General Strike of 1968 in France

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

General Strike of 1968 in France


the largest nationwide strike in the post-World War II period, which in May and June 1968 involved 8-9 million persons (two-thirds of all industrial and office workers). The general strike took place during an acute social and political crisis. In early May 1968 the student movement intensified in France and demanded the democratization of the system of higher education. Part of the student movement fell under the influence of anarchistic and adventuristic elements, which incited the students to armed adventurism. Nevertheless, the Communist Party, the General Confederation of Labor, and other workers’ organizations supported the students’ democratic demands. On the night of May 10 the Paris police dealt mercilessly with the students. On May 13 the General Confederation of Labor and other trade union organizations took the initiative in ordering a 24-hour general strike and demonstrations in support of the students and against police repressions. After the events of May 13 there was a powerful up-surge of the strike movement throughout the country. The strikers’ demands included wage increases, a shorter workday, guarantees against unemployment, and a lower pension age. In the course of the struggle, political demands were added to immediate economic demands. The workers’ political demands reflected their profound aspirations toward political changes and toward the liquidation of the supremacy of the monopolies and their power in the state. A slogan for the establishment of a “popular government” was advanced. During the strike, enterprises, institutions, and schools were occupied by the strikers. By May 20 the strike had become a general one.

The government and employers were forced to make serious concessions. As a result of negotiations between representatives of the government, employers, and trade unions during May 25-27, the so-called Grenelle Protocol was signed. In accordance with the protocol wages were increased (14 percent on the average), a gradual reduction of the workweek to 40 hours was provided for, and trade unions were guaranteed freedom of activity at factories. Between June 5 and June 10 the French workers went back to work.

The general strike demonstrated the high degree of organization and solidarity of the French working class.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.