In May 1968 France was brought to a standstill when the spark of a student protest was fanned into the first flames of a revolutionary moment. Within weeks what had started as a localised protest at the university at Nanterre (on the western outskirts of Paris) had become a wildcat general strike involving almost 25% of France’s workforce.
The demands of the workers and students were not simply for incrementally better conditions, but for a quantum change in society. By the end of June it was over, de Gaulle rallied his troops (both figuratively and literally), called a general election, and the pull of “normality” was too strong.
However the legacy of May 1968 was a series of major changes in French society – nowhere near as radical as the protester’s demands, but highly significant. And less than 12 months after winning re-election de Gaulle was forced to retire.
The most enduring legacy of May 1968 are the potent ideas that both inspired the movement and sprang from it. While tracts and pamphlets were important in spreading these ideas, it was probably the walls that spoke the loudest. These were covered with painted slogans, graffiti, and (more importantly) posters.
In the two month lifespan of the movement thousands of handbills and tracts, and over 500 different posters were produced.
In this blog I’ll be cataloging the collection of posters and tracts that I have acquired in the last 5+ years, as well as presenting English translations.
Where I have been able to find existing translations I have used these (and noted their sources). However many of these translations are my own. These are by no means intended to be authoritative, as my own level of French is quite basic. However I feel that, despite their defects, my translations help give at least an indication of the contents of these documents.