Danny Cohn-Bendit became the icon of the ’68 Generation that shaped the present epoch. The USA had Abbie Hoffman and future stock broker Jerry Rubin. Europe had Dany le Rouge, ‘Danny the Red’, who led a youth revolt that almost toppled the Government of President Charles de Gaulle. Today Cohn-Bendit is a Green Party leader and Member of the European Parliament. He is, like many of the ’68 Generation across the world, part of the mainstream. The ’68 revolt, from Chicago to Prague, succeeded in reshaping the world. The Alt Right/New Right often alludes to it as an example of successful tactics that can be emulated. I contend that the ’68 revolt would have been a failure had it not been sponsored by the very ‘Establishment’ that it was supposedly fighting. The Right has no such options, no such sponsors, precisely because it is a genuine ‘revolt against the modern world’, to borrow the expression from Julius Evola, while the New Left was a part of the dialectical process that established what is now called ‘globalisation’. The New Left took up the mantle of the Old Left in the service of plutocracy for, as Oswald Spengler said about a century ago, the Left, including the most extreme, acts in the direction dictated by money.1
Dany Cohn-Bendit’s Student Revolt in France 1968
Daniel Cohn-Bendit recalls that the worldwide ’68 revolt was more ‘American’ than the European New Left cared to admit. He was in the USA in 1965–66 and met Mark Rudd, one of the primary New Left leaders. Cohn-Bendit states ‘[E]ssentially the revolt was spurred by the idea of a counterculture, which was mainly carried via rock music. “Woodstock Nation”: that was the myth of a new America, and we were all for it’.2
Cohn-Bendit, by his own admission, is defined by his Jewishness. He sees being Jewish as inherently antagonistic towards the nation-state, as intrinsically internationalist. ‘What’s astonishing is that Jews, mostly middle-class Jews, have always participated in left-wing movements to a disproportionate extent: in Bolshevism as well as in the American SDS.3 I’m hesitant to make generalizations here. But perhaps it has to do with the messianic hope for another world and an idealistic desire to improve matters’.4 Improve matters for whom? Cohn-Bendit has himself been critical of the way the ‘messianic hope’ has played out in Israel.
Like the German youth of the ’68 revolt, the Red Army Faction and others, Jewish and Gentile, he was defined by Hitlerism: ‘I do feel that I’m rooted in Judaism, but in a cultural, not a religious sense. At the center of it all is my parents’ story of escape: as German Jews and political refugees they had to hide from the Nazis and their collaborators. That’s something I cannot shake off.’5 It is also something that German Gentile youth could not shake off – the guilt of the Hitlerite past of their parents and grandparents, which led to the revolt against anything of a traditional character that remained after the war, especially those ‘primary ties’ such as family that the Frankfurt School of Critical Theorists such as Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse had identified as intrinsically ‘Fascist’, and in particular measure because they were based on ‘patriarchy’, a ‘bourgeois’ concept. This was the ‘F’ factor in the psych-sociological study of Adorno, et al., The Authoritarian Personality. Students throughout the world in 1968 chanted through the streets the names of Hebert Marcuse – the Rockefeller-funded6 ex-OSS operative7 – alongside the names of Mao and Marx.
Cohn-Bendit was correct. The ’68 student revolt across Europe was an American import. The ideology was supplied by the Rockefeller/CIA/State Department-sponsored Frankfurt Critical Theorists. The emergence of the New Left had been laid by CIA sponsorship of student organisations, starting with the National Student Association in the USA.8 The sponsorship began as a CIA stunt to infiltrate the World Youth Festivals that had a dominant Soviet presence, another primary recipient of CIA largesse since 1958 being Gloria Steinem of ‘feminist’ fame.9 Cohn-Bendit’s vision for the future utopia was based on the nihilism and puerility of Warner/Atlantic rock, and the ‘Woodstock Nation’, a giant corporate marketing gimmick whose legacy continues to reap massive profits.
The puerility of Cohn-Bendit’s ‘Woodstock Nation’ ‘ideology’ was transplanted to France, where the adolescent preoccupation with ‘sexual freedom’ that had been made into a revolutionary ideology by the Freudo-Marxian Frankfurtians such as Marcuse, Fromm, Wilhelm Reich became the cause célèbre: Cohn-Bendit occupied the girl’s dormitory at the University of Nanterre, with the profound demand that the dormitories should be assessable to male students. Rumours that he would be expelled led to a student revolt, resulting in the upheavals of May1968 that brought the government to the brink. The month previously Cohn-Bendit’s American colleague, Mark Rudd, became the leader of the student revolt at Columbia University.
