Legacy of 1968: Rebellion against authoritarianism and bureaucracy in east and west
Perspective in Judt: Judt was a social democrat, but fiercely independent in political sensibilities.
Critical of French left, praised British left, great sympathy for Eastern Europe at the time. He never
developed romanticized idea of Maoism or neoMarxism that captured some members of new left.
Very critical of Parisian intellectuals.
Events of 1968 have symbolized cultural fracture that has never been healed. New kind of militant,
conservative ideology developed in US – this conservative rebellion was in part an allergic
response to cultural innovations of 1968. True in Europe as well.
One of the major reorientations was sexual revolution, but also effected labor rights and power of
labor movements to organize
1968 in the East: The Prague Spring
violent clash with Soviet establishment
Antonin Novotny came into power in Czechoslovakia after Krushchev rejected Stalin’s crimes,
opened a kind of freedom in satellite states, relaxed scriptures on free speech, perhaps allow other
political parties, a deStalinization took place.
1968, Alexander Dubcek came to power as head of Communist Party in Czechoslovakia. He
confronted student protests at Charles University in Prague. Novotny forced to step down, Dubcek
named official successor as chairman
At first, he was a conformist. Presided a ceremony commemorating events when Soviet Union
brought communism to Czechoslovakia right after WWII. But, Dubcek had reformist tendencies
and, in the climate of student rebellion, carried beyond his own intentions. Eventually presided over
set of reforms, carnivaliesque atmosphere of rebellion in the streets called “the Prague Spring”
Dubcek spoke of a new moderation in Socialist regime in Czechoslovakia, called for “Socialism with
a human face” – nonCommunist groups permitted to assemble, perhaps participate in elections.
Dubcek called to Moscow, seemed like he had mollified the Soviets, hugely popular in
Czechoslovakia, but on 20 of August 1968, Soviets invaded.
Why? Partly due to fear Czechoslovak withdrawal from Warsaw Pact. Feared crumbling of Eastern
Bloc military alliance that was facing off against NATO.
Czechoslovakia had pivotal geographical position, so Soviets came in with troops and tanks.
Czechs responded with passive resistance and “playful” feats of symbolic and ironic rebellion.
Czechs would sneak out at night and paint the tanks pink.
By 1969, this was all over. Dubcek ousted, and a conformist leader Gustav Husak was installed.
1968 in the West: Students and Labor in Paris
Given the torture, labor camps, etc, probably extremely irresponsible to have a romance with
Maoism and Communism in the west. Nonetheless, these events have own legitimacy in the West
because of reorientation brought to politics.
Events of May 1968 in Paris are so famous, so important in French memory, that French who
participated in those rebellions are known only as ‘68ers. (Soixantehuitards). Aging romantic
authority for some youth. Began in part as a protest against ba