Saturday, May 31, 2008

Séguy Recalls '68

It's a little startling to find Georges Séguy, who led the CGT at the time of the general strike in '68, speaking in a décor that might seem more appropriate to a leader of Chasse, Pêche, Nature, Tradition, but this short clip is of considerable historical interest. Séguy describes the night of the barricades on rue Gay-Lussac as a moment of prise de conscience. Until then the student movement was still something of an enigma to this representative of the working class, who explicitly repudiated what he took to be a group of upstarts attempting to seize control of a "workers' movement" whose leadership rightfully belonged to him, but after that night interpreting the exotic fauna of gauchisme no longer mattered (no doubt this retrospective view has been extensively edited by the passage of time). The plot was simplified to its essence: protesters on barricades, police sent to crush them by those in power. And thereafter, as if by divine intervention, the impossible became possible. "Eight million workers in the streets are more persuasive than the best arguments of a union leader."

The question is whether this dramaturgy of le grand soir still captures the imagination of large numbers of people, or whether May 11, 1968, was the last such conflagration.