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May 1968 events in France

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The May 1968 events in France refers to the volatile period of civil unrest throughout France during May 1968 which was punctuated by demonstrations and major general strikes as well as the occupation of universities and factories across France. At its height, the events brought the economy of France almost to a halt.[1] The protests reached such a point that political leaders feared civil war or revolution; the national government itself briefly ceased to function after President Charles de Gaulle secretly fled France for a few hours. The protests spurred an artistic movement, with songs, imaginative graffiti, posters, and slogans.[2][3]

The unrest began with a series of student occupation protests against capitalism, consumerism, American imperialism and traditional institutions, values and order. It then spread to factories with strikes involving 11 million workers, more than 22% of the total population of France at the time, for two continuous weeks.[1] The movement was characterized by its spontaneous and decentralized wildcat disposition; this created contrast and sometimes even conflict between itself and the establishment, trade unions and workers' parties.[1] It was the largest general strike ever attempted in France, and the first nationwide wildcat general strike.[1]

The student occupations and wildcat general strikes initiated across France were met with forceful confrontation by university administrators and police. The de Gaulle administration's attempts to quell those strikes by police action only inflamed the situation further, leading to street battles with the police in the Latin Quarter, Paris, followed by the spread of general strikes and occupations throughout France. De Gaulle fled to a French military base in Germany, and after returning dissolved the National Assembly, and called for new parliamentary elections for 23 June 1968. Violence evaporated almost as quickly as it arose. Workers went back to their jobs, and when the elections were held in June, the Gaullist party emerged stronger than before.

"May 68" affected French society for decades afterward. It is considered to this day as a cultural, social and moral turning point in the history of the country. As Alain Geismar—one of the leaders of the time—later pointed out, the movement succeeded "as a social revolution, not as a political one".[4]

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  • ✪ 23. May 1968
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  • ✪ Reflections on May 1968


