Promises of 1968

Promises of 1968: Crisis, Illusion and Utopia

Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 460
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    Promises of 1968
    Book Description:

    This book is a state of the art reassessment of the significance and consequences of the events associated with the year 1968 in Europe and in North America. Since 1998, there hasn’t been any collective, comparative and interdisciplinary effort to discuss 1968 in the light of both contemporary headways of scholarship and new evidence on this historical period. A significant departure from earlier approaches lies in the fact that the manuscript is constructed in unitary fashion, as it goes beyond the East–West divide, trying to identify the common features of the sixties. The latter are analyzed as simultaneously global and local developments. The main problems addressed by the contributors of this volume are: the sixties as a generational clash; the redefinition of the political as a consequence of the ideological challenges posed to the status-quo by the sixty-eighters; the role of Utopia and the de-radicalization of intellectuals; the challenges to imperialism (Soviet/American); the cultural revolution of the sixties; the crisis of ‘really existing socialism’ and the failure of “socialism with a human face”; the gradual departure from the Yalta-system; the development of a culture of human rights and the project of a global civil society; the situation of 1968 within the general evolution of European history (esp. the relationship of 1968 with 1989). In contrast to existing books, the book provides a fundamental and unique synthesis of approaches on 1968: first, it contains critical (vs. nostalgic) re-evaluations of the events from the part of significant sixty-eighters; second, it includes historical analyses based on new archival research; third, it gathers important theoretical re-assessments of the intellectual history of the 1968; and fourth, it bridges 1968 with its aftermath and its pre-history, thus avoiding an over-contextualization of the topics in question.

    eISBN: 978-615-5053-06-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)
    Vladimir Tismaneanu

    The events of 1968 radically influenced the social, political, and cultural landscape of the post-1945 world. In the context of the Cold War, 1968 was a transnational moment of revolt against the status quo beyond the east-West divide.¹ it represented a turning point in world history that brought about a sweeping axiological reassessment of politics.² More than ten years ago, the editors of a collective volume about 1968 stated that “the memories of witnesses to the events of this annus mirabilis are still fragmentary and colored by partisanship, personal injury and defeat, or nostalgia for a heroic time, whereas historians...

    • Revolutions and Revolutionaries, Lessons of the Years of Crises Three Czech Encounters with Freedom
      (pp. 21-42)
      Martin Palouş

      Forty years have already passed since 1968 and there is no doubt that what happened during this year of promises and hopes turned into illusions and utopias, leaving behind a significant trace—both locally and globally—in our recent history. That the legacies of 1968 are worth being explored and discussed today, not only from the historical point of view, but also in the light of our current political experience. The present volume’s declared aim is to put forth a discussion of 1968 as both a global event and a local moment of crisis.

      The global versus local connections become,...

    • 1968 in Poland: Spoiled Children, Marxists, and Jews
      (pp. 43-54)
      Irena Grudzinska Gross

      The forty years of historical distance should bring some equanimity to the protagonists of 1968 and their stern judges. Yet the blame and (self-) accusations are as bitter as ever. I would like, therefore, before I talk about Poland, to start with a general defense of 1968.

      I am speaking as a member of the 1968 generation, and my memory is not only individual but also generational. such memory, and all autobiographical history, has its obvious limitations, but it should not be discarded, particularly today, when the ’68ers are being pushed out of the limelight by the following generations. Nineteen...

    • In Search of a New Left
      (pp. 55-64)
      Dick Howard

      Officially, I left the University of Texas for Paris in the summer of 1966 as a fulbright scholar. What I wanted in fact to learn was how to make a revolution—or at least to understand the Marxist theory that had been identified with this skill. I had taken part in the civil rights movement, and demonstrated against the war in Vietnam; but both of these movements seemed to be caught in the trap of using the language of liberalism against the liberal system. What was needed instead, it seemed, was a framework that would permit a radical transformation of...

    • Rethinking the Political Scientifically: Brief Reflections on 1968 by a Child of the Seventies
      (pp. 65-72)
      Jeffrey C. Isaac

      An emblematic moment of recent history, 1968 symbolizes both the apotheosis and the implosion of the sixties, which centered on the emergence of the New Left, and the themes of participatory democracy, “democracy in the street,” the youth rebellion, new social movements, new forms of liberation, and challenges to alienating structures associated with post-industrialism and modernity. The themes of authenticity, justice, and participatory democracy were pervasive. Perhaps most importantly, this New Left was powered by new forms of the politicization of universities and campuses as sites of democracy and freedom. This was true in the West and even in the...

