This year marks 50 years since the rebellious 1968, and half a century ago the protests in France reached their quantitative and qualitative peak. Millions of protesters flooded the streets of Paris, millions of workers went on strike and took over the factories. Revolution was in the air. And it was not just France. The system around the world was problematized, a new world, essentially different from the existing, seemed not only necessary, but also possible.
In the end, however, the system was the one who won the battle. Although the world has not remained the same as before. It became more permissive, the rights of women and sexual minorities were significantly improved; the exceptionally important issue of environmental protection was imposed. But the system was the one that won the battle. That thirst and enthusiasm for a fundamental change in the world will not be repeated in the next half-century. That is what the great victory of the system is made of.
Today, we cannot understand the rebels of 1968. And even we allow ourselves to see them from a higher place. From that point of view, they seem naive to us. What were they thinking, that the world could change? We already know, only fools die for ideals. It is possible, yes, to improve your life as an individual, especially if you are ready to play dirty (because, you know, “everyone” does it), but whether this possible at a general level, that the life of the majority of the population can significantly and fundamentally change – we do not believe that.
Why? Where does this cynicism of ours come from? We have suffered too many failures. We were deceived too often. Even if you were made of stone, they would still manage to squeeze out your hope! Hence the disappointment of those who cheated us does not create revolt and striving for action, but resignation and apathy. Weakness. Escape. Cynicism. Distrust. This is what characterizes us.
The great success of the establishment, not large, but huge, is that it has killed hope and the belief that a substantially better reality than the one we have today is possible. We forgot to believe, to hope, to fight. Racin spoke of “love for human life”. We cannot understand what he wanted to say, because we do not have that love, because they killed our love. We are dead souls, literally. Trapped in the small-scale existence in which no one sees further from their nose, where the struggle is only for survival and for individual overcoming of that level. Half a century ago, when people looked into the future, they thought it would be better, they were confident that their children would live better than them. Today, the exact opposite is true. How much of it did we do ourselves?
Delegitimization of the aspiration for building a more humane society, which appeared in the 1980s and 1990s, is directly related to the degeneration and the collapse of most of the systems of bureaucratized real-socialism. The spread of global pessimism also affected the final recognition of the fact that man possesses the capacity to destroy the Earth, which began to crystallize as a stance in the 1970s and 1980s. So whole generations started to see grayness in their future, instead of a better life. And that pessimistic atmosphere had its effect on politics. Those serving business interests finally got their chance. All those who did not take it as a means of promoting the common good, were isolated from politics as utopians. The materialists beat the tribunes. So politics, dominated by people driven by bare personal interest, further disappointed and depoliticized the masses and became a thing from which the honorable flee. And when the honorable ones are gone, how is it possible to expect that egoists and kleptomaniacs will work for the common good? Both pessimism and cynicism, as well apathy, began to reproduce themselves. It all caused a chronic feeling of powerlessness and a decline in moral values. Among the things that had suffered was the tearing of ties, killing off the feeling of unity and solidarity among those in the same position. Even more elementary, the very faith in the collective action has also suffered. It’s best seen among workers. The typical worker in Macedonia feels powerless, helpless. Not only does he/she not trust organizations and institutions whose function is to help him/her (unions and labor inspectors above all), but he/she does not believe in his/her own strengths. Well, not believing that it is possible to change the situation that is bad and continues to deteriorate, he himself/she herself contributes to the deterioration of his/her own position.
What is an axiom of the workers’ organization, that one worker is weak versus one boss, but that all workers together are not – began to be treated as a beautiful fairy tale. A typical worker is not only not ready to solidify and take action, for example, when one of his colleagues unjustifiably loses his job, but also loses faith in collective action, the belief that he can advance his personal interests by uniting with others. For, collective action, ultimately, does not have to be motivated by some higher moral principles, but it can be a product of personal interest. I participate in the collective pressure on the boss so I can personally be better. But the typical Macedonian worker is convinced that it is not possible to build a united collective resistance against the boss (scared of snitches among colleagues, afraid of the boss, and / or apathy). Even when the worker thinks organizing collective resistance is possible, he/she does not believe that he/she can achieve something through collective action.
Therefore, bosses usually have a mass of atomized workers that have even lost faith in the joint opposition, so it is easy to break their rights, to destroy their dignity, and not pay the real price for labor. Is this possible to change this? The way we handled it so far – certainly not. We want a better life, but for someone else to provide it. For us to stand aside and instantly get better lives. It’s the best kind of utopia. To be part of the ordinary people, to make a living, to survive rather than to live and to hope that the rulers, in the service of the big capital, will not work in their own interest and in the interest of the oligarchy, but in your interest. And, guided by that incorrect utopianism, you throw your vote at them in elections over and over again, voting for them again and again, letting your vote go to waste, just because you cannot recover from the empty hope that it is possible for you to stand aside, and the parties that are in the service of the big capital, would throw more than just crumbs at you.
The rebels of the 68th, the alleged utopians that we see from up high, were far more real than us. Even though they were asking for the “impossible”. Because they knew that the limits of the impossible in politics are far more flexible than what appears to be at first glance. They knew that a step can be made, that they can live better than today, if the existing atomized mass of people raise their heads and begin to organize themselves against the rulers and capitalists. Therefore, let’s reject our vigorous cynicism and naive utopianism. If we want a better life, we have to roll up our sleeves ourselves. Nobody says it will be easy, no one says that success is guaranteed, but, as one old syndical saying says: If you fight you might lose, if you don’t you have already lost.