1968 and After

The Revolutionary Aspirations of the New Left
Revolutions Study Group

Fifty years ago, the political-military blocs of the Cold War had ossified, social democracy and labor unions in the West were tamed, and struggles for change in Eastern Europe and Latin America seemed to have been controlled by combinations of sticks and carrots. Then, in the year 1968, in France, Italy, the United States, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, etc. there were immense uprisings against the status quo. This fall, we will study this watershed period (1968-1974) considering the achievements and failures of the Left in the 1960s. We will read Chris Harman’s The Fire Last Time (2nd revised ed. 1998), linking the events of 1968 and what carried these events forward.

The Revolutions Study Group (started at the Brecht Forum) has met since 2009. Participants have come and gone, however the group has held together, studying in depth a wide range of history including the French Revolution, the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the Mau-Mau Revolt in Kenya, the Haitian Revolution, the 1848 European Revolutions, the May 68 movement in France and the Hot Autumn of Italy and much more.

May Made Me

An oral history of the 1968 uprising in France
With author Mitch Abidor
at New Perspectives Studio
456-458 West 37th Street (near 10th Avenue)/Manhattan

The mass protests that shook France in May 1968 were exciting, dangerous, creative and influential, changing European politics to this day. Students demonstrated, workers went on general strike, factories and universities were occupied. At the height of its momentum, the protests brought the entire national economy to a halt. The protests reached such a point that the French and international bourgeoisie feared civil war or revolution.

Fifty years later, here are the eye-opening oral testimonies of those young rebels. By listening to the voices of students and workers, as opposed to those of their leaders, May ’68 appears not just as a mass event, but rather as an event driven by millions of individuals, creating a mosaic human portrait of France at the time.

Published on the 50th anniversary of those days in the spring of 68, May Made Me presents the legacy of the uprising: how those explosive experiences changed the individuals who participated and their lives as lived since then.

Mitch Abidor is a translator from Brooklyn whose many translations include A Socialist History of the French Revolution by Jean Jaurès and Anarchists Never Surrender and other works by Victor Serge.

The Long French Revolution in Literature and Life: 1789-1871

For Marxist and democratic historians, France remains the ‘model’ country for the analysis of class struggles and political revolutions, which overthrew the established order in 1789, 1830, 1848 and 1871 (and profoundly threatened the bourgeois order again in 1968). We will examine these successive revolutions chronologically through the eyes of both radical historians and novelists.

When considering the Sans Culottes and the French Revolution we will look at this first great revolution from the point of view, not of the “great men” who led it, but of the popular classes that made it and tried to ensure that it met the needs of the French people. Their role on the great events — the taking of the Bastille, the September

Massacres among others — will be examined using Kropotkin’s The Great French Revolution as the source text, as well as excerpts from the soon to be published translation of Jean Jaures’ A Socialist History of the French Revolution. The French Revolution was the first popular uprising to run out of steam and regress, and we will read Anatole France’s novel The Gods are Thirsty to examine these phenomena.

We will then read novels by Stendhal, Balzac and others while concurrently reading Marx’s major writings on France, Class Struggles in France, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and The Civil War in France. Other contemporary accounts of the revolutionary waves of France in the 19th century will be consulted.

MITCH ABIDOR is the translator of several books, including the forthcoming edition of Jean Jaures’ A Socialist History of the French Revolution and Emmanuel Bove’s novella A Raskolonikov and the author of Communards: The Paris Commune of 1871 as Told by Those Who Fought for It.

CRAIG CHISHOLM is a poet and editor at Gigantic Sequins. He has been a key participant in ongoing workshops on the relationship of literature to revolutionary movements and has just completed a summer of reviewing literary works as they related to World War I.

RICHARD GREEMAN is a Marxist scholar long active in environmental and labor struggles, splits his time between France and New York City. He is best known for his studies and translations of the novelist and revolutionary Victor Serge (1890–1947).

Suggested tuition: $95 / $125 • No one turned away for inability to pay