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Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London
May 2008

Reviewed by Cardinal Cox


'Protest In Paris 1968' Book Cover
Protest in Paris 1968 available from
Author: Serge Hambourg

Protest in Paris, 1968 available from

Write Dope on Pnuk part 52

Like 1848, 1968 is remembered as a year of protest and simmering revolt. In France this began with students protesting and rioting that grew into a general strike. Even Cannes Film Festival was affected when French directors withdrew their films and the jury resigned. This exhibition showed a collection of posters, created by students, from this period.

All visually interesting, the slogans are short and memorable. My destitute (rather than just poor) knowledge of the language let me translate a couple. One "Travailleurs Francais Immigres Unis" with two figures (one white, one black) even I could figure out meant "Workers French or Immigrant Unite". Another, just the letters "CRS SS", equated the French riot police with the Gestapo. Remembering how they treated Algerian nationalists, it wasn't too far from the truth.

Also on display was the street newspaper 'Action', organised from the Comites d'Action, the non-affiliated and open to all militants, councils. There was a slide show of photographs from the period (broken on the day that I went) accompanied by a soundtrack that included The Doors, Captain Beefheart and Jimi Hendrix.

Foreign commentary on the unrest included special issues of 'International Times (no. 32)' and the left-wing 'Solidarity (no. 30)'. Something I did quite fancy was a game from the 1980s based on the activities. Counters represented workers, students or police. The board had a jigsaw design representing the city (grey with slogans on the flip side) but yellow of the beach beneath. One corner was a reserve for Molotov cocktails.

The results of this period were mixed. Workers saw a raise in the minimum wage and a reduction in working hours. De Gaulle was removed as president, but the left lost many seats in Parliament. Plus over 100 journalists were fired from the state radio and TV for their activities. So the workers got crumbs and the right strengthened their hold.


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