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Oral Histories of May '68


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On the fiftieth anniversary of the May 1968 revolt in France, Viewpoint Magazine has published an excerpt from May Made Me: An Oral History of the 1968 Uprising in France by Mitchell Abidor, published recently by AK Press and Pluto Press. The book collects first-hand accounts by people from all walks of life—especially students—who were involved in the events of that momentous month in France. Below is a snippet of Abidor’s interview with Eliane Paul-Di Vicenzo, a university student at the time, and Myriam Chédotal, a high school student at the time.

How did the occupation function, was it round the clock?

Myriam: The school was occupied all the time, and the CARL occupied the school overnight. The people on the CAL, if you were to ask them, probably wouldn’t know we were there all night. I remember bringing in a duvet and sleeping in a classroom, so we definitely occupied the school at night. We didn’t occupy on the weekends, but during the week at night, yes.

Eliane: For us at the university, there were professors who supported us and there were even security guards who were on the strike committee, so we could come and go as we pleased.

Did the women speak at the GAs at the high school?

Myriam: Yes, not many, but then there weren’t many at the technical high school. And even when we had the big spontaneous demo on May 7, my friends and I went around the school telling people to join the demo with the people from the Aristide Briand, a more literary school. When we spoke to the classes, one of the two Communist teachers was dumbfounded by what we were doing, and in the end there were 400 of us who marched, mainly from Briand, but some from the technical high school as well. This was the first time they’d gone out other than on orders from the organized. We already had news from Paris and we had our slogans from them. We spent a lot of time imagining slogans.

Had you read the Situationist pamphlet De la Misère dans le milieu étudiant?

Myriam: In fact, it was the subject of much discussion when the CAL was talking about grades. We read excerpts and commented on them.

Eliane: And we received Situationist texts from a small publisher called Editions Barbare, and we reproduced them on a mimeo machine, including comics detourné [diverted] by Raoul Vaneigem.

Image: Workers and students demonstrate in Paris’s 11th arrondissement on May 13, 1968. Bruno Barbey/Magnum Photos. Via The Guardian.