DEMOCRACY IN THE 21st CENTURY

 

DEMOCRACY IN THE 21st CENTURY

The main focus of the TBF 2018 is Democracy in the 21st century. With the intention of highlighting focal issues of our times, the TBF contributes to the extensive discussion concerning the significance of democracy in our day and age in view of the outbreak of nationalism and the attempt to question established democratic rights and obligations even within the heart of Europe. Two hundred forty years after Voltaire’s death and fifty years after the events of May 1968, the Book Fair of Thessaloniki seeks to remind the world that the demand for democracy is still a current, complex and pending issue, which is consistently reflected in the Greek and world literature, as well as in current theoretical pursuits. In view of recent publications dealing with the issue of democracy in critical times, there will be organized discussions among authors, historians, political scientists, philosophers and journalists. More specifically, the following issues will be under the spotlight:
• “The Rise of the Extreme Right at the present: Similarities and Differences with the past”
• “Meta-democracy: are we heading for the deepening of democracy or the weakening of the democratic institutions on an international level?”
• “Europe, international institutions, social contract: how many state or national competences are we willing to concede and on what terms?
• “Democracy and the economy: Is it a relation of love or a relation of hatred? Is it a contradiction in terms to associate democracy with a free market?”
• “Mass Media and Democracy: How could the control of the Mass Media either by the state or by major private interests be avoided?”
Moreover, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the student protests of May ‘68, which will be commemorated in the course of the Book Fair, the Hellenic Foundation for Culture stages a special exhibition. In cooperation withthe French Institutes of Greece and Thessaloniki, the Hellenic Foundation for Culture will organize a discussion with speakers that took part in this multi-dimensional and revolutionary event.


Fifty Years since May ‘68
The Posters of a revolution
The posters that are on display in the 15th TBF were designed and printed in Paris fifty years ago in the Paris School of Fine Arts during the student occupation in May ‘68. They appeared in the streets, in factories, offices, shops and universities. They became the symbol of a series of revolts worldwide in 1968 and in the years to come. They depict the student and worker upheaval that overwhelmed General de Gaulle’s France fifty years ago and are linked with the spring of the revolutionary ideas and disputes which flourished in every part of the planet; from the USA with the demonstrations against the Vietnam war and the struggle of black people to Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China, from Germany and Italy to Mexico, and from Czechoslovakia to Japan.
Everything started in France – the spark being the brutal attack of the police forces to a student demonstration in the occupied universities in Paris. The demonstrators responded by setting up hundreds of barricades and the occupation movement escalated; soon it was widely spread and led to strikes at the factories and at every sector of the public administration in France.
In this highly volatile atmosphere, the students of the Paris School of Fine Arts set up an Atelier Populaire (Popular Workshop). In the occupied building of their school, more than 350 posters were designed to cover the needs of the movement. Their reproduction involved a print run of 200.000 copies. Special committees were established, which collectively decided on the designs. Their criteria were straightforwardness, immediacy and effectiveness of propaganda.
The current exhibition displaying the posters of May ‘68 is based on an anniversary publication of 54 historical posters by the Marxist Bookshop (Marxistiko Vivliopolio), which granted the 15th TBF permission to exhibit them.
Source: Kostas Pittas, “Introduction” in the Album I afises tis epanastasis (The Posters of the Revolution), Marxistico Vivliopolio Publications.
The Year that Changed Everything