Professor John Merriman: All right, I want to today talk about 1968, which I can even remember, though I wasn't in France in 1968. First of all 1968 has to be put in the context of mobilization across Western Europe, and indeed in some places in the United States, that had more to do with than simply reform in universities, but had a lot to do with the world, as people like me saw it in 1968. It was a time when the Americans were at war in Vietnam and student protests had begun to expand. The first teach-in against the War in Vietnam was in the University of Michigan, in Haven Hall, in about 1966, or maybe '65 or '66. And the movement spread in the United States, and of course you've read about 1970 at Yale when people, the exams never happened, and it was the time of the Bobby Seale trial. And, so, this sort of generation, this sort of baby boom generation, whether it was in Rome, or in Athens, or in Berlin, or Bruxelles, or in even Munich, though less so in Munich, or in Madison, Wisconsin or in Berkeley, California, where the Free Speech Movement had started a couple of years before that--it was all sort of linked together as people thought about what the downsides of the new prosperity that had come in France and other countries, and the expansion of the university system to include more people. And, so, the sort of waves of protest were linked. And in the case of France, which is what we're talking about, there were really two aspects of it. There were the strikes-- more about that in a minute--and then there were the student demonstrations, the riots, the aggressive reaction by the so-called "forces of order," which is what they liked to call themselves, and leading eventually to the resignation of Charles de Gaulle. So, it was at a time, rather like 1936, when everything seemed possible and it was a time of great optimism. And there are all sorts of books published of the graffiti of 1968, as students, most of whom smoked in those days, went into the Odéon theater and unfortunately burned, with their cigarettes, the beautiful chairs of the Odéon theater, and when speeches went on and on in the Sorbonne. The war of words was written on the walls of the subways, as I guess Simon and Garfunkle once sang, but of the métro in Paris and on the walls of the Quartier Latin. "Long live communication, down with telecommunication," reflected the great uncertainty that technology and push-button remote controls and all of this was not enough in life. "The more I make love the more I make the revolution; the more I make the revolution the more I make love." "Every view of things which is not strange is false." "Amnesty, an act through which sovereigns forgive the injustices they have committed"--that's not a bad one. "Mankind will not live free until the last capitalist has been hanged in the entrails of the last bureaucrat"--not a very nice one, that, nor very original because that came from the French Revolution, the radical phase of the French Revolution, that "we all be safe only when the last priest has been hung in the entrails--or strangled in the entrails of the last noble." So, there was--as they quarreled, and they debated, and they battled, everybody didn't agree on everything, and it was like the Paris Commune, and there were a lot of childish aspects to it. It was a youthful resonance; people my age, though most of them were older than me, that in those days, "Professors, you are old," was one. And one I can remember, and I believed it at the time, "Never trust anybody over thirty." Thirty seems awfully young to me now. It was in the wake of the consumer revolution, it was in the wake of the thirty glorious years of the French economy expanding; and the same thing happened, the West German economic miracle as well. It was a reaction to the kind of technocratic society that seemed unfulfilling, that seemed to have turned capitalism and the State, that dynamic duo, loose on ordinary people. And here it was tied to the war in Vietnam and a verbally, rhetorically violent reaction against an American way of sort of splitting up the world with the Soviet Union; and it has to be seen in all of that. And it generated resistance. At the end--we'll come into this in while--but there was a huge march down the Champs-Elysées, and of the prosperous people. And you could see them from the 16th arrondissement and there were ladies in their fur coats and they're flashing rings, and they were there to express their solidarity with the General, to whom all of this seemed something just strange, from another planet, that he couldn't comprehend, didn't want to deal with, just wished it was all going to go away. In terms of--also you have to put it--it is linked to America. Because you have to remember--and you weren't even born then; one of you was in this room, besides me--Martin Luther King had just been murdered in Memphis, Tennessee. And that was an enormous, enormous event for people of my generation. And it seemed that if you--the harder you worked for social justice--people believed in social justice and we believed in associations and organizations, and then when people went out, down to Mississippi, to work on the civil rights march, and then they got murdered. And I remember going with a couple of friends of mine from Jesuit High School and we joined--went out to North Portland and joined the NAACP, and we were sixteen-years-old, we'd just learned how to drive. And if you believed in social justice-- and we weren't big militants, though certainly during the war we were, we all were, or many of us were. But then every time you took a big step forward, then it just seemed like we were confronted with the Lyndon Johnsons and the Richard Nixons of the world; and with the murder of Martin Luther King. And, so, these things did reflect a globalization, just as the Algerian War--one of the arguments that I made, which is Matt Connolly's argument, is that the Algerian War reflected the globalization of technology and newspapers, and the rebels getting the newspapers on their side about French torture. Well, the globalization of news with "Got Live from Vietnam" and all this business meant that issues, the murder of Martin Luther King and the Americans plunging more and more money and more and more bodies into wars, in other places, had ramifications from Nanterre--which I'll talk about in a minute--which is the university, one of them, to the west of Paris, and the Sorbonne which had been there for centuries and centuries and centuries, since the Medieval Period, in the Latin Quarter. So, the problems seemed, did generate simplistic answers that if you thought hard and you went out and worked that you could abolish the excesses of capitalism, you could abolish the excesses of the State. And it would be a more reasonable world, wouldn't it, that the Lyndon Johnsons…? I remember, March 31st, 1968, announced he would not run for office. And the Richard Nixons, that "people power"--that was a phrase that was used in France and in the United States in Berkley, at Columbia, in Ann Arbor and all sorts of places. But specifically in France it had to do with a crisis of education, a crisis in education, that education in a society that was still class-based, and to an extent is still class-based, had remained the privilege of the upper classes, even as the numbers of people in the university system in France had increased dramatically, as all across Europe this had happened. In 1938 there were 79,000 university students in France. In 1958/59 there were 192,000, in the same buildings. In 1967/'68, there were 478,000--that is a huge number. And in 1968, just since 1967, the number had increased by 50,000 more, in one year. Now, this is the baby boom. If you go back eighteen, twenty years, before that, you have the la fin de la guerre, you have the end of World War Two. So, you've got all these little babies who had grown up, like me, and were in universities. But the university structure could not possibly welcome all of these folks. I have these really good friends in Lyon, they actually now they live in Paris and they--I met a Greek professor, a long time ago, and she was teaching in one of these huge Greek universities in Athens where she had 1,000 students in her class, 1,000, and no TAs. You better come up with a question that you can grade 1,000 answers to--name three people, name three nineteenth-century Greeks. You better come up with... It was an impossible situation for students and for faculty. And as now, as in the issues now, there wasn't light at the end of the tunnel because compounding the fact that there weren't jobs--unless you were in one of the grandes écoles, that is the big, fancy schools; unless you were an anarque, one of these people in the administration school who was going to just slide into some party post, in a Gaullist government, what was there at the end? And you also had this extraordinary ambiguity, in thinking about this, or ambivalence, because if you were basically against the sort of technological, super-powered society of fast cars, and the Americanization of European culture, if you believed strongly against that, what kind of job is there going to be at the end of the tunnel for you? You can't be a professional militant your entire life. What are you going to do? And the people, by the way, who were, who invested their careers, or lost their careers, in this mobilization were toast because they refused to sit for their exams, and they committed professional suicide, right on stage, because they did it. And it all starts with the latter, when Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who was a militant, when he was expelled from the University of Nanterre, because of his militancy. So, there was a lack of jobs, particularly for those people studying the life of the mind, studying arts, the literature, history. And the structure had changed very little since Napoleon bragged that when he created the académie that he knew what everybody was studying at any given time; it had not changed and to some extent it still hasn't changed now--more about that maybe in a minute. The structures of the universities were extremely rigid. In 1964 two percent of the university students were sons or daughters of workers and peasants, two percent in 1964. This is what's called a class society, and it had not changed very much by 1968--and people blamed the state for the rigidity. I have a friend, in fact a Gaullist with whom I waited in line to get into Notre Dame for the Charles de Gaulle affair, who was supposed to take--he's a lawyer and he was taking an advanced degree, and he lived in the suburbs and he stayed in--the prosperous suburbs, fairly prosperous--but he stayed in Paris one night because the metros closed, the buses closed, and if you didn't make the 12:32 then you had a long walk; and I've walked back to that suburb and hitchhiked back and all of that--some funny stories about that but now is not the time. And he got back on Saturday to find a pneumatique--which was a way of communicating, these little things that shot around and then were delivered to your--in tubes and they were delivered to your house--saying that he was supposed to show up for the exam; and it had arrived on Friday, when he was at work, and was supposed to take his exam on Saturday. And of course he got it on Saturday at about noon, when he got home, after his long night in Paris; and that was the end of that. Then you'd just simply say, "well, I guess I'll take it next time around, if I happen to be here." It was a rigid system that was unforgiving and seemed to be perpetuating the kind of elitism and the kind of unfair sociopolitical world against which people struggled. And 1967, in the worst economic year of the '60s, as I've just said, de Gaulle's response was typical. He said, "well we need to have more participation." Qu'est-ce que a veut dire, what does this mean to have more participation, what do you mean by that? Well he meant nothing by that. In October 1966 his workers were getting increasingly militant and he said, "you know, the changes that we must bring to the working-class condition is the active association of work and the active association of the economy which we all want to accomplish, all of us." What does this mean? It means nothing, it means nothing. And, so, phrases like that, sentences like that are reassuring for the upper classes in Paris or Lyon, in the sixth arrondissement of Lyon, or wherever, who don't want to be bousculer, they don't want to be bothered by the militancy of students and of workers. They want the metros to run, they want the buses to run, they don't want the students building barricades and all this stuff. So it's reassuring to them but it didn't mean anything. De Gaulle was so completely out of it, he said, "je suis coupé des Francais;" "I'm adrift from the French, I'm cut off from the French," because he had no understanding--that the nationalism of French should be enough, that the mystical body of himself should certainly be enough. But of course it wasn't. And the demonstrations, many of them organized by the National Union of Students, which had begun--which was militant, had begun in the 1950s, or maybe the '40s, I don't remember--its militancy had declined after the Algerian War, but then you have the students leaders, whose names you don't remember, but they were young, often young sociologists, or one was in physics, Alain Jeanmaire, names don't matter--well they did to them and they did to people of my generation but they don't necessarily to you--they were in sociology or mostly in literature and history, and they all committed together professional suicide. And, so, it begins with demonstrations in Nanterre. Now, the French university system began with the Sorbonne, and the Latin Quarter is so called, as you know, because that's what people spoke in the Middle Ages. Students conversed in Latin, Latin was a living language. And the second medical school in Europe is Montpellier; the first was Bologne. And there was already a very strong university in Lyon, and there was X and there were other universities. But the big expansion of even the Paris system and of provincial universities has come in response, in part, to these big events, in this heady time. But they haven't necessarily brought many changes, as we'll see later. And, so, there's also lack of a campus. I've taught at Lyon, at Lyon II, and I teach in Rouen sometimes, and there's, with the exception of Grenoble, which has a fairly nice campus, maybe Montpellier a little bit, most of the places, students don't, most of them don't live in dormitories, and so they're just places where they go--they're essentially all-commuter colleges. If you go to Lyon, University of Lyon, I, II or II--they're also named in such a not terribly poetic way. University of Paris has 