Matt Myers
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The voice of the immigrant worker and the rise and fall of France’s long 1968
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This chapter focuses on the undervalued importance of the voice of immigrant workers to the French New Left after 1968. The dominant image of 1968 has been middle-class students attempting to unite with the French working class. Those on the left most imprinted by their experience in May 1968 also sought, however, to find, nurture, and channel the voice of France’s semi-skilled or unskilled immigrant industrial workers, mostly recruited from its former colonies and Mediterranean hinterlands, into a collective project of total social transformation. As such, immigrant workers had the potential to connect anticolonial revolts in the Third World with working-class rebellion in the heart of Western capitalism. New Left organisations which emerged from the libertarian and anti-hierarchical culture of 1968’s student milieu attempted to create spaces where they could capture this multinational group’s right to speak. New understandings of class solidarity broke from the confines of the nation-state and novel emotional registers emerged. An inclusive category of class provided the French New Left with a language to imagine an amalgam of culturally diverse national groups employed in French Fordist industry as a political subject. This chapter shows how immigrant workers were essential in developing new conceptions of global transnational solidarity and, as a consequence, sustaining a brief moment of global revolutionary hope. The growing absence of this voice in French public life after the early 1980s encouraged both left-wing melancholy and radically different experiences of time. 

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Transnational solidarity

Anticolonialism in the global sixties


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