Socialist Worker

The system cracks

Issue No. 1677a

A WORLD divided by the Cold War also saw outbursts of struggle East and West. In Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 workers rose up against the Stalinist regimes, and battled against Russian tanks. In France in 1968 and Portugal in 1974 there were powerful mass movements that challenged the existing order. The long post-war boom had raised people's expectations of a better life. Many were prepared to fight to realise those aspirations.

In France the biggest general strike in history took place in May 1968 with ten million workers on strike. A protest that had started in the colleges spread to the factories where workers occupied. Some 5,000 workers gathered each morning at the giant Renault Billancourt plant.

In Portugal the collapse of the fascist government opened up a wave of struggle that again saw workers taking over the factories. It was over a year before the ruling class could re-establish order. In the 'hot' autumn of 1969 in Italy there was a wave of strikes. And in Britain in 1974 the miners' strike brought down Edward Heath's Tory government.

'ENDLESSLY they filed past. Every factory, every major workplace seemed to be represented... row upon row of them, the flesh and blood of modern capitalist society, an unending mass, a power that could sweep everything before it, if it decided to do so'
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT of the one million strong march through Paris on 13 May 1968

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