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>.