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King expounded his views on the gravity of the situation, the urgency for action, and then embarked on a shopping-list of the Prime Minister’s shortcomings… He explained that in the crisis he foresaw as being just round the corner, the government would disintegrate, there would be bloodshed in the streets, the armed forces would be involved. People would be looking to somebody like Lord Mountbatten as the titular head of a new administration, somebody renowned as a leader of men. [Would Mountbatten agree to act under those circumstances? Mountbatten asked Zuckerman for his comments]
Solly rose, walked to the door, opened it, and then made this statement; “This is rank treachery. All this talk of machine guns at street corners is appalling. I am a public servant and will have nothing to do with it. Nor should you, Dickie.” Then he left.
[Mountbatten agreed with him, and courteously but firmly turned down King’s offer]
In France, a one-day general strike was called by the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) and the Force Ouvrière (CGT-FO) as organized labor groups walked off of their jobs as a show of support to striking students. Prime Minister Georges Pompidou announced the release of prisoners and the reopening of the Sorbonne, but protests continued.
The weekend of the tenth anniversary of General de Gaulle's return to power produced the biggest demonstration so far against his regime. 'Ten years of Gaullism is enough,' the crowds in the streets chanted on Monday. It was an unhappy anniversary, but nothing was more striking about it than the emergence of M Pompidou as the heir apparent. The Prime Minister's return to Paris was magnificent. Within three hours of his arrival on Saturday evening he had stilled the mutiny. His televised speech was short, but it contained a sop to everybody. His travels in Persia and Afghanistan had revealed the immense intellectual, moral and political prestige which France enjoys in those distant lands: first sop to the General. He had never ceased to follow 'avec une grande tristesse' the developments at home—not a hint of condemnation. M Pompidou met the students' complaints by granting them, flat out. Not only that, he also felt strong enough at the end to cover his fellow ministers. He repeated their allegations that there were a few 'professional agitators' behind it all. When I first heard him, I thought that that would have caused him to fail. But no, the Prime Minister could get away with it. He concluded : 'Puisse chacun entendre mon appel.' The words should be savoured carefully. They are not those of a political lackey, though they could not have been uttered without the General's personal approval either.
The students' demands, of course, in so far as they were specific, were easier to concede than to oppose. That was the most obvious conclusion to be drawn from being behind the barricades on Friday night and Saturday morning. No civilised regime with a hope of survival could have gone on resisting them. Police power, as the slipping of the barricades showed, may be physically stronger than student power, but it is a great deal less attractive even to the bourgeois. And what were the students revolting about, apart from the way the police were treating them? Quite the most alluring slogan was that outside the Sorbonne: 'La gave est contre la technocratisation.
Simultaneously we are having at Colchester our own tiny student row, with the whole university paralysed because the students tried to prevent a lecture by an expert from Porton Down where they do research into germ warfare. Instead of hearing and heckling him as students should, they tried to stop him altogether, and the Vice-Chancellor then suspended three of them.
The first thing that strikes you about Essex University is the architecture: four great black slabs of brick rising into the clear East Anglian air—the residential towers—and the teaching buildings lying low into a gentle ravine. The juxtaposition of aggressively functional modern buildings with a pastoral landscape is at first as jarring as the architect meant it to be. But after a while the logic of the whole enterprise asserts itself : the hectic city-like island of buildings at sea in uncluttered countryside that has changed little since Constable painted it.
The second thing that strikes you about Essex, at least if you mingle with the students, is how middle-class the place is. Here are the sons and daughters of prosperous professional and business people; the proportion of offspring of manual workers is probably lower than at Oxford. There are no class distinctions at Essex, to be sure, but that is mainly because there is only one class.
Of course, some of the students like to identify themselves with the toiling masses. Last week a student deputation called on building workers on the site, wondering whether they would like to strike in sympathy with the three suspended students. The labourers listened politely but declined to strike until they had heard both sides. 'Anyway,' one of them said, `if we strike, we lose a day's pay. It's all right for them: they get paid for by their parents.' News of local authority grants doesn't seem to have got through.
The position of the protesting British student is at once comfortable and vulnerable : comfortable because, except in extremis, the term's grant always comes through; vulnerable because he has nowhere else to go. The American student who gets into trouble with his college authorities or just doesn't like a place can always transfer to somewhere else; his course credits at one university will usually be accepted at others. Not only can the British student not transfer easily: if he loses his LEA grant at one university, he loses it at all. The news that two of the three suspended students had had their grants cut off sent a thrill of horror through the student body.
The anarchy is, up to a point, mainly the university's fault. Essex is often described as being liberal. It is; but it's also anarchic, which is different and more important. A liberal university is presumably one where students are allowed to get on with their private lives free from the petty harassments of Oxford and Cambridge. At Essex the mistake—and it was a very understandable one to make—was to suppose that treating students like adults meant not imposing any rules on them, whereas, in fact, adult life is replete with rules and constraints. Essex students are treated not like adults but like children in an unusually permissive family.
Permissive—and inconsistent. And it was the inconsistency rather than the permissiveness that led to last week's troubles. Ever since the university began it has been plagued by vandalism and sporadic acts of violence, and also by a minority of militant students determined to goad Dr Sloman and his colleagues into some rash action that the students could capitalise on. Until recently the militants' chief grievance— one they felt very keenly—was their lack of a grievance.
The university's reaction to provocation was for nearly four years that of a well-meaning, rather baffled parent. Vandalism and violence were as far as possible left to the police to deal with. The militant agitation was responded to ad hoc. Some useful institutions such as departmental staff-student liaison committees emerged, but few rules and no settled disciplinary procedure. Students knew they could get away with a good deal but were never quite sure how much.
And then from Porton Down came Dr Inch. Among the many rules Essex didn't have was one prohibiting the disruption of academic lectures, so when Dr Inch was prevented from speaking the Vice-Chancellor felt he had no option but to by-pass the disciplinary procedures and take action on his own authority. His tactical error— he still passionately believes he was right on the main issue—was not to summon the chief culprits before him.
Much of the responsibility must be assigned to a section of the junior staff: lecturers and assistant lecturers mainly in their early thirties or younger. Some junior staff have remained silent. Others, including practically the whole of the economics department, have criticised Dr Sloman on the narrow ground of his failure to summon the three suspended students, but have otherwise urged restraint. But others—perhaps a quarter of the total—have both condemned the Vice-Chancellor and set out permanently to disrupt the university.
Politics has something to do with it. One leading militant is a communist of long standing; several others are associated with the various fragments of the 'new left.' But, looking at them, one suspects that personal considerations are more important for most. Essex is a high- pressure institution, demanding not only a high standard of teaching but also much in the way of research and publication. And for some the pressure may be too great. Essex's staff rebels include a grossly disproportionate number of the bookless, the PhD-less, even the promotion-less. In one arts department, the hard core of militants apparently coincides almost exactly with members of staff recently warned that they may not be granted tenure.
In Essex University, the students and half the staff have "abolished" lectures and demand a democratic system of self-government by the students, so that the tail can wag the dog... If the universities are turned into self-run student organisations, this would ruin the university as the highest centre of education and the degree as a qualification. I should get in there quickly, before the decline and fall of the university system.
All night a pitched battle raged around Jean de Gaigmeron's house. I hope he's gone away. These battles are a nightmare for those in nearby houses because of the tear gas which seeps in and can't be got out for ages.