Friday, September 02, 2011

3D Politics - Die Grünen

UPDATE: GERMAN GREENS GAIN IN ANOTHER STATE ELECTION -- Parties on the German left prevailed in a regional election in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Sunday... Perhaps the biggest winner of the day was the Green Party, which won 8.5 percent of the vote, more than double the 3.4 percent it received in 2006. See("State Election Adds to Gains by Social Democrats in Germany", The New York Times, September 4, 2011)

The United States may be stuck on stupid with our ridiculous permanent presidential campaign between so-called conservative Republicans and so-called liberal Democrats, but everywhere else Green Parties are on the move. The Alliance 90/The Greens party (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) in Germany is the world's strongest Green Party. Founded in 1980 and merging in 1993 with the civil rights movement Bündnis 90 of the former German Democratic Republic (a.k.a. East Germany), Greens have been represented in the German Bundestag for nearly thirty years. In our time of global crisis, even the old gray New York Times has at last grudgingly admitted that Greens are on the move in disparate countries like Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Colombia, and Sweden.

Screen shot from a web site for the German Greens

I am reposting the article from the NYT because it is a perfect follow-up to my earlier post on 3D politics.

Published in The New York Times, September 1, 2011
Greens Gain in Germany, and the World Takes Notice
By Nicholas Kulish

BERLIN — A string of Green Party victories and strong electoral showings across Germany, from the conservative south to the port cities of the north, are helping to redefine politics among voters who are increasingly losing faith in the more established parties.

The Green Party is poised to extend its march into the mainstream on Sunday when voters go to the polls in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The Greens could, for the first time, win seats in the State Parliament and demonstrate their ability to sustain political momentum.

"Nothing in our political science books has prepared us for this kind of party," said Josef Joffe, publisher of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, who noted that the Greens have won the culture war on the left over the rusty Social Democrats on issues like gay rights and the integration of immigrants. "I bet if you had a party like this in America, all my rich friends on both coasts would vote for it."

Although their roots are on the left, the Greens are being increasingly embraced by voters on the right, successfully tapping into a German strain of conservationist conservatism by opposing highways and the demolition of old buildings. It has benefited both from the slow collapse of European socialism and the rising awareness of renewable technologies that have brought even once-skeptical businesspeople into the fold.

With this potent coalition of voters, the Greens surprised Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party when it took control of the affluent southern state of Baden-Württemberg this spring, which is akin to capturing the Texas statehouse. In the process, the party proved it was a force to be reckoned with in German politics, where one in five voters now say they support the Greens.

The German Greens also have served as the spearhead of a global coming out for other Green parties. In Brazil’s presidential election last year, the Green Party candidate won nearly 20 million votes to place third in the first round. The Green Party in Colombia was founded just two years ago, but in 2010 saw its candidate for president place second.

Britain’s House of Commons welcomed its first Green Party member after last year’s election, and Australia’s Greens won their first seat in the lower house in 2010. More significantly, the Greens hold nine out of 76 seats in the Australian Senate, giving the party a swing vote and powerful leverage over legislation in the upper house, where no party holds a majority.

The global surge has remained under the radar in the United States, for many reasons. In a system dominated by two parties, the Greens have no representatives in Congress or, for that matter, in a single state legislature. The party’s image and electoral success in the United States has been tightly bound to the ultimately doomed presidential bids of Ralph Nader rather than depending on the grass-roots methods used to build the Greens in Germany. The German Greens even have their own local chapter in Washington, and they have served as a model for their political cousins abroad.

Gustav Fridolin, one of two leaders of the Swedish Green Party, said he kept a poster from the German Greens’ 2009 parliamentary campaign in his office as inspiration. It reads, "Jobs, jobs, jobs: Only Green helps escape the crisis."

"That important step away from the idea of threatening jobs, threatening development, has been taken in Germany," Mr. Fridolin said in a recent interview. "The party is a more interesting alternative for larger groups in society, not just for people studying environmental policy at university."

The mass killings in Norway in July riveted attention on the strength of right-wing populist parties across Europe, but particularly in Scandinavia. Yet with far fewer headlines, the Green Party in Sweden won more votes in last year’s parliamentary election than the far-right Sweden Democrats, taking 7.3 percent of the vote compared with 5.7 percent for the nationalists.

In Germany, the question is now whether the Greens sustain, or even build, on their recent advances. The party was buoyed by outrage over the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan, but it has fallen slightly in polls since. Still, the party could serve as a model for the postindustrial left in Europe and, perhaps, around the world.

It is a long way from the German party’s founding in 1980, when middle-class voters saw the Greens as radicals, heirs to the 1968 student protest movement or even the left-wing terrorists of the Red Army Faction. "People spat on my father when he went door to door," said Milena Oschmann, the daughter of leading party members in the city of Kiel, Germany. She now works for the party, splitting her time between Parliament and the local office in Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood.

Ms. Oschmann, 27, described how the party had played host in Berlin to visiting Greens from Greece, Taiwan and Japan as well as Sweden and Australia. In her sports jacket and ballet slippers, a Sony Vaio laptop balanced on her knees during a local meeting in Neukölln, Ms. Oschmann would be right at home on Capitol Hill. She studied politics in Bremen, Germany, and in London before moving to Berlin, a representative of the new generation of Green politicians who have left the beard-and-sandals stereotype behind.

