Monday, March 17, 2008

In Montreal tonight

To Have Done with May 68
Lecture by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, media celebrity and usurper of May 68

The impotent always want to share their impotence with the world at large. On Monday 17th March the ex-anarchist Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who enjoyed the limelight during May 68, whose insignificance was made plain when Enragés and Situationists in the Occupation Movement, France, May 68 was published a few months later, and who today, proclaiming himself a "liberal libertarian", is active as a deputy on the right of the French Green Party, will give his lecture "To Have Done with May 68".

We have every reason to expect that this will be an attempt to justify a particular political trajectory – his own – which began in the 1960s on the far left and, through compromise after compromise, has ended today in confusionism on neither the left nor the right. This elderly gentleman, finding himself no longer "at the cutting edge", would like the whole of the radical left to "mellow", hoping that this might soften the contrast between his own media image in May 68 and the image which his former political friends would reflect back to him today.

Indeed what else but a narcissism of that sort could motivate this Ubu-esque figure, who for years has represented the revolution to the media in the most simple-minded terms? Since he owes his entire political career to that famous photograph of him laughing in the face of a riot cop during May 68, the old man feels the need to feign some consistency, to pass off as maturity his mere opportunism and decrepitude. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the type of man who "loses the faculty of indignation and mistakes its loss for intelligence" (1), wants the whole world to grow old and rotten along with him.

(Unless we are mistaken, the negation of revolutionary necessity does not actually form part of the Greens' aims and objectives.)

There is no danger, however, that he will have the power to convert the truly rebellious. For them there is no question over the need to put an end to the massacre of bodies and minds which has gone on for thousands of years. Cohn-Bendit will make a unique impression on fools (who are legion), but he will be no more successful in his cretinising mission than all the other handmaidens of manipulation who daily toil in the lecture halls and in the media. Compared to them, he's just a drop in the ocean.

But as for this lecture which supposedly highlights the 40th anniversary of May 68, coming as it does from the man who was May 68's false icon, we regard it as a provocation.

Let's give Cohn-Bendit neither the satisfaction of a compliant audience, nor the unanimous bleating which is such music to his ears.

Alexandre Fatta
15th March 2008


(1) Louis Scutenaire (Belgian Surrealist): "When Man loses the faculty of indignation, he mistakes its loss for intelligence".

Translated by Merl.
Click here to read the original French text.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amusant dans la forme,
Nul sur le fond.

Anonymous said...

Dans ce cas, dites-moi quel aurait dû être le fond, M.Anonyme.

Alexandre Fatta

martin marriott said...

The photograph of this gentleman tells us all we need to know. A bourguois buffoon.

Let The Dead Bury The Dead.

*

Once a significant section of the working-class became literate, the concept of "intellectuals" became nonsensical.

*

The surrealist revolution will be proletarian, or it will not be.

*

Why? Because (and this hasn't always been the case, historically, but it's what our current experience of life tells us):

The working class is now the
sole defender of human culture.

lumpen said...

There are no more working class in this post-capitalism era. I mean, sure there are class structure, but the idea of belong of a class is not exist anymore in the working class.

Paul Cowdell said...

God damn! Capitalism's over? Why did nobody say anything?

lumpen said...

Not over, but ist not the same from the XIX and XX. Post-capitalism how came with the fail of the ex-Soviet Union and the consecuencies of the globalization have diference with his son.

cut_throat said...

Ok, Lumpen, I'm trying to do justice to your point of view, so please bear with me and correct me if I have misunderstood you.

The argument you are making seems to be (as far as I can make out) that capitalism is not over, but has entered a new phase. This is a fairly common argument among a lot of recent academic sociologists. I can't off the top of my head think of anyone who has been quite so cretinous as to call this allegedly new phase "post-capitalism" (although I am sure that some idiot must have done so somewhere). More commonly used terms have been "late capitalism", "postmodernity", "postmodern capitalism" and the like. Academic sociologists have variously characterised this allegedly new phase in terms of the informational economy, the "network society", "the annihilation of space by time" and, yes, globalisation.

Your own position seems to be a rather garbled version of this idea. You've conflated the shift from the 19th to the 20th centuries with globalisation, and conflated both with the fall of the Soviet Union. At this point I have to confess that your logic defeats me. If there is anything new about globalisation -- which, after so many centuries of imperialism, is at the very least debatable -- then it may or may not be connected to the fall of Stalinism (I'd like to hear your explanation of the link), but it certainly long post-dates the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, which was still firmly within the period of industrial capitalism, and indeed (though perhaps less firmly) of imperialism.

You also seem to link this allegedly new phase of capitalism with a decline (actually, according to you, the complete ending) of class consciousness. As you yourself acknowledge, even if this were true, it would not mean the end of class as such. Not even the academic sociologists (or at least, none that I can think of) of "postmodernity" would be so absurd as to suggest that class divisions are now a thing of the past. And where there are class divisions there will always, in my opinion, be class conflict, even if it is not always explicitly recognised as such by the protagonists -- although I think you grossly under-estimate the frequency and extent to which they (we) do quite clearly recognise it as such.

I don't remotely agree with your idea of "post-capitalism". But even if you were correct, it would surely only increase the burning necessity to change life and transform the world, right to the core, and with all possible urgency.

lumpen said...

Maybe you have right about to be class conflict, even if it is not always explicitly recognised as such by the protagonists. But the class is not the same that 50 years ago. For example, the revolt of young inmigrant from the Paris perifery, did you call it working class? They dont have work at all! We need news persepectives about how the society and his classes is conformed now. And , if there not class consciousness , is imposible to be class conflict , only people how want to ascend in the social pyramide truought focused reinvindication

Paul Cowdell said...

The changes in the mechanisms of capitalism have actually brought greater numbers of people into the working class in the recent period, whether proletarianised peasants in South Asia or pauperised sections of the middle class in Europe.

And of course the workings of capitalism periodically throw large numbers of those people out of work, or doesn't have work for their children, which is why there are periodic revolts of large numbers of unemployed workers. The form of revolt by French youth may be different, but it's hardly new. Mass protests by unemployed workers in Britain and the States in the '30s, anyone?

You questioned the right of Parisian youth to be called workers, (youth unemployment has reached 50% in some working class banlieues, by the way) but you didn't mention the CPE or the protests against it. The CPE would have allowed employers to dismiss any worker under 26 without justification in the first two years of their employment. Would they have stopped being working class as soon as their employment was terminated? Does this mean that the students who opposed the CPE were not part of the working class?

Class conflict happens because of the nature of capitalism. The beginning of the 20th century saw an intensification of inter-imperialist rivalries that led to two world wars. The collapse of the Soviet Union bought capitalism some breathing space by opening new resource territories, but you can hardly claim that there is not now any militaristic drive by imperialism. Again, the forms might be slightly different, but it's not new. Iraq? Afghanistan? The drive to cantonise the Balkans? Ring any bells?

I agree that consciousness is a key issue, but that's hardly going to be achieved by dividing workers on the basis of whether they're employed or unemployed, national or immigrant. Even if this were the whole story for the rioting Parisian youth - which it wasn't - such an approach could only disastrously undermine the development of the consciousness you argue is necessary.

You argue that we need a new understanding of class, but you don't really advance one. You just parrot the confusion that's been trotted out repeatedly by apologists for the defeat of May 1968, not least Daniel Cohn-Bendit himself.