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May 1968: the revolution retains its magnetic allure

John Harris writes:

‘We are now as far from the events of 1968 as the people involved were from the end of the first world war. Cliche has long since reduced much of what occurred to “student revolt”, but that hardly does these happenings justice, partly because it ignores the workers’ strikes that were just as central to what occurred during ’68 and the years that followed, but also because the phrase gets nowhere near the depth and breadth of what young people were rebelling against, not least in France.

This was the last time that a developed western society glimpsed the possibility of revolution focused not just on institutions, but the contestation of everyday reality, which is still enough to make the simple phrase “May 1968” crackle with excitement – even if you were not around when les évenéments took place. I was born in 1969, but what happened in France and beyond retains a magnetic allure.

[Commemorations to mark 1968’s 50th anniversary include] a series of events, focused on liberties and utopias, at Nanterre University, the suburban campus where the French unrest first flared up; and at King’s College in London, workshops, film screenings and symposiums on ’68’s protests and what they have come to signify.

The leftwing publishers Verso are reissuing a handful of texts, including Tariq Ali’s memoir-cum-history Street Fighting Years and the Raymond Williams-edited May Day Manifesto (1968), arguably the founding text of the British New Left. The same company is also publishing a new book titled Opening the Gates, the compelling story of an attempt at co-operative socialism that took root in the early 1970s at a watch factory in eastern France. Allen Lane, meanwhile, has published The Long ’68, by British historian Richard Vinen, an exhaustive work whose narrative runs across Europe and the US. …’

Source: The Guardian

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