Alan Woods went to Paris in May 1968 seeking contact with revolutionary workers and youth. He describes here what he encountered, the mood, and the discussions with workers and students. He explains how the workers were looking for leadership but never found it, neither in the ultra-left groups, nor in the Stalinist leadership that betrayed them.

By May 27 the balance of forces had massively shifted in favour of the working class. Power was within their grasp. De Gaulle was utterly demoralised, but he had one key card he could play, the leadership of the Communist Party and the trade unions.

May 1968 was the greatest revolutionary general strike in history. Then, as now, the bourgeois and their apologists were congratulating themselves that revolutions and class struggle were things of the past. It took most of the Left completely by surprise, because, they had all written off the European working class as a revolutionary force.

Last Sunday's first round in the French local elections confirmed a widespread shift to the left, with Sarkozy losing significant support. The Socialist Party did well, as did forces that stand to its left. Here we wish to highlight the Marxist candidates standing for the PCF in the area around Toulouse, who significantly boosted the party's vote.

How do you lose £3.7 billion? Down the back of the sofa? Meet Jérôme Kerviel. He lost £3.7 billion of his employer’s money, Société Générale, a French bank. Is it actually a good argument for capitalism that the whole world can be screwed up because of a solitary rogue trader? Is the system really so precarious that one crook can send world financial markets into freefall?

Sarkozy is consciously provoking some of the big battalions of the French labour movement. His strategy is clear: take on the strong sections of the class and, counting on the weak trade union leaders, smash them in order to prepare the ground for an all-out attack on the rest of the class. The stakes are high. With a bold, militant leadership the workers could win.

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