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An interview with Daniel Cohn-Bendit
SATURDAY, JULY 13, 1968
NIGHT EDITOR: JOHN GRAYI
Academic reform NOW!
THE HEADS of more than twenty uni-"
versities which have experienced stu-
dent unrest are currently meeting in New
York to discuss the politics of student
According to the report in the New
York Times: "amid the fervent calls for
experimentation and change, there were
also warnings that a university can go
only so far to placate the most radical
students withou't opening the doors to
To a student, the idea that executives
of universities could meet to decide ad-
ministrative policies toward students and
faculty is in itself a betrayal of one of the
basic premises of the whole student power
movement, namely, dialog of all parties"
on equal terms.
EXECUTIVES, administrators and alum-
ni have been running suniversities for
generations now, always on the assump-
tions and educated guesses of what they
feel is best for students.
The consequences of executive admin-
istration of most colleges and universi-
ties have been growing tendencies to
transform them into research rather than
educational institutions, and, in the
words of Dr. Buell G. Gallagher, p'resi-
den of City College of New York, placed
their emphasis on the scientific collec-
tion of data rather than the investiga-
tion of the "sea of pain" in American so-
We are living in a technocratic society
in which individuality and responsibility
are often assumed by the corporate struc-
tures of governments, businesses and now,
The expanding needs of research cor-
porations in the fields of electronics, and
the government in social and defense re-
search, have placed huge demands on the
educational institutions of the country
to produce scientists and technicians
capable of conducting the research and
collecting the statistics which seem so
essential to our society.
MANY LARGE universities have become
the think tanks so dreaded by be-
lievers of progressive education.
Many writers, most notably John Gal-
braith, have proposed that while univer-
sities were being oriented toward research
and technology, the liberal and human-
istic atmosphere created by a university
community can and does influence even
the most dedicated and bland technician.
Galbraith correctly describes how the
demands of technology oriented corpora-
tions have gradually transformed univer-
sities into demi-bureaucracies, organized
on a similar corporate basis as business
and government in which the institution
exists as a living and amorphous organ-
ism evolving by itself, rather than under
the direction of any individual or phil-
However, as Gallagher, Robert Hutch-
ins, Michael Harrington, Christopher
Lasch and many liberal educators point
out, bureaucratic and humanistic insti-
tutions are diametrically opposed to each
other, and in modernuniversities, the
humanistic tradition is being bulldozed
by the inexhaustible demands of re-'
THE STUDENT power movements both
here and in other countries have been
asking educational institutions for a re-
evaluation of priorities. tIn Europe, the
demand is rsimple: more attention. In
America, however, the situation is more
complex. Today, universities are produc-
ing cogs in the conglomerate machine
which has become known as American
The human values which were funda-
mental to the writers of our constitu-
tion have been scattered while this vast
technocratic being which was started by
men - but which now controls men -
evolves out-of-control, indiscriminately
crushing ideologies as well as individuals.
In John Hersey's The Child Buyer, hu-
man brains are cultivated to be problem
solving devices in computer-like fashion.
Mental capabilities are expanded by the
child buyers, but they also destroy the
human body's abilities to react as an en-
tity. Sensory perceptions are ended and
the body becomes a meaningless acces-
sory to the "computer mind" serving only
as the equivalent of a machine's electric
cord - providing uninterrupted energy.
In Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space
Odyssey, humans become accessories to a
technology that no single individual can
cope with or control.
UNIVERSITY administrators should
make a thorough reappraisal of the
situation confronting academic institu-
tions. On one hand they can continue to
"second guess" the students and empha-
size research and technological training.
On the other hand, they can accept the
student power demand of reorientation*
of academic goals.
In universities idealism and free
thought have flourished in spite of the
weight of the administrative bureaucra-
cy. Students, disillusioned with the parts
of society which confront them, e.g., the
draft, their parents, and the university
administration, are desperately attempt-
ing to save whatever is left of their ideals.
The universities might be the last iso-
lated pockets of human values and in-
dividualism in the world. Their future is
for the time being rests with the admin-
now a a crucial point and the decision
istrators. Every other issue is meaning-
less, the call is for academic reform now!