1968 in the History of the 20th Century
“What 1968 spectacularly revealed was the astonishing acceleration of the social transformation in the years after 1945, a period that historians have come to recognize as the most revolutionary in world history. […] 1968 was marked from its very first day by the Vietmanese suicide squad in the Tet offensive in December 1967, which shattered the self-confidence of the Americans. […] Nearly everything was unexpected. Regarding the economies of the developed western countries, it was the period of the strongest economic growth and prosperity in the history of the industrialized world. Equally unanticipated were the events that took place both inside and outside the communist world.”
Eric Hobsbawm
France, May 3, 1968
Students gather in the Sorbonne Campus of the Paris University (today Sorbonne University) to protest against the fascist provocations and the police oppression. The police invades the historic University of Paris and arrests numerous protesters. Nothing remains beyond criticism this May in France; education, state institutions, work, the church, family, gender relations, art, communication, spectacle and commodity. Everything is being analyzed, questioned, debunked, andinsome cases mocked in a phenomenally heretic sense and with outstanding shrewdness.
May, 7-8, 1968
A populous demonstration organized by the National Student Union of France (Union Nationale des Étudiants de France, UNEF) takes place in Paris with the participation of 25,000 students. It is followed by an overnight clashes with the police on the left bank of the Seine. Teachers from several high schools go on strike. There are uprisings in Grenoble, Lille, Rouen, Nantes, Marseilles, and a lot of workers get involved. Sartre, Beauvoir and other intellectuals proclaim their support to the student movement. The Communist Party of France denounces the protests as “actions of spoiled adventurers.”
May, 10, 1968
There are 400 high school occupations across France and 60 barricades are set up only in the street Rue Gay-Lussac near Sorbonne. In Paris, in the overnight clashes between the police and groups of students and professors more than 400 people are injured. The “Greek House” at the University Campus of Paris (Cite Universitaire, Maison Grecque) is also mobilized against “the capitalist oppression.” In the occupied School of Fine Arts, which has been renamed to “Atelier Populaire” (Popular Workshop), thousands of posters will be produced up until June 68, in consultation with the workers-students-farmers action committees.
Banner B – Opposite side of A, 321 words
France, May 13-21 1968
The revolt of young people in France is met with the longest and most widespread general strike in modern history; 10,000,000 people participate in the strike and hundreds of occupations take place even in large estates. The French police force (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité, CRS) withdraws from Sorbonne. The strike has spread nationwide, extending to the automotive industry (Renault, Peugeot, Citroen), metallurgy industry, air transport, public services, the French Radio Television Service (ORTF). The Cannes Film Festival is dissolved. The National Library and the Bank of France join the strike. The major ports of France are paralyzed. Nuclear workers call for the termination of nuclear tests for war purposes. Prime Minister Georges Pompidou denounces the demonstrators as “groups of raging protesters who foster the spread of chaos.”
27-30 May 1968
The government, the Employers’ Union (Organisation Patronale Française) together with the trade unions sign the Grenelle agreement, which raises the minimum hourly wages to 5 francs per hour and increases all salaries by 10 percent, reduces slightly the working hours, and expands in a certain way the trade union rights. The independent left-wing French Democratic Federation of Labour (Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail - CFDT) refuses to sign the agreement, while the General Confederation of Labour (Confédération Genéral du Travail - CGT) affiliated with the Communist Party of France declares that “a solution has been found.” General De Gaulle dissolves the Parliament House and announces elections.
June 1968
The process of “normalization” is under way. The negotiations among the government, the employers and the trade unions continue, while the demonstrations are banned. After the second round of elections, on 30 June 1968, the Socialists suffer a loss of 61 seats, the Communists lose 39 seats, whereas the government coalition of the “gaullists” takes 97 extra seats in Parliament, achieving a total of 358 out of the 485 seats. The French May '68 did not win, but it left a lasting imprint in the history of the global social movement.
The Student Revolt of 1968 in the West
“In the west, the cultural significance of the student uprising was much bigger than its political impact. 1968 widened the gap -concerning the traditions, the behaviour, the fears, the hopes and the expectations- between the generations before and after 1950. […] The earthquake of counter-culture was the big cultural revolution of the western world.”
Eric Hobsbawm
• Sources: 1968 Thirty Years After, Network of Movements for Social and Political Rights.
• “1968 The Year that Changed Everything,” Tachydromos 410, 2008.
• Eric Hobsbawm «Theory Turned Sideways», Black Dwarf 1/6/1968, «The year that changed everything», New Statesman, 12/5/2008