Opening the Gates
The Lip Affair, 1968–1981
Part of the 1968 series
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512 pages / May 8, 2018 / 9781786635402


May 8, 2018 / 9781786635426


In the Summer of 1973, workers occupied the Lip watch and clock factory, sparking a national cause and controversy. The Lip occupation and self-management experience captured the imagination of the Left in France and internationally, as a living example of the spirit of May '68. In Opening the Gates, Donald Reid chronicles the history of this struggle. Beginning with the early stirrings of worker radicalism in 1968, Reid’s meticulously researched narrative details the nationally publicised conflict of 1973, the second bankruptcy and occupation of 1976 and the conversion of Lip into a group of cooperatives operating into the 1980s.


“A must-read for historians, Reid’s study will also open up for general readers the atmosphere of a time so far in the past that it is forgotten, yet so near that history has yet to remember it.”

““Although I have been living in France for the past ten years, I regret to say that the Lip Affair was unknown to me until now, but having read Donald Reid’s description of what transpired, I can understand why. It is simply stunning how the mass media arbitrarily select those events in society which they want to highlight, and those which they want to ignore ‘in the interests of the viewer.’ I am convinced that the ‘gate-keeper’ policy of the mass media is one of the primary reasons why the public in general today remain detached from many key issues facing the planet, including consumerism, social inequality, and the onrushing environmental disaster. The multiple issues still confronting women today are of course foremost in my mind when I write this. The ways in which the Lip workers—as Reid describes—confronted their problems, including their strategies in dealing with the media, are therefore truly inspiring, and this book clearly deserves the widest possible dissemination across the social and political spectrum.”

“Donald Reid has not just written a masterpiece of modern labor history. His brilliant narrative about the Lip workers who ran their own factory makes clear that they were blazing a new direction for the left. Although their experiment in self-management did not survive, it should inspire anyone who believes in the democratization of everyday life. When workers in the middle of France leaped beyond being just employees or aggrieved strikers, they showed that another world might indeed be possible.”

“Don Reid’s history of the protracted struggle of workers in the Lip watch factory is the most comprehensive and imaginative account that exists in English or French. What one worker called “the perfume of self-management” wafts through the pages of this book, bringing alive the movement that defined social upheaval in France in the long 1960s.”

“In 1973, French workers at the Lip watch factory in Besançon occupied their bankrupt plant and launched a movement that became a cause célèbre, attracting the attention of politicians, intellectuals, religious leaders, labor organizers, and ordinary citizens. In this magnificently detailed book, historian Donald Reid traces the origins of the movement and follows it through to its dénouement. It will surely be the definitive work on what may have been the last attempt by workers anywhere in the West to demonstrate that self-management was not a pipe dream but a genuine alternative to actually existing capitalism.”

“This gripping and beautifully researched book may well be the definitive work on the Lip Affaire – that heroic struggle of French workers who in 1973-74 transformed their company into a combative self-administered community. Donald Reid’s encompassing reconstruction is not only empathetic and political; it is also a significant contribution to French social history 'from below' between May 68 and the beginning of Mitterand’s presidency in 1981.”

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