While the Fukushima disaster is often credited with helping the Greens’ surge in Germany, their initial jolt in support in Baden-Württemberg came from the party’s opposition to a multibillion-dollar rail project known as Stuttgart 21 that involved tearing down portions of an old station and downing hundreds of old trees. “They’re covering both sides of the street, serving the deep conservative instincts of Germany for no change,” said Mr. Joffe, the newspaper publisher. “Protecting nature, slowing down growth, slowing down industrialization, is actually a conservative agenda.”

In most reliable scientific opinion surveys, the Greens are polling around 20 percent of the vote, nearly twice the 10.7 percent of the votes they won in the 2009 parliamentary election.

"In former times I always said the Green Party is the party of dentists’ wives," said Reinhard Schlinkert, one of the most established political pollsters in Germany. "Now many of the dentists have started voting for them."

But polls are not votes, and opinions can be fickle. The Greens surprised the political establishment by polling ahead of the center-left Social Democrats in some surveys this past spring — and appeared poised to win the Berlin mayoral race, one of the top prizes of German politics. But as the nuclear crisis receded, attention turned to whether they had the personnel and policy credentials to govern a big state like Baden-Württemberg.

"Once you’re No. 1, you’re in charge of everything," Cem Özdemir, one of the party’s two national leaders, said in an interview recently, "and you’re held accountable."

More on Bündnis 90/Die Grünen:

A green political party in Germany, formed from the merger of the German Green Party and Alliance 90 in 1993. Its leaders are Claudia Roth and Cem Özdemir. In the 2009 federal elections, the party won 10.7% of the votes and 68 out of 622 seats in the Bundestag.

January 13, 1980 - Foundation congress

In the 1970s, environmentalists and peace activists politically organised amongst thousands of action groups. The political party The Greens (German: Die Grünen) was founded January 13, 1980 in Karlsruhe to give this movement political and parliamentary representation. Opposition to pollution, use of nuclear power, NATO military action, and certain aspects of industrialised society were principal campaign issues. The Greens originated from civil initiatives, new social movements of the protests of 1968, but also from the conservative spectrum. Important figures in the first years were – among others – Joschka Fischer, Antje Vollmer, Petra Kelly, Rudi Dutschke, Undine von Blottnitz[1] and Herbert Gruhl.

GP Campaign
Milena Oschmann, right, campaigned for the party last month in Berlin. She said Greens from Greece and Japan had visited to study the Germans' success.

Four Pillars:
  • Ecological wisdom
  • Grassroots democracy
  • Nonviolence
  • Social justice

English Language Web Site:


Jim Doyle said...


In a post to the discussion list of Santa Clara County Greens you wrote:

I am still trying to spark a serious discussion among independentprogressives about just what exactly makes us different from run-of-the-millso-called liberal Democrats.

My response is perhaps we are not so different. Take for example, voter turnout as a criterion. The last time I checked the percentage of voters registered in one or the other of the parties who actually voted was very close to the same percentage.

My wife excoriates me with this factoid.

And she is a German citizen
who also points out that the Greens in Germany also approved of sending troops to Afghanistan.

Jim Doyle

Jim Doyle said...

We will not have any basis for comparison until we have an elected official whose performance can be measured.

MartinZehr said...

Addressing unaffiliateds and decline-to-states and independents could present a distinct vision. Some people seem to think that such a strategy would inevitably pull us away from our Key Values. This rests on a premise that our current status truly has a mass base of support, even among progressives. The 2000 Nader campaign has demonstrated the ceiling of 3%, outside of certain centers of progressivism- San Francisco, Madison, etc. A "progressive-centered" strategy also presumes that our KV are fundamentally at odds with the views and concerns of the people. We cannot beat the Dems at progressivism and even in CA we are seeing party-jumping now that has already shaken parties in other states.

Our challenge as a third party remains to reconfigure the political landscape so that we demonstrate our relevancy to the issues and concerns of a larger cross-section of the American people. This is a question of how we align with substantive matters that are consistent with the 10 KV. To address this, the organization of the party needs to be utilized in summarizing our electoral and issues based work, establishing priorities for our focus and deepening a base that will support the party's work financially. I have tried to do this in connection with water issues, but people still prefer to follow the lead of non-profit advocacy groups and personalities, rather than take up the changes needed to build our work around the structural reforms that are the focus of political parties.

As for summarizing the experiences of elected officials, we find that for the most part, those elected have no real interaction with local party organizations. Often people don't see the character of policies or structural reforms of elected Greens as being in anyway distinct. They are more often than not simply continuations of Democratic agenda.

It has gotten so bad that the only way the word "reform" is used is in conjuction with cutbacks or cutbacks. All too often Greens have retreated into the realm of the defense of the status quo. Or we latch on to publicized campaigns consistent with the Democratic Party strategy to reinforce a bi- polar political configuration.

Without agreeing with Ron Paul's ideological foundation, it can be said that his critique of militarism and the call to drawdown the Empire represents a distinct presentation. We cannot be seen in the political arena unless we have a sound foundation that represents constituencies consistently and defines our priorities accordingly.