We have two occasions to remember in the coming days: not only is tomorrow May Day, the annual international socialist workers’ holiday, this month also marks the fortieth anniversary of the Paris student revolutions of May, 1968. In honor of May Day, I would like to share with you the chorus of the socialist workers’ anthem, the Internationale; I would also like to present some slogans of the French students of forty years ago.
The refrain of the Internationale:
C’est la lutte finale
Groupons-nous, et demain
Sera le genre humain!
Translated, I suppose this could be:
This is the final struggle
Let us gather, and tomorrow
Will be humankind!
If you’re feeling at all supportive of the working underdog, hum that a bit to yourself tomorrow, and wish your friends and neighbors a happy May Day.
I recently discovered these student slogans, which were certainly familiar and iconic to their contemporaries. The translations are my own:
Soyez réalistes, demandez l’impossible.
Be realistic, ask for the impossible.
On achète ton bonheur: Vole-le.
They bought your happiness: steal it.
Sous les pavés, la plage!
Under the cobblestones, the beach!
L’ennui est contre-révolutionnaire.
Boredom is counter-revolutionary.
Nous ne voulons pas d’un monde où la certitude de ne pas mourir de faim s’échange contre le risque de mourir d’ennui.
We do not want a world where the certainty of not dying from hunger is exchanged for the risk of dying of boredom.
Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié ne font que se creuser un tombeau.
Those who make half-revolutions only dig their graves.
Le patron a besoin de toi, tu n’as pas besoin de lui.
The boss needs you, you don’t need him.
Vives sans temps morts—jouissez sans entraves.
Live without dead time—enjoy without chains.
Il est interdit d’interdire.
It is forbidden to forbid.
Dans une société qui a aboli toute aventure, la seule aventure qui reste est celle d’abolir la société.
In a society that has abolished all adventure, the only adventure that remains is that of abolishing the society.
La poésie est dans la rue.
Poetry is in the street.
Pouvoir à l’imagination.
Power to the imagination.
Ni Dieu ni maître!
No God nor master!
Go ahead, remember one of these sayings this month: in repeating it to your friends, in writing it on your homework, in scrawling it on a chalkboard. And if you can’t do that, at least seek a little surreality and creativity in your everyday life. Uniting behind the simple cause of not letting those in power beat us down can give us all so much hope that the future might be worth living.