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The events of May 30th 1968

Page history last edited by Cassie Turner 6 years ago





Description de cette image, également commentée ci-après

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mai_68#/media/File:Situationist.jpg Photo credit - Menton, France, 2006. Graffiti of 1968 slogan 'It is forbidden to forbid' Photo is in the public domain.


30 May.  On this day in 1968, Charles de Gaulle returns from the German border town of Baden-Baden, having sought support from an old army acquaintance General Jacques Massu (Reynolds 2011: 4). This sudden disappearance of de Gaulle could either have been a complete disaster or a great success, and so this was a big risk for de Gaulle. It can be said that this disappearance had a real effect of catharsis on the French public, and that, although momentary, it gave strength to the initiatives he took on the 30th of May (Sirinelli 2008: 285-286). May 30th would then prove to be a pivotal day that began with a one-on-one meeting between the president and the prime minister. In this meeting, prime minister Georges Pompidou drew upon the first failure of the referendum proposal on 24th May, to persuade de Gaulle to dissolve the National Assembly and to hold new legislative elections. At first, de Gaulle was reluctant to put Pompidou's plans into action as he felt that the success of the Gaullist majority would be that of his prime minister and not his own. 'Pompidou n'en demord pas, et il met sa demission dans la balance.' (Rotman 2008: 113-114). 


At 4:30pm, de Gaulle addressed the nation with a speech broadcast live on the radio (Mattei 1984: 272-273). As the workers were still striking at this time, it was dangerous to broadcast information on television, as it was more likely for a broadcast on the television to be interrupted than a broadcast on the radio, and so de Gaulle chose to address the nation on the radio. Also, by addressing the nation via the radio de Gaulle was proving his power and his status, as when de Gaulle was first in power he always used the radio to speak to the public, and so this reminded the nation why they elected him in the first instance. Using the radio made him feel closer to the public, as well as the way in which he used his voice. General de Gaulle was defiant; demonstrating his determination to stay strong. This speech has become one of de Gaulle's biggest achievements recognised worldwide, which had a decisive effect, and many people associate this with his success during his presidential reign. The speech emphasises his strong refusal to resign from his presidency; not only because he was proud of what he had achieved so far, but also because he wanted to work for the public and take responsibility for their future.


Video clip via YouTube, the speech that de Gaulle made on 30th May 1968. Uploaded to YouTube by IClasse130 using a standard YouTube Licence. Published via YouTube on 13th August 2013. [online] Available at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfSN462bKMc 



In the speech, he announces the dissolution of the National Assembly (History.com, 2010). In addition to this, de Gaulle also publicises a new legislative election for 23 June, by way of restoring order within the country. General de Gaulle appealed for law and order and implied that he would use military force to return order to France if necessary. This was his way of ordering workers to return to work, threatening to institute a state of emergency if they did not (Singer, 1970: 201). It seems perhaps that this speech could possibly mark the end of a period of uncertainty in France. The implication of using the army may have caused a stir among the students - leading them to decide to come together in protest as a way of counteracting what the army would confront them with. There appears to have been no thought at all as to how the demonstrators would react. The call for a referendum is surprising as, in his speech, de Gaulle appears sceptical of organising an election in such an unstable climate. 


That evening, almost immediately after de Gaulle's speech, the so-called 'silent majority' marched down the Champs-Elysées in Paris in support of the general, waving the national flag (Rotman 2008:93). It is important to mention that this communist demonstration was planned, as the French power was vacillating amongst the halo of mystery surrounding the general's brief disappearance. It therefore attracted an impressive crowd of diverse ages, occupations, and political groups. The march involved around 400,000 to 500,000 people, which was underestimated by the police as they only anticipated around 50,000 marchers. The situation had been turned on its head as the country now seemed to be in support of de Gaulle. This event could remain as the most important of all the month of May. The 'human tide' of May 68 appears symbolistic of the entire movement - as the thread of events unravels itself against the traditional current (Sirinelli 2008: 291). The communists agreed to the election and the threat of revolution was over. De Gaulle's speech did work in his favour, however, the fact that the strikes and demonstrations continued long after de Gaulle made his speech, suggests that the threat of bringing in the army was not enough to deter the workers and students from demonstrating and fighting for their cause. 


Video sourced from YouTube. Uploaded using a standard YouTube licence by Ina Societe. Published on 16th July 2012. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sp-3NPl5ug



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