    • What Did They Think They Were Doing? The Political Thought of (the West European) 1968 Revisited
      (pp. 73-102)
      Jan-Werner Müller

      Nineteen sixty-eight was a year of mass violence: the Vietnam War, the crushing of student protest in Mexico, the Cultural Revolution in China—and, in East-Central Europe, the suppression of the “Polish March” and the Prague Spring. By comparison, little seemed at stake in Western Europe—which nevertheless produced most of the iconic images of’68. As was often pointed out, west of Czechoslovakia “no one died”; no government fell. Not surprisingly, then, for a number of not even especially conservative observers, ’68—and the sixties, more broadly—seemed to have been about a small minority of spoiled children playing revolution....

    • Thinking Politically: Raymond Aron and the Revolution of 1968 in France
      (pp. 103-130)
      Aurelian Craiutu

      As raymond aron pointed out in his memoirs, his reflections on 1968 have made him, almost against his will, a political actor rather than merely a committed observer.¹ one of france’s most prominent public intellectuals, aron wrote a number of important articles on the events of may–June 1968 in france in Le Figaro and devoted an entire book to this issue entitled La Révolution introuvable.² although aron’s book had a rather narrow scope and focus, it elicited contradictory interpretations and, to use serge audier’s phrase, gave birth to many “aronismes imaginaires.”³

      La Révolution introuvable was much more than a...

    • The Divided Spirit of the Sixties
      (pp. 131-154)
      Karol Edward Sołtan

      The sixties, with the year 1968 serving as their symbolic high point, are best understood in a broader historical context, as one of a sequence of three periods of heightened idealism since World War II. These periods can be dated roughly: 1943–1950 (between World War II and the Cold War), 1960–1972 (the sixties), and 1988–1994 (usually identified with the year 1989). We can trace through all these periods, despite their obvious discontinuities, the development of a project of a global civic awakening (now taking the form of a global civic society) in opposition to what we might...

    • The Year 1968 and Its Results: An East European Perspective
      (pp. 157-166)
      Agnes Heller

      One of the fundamental hopes of the silent opposition against communist regimes in Eastern Europe had always been the coming about of a synchronized effort toward reform. in 1968 things did not fare better than usual. Within a bloc of seemingly stable communist system, one could hardly anticipate a transnational, common voice that would challenge their legitimacy. In 1968 things did not fare better than usual. In Romania, the nationalist dictatorship of Ceauşescu seemed to be solidified. In Poland, a chauvinist, populist, and anti-Semitic wave gained momentum, in the aftermath of which almost all the leading intellectuals of Poland chose...

    • The Prague Spring 1968: Post-Communist Reflections
      (pp. 167-178)
      Jiři Pehe

      Various interpretations of the period of political and economic liberalization in communist Czechoslovakia in 1968, known as the Prague spring, often tell us more about the difficulties of today’s Czech Republic in dealing with its complicated past than about the Prague spring itself. When the fortieth anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion that ended the Prague spring was commemorated in the Czech Republic on August 21, 2008, politicians, analysts, and historians all struggled with explaining not only what actually happened in 1968, but what the legacy of the Prague spring should be today.

      The main reason for such difficulties lies in...

    • From Revisionism to Dissent: The Creation of Post-Marxism in Central Europe after 1968
      (pp. 179-196)
      Bradley Abrams

      After forty years and the end of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe, we have gained enough distance that we can look back on the tumultuous events of 1968 and their aftermaths and see larger and broader meanings in them than was possible before. My reflections are intended in some small way to explore these broader meanings and contribute to the “Europeanization” of European history, by looking at both sides of a divided Europe. What I will be suggesting is that there are areas after 1968 in which it is possible to conceive of a “European” intellectual history that encompasses...

    • Post-Marxist Mentality and the Intellectual Challenge to Ideology after 1968
      (pp. 197-226)
      Tereza-Brînduşa Palade

      Was Marxist ideology seriously challenged after the disenchantment with Marxism in 1968? Or instead, did the latter yield only an anti-ideology and new versions of the Left that still convey the forma mentis of Marxism?¹ In trying to provide an answer, I shall first try to clarify what I mean by a Marxist mentality. For this purpose I will explore the idealistic and utopian roots of Marxist ideology and attempt to examine the structure of radicalism that is intrinsic to them. Then i shall briefly recall Aron’s liberal critique of Marxist radicalism (“fanaticism”) and Kołakowski’s moderate attempt to come to...

    • Yugoslavia’s 1968: The Great Surrender
      (pp. 227-240)
      Nick Miller

      For Yugoslavia, 1968 did not follow the European script, and its drama lacked clear political and intellectual contours. Between Belgrade’s student movement, tumult in the Serbian league of Communists, the growing national movement in Croatia, and rebellion in Kosovo, the year was one of entirely mixed messages, as the dynamism of Yugoslavia’s partisan experiment began to give way to a new dynamic of ethnic affirmation. Of all these events, only the Belgrade student movement fits comfortably into any generalizable pattern regarding the year itself. The others were just signs of crisis in a state that had yet to determine how...