De Gaulle Opposed U.S. Hegemony
Suspicions on the CIA backing of the ’68 revolt in France persist. Why would the U.S. Establishment want the destabilisation of France? The answer is to be found in Charles de Gaulle being perhaps the only major Western statesman of the time to challenge U.S. global hegemony. He withdrew France from NATO military command. In 1967, he put an arms embargo on Israel and began cultivating relations with the Arab world.10 He worked for a neutralist united Europe. Most of all, Gaullist France had resisted the domination of the U.S. dollar over the world economy.
Multiple award-winning writer Morgan Sportès recently wrote of de Gaulle as the real rebel in May ’68, not Cohn-Bendit. ‘He was alone, surrounded by enemies’, delivering his last battle. Sportès writes of the time: ‘In the USA, an anti-Gaullist press campaign of incredible violence and stupidity was in full swing. … The only thing for which the Americans have never forgiven him, Pierre Messmer11 told me shortly before his death, is not his exit from NATO’s integrated defence, nor his famous speech denouncing the war in Vietnam, but it is his questioning of the “exorbitant privilege of the dollar”’.12
The press from across the Atlantic screamed loudly, denouncing ‘Gaullefinger’! In addition, he was trying to build a Europe ‘independent of the two blocs’, that would include eastern countries. In the same spirit he had developed an ‘all-round’ defence, his nuclear missiles to be turned eastward but also to the west (General Ailleret implemented this policy, and would die opportunely in a plane crash in March 68, on the eve of the famous month of May).13
The journalist Vincent Nouzille, who spent five years researching CIA archives for the period 1958 to 1981, found that five French embassies in Latin America were instructed to ‘fend off U.S. policy in the Dominican Republic’. This was relayed to the USA in May 1965 by Jean de La Grandville, head of France’s Atomic and Space Affairs Department, who was working for the CIA. Nouzille revealed that Washington encouraged opponents of de Gaulle, welcomed France’s destabilisation in May 1968, and even prepared a secret plan for military intervention in France. The USA backed the Socialist leader Francois Mitterand, who aimed to unite the Left and attain the presidency.14
U.S. and Soviet Responses to May ’68
In June 1968, Cohn-Bendit said to eminent journalist Hervé Bourges, who later became France’s ambassador to UNESCO,
It seems that the CIA has been interested in us lately: some newspapers and American associations, subsidiaries and intermediaries of the CIA, have offered us significant sums. … The feelings of the CIA with regard to de Gaulle, we know through a report by Richard Helms to President Johnson on May 30, 1968 denouncing the general a dictator who will stay in power by pouring rivers of blood.15
A feature in The Irish Times is worth citing in full. Referring to the examination of CIA and Soviet archives by French journalist Vincent Jauvert, it is shown that the CIA regarded de Gaulle as an enemy of U.S. foreign policy, while the USSR, which de Gaulle naïvely assumed to be behind the Leftist revolt as part of a Communist plot, appealed to the French Communist party to try and stymie the chaos:
In mid-Cold War, the US and Soviet intelligence agencies watched the May 1968 events in France with alarm. The French journalist Vincent Jauvert of the Nouvel Observateur went to archives in Texas and Moscow to search out the CIA and KGB reports of the time. The documents he found are startling.
Far from supporting Gen Charles de Gaulle’s right-wing regime, the US blamed him for the anarchy in France and apparently hoped the Socialist patriarch, Pierre Mendes France, would take power. On May 30th, 1968, the head of the CIA, Richard Helms, sent a five-page secret memorandum to President Lyndon Johnson. De Gaulle had just returned from Germany, dissolved the National Assembly and vowed on television to save France from the threat of ‘totalitarian Communism’.
Helms was merciless in his criticism of the general who had two years earlier expelled NATO headquarters from Paris. ‘The Gaullists have repeatedly violated and perverted their own constitution’, he reported to President Johnson. ‘They have treated even the moderate opposition with disdain and indifference.’
France was ‘on the knife-edge of disaster’, Helms said. ‘By refusing to resign, de Gaulle has taken on the workers and students frontally. He has reverted to type, the powerful, challenging autocrat. … He has come out of his corner swinging defiantly at opponents who thought that they had him on the ropes.’
The general had divided France into those who were with him and his enemies – all considered Communist dupes. ‘When, how and if a head-on collision between right and left will occur is not yet clear, but a spark could set it off’, the CIA chief reported.