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, 9,10,11,12,13,14. So, you say, "where are you a student?" "Moi je suis à Paris VII" "Moi je suis à Paris XIV"--good luck if you're at Paris XIV, that's Villetaneuse, and oh my god it's just unbelievable. These are buildings that were built, already falling apart and they're just out there, and they're soulless and it's a… You're privileged, you've worked very hard to be privileged. In Michigan we were privileged. But you can't--there's no sense of solidarity. There's nothing to do. There are no sports really basically; there's the equivalent of club sports. They would just sit around and smoke cigarettes. And there's just not much to do, there's no sense of esprit de corps, there's no sense of being a former student of that place. It's part of your existence for three years--unless you're one of the grandes écoles or the fancy folks and all that. So, even trying to get people to mobilize against the structure isn't very easy. But the conditions, they start out with these demonstrations against these conditions. This is also tied--and this is a point I stupidly forgot to mention early--the women's movement, although not terribly dominant in France, still essentially limited--this is probably an exaggeration, but to the middle class feminists, influenced by Simone de Beauvoir, the women's movement also meant that lots of women put forth their claims; and again, as I said, that the vast majority of the students are bourgeois students, they're upper class students and so--but that still was part of it. And the way society is structured in the United States then where sexism was even more endemic then than it is now, that for militant females this was part of the problem too. There was so much that seemed to have to be changed that it was very frustrating. And, so, there are occupations. People in the United States occupied administrative buildings. Unfortunately they often destroyed books. It happened at Columbia and places like that. But there was lots of student occupations--at Yale there were too, I wasn't around, but there were too. And the National Guard, if you can imagine the National Guard tanks coming up--John Blum has told me about that, my colleague, former colleague, now long retired. But Branford College was le college rouge, and I guess they had a red flag up or something and tanks were coming down--if you can imagine tanks coming up York Street, between J.E. and Pearson or between Davenport and Branford, and they were setting up little welcome centers and possible places to treat people that are injured by the National Guard who wanted nothing of militant privileged students, and then May 4th^(,) 1970, gunned them down at Kent State with great pleasure. These were different times. But, anyway, so in France they start occupying buildings, and on May--the Sorbonne is closed down on May 2nd. And on May 3rd the police move in. Now, the police, the CRS were hated, were hated. The CRS, many of them were southerners, and the rumors--and I can remember these rumors, that they were kept in their barracks and not fed enough and given special sections on why militant workers and militant students represented the end of civilization as they had known it. And they had their big--you can still see this now because many of them feel they have free reign now with Sarkozy--their big shields, and their big helmets, and what you call in French paniers à salade, these big trucks that have grills on them, like if you're shaking lettuce. And they would suddenly come tearing along the place; and it wasn't just circulez, like move along, move along, they'd just beat the hell out of you. And we're still not sure how many people died in all of this, how many people were battered by these folks. But you can tell--I grew up just hating these people, just hating them. You'd walk along, in the '70s even, they'd be down in their trucks on Boulevard Saint-Germain or they'd be clustered around the Hôtel de Ville. It's just a very contentious age, and you just grew up--if you're my generation, I guess my politics, you just hated these people. And nobody hated them, had reason more to hate them--and this may be unfair but it's not unfair--than minorities, because those are the ones that these white, many of them Corsican but it's not just Corsicans, but white people from the south who were moved into northern posts and they didn't want to see North Africans, or West Africans, or folks like that around. But, anyway, they move in, they evacuate the Sorbonne and things spin out of control. And May 10th to May 11th is the night of the barricades. And the barricades go up in streets that had not had Haussmann's boulevards plowed through them. It was harder-- they do make some attempts and they do, I guess if I remember right across the--see that was the only year I wasn't there; that's sort of odd isn't it? But I first started going to France when I was a kid in 1967, and I've been there at least every four months since then, and I wasn't there in 1968. But there were barricades built between Rue Saint-Jacques and the Boulevard Saint-Michel, in that sort of now touristy, overrun with McDonald's quarter there, tourist quarter; and all around Rue Monsieur le Prince and all around the Odéon. And the barricades were built, unfortunately many of them with trees that were ripped down on the Boulevard Saint-Michel, and they did a lot of damage there and they ripped up cobblestones, where streets still had cobblestones and they... Deux-Chevaux were these little, very unsafe, flimsy cars that you could-- I, with this friend of mined, picked up the front of a Deux-Chevaux to move, to park; you could just sort of literally--this guy and I--you could pick it up and kind of move the front along. And these things were easily transformed into barricades. And this was the night of the barricades and there was a lot of violence. These were real barricades. And this was rather one-sided violence, but still. So, there are 367 wounded; several killed, we still don't know how many; and about 460 arrests. Before that even, on May 6th during the fighting, there were 1,422 arrests, et cetera, et cetera. And the middle-class was shocked by the brutality of the fighting, but they were more shocked by the fact that you had workers and students who had not yet really coalesced, that were defying the State. And one of the obvious, C-R-S S-S, CRS SS, as the SS, as in Hitler's organization, and this is what was chanted. And it was all the way up to the Jardin de Luxembourg, from which they could get materials also for these barricades. How did the government react? The prime minister was Georges Pompidou, a pure kind of Gaullist whose only resistance in World War Two, incidentally--this is a bit mean to say--but he once refused to sit next to a Gestapo officer, in the opera, in a loge at the opera. But Pompidou had been in Afghanistan and he came back on May 11th and orders the university reopening, without the police, and then he went off to Rumania, as planned, and then he came back and found that strikes had spread. Now, the strikes themselves were both a separate but related movement. And the strikes came in the large industries, and there were no plants in Boulogne-Billancourt. These same kinds of occupations that had happened in 1936, in a way rather festive occupations--as Lenin had once said, with considerable reason, about the Commune, he called it a "festival of the oppressed"--and there was good humor in these occupations, again the same kind of guerrilla theater and all of this; great attention not to destroy the machinery that the workers, when this all had settled, would come back. But on May 14th^( )there an aircraft plant near Nantes was occupied and then the sit-down strike spread, as in 1936. On May 16th workers occupied the giant Renault Billancourt, Renault plant there, and then it spread to other areas. It was the largest mobilization of workers in French history, without any question, even more than 1936. And rather like 1936 it left the Communist Party confused and uncertain, because once again it seemed to be that the tail was wagging the dog. Workers are striking on their own, and they had slogans that weren't really big communist slogans. One was "autogestión," that is workers self-management, that workers would run their own factories. Now, in the Soviet Union, after the Russian Revolution, the Bolshevik, the Communist Party had crushed like grapes workers who attempted to run their own factories and who wanted to have strikes; and working the power of the proletariat in the Soviet Union, to an extent of Lenin but above all of Stalin, became the dictatorship of the Communist Party. Workers self-management simply didn't exist, it was run by the party. In theory it existed. The Communist Party was supposed to represent the Russian, the Soviet working class, but in fact the Communist Party had existence of its own. And, so, suddenly they're confused because here's the workers saying, "we want to run--we want to go out on strike now. And they said, "well, wait, wait"--it was the same thing as 1936--"everything is not possible, everything is not possible." But for workers occupying their plants it seemed to be--this seemed to be the moment to do it; and there was a strong link between big strike movements and political opportunity, as in 1936. So, it's a very, very good comparison to make--trent-six, '36 and '68. And the workers wanted participation in industrial decision-making, they wanted control over the pace of work. Again they were against Taylorism, that they're being measured, their performance is being measured by the number of units of whatever--car handles, whatever they're making, that they do. They want to have the right, which they eventually won, to have a union office in the factory and to collect fees from workers for the union and make--get collects, to pass the hat on behalf of the union and on behalf of workers in the union, during work. And, so, the political goals can't really be separated from the worker's movement, it was all part of this huge mobilization. And workers and students had really had a lot more in common than they did in the United States, because people of my generation can remember students at the University of Michigan going down to the Ford plants in Ypsilanti, and in other places, and up in Flint. And the workers there they didn't want to hear anything about these privileged white students opposing the war in Vietnam, they wanted to have a boat and go out on Lake Michigan or Lake Huron. And they were, "if the United States government is fighting a war in Vietnam then it must be--the United States government knows what it's doing"; and they didn't want any part of it. And, so, it was a total--talk about a failure to comprehend, it just didn't work, and to an extent--this is probably not a fair comparison-- but it would rather be like militants at Columbia, and Yale, and Harvard, and Michigan, and Madison activists, some white and some black, going down to Alabama and Mississippi and trying to talk to people down there, because it just, it didn't work. But in France because the state structure seemed to be, in a very centralized structure, not a federalized structure, so you could find common cause, because you're the factory worker who is occupying a factory. His enemy is the CRS, and the students who are afraid they're going to get gunned down by the CRS, they have things that they had in common. And they're both fighting against the brutalization, as they would have put it, of human relations, is that capitalism seemed to be simply perpetuating this favored society in which the rich do very, very well, thank you very much, and the grandes écoles are full of only people who are well connected; basically that was always the case, the big, fancy schools. And the brutalization of human relations on the shop floor, with the bosses sort of dictating the rhythm of work. So, it seemed to be--there seemed to be this sort of moment where some progress could be made; and in a sense you're powerless within the system. In the French educational system you were, and to an extent still are, powerless. And in the factory you were powerless. And you're probably arguably more powerless now because the role of the unions has declined, in France, as in the United States. And in the end the government had to pass laws giving legal status within each factory, to the union, that they could collect funds, as I said--I guess I already said that--and could have an office there. But the education reforms basically scratch the surface. They're beginning--creating new universities all over the place. Now there's only a couple of départements in France that don't have at least branches of universities. The most recently created were La Rochelle, which is going very nicely, and the Pays-de-Calais, in Arras. But even these lead to problems because, for example, when they create a university in La Rochelle, then you are hurting an old established university, Poitiers, which becomes this sort of instant rival, La Rochelle does, for students from the area around La Rochelle. And the Pas-de-Calais, that is up in Arras, what does that hurt? Well that is resisted by Lille, obviously; in Lille there are three universities in Lille; Lille is a big student center. So, even in places that are major university towns. And Toulouse is a good example, they create more universities, they can expand the University of Toulouse, more branches and stuff like that. But does this solve the problem? It really doesn't because French universities remain woefully under-funded, and that's why this issue of this law that's been proposed, or it'd be passed, I guess, the loi, the Pécresse Law, p-e-c-r-e-s-s-e, which is to make these budgets autonomous of universities, represents a kind of an Americanization of the French system where--that the favored will do even better--Paris I, Paris IV, which are very different. Paris I is associated more, a leftwing university, more progressive; Paris IV, quatre, is a more rightwing university. Lyon II, places like Lyon II, as opposed to Lyon I and Lyon III, is going to do very, very well; Toulouse is going to do very well under this system. Montpellier will do very well, maybe they'll be able to raise money from alumni. There's not even--it doesn't even exist, an alumni association for these places, they don't even exit. It's just totally different. Even a public university in the United States, like Michigan, even in hard times, just does so very, very well because the University of Michigan is so identified with--I'm a little proud but--identified with the State of Michigan; or Wisconsin or Berkley; Berkley might have hard times but the California system, it's so part of the State of California. But it doesn't do much good to argue that