Although Daniel Cohn-Ben-
dit,. glamorized by the American
press as "Danny the Red," has
been generally characterized as
the leader of this spring's
French student revolt, he denies
claim to such status. Neverthe-
less, Cohn-Bendit does acknowl-
edge that he may be considered
one of the leaders of the vari-
ous movements that composed
the revolt. Here, through cour-
tesy of Liberation News Service,
we reprint his views as por-
trayed in an interview with
New York's Anarchos maga-
It is said that you are or have
been an anarchist.
I am always an anarchist. I was
certainly influenced by my broth-
er, who went through all the
groups of the extreme left, after
having been excluded by the Com-
munist Party. And it is especially
in a negative fashion, by rejecting
all the "groupuscules" of the ex-
treme left and their dogmatism,
that I have arrived at the anarch-
ist camp which made it possible
for me to define my opinions in
relation to the Marxist-Leninist
and Bolshevik doctrine on the line
of "socialism of councils."
Your parents left Germany
at the time of Naziism. You
don't have French nationality?
I have German nationality. But
I don't give a damn for national-
... The political confusion of the
-mass of the student movement
is surprising. There are Maoists,
various Trotskyite groups, you
who are an anarchist. What
leaders do you recognize? What
position do you take regarding
the revolutionary theoreticians?
Marx for example.
If you like, T am a Marxist the
way Bakunin was. Bakunin trans-
lated Marx, and for him Marx had
not developed a new theory but
formulated, on the basis of theo-
ries of bourgeois culture, the pos-
sibilities of a revolutionary criti-
que of society. Bakunin has in-
fluenced me more. But above all,
I believe I made up my mind on
the basis of the Russian Revolu-
tion, from the situations of the.
workers'commune of Kronstadt,
where there were anarchists who
fought against the heavy hand of
the Bolshevik Party on the So-
Consequently, I am very anti-
Leninist. I am against the organ-
izational method of democratic
centralism and for organizational
federalism, for autonomous, fed-
erated groups thatact together,
but always maintaintheir auto-
Does this position unite with
those of your comrades?
Within the March \22nd move-
ment there are also Marxist-Len-
inists, Trotskyists who themselves
are very Leninist; but they con-
stitute only a part of the move-
What seems evident among all
of you is that there is a radical
confrontation that touches cap-
italist societies as well as the
"socialist" gocieties of eastern
Soviet society is, for me, a form
of government which contains the
characteristics of a class society:
bureaucracy represents, in my
eyes, a class - thus I oppose So-
viet society as I oppose capitalist
society in France. Hqwever, I live
here, not in the Soviet Union,
Thus, it is here that I fight
against the French bourgeoisie.
You are anti-Leninist. But
what about Trotsky, Mao, Fidel
Castro, Che Guevera?
As a result of the repression of
the Kronstadt commune, on
Trotsky's decision, I became an
anti-Trotskyite, But when Trotsky
becomes the spokesman for the
opposition to Stalin, I more or less
share his denunciation of the Rus-
sian bureaucracy. For me, how-
ever, this doesn't go far enough.
For Trotsky, the Russian state is
a degenerated workers' state; for
me, the bureaucracy represents a
class. Therefore it is not a work-
ers' state at all! My criticue of
Soviet society is completely Marx-
ist: in analyzing the relationships
between production and distribu-
tion in the USSR, one can see that
they are not the relationships of
socialist production. The Russian
working class has no decision-
making powers in production and
distribution. It is for this reason
that the Soviet state is, for me,
still. a class state.
Now we come to Maoism ..
Maoism, I don't know exactly
what that is! I have read some of
Mao's "things" which are very
true. His thesis of relying on the
peasantry has always been an an-
archist theme. On this point, there
is no problem-even during the
Russian Revolution. But, now,
Mao has become a myth. And I am
not interested in talking about
the myth of Mao, about the little
red book, about the defense of
Stalin, etc. The "Marxist-Lenin-
ists" do it. That's their business.
But for me it misses the point
What are your objectives?
Here they are: Through action,
the problem of passing from
theory to practice and from prac-
tice to theory is posed more and
more clearly. When we conducted
very precise struggles - against
sexual repression, in favor of the
liberty of political expression, in
favor of politicizing of the student
milieu -- w ran up against total
repression, up until the present
paroxysm. Starting from that, we
now have to develop a new stra-
tegy of politicizing in order to
continue posing political problems.
And in posing these political prob-
lems, precise objectives will reveal
themselves to us within the uni-
versity and, more generally, with-
in the educational system, and
outside, in relation to the working
Since a majority of the stu-
dent world is of bourgeois orig-
in, one wonders: is this a rev-
olution of sons who are playing
at being leftists?
