wing parents, for none of them had been born when fascism ended at least in Western Europe. One kind of seasonal marching had ended when the actress Vanessa Redgrave decided, doubtless on doctor’s orders, to stop planting her fair bottom on the cold stones of Trafalgar Square. The French students had heard of Freud and Marx, whose names had bored Britons of my generation to a state verging on hysteria before the war but had somehow skipped Paris, where they had their own anarchist tradition. In Régis Debray, they had a little Che Guevara of their own, and for some reason they had paid more attention than our own young to the government-organised wrecking or cultural revolution in China the previous year…

“At least on the routes of marches, public lavatory attendants get a chance to start cleaning up as soon as the procession has passed, while in general Pop fans congregate in the open air, so that the dead grass can afterwards be sprayed. The Paris undergraduates blocked up the drains in theatres and university buildings until the stench became too much even for them. Then they moved out and left it all to the cleaners and decorators. Even now atavistically respectful of the plumbing, German and Anglo-Saxon undergraduates also occupied fine premises, but in smaller numbers and for shorter periods.”

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