Artists, students mark France’s May 1968 revolt anniversary; Macron stays away


French President Emmanuel Macron was not even born when students and workers joined forces during the May 1968 Paris uprising, a pivotal moment in making France what it is today. Fifty years on, France is once again rocked by widespread protests. “1968-2018- Revolution!” read banners at this year’s demonstrations, which saw students blocking French universities to protest Mr. Macron’s education reforms, and railway workers staging prolonged strikes against plans to overhaul the country’s national rail company.
The centrist President is showing no sympathy for the protesters, and has promised to carry on with his policies in the face of growing public discontent. It’s no wonder no official commemorations of the 1968 revolt are planned.
Despite Mr. Macron’s conspicuous silence, the violent, dramatic events that paralysed France 50 years ago are still very much in the air today.
An exhibition of political posters which played a major role during the violent unrest is bringing back to life the spirit of May 1968, when students tore up Parisian cobblestones to build barricades and some seven million workers took part in nationwide strikes.“Back then, millions of people thought it was necessary to change society,” curator Eric de Chassey told The Associated Press. “People actually thought that revolution was immediate. And that the whole power structure would be completely defeated. That’s fundamentally different to the current struggles and strikes.”
While the protests of 1968 fought for change, the protests of 2018 are largely fighting for the status quo, to keep the kind of lifelong worker rights that earlier generations enjoyed. Mr. Macron says those rights are now outdated and incompatible with the 21st century global economy.
Meanwhile, many of the breakthrough ideas far-left militants fought for during the late 1960s and 1970s have now become mainstream issues tackled by politicians across the spectrum.“It’s during these years that the underlying trends of today’s political fights developed,” Mr. De Chassey said. “The fight for the rights of immigrant workers for instance, for gender equality or for homosexual rights. And Maoists militants who wanted to include farmers in their fight, also contributed to raising ecological concerns.”
The Images en Lutte (The Clash of Images) exhibition of posters, painting, sculptures, films, pictures and books documents the work of artists involved in far-left protests from 1968 to 1974. At times art and politics were deeply mixed.


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