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For the most part students are young people whose life experience and knowledge often fail to counterweigh their energies which in their turn are juxtaposing with keen sense of equity. Due to these circumstances the students are often involved in various protest or even subversive activities. Doing work to effect social, economic, environmental or political change the students' protest groups of each country possess however certain characteristic features peculiar to each nation's social pattern.
The peak of the student activism combined with protests of 1968 which swayed a good half of developed countries. By that time numerous generation of middle class had grown up and began to insist on their rights. Those young people had for the most part not experienced either hunger or bombings or any other privations related to the Great Depression or War. Having come of age in relative comfort they were inclined to take the available material benefits for granted.
It was the first generation that en masse had obtained secondary education which has eventually broadened outlook of so many people. Their scholarship made them able to distinguish social injustices contemporaneous with their student days yet did not suggest the ways to amend those wrongs. Educated young people of Mexico as well as of other countries of the Third World were more sensible to the global economic fluctuations than their coevals of Communist and capitalist developed countries. So it is no wonder that they were susceptible to leftist and other subversive ideas.
Soviet Union as well as most of socialist states has not experienced students' activism as it was in the capitalist and the Third World countries. It can be explained by suppressed freedoms and civil rights as well as by stable growth of their economies. Besides having some of their rights violated citizens of Communist countries had their right to work secured and as a result were confident in their future. Being employed and aware of being employed in future they were simply too busy to participate in any protest actions.
In this respect however China stands out against the rest of communist countries. This countries leadership did not wait until the first Chinese post-war students would insist their rights. Instead Mao Zedong canalized the students' zeal against Chinese bureaucracy.
So let us consider the differences and similarities between the most significant students' movements from the Americas to the Far East.
However Mexican student movement is not the only one in Western Hemisphere it stands out for the heavy casualties it has sustained. Students' protest activism on that country combined fell on the year of the Games of the XIX Olympiad. This was the first and the only time that Olympic Games took place in Latin America so it is no wonder that Mexican dictatorship was eager for establishing its prestige on the international scene. The government invested some $150million in preparations. Such tremendous expenditures eventually triggered public outrage in Mexican society separated by tremendous gap between the rich and the poor. Moreover the government imposed a series of restrictions on civil rights as well as upon some educational establishments' autonomy. This notwithstanding various protest groups united under the leadership of National Strike Council (Consejo Nacional de Huelga or CNH). That body was made up of the students of over 60 universities and vocational schools. This body coordinated protest actions which promoted political, educational and social reforms. CNH leaders tried to harness attention focused on the Olympic Games into social and political grievances. The Council demanded:
Repeal of the Penal Code articles sanctioning arbitrary imprisonment of anybody
participating in a public gathering of three or more people.
Abolition of the special police corpse
Discharge of political prisoners
Release of the chief of the police.
President Gustavo Díaz however proved to be a steadfast and resolute leader. He did not justify the CNH leaders' hopes and quenched the protests not caring a bit of his regime's reputation on the international scene. Ten days after the police, army and secret service committed the notorious Tlatelolco massacre president Díaz opened 1968 Summer Olympics. Dozens of victims shot and wounded on "La Noche Triste" (the Sad Night) did not undermine Diaz's dictatorship. Moreover it was not until late 1990s that a congressional investigation into these events was authorized. Soon after the beginning of that investigation Institutional Revolutionary Party lost the power in the country (Mexico's 1968 Massacre).
However events relating to American student movement have not been as dramatic as in Mexico they drew no less response than "La Noche Triste" had done. Unlike Mexican student unrest the peak of American student activism combines with 1970 being triggered though by the events relating to 1968. This year Americans elected Richard Nixon who had promised to end the Vietnam War. Instead the war was escalating. Moreover first since World War II draft lottery was introduced. Nevertheless Vietnam War was winding down during 1969 US Army invaded Cambodia. This invasion angered lots of college students who got afraid of being drafted to the frontline of war. Breaking shop-windows and throwing beer bottles and stones at cars and policemen is safer than fighting on the frontline so the young men proffered to protest than to wait for the draft lottery results. It is no wonder that the protesters failed to receive widespread support within the country. Furthermore student protests provoked the backlash of the so-called Silent Majority made up of citizens supporting Nixon Administration and Vietnam War (HoSang).
In 1968 West Germany experienced hardly the most powerful student protest movement among the non-communist states. German students' riots were caused by 1966 economic recession which was in fact the first post-war economic slowdown. To spare budget costs the government reduced expenditures on high education. The time limit on courses as well as the number of students was reduced. Government reforms inevitably caused widespread dissatisfaction among students grew into the long-dated social unrest.
In spite of efforts made by government to present the students as idlers unwilling to either work or to study the protesters succeeded to gain publicity of champions of civil rights and anti-war activists. They pointed out at the fact that the professors which insisted on establishing law and order in the universities had been Nazi Party members before. Nonetheless by the time of its dissolution NSDAP had 8.5 million members the student activists' anti-Nazi rhetoric drew a wide response both in Germany and worldwide. Moreover German leftist political groups did not miss a chance to make political mileage of students' protests.
German students also participated in anti-war and anti American activities protesting against Vietnam War while the professors outwardly refrained from any political activities. Furthermore university boards persistently banned any political activities from universities maintaining that the science ought to be always neutral. Such attitude however was criticized by the student activists for being similar to the one taken by German professorate in 1930s.
