The Beatles’ White Album captured the spirit of ’68, but it’s right for 2018 too | John Harris

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The Beatles’ epic creation reflected the political darkness and disquiet of the time, which gives it surprising resonance today

Two months remain of 2018 – but if you view some of the events of this strange, volatile year from a certain angle, it might just as well be 1968. In the US, social and political divisions suggest a replay of tensions that exploded at the time of the Vietnam war, with a paranoid and unhinged president only heightening the similarities. Two weeks ago, African-American former athlete Tommie Smith was pictured recreating the clenched-fist salute that caused such controversy at the ’68 Olympics; today’s US athletes take the knee.

Across the west, there is rising anxiety – and no little deja vu – about Russia interfering in affairs beyond its borders. Earlier this year, student protests and strikes by railway workers and pilots in France triggered comparisons with the unrest that had gripped the country 50 years before. On and on the echoes go: the reactionary prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, has told his followers that if next year’s European parliament elections go the way he wants, they will say “goodbye not simply to liberal democracy ... but to the 1968 elite”.

Related: The spirit of 1968 rises again: can French students and workers triumph?

Related: Jesse Jackson on Martin Luther King's assassination: 'It redefined America'

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