3 Jun 2014

May 1968 events in France

The May 1968 events in France were a volatile period of civil unrest punctuated by demonstrations and massive general strikes as well as the occupation of universities and factories across France. At the height of its fervor, it virtually brought the entire advanced capitalist economy of France to a dramatic halt. The protests reached such a point that political leaders feared civil war or revolution. As a matter of fact, the national government temporarily ceased to function after President de Gaulle secretly left France for a few hours. Although the events sometimes turned violent, they also had artistic and festive aspects with numerous quasi-improvised debates and assemblies, songs, imaginative graffitis, posters and slogans.

france 68

The unrest began with a series of student occupation protests against capitalism, consumerism and traditional institutions, values and order. It then spread to factories with strikes involving 11,000,000 workers, more than 22% of the total population of France at the time, for two continuous weeks. The movement was characterized by its spontaneous and de-centralized wildcat disposition; this created contrast and sometimes even conflict between itself and the establishment, trade unions and workers' parties. It was the largest general strike ever attempted in France, and the first ever nation-wide wildcat general strike.