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Promises of 1968

Crisis, Illusion and Utopia

Edited by Vladimir Tismaneanu

Publication Year: 2010

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.

Published by: Central European University Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. 1-18

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. It represented a turning point in world...

Part 1. Picking Up the Pieces: 1968 Between Memory and Theory

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Revolutions and Revolutionaries, Lessons of the Years of Crises (Three Czech Encounters with Freedom)

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pp. 21-42

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...

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1968 in Poland: Spoiled Children, Marxists, and Jews

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pp. 43-53

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...

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In Search of a New Left

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pp. 55-64

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...

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Rethinking the Political Scientifically: Brief Reflections on 1968 by a Child of the Seventies

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pp. 65-71

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...

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What Did They Think They Were Doing? The Political Thought of (the West European) 1968 Revisited

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pp. 73-102

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...

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Thinking Politically: Raymond Aron and the Revolution of 1968 in France

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pp. 103-129

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. One of France’s most prominent public intellectuals, Aron wrote a number of important articles on the...

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The Divided Spirit of the Sixties

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pp. 131-154

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...

Part 2. Lessons and Legacies of 1968

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The Year 1968 and Its Results: An East European Perspective

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pp. 157-165

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...

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The Prague Spring 1968: Post-Communist Reflections

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pp. 167-178

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...

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From Revisionism to Dissent: The Creation of Post-Marxism in Central Europe after 1968

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pp. 179-196

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...

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Post-Marxist Mentality and the Intellectual Challenge to Ideology after 1968

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pp. 197-225

Was Marxist ideology seriously challenged after the disenchantment with Marxism in 1968? Or instead, did the latter yield only an antiideology and new versions of the Left that still convey the forma mentis of Marxism? In trying to provide an answer, I shall...

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Yugoslavia’s 1968: The Great Surrender

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pp. 227-239

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...

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1968 Romania: Intellectuals and the Failure of Reform

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pp. 241-253

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...

Part 3. 1968 in Pieces: Case Studies of Transformation

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Betrayed Promises: Nicolae Ceauşescu, the Romanian Communist Party, and the Crisis of 1968

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pp. 257-283

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...

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The Kremlin, the Prague Spring, and the Brezhnev Doctrine

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pp. 285-370

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...

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1968 and the Terrorist Aftermath in West Germany

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pp. 371-385

“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. That is, it was a moment in which parts of the international communist movement...

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The Prague Spring: Resistance and Surrender of the PCI

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pp. 387-406

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...

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“Don’t Push Us, Comrade!”—De Gaulle in Bucharest

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pp. 407-412

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...

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Conclusion: 1968—Did It Matter?

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pp. 413-433

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...


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pp. 435-440


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pp. 441-449

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9786155053061
Print-ISBN-13: 9786155053047

Page Count: 461
Publication Year: 2010