Revolutionary 1968

Mai 68 debut dune lutte prolongee

1968 marked a turning point in world history. The relative stability in the West of the postwar period was brought dramatically to an end. Mass movements of the working class and youth shook the regimes in France, the USA, and other advanced capitalist countries. The civil rights movement took off in Ireland, opening the period known as the “Troubles”. And in Britain, the USA, and elsewhere, massive demonstrations and occupations took place against the Vietnam war.

Huge protests and even revolutionary situations opened up in the Stalinist-controlled, deformed workers’ states of Eastern Europe. These included the “Prague Spring” in Czechoslovakia, as well as protest movements in Poland and Yugoslavia. And in the ex-colonial world, a mighty revolution began in Pakistan, while huge struggles unfolded in Vietnam, Mexico, and elsewhere.

Over the preceding years, many so-called “Marxists” had written off the working class as “bourgeoisified”. Some declared class struggle and revolution “outdated”. These ideas were demolished by the powerful working-class movements that erupted worldwide.

A highlight of the year was the May events in Paris. Over the course of the month, a revolutionary situation opened up, beginning with student demonstrations, which escalated to a general strike involving over 10 million workers: the largest ever at the time. Power was in the hands of the workers. Even the president had fled the country. Ultimately though, the movement was betrayed by the leadership of the Communist Party, which played a scandalous role.

The events of 1968 were the opening of a period of intense class struggle and revolution that would shake the world into the 1970s. With capitalism again in deep crisis, revolutionary situations are being prepared in all countries. We must therefore study the lessons of the events of 1968, to prepare us for the turbulent events of the future.

In 1962 the inability of French imperialism to repress the movement of the Algerian people and the rising militancy of French workers forced de Gaulle to propose a cease-fire to the FLN and attempt to present himself as the guarantor of “peace”. Ted Grant pointed out that the crisis of the Gaullist regime foreshadowed revolutionary developments, something which was confirmed six years later!

At the beginning of 1962 the wave of black terror unleashed by the OAS in France and Algeria marked the crisis of French imperialist rule. Ted Grant explained that every reactionary attempt would inevitably be met by the revolutionary struggle of the French workers and exposed the opportunist role played by the Stalinist leaders of the French CP.

After de Gaulle's coup in 1958 frustration in the high command of the French army in Algeria led in 1961 to a second reactionary coup attempt on the part of General Challe. Ted Grant analysed how the coup was smashed by a decisive movement of the French working class and the rebellion of the army ranks against the coup plotters. The scope and strength of the movement revealed the potential for revolutionary struggle in France.

In this important pamphlet of May 1958 that we publish now in its entirety, Ted Grant analysed the Bonapartist character of De Gaulle's regime in the light of previous historical events. De Gaulle's bid for power was successful not because of his strength, but because of the treacherous policies of the Communist and Socialist Party leaders. De Gaulle's victory was an expression of the crisis of French capitalism and would inevitably open up revolutionary events and an explosion of the class struggle. While most of the Stalinist, reformist and sectarian left had written off the French workers as a revolutionary class before May 1968, Ted Grant's prediction confirmed the correctness of