The Revolution that Wasn’t

PARIS – It is May 1968. The world, flabbergasted, discovers that France has gone crazy. A general strike, affecting everything except electricity and the press, brings the country to a halt.

No developed country has ever known such a situation. Yet it isn’t a revolution. There is little violence, and no attacks on government buildings. A few thousand cars do burn, but three years later, the police – who wanted to undermine the support that the public gave, almost unanimously, to the movement – will own up to being responsible for far more of them than the demonstrators. Then, after a month, everything goes back to normal. What happened?

It is 23 years since World War II’s end. People remember that the Great Depression of 1929, which made 20 million unemployed in six months, had brought Hitler to power. Capitalism is to blame for the war.

Because it is vital to prevent that situation from recurring, an unwritten agreement has been forged to regulate capitalism: social stabilization through generalization of the welfare state, financial stabilization through Keynesian policies, and economic stabilization through high wage policies throughout the West.