Jeremy Harding

It seems no more than a moment since the recent commemorations of May 1968 – fifty up – were superseded by the anniversary of the June Days in Paris in 1848. No celebrations or hand-wringings for that brief, explosive insurrection, a few days after the summer solstice 170 years ago. The uprising was triggered by the closure of a job-creation scheme set up under the provisional government of the day. It was put down by an assortment of army, police and state paramilitaries, who lost 1500 men in the process. Between three and four thousand insurgents were killed; similar numbers were rounded up and sent to penal camps in Algeria. At least seven million workers came out on strike in 1968: that’s a first and a last in Western Europe. In its wake there were tangible gains for the majority of French citizens. Two militants at a Peugeot assembly plant in Franche-Comté were killed by security forces in the aftermath, when the workforce decided to stay on strike – one was shot, the other forced to jump off a bridge, or some say a wall – but no one much remembers them.

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