Friday, 16 May 2008

1968 & all that

Went to a meeting last night to mark the anniversary of the 1968 movement in France.

I’d like to say that it re-ignited the spirit of ’68 in a new generation, but to be honest the meeting was full of the usual suspects that come to these things. Despite a rousing singing of the Internationale at the end, I have to say that whilst ’68 may have been the defining moment for a generation of the left, I fear that moment has now passed.

Certainly in this country much of the then student left have reverted to the safe middle class lives from whence they came. One particular sub-species, especially prevalent in academic circles, is the ‘New Left intellectual’ – for career enhancing purposes they had to define themselves as Marxist in the 70’s when it was fashionable. Now they can’t shake it off but having revised their revisionism so often, they have fully disappeared up their own arses. And are barely socialist any more let alone Marxist.

But bucking this trend was the main speaker – a dowdy little Frenchwoman who spoke through a translator. Still an activist today, in ’68 she had been in the thick of it. She described carrying paving stones in her shopping bags, roof top battles with the ‘flics’ and organising discussion groups at the local Renault factory. Today, if you passed her in the street she could pass as a member of the Women’s Institute (if there is such a thing in France). I found that strangely moving.

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