1968: Paris

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ON ONE of the heady nights towards the climax of Les Evenements in May 1968, I marched in procession through the French equivalent of Fleet Street and Threadneedle Street, blithely chanting "A bas la presse bourgeoise". Since I was a reporter on the Sunday Times walking arm- in-arm with the man from the Times, this was rich, but it echoed the party atmosphere that had engulfed the politics.

Later that night, I watched the flames grow inside the Bourse, and self- consciously pissed against the door of this palace of capitalism. As I turned away, a French flag that had flown above the building fell at my feet. The students had kept the red piece of the flag before throwing down the blue and white part, which I stuffed inside my coat. It stayed put, too, even when I had to run hard to get away from a platoon of riot police approaching at the double.

When I met my colleagues later on at La Coupole in Montparnasse - it never closed - I gave them only a glimpse of the disfigured flag, as though it was stolen property. So it was, in a way, and I should have liked to return it to the Bourse as a museum piece, but I put the flag in a bookcase at the Sunday Times, and it soon disappeared.

May in Paris in 1968 was the best party I've ever been to, even though it did end abruptly - when President de Gaulle made a pact with the generals which brought the French army to the outskirts of the city and frightened the students badly enough to empty the streets overnight. Bourgeois Parisians emerged from their apartments to celebrate their relief, and the trades-union leaders, who had hijacked the uprising from the students, exploited the uncertainty of the regime to negotiate a substiantial wage increase for their members.

A few months later, Russian tanks drove into Prague, and western-European politics began a long shift towards the right.

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