John Harris

Journalist & Author

May 1968: the revolution retains its magnetic allure

A Stone Roses album, a Hari Kunzru novel, a Gucci ad campaign … 50 years after the events of May 1968, our writer reflects on how the ideas and energy of that moment live on today

We are now as far from the events of 1968 as the people involved were from the end of the first world war. Cliche has long since reduced much of what occurred to “student revolt”, but that hardly does these happenings justice, partly because it ignores the workers’ strikes that were just as central to what occurred during ’68 and the years that followed, but also because the phrase gets nowhere near the depth and breadth of what young people were rebelling against, not least in France.

This was the last time that a developed western society glimpsed the possibility of revolution focused not just on institutions, but the contestation of everyday reality, which is still enough to make the simple phrase “May 1968” crackle with excitement – even if you were not around when les évenéments took place. I was born in 1969, but what happened in France and beyond retains a magnetic allure.

They exude a deeply romantic sense of ordinary reality somehow being suspended

Related: Archive: Paris students in savage battles – 1968

When people were drawn into a new Labour party by Corbyn, their links to the politics of 40 years before became clear

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