What seems to me important,
now, is the politicizing of the stu-
dent milieu, which is taking place
-and espcially of the apprentices
and the young unemployed, who
aren't even apprenticed. In order
to be able to develop actions of
radical questioning of the society,
based precisely on the objective
situation of our society, which is
incapable of finding - and for
good reason - any forms for its
youth. Why Because today our
society, based on what we know
about profits, etc., can't use its
youth in a commercial way. And
Your attack is directed par-
ticularly against the professors,
who were the first to denounce
the university structures .. . .
We aren't questioning the prof-
essors. We question their place in
the university as that of a pawn
in an institution. And it's there
that we are opposed to them.
There are attacks against pro-
fessors and even against courses
of certain professors, against the
political attitudes of certain pro-
fessors. That seems perfectly nor-
mal to me.
Occident (a right-wing French
movement) Mitterand and De-
Gaulle are the defenders of the
civilization you are attacking ...
I could ansver that I attack
precisely in the name of the sci-
entific knowledge we have and
don't exploit. For me, our society
doesn't use its scientific and tech-
nical means for the liberation of
You've taken certain elements
of the definition of socialism
from Trotsky, from Mao .. .
Liberte, Equalite, Anarchy?
From Mao, in fact. For example,
Mao explodes strict Leninism in
relying on something that isn't
the working class - the peasant-
ry. Village communities , are, for
us, a form of organization which
is completely desirable.
People talk a lot about the in-
fluence of the American philo-,
sopher, Marcuse, on your move-
People have talked a lot about
the influence of Marcuse on SDS
in Germany, and we have con-
tacts with SLS. But in the move-
ment there aren't ten people who
have read Marcuse unless maybe,
Eros and Civilization. Marcuse, in
his criticism of capitalist society
and his rejection of the society
called "socialist," is a point of
support for us. Especially because
of three theses: he shows that the
nature of society itself is repres-
sive and it isn't a matter of ex-
ternal forms of repression like the
police. He shows the one-dimen-
sionality of man, that is, in fact,
that our society forms exatcly its
type of man. Thirdly, he demon-
strates that criticism and destruc-
tion are the beginning of con-
struction. When you radically
criticize a thing, you are con-
Your criticism has directed it-
self against a number of intel-
lectuals and professors. Yet
those who first marked the way
for you are men like Sartre and
Camus (at a certain period, any-
way), and Merleau- Ponty. Are
these men part of the bourgeois
universe for you?
Let's take the example of
Camus. He started the newspaper
Combat with the subtitle: "From
Resistance to Revolution." Look
at what Combat has become to-
day! To show that Camus has 14-
fluenced certain young people!
But today, the problems he posed,
the absurdity of the world - the
best of the students who act don't
pose them in those terms any
more. Camus remains a support.
We read him., but actually he
doesn't have the same significance.
Neither does Sartre, for that mat-
ter., Nor anybody'else. Sartre is,
from the post-war period. We are
at another stage. Actually, young
people today have not lived
through the post-war period, :nor
the working class either, for that
In seems, in the literary
scheme, that the surrealist
movement of the twenties in-'
terests the Nanterre students
The student movement is cer-
tainly not a revolution, but a re-
volt. We agree about surrealism
and especially Lada. Because Da-
daism was more radical and it
influences a part of the movement.
But personally, I am very "polit-
Among the anarchist, who has
I had always defined myself to
be an anarchist by negotion, by
opposition to the revolutionary,
Marxist-Leninist currents. If you
wish, the anarchist have in-
fluenced me more by certain activ-
ities than by their theories . .
in fact, there is not one anarchist
thinker that I'm going to cite to
you. Theoreticians are laughable.
There are no Anarchists; there are
people who act as anarchists.
fight, it is necessary that there
be an internationalism. That, the
existing Communist Party has ob-
tained. And for us, the fight --
not only that of the students, but
the others as well - must be on
a European scale. In Warsaw,
where there is an evident of re-
newal of Stalinism, it is the same
And in Prague?
In Prague, there is liberalization
because the Czechoslovak economy
was completely dead. The liber-
alization is taking place because
there is a renaissance of the
"capitalist" base. It's not exactly
a bourgeois liberalization, but the
church is renewing itself, etc. This
is nrot what's interesting. But in
the student milieu, as well as with
the Czech workers, a confronta-
tion is developing from the left
of the regime, quite justly for the
installation of workers' councils.