To force de Gaulle to resign, 10 million striking workers might cut gas and electricity supplies and sabotage the factories they were occupying. If they did so, de Gaulle would have to call in the army – which Helms expected to obey orders. The CIA chief said de Gaulle could break the back of the rebellion if the labourers returned to work. ‘If not, civil conflict of major proportions will almost certainly ensue.’ In the short term, he thought the government could restore order and essential public services ‘but only at the cost of poisoning political life for the indefinite future. … Whatever the short term outcome,’ Helms concluded, ‘France faces a period of unrest and, eventually, even civil war.’
French officials believed the French Communist Party (PCF) and their Soviet backers were fomenting revolution. Nothing could have been further from the truth, as shown by secret telegrams sent in May 1968 by the Soviet ambassador to Paris, Valerian Zorine. In the words of the French historian, Jean Lacouture, Zorine had ‘the face of a starving alligator’. The USSR’s former ambassador to the UN Security Council, Zorine was also a member of the central committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
After a lengthy meeting at the embassy with the treasurer of the PCF, Gaston Plissonier, Zorine addressed the memo recently unearthed by Vincent Jauvert to only two people: the Foreign Minister, Andrei Gromyko and Boris Ponomarev, the head of the international department of the Soviet Communist Party.
Together, Plissionier and Zorine concluded that May 1968 must not be a new Bolshevik revolution. ‘The student movement has no serious prospects since the French students are mainly from the lower and middle bourgeoisie’, Zorine wrote. ‘Those from the working class represent only 10 per cent, and what is more, the students are in the grip of leftist and Trotskyist elements.’
The French government had failed to understand how much the Communists disliked their left-wing cousins. Ironically, Moscow wanted to keep the right-wing de Gaulle – the bug-bear of Washington – in power. Throughout the secret telegrams, ambassador Zorine railed against ‘leftists’. A few days earlier, the student leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit had pushed his way in front of Communist demonstrators in a march, saying he was happy to be ahead of ‘the Stalinist toad’.
The strategy of the PCF, related by Plissonier to Zorine, was ‘on the one hand to support the students against police repression and on the other hand to isolate the leftists who are trying to provoke further clashes with the police’.
The PCF and its Soviet backers wanted to maintain control of the French working classes. Despite its revolutionary heritage, the PCF hoped to break out of its ‘internal exile’ by consolidating ties with the Socialists and sharing power with them in government. The French Communists were deeply alarmed that de Gaulle named them as the enemy in his May 30th address. The last thing they wanted was to lose their ‘respectability’ by provoking the intervention of the army, so Plissonier promised Zorine that gas and electricity workers would follow orders from the Communist trade union, the CGT, not to interrupt supplies. ‘In the absence of a revolutionary situation,’ Zorine concluded, ‘if the PCF had taken the path which the leftist elements wanted to drag them into, the Party would have doomed itself to destruction.’16
1Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1971) Vol. II, p. 402.
2‘1968: Power to the Imagination’, interview with Cohn-Bendit, The New York Review of Books, May 10, 2018.
3SDS = Students for a Democratic Society, the primary New Left organisation in the USA, from which the terrorist Weather Underground emerged.
4‘1968: Power to the Imagination’, op. cit.
5‘1968: Power to the Imagination’, ibid.
6Marcuse received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation for his book Soviet Marxism (1958).
7Office of Strategic Services, predecessor of the CIA. Prior to that he was employed by the Office of War Information, the wartime propaganda agency of the U.S. Government. For the employment of Marcuse and other Critical Theorists by the OSS see: R. Laudani (ed.) Secret Reports on Nazi Germany: The Frankfurt School Contribution to the War Effort: Franz Neumann, Herbert Marcuse & Otto Kirchheimer (Princeton University Press, 2013).
8Sol Stern, ‘A Short Account of International Student Politics and the Cold War with Particular Reference to the NSA, CIA, etc.’, Ramparts, March, 1967.
9Bolton, Revolution from Above (London: Arktos Media Ltd., 2011), pp. 164–167.
10Bolton, Babel Inc., (London: Black House Publishing, 2013) pp. 181–182.
11Minister of Armies under de Gaulle.
12Morgan Sportès, ‘LE MAI 1968 dont les médias n’ont pas voulu parle’, Comite Valmy. October 24, 2017.
13Morgan Sportès, ‘LE MAI 1968’, ibid.
14Vincent Nouzille, Des secrets si bien gardés [Secrets so well kept: the CIA and the White House] , Vol. 1, 1958-1981, (Fayard, 2009).
15Jean-Pierre Farkas, La Pavé (Phonurgia nova editions, 1998).
16Lara Marlow, ‘Paris provoked CIA and KGB alarm’, The Irish Times, May 9, 1998.