the Besançon University is associated with the Department of the Doubs, which is the Département of Besançon, because unless the state gives them money there ain't going to be any money coming in. And, so, you have more and more people. Has anybody here been to a French university? Yes, where were you? Barkley, you were in Paris, weren't you? Student: In Paris [inaudible] Professor John Merriman: At Paris IV, and you went to the lectures and all that. Student: Yes. Professor John Merriman: Were there enormous numbers of people? Student: Lectures, so-so. I guess 100 to 200. But then we had TD as well. Professor John Merriman: Travaux dirigés are sections and things like that. But the way that these are done is you have these huge lectures. You know what? I taught in--I should get back to de Gaulle, but in a minute--but when I taught at Lyon II I was supposed to--I didn't pick my courses; here, I'm lucky enough at Yale to be able to pick my courses. They said, "well, you can do history of urban France," because I've written books on urban France, "and then you can do the 1920s and '30s." And I thought, "oh man, I don't want to do that." "And then you can do"--because we live part-time in North America--"you can do history of North America." And I don't know anything about that. And, so, I'm calling my friends, like David Davis and I'm calling my editors at OUP and Norton saying please send me all your books on American history. And, so, I'm sitting around, the night before--I did ridiculous lectures on Quebec. I don't know anything about that. I must have repeated three times about Louis XIV sending a boatload of prostitutes, because that's about all that I could remember, when I got up there in front of 250 people, speaking about the history of North America--I don't know a damn thing about it; I know a little bit about it but not to teach it effectively. But that's just it. And then also because of the politics, the person--the dean was at war with my friends there, so they gave me the worst conceivable schedule. I had to go all the way up on Friday for an afternoon class and my other classes were on Monday and Wednesday, and all this. But you're teaching these people. And there were three courses on the 1920s and '30s, three lecture courses, and we would get together and say, "What are you going to do?" And we were smart enough to say, "Well I'll tell you what, you do the economy stuff and I'll do the political stuff, and we'll kind of help each other out." And you put down a reading list of books that you might hope that they would read, and maybe ten, eight books maybe, or something like that, a reasonable amount. But there are bookstores but there are no such thing as course readings. And what they used to do at the Sorbonne is they would--professors would print out their lectures and you could buy, at one of these bookstores, their lectures. So, they used to say, "well, the hell with it, I'm not going to go to the lecture if they're going to do that." But we took it more seriously and so we put out these books. And now--because students, French students don't have any money, they have no money, I mean no money, most of them--unless they're at fancy grandes écoles, that their checkbooks are like Kleenex boxes--that they have no money and so they can't afford to buy the books. Now, in our three classes on the 1920s and '30s there were 400 students. And you know how many copies of the books there were, available? One, in the library. And there was another one in the municipal library in Lyon. So, how are you going to read the books? You're not going to read the books. How are you going to do on the test? Not very well, because you hadn't read the books, and the whole course can't be built on lecture. But it's good, but I mean it's bad, because you had--Lyon II is very good. So, I had students who were comparable to you nice people. But then some of them were just totally clueless, and they used to do things like--there was one who would bring--a couple of them would bring these little stars that you have that you used to put on--you have in Catholic first grade, little stars you'd put on the big points you want to have, and they'd bring these little stars, and they thought they were still in high school, and they'd say, "can I borrow the glue of my neighbor?" or "can I borrow the eraser of my neighbor?" And then everything in France has to be three, so you'd have one, you'd give them a question and say one, two three, and some of them would have three points, and none of them made any sense at all, but there were always three points. But then some were just brilliant and some were terrible. But the thing that was so sad about this whole system, and this is what really got me, is that I had to do the travaux dirigés, also, of one of the courses. And so somebody wouldn't be there and you'd say "Madame"--you couldn't tutoie them, though I finally ended up doing it, the hell with it--and you'd say, "whatever happened to Mademoiselle X, here's Mademoiselle X?" "Je ne sais pas." "Well, she's not here anymore." "No, I guess not." And you never know. There would be a nurse available for twenty minutes a week, and so if somebody was having serious problems you would never know; no one ever followed it up and they just would disappear into the night, and there was no structure. Here, if you get the sniffles we know about it and you're taken very care of. And even at places that aren't fancy like this that's the way it is. And so the system has never been reformed. Even for the simple task--oh here, I go, boy, this I'm getting--what happened to my lecture?--the hell with it. But waiting in line to Xerox something, have you ever waited in line behind ten geographers, all Xeroxing the fourteen biggest volcanoes in the Puy-de-Dôme? It's just mind-boggling. And then you're looking at your bell, and then you sort of struggle through this cigarette smoke. Hopefully you'll see your amphitheater B will be somewhere through there, and you sort of stagger along through the smoke. And then people talk too, the other thing, people talk, and they used to drive me nuts. And they all-and they drague too, they're all, these guys are always hitting on these women, and in your class this stuff is going on. And I once got so mad, I got to kind of control myself, this was in amphitheater B, as it's called so poetically, I was talking about some damn thing about nouvelle France--I didn't know what I was talking about, zero, zero. And I was going on anyway, that doesn't stop me, and I walked up the stairs and these people are talking, they're just talking. And I stood right in front of them, and then they said, "oh, excusez-moi." And then I left and went back down and they start talking again. Or sometimes they'd be talking and you say, "Est-ce que vous voulez la parole, vous?" "Do you want to talk?" And they say, "oh no, no, excuse me," and then they go back to their email or they go back to hitting on their neighbor or whatever. It was just mind-blowing. But the very good students--but the way that you teach--and Da-ihn knows all about this system too, you should ask her, but she was in very good schools and all that there. But it just is, it's an incredible thing. So, it didn't really change very much after de Gaulle. So, what happened to old Charles de Gaulle, back to 1968, what happens to him? Well he takes a mysterious trip. He first, he goes to Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, probably to finish those feuilles tendres, those serials on TV, that he was watching, and then he disappears and he goes to Baden-Baden in Germany. Why did he go to Baden-Baden in Germany? Well, nobody really knows. Probably the best explanation is he wanted to make sure that he had the support of the French Army. Why is the French Army in Baden-Baden? Well, the French Army is in Baden-Baden because that's part of French territory in the après guerre, and they're still occupying. And, so, he announces that they're going to have participation, and this necessity of participation in overcoming this crisis--that's the word he uses, participation. He comes back. And so in the meantime there's this huge march down the Champs-Elysées to support him. The upper classes are clear that they will support the Gaullist response, no matter what it is; that if it's the Army just shooting down students, which they aren't ever going to do, but the brutality of the repression, they will support that. They were quite happy to see people like Cohn-Bendit and the others who committed professional suicide go, and basically things calm down. But the point is that the reforms were never really--meaningful reforms, I think it's safe to say, really don't come to the French university system. Now the French university system is more open to people who are not just following their parents along in the university structure. There are more workers' sons and daughters-- and daughters, above all now--daughters and sons of very ordinary people. We know a good number of people your age or a little older who are at university now who are the first people in the whole history of their families to go to university; and happily still at Yale and other places one can give thanks to various changes that Yale and these other places, one can find that now. This has changed, but the problem is that as long as the economy is not able to absorb all these young people, when they get done, there is no sense that they're going to be able to go anywhere anyway, particularly if they want to stay in the region where we live, in which there's not a lot of economic activity. Thus we have one friend who got her Master's at Grenoble, and the only job that she could find for the next two years was working at McDonald's, in Grenoble, or near Grenoble, and now she's working for her parents. So, to make universities more open to all kinds of people does not necessarily solve the problem of what's going to happen to them in the long run. Now, one of the things that has done that is of course the bac itself. And you know that in France you take the baccalaureate exam, you take what they call the bac blanc, after the equivalent of your junior year in high school, which includes the French bac, and then you take the real bac at the end. Now, back--I can't tell you what the percentage of the people who passed the bac in 1968 is, I don't know that. It's probably--was probably about half, or maybe even less. Of course it's steamed upwards over the last fifteen years, and it now approaches eighty percent. That is still big pressure, because it's your one exam and it's you bet your life, because you can't go to university if you don't pass the bac, and there's big, big pressure. And if you get pretty close, by a couple of points, then you can do it again, that there's a possibility of doing it again within the next couple of weeks, if you're very, very close. We had a friend whose mother died and she was obviously very upset, and she just barely missed it, and so they let her do it again. So, this puts a lot of pressure. But also, as I've said before, because of streaming there are lots of people--kids who are taken out of the line toward university and toward passing the bac, quite early on, because their teachers will convoke the parents and say, "your daughter and son has no business being in a school." Just like that, cruelty of it all. And then they go off into a different line. And there are no--and I've said this before but there are no second chances, in this system, which can be a very, very cruel system. And not everybody passes the bac. My son has a buddy who managed to get a 1 on the bac, which is very difficult, because it's graded from 0 to 20, and he managed to get a 0,25 in one thing earlier on, in his brevet, which is an earlier exam. And so university life isn't cut out for everybody. But I couldn't in all honesty, as much as I love teaching in France, and I do, and it's not just because of the--I love the ambiance in French universities, I really do, and I feel useful, and it just--it's a lot of fun but it's not--and we've had chances to be there forever, teaching there, but it's just the conditions, they're tough, they're challenging conditions. And basically it wasn't enough for de Gaulle to say "we want more participation" and to announce an election, a referendum on regional decentralization; and that's how he walks off the stage. In 1969 he just goes back to--stomps of to Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, because it's a referendum on his leadership and that participation isn't enough, that his--this big gap between talking a good game about grandeur and all that are not following through with any kind of meaningful reforms, help generate this crisis. And one cannot--it's pointless, it's silly to look back and say this was the revolution manquée, this was the missed revolution. It's like in 1936 Léon Blum had said, "workers of the world take over your factories, all of them; peasants occupy the fields that you work." But ultimately this wasn't going to happen, and who knows if nothing probably good would have come out of that anyway. But 1968 was not a revolution that was going to be a meaningful revolution. In the end that generation was right, I would like to say, in opposing U.S. policies, in trying to create or insist on a more human world, humane world, in industrial relations and in the university. Professors and administrators learned something after all of that. But in a very centralized state where more and more people, because they passed the bac, have access to universities, that isn't necessarily going to resolve the problem, which fundamentally comes down to the fact that there are not enough--that there's a real crisis of young people, for young people now, in France, but no light at the end of the tunnel. And as I'll argue on Wednesday, that's part of what's going on in the French suburbs as well. So, if you go to Paris and you walk up the Boulevard Saint-Michel, which is my least favorite boulevard in Paris because it's been destroyed by bad zoning and has McDonald's all over the place, and just tourist hoards, that if you go up there, think about these battles, pitched battles were fought in 1968 in that merry month of May and of barricades. And part of--revolution is part of French culture, the memory of revolution. But this revolution really--days of running down to the prefecture and declaring a new regime were pretty much over, and this revolution, well intentioned, full of color, full of integrity, full of character, full of wit--it was a witty revolution, full of irony and appreciation of the human condition. In the end, for better or for worse, and I think probably for worse, it didn't get very far. And to an extent one can look longingly back, as you can probably tell I still do. See you on Wednesday.



