May 1968 was a revolution. Now the violence is just frightening: Daniel Cohn-Bendit

First posted December 08, 2018

As a student, he led the 1968 uprising in Paris. Now he has Macron’s ear, but ‘Dany le Rouge’ is not afraid to speak out on why both sides are at fault

The last time Paris burned, his was the face of insurrection. Dany le Rouge (Danny the Red – a nickname that partly reflected his politics and partly his hair) was the hero of a generation. Even when Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the May 1968 student uprising, changed his colours to Danny the Green and went mainstream – representing ecology parties in France, Germany and Brussels – he never quite shook off his reputation as a rebel and political trouble-maker. Half a century on, Paris is burning and barricaded again and the city’s cobble stones are being prised up to be hurled at police once more, but Cohn-Bendit sees little comparison with the clashes of 50 years ago. 

He views the gilets jaunes not as revolutionaries but as a movement veering dangerously into authoritarianism. In an interview with the Observer, Cohn-Bendit, now a friend and adviser to President Emmanuel Macron, said: “This movement is very different to May 68. Back then, we wanted to get rid of a general (Charles de Gaulle); today these people want to put a general in power,” he said, referring to calls by certain gilets jaunes for the former chief of defence staff General Pierre de Villiers, who resigned after falling out with Macron in July 2017, to be made prime minister.

“And nobody in 68 made death threats against those who want to talk. This is the power of force. All those on the left thinking this is a leftwing revolution are wrong: it’s veering to the right. To hear that gilets jaunes who want to negotiate are receiving death threats is evidence of this authoritarian right.

“I hear people from la France Insoumise (hard left), talking about this being a great people’s revolt and how the people are speaking, but these are the same ordinary people who pushed Trump into power. “We saw in Germany in 1933 what ‘ordinary’ people did. Not all ordinary people are good … it’s not an accident that this movement has proposed General de Villiers as an alternative leader.” Cohn-Bendit speaks from family experience. He was born in France to German-Jewish parents who fled Nazi Germany in 1933. Now 73, he holds dual nationality and splits his time between the two countries… read more: