Who are we ? Neither officers nor functionaries of the Worker-Student Action Committees; neither presidents nor secretaries of the movement; neither spokesmen nor representatives of the revolutionaries.
We're two militants who met at the barricades and in Censier; who shared a project with each other as with thousands of other militants active in Paris in May and June 1968.
Why are we writing this account of the May-June events ? Not in order to describe a spectacle, nor a history which is to "enlighten" future generations. Our goal is to make transparent, to ourselves and to those who are engaged in the same project, our shortcomings, our lack of foresight, our lack of action. Our aim is to clarify the extent to which our concrete actions furthered the revolutionary project.
The purpose of the critique is to permit us to move further in the realization of the revolutionary project, to act more effectively in a situation similar to the one we experienced. Our intention is not to "clarify" the sequence of events which took place in France in order to make possible a ritual repetition of these events, but rather to contrast the limited views we had of the events at the time we were engaged in them, with views we have gained from further action in different contexts. Thus this account and critique of French events is at the same time a critique of shortcomings we found in ourselves and in those alongside whom we struggled afterwards.
This booklet is divided into two parts. The first part consists of articles which are attempts to understand the events as they took place and to define the perspectives behind the actions. The "perspectives behind the actions" are not private philosophies which we attributed to an external "social movement"; they are not the subjective goals of two militants. They are not projections which "detached historians" impose on events from the outside. The perspectives are the basis on which we participated in the revolutionary project. We do not regard ourselves as "external observers" reporting the activities of others. We were ourselves integral parts of the events we described, and our perspectives transformed the events in which we participated. A militant who rejects the constraints of capitalist daily life was drawn to the university occupations, the street fights, the strike, precisely because the collective project, the project of the others, was also his project. At the same time his perspectives, his project, became part of the collective project. Consequently, when he developed his perspectives, the entire group's project was developed, modified, transformed, since the collective project only exists in the individuals who engage themselves in it and thus transform it. The project is not something which exists in our heads and which we attribute to "the movement," nor is it something which exists in the "collective mind of the movement." Specific individuals engaged themselves in a revolutionary project, and other individuals accepted this project as their own and engaged themselves in it; the project became a collective project only when numerous individuals chose it and engaged themselves in it. As the number of people grew larger, individuals with different kinds of experiences defined new activities and new perspectives, and consequently contributed new possibilities to all the others engaged in the project; they opened up new potential directions for the entire "movement." Consequently the perspectives of an active participant in the movement were in no way external to the movement.
The second part of this booklet is a critical evaluation of our actions and perspectives; it is an attempt to answer why our actions did not lead to the realization of our perspectives. The point of the critique is to enable us to go further, not to repeat what happened in May-June. What was the nature of the project we engaged in ? Why did the escalation of the movement reach a certain point and go no further ? When we engaged ourselves in the project initiated by the March 22 Movement in Nanterre, did we engage ourselves in the same manner ? If not, what was the difference ?
Attempts to realize the revolutionary project after the May-June events made us aware that our engagement in the project of the March 22 Movement had been passive. The initial aim of the Nanterre militants was to change reality, to eliminate social obstacles to the free development of creative activity, and the militants proceeded by eliminating concrete obstacles. However, a large number of people who became the "movement" engaged themselves in a different manner. They did not regard themselves as those who had to move against the concrete obstacles. In this sense they were passive. They "joined a movement," they became part of a mysterious collectivity which, they thought, had a dynamic of its own. By joining the "movement," their only engagement was to move with it. As a result, concrete people, who are the only ones who can transform social reality, were not going to change reality through their own concrete activity; they were going to follow a mysterious force -- "the mass," "the movement" -- which was going to transform reality. Thus we became dependent on an inexistent power.
Kalamazoo February, 1969