France 1968 – on the brink of revolution

May 1, 2008

- Mike Kay

On May 1st 1968, Paris erupted. There had been a few big strikes in the years leading up to it, but by and large the upsurge took all by surprise.

It was the tenth anniversary of the day General De Gaulle had seized presidential power in France by an unresisted military coup. The parliament, feeling helpless to deal with the escalating war in Algeria, had voted over its powers to De Gaulle. The Fifth Republic that he established included wide-ranging presidential powers, reducing parliament to little more than a rubber stamp. During the Algerian war, protests were suppressed with lethal force.

The 1968 protests started with the students at Nanterre on the outskirts of the city. They had begun a campaign to visit each others’ rooms in halls of residence after 11pm, in defiance of their administration’s curfew.

Their campaign drew in students from all over France, who added their own grievances and demands. The immediate issues were the dereliction and overcrowding of universities, which were bursting at the seams due to the trebling of the number of students in less than a decade, and the government’s plans to impose exams in order to reduce the numbers of first-year students.

Violent state repression only served to spread the movement. The daily demonstrations and occupations soon inspired workers to strike in industries from car production to banking. The workers’ demands were at first minimal - for wage concessions and greater social security. However, as a mass strike wave developed and continued throughout May, many long-germinating working-class aspirations came to the fore and began to lead to much more revolutionary demands.

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Workers Party supports peace activists, calls for Waihopai Spy Base to be scrapped

May 1, 2008

Press Release

“Claims by Prime Minister Helen Clark that yesterday’s action by peace activists at the Waihopai Spy Base near Blenheim was nothing more than ‘a senseless act of vandalism’ show how totally out of touch the Labour government is with reality,” according to Workers Party national organiser Daphna Whitmore.

“Instead of complaining about the damage caused by the peace activists, Helen Clark and the Labour Party should be more concerned about the suffering being inflicted on the people of Afghanistan and other parts of the world as a result of the so-called ‘War on Terror’. Spy bases such as the one maintained at Waihopai play an integral part of that war.”

“Currently millions of dollars are spent each year on maintaining an intelligence network one of whose central aims is to aid in the repression of political activists and movements which threatened the interests of Western imperialism,” Ms Whitmore said.

“The Workers Party, which intends to contest the party vote for the first time in the upcoming 2008 general election, calls for the immediate withdrawal of New Zealand from all Western military alliances and the dismantling of repressive agencies such as the GCSB and SIS. As such we fully support the actions carried out yesterday by the three members of Anzac Ploughshares at Waihopai and call on all workers and progressive people to do likewise,” she added.


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