Anarchy 89/I am a megaphone

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I am a megaphone


St. Nazaire, May 18th

If you say the stu­dents are sons of bour­geois you are right. But a minor­ity of them have made a com­plete break with their class. They are ready to join up with the work­ers. Where? In the street, where we can argue and can act. People talk about civil war. But on one side there are the work­ers, the peas­ants, the stu­dents; on the other, the bour­geois. The bour­geois will not fight in the streets. And their police are tied down in Paris. There are not enough of them to go round. The first phase of the ad­vanced strug­gle we are lead­ing must be the oc­cu­pa­tion of the factor­ies. Then the set­ting up of re­volu­tion­ary coun­cils. We must find new forms of man­age­ment. We must be mas­ters of the means of pro­duc­tion. Equal­ity of wages—that is very im­port­ant. Wages must be equal in an egal­it­arian so­ciety.

  It is not a ques­tion of at­tack­ing the trade union move­ment, but of creat­ing the con­di­tions for a work­ers’ demo­cracy, where each, what­ever his slo­gans or his ban­ners, can have his say. I at­tack the lead­ers of the union organ­isa­tions, I do not at­tack the ordin­ary union member. Unity of the labour move­ment will be achieved by the young. Shop by shop the young union­ists must unite. Unity won’t come from the top.

Frankfurt, May 23rd

Q: How do you de­scribe your polit­ical posi­tion?

A: Basic­ally I am an anarch­ist … a <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: Marx­ist-anarch­ist">Marx­ist-anarch­ist.

Q: Some journal­ists have de­scribed you as the leader of the re­volu­tion …

A: Let them write their rub­bish. These people will never be able to under­stand that the stu­dent move­ment doesn’t need any chiefs. I am neither a leader nor a pro­fes­sional re­volu­tion­ary. I am simply a mouth­piece, a mega­phone.

Q: What is the reason for your ex­pul­sion from France?

A: I don’t begin to under­stand why de Gaulle had me ex­pelled. Can he really be so stupid?

Q: You talk as if you have a per­sonal hatred for Gen­eral de Gaulle. …

A: It is a tactic, natur­ally. Above all to de­fend my­self against the ac­cus­a­tions of the Party, which wants to pass me off as an <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: agent-pro­vocat­eur">agent-pro­vocat­eur of the re­gime. And this is be­cause at the mo­ment they do not want de Gaulle to be de­feated.

Q: Would you sup­port a Popular Front?

A: A Popular Front at the mo­ment would be an ex­tremely pos­it­ive step in clar­ify­ing the situ­a­tion: the masses would end up by under­stand­ing better the na­ture of the trade-union bur­eau­cracy and the tradi­tional working-class parties and then an al­tern­at­ive on the left of the Com­mun­ist Party could very easily be formed.

Q: Isn’t that a little bit of an over-sim­pli­fic­a­tion?

A: Not at all. Look, there are two ex­treme pos­sibil­it­ies: on the one hand the vic­tory of a fas­cist-type re­ac­tion and the relat­ive de­feat of the pro­let­ariat for at least a dec­ade. On the other hand there might be the de­velop­ment of a situ­a­tion like that in Russia at the begin­ning of this cen­tury: 1905 or else Febru­ary 1917. If it turns out to be a Febru­ary 1917 situ­a­tion, say we have a so-called Popular Front with a Keren­sky by the name of Mitter­rand or <span data-html="true" class="plainlinks" title="Wikipedia: Waldeck-Rochet">Waldeck-Rochet. Cer­tainly there is no short­age of Men­shev­iks: the dif­fi­culty is to find any Bol­shev­iks!

Q: But is it pos­sible to have a French re­volu­tion in a va­cuum?

A: No. The re­volu­tion in one coun­try is cer­tainly not feas­ible. Also from an eco­nomic point of view. An eco­nomic crisis, caused for ex­ample by so­cial con­flict, cannot re­main isol­ated in one coun­try. Or a finan­cial crisis, a dollar crisis, trans­cends as you know, all coun­tries. The sys­tem is inter­na­tional. How­ever we have to begin by under­min­ing each par­tic­u­lar part of it, and in Paris that’s what we have begun. In Paris the situ­a­tion could truly be de­scribed as pre-revolu­tion­ary.