In February 1968, the French Communists and French Socialists formed an electoral alliance. Communists had long supported Socialist candidates in elections, but in the "February Declaration" the two parties agreed to attempt to form a joint government to replace President Charles de Gaulle and his Gaullist Party.[5]

On 22 March far-left groups, a small number of prominent poets and musicians, and 150 students occupied an administration building at Paris University at Nanterre and held a meeting in the university council room dealing with class discrimination in French society and the political bureaucracy that controlled the university's funding. The university's administration called the police, who surrounded the university. After the publication of their wishes, the students left the building without any trouble. After this first record some leaders of what was named the "Movement of 22 March" were called together by the disciplinary committee of the university.

Events of May

Student strikes

Public square of the Sorbonne, in the Latin Quarter of Paris
Public square of the Sorbonne, in the Latin Quarter of Paris

Following months of conflicts between students and authorities at the Nanterre campus of the University of Paris (now Paris Nanterre University), the administration shut down the university on 2 May 1968.[6] Students at the Sorbonne campus of the University of Paris (today Sorbonne University) in Paris met on 3 May to protest against the closure and the threatened expulsion of several students at Nanterre.[7] On Monday, 6 May, the national student union, the Union Nationale des Étudiants de France (UNEF)—still the largest student union in France today—and the union of university teachers called a march to protest against the police invasion of Sorbonne. More than 20,000 students, teachers and supporters marched towards the Sorbonne, still sealed off by the police, who charged, wielding their batons, as soon as the marchers approached. While the crowd dispersed, some began to create barricades out of whatever was at hand, while others threw paving stones, forcing the police to retreat for a time. The police then responded with tear gas and charged the crowd again. Hundreds more students were arrested.

