Wednesday, January 13, 2010



By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden

Today, the Green Party of German celebrates its 30th anniversary. It was founded on this day officially in Karlsruhe in 1980 and became within a decade a very powerful small party in German politics. It did so by constantly holding out for far better social and ecological conditions while promoting a youthful image of greater democratic participation by West German citizens. Moroever, it was seen as the party most interested in promoting a peaceful and reconciliatory image of German at a time when the Cold War was heating up.

Although the Green Party did not serve in a national governing coalition until approximately 18 years after its founding, like many small progressive parties in the United States, the German Greens Platform was gradually absorbed into the platforms of most of the other significant political parties in Germany within a decade or so after its founding. First the Social Democrats and then later the Christian Democrats/Christian Socialists, and even the Free Democrats or Liberal parties became more environmentally aware and interested in the multicultural reality of German citizenry and their diverse political interests.

Fairly soon after the Greens came into politics in Germany, the Chernobyl nuclear accident occurred in the Ukraine, and within a few years the Greens had obtained their first major political triumph. That is, Germany, once a leader in nuclear power made an about face. The nation began to turn its back on the nuclear option and even began to close down older more dangerous plants and nuclear processing centers. Today, it is still very questionable whether any new nuclear reactors will be built in Germany.

Initially, in the 1980s, the German Greens were seen as the outsiders and underdogs-of-the-masses who were not interested at all in the Post-WWII model of growth and exports-at-all-cost mentality which had dominated in Germany through the 1970s. The Greens gave voice to the voiceless, who were much more concerned with issues of quality of living vs. pure symbols of economic growth. The Greens challenged the status quo with crazy hairstyles, hippy clothing, long beards, and anti-authoritarian behavior—for example, challenging the former head of East Germany on live TV to answer the West German call to support human rights and allow more freedoms in the West.

Early on though, the German Greens split into two camps, even as the larger parties tried to squash their successes in the polls by refusing to make a coalition with the new-kids-on-the-block. These two camps of the Greens have been called the ‘realos” (realists) and the “fundis” (fundamentalist). This led to some lively TV and private debate in the party for decades as the Greens often remained in the Opposition and could thus afford to be very critical—especially, due to the party’s popularity as a voice for the disenfranchised- but-more-thoughtful Germans (many of whom had originally been upset with the Grand Coalition of the dominant parties in the late 1960s).

These German grey beards of the early 1980s joined forces with the more youthful anti-nuke movement of that same era to voice the fears and concern of a majority of Germans in both East and West. The Greens, more than any other party gave a voice to the fear that a war between East and West was too costly to play around with. This led young people in East and West Germany to seek to build as many bridges as possible between East and West in the 1980s.

Alas, by the 1990s, the Green “realos” eventually came to be ever more dominant, especially after those Greens in what had been West Germany came to be integrated with the smaller group. This smaller group was known as Buendnisse ’90 (Alliance 1990) and came from East Germany. (Preceding the autumn elections after the October 1990 Unification of the two Germanies, Alliance and the Greens had joined forces.) By end of the 20th Century, the Green/Alliance Party in Germany was sharing coalition government with the Social Democratic Party (SPD)of Germany.

One of the most famous representative of the 8 years that the SPD/Green Government was in power in Germany was Joschka Fischer. However, more than a decade after that particular Green party became part of a German governing coalition for the first time, many younger voters in Germany are no longer as enamored by the Greens because, Fisher and other “realos” had given away some of the more sacred issues of the Green Party—issues which had fired the national imagination in the early 1980s.The most obvious move away from its useful ideas had been when the Fischer-led Greens/Alliance surrendered its position as the party which most represented pacifism and anti-war or anti/weapons stances of both many young and older Germans.

Therefore, on the one hand, it is certainly true that as foreign minister, Fischer enabled Germany and Europe to integrate more and more peacefully together. However, in doing so the Greens have come to appear to most Germans to have simply become too mainstream for their taste. That is, the Greens today in 2010 often leave voters with a lukewarm taste in their mouths.

This is one reason the SPD splinter party THE LEFT received nearly as many votes (10 %) as the Green/Alliance party did in last Septembers national elections. THE LEFT conveys more youthful liveliness and is now seen as a party that has not yet buckled under realist pressure to give up its ideals. THE LEFT party also called more strongly than even the Green leadership did in 2009 for pulling troops out of Afghanistan this year (—i.e. rather than to increase German and NATO forces).

In short, the Greens seem to be graying after 30 years. German voters are now looking elsewhere for new ideas to some degree. Only by returning to its stronger anti-free market anti-capitalists roots will the Greens be able to regain the trust of many of its more traditional voters in the years ahead.



Blogger Andy Lang said...

Kevin, thanks for your informative article on the Greens' 30th anniversary. One small correction: you wrote that the Left won "nearly as many votes" as the Greens in the last election. Actually, in the past two elections, the Left won substantially more votes than the Greens. (5.2 million compared to 4.6 million in 2009, and 4.1 compared to 3.8 million in 2005.)

11:11 PM  

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