View from the East

  Daniel Cohn-Bendit and his al­lies are were­wolves split­ting the pro­gres­sive move­ment against cap­it­al­ism.

pravda, 30.5.68.

Q: What is the role of the Com­mun­ist Party in all this?

A: The Party is one of the two power-struc­tures which at the mo­ment are prop­ping each other up. De Gaulle and his State on the one
hand, the Party and the Unions on the other. De Gaulle is on the de­fens­ive, and he is de­fend­ing his posi­tion of power in the State. The Party is on the de­fens­ive be­cause it is ob­liged to de­fend its posi­tion of power within the working-class move­ment. Our ac­tion, by con­trast, is of­fens­ive: that is its ad­vant­age. All these inter­medi­ate and trans­it­ory ob­ject­ives arising from the present situ­a­tion, all the strong pres­sures from below, are push­ing away at the old struc­tures of power. You know, in this situ­a­tion, the Party hasn’t very much will to take the reins of the bour­geois state into its hands. Moscow is cer­tainly against it: they have very much more reli­ance on the Gen­eral than on the little bur­eau­crats of the French Com­mun­ist Party.

Q: Conse­quently a Popular Front would de­tach the masses from the party?

A: Yes, that’s more or less the idea, but don’t for­get that in real­ity the whole thing is very much more com­plex. The ex­ist­ence of the Party is an ob­ject­ive real­ity, one can’t de­cide from one day to another to elim­in­ate it. It is thanks to the Party and the CGT that the con­cept of the class-struggle has kept its sig­ni­fic­ance in the working-class con­scious­ness. Our ac­com­plish­ment will be to make con­scious the di­vi­sions which ex­ist be­tween the de­clar­a­tions of the Party and its ac­tual re­form­ist polit­ics. In the strug­gles of the last few days we have made enorm­ous strides.

Q: But the work­ers haven’t let you enter the factor­ies.

A: It’s not true. The func­tion­ar­ies of the Party have only par­tially suc­ceeded in clos­ing the factory gates on us. They have had to do this so as not to lose their posi­tion of power, but this has cost them and is going to cost them a great deal.

Q: Do you think of the stu­dent move­ment as a new Inter­na­tional?

A: At the mo­ment there are in­di­vidual con­tacts and group con­tacts on an inter­na­tional level, but it is not yet pos­sible to speak of com­mon ac­tion. Ac­tion is born from below, from the ac­tual situ­a­tion. It’s just the same as in the struggle against cap­it­al­ism.

Q: Are you think­ing, then, of in­tens­ify­ing con­tact?

A: Cer­tainly, but that is not the central prob­lem. Co-ordin­a­tion would be a posit­ive gain, but a Stu­dent Inter­na­tional doesn’t inter­est me. It doesn’t inter­est me at all. What we need to form is a new re­volu­tion­ary left, of which the stu­dent move­ment would be a com­pon­ent. Other­wise the stu­dent move­ment will re­main isol­ated, within the limits of a move­ment of pro­test. But we may al­ready be over­com­ing this. In France, in Italy, and to some ex­tent in Germany, there are al­ready links with the work­ing class, even if they are only at a local level.

Q: What do you think will be the organ­isa­tional form of the new re­volu­tion­ary move­ment?

A: It isn’t yet pos­sible to say. … We are creat­ing groups at the bottom: work­ers and stu­dents who col­labor­ate for local ac­tion. But I don’t think it’s pos­sible to be more pre­cise than this.

Q: Per­haps they are al­ready the Bol­shev­iks of the new re­volu­tion, per­haps they have al­ready de­cided to in­sti­tute the dic­tat­or­ship of the pro­let­ariat?

A: No, not the dic­tat­or­ship of the pro­let­ariat. We are against all au­thor­ity.

London, June 12th

Q: What ex­actly do you stand for? Are you a com­mun­ist?

A: I am sup­port­ing those who form work­ers’ coun­cils, for self-determ­in­a­tion for work­ers and for stu­dents. If this is com­mun­ist you can call me a com­mun­ist. But I do not agree with Russian polit­ics. Polit­ics today is not so simple. I am some­body who fights for the self-govern­ment of the work­ers. But when I say that I dis­agree with the policy of the gov­ern­ment in Russia, re­mem­ber that I dis­agree also with the policy of the gov­ern­ments in Britain, France, Germany, the USA, etc.