That's what's important.
It is said
that the working
feel concerned by
in Paris, Why?
All the news that fits
The following illuminating article,
written by New York Times reporter
Sidney E. Zion, is reprinted here from
The Times' Thursday, July 11, edition,
so that Ann Arbor readers can stay up
to date on all the important doings go-
ing on in Gotham.)
NEW YORK - Demanding a "denuncia-
tion" of a column written by Jimmy
Breslin, 15 young members of the Com-
munist Party staged a three-hour "con-
frontation" yesterday at the editorial of-
fices of The New York Post.
According to James A. Wechsler, the
editorial page editor of The Post, the,
party members threatened to "sit-in"
at his office "interminably" unless he
wrote an editorial repudiating the Breslin
column, which appeared in the paper
The column was critical of the party's
national convention, held last week.
"I don't know why they came to me,"
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Mr. Wechsler said. "I told them 37 times
that I had nothing to do with Breslin's
column. But it wasn't exactly a gruesome
confrontation. I told them there were
more important things in the world, such
as Gil Hodges. So we spent most of the
time talking about him."
It is Mr. Wechsler's deeply held view
that Mr. Hodges is something less of a
manager than John McGraw, and is in
fact doing very poorly by the New York
"WITH A pitching staff like that, why
are they only four games better
than last year?" he asked.
To Mr. Wechsler's dismay, the young
Communists defended Mr. Hodges. "They
are very conservative," he said, a bit
The Breslin column that upset the
Communists was entitled, "The Cnserv-
Mr. Wechsler said that young party
members were particularly distressed over
Mr. Breslin's description of Henry Win-
ston, an elderly Negro Communist.
In the column, Mr. Breslin noted that
at the close of the party's national con-
vention on Saturday, Mr, Winston had
led the crowd in the "Internationale."
"Winston sang loudly," the column
said, "with the space in his front teeth
showing the way it always did in pic-
...... .. *L 4 - na , , x __ _ - 4-- .-.
. .. Vienvenido, Senor Presidente . ..
Nevertheless, don't you have
any thinkers whose theories in-
fluence your movement?
No, there is no one thinker, nor
even several. Every thinker counts
for us. I can name Aristotle as
well. Why not? Sure, and in op-;
uosing education I can also refer
to. Rousseau who already said it.
There, Rousseau is a thinker who;
The thoughts of Guevera,
don't they play a very impor-
tant role at Nanterre?
There again what can be said
of Che? He fought, he was in
South America. There is nothing
to say. I can be more or less in
agreement with what's happening
in Cuba. But that's not important.
What's interesting is this: how
can Cuba practically isolated be-
tween the USSR and the Amer-
From Madrid to Berlin, from
Warsaw to Rome, from Paris to
London, all !the students put
into question the socio-economic
and cultural systems of their.
country. What relations do you
have with all the Euronean
That's a false question. It's not
because the students descend on
the streets that all the workers
are going to say: bravo, they have
the right to fight. We are in a
situation of crisis exacerbated by
capitalism. Therefore, we don't
need to encounter each other. The
workers themselves will descend
on the streets, just as they made
wild-cat strikes in England. This
is the problem. It's not short-term,
because L'Humanite doesn't say:
we are united with:the leftist....
The problem would pose itself if
the workers meet an objective
situation which makes them move
themselves also. Then there will
be a liason, as in Italy, where the
Italian students picketed in the
strike against Fiat. There, the
workers understood which side the
students were on.
Do you think you will be suc-
cessful in building a revolution-
ary theory adapted to the pres-
Our bulletin from Nanterre, put
out two weeks ago, exposes very
well the existence o a gap be-
tween theory and practice. We
have developed means of opera-
ting, but \we have advanced a
theoretical elaboration, This is
necessary in the present situation
of the movement of the extreme
left in France. But it's evident
that if things remain as they are,
there will be a collapse of the
Nanterre movement. It will re-
cover, perhaps, elsewhere, with
other people. That's not serious.
It will simply be proof that we are
incapable of developing this theo-
ry, and it's not necessary to cry
about it. But we are trying to ef-
fectively develop a theory.
At the beginning of this, con-
versation you cited an example
of the case of Kronstadt. That
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