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Tom Stoppard looks back on the student protests of 1968 and sees that despite its problems, the West wasn’t so bad after all:

I was as aware as most people were that not everything in the gardens of the West was lovely and of course we didn’t know - one never knows - the half of it. But when in August 1968 the armies of the Warsaw Pact invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia, an act which was simply the ongoing occupation of eastern Europe writ bold, my embarrassment at our agit-prop mummers’ “revolution” turned to revulsion.

What repelled me was the implied conflation of two categorically different cases. The “free West”, God knew, was all too often disfigured by corruption and injustice but the abuses represented, and were acknowledged to represent, a failure of the model. In the East, though, the abuses represented the model in full working order.

A small incident which must have confirmed some people’s worst suspicions about me occurred when I was asked to sign a protest against “censorship” after a newspaper declined to publish somebody’s manifesto. “But that isn’t censorship,” I said. “That’s editing. In Russia you go to prison for possessing a copy of Animal Farm. That’s censorship.”

Full piece in the Times here , via Arts & Letters Daily



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