French mood far from revolutionary despite lingering May ’68 spirit

FILE PHOTO: Students protest against Macron's university reform in front of the Sorbonne university in Paris, France, April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Students protest against Macron’s university reform in front of the Sorbonne university in Paris

By Michel Rose

PARIS (Reuters) – There’s a whiff of revolution again at the Sorbonne in Paris, 50 years on from the May 1968 student protests that mushroomed into a nationwide movement and brought France to its knees.

In scenes reminiscent of the 1968 revolt, students blocked entrances to the university’s Latin Quarter campus, shouted slogans over megaphones and stockpiled petrol bombs.

The new generation of protesters want to halt President Emmanuel Macron’s wide-ranging economic reforms and some hope there will be a convergence of struggles similar to the 1968 movement that almost toppled Charles de Gaulle’s government.

“We think about May ’68 a lot inside,” said Marianne Kli, 19, an art history student protesting at the Sorbonne’s campus in eastern Paris. “History has shown that governments can cave in – even those as powerful as Macron’s.”

It may not be so easy this time around. The 1968 protests were part of an international movement, but today many people are sufficiently worried about long-term employment prospects to think twice about taking to the streets.

What started in 1968 as a revolt by male students defying rules banning them from sleeping with female counterparts in dormitories was a backlash against a conservative and paternalistic social order no longer in tune with the times.

The student revolts then spread to factories across France, with strikes by 7 million workers looking for higher pay paralyzing a highly…

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