Q: Danny, you are re­garded as the leader of the stu­dent move­ment in France …

A: Excuse me, I will never lead any­thing. I will never tell people what to do. What they want to do they will do, and what they don’t want to do they won’t.

Q: It has been re­ported that you said you want to seek polit­ical asy­lum in this coun­try.

A: It’s true I said this. It is a matter of polit­ical fin­esse. I said be­fore that in France there is a pre-fascist situ­a­tion. Now there was another man who came to this coun­try and asked for asy­lum when France had a pre-revolu­tion­ary sit­a­tion. This was in 1940 and his name was de Gaulle. He wanted asy­lum …

Q: De Gaulle was a French­man. Now Danny, you are not a French­man …

A: I do not want to com­pare my­self with de Gaulle, you under­stand. With the young people it does not matter if you are a French­man or a German. We don’t bother about bord­ers. I was born in France and I lived there, and I con­sider my­self in this sense a French­man. This is how young people think. It is im­port­ant to me that sixty to seventy thou­sand people all shouted “We are all German Jews”.

Q: But Danny, I may be thick, but I still don’t under­stand what sort of gov­ern­ment you want.

A: We want a work­ers’, peas­ants’, and stu­dents’ self-govern­ment: the people in the factor­ies to con­trol the place where they work and the stu­dents to con­trol the place where they work.

View from the West

  In the deadly game of rouge et noir that is being played on French streets and in French factor­ies there is more black than red, and but little con­sider­a­tion for the Tri­color.

Q: But in the Sor­bonne you have got what you were after. Why are
the stu­dents still demon­stra­ting?

A: The stu­dents are sup­port­ing the working-class. One and a half mil­lion work­ers are still on strike, and they are not strik­ing for the money, the want con­trol of what they do.

Q: What is your re­ac­tion to the way you have been re­ceived in England?

A: Well, not aston­ished. It seems that all the gov­ern­ments want to show that we are right in say­ing that we live in a re­pres­sive so­ciety. I ar­rive in Eng­land and they don’t want to let me in. Two years ago I came here and no­body said a word. Strange. I don’t have to ask Mr. Wilson and his Home Office if I want to see some people in England …

Q: You wouldn’t want to give the stu­dents here some ad­vice on how to make a re­volu­tion?

A: You don’t ex­port re­volu­tion. No, you don’t ex­port pro­test­a­tion against so­ciety. You can ex­plain what has been done in France, but it’s not ad­ivce, you only ex­plain it. You can ex­change in­form­a­tion about how to play soccer, but you don’t ex­port soccer games.

Q: It was said in the House of Lords that you had the in­ten­tion of using force to carry out plans in this coun­try.

A: A lot of people know more than I know. It’s very inter­est­ing how all sorts of people know what I’m doing and organ­is­ing. I must really be better than Batman or Super­man, just travel­ling around and organ­is­ing world re­volu­tion. I think it’s be­cause people are afraid be­cause of the situ­a­tion in England. And then they are afraid that a little thing can ex­plode be­cause people are not happy in this coun­try. Per­haps this is the prob­lem.

London, June 13th (BBC TV)

Q: I would like to ask the ques­tion: what is the com­plaint about ex­ist­ing so­ciety, why must it be trans­formed?

A: We cri­ti­cise all so­ci­et­ies where people are pas­sive, which means that they don’t act­ively change what they do, for ex­ample where they work or where they live. This is what we want to change. Demo­cracy in every so­ciety stops at the work-place or the living-place, and this is why we don’t call it demo­cracy.

Q: You wouldn’t deny that in fact, after the first out­burst of student-worker co-oper­a­tion the ma­jor­ity of work­ers have now with­drawn from it.

A: It’s not true. I think that you should go and have a look at the Renault factory. I’ll give you an ex­ample. I went to the Flins works with some com­rades of the 22nd March Move­ment and we wanted to talk. The CGT said, “Oh well now, you don’t talk”, and the work­ers said, “Let them talk. We want to hear what they have to say.” I think that the most im­port­ant thing, as we have seen in France, is that uni­vers­ity stu­dents can be an ex­ample at one mo­ment, but they cannot make the change alone. If the work­ing class are not going to change the factor­ies them­selves, then there won’t be a change in so­ciety. I think this is the prob­lem you have in Germany: how to get the con­nec­tion with all the work­ing class. This is the prob­lem.