Wall slogan in a classroom
"Vive De Gaulle" is one of the graffiti on this Law School building.
University of Lyon during student occupation, May–June 1968

High school student unions spoke in support of the riots on 6 May. The next day, they joined the students, teachers and increasing numbers of young workers who gathered at the Arc de Triomphe to demand that:

  1. All criminal charges against arrested students be dropped,
  2. the police leave the university, and
  3. the authorities reopen Nanterre and Sorbonne.

Negotiations broke down, and students returned to their campuses after a false report that the government had agreed to reopen them, only to discover the police still occupying the schools. This led to a near revolutionary fervor among the students.

On Friday, 10 May, another huge crowd congregated on the Rive Gauche. When the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité again blocked them from crossing the river, the crowd again threw up barricades, which the police then attacked at 2:15 in the morning after negotiations once again floundered. The confrontation, which produced hundreds of arrests and injuries, lasted until dawn of the following day. The events were broadcast on radio as they occurred and the aftermath was shown on television the following day. Allegations were made that the police had participated in the riots, through agents provocateurs, by burning cars and throwing Molotov cocktails.[8]

The government's heavy-handed reaction brought on a wave of sympathy for the strikers. Many of the nation's more mainstream singers and poets joined after the police brutality came to light. American artists also began voicing support of the strikers. The major left union federations, the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) and the Force Ouvrière (CGT-FO), called a one-day general strike and demonstration for Monday, 13 May.

Well over a million people marched through Paris on that day; the police stayed largely out of sight. Prime Minister Georges Pompidou personally announced the release of the prisoners and the reopening of the Sorbonne. However, the surge of strikes did not recede. Instead, the protesters became even more active.

When the Sorbonne reopened, students occupied it and declared it an autonomous "people's university". Public opinion at first supported the students, but quickly turned against them after their leaders, invited to appear on national television, "behaved like irresponsible utopianists who wanted to destroy the 'consumer society.'"[9] Nonetheless, in the weeks that followed, approximately 401 popular action committees were set up in Paris and elsewhere to take up grievances against the government and French society, including the Sorbonne Occupation Committee.

Workers join the students

By the middle of May, demonstrations extended to factories, though its workers' demands significantly varied from that of the students. A union-led general strike on 13 May included 200,000 in a march. The strikes spread to all sectors of the French economy, including state-owned jobs, manufacturing and service industries, management, and administration. Across France, students occupied university structures and up to one-third of the country's workforce was on strike.[10]

Strikers in Southern France with a sign reading "Factory Occupied by the Workers." Behind them is a list of demands, June 1968.
Strikers in Southern France with a sign reading "Factory Occupied by the Workers." Behind them is a list of demands, June 1968.

These strikes were not led by the union movement; on the contrary, the CGT tried to contain this spontaneous outbreak of militancy by channeling it into a struggle for higher wages and other economic demands. Workers put forward a broader, more political and more radical agenda, demanding the ousting of the government and President de Gaulle and attempting, in some cases, to run their factories. When the trade union leadership negotiated a 35% increase in the minimum wage, a 7% wage increase for other workers, and half normal pay for the time on strike with the major employers' associations, the workers occupying their factories refused to return to work and jeered their union leaders.[11][12] In fact, in the May '68 movement there was a lot of "anti-unionist euphoria,"[13] against the mainstream unions, the CGT, FO and CFDT, that were more willing to compromise with the powers that be than enact the will of the base.[1]

On 24 May two people died at the hands of the out of control rioters. In Lyon, Police Inspector Rene Lacroix died when he was crushed by a driverless truck sent careering into police lines by rioters. In Paris, Phillipe Metherion, 26, was stabbed to death during an argument among demonstrators.[14]

As the upheaval reached its apogee in late May, major trade unions met with employers' organizations and the French government to produce the Grenelle agreements, which would increase the minimum wage 35% and all salaries 10%, and granted employee protections and a shortened working day. The unions were forced to reject the agreement, based on opposition from their members, underscoring a disconnect in organizations that claimed to reflect working class interests.[15]

The UNEF student union and CFDT trade union held a rally in the Charléty stadium with about 22,000 attendees. Its range of speakers reflected the divide between student and Communist factions. While the rally was held in the stadium partly for security, the insurrectionary messages of the speakers was dissonant with the relative amenities of the sports venue.[16]

The Socialists saw an opportunity to act as a compromise between de Gaulle and the Communists. On 28 May, François Mitterrand of the Federation of the Democratic and Socialist Left declared that "there is no more state" and stated that he was ready to form a new government. He had received a surprisingly high 45% of the vote in the 1965 presidential election. On 29 May, Pierre Mendès France also stated that he was ready to form a new government; unlike Mitterrand he was willing to include the Communists. Although the Socialists did not have the Communists' ability to form large street demonstrations, they had more than 20% of the country's support.[9][5]

De Gaulle flees

On the morning of 29 May, de Gaulle postponed the meeting of the Council of Ministers scheduled for that day and secretly removed his personal papers from Élysée Palace. He told his son-in-law Alain de Boissieu, "I do not want to give them a chance to attack the Élysée. It would be regrettable if blood were shed in my personal defense. I have decided to leave: nobody attacks an empty palace." De Gaulle refused Pompidou's request that he dissolve the National Assembly as he believed that their party, the Gaullists, would lose the resulting election. At 11:00 a.m., he told Pompidou, "I am the past; you are the future; I embrace you."[9]

The government announced that de Gaulle was going to his country home in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises before returning the next day, and rumors spread that he would prepare his resignation speech there. The presidential helicopter did not arrive in Colombey, however, and de Gaulle had told no one in the government where he was going. For more than six hours the world did not know where the French president was.[17] The canceling of the ministerial meeting, and the president's mysterious disappearance, stunned the French,[9] including Pompidou, who shouted, "He has fled the country!"[18]

The national government had effectively ceased to function. Édouard Balladur later wrote that as prime minister, Pompidou "by himself was the whole government" as most officials were "an incoherent group of confabulators" who believed that revolution would soon occur. A friend of the prime minister offered him a weapon, saying, "You will need it"; Pompidou advised him to go home. One official reportedly began burning documents, while another asked an aide how far they could flee by automobile should revolutionaries seize fuel supplies. Withdrawing money from banks became difficult, gasoline for private automobiles was unavailable, and some people tried to obtain private planes or fake national identity cards.[9]

Pompidou unsuccessfully requested that military radar be used to follow de Gaulle's two helicopters, but soon learned that he had gone to the headquarters of the French military in Germany, in Baden-Baden, to meet General Jacques Massu. Massu persuaded the discouraged de Gaulle to return to France; now knowing that he had the military's support, de Gaulle rescheduled the meeting of the Council of Ministers for the next day, 30 May,[9] and returned to Colombey by 6:00 p.m.[17] His wife Yvonne gave the family jewels to their son and daughter-in-law—who stayed in Baden for a few more days—for safekeeping, however, indicating that the de Gaulles still considered Germany a possible refuge. Massu kept as a state secret de Gaulle's loss of confidence until others disclosed it in 1982; until then most observers believed that his disappearance was intended to remind the French people of what they might lose. Although the disappearance was real and not intended as motivation, it indeed had such an effect on France.[9]

