Daniel Cohn-Bendit (FR-DE)

International Authors' Stage in The Black Diamond

Wednesday 27 April 2016 at 20:00 The Queen's Hall
Daniel Cohn-Bendit: from the barricades in Paris 1968 via the Green Movement to the European Parliament
Daniel Cohn-Bendit: from the barricades in Paris 1968 via the Green Movement to the European Parliament

The eternal anarchist

If one turns on German radio or French TV – it is the same: Daniel Cohn-Bendit is very often part of the debate. Whether it is the collapsed economy of Greece or the climate summit meeting in Paris, the media phone the enfant terrible of European politics to get his analysis of the situation. Often provocative and ironic. And always charismatic. Now he is coming to the International Forfatterscene to speak, among other things, about what he calls ‘his political last will and testament’.

He is famous for his provocations and respected for his indomitable determination to discuss and change the society of which he is a part – and Europe is his arena.

The son of German Jews who fled to Paris, he grew up in France and became one of the best-known profiles of the French student revolution, which led to his being expelled from France in 1968. Back in Germany, he became known for his ideas concerning an alternative society and for movements, before entering at full strength the German political party Die Grünen (The Green Party) in 1984. For a considerable number of years, he was a member of the European Parliament on alternating German and French lists of candidates.

The paradox is that he still calls himself an anarchist, even though he has been a key force in building up the green movement in EU, France and Germany. For more than 30 years, he has helped to establish party apparatuses and used democratic institutions, before he once more has torn himself free from consensus, organisation thinking and party lines.

In 2014, he published the book Pour supprimer les partis politiques!?- Réflexions d’un apatride sans parti (Do away with political parties!? – thoughts of someone without state or party). The text has been translated into a number of languages – most recently Norwegian – and is a sort of political last will and testament. His tough message is that party politics strangles all forms of vision – and in itself is the reason why it is not the politicians that now set social change in motion but, on the contrary, popular movements. The political debate gets drowned in internal organisational issues, the division of powers, strategy and control, whereas movements are able to establish new, imaginative possible solutions, ideas, engagement and courses of action in the broad social strata. He has seen environmental movements act with considerable vigour and what, one may ask, would he say about a Danish movement such as Venligboerne (EazyIntegration), who have worked all out while the domestic party-political apparatus has at times seemed paralysed.

Revelation via literature

In his book he talks about how confined and polarised he himself became as someone elected to the European Parliament. For days on end he listened to speeches that were part of a highly specific culture, i.e. the culture for European issues, European jargon and what he calls ‘extremely peculiar decision-making processes’. He therefore describes it as a revelation of inspiration to think along new lines when in a Swiss and German TV programme he became the host for the literature programme Literaturclub, for which he from 1994 to 2003 had to read five novels a month. While reading, he could liberate his habitual thinking from the shackles of the European Parliament: ‘I floated free in a different world, I escaped from myself, I sent my body, my fantasies and ideas somewhere completely different – on a health-bringing journey, a game! Art, literature, football and rock’n’roll put a spoke in the wheel of total political eclipse!’

When The Royal Library is visited by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, he will therefore talk about how we as a society have a compelling need of a completely new type of organisation that is capable of thinking and creating in a cooperation with the knowledge society. His own suggestion is political cooperatives that do not restrict themselves to arriving at points of view but promote exchanges of opinion beyond antiquated political culture.

Cohn-Bendit’s book has not yet appeared in Danish, but is available in, for example, a Norwegian edition. It begins with a quotation from the French philosopher Simone Weil, who died in 1943:

‘Almost everywhere - and often for purely technical problems - the operation of taking sides, of taking position for or against, has replaced the obligation to think. This leprosy of the mind began in political circles then spread throughout the country to almost all thinking. It is doubtful that we can cure this disease, which is killing us, if we do not start by abolishing political parties.’ (Note on the Abolition of All Political Parties)


Daniel Cohn-Bendit talking to the journalist Adam Holm

Adam Holm is a historian, journalist, writer and reviewer.
Ph.D. in modern history (Right-wing radicalism in Europe) from the University of Copenhagen. 
Former debate editor for Politiken.
From 2006 presenter and  programmer on DR2, for many years the host for Deadline, until February 2016.
Works freelance at present as a  journalist, writer, etc. 
Has contributed to a number of books, including Med andre øjne (With other eyes) with Peter Christensen and Marcus Rubin from 2007 and Orientalske rejser (Oriental journeys) from 2010 with Anders Jerichow.

The event takes place in English.

Organised in a cooperation with The French Embassy, The German Embassy and Institut Français.

Standard 110 kr.
Diamondclub 70 kr.
Students 60 kr.


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