Among the many 50th-anniversary events in Paris, one conference challenged the elite’s view of 1968
Paris is commemorating the 50th anniversary of Mai 68, which scholar Kristin Ross describes as “the largest mass movement in French history, the biggest strike in the history of the French workers’ movement”. Tours and exhibits dot the city – most dwell on the solidarity between French students and workers, something still manifest today in the anti-Macron protests.
But one conference offered a different picture of 68. Bandung of the North was held in an outlying area, Saint-Denis, in the amphitheatre of a workers’ hall filled to capacity for three days with activists, organisers and scholars; the speakers were all people of colour. It looked back, not to 1968, but to the landmark Bandung conference of 1955, where representatives of the non-aligned countries of Asia and Africa gathered to discuss common concerns and strategies. Bandung of the North provided a revolutionary way of understanding the current tensions and debates in France around race, immigration and refugees. It confronted France (and all colonial and imperialist powers) with the legacy of its imperial project and its attempts to downplay the political, social and cultural effects of that legacy under the guise of a French “republic”.