[sixties-l] Cohn-Bendit attacks German novelist GŁnter Grass... (fwd)

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Date: Mon Dec 17 2001 - 18:04:48 EST

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    Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2001 14:25:22 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Cohn-Bendit attacks German novelist Gnter Grass...

    Cohn-Bendit attacks German novelist Gnter Grass for opposing war against
    Afghanistan

    <http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/dec2001/bend-d14.shtml>

    By Stefan Steinberg
    14 December 2001

    At a conference held last weekend in Berlin to commemorate the work of the
    philosopher and writer Hannah Arendt, Green Party leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit
    lashed out at German intellectuals who have spoken in opposition to the
    US-led war in Afghanistan. He singled out the writer and 1999 Nobel
    prize-winner Gnter Grass, author of The Tin Drum. Cohn-Bendit likened the
    position adopted by Grass and others to the stance adopted by Britain and
    France in 1938, i.e. appeasement with fascism.
    Grass has published a series of comments and interviews criticising the
    Bush administration's war on Afghanistan. Declaring that "revenge" was not
    a justifiable motive for waging war, Grass pointed to the "religious
    fundamentalist background" of the American president. The war in
    Afghanistan, according to Grass, would endanger many ordinary Afghanis who
    have nothing to do with the conflict and would serve merely to aggravate
    hatred and further terrorist actions. He also warned of the dangers posed
    to democratic rights by the anti-terrorist security laws introduced in
    Germany by Social Democratic Interior Minister Otto Schily.
    In an interview with the newspaper Mrkische Allgemeine, Schily accused
    Grass of anti-American sentiments, referring to the "really terrible
    anti-American faux pas, which are to be heard in certain circles."
    Grass responded with a speech at a meeting of the Berlin Academy of Art, in
    which he emphasised his "great sympathy" with the victims of the terror
    attacks on the World Trade Centre, but added, "No one can force me to
    express sympathy with the American government. In simplistically dividing
    the world into good and bad, US president George W. Bush, and all those who
    argue in a similar manner, are descending to the level of the
    fundamentalists themselves." Schily responded by describing Grass' comments
    as "foolish".
    Leading Green Party European parliament deputy Daniel Cohn-Bendit, one of
    the closest confidantes of German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (who
    also belongs to the Green Party), has joined the fray. He naturally sided
    with his ministerial colleague Schily, who himself was a founding member of
    the Green Party until he switched to the Social Democrats.
    Cohn-Bendit first came to prominence as a leading figure in the 1968
    May-June student revolts in Paris. As a veteran of radical student politics
    at the ripe old age of 23, he wrote the book Obsolete Communism, The
    Left-Wing Alternative *, dealing with his experiences of the 1968 events.
    In his book, he describes the calamitous and treacherous policy pursued by
    the French Communist Party, but at the same time makes clear that his
    version of a "left alternative" excludes any sort of genuine socialism. In
    Obsolete Communism, Cohn-Bendit also took up his cudgels against the
    Russian revolution and Lenin's Bolshevik party, mendaciously declaring that
    the latter was responsible for Stalinism: "As far as we are concerned,
    there is no break between the ideology of the Bolshevik Party and that of
    the new bureaucracy."
    Even in 1968, at the time of the publication of his book, Cohn-Bendit
    opposed the revolutionary implications of Leon Trotsky's struggle for
    genuine socialism against the Stalinist bureaucracy. He wrote, "No matter
    what Trotskyist historiographers may tell us today, it was not in 1927 nor
    in 1923 nor even in 1920, but in 1918 and under the personal leadership of
    Trotsky and Lenin that the social revolution became perverted, a fact
    Trotsky could never understand, simply because he himself was one of its
    prime architects."
    Cohn-Bendit search for a "left alternative" continued in Frankfurt,
    Germany, where together with Fischer he founded a student group named
    "Revolutionary Struggle". Both men dedicated themselves to sponti politics
    (derived from the word "spontaneous"). Eclectically drawing from elements
    of anarchism and Maoism, their group favoured "gut politics" and were
    hostile to any far-reaching theoretical considerations.
    Rejecting the working class as a force for social change, and the class
    struggle as the basis for an understanding of society, the adherents of
    "Revolutionary Struggle" vehemently railed against superficial aspects of
    capitalist society in the manner of a petulant child revolting against his
    or her parents. The group's main political activity was squatting in
    unoccupied houses, which they subsequently defended in street battles with
    police.
    As the leading sponti, Cohn-Bendit, who had already become a media
    favourite in Paris, functioned as a sort of spiritual godfather to the
    younger Joschka Fischer. According to Sibylle Krause-Burger, one of
    Fischer's biographers, the "son of a petty bourgeois, Fischer, was
    fascinated not least by the big bourgeois Cohn-Bendit, his love of good
    food, his French savoir vivre, his worldliness. To live life like Danny,
    meant, for Joschka, transcending his own background into a much broader
    framework. His own social revolt acquired more dignity".
    Following spells working in an alternative nursery and the Karl Marx
    bookshop in Frankfurt, Cohn-Bendit, dissatisfied with his efforts at
    developing a new life-style in "Revolutionary Struggle", joined the Green
    Party in 1984.
    Cohn-Bendit's support for imperialist war is not new. He was one of the
    pioneers of the German Greens who argued for a policy of ditching the
    organisation's traditional adherence to pacifism. Already in July 1992, he
