Fifty years after May-June 1968, the class struggle erupts in France
7 April 2018
A half century after the French general strike of May-June 1968, the class struggle in France is entering a new and explosive stage. A confrontation with revolutionary implications is emerging between the working class and the French government, backed by the entire European Union (EU).
Last week’s strike against President Emmanuel Macron’s decree privatizing the French National Railways (SNCF) shut down much of France’s mass transit. Air France workers demanding pay increases and electricity and garbage workers demanding recognition as a public service have joined striking rail workers. Students are occupying universities to protest new selection rules limiting access to a university education.
These developments come amidst a broad international upsurge of the class struggle. This year has already seen major strikes by metal and auto workers in Germany, Turkey, and Eastern Europe; railway workers in Britain; and broad layers of teachers in Britain and the United States.
These struggles take place under the shadow of the 50th anniversary of the French general strike of May-June 1968, the largest strike in European history. This mass mobilization of the working class shook French capitalism and the regime of General Charles de Gaulle to the core. Mass anger triggered by repression of student protests erupted into a strike of over 10 million workers, and red flags flew over factories across France.
Two factors saved de Gaulle. The first was the counterrevolutionary role of the Stalinist French Communist Party (PCF), then the leading party in the working class. It organized a return to work in exchange for wage increases, demoralizing workers by its betrayal of the revolutionary situation…