Africa’s 1968: Protests and Uprisings Across the Continent

Egyptians pour into the streets on 9 and 10 June 1967, shouting, “we shall fight” in support of President Nasser, and against his resignation.

“Fifty years ago, in May 1968, what started as a localized student protest against proposed reforms in higher education at the Nanterre campus of the University of Paris became a major upsurge of popular protest that, at its height, mobilised millions of students and intellectuals, workers and trade unionists, as well as Communist and Socialist Party members, in revolt against the Gaullist state overseen by Prime Minister Georges Pompidou and President Charles de Gaulle. It rocked France for two months during May and June 1968, and had an impact across Europe and North America, and beyond. In a piece on ‘why 1968 still matters,’ Peter Taafe wrote recently in Socialism Today (Taafe 2018) both on the global context of the French revolt and also on some of the events that took place across the world in that year. He argues that the ‘events’ in France were one aspect of ‘a year of revolution… and to a lesser extent counter-revolution throughout the world.’ Yet he does not mention in his ‘overview’ of popular protest among students and workers much about Africa; yet there too, 1968 was a year of political turmoil. In the days before social media — which played a significant role in the mobilization of protests during the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011 and during recent mobilizations across Africa — news of the ‘events’ in France often took some time to reach Africa. But this was not always the case, however. African students in Europe and on the African sub-continent were in contact with each other and were therefore aware of what was happening elsewhere (see, Plaut 2011); news of the ‘events’ in Paris certainly reached the French-speaking public in West and Central Africa very fast. It seems striking, therefore, that even those discussions of the 1968 ‘events’ that have emphasised their international or ‘global’ nature have failed by and large to discuss the extent to which popular protest and conflict in Africa that year — and indeed throughout the 1960s — had both their own internal dynamics and yet were also linked closely with wider international events and developments. …”
‘Power to the People’: the 1968 Revolt in Africa

Dakar 1968

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