“Historical events during period 1967-1974”, Alexa Schlueter
Dimitri Soulas created his complete oeuvre between 1967 and 1974. From a historical point of view, this period was very important for all “three worlds” into which Cold War journalists preferred to separate earth: the “first world” was the world of Western capitalism, the “second” was that of the socialist countries and the “third” consisted of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
At this time, Western economy had peaked – industrial nations saw the greatest boom since the start of the industrialization. Germany needed foreign workers to realize the economic miracle, and the regions in southern Europe had a seemingly endless supply of them. The period between the end of WWII and 1974 would become known as “les trente glorieuses” (the glorious years) in France.
What European politicians most certainly did not expect were the protests in cities like Berlin or Paris and the sudden transformation of middle-class students and youths into revolutionaries.
Let me recap the events of those amazing years for the younger generations who did not experience this period.
– In April 1967, the military junta in Greece takes over and establishes the military dictatorship.
– In the first days of June 1967, the student Benno Ohnesorg participates in a protest against the Persian Shah Rezah Pahlewi and is shot dead by the German police. In just one night, hundreds of thousand of young Germans turn radical. Ohnesorg’s murder becomes a symbol for the tough stance and response by the German government. Since the ruling coalition of the CDU (German Christian democrats) and the SPD (German social democratic party) also argue in favor of the emergency act, many students see this combination as an attempt to revive the totalitarianism in Western Germany.
– In Latin America, the death of Che Guevara (October 1967) heralds the end of Cuba’s attempt to spread Fidel Castro’s revolution and moves the guerilla war to North America. Che Guevara becomes an international symbol for revolution.
– Late 1967 / early 1968, the Viet Cong’s Tet Offensive preludes the defeat of the American troops in Vietnam.
– At around the same time, Alexander Dubček assumes leadership of the Czechoslovakian communist party. The resignation of president Novotný is followed by several reforms (the Prague Spring) in an attempt to assert “socialism with a human face”. On August 20 and 21 in 1968, the Dubček government is overthrown when the Warsaw Pact troops marched into Czechoslovakia.
– The success of the Prague reforms leads to student protests in Poland, which are dissolved violently.
– In spring 1968, the crisis hits France. The “May Events” are not just the biggest mobilization of students in French history but also lead to the greatest national strike the country has ever seen.
– The May 1968 protests are followed by major student protests in Yugoslavia, which are suppressed by President Tito.
– The student movement is no longer limited to Europe and North America. In autumn 1968, protesters die during one of the major rallies in Mexico City shortly before the opening of the Olympic Games. This demonstration is the culmination of various protests throughout the country.
– Eventually, riots start up in Northern Ireland. The fights between police and protesters during a human rights rally in Londonderry are just one example.
– In Western Germany, the attempted murder of student leader Rudi Dutschke takes the student mobilization to a completely new level.
– Student protests, in combination with a 24-hour national strike in Italy, herald larger demonstrations that lead to the “hot autumn” and subsequently to the founding of the “brigate rosse”.
In the period from 1967 to 1974, four important developments occurred. One was Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China at a time when the majority of the Chinese population was oppressed.
Without being aware of the negative effects caused by the realization of Mao’s idea of a classless society, many young Western intellectuals followed the trend and became zealous supporters of Maoism, a cult that believed in the success of the permanent revolution started by the “Great Helmsman”. The second important development was the continuation of the Middle East conflict. Following Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War in 1967, the armed resistance of the Palestinian command as well as the fight against terrorism on part of Israel came to a head. The civil war in Nigeria and its tragic consequences was the third important event. It started as an attempt at independence for a region rich in oil and ended with the inevitable defeat of the diplomatically isolated and separated Biafra two years later.
Last but not least are the developments in visual and musical culture. Between 1967 and 1970, the greatest rock festivals took place from Monterey to Woodstock to Altamont. At those, the so-called “anti-culture” was born and became the biggest cultural revolution in the Western hemisphere.
Despite the dramatic events between 1967 and 1974, the period did not bring the proclaimed “Spring of the People”. Instead, it became a milestone in the history of the 20th century for its fundamental cultural changes as well as the economical and social transformations, with the educational revolution in the foreground. In all “three worlds”, this revolution was the reason why a group of students grew and became a many-faceted, active majority.
This period also introduced a new globalized form of communication, as the same type of ideals and ideas spread across the world like wildfire unstoppable even by borders or oceans. The ideas and the pursuit of their realization also brought to light the diverging expectations, behavior, hopes and fears of two generations (pre 60s and post 60s). Emancipation, society’s liberation from taboos and the accompanying change of behavior in the private and public sector and in inter-gender relationships are only some of the important achievements of those days.
In those eventful years, his employer, at an international fruit corporation, fired Dimitri Soulas, because of his political engagement against the military junta in Greece and for being founder of the Pan-Hellenic Anti-dictatorial Union. In this situation, Soulas successfully turned his passion for photography to being his profession.