Street-Fighting Men

Gerard DeGroot takes a critical view of the student protests in Europe and the US in 1968, and the subsequent tendency of the Left to view the events of forty years ago through rose-tinted shades.

... smouldering hulks of cars still left in the middle of the road ... street signs torn down to add to the barricades, most of the trees along the Champs Elysées cut down for similar reasons; piles of garbage bags torn by cats and dogs ... with their contents rotting. 

Despite that ugliness, Paris of 1968 still evokes romance. Sentimental interpretations dominate recollection. The official version among ‘68ers’ holds that youthful rebellion, though at times ferocious, smoothed France’s transition to modernity. Shield oneself from the rosy glow of burning barricades, however, and the picture that emerges is one of anarchy and futility. The revolutionaries achieved nothing but a very big mess.

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