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ICC Public Forum: May 68

Sunday, July 27, 2008
2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Event Type:
Colin Beltov
Location Details:
Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609-1113

The subject for the meeting will be 'May 68: the return of the working class after 40 years of counter-revolution'.

Here's the basis of the presentation, which will be followed by several hours of discussion. All welcome...

May 68 - The student riots. Ah, the idealistic 60s, all that talk about class struggle and revolution - it's all a bit out of date now, no?.

No: May 68 in France was not a student riot. The brutal repression handed out to the students in the Latin Quarter was just the spark that lit a far wider movement a movement of the working class, the most massive unplanned general strike in history.

It was an event of historic importance. For over four decades the international working class had been dragged through the depths of defeat and counter-revolution as the bourgeoisie attempted to wipe out all remnants of the international revolutionary wave which shook the world in the wake of October 1917 in Russia. Stalinism, fascism, the 'war for democracy' of 1939-45, the cold war between the eastern and western imperialist blocs, the propaganda about the alleged integration of the working class into 'consumer society' All these were the difference faces of that counter-revolution.

May 68 marked a dramatic break with this dark period and opened the way to an international wave of workers' struggles that included the Hot Autumn in Italy in 69, the Cordiba uprising in Argentina in the same year, the massive strikes in Poland in 1970, the struggles of dockers, transport workers, miners and many others in Britain in 1972-4.

Far from being integrated into capitalist society, the working class in the late 60s and 70s showed its capacity to respond to the first stirrings of the underlying economic crisis of the system. This crisis has never gone away but has got deeper and more widespread in the 40 years since 68. And despite many set-backs, difficulties, and changes in shape and experience, the working class has not been defeated, a fact demonstrated by the development of a new series of struggles around the world since 2003 and the emergence of a new generation of young people asking fundamental questions about the future that capitalism has in store for humanity.

That is the true heritage of 68: the renewal of the class struggle as the only basis for challenging the present system of society - a system which is still guarded by the same forces that helped to sabotage the movement forty years ago: parliament and elections, the trade unions, and the parties of the 'left'. The heritage of 68s is above all the whole experience of self-organisation through action committees, of passionate debates in general assemblies, the revival of the idea of the workers councils and the rediscovery of buried revolutionary political traditions: in sum, the perspective of proletarian revolution as the only realistic alternative to a capitalist society in utter decay.

Come to this meeting and discuss this analysis and the perspectives for activity that follow from it.

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