Party-building for Eco-Socialists: Lessons from the Failed Project of the German Greens

Frieder Otto Wolf


From 2002 to 2005 the German Greens were a party of a government in a reunited Germany vying for international respectability by sharing a renewed 'white man's burden' by sending troops to Kosovo, to Afghanistan, and, soon, to the Congo, or by sending its navy to participate in the 'anti-terrorist' controls around the horn of Africa. The 'humanitarian interventionism' of NATO against Serbia was legitimized by a majority of former radical pacifists; and a debt guarantee has been given to the nuclear industry in Germany by former radical ecologists and anti-nuclear activists. German Green parliamentarians have been avidly implementing neo-liberal 'reforms', in coalition with a social- democratic party in which a translated Blairism has won the day. Within the (very much weakened) social movements of contemporary Germany, the example of the Greens is cited in order to refute any idea of intervening in party politics at all. Their negative example is actually important in reinforcing prejudices against a new German left party which is in the process of being formalized, after an impressive first presence in the 2005 federal elections. Can anything be learnt from the Greens' failure? Apart from the simple statement that there is no better way of learning strategically than from the analysis of past defeats and failures, there are some specific lessons to be drawn from this historical experience (which for this author is also quite personal). And as we shall see, these lessons are of considerable relevance to contemporary international left debates on party-building.

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