On the Brink in France



In Paris in February 1968, the Communists and Socialists agreed to ally with each other to defeat President Charles de Gaulle. This was the kick off to the student protests.

On March 22 left-wing groups and 150 students occupied a building at a university in Paris, and when the police arrived the students left peacefully.


On May 2 Sorbonne University in Paris, still dealing with student unrest, shut down completely. Students showed solidarity with one another and on May 6 the national student union called a protest. Over 20 000 students, instructors and supporters marched towards Sorbonne University, and towards police officers wielding guns, clubs, and tear gas. Hundreds of students were arrested, and high school students aligned themselves with the university students.


On May 13 well over one million people marched to condemn the police brutality, and to stand in solidarity in a sign of force. When the Sorbonne University reopened, students occupied it almost immediately, and workers followed suit, occupying the factories in which they worked. President de Gaulle, sensing impending doom fled Paris for his country home, leaving the capital and the country without a leader.


De Gaulle returned promptly, called an election, broadcast his refusal to resign, ordered workers return to their jobs, and after threatening to institute martial law he let it be known that the military and police would act and was stationed just outside Paris. The Communists and other leftist parties agreed to the election and what could have been a revolution was avoided. Saving De Gaulle and perhaps France itself.


These types of revolutionary atmospheres were typical in Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa around this time. It depended on the temperament of the leadership and the will of the government that determined whether peace would ensue, as it did in Paris, or whether blood would be spilled as in Prague and in the United States.


In June another Kennedy would be slain and Communists in Malaysia would renew hostilities, bringing about another revolution in the southeast Asia nation.

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