    called for the dispatch of a military force to Bosnia against the Serbs and
    fully supported the first intervention by German troops in a European
    conflict since the Second World War.
    Since then, Cohn-Bendit has found his place in the most belligerent wing of
    the Greens and has played a leading role in the party's reorientation,
    spearheading its support for imperialist militarism. Arguing in a similar
    manner to Fischer, he regularly evokes the spectre of fascism and the
    crimes committed at Auschwitz to argue in favour of broad military
    intervention. In a speech he made at the Hannah Arendt conference in 1995,
    at a time when most German politicians were arguing for a limited and brief
    engagement by the military in Yugoslavia, he pleaded for the stationing of
    troops in Bosnia for a period of "10, 20, 30 years".
    With regard to the US-led war in Afghanistan, Cohn-Bendit has made his
    views clear in an interview with the German taz newspaper. He declared his
    preference for an expanded United Nations-led military operation to unseat
    the "fascistoid, anti-women Taliban government", with support given to "the
    liberation struggle of the Afghan opposition, with planes, weapons and
    soldiers."
    At the recent Green Party conference, which voted emphatically in favour of
    supporting the war in Afghanistan, Cohn-Bendit managed to stand even
    further to the right than the party leadership. Together with Ralf Fcks,
    he introduced a motion which went much further than that favoured by
    Fischer and the majority of the Greens parliamentary faction. In order to
    avoid a split with the declining pacifist faction inside the party, Fischer
    was forced to oppose the Cohn-Bendit/Fcks motion, which called for blanket
    support for military intervention.
    His advocacy of military intervention has not proved an obstacle, however,
    to his participation in the anti-globalisation and ostensibly pacifist
    movement Attac. He has been a member of this organisation for the last four
    years and has spoken at a number of its meetings and conferences.
     From this brief sketch of the career of Daniel Cohn-Bendit it should be
    clear that we are dealing with a man who pays little attention to
    historical truth or the development of a rounded argument. His claim that
    opposition by German intellectuals to the current war in Afghanistan is the
    same as the position adopted by France and Britain in 1938 is simply
    absurd. Despite their political limitations, those such as Grass are
    motivated by serious concerns about the move towards war and the
    restrictions being made upon democratic rights in America as well as in
    Germany, a country which was primarily responsible for two world wars and
    the rise of fascism in the twentieth century.
    Cohn-Bendit's motive in raising the spectre of appeasement proceeds from an
    entirely opposed standpoint. He demagogically raises the bogey of fascism
    and "totalitarianism" to stampede impressionistic petty-bourgeois layers
    into supporting new wars and attacks on democratic rights, enabling German
    imperialism to forward its own interests on the European and world arena.
    He likes to pose as a good European, but it would be more correct to
    describe him as a Euro-chauvinist. His support for the current US-led war
    is stimulated by the realisation that the only possible way to pursue
    German interests (and in particular in Europe) is provisionally under
    Washington's wing, given America's present military and economic
    superiority. He has made it clear, however, that the long-term interests of
    German and European imperialism are diametrically opposed to those of the US.
    In a recent interview with taz headlined, "With a new EU against the USA",
    Cohn-Bendit outlined his own view of European developments:
    "This Europe can only be an alternative to the USA. Basically the
    neo-liberal project is historically represented by the US, with a Trojan
    horse in the EU and that is England. We have to strengthen these [European]
    institutions in such a way that we can deal with this Trojan horse and at
    the same time define ourselves as a counterbalance to America."
    In response to a question from the taz interviewer, he went onto explain
    what he regarded as a "good" European and a critic of globalisation: "He
    must be a radical European. I also want us understand ourselves in a
    political and cultural sense as a counterbalance to the US."
    In an interview with Der Spiegel magazine, Cohn-Bendit revealed that his
    version of Europe and the world was one in which German interests played
    the defining role: "After recognition of the German role in the Balkans and
    also in the Middle East, German Foreign Policy must now take up the
    challenge of shaping globalisation."
    Gnter Grass has an uneven record with regard to German militarism. In
    1995, he supported the intervention by German troops in the
    Balkans. Following his latest critical comments on the Afghan war, Grass,
    together with a brace of prominent German intellectuals, was invited to
    dinner with SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schrder. Since the meeting, Grass has
    maintained his criticism of the war, but at the same time, in a comment to
    Die Zeit newspaper, pledged his loyalty to the SPD. This is not enough for
    Cohn-Bendit. With his ferocious attack on Grass, he is not only attempting
    to intimidate certain intellectuals who have misgivings about the current
    course of the war but is seeking to forestall more widespread popular
    opposition.
    With the possibility of participating in Great Power politics, and
    representing a certain layer of Green Party politicians prone to hysterical
    demagogy and unpredictable opportunism, Cohn-Bendit has long since
    abandoned his "adolescent differences" and reconciled himself with his
    parent. Tossing aside his kindergarten uniform and sponti politics, he is
    now putting on the garb of a crude Prussian military bully.
    --------
    * Obsolete Communism, The Left-Wing Alternative, Penguin Books,
    1968



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