Monday, June 13, 2005

Nous sommes tous des Suisses Allemands



The title above was once a humorous take by the students of Geneva on one of the wonderful slogans of the May 68 events in Paris, expressing solidarity with Daniel Cohn-Bendit - Nous sommes tous des Juifs Allemands. Switzerland is a united country, but the distinct cultural identities of la Suisse Romande and the SchweizerDeutsch speaking areas still occasion this sort of good-tempered jibe.

The use of the original Parisian phrase has gone far beyond simply protesting at xenophobic attacks on 'Danny'. I'm a sentimentalist; I hope it will be immortalised as expressing something worthwhile about late 20th century European sensibilities.

Cohn-Bendit himself recently gave an interview to John Lichfield of the Independent, republished at Friends of Europe . His subsequent career, from the days when he was a busy agitator during the May revolt against a sclerotic French system, is interesting. Are there, I wonder, any equivalent political migrations on the left in Britain ?




For many people, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, 60 years old, will forever be "Danny the Red", the cheeky, ginger-haired, Franco-German, student revolutionary, who led the Paris student-worker revolt of May 1968. In truth, Cohn-Bendit has long since metamorphosed into Danny the Green, a French, then a German Euro MP, a "liberal-libertarian" ecologist and militant pro-European.

Come another May, come another French rebellion, Danny is back; this time on the side of the establishment. Sort of.In the vociferous, confusing European referendum campaign in France, muddling towards an uncertain conclusion next Sunday, Danny the Red has become Danny the Blue (with Yellow Stars). He has been the single most passionate, energetic and persuasive campaigner for the "yes" camp. Cohn-Bendit has addressed 36 political meetings. He has appeared on a dozen television programmes. He has been called a "social traitor". He has had eggs thrown at him. He has been hailed by ex-president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing - who was a senior, financial apparatchik of the bourgeois, imperialist French state in 1968 - as a "true European, a political visionary".

You can read the full interview here.

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