This is a short article from the New York Times about the student uprisings in Paris during May 1968 and their lasting effects on French culture and psychology. The title alone, “Barricades of May ’68 Still Divide the French” says a lot about the content, namely that the uprisings were not wholly supported by French society, and that there is a distinct split in between how they are remembered in French society; the Right calls them “the events”, while the Left calls it “the movement.” The article cedes that youth revolt was common throughout the West, but that France was unique in its potential to foment a political revolution, with 10 million striking workers. The article notes how the desire behind May ’68 was unfulfilled, as the right is now in power. It quickly summarizes a chronology of the events, namely that the student uprisings spread out from Nanterre University to the elite Sorbonne, and eventually to the workers of the nation. A former participant in the uprisings says, “the revolution was social not political,” and that while students spoke of revolution they never intended to carry it out. The article also lists the social transformations that French culture has undergone since 1968, and claims that the “anti-authoritarians of the time were fighting against a very different society,” in effect disabling the notion of any future social revolution.
The article provides a useful historical context for the ramifications of the uprisings in 1968, as well as a critique of, essentially, the ambiguity of Vigo’s conclusion to “Zéro de Conduite.” If Paris in May 1968 was a realization of a theory of anarchist pedagogy, its final results were disappointing, because the nation now has a conservative government. The end of Jean Vigo’s film offers an apparent victory, but no steps further than that, something that many anarchists love to do, while not realizing the damage to the credibility of their movement. Perhaps it is for this reason that the protestors of Paris spoke often of revolution in romantic, lofty terms such as the surrealist rebellion presented in Vigo’s film, but in actuality, never attempted to complete that vision because the vision itself was incomplete, a simple specter of the meme that revolution had become in the collective consciousness of French society. Regardless, the article is valuable to my thesis because it challenges the apparent victory of subversive creativity over entrenched power structures, because power always adapts, whereas visions of the revolution have remained anachronistic.
full citation: Erlanger, Steven . "Barricades of May ’68 Still Divide the French - New York Times." The New York Times. 30 Apr. 2008. 30 Nov. 2008 <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/30/world/europe/30france.html?_r=2&oref=slogin>.
This article explicitly analyzes Vigo’s two feature films and If… in the context of anarchism. It is a very useful reference because it provides potentially all of the political analysis of the film in the context of older and contemporary anarchist theory. It discusses how Vigo’s film was ahead of its time in anarchist theory, specifically by likening school to a prison, which anticipated the works of Ivan Illich, Michel Foucault, and Paul Goodman, among others. It also provides historical context, such that the French boarding schools of the era were often built like prisons. The entire article essentially posits the film as an example of anarchist pedagogy.
This source is crucial to my hypothesis, mostly for the dichotomy it delineates more fully between schools and prisons, and the fact that it deals almost explicitly with the relationships between the film and theoretical anarchist pedagogy. Evidently, this portrayal of a children’s rebellion in school is what many anarchists would see as testing ground for a new social order, where the creative spontaneity of children is equivalent to collective social desire, which is repressed by authority figures. The article sees the possibility of liberation with creativity in school as a model for the anarchist notion of collective liberation throughout society, ultimately hailing children as those with the potential to create a new social order. An interesting viewpoint from the article is that it mentions the director’s care to avoid fetishizing childhood innocence as in the Victorian era by making the children into spontaneous troublemakers. These troublemakers thus reject the less-radical notion of “children’s rights” that was trumpeted by a few almost-anarchist theorists of the time because they reject the law itself, firmly cementing this film’s reflection of the most radically individualist anarchist ideas of the era. Finally, the article discusses the open-ended conclusion of the film as the most potentially radical act of all. It leaves open the question of whether the alternative, after the children’s rebellion, is some alternative educational structure with a new form of hierarchy populated by kids, or whether the children scampering off into the distance represent deschooling, and a praise for the wild, creative instincts of children. Either way, the film’s inconclusiveness allows the spectator and characters in the film to decide for themselves, a decidedly anarchist move.