Q: Now I want to bring you to the ques­tion of method and goals. How far would it be fair to say that stu­dents in the activ­ist move­ment really, in a sense, seek con­front­a­tion? That they seek thereby to re­veal the real­it­ies of power in the hands of the state by seek­ing con­front­a­tion and hop­ing thereby to radic­al­ise the stu­dent move­ment by see­ing the re­ac­tion? Is that fair? I read my Marcuse too. Some of the lead­ers claim that there is an ad­vant­age in re­veal­ing. … (Cries of “Which leaders?”) Oh, I can quote you many …

A: Which lead­ers? I want to know this be­cause I have read in Eng­lish papers two things. First that we in France want to clash with the police, and secondly that a mob is fight­ing the police. We have now in France three dead, and I think that two are work­ers and one is a young lycée stu­dent. Now I think that to call them a mob is ab­so­lutely in­human. I don’t know which side is the mob, if the mob are the people who used the gases used in Viet­nam, or if the mob are the people who want to demon­strate to show how many they are. If you don’t let us demon­strate, then we are a mob, just be­cause we are de­fend­ing our­selves. Never at any time have we said that we want a clash …

London School of Eco­nomics, June 13th (press re­ports)

  “At the LSE he ana­lysed suc­cinctly the lessons of the French re­volt: how their ac­tions had out­run their theory and they had been caught up in a vi­cious circle, con­stantly tempted out into the streets with­out time to think what to do; how they should have set about actu­ally run­ning their uni­vers­ity with their own lec­tur­ers; how the factor­ies con­trolled by work­ers should have gone on mak­ing things (as they are now doing in a factory in Brest, mak­ing trans­ist­ors and walkie-talkies for other work­ers). …”—Observer, 16.6.68.

  “French ex­peri­ence, he added, showed that a gen­eral strike in 1968 needed to be much more skil­fully organ­ised. It was a mis­take to in­clude petrol sup­plies be­cause this had en­abled de Gaulle to say: ‘After I spoke, you had petrol.’ He strongly im­plied that the work­ers should have used their oc­cu­pa­tion of factor­ies to con­tinue pro­duc­tion.

  “He bit­terly cri­ti­cised the bur­eau­cratic struc­ture of the French Com­mun­ist Party which had sold out the re­volu­tion­ary order—the con­trol of factor­ies—in re­turn for elec­tions. As for the French stu­dents, they could re­gain the ini­ti­at­ive by start­ing their autumn term sooner than the au­thor­it­ies in­tended.”—Guardian, 14.6.68.

London, June 14th (inter­view with Alex­ander Mitchell, “Sunday Times”, 16.6.68)

Daniel cohn-bendit said: Power cor­rupts. I think I’m cor­rupted. It’s time I left my posi­tion and dis­ap­peared back down into the move­ment. He went on: If you lead people they place faith in you. This cor­rupts. If you say or do some­thing good then people will lean on you and say, “He’s okay—he’ll do.” This is cor­rup­tion. In any case we don’t be­lieve in last­ing man­age­ment. I will cease to be an iden­ti­fi­able leader in less than two months. They don’t need me.

  Now we aren’t proph­ets, you know. And far from being ideal­ists, we say we are the real­ists. We say no­body knows where we are going. John­son doesn’t know where he is going. Wilson doesn’t know either. Wilson has changed his eco­nomic policy three times in 12 months. The dis­il­lu­sion­ment, of course, is with the Com­mun­ist and the capit­al­ist sys­tems. What we pro­pose is very dif­fi­cult for people to under­stand. People don’t have a pre­dis­posi­tion to order, they are edu­cated to it. They be­lieve that some­one some­where makes de­ci­sions on their behalf, some­one leads them, and they also firmly be­lieve that there has to be a cen­tral struc­ture of au­thor­ity. Our prob­lem is to prove they are wrong. There does not have to be an order as we know it now. This has al­ready been shown in the take­over of the uni­vers­it­ies. …

  The prob­lem every­where is how to get an in­dus­trial so­ciety to a tech­no­lo­gical so­ciety. This gap is dif­fi­cult. There are two pos­sibil­it­ies: the tech­no­cratic answer or the re­volu­tion­ary answer. The re­volu­tion­ary answer is to give another so­cial struc­ture to so­ciety. It does not mean the tear­ing down of every­thing.