German student activists however did not limit their activities to hooliganism or demagogy. During the first protest demonstration against the visit of Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi the protesters were attacked by the police of West Berlin and the Iranian service. In the disorder the unarmed theology student Benno Ohnesorg was shot dead. As it was discovered more than forty years later police officer Karl-Heinz Kurras who actually shot Ohnesorg was East German secret police Stasi agent. After the name of the day Benno Ohnesorg's was killed Movement 2 June was named. That movement was associated with the notorious Red Army Faction.
West German students' protests reached their climax In May 1968. The group formed of students and members of trade unions demonstrated in West Germany capital Bohn against emergency legislation. Nonetheless the participants of these demonstrations numbered as many as 80.000 they failed to stop the Bundestag from adopting this law (Jud).
After this failure student protests winded down. Unarmed protest groups began to fight each other and could not go on with the protest activities against the government. The students for the most part came back to the lecture rooms, received their degrees and made careers although the most ardent opponents of the regime united in such groups as Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF) went on with fighting and terrorized West German establishment during the next decade.
However Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi himself is not likely to have wished Benno Ohnesorg's death the latter was revenged by Iranian students who contributed much into overgrowing of the last Iranian monarch. Both moderate and religious students participated actively in 1979 Iranian Revolution. In January 1978 Iranian army suppressed both demonstrating religious and student activists killing some of them. Those killings in their turn sparked a series of nation-wide protests that eventually led to the Islamic Revolution next year. On November 4, 1979 belligerent Iranian students united in the Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam group seized American embassy. During 444 days 52 embassy employees were held hostages (Iran's liberal).
However Islamic Republic of Iran is viewed as non-democratic state Iranian students time after time remind the government of their role in national politics. During thirty years which passed after Islamic Revolution Iranian students had several clashes with the regime. The most notable of them were Student Riots of 1999. Several people perished during a week of confrontations caused by a police raid on the university hostel as a response to Tehran University students' demonstrations against persecution of reformist press.
However revolutionary spirit of Iranian student movement has survived the revolution it accomplished it is not in our opinion the most prominent among student movements of non-communist countries. As the weirder (if such a word is applicable) student movement is probably the 2008 Wild Strawberry student movement in Taiwan. Taiwanese students are said to have chosen themselves the name for their movement which in its turn has two meanings. The word "wild" derives from the Wild Lily student movement of 1990 which is said to have led to democratic reforms in that Far East country. The word "strawberry" is associated with the term" strawberry generation", a description of Taiwanese young people born in 1980s. That generation is said to be made of those who "bruise easilyÂ» i.e. lack strength, selfish, sluggish and arrogant. Unlike the mainland Chinese who had insisted their civil rights at Tiananmen Square nineteen years before tried to prove themselves as well as their parents that they do not bruise easily. Although Taiwanese high rank officials did not have them squashed by tanks they did not yield to the students' demands and did not apologize.
Nevertheless our research would not be through if we omit such phenomenon as 1960s communist Chinese student movement also known as the Red Guards. As we have already noticed these militant groups were made up of radical student youths angry at Chinese communist administrative and intellectual establishment that had already begun to regenerate into the bureaucracy. Under the pretext of eradicating Chinese Four Olds, i.e. old habits, old culture, old customs and old ideas young radicals destroyed old books and pieces of art instead of accumulating and appropriating material goods and benefits.
Nevertheless attacks on the luxury soon changed to the attacks on people. Intellectuals were the first to suffer the brunt of red Guards' revolutionary zeal. In fact they were clearly given to understand that there was no one indispensable in People's Republic of China. Many were removed from their chairs and offices and were assigned such mistreating tasks as cleaning toilets, sweeping pavements and building walls from 7am to 5 pm daily. Such drastic measures were supposed to make them ponder over their "past mistakes". According tot an official report of October 1966 by that time Red Guards had already detained 22000 "counterrevolutionaries". Moreover red Guards used to bring large numbers of specially selected people for firing squads. The latter in their turn decided who among the randomly chosen people would be left alive while others people around them were supposed to be shot. High rank party and state officials likewise were not guaranteed against such kind of persecution. Lots of them were sent to the countryside for "reforging" as Maoist leadership officially put it. As soon as young radicals completed their mission their activities were suppressed. Although ardent in their radical zeal Red Guards lacked life experience sufficient for being able to claim any privileges so it is no wonder that soon their groups descended into vehement rivalry. By the summer of 1968 when the wave of the protests swayed United States and West Europe Chinese Red Guards movement had already winded down (Howard).
It is quite natural for young people to be overcome with excess of energy as well as with a keen sense of equity. So it is no wonder that unprecedented numbers of young people who had grown up without experiencing any privations received secondary education had no other way for letting their energy out but to participate in civil unrests. Caused by different social and economic conditions students unrests however were likewise calmed down in different distinctive ways peculiar to each social and economic structure.
Democratic, non-communist societies when facing the odd-men problem often failed to employ them either letting them to idle or suppressing violently their protest activities. Non-democratic societies on the contrary do their best to utilize their citizens' potential as much as possible however doing it regardless of people's lives and human rights.