Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Ici commence l'aliénation

Alienation starts here: one of the slogans of the 68 uprising, in which French students and workers united against the capitalist regime of Charles de Gaulle, which they saw as neo-fascist, with some strong evidence in their favour, and as the local manifestation of systematize oppression. Over a period of months, strikes, riots and savage police violence brought France to the brink of revolution, only for minor reforms to buy off the voters.

Do I sound wistful? I am of course. Before we were all bought off with consumerism, the 68ers had the intellect, the vision, the strategy and the bravery to force bourgeois capitalist democracy to reveal its contradictions and hypocrisies. Not just in France, but in the US, across the developing world and even in the UK. The moment passed, but it can be revisited, even improved upon. The witty, spontaneous UK Uncut and the student protesters of last year were hopefully merely the beginning. We may be cowed by our narrowed imaginations, our debts and our manners, but we all have the potential to express ourselves with the joyous rage of Mai '68. We mustn't nostalgically revisit 68, but we should remember that cowed acceptance is not the way it's always been.

Here are some of the posters produced by the Atelier Populaire during the evenements of 1968.

Be Young and Shut Up. 
Have an iPhone and leave the politics to the grown-ups.

They revolutionnaires believed that French tertiary education removed potentially troublesome individuals from their class, nipping rebellion in the bud: it was time to reconnect the proletariat with the student body. It worked for a time too, though there are always points of tension (even Chaucer's students are smartarses).

Or as another slogan had it: the owners need you: you don't need the owners.

What distracts the population? Racial antagonism, foreign wars, TV, minor concessions. Sound familiar?

Systems are automatically oppressive. Foucault called them 'disciplinary systems' and they certainly are still in play here.

Time to end the exclusive and ideologically conservative nature of education and make it a public right, available to all. Time to revive this one, I feel.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Quite brilliant images and messages; I imagine you can buy them in monster sized prints in IKEA to decorate the sitting room. They have become like Bolshevik art.