Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Questions about the "Gruen" Party

by Ben P Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 08:28:53 PM EST

Now, my first instinct when it comes to the various Green Parties around the world is to view them through the lens of their American incarnation, but as I look more closely at their German version, I think I should probably question some of my aversion to Green Parties outside the US. What do I mean by this?


Well, in the US, the Green Party plays a role more like that of the German Linke Party than it does its namesake. In other words, the Green Party in the US is a motley collection of unreconstructed left wing radicals (Marxists and anarchists), young anti-globalization types, and Ross Perot-type protest voters. It strikes me that the German version is not like this, however. It seems to me to be more along the lines of "social liberal" party that is actually a fairly pro-market party, centrist economically, leftist in terms of social politics, with a strong emphasis on environmental issues. Is this an accurate reading? If so, this would be the exactly the kind of party I would feel at home in.

Also, as to the current political horsetrading that is occurring in Germany. Clearly, Merkel is pretty desperately hoping she can get the Greens to sign on to a "Jamaica coalition," which strikes me as unlikely. Now I don't necessarily want to see this happen, but it also strikes me, that from the perspective of Joschka Fischer, he now finds himself in a very strong bargaining position vis-a-vis Merkel. In other words, he should at least talk to Merkel and drive a very hard bargain for his party's participation. He should demand to stay on as foreign minister as well as demand several other important cabinet positions. Whether this will be too much for Merkel to handle, it would very much weaken the right's ability to have a government that would be satisfactory, as this would be a government that would greatly magnify the left's role in a configuration of which the Left would only represent a fairly small fraction. Still, it seems Merkel's only choice if this Jamaica scenario is to have any possibility is an ostensibly center-right governmental "dog" whose center-left "tail" will be doing a lot more "wagging" than the other way round.

Display:
It seems to me to be more along the lines of "social liberal" party that is actually a fairly pro-market party, centrist economically, leftist in terms of social politics, with a strong emphasis on environmental issues.

That's how I see it, except that I'd say center left rather than center on economic issues with the exception of anything related to the environment. There are also significant internal divisions within the Greens but the right wing of the party is currently on top. Furthermore Joschka Fischer, the de facto Green leader is about as Antlanticist as you get in the continental West European left these days.  Incidentally they're my favorite German party and as you know I'm not a big fan of the far left.

by MarekNYC on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 12:15:53 AM EST
It seems Fischer isn't going to fight and retreating, which I am very disappointed about. As soon as it's getting too hot in the kitchen, he rather retires from the Green Party leadership position than fighting for its position. He is not at all willing to cooperate with the CDU and there seems to be quite a split going on within the Greens apparently.

Too bad. Though I think a Jamaica Coalition would be in fact a betrayal for any Green Party voter.

by mimi on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 05:24:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
no, i think it is more of a tactical retreat. he is not gone out of politics, keeps his mandate, and would also be available for a ministerial position.
The only positions he would not be in any longer is heading the fraction in the Bundestag.

It has been said in the past, that he has lost his spark and fighting spirit. It is good to quit, when you are on top. And he certainly is.

I applaud him.

and if he becomes a minister again, so much the better.

by PeWi on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 07:55:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ok, I see. Wished I could watch German TV.
by mimi on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 09:17:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Fisher's statement that the Greens will not be in the next government are a sensible reaction to becoming the 5th party in the Bundestag.

There could still be a minority CDU/CSU + FDP government if the greens abstained in the investiture vote.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 21st, 2005 at 05:41:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
in a mere quarter century. Started out with people from all over the place. Oodles of 70s-style ultraleftists, bundled up with a hearty chunk of progressive Xians, romantic conservatives, and people from all segments of the political center who under the combined impact of environmental devastation and the nuclear arms race for the first time in their lives came to question what we used to call "the system" in those days. Now it's a very different story. Not very many of those who founded the party have stuck around. Two people who have been there from the get-go are Joschka Fischer and Christian Stroebele, the most prominent representatives of the realo and fundie wings of the party. As you might imagine, realos want to change "the system" from within, whereas fundies refuse to be "corrupted" by it. Until about ten years ago, fundies held a strong majority among the party activists. And even these days, they are quite capable of mustering the votes it takes to, say, derail a party convention. But the realos have had one incredible success story, which ultimately swept Joschka Fischer into the vice chancellorship. The party of Joschka Fischer stands for sustainability, fiscal responsibility, and civil rights. Not a bad mixture IMO.

If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)
by brainwave on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 01:01:45 AM EST
the Greens also used to stand for peace. But since the Kosovo war (Fischer was one of the principal architects in Europe) there's been some confusion over this point... bear with us, we'll sort it out eventually ;-)

If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)
by brainwave on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 01:12:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks brainwave, I tried last night, trying to present the colourfull past of the German Greens with Army Generals and Naturist, but you did it so much more succinctly.

and to emphasis again, because I have learned that the "March through the insitutions" seem to be a peculiar German aspect of the peace and green movement.

So, I ask all the others here, was there a concerted attempt by eco-conscious, radical people to join established parties, become civil servants, teacher, church minister, get elected, from the outset in the 70ties, or is this something, that is slowly happening now?

by PeWi on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 11:01:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As you know, the March through the Institutions started at the end of the Ausserparlamentarische Opposition against the grand coaltion 1966-1969. When the Green party formed ten years later, many took it as a new phase of the March, and some are still thinking about it that way now.

