May 1968 in France, Council Communism and the Johnson-Forest Tendency

The Uprising of Paris, May 1968 developed from chain of struggles, in Europe and the world against bourgeois institutions. Started by students, it spread to the mass of workers, and culminated in at least 10 million workers going on wildcat general strike across France, against the will of trade unions, the communist party and the Gaullist state. The crisis of the refusal of work and discipline, was part of a major breakdown of capitalism known as Keynesianism, the welfare state and post-war social democracy. The mass rebellions, once defeated, paved the way for the eventual defeat of the working class in the first world and the new system of neoliberalism.

Paris 1968 was influenced by a rejuvenated libertarian Marxism and anarchism. It was influenced partly by Council Communists, critical theorists and the left Communists. The revolution in Hungary in 1956, which created workers councils, was a big influence on the emergence of the movement. The movement was pushed forward by the renewed Libertarian Socialism from in the USA the ‘Johnson-Forest Tendency‘ of C. L. R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya, the French journal ‘Socialisme ou Barbarie’, the Situationist movement in France, the growing ‘Workerist‘ current of the ‘Quaderni Rossi’ journal in Italy and Solidarity in the UK. This was part of a new rethinking of Socialism. The movements of 1968 afterwards influenced the autonomist movements in Italy, Germany, the USA and globally. The modern Greek anti-capitalist movement is heavily influenced by these movements. Here are some important writings from this era:

Reading List:

Anton Pannekoek – Workers Councils

Anton Pannekoek – The Essential Pannekoek

C. L. R. James – A History Of Pan-african Revolt

C. L. R. James – State Capitalism and World Revolution

C. L. R. James – A New Notion: Two Works By C. L. R. James, Every Cook Can Govern and The Invading Socialist Society

C. L. R. James – Modern Politics

C. L. R. James – Facing Reality

Paul Romano and Grace Lee Boggs – The American Worker

James Boggs – Pages From A Black Radical’s Notebook

Martin Glaberman and Staughton Lynd – Punching Out and other Writings

Stan Weir – Singlejack Solidarity

Andy Anderson – Hungary ‘56

Socialisme ou Barbarie: An Anthology

Cornelius Castoriadis – Workers’ councils and the economics of self-managed society

Guy Debord – The Society of the Spectacle

Ken Knabb – Situationist International Anthology

Maurice Brinton – For Workers’ Power: The Selected Writings of Maurice Brinton

Daniel and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit – Obsolete Communism: The Left-wing alternative

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