Daniel Cohn-Bendit: children and the ‘revolution’.

Unpublished letter to The Guardian.

DANIEL COHN-BENDIT: children and the ‘revolution’.

keywords: paedophilia, predatory male sexuality, the libertarian Left, German Green Party.

 So the German Green Party is to launch an investigation into its active promotion in the 80s of paedophile groups who lobbied for the legalisation of sex with children (Kate Connolly, 15 05 2013).

Connolly reports that in his 1975 book, Daniel Cohn-Bendit (legendary Left activist, straddling France and Germany as an MEP, now 64) described his “constant flirtations with the children (which) took on erotic characteristics”, when he worked in “an anti-authoritarian kindergarten” in the 70s. This begs the question of how he had set up his relationship with these children.

He has explained that he had wanted to “provoke prudish, bourgeois Germany”. So his interest in (excitement at?) sexual encounters with children, for whom he had a professional responsibility and duty of care, fuelled his sexual behaviour in the service of his ‘political”(?) project (and without the children’s consent). His use of the word “prudish” is significant, used by ‘libertarians’ to shut up those (usually women/feminists) who resist the idea of sexual availability at all times and on heterosexual men’s terms.

Cohn-Bendit’s agenda was sexual; his behaviour towards the children at the kindergarten, an abuse of gendered power, as well as arrogant: cheerfully assuming the license to groom and exploit.

This behaviour and these attitudes were sanctioned by a prevailing culture that failed or refused to acknowledge the problem of predatory male sexuality: in 2001 he noted, in his defence, that ”discussions about children’s sexuality and how to help them discover it were rife at the time in the leftwing revolutionary circles in which we moved”. (Emphasis added.) The fact that as late as 2001 he thought this observation constituted either explanation or defence reveals how untouched by feminism and critical masculinity studies he has remained, given that the desire for sex with a child or very young woman, instead of an adult, an equal, presumes a power dynamic (predatory dominance) routinely problematised and critiqued in the West since the 1970s.

The image of self-styled male ‘revolutionaries’ obsessing about children’s sexuality (while supposedly plotting the ‘revolution’) would be really funny, (because they did take themselves so seriously), if there had not been victims. As for these men “helping children discover their sexuality”, that sounds really creepy: and definitely personal rather than political.

So the evidence evinced from Connolly’s short report from Berlin points to the historical prevalence and acceptability of predatory and abusive male sexual behavior and the power imbalances within which it flourished, in this instance, in the guise of political insurrection; as well as the threat it poses, not just to its immediate victims, but to a feminist-friendly Left politics, capable of shifting society’s values and practices away from these old style gender relations and practices.

In the UK, we now know that Saville alive was deadly, but that his post mortem is proving more useful, more political in its potentially positive consequences, in helping us better understand historical gender power relations, predatory male sexuality, and the obstacles these still present, not just for a humane and just society, but for the real revolution: feminist-inspired Left politics. As more evidence of the violence and violations consequent on these entrenched social arrangements and practices moves beyond the ‘personal’ and the hidden, to become part of public knowledge, discourse, and social transformation, the personal reminiscences of Cohn-Bendit become politicised as evidence.

In contrast to his apparently untroubled retrospective stance, his lingering frisson looking back, the German Green Party has at least acknowledged as its starting point for its investigation, that “wrong decisions about paedophilia” (cited Connolly, 15 05 2013) were made in the 1980s.

val walsh / 17 05 2013

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