Pologne, Tchécoslovaquie, Yougoslavie : 1968 the antipodes of 1989

, by  Catherine Samary

The movements discussed here concern Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Those movements share two general transversal aspects to the 1968’s in the world, despite different contexts. The first is the political radicalization of a new generation; the second is the revolutionary dynamic of 1968, without it being part of a clear and even less unified project.

The Polish 1968 is essentially a movement of intellectuals and young people that will be repressed (on antisemitic bases) before any junction with a labor movement. The mobilization unfolded against the censorship and against the stepping up over the Universities. Marxist intellectuals Jacek Kuron and Karol Modzelevski - released from prison after their "Open Letter to the Party" written in 1965, were considered as inspiring youth mobilizations.

The "Prague Spring" of 1968 expresses the deep democratic aspiration. The workers questioned the market reforms, the first national meeting of the workers’ councils was convened in January 1969, a draft "law on socialist enterprise" was elaborated and presented to the Dubček government. Their strength and legitimacy were such in a regime claiming workers and socialism that it was not possible to simply repress them. The proposals were watered down in the sense of co-management, the workers’ councils were slowly suppressed and then banned in July 1970.

The occupation of universities in June 1968 Yugoslavia is another illustration of the global radicalization of youth. It was part of a phase of considerable escalation of strikes in Yugoslavia against the unequal and destructive effects of the self-managing rights produced by the reforms of "market socialism" since the mid-1960s.
Tito dismantled any autonomous movement and exploited the Soviet intervention in Prague as a threat to Yugoslavia in order to isolate the protesters before modifying the constitution by strengthening both the rights of the basic organs of self-government and those of the republics. By the end of the 1980s, new property laws would dismantle self-management and social ownership - with predominantly bourgeois projects on nationalist grounds.