Thursday, September 23, 2010

on the german green resurgence

In the week after Merkel’s deal with the nuke industry was made public, polls registered a sharp spike in support for the Green Party. Nationally, they are suddenly polling 22 percent, and in Berlin are approaching 30 percent. Whether this represents a durable shift in the parliamentary landscape remains to be seen.

In any case, it is a good time to remember the instructive trajectory and shabby fall of the German Greens over the last decade. Formed in the aftermath of 1968 and the repression of the student movement, the Greens advanced four clear principles: ecology, social justice, non-violence and grassroots democracy. Initially at least, the Greens’ stylistic affronts to the conservative German political class were accompanied by an alternative vision that included some substantively radical challenges to the status quo.

Over time a split emerged, however, that would prove fatal. The Realos, oriented toward electoral campaigning and longing to participate in a governing coalition, eventually banished the Fundis, who held to the founding principles. Under Fischer, the Greens were transformed from a party of principle to one more instance of neo-liberal opportunism. They were soon rewarded with power and major portfolios. As Foreign Minister, Fischer’s first major test came with the crisis of Yugoslavia. He proved pliable, presiding over and defending with double-talk the first foreign deployment of German troops since World War II. And he never looked back – non-violence indeed.

The Fundis reorganized as the Ökologische Linke, or ÖkoLinX as it is also known, and renewed their commitment to radical change. The ÖL's five-point stance is critical and unequivocal: 1. Against capital and for solidarity and radical ecology; 2. Against patriarchy and for feminism; 3. Against racism and for internationalism; 4. Against militarism; and 5. Against the state and for grassroots democracy. Despite the guiding presence of the often brilliant Jutta Ditfurth, the ÖL was punished with marginalizing ostracism. It remains active, and is never missing from any important demo or protest action. But its fate speaks much about the compromises required by capitalist pseudo-democracy. Only the pressure from below of larger radical movements can dissolve the stasis.

Wherever the Green Party will go from here, it is not likely to be radical. Before Merkel’s nuke fiasco, Green politicians were busy cozying up to the CDU and dreaming publicly of a Conservative-Green coalition. "Now we are preparing ourselves to become the ruling party."(Renate Künast) Its current orientation and leadership is irredeemable; its corrupted realism does insult to the color green. Real change in the party would take a revolution from below. The real crises of objective processes call for nothing less.

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