Parallel Lives

in:

Wayne Hall tells the story of two men who ended up in prison for the crime of thinking that televiewers and newspaper readers have the right (perhaps the duty) to apply in practice what they are taught in principle.

The first man was a German, a house painter called Josef Bachmann. Bachmann was a reader of Bildzeitung, flagship of the sensation-mongering Springer press. In April 1968 Bildzeitung was leading Bachmann to believe that the most precious and painfully-gained attainments of German public life were under threat from a certain “Red Rudi.”

Rudi Dutschke was a Protestant dissident who had refused military service in East Germany and moved to West Berlin in 1961, just before the wall went up. Progressing from Protestant theology to Frankfurt Marxist sociology, which he studied at the Free University in Berlin, Dutschke was being projected by the media in 1968, along with Daniel Cohn-Bendit in France, as an emblem of the New Left, a new generation of activists that was rejecting not only the “actually existing socialism” of the Eastern European regimes, but also the social-democratic “realism” which had led the German SPD at its 1959 Bad Godesberg congress to abandon the goal of replacing capitalism by socialism.

On 7th April 1968 Josef Bachmann shot Dutschke in the head in a Berlin street. His explanation that he wanted to “kill a dirty Communist” did not save him from arrest, but he was sentenced to only seven years in prison after Dutschke’s lawyers argued in court that he was only the unwitting tool of more powerful forces. Dutschke himself lost his memory as a result of the attack and had to relearn languages and his field of sociology. To help them both understand what had moved Bachmann to try and kill him, Dutschke initiated a consciousness-raising correspondence with the young worker. Bachmann was reportedly much affected by this correspondence, and it seems that it was after not having heard from Dutschke for a while that he committed suicide in 1970. On Christmas Eve 1979 Dutschke made a similar exit from this world, not by his own hand, but by Bachmann’s, posthumously, nearly twelve years after the Berlin shooting.

The second man is someone not of the past, but of the present, an Australian named David Hicks. David is at present being held in Cuba by the American government, under charge of being a terrorist. He has not been charged with anything in particular, but he is not a prisoner-of-war either, because the US is not officially at war with anybody, so David is not entitled to any rights that might apply under the Geneva Conventions for persons of POW status. Nobody, including his family, is allowed to visit or contact him, so David’s situation, although he cannot yet be judged to be a criminal, is much worse than Joseph Bachmann’s when he was in prison in Germany.

David was born and raised in Adelaide. Before going overseas he did all kinds of different jobs: he was a jackeroo on cattle-stations in the Northern Territory and Queensland. He worked in abbattoirs and as a casual labourer. In his spare time he rode bulls and horses in rodeos and hunted sharks. In his early twenties he left Australia for Japan to take a job training race-horses. Something he saw on television there changed his life. He saw that in Kossovo innocent people were being killed by the Serbs, so he thought he should go to try and help them. He joined the Kossovo Liberation Army.

At that time the KLA was being supported by the UN. After two months or so they decided that foreign help was no longer needed, and David was sent home to Adelaide, where he applied himself to the study of Islam. To further his studies in the Islamic faith and learn ancient Arabic he wanted to travel on the old silk road through the Himalayas, but the only way to do it in safety was to join the Pakistani Army, so he did so, serving in a border patrol in Kashmir. September 11th found him at Kandahar, Afghanistan, where on being contacted by his family he gave no sign of knowing anything about the terrorist attacks in the United States. His military superiors sent him to Kabul to defend the city against the Northern Alliance, but on 9th December was captured by Northern Alliance troops and taken prisoner. Subsequently he was handed over to the United States government and sent to Cuba.

David Hicks’ family say that if David has committed a crime he should be tried for it, in Australia. As an allied government of the United States, the Australian government should by rights be entitled to demand his repatration to face trial in his own country.

To quote his father: “We believe that David Hicks’ rights are a human being are being violated as long as he is detained in Cuba. If we allow this to happen to one Australian, we might as well surrender our own rights now. Don’t let David’s case set a precedent that could impair our own future freedoms. If David has committed a crime, he should be tried for it. As things stand, David could be detained indefinitely, yet never charged, or be allowed to defend himself in front of a judge or jury.”

It sometimes seems that Rudi Dutschke is not the only member of the 1968 generation to have lost half his brain at that time or subsequently. If this is a slanderous assertion, one way of helping to refute it would be for present-day activists to extend to David Hicks something like the solidarity that Rudy Dutschke extended to his own would-be murderer Josef Bachmann.

David Hicks's father Terry has shunned the media but has allowed an interview to be published on the internet, in order that the truth be told about his son. For further information contact

Trudy Dunn <fairgofordavid@hotmail.com>

Adelaide, SA Australia - Saturday, February 09, 2002

Wayne Hall is a long-term Australian expatriate, a citizen of Athens, Greece, and convenor of the Hellenic Direct Democratic Forum. Find out more about the Forum at this website .