    • 1968 Romania: Intellectuals and the Failure of Reform
      (pp. 241-254)
      Critsian Vasile

      My paper examines the relationship between Romanian intellectuals and Ceauşescu’s regime, with a particular emphasis on the late 1960s.It explores some of the reasons for the absence of a solid reform movement oriented towards a dissident Marxism, and capable of defying the neo-stalinist tendencies of the Romanian Communist Party (RCP) power-holders. With this purpose in mind, I will also analyze the 1968 political and ideological actions of some important figures of the romanian intelligentsia.

      Unlike Czech and Slovak philosophers, their Romanian peers did not draw up and did not pursue the path of an anti-Stalinist critique with elements of alternative...

    • Betrayed Promises: Nicolae Ceauşescu, the Romanian Communist Party, and the Crisis of 1968
      (pp. 257-284)
      Vladimir Tismaneanu and Bogdan Iacob

      There are moments in history that indelibly mark the memories of their contemporaries. The balcony scene on August 21, 1968, when Nicolae Ceauşescu, general secretary of the RCP, addressed a crowd of over 100,000 from the Central Committee building in one of Bucharest’s main squares and vehemently condemned the invasion of Czechoslovakia a few hours after the Warsaw Pact intervention, a scene that became a national-communist legend, was eulogized by many as a gesture of heroic proportions: the Romanian david valiantly defying the Soviet Goliath. it was in fact nothing but a skillful masquerade, but it worked: a power-obsessed neo-Stalinist...

    • The Kremlin, the Prague Spring, and the Brezhnev Doctrine
      (pp. 285-370)
      Mark Kramer

      Until the late 1980s, the Soviet Union’s determination to preserve communism in East-Central Europe was not in doubt. When communist regimes in Eastern Europe came under violent threat in the 1950s—in east Germany in 1953 and Hungary in 1956—soviet troops intervened to subdue those challenges. A very different problem arose in 1968, when Czechoslovakia embarked on a dramatic, but entirely peaceful, attempt to change both the internal complexion of communism and many of the basic structures of Soviet–East European relations. This eight-month-long experiment, widely known as the “Prague spring,” came to a decisive end in August 1968,...

    • 1968 and the Terrorist Aftermath in West Germany
      (pp. 371-386)
      Jeffrey Herf

      “1968,” like “1917” and “1945,” was one of the three key Hegelian moments in the history of twentieth-century Communism not only in Europe, but around the world.¹ That is, it was a moment in which parts of the international communist movement became convinced that the actual course of events was conforming to their understanding of a historical teleology pointing toward the fulfillment of revolutionary aspirations. The two previous Hegelian moments, the Bolshevik coup d’état of October 1917 and the red Army’s role in the defeat of Nazi Germany in May 1945, convinced the radical left that history was progressing along...

    • The Prague Spring: Resistance and Surrender of the PCI
      (pp. 387-406)
      Victor Zaslavsky

      The Prague Spring represented a multilevel conflict between conservative and reformist groups that exploded simultaneously within both the soviet bloc and the international communist movement. Newly available documentation from the Russian State Archive of Contemporary History (hereafter referred to by the Russian acronym RGANI) as well as the archive of the Gramsci institute (Rome) makes it possible to analyze the conflict between the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and the Italian Communist Party (PCI) over the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by the armed forces of five Warsaw Pact members, a conflict that subsequently led to the emergence of...

    • “Don’t Push Us, Comrade!”—De Gaulle in Bucharest
      (pp. 407-412)
      Cătălin Avramescu

      Originally scheduled to take place in June 1967 but postponed because of the six-day War, the French president’s visit to Romania finally took place the following year, when, from May 14 to 18, de Gaulle was the guest of Nicolae Ceauşescu. It was a momentous time for France. During the visit, strikes and street violence escalated in Paris. News about developments on the home front reached the French delegation without interruption. For instance, in Craiova, a small provincial town in Romania, the French installed two special telephones and three fax machines. The worries of the French party would prove well-founded....

  7. Conclusion: 1968—Did It Matter?
    (pp. 413-434)
    Charles S. Maier

    Sixty years ago, and twenty years before the events of 1968, historians commemorated the 100th anniversary of the revolutions of 1848. Recall the wave of upheavals that gripped continental Europe from February 1848 through the spring of 1849. Demonstrations in Palermo spread to Naples, Rome and the North of Italy, and even more quickly to Paris, Baden, Berlin, Vienna, Prague, Budapest, the salons of Poland and even Petersburg. rulers made concessions, ceded constitutions, or even abdicated. The ancient Metternich fled to London, his supposed “system” discredited. But then the radicals divided; the authorities in Central Europe recovered their nerve and...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 435-440)
  9. Index
    (pp. 441-449)