If you can't convince them, confuse them. (Harry S. Truman)
by brainwave on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 01:17:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I know, the German situation reasonably well, but what about the US or Britain or France or other countries with a politically active and strong "Flowerpower" movement? Was there a similar acceptance of the need to reform from within, become a member of the establishment to adopt it then to one's peaceful and ecologic aims?
by PeWi on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 02:09:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is just my recollection, but in Britain and France in the 70s, I can't think of anything of the kind among the politically radical, ecologically aware counter-culture people. (Some of the Trots had plans of this sort, but that was the Trots.) It was more rejection of the whole shitheap, we were going to build something else. :-)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 03:10:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was in Boulder, Colorado, one of the hotbeds of The Revolution in the late sixties and early seventies, and I lived in a cooperative house with a bunch of other radicals. Some of whom are still radical. But what I remember most about the street protests and demonstrations was that there was a small core of solid radicals surrounded by a huge crowd of partiers, rowdies, and semi-interested bystanders. Mostly it was college students out for a day in the sun before going back to study for examinations.

I'm afraid that the number of true radicals in the U.S. is pretty small. Our lack of a viable socialist or green third party is a good indicator of this. In fact, our most visible third parties have been on the right, a la Perot in the late 1990s.

by asdf on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 03:20:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the Green Party in the US is a motley collection of unreconstructed left wing radicals (Marxists and anarchists), young anti-globalization types, and Ross Perot-type protest voters. It strikes me that the German version is not like this, however.

Heh, the German Greens started out just like that :-) outgoing foreign minister Joschka Fischer was a leading member of the second wave of the extra-parliamentary leftist opposition in Frankfurt am Main, one of those squatters who settled in abadoned old houses estate developers wanted to run down and build something else in their place, and clashed with police. When Joschka became a minister for the first time, in the middle eighties when the first SPD-Greens coalition formed in Hessen state, he was sworn in clad in jeans and wearing a jogging shoe.

As for the current state of the party, I think you are about right, except this is the official line, the one carried on by the now dominant 'Realo' wing, but there still exists a significant "Fundi" wing - those who aren't really pro-market, and have a much stronger focus on the environmental issues. (Also, what you call 'centrist' would count rather strongly to the right in Germany just three decades ago, or even 15 years ago when I lived near Frankfurt.)

Regarding Fischer and Merkel, Fischer on one hand is not a party leader (the party has a double leadership: currently Claudia Roth and Reinhard Bütikofer, the first a Fundi the second a Realo), on the other hand, he must know himself that the aversions of his voters are too big (after all, FDP and CDU campaigned with abolishing just those reforms the Greens achieved in the last 6 years) - I believe hence his public rejection of the Jamaica version.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 06:54:08 AM EST
That swearing-in on 12 December 1985:

Those shoes, currently on exhibition in the foreign ministry:



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 07:03:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...about the U.S. Green Party from?  You dismiss us as
a motley collection of unreconstructed left wing radicals (Marxists and anarchists), young anti-globalization types, and Ross Perot-type protest voters.

Certainly there is an minority within the Green Party that fits this description. They're organized in Peter Camejo's group that calls itself Greens for Democracy and Independence.  Although a number of folks whose first loyalty belongs to the Greens have joined GDI for a variety of reasons, the core of Camejo's group (like Camejo himself) are lifelong sectarian leftists for whom the Green Party is simply the latest in a series of vehicles to achieve their teleological vision of the future.  Many of these folks are committed members of the ISO.

But the Camejo wing of the Green Party (I'd call it the Nader wing, but Nader has repeatedly refused to join the party at all) have repeatedly lost intraparty debates over the last couple years. They lost last year, when our convention nominated David Cobb, instead of endorsing Nader's quixotic independent presidential campaign. And they lost this year when, at the U.S. Green Party's annual meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a number of GDI proposals to "reform" the Green Party were decisively defeated by the delegates.

The majority of the Green Party are activists who are committed to a distinctly Green vision, built around our party's Ten Key Values: Social Justice, Community-Based Economics, Nonviolence, Decentralisation, Future Focus/Sustainability, Feminism, Personal and Global Responsibility, Respect for Diversity, Grassroots Democracy, Ecological Wisdom.  We understand that building a Green Party in this country is a long process, and that it will happen from the ground up. The key to our longterm success is not losing presidential races, but winning local races and building trust. That's why dozens of local Green elected officials are going to work for their communities every day.

Now the Green Party of the United States is certainly not the "pro-market," centrist-but-environmentally-friendly party of Ben P's dreams.  But it is even more certainly not the red-baiting caricature that he presents.

For those interested in finding out more about what the Green Party of the United States actually is, please check out our website.  

by GreenSooner (greensooner@NOSPAMintergate.com) on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 10:41:59 AM EST
thanks for clarifying this!!!

Your description of where the US Green party is working in the moment, is exactly how te German Green party started out in Germany as well. local activism, election into district, regional parliaments. but then there was the PR, but i understand, there are states, that vote (internally) also with PR, or at least on some district level?

by PeWi on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 10:54:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your description of where the US Green party is working in the moment, is exactly how te German Green party started out in Germany as well.

Except their leadership was taken over by that motley collection of unreconstituted left wing radicals (Marxists and anarchists), who then quickly reconstituted themselves, for example becoming ministers :-) (See Fischer above. It is noteworthy that much of the original 'Realo' wing started out as far-left rather than environmentalist, and just the opposite for the Fundis.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 11:02:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One problem is that the American Green Party has had the kind of internal bickering that plagues many minority parties. The biggest difficulty right now--in my opinion--is that the original emphasis on the environment has been diluted by the other issues. That's probably a side effect of not having a well-developed socialist party in America.
by asdf on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 11:03:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]