The French Youth and the Politics: Towards a new May ‘68?

Здраво на сите, I wanted to write an article about the feelings of the French youth towards the French politics.

But in fact, for few weeks, France is the stage for a lot of political drama and contestation. And heaven if not all those troubles affect directly the French youth, it made a wave of opposition all over the country. The political climate is too stretched, and in the French media, many journalists refer to a famous French event: May 1968.

What represents May ‘68?

This event designates a period during which student manifestations and general strikes took place. It all started with the revolt of the Parisian studying youth and it continued with the working class and finally touched most of the people on all the territory. This is the most important social movement in the French history in the XX-th century. It has been characterized by an important revolt, spontaneous and antiauthoritarian, against consumerism, capitalism, American imperialism, but mostly against the authorities. This event was an incredible breaking in the French society history, materializing a general questioning about the traditional institution.

Context; why a big part of the French youth is not trustful about the actual government?

Emanuel Macron

In May 2017, France elected its new president: Emanuel Macron. He easily won the second turn of the elections against Marine Le-Pen from the “Front National” party. After his election, a lot of young people were very skeptical towards Emanuel Macron and his political party “En Marche” which became “La République En Marche” after his victory. Indeed 24% of the French people voted for him at the first turn, but the abstention was very important, 22% in total, and also the “white votes” which represented 12% of all the votes. So for a lot of young people, Macron was not legitimate because he was elected by the minority of the population. Furthermore, Macron was very new in the political life, and before becoming a minister, he was a banker in the Rothschild bank. His popularity came from the fact that he was young and dynamic, and for many people, he was representing a renewal of the political class. And this is the point where the climax of an amazing situation was reached, where Macron came first of the vote attention, without having a program. This is why a huge part of the electorate was mistrustful about him.
The recent events:

Before the events took place in France, the actual government already passed some polemic laws:

  • reform of the pensions
  • reform of the working code
  • reform of the judicial system

But these last weeks, things got accelerated. The government is trying to make a reform of universities, which will make the selection process more complicated and which will implement a system of selection that young people find unfair and random. A lot of contest arises and many universities have been occupied by students, in total, 10 universities were in blockade.  For the state all those contest are not serious and just the act of some “radical person of the far left” and some prefects already asked for the police help to evacuate some university and the police evacuated the universities by force. The operations were not always successful and made the student contests stronger.

Also, a very serious event made it worst, the 22-nd March in Montpellier, in the south of France. The blocked law university got evacuated by a gang of people all in black, with hoods on their faces, armed with baseball bats and wood sticks. They made the students go out with violence and a lot of them have been wounded. This story was already incredible, but after this, many students of the faculty claimed that they recognized the director of the university, holding the door to the gang, and some students even recognized a professor among the hooded men. After all those accusation, not any justice procedure started, and even if the director of the faculty resigned, he is still professor at the faculty and he didn’t risk anything. This event put the madness of the students at its paroxysm. Since, some others prefects decided to ask the CRS (the specialized branch of the police for the public order) to evacuate their universities. But almost every day, new universities are blocked by the students, like the University of Political Science in Paris recently.

The Z.A.D.

For 50 years, some people are occupying a strategic zone in the west of France. For 50 years, they protest against a project for an airport in this humid zone, and recently, the state abandoned the project. The people from the ZAD, who became a totally independent as an ecologic village, celebrated the victory. But soon after, the government decided to evacuate the area anyway, the negotiation was over, so according to the authorities, people from the ZAD were occupying the land illegally.

But the “Zadistes” defended those territories that the government took from the villagers who where living here 50 years ago. They know that if they leave the place, other projects of construction will threaten this territory. So they stayed anyway, and the state sent 2500 CRS against 250 “Zadistes”. The evacuation has been very violent and the ZAD turned into a war zone. A lot of people came to help the people from the ZAD, and the first day, 4000 grenades were shot by the CRS. The evacuation was supposed to be finished in one day, but after more than one week, the CRS got back without evacuating all of the manifesting people. For many people, this evacuation was an act of an authoritarian government, also because of the fact that the policemen didn’t let the journalists enter to the zone, giving their own images to the press organism. It raised a wave of support for the ZAD, especially in Nantes, where manifestations arose, and where some violence appended. This operation was a political move to show that the state stays strong and Macron wanted to show that he is able to keep the public order. But in fact, this operation was a disaster for the state’s image and the feelings of youth towards the actual government of Emmanuel Macron.

Similarities with May ‘68

The main thing that made the journalists compare this event with May ‘68, is not the extent of all the strikes and manifestation. It’s the similarity of the solidarity that every side developed for each other. Solidarity of the contest unites the students, railway workers and also the Zadistes. It made all those contests became kind of a general contest across the country, and it is exactly what happened in May ‘68. In May ‘68, the contest was not only from students and young peoples, but also by the working class, which was supporting the students, in addition of their own contest. It was the globalization of the manifestation and the strikes that made May ‘68 a major event in the French social history.

Conclusion

For the recent event: For my personal view, I don’t really think that an event like May ‘68 could happen again nowadays. Even if the actual mobilization is strong, a quick look to the history shows us that the comparison is complicated. Indeed, the historical contest of May ‘68 was totally different, the public law and order were far more fragile, and the government of Charles de Gaulle was far less popular. Nonetheless, the anniversary of this historical event should find a resonance in the actual contest. And I have no doubt about the fact that this May 2018 will be very eventful for the French politics.

Paul Knecht-Deyber