Revolutionary 1968

Mai 68 debut dune lutte prolongee

1968 marked a turning point in world history. The relative stability in the West of the postwar period was brought dramatically to an end. Mass movements of the working class and youth shook the regimes in France, the USA, and other advanced capitalist countries. The civil rights movement took off in Ireland, opening the period known as the “Troubles”. And in Britain, the USA, and elsewhere, massive demonstrations and occupations took place against the Vietnam war.

Huge protests and even revolutionary situations opened up in the Stalinist-controlled, deformed workers’ states of Eastern Europe. These included the “Prague Spring” in Czechoslovakia, as well as protest movements in Poland and Yugoslavia. And in the ex-colonial world, a mighty revolution began in Pakistan, while huge struggles unfolded in Vietnam, Mexico, and elsewhere.

Over the preceding years, many so-called “Marxists” had written off the working class as “bourgeoisified”. Some declared class struggle and revolution “outdated”. These ideas were demolished by the powerful working-class movements that erupted worldwide.

A highlight of the year was the May events in Paris. Over the course of the month, a revolutionary situation opened up, beginning with student demonstrations, which escalated to a general strike involving over 10 million workers: the largest ever at the time. Power was in the hands of the workers. Even the president had fled the country. Ultimately though, the movement was betrayed by the leadership of the Communist Party, which played a scandalous role.

The events of 1968 were the opening of a period of intense class struggle and revolution that would shake the world into the 1970s. With capitalism again in deep crisis, revolutionary situations are being prepared in all countries. We must therefore study the lessons of the events of 1968, to prepare us for the turbulent events of the future.

Speaking at the main rally of the recent Revolution Festival in London, Alan Woods, editor of In Defence of Marxism, gives a first-hand account of the revolutionary general strike that shook France in May 1968. As Alan explains, the huge events of May 68 began as student protests, with the youth acting as a barometer for the rising pressures in society. The working class (which many short-sighted left-wingers had written off as being "middle class") soon came in support of the students, and the movement developed into a mass strike.

2 October marks 50 years since the 1968 massacre in Tlatelolco, Mexico, when the army was used to mow down student protesters on the eve of the Olympics. We publish this detailed article by Ubaldo Oropeza, editor of La Izquierda Socialista, about the movement, its origins, development and aftermath, as well as the main lessons that can be drawn from it.

Prague 1968

The Prague Spring was a movement with the potential to develop into a socialist political revolution against the Communist Party (CP) bureaucracy, possibly with far-reaching consequences. For this reason, over the last half century, the Prague Spring has been slandered by Stalinists, co-opted by liberals, and distorted by both.

50 years ago, women at the Dagenham Ford Factory began a strike that became a turning point in the fight for equality. It was not the first such strike, and it would certainly not be the last. However, by standing up against bosses, union officials, and even other workers, they would send a message that has stood the test of time and inspires still.

We publish here two videos of the discussion about the Italian Hot Autumn of 1969 which took place at the World School of the International Marxist Tendency 2013 in Greece. The discussion was led off by Claudio Bellotti.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, we are here reprinting an article by Alan Woods, first written on September 4, 1968, and published in the Winter edition of the Spark, in which he clearly relates the momentous events that shook the Stalinist regimes and explains their significance.

Alan Woods went to Paris in May 1968 seeking contact with revolutionary workers and youth. He describes here what he encountered, the mood, and the discussions with workers and students. He explains how the workers were looking for leadership but never found it, neither in the ultra-left groups, nor in the Stalinist leadership that betrayed them.

Socialist Appeal recently held a day school in London on the events of 1968. In the second session Alan Woods, Political Editor of, talks on the events of May 1968 in France.

Fred Weston of the editorial board spoke on "Italy 1969, The Hot Autumn", at last weekend's Socialist Appeal day school on "1968 - Year of Revolution".

May 1968 was the greatest revolutionary general strike in history. This mighty movement took place at the height of the post-war economic upswing in capitalism. Then, as now, the bourgeois and their apologists were congratulating themselves that revolutions and class struggle were things of the past. Then came the French events of 1968, which seemed to drop like a thunderbolt from a clear blue sky. They took most of the Left completely by surprise, because, they had all written off the European working class as a revolutionary force.

'Lenin wake up, Brezhnev has gone mad.' This was one of the slogans chanted on the street of Prague 30 years ago as Russian and Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia. The upheavals in Czechoslovakia had began with a stormy session of the Writers Union which passed a resolution supporting Soviet author Solzhenitsyn's protest against censorship.

In August 1968 Ted Grant drew a balance sheet of the revolutionary crisis ignited in France with the May events. In this important article he carefully analysed the main problems facing the revolution, exposing the treacherous policies of the Stalinist CP leaders, who gave De Gaulle the possibility to recover from his earlier paralysis, and the sectarian mistakes of the leaders of the "revolutionary left".

"The leadership of the Communist Party, backed by the Russian bureaucracy, will find that the end will come for their policy of deceit and cynicism. No one can break the will of the working class to organise a new socialist order. At the cost of terrible and unnecessary sacrifices, the workers in France will continue the struggle begun with the May events." (Ted Grant in 1968)

Supporters of the Marxist Tendency, then gathered around the Militant journal in Britain, intervened in the French events of May 1968. Here we provide the text of a leaflet that was distributed to the British workers and youth. In it they warned that with the way the French CP and trade union leaders were behaving the French bourgeois could regain control of the situation.

In 1962 the inability of French imperialism to repress the movement of the Algerian people and the rising militancy of French workers forced de Gaulle to propose a cease-fire to the FLN and attempt to present himself as the guarantor of “peace”. Ted Grant pointed out that the crisis of the Gaullist regime foreshadowed revolutionary developments, something which was confirmed six years later!

At the beginning of 1962 the wave of black terror unleashed by the OAS in France and Algeria marked the crisis of French imperialist rule. Ted Grant explained that every reactionary attempt would inevitably be met by the revolutionary struggle of the French workers and exposed the opportunist role played by the Stalinist leaders of the French CP.

After de Gaulle's coup in 1958 frustration in the high command of the French army in Algeria led in 1961 to a second reactionary coup attempt on the part of General Challe. Ted Grant analysed how the coup was smashed by a decisive movement of the French working class and the rebellion of the army ranks against the coup plotters. The scope and strength of the movement revealed the potential for revolutionary struggle in France.

In this important pamphlet of May 1958 that we publish now in its entirety, Ted Grant analysed the Bonapartist character of De Gaulle's regime in the light of previous historical events. De Gaulle's bid for power was successful not because of his strength, but because of the treacherous policies of the Communist and Socialist Party leaders. De Gaulle's victory was an expression of the crisis of French capitalism and would inevitably open up revolutionary events and an explosion of the class struggle. While most of the Stalinist, reformist and sectarian left had written off the French workers as a revolutionary class before May 1968, Ted Grant's prediction confirmed the correctness of