French May Revolt Essay example

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1. Causes of the French May Revolt 1.1 Work Conditions and New Class The working conditions of the French people in the 1960’s are nothing short of deplorable. While France and its citizens at first glimpse were seen as a strong force in economic and living standards, this did not reign true upon further examination. In 1967, “eighty percent of the working class earned under $3,000, and the work week averaged 46 hours” (Foran, p. 2). Furthermore, not only as a whole did about one-fourth of families have severely crowded housing conditions, but in rural areas “one-fourth of all houses lacked running water, and half of all French homes had no bathtub, shower, or inside toilet (Foran, p.2; Singer 1971, 84-85, 87). This evidence suggests that French citizens were not being treated with basic humane standards, resulting in making the private sphere of their lives something that they were not proud of. Amidst this, internal problems began to surface with skilled and educated groups of professions such as engineers or technicians (Foran, p.2). This new class began to feel that they were being robbed of any freedoms at work because their supervisors pretty much had absolute power to what they would end up researching, teaching, or technologically develop (2). They eventually began to feel so fed up with their supervisor’s puppeteering that they knew they needed a change. This led them to have discussions of self-management that ultimately ended up with a list of demands for rights that would affect their everyday lives (Foran, p.2; Poster 1975). These discussions of rights and injustices are significant because it was the initial spark of the French May Revolt in the sense that it brought upon a new style of thinking against traditional ideas (Foran, p.3). 1.2 Schooling and student groups. The massive increase in the size of the French university system indirectly attributed greatly to the cause of the French May revolt. In fact, the institution had “tripled in size between 1958 and 1968, from 175,000 to 600,000…” (Foran, p. 3). One of the problems with the university system was that “half of the unemployed in France were students looking for their first job” (3). This caused tension with students who believed they would find a job with their education, especially because the test to gain entry to the university was so cutthroat and demanding (3). In 1968, a small group of students and a number of professors from the sociology department of the University of Nanterre argued that sociology degrees would almost mean nothing because they were in a technocratic university and society (p. 3-4). A technocracy is “A form of government in which scientists and technical experts are in control” (Princeton 2012). This small student group acknowledged that this needed to change and they began to question their professors on why they would not teach certain things by disrupting class and distributing petitions (5). Their wild outbursts started to garner attention among their peers and one could almost taste the change in the air. “We want to change society, blow up its structures,”(quoted in Labro 1969, 39; see also 43) exclaimed Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the self-proclaimed anarchist that was also a third year sociology student (Foran, p. 5-6). And from the looks of things, a student group revolution was beginning. In March, the unruly remarks in the classrooms began to create a social movement when a spontaneous student protest occurred against the arrests of students who vandalized an American Express branch (Foran, p. 6; Labro 1969, 81). These student protestors devised a plan where they would “occupy an administration building, and establish groups to discuss class, imperialism, culture, Vietnam, and student-worker problems” (Foran, p. 6). March 22, 1968 illustrates the beginning of the French May Revolt because it is the birth of their participatory democracy that catapults the movement exponentially. In April, the March 22