On 30 May, 400,000 to 500,000 protesters (many more than the 50,000 the police were expecting) led by the CGT marched through Paris, chanting: "Adieu, de Gaulle!" ("Farewell, de Gaulle!"). Maurice Grimaud, head of the Paris police, played a key role in avoiding revolution by both speaking to and spying on the revolutionaries, and by carefully avoiding the use of force. While Communist leaders later denied that they had planned an armed uprising, and extreme militants only comprised 2% of the populace, they had overestimated de Gaulle's strength as shown by his escape to Germany.[9] (One scholar, otherwise skeptical of the French Communists' willingness to maintain democracy after forming a government, has claimed that the "moderate, nonviolent and essentially antirevolutionary" Communists opposed revolution because they sincerely believed that the party must come to power through legal elections, not armed conflict that might provoke harsh repression from political opponents.)[5]

The movement was largely centered around the Paris metropolitan area, and not elsewhere. Had the rebellion occupied key public buildings in Paris, the government would have had to use force to retake them. The resulting casualties could have incited a revolution, with the military moving from the provinces to retake Paris as in 1871. Minister of Defence Pierre Messmer and Chief of the Defence Staff Michel Fourquet prepared for such an action, and Pompidou had ordered tanks to Issy-les-Moulineaux.[9] While the military was free of revolutionary sentiment, using an army mostly of conscripts the same age as the revolutionaries would have been very dangerous for the government.[5][17] A survey taken immediately after the crisis found that 20% of Frenchmen would have supported a revolution, 23% would have opposed it, and 57% would have avoided physical participation in the conflict. 33% would have fought a military intervention, while only 5% would have supported it and a majority of the country would have avoided any action.[9]

At 2:30 p.m. on 30 May, Pompidou persuaded de Gaulle to dissolve the National Assembly and call a new election by threatening to resign. At 4:30 p.m., de Gaulle broadcast his own refusal to resign. He announced an election, scheduled for 23 June, and ordered workers to return to work, threatening to institute a state of emergency if they did not. The government had leaked to the media that the army was outside Paris. Immediately after the speech, about 800,000 supporters marched through the Champs-Élysées waving the national flag; the Gaullists had planned the rally for several days, which attracted a crowd of diverse ages, occupations, and politics. The Communists agreed to the election, and the threat of revolution was over.[9][17][19]

Events of June and July

From that point, the revolutionary feeling of the students and workers faded away. Workers gradually returned to work or were ousted from their plants by the police. The national student union called off street demonstrations. The government banned a number of leftist organizations. The police retook the Sorbonne on 16 June. Contrary to de Gaulle's fears, his party won the greatest victory in French parliamentary history in the legislative election held in June, taking 353 of 486 seats versus the Communists' 34 and the Socialists' 57.[9] The February Declaration and its promise to include Communists in government likely hurt the Socialists in the election. Their opponents cited the example of the Czechoslovak National Front government of 1945, which led to a Communist takeover of the country in 1948. Socialist voters were divided; in a February 1968 survey a majority had favored allying with the Communists, but 44% believed that Communists would attempt to seize power once in government. (30% of Communist voters agreed.)[5]

On Bastille Day, there were resurgent street demonstrations in the Latin Quarter, led by socialist students, leftists and communists wearing red arm-bands and anarchists wearing black arm-bands. The Paris police and the Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité harshly responded starting around 10 pm and continuing through the night, on the streets, in police vans, at police stations, and in hospitals where many wounded were taken. There was, as a result, much bloodshed among students and tourists there for the evening's festivities. No charges were filed against police or demonstrators, but the governments of Britain and West Germany filed formal protests, including for the indecent assault of two English schoolgirls by police in a police station.

Despite the size of de Gaulle's triumph, it was not a personal one. The post-crisis survey showed that a majority of the country saw de Gaulle as too old, too self-centered, too authoritarian, too conservative, and too anti-American. As the April 1969 referendum would show, the country was ready for "Gaullism without de Gaulle".[9]

Slogans and graffiti

May 1968 slogan. Paris. "It is forbidden to forbid."
May 1968 slogan. Paris. "It is forbidden to forbid."

Several examples:[20]

  • Il est interdit d'interdire ("It is forbidden to forbid").[21]
  • Jouissez sans entraves ("Enjoy without hindrance").[21]
  • Élections, piège à con ("Elections, a trap for idiots").[22]
  • CRS = SS.[23]
  • Je suis Marxiste—tendance Groucho. ("I'm a Marxist—of the Groucho tendency.")[24]
  • Marx, Mao, Marcuse![25][26][27] Also known as "3M".[28]
  • Cela nous concerne tous. ("This concerns all of us.")
  • Soyez réalistes, demandez l'impossible. ("Be realistic, ask the impossible.")[29]
  • "When the National Assembly becomes a bourgeois theater, all the bourgeois theaters should be turned into national assemblies." (Written above the entrance of the occupied Odéon Theater)[30]
  • Sous les pavés, la plage! ("Under the paving stones, the beach.")
  • "I love you!!! Oh, say it with paving stones!!!"[31]
  • "Read Reich and act accordingly!" (University of Frankfurt; similar Reichian slogans were scrawled on the walls of the Sorbonne, and in Berlin students threw copies of Reich's The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933) at the police).[32]
  • Travailleurs la lutte continue[;] constituez-vous en comité de base. ("Workers the fight continues; form a basic committee.")[33]


May 1968 is an important reference point in French politics, representing for some the possibility of liberation and for others the dangers of anarchy.[4] For some, May 1968 meant the end of traditional collective action and the beginning of a new era to be dominated mainly by the so-called new social movements.[34]

Someone who took part in or supported this period of unrest is referred to as soixante-huitard - a term, derived from the French for "68", which has also entered the English language.

In popular culture



  • Many writings of French anarchist singer-songwriter Léo Ferré were inspired by those events. Songs directly related to May 1968 are: "L'Été 68", "Comme une fille" (1969), "Paris je ne t'aime plus" (1970), "La Violence et l'Ennui" (1971), "Il n'y a plus rien" (1973), "La Nostalgie" (1979). Many others Ferré's songs share the libertarian feel of that time.
  • Claude Nougaro's song "Paris Mai" (1969).[38]
  • The imaginary Italian clerk described by Fabrizio de André in his album Storia di un impiegato, is inspired to build a bomb set to explode in front of the Italian parliament by listening to reports of the May events in France, drawn by the perceived dullness and repetitivity of his life compared to the revolutionary developments unfolding in France.[39]
  • The Refused song entitled "Protest Song '68" is about the May 1968 protests.[40]
  • The Stone Roses's song "Bye Bye Badman", from their eponymous album, is about the riots. The album's cover has the tricolore and lemons on the front (which were used to nullify the effects of tear gas).[41]
  • The music video for the David Holmes song "I Heard Wonders" is based entirely on the May 1968 protests and alludes to the influence of the Situationist International on the movement.[42]
  • The Rolling Stones wrote the lyrics to the song "Street Fighting Man" (set to music of an unreleased song they had already written which had different lyrics) in reference to the May 1968 protests from their perspective, living in a "sleepy London town". The melody of the song was inspired by French police car sirens.[43]
  • Vangelis released an album in France and Greece entitled Fais que ton rêve soit plus long que la nuit ("May you make your dreams longer than the night"), which was about the Paris student riots in 1968. The album contains sounds from the demonstrations, songs, and a news report.[44]
  • Ismael Serrano's song "Papá cuéntame otra vez" ("Papa, tell me again") references the May 1968 events: "Papa, tell me once again that beautiful story, of gendarmes and fascists and long-haired students; and sweet urban war in flared trousers, and songs of the Rolling stones, and girls in miniskirts."[45]
  • Caetano Veloso's song "É Proibido Proibir" takes its title from the May 1968 graffiti of the same name and was a protest song against the military regime that assumed power in Brazil in April 1964.[46]
  • Many of the slogans from the May 1968 riots were included in Luciano Berio's seminal work Sinfonia.
  • The band Orchid references the events of May 68 as well as Debord in their song "Victory Is Ours".
  • The 1975's song "Love It If We Made It" makes reference to the Atelier Populaire's book made to support the events, 'Beauty Is In The Street'.



