Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/534/4133
International discussion on the way forward for socialists
IN AN inspiring rally, 120 people from across London were treated to a first hand account of the political movement in France in 1968 from Marie-José Douet.
Marco Verrugio, a member Controcorrente in Italy, spoke of the struggles taking place in Italy today against Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing government, and the need for a mass party of workers and youth led by revolutionary socialists.
Clare Doyle discussed the political movements that led to the huge French general strike of May 1968, how workers' leaders attempted to dissipate the anger of workers and young people, and how the workers overcame this obstacle to come within a breath of workers' control in France.
Onay Kasab, secretary of Greenwich Unison branch, reported on the current struggle for political freedom and workers' rights currently taking place within trade unions, including the witch-hunt inside Unison.
Peter Taaffe, the Socialist Party's general secretary, spoke on the legacy of 1968. While the political establishment of France would like to be rid of the country's revolutionary history and tradition, so long as workers struggle against the unjust and corrupt nature of the capitalist system, this legacy will never be lost.
Videos of the speeches have been posted here
Marie-José Douet, from Gauche Révolutionnaire, was welcomed to a meeting in Liverpool by 21 supporters of Merseyside Campaign for a New Workers' Party. She provided an insight into the political situation in France, 40 years after the May 1968 general strike.
Clara Paillard, Merseyside CNWP events organiser
In 1968, the biggest strike in France brought ten million people onto the streets. Factories were occupied, trains were stopped, ports blocked, managers locked into their offices.
Today, Gauche Révolutionnaire (CWI France) participates in the campaign for a new workers' party in France. The Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR) has led the call but people from many different groups and left radical tendencies are taking part.
A new party should bring together existing organisations and allow them to keep their identity as well as allowing young people and new workers to join the party. It is crucial that new members are involved, can express their view and participate in such a party.
This talk was part of the City of Culture '08, which seeks to highlight the role of the working class in the history of Liverpool.
See www.myspace.com/cityofculture08 for more information.
FRANCE CAME to Wales when two very successful meetings were held in Swansea and Cardiff to discuss the events in France in 1968.
Dave Reid and Alec Thraves
In Swansea the South Wales Evening Post advertised our meeting but mistakenly gave out the wrong day so the following night we had to go back to the venue and explain to some disappointed members of the public why they had missed an excellent meeting.
On the previous night there was a lively debate amongst an enthusiastic audience who agreed that we could expect similar revolutionary movements in the future. The biggest lessons that came out of the meeting were the central role of the working class in changing society and the need for a determined socialist leadership.
In Cardiff Clare Doyle, author of France 1968: Month of Revolution, outlined the events in 1968. She pointed out that while this year the media has mentioned the battles of students with police there is little or no mention of the general strike by the working class, the biggest general strike in history.
A 'strike chart' on the wall visually brought home the scale of the movement in 1968. Clare gave an inspiring account of the thousands of factory occupations which led to similar action by the middle layers in society including journalists, doctors and actors. All conditions for revolution outlined by Lenin were present in France with the exception of a party of revolution that understood the events and was able to lead the working class.
Wide-ranging discussion covered France, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Czechoslovakia. It was asked if the modern working class has the power to carry through a similar strike movement today and whether British workers are as militant as French workers.
A PCS member pointed out that we can take a step forward by building towards united action in the public sector against the government's pay freeze.
Andrew Price, a member of the UCU national executive, joined Militant, the forerunner of the Socialist Party, in May 1968. He explained that in the same week that he joined Militant the Labour Party had received an even worse result in the local elections than in 2008. However, the working-class base the Labour Party had in 1968 moved to the left with three million votes for nationalising the commanding heights of the economy at the Labour Party conference that year. Today there is no mass party for the working class and we will have to build it.
ON 14 May, the local Socialist Party branches and Socialist Students in Sheffield jointly held a public meeting to celebrate 40 years since the events of May 1968 in France.
We built extensively for this meeting, mobilising in Sheffield and across Yorkshire. We made major efforts to reach new people, particularly students, with several stalls and leafleting sessions on campus and a poster campaign. We had reports of one lecturer commanding his students to attend!
Our efforts paid off with 50 people at the meeting, including 20 students, many of whom we had not met before. This was an exemplary attendance for so late in the university year, when most students are busy with dissertations and exams, and demonstrates not only the importance of dedicated work on the ground but also the enduring mystique of 1968. We will now be keeping in contact with people who we have met at the meeting and from our campaigning. An excellent fighting fund appeal raised £371.
In The Socialist 21 May 2008:
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party campaigns
Environment: Nuclear power
France 1968 - month of revolution
International socialist news and analysis