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France 1968 month of revolution: Wales Socialist Party meetings a great success
France came to Wales last week as two very successful meetings were held in Swansea and Cardiff to discuss the events in France in 1968.
Dave Reid and Alec Thraves
Clare Doyle, author of Month of Revolution: France 1968, outlined the events in 1968 at both meetings. She pointed out that while the media has mentioned the battles of the students with the police which opened the events in Paris there is little or no mention of the general strike by the working class, the biggest general strike in history.
There was a lively debate amongst an enthusiastic audience who agreed we could expect more revolutionary movements of a similar kind 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.
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 seized the factories from the bosses and led to similar action by the middle layers in society like journalists, doctors and actors. All four conditions for revolution outlined by Lenin were present in France with the exception of the existence of a party of revolution that understood the events and was able to lead the working class.
There was a wide-ranging discussion that ranged from France to Britain to Saudi Arabia to Sweden to Czechoslovakia. Some questions were raised about whether the modern working class has the power to carry through the strike movement that the French workers fought in 1968 and whether British workers are as militant as French workers.
A PCS member pointed out that we can take a step forward towards that of France 1968 by building towards united action in the public sector against the government's pay freeze. Civil servants are one section of the workforce today who would have regarded themselves as middle class in the 1960s who are now clearly part of the working class.
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 New Labour got in 2008, but what was different was that the working class base of the Labour Party in 1968 moved to the left and the ideas of Marxism received an increasing ear with 3 million votes for nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy at Labour Party conference that year. Today there is no party for the working class and we will have to build it.
In Cardiff six non members of the Socialist Party attended the meeting including three people who had seen publicity on the streets.
In Swansea, the South Wales Evening Post advertised our meeting but mistakenly gave out the wrong day of the meeting 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. Despite their frustration we sold a couple of papers and one is coming to the Swansea Socialist Party branch meeting next week.
10 copies of Clare's book were sold and £166 fighting fund raised at the two meetings.
For further France 1968 speaking tour information go to www.socialistparty.org.uk/1968