See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Situationist International Online".
  2. ^ "Mai 68 - 40 ans déjà".
  3. ^ DeRoo, Rebecca J. (2014). The Museum Establishment and Contemporary Art: The Politics of Artistic Display in France after 1968. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107656918.
  4. ^ a b Erlanger, Steven (29 April 2008). "May 1968 - a watershed in French life". New York Times. Retrieved 31 August 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e Mendel, Arthur P. (January 1969). "Why the French Communists Stopped the Revolution". The Review of Politics. 31 (1): 3–27. doi:10.1017/s0034670500008913. JSTOR 1406452.
  6. ^ Rotman, pp. 10–11; Damamme, Gobille, Matonti & Pudal, ed., p. 190.
  7. ^ Damamme, Gobille, Matonti & Pudal, ed., p. 190.
  8. ^ "Michel Rocard :". Le Archived from the original on 22 October 2007. Retrieved 21 April 2007.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Dogan, Mattei (1984). "How Civil War Was Avoided in France". International Political Science Review / Revue internationale de science politique. 5 (3): 245–277. doi:10.1177/019251218400500304. JSTOR 1600894.
  10. ^ Maclean, M. (2002). Economic Management and French Business: From de Gaulle to Chirac. Palgrave Macmillan UK. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-230-50399-1.
  11. ^ 1944-, Viénet, René, (1992). Enragés and situationists in the occupation movement, France, May '1968. New York: Autonomedia. p. 91. ISBN 0936756799. OCLC 27424054.
  12. ^ Singer, Daniel (2002). Prelude to Revolution: France in May 1968. South End Press. pp. 184–185. ISBN 9780896086821.
  13. ^ Derrida, Jacques (1991) "A 'Madness' Must Watch Over Thinking", interview with Francois Ewald for Le Magazine Litteraire, March 1991, republished in Points...: Interviews, 1974-1994 (1995).pp.347-9
  14. ^
  15. ^ Howell, Chris (2011). "The Importance of May 1968". Regulating Labor: The State and Industrial Relations Reform in Postwar France. Princeton University Press. pp. 67–68. ISBN 978-1-4008-2079-5 – via Project MUSE.
  16. ^ Lewis, Robert W. (2016). "Stadium spectacle beyond 1945". The Stadium Century. Manchester University Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-5261-0625-4.
  17. ^ a b c d Singer, Daniel (2002). Prelude to Revolution: France in May 1968. South End Press. pp. 195, 198–201. ISBN 978-0-89608-682-1.
  18. ^ Dogan, Mattéi (2005). Political Mistrust and the Discrediting of Politicians. Brill. p. 218. ISBN 9004145303.
  19. ^ "Lycos". Archived from the original on 22 April 2009.
  20. ^ "Graffiti de Mai 1968".
  21. ^ a b Éditions Larousse. "Encyclopédie Larousse en ligne - événements de mai 1968". Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  22. ^ Par Sylvain BoulouqueVoir tous ses articles (28 February 2012). "Pour la gauche radicale, "élections, piège à cons" ?". L'Obs. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  23. ^ "CRS = SS". Retrieved 29 September 2015.
  24. ^ Lejeune, Anthony (2001). The Concise Dictionary of Foreign Quotations. Taylor & Francis. p. 74. ISBN 0953330001. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  25. ^ Martin Jay (1996). Dialectical Imagination. p. xii.
  26. ^ Mervyn Duffy (2005). How Language, Ritual and Sacraments Work: According to John Austin, Jürgen Habermas and Louis-Marie Chauvet. Gregorian Biblical BookShop. p. 80. ISBN 9788878390386. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  27. ^ Anthony Elliott (2014). Contemporary Social Theory: An Introduction. p. 66. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  28. ^ Franzosi, Roberto (March 2006). "Power and Protest: Global Revolution and the Rise of Détente by Jeremi Suri". American Journal of Sociology. The University of Chicago Press. 111 (5): 1589. doi:10.1086/504653. JSTOR 10.1086/504653.
  29. ^ Watzlawick, Paul (1993). The Language of Change: Elements of Therapeutic Communication. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 83. ISBN 9780393310207. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
  30. ^ Revolutionary rehearsals. Barker, Colin, 1939-. Chicago, Il.: Haymarket Books. 2002. p. 23. ISBN 9781931859028. OCLC 154668230.CS1 maint: others (link)
  31. ^ Ken Knabb, ed. (2006). Situationist International Anthology. Bureau Of Public Secrets. ISBN 9780939682041.
  32. ^ Turner, Christopher (2011). Adventures in the Orgasmatron. HarperCollins, pp. 13–14.
  33. ^,-%27travailleurs-la-lutte-continue%27,-screenprint,-1968~1795
  34. ^ Staricco, Juan Ignacio (2012)
  35. ^ Truffaut, François (2008). François Truffaut: Interviews. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-934110-14-0.
  36. ^ "Tout Va Bien, directed by Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin | Film review". Time Out London. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  37. ^ Pierquin, Martine (July 2014). "The Mother and the Whore". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 1 June 2017.
  38. ^ Riding, Alan (22 March 2004). "Claude Nougaro, French Singer, Is Dead at 74". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  39. ^ Giannini, Stefano (2005). "Storia di un impiegato di Fabrizio De André". La Riflessione. pp. 11–16.
  40. ^ Kristiansen, Lars J.; Blaney, Joseph R.; Chidester, Philip J.; Simonds, Brent K. (10 July 2012). Screaming for Change: Articulating a Unifying Philosophy of Punk Rock. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-4276-9.
  41. ^ John Squire. "Bye Bye Badman". John Squire. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
  42. ^ Cole, Brendan (25 August 2008). "David Holmes Interview" (Articles). Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  43. ^ "I wanted the [sings] to sound like a French police siren. That was the year that all that stuff was going on in Paris and in London. There were all these riots that the generation that I belonged to, for better or worse, was starting to get antsy. You could count on somebody in America to find something offensive about something — you still can. Bless their hearts. I love America for that very reason." N.P.R.Staff. "Keith Richards: 'These Riffs Were Built To Last A Lifetime'". Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  44. ^ Griffin, Mark J. T. (13 March 2013). Vangelis: The Unknown Man. Lulu Press, Inc. ISBN 978-1-4476-2728-9.
  45. ^ Mucientes, Esther. "MAYO DEL 68: La música de la revolución". Retrieved 23 November 2015.
  46. ^ Christopher, Dunn (2001). Brutality Garden: Tropicalia and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture. University of North Carolina Press. p. 135.


  • Damamme, Dominique; Gobille, Boris; Matonti, Frédérique; Pudal, Bernard, eds. (2008). Mai-juin 68 (in French). Éditions de l'Atelier. ISBN 978-2708239760.
  • Rotman, Patrick (2008). Mai 68 raconté à ceux qui ne l'ont pas vécu (in French). Seuil. ISBN 978-2021127089.

Further reading

External links

Archival collections


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