Physical education’s May ’68: From Trotskyism to the critique of sports and physical education

By Jacques Gleyse

For its July–September 1968 issue, the journal Partisans published a polemical special issue entitled Sport, Culture et Répression. The contributors to this issue were François Maspero, Herbert Marcuse (via translation), André Rauch (alias André Redna), Jean-Marie Brohm, François Gantheret, Ginette Bertrand, Michel Bernard, Martial Barèges, Michel Bhussy, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Fanny Vallon, and Marc Roy. It paved the way for what would later be known as the radical Freudo-Marxist critique of sports. This first publication, produced by members of Trotskyist groups who participated in the ’68 movement, gave rise to many other publications and actions: the boycotts of the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina and the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games (with international repercussions); the publication of the satirical newspaper L’Epique and the magazine Quel Corps?; the birth of the SGEN-CFDT EPS and its journal Le Corps Enchaîné; the creation, within the Fédération de l’Education Nationale, in PE, of the Ecole Emancipée group, which published the Chrono Enrayé. Moreover, from the 1970s, it led to the contestation of the hegemony of SNEP-UA and SNEEPS and the rise of two groups (the Tendance du Manifeste and the Ecole Emancipée) that rejected the vision of educational sport proposed by the largest group, Unité Action (close to the PCF). Ten years later, these events gave rise to ideological and political clashes. This article seeks to describe the political origins of these criticisms, publications, and demonstrations, and their impact on the field of PE.

  • physical education
  • Trotskyism
  • critique of sports
  • boycotts
  • political history
  • sports.
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