The events of spring 1968 in France, in their roots and in their results, had an international significance. Underlying them were the consequences for the working class of the first symptoms of the world economic crisis, which was reappearing after well over a decade of capitalist prosperity.
After decades of defeat, disorientation and submission, in May 1968 the working class returned to the scene of history. While the student agitation which had been developing in France since the beginning of spring, and the radical workers’ struggles which had broken out the previous year, had already changed the social atmosphere, the entry en masse of the class struggle (10 million on strike) overturned the whole social landscape.
Very soon other national sectors of the working class would enter the struggle. After the huge strike of May 1968 in France, the struggles in Argentina (the Cordobazo), the “Hot Autumn” in Italy and many other movements across the world provided proof that the world proletariat had left behind the period of counter-revolution. In contrast to the crisis of 1929, the one now emerging would not lead to world war but to the development of class battles that would prevent the ruling class from imposing its barbaric solution to the convulsions of its economy.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of this major event, we are publishing on our website a dossier made up of some the main articles the ICC has written about it, in particular:
- ‘Understanding May’, re-published from Revolution Internationale 2, 1969, which polemicises in particular with the situationists who at the time denied the return of the economic crisis as one of the causes for the upsurge of the movement;
- ‘May 68 and the revolutionary perspective’ from International Review 133 (The student movement around the world in the 1960s) and 134 (End of the counter-revolution and the historic return of the world proletariat), which goes in detail into the events themselves and examines their historical importance.
We also begin the publication of a series of three articles aimed at drawing a balance sheet of the period since 1968, motivated by the concern to examine the extent to which the conclusions we have drawn about the meaning of May 1968 have been verified by history. The first article looks at the course followed by the aggravation of the economic crisis, and the following two will deal with the dynamic of the class struggle and the development of the revolutionary milieu.