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It has been fifty years since the events of May and June 1968 in France. During this half century, dominated by the “end of communism,” “neoliberalism,” and “globalization,” “May ’68” has faded into a folkloric reference, remembered largely for the barricades in the Latin Quarter and the Situationist slogans that enlivened the walls of Paris.
After a year, 1967, marked by strong labor conflicts in big factories all over France, the month of May 1968 opened with intense student unrest in Paris and provincial universities: demonstrations, occupations of university buildings, and confrontations with the police.
The transition from academic sociology, a vassal of philosophy, to an independent sociology with scientific pretentions, corresponds to the passage of competitive capitalism to organized capitalism.
On Monday, May 6, 1968, a demonstration against police repression in Paris that began with 6,000 participants grew by evening to 20,000. Violent clashes with the police took place at the barricades erected on Boulevard St. Germain and Place Maubert.
In the space of ten days, not only have workers occupied hundreds of factories and a spontaneous general strike has totally shut down the country, but de facto committees have occupied and taken over the management of various government buildings.
After two weeks of total strike with countrywide factory occupations, the State and the corporate powers have totally refused the demands of ten million workers.
The May movement permitted many to discover what a restraining force the trade unions represent. For, if spontaneity sufficed to lift the movement to great heights, it was not enough to keep it there, especially since the fight took on a sharp character only in exceptional cases.
Charly has a head like Bakunin’s. He comes from La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland and, after a rocky career in construction work in the French provinces, has ended up in Paris.
On May 12th, we found ourselves in an amphitheater of the University of Paris at Censier.
The story of May ’68 is usually a story told about students, above all, about their political and intellectual leaders in Paris. But sometimes we remember that ten million workers went on strike across France.