The Myths of Paris


I'm a few days late on this, but if you haven't already read Jean-Claude Guillebaud's mildly revisionist Times opinion piece on the 1968 student rebellion in Paris be sure to check it out. It seems a bit of a stretch to say that student leaders like Danny Cohn-Bendit merely "spoke Marxist," but Guillebaud's argument that he and his street-fighting, paving stone-thowing comrades were "useful idiots" for capitalism seems about right:

The real legacy of May '68, as we see in France today, is individualism, the rejection of civic sense and ideology, the rehabilitation of the idea that personal and financial success is a worthy pursuit—in short, a revival of capitalism. To borrow an expression of Lenin's, we were useful idiots. Indeed, the uprising was more a counterrevolution than a revolution.

He grumbles that those "broadcast chiefs and newspaper, magazine and book publishers and senior editors [who] 'did' May '68…are simply indulging their own nostalgia" by celebrating and mythologizing the anniversary and reminds us that "It was the [general] strike, not the student revolt, that truly paralyzed the country for three long weeks."

The paradox is that these two movements never encountered each other. The students marching toward the factories to "meet the workers" found the doors closed. The unions didn't want them: the workers found the students disorganized and irresponsible.

Full article.