Germany’s Green Party has reduced the struggle for universal emancipation to small changes in consumerism…


From New Left Review:

The Green Party as a whole had never really grappled with the contradiction between environmental sustainability and the economic expansionism that is inherent to capitalist accumulation; nor did the majority develop a consistent critique of what was at first a small group of eco-libertarians in their midst, who preached the ‘gospel of eco-efficiency’; in favour of free markets and opposed to state intervention, this was initially directed against the ‘big machine’ of industrialism and statism alike. Pro-market policies began to be foregrounded once the Realos had taken firm control of the party in the late ’80s; with rising fiscal deficits now ruling out the marginal Keynesian spending necessary for green social-democratic policies, neoliberal thinking became increasingly predominant, as the only possible solution to the deepening crisis of Modell Deutschland. But the eco-libertarians also underwent a transformation: talk of a decentralized economy and of civic individualism freed from excessive bureaucracy has given way to enthusiasm for the technocracy of globalized corporations and state apparatuses, lighting the way towards an allegedly ‘green capitalism’ in full concordance with the diktats of the IMF and World Bank, relying on market mechanisms and technological solutions.

With the Schröder–Fischer government, the Greens emerged as the most dynamic proponents of Germany’s neoliberal shock-therapy programme, Agenda 2010, once Lafontaine’s short-lived attempt to revive Rhenish social Keynesianism had been defeated. Wages and unemployment benefit were screwed down, corporate taxes slashed; fuelled by the international credit expansion, Germany’s post-2005 export boom took off amid rising levels of inequality and social deprivation. Protests against Agenda 2010 split the SPD, with the dissenters later helping to found Die Linke, and the Red–Green coalition was evicted in the 2005 election. But the new-model Green Party membership showed no qualms. Having internalized the idea that ‘all other systems are worse than capitalism’, the Greens now find the idea of zero—let alone ‘negative’—growth unthinkable. They have become strident lobbyists on behalf of corporations hoping to profit from the transition to ‘green’ energy sources, as for those selling ‘ecological’ commodities. The party now derives much of its political capital as a modernizing force from this sector, supplying the kind of pseudo-environmentalism which itself promises to become a lucrative commodity in the face of global disaster, preparing fresh fields for capital accumulation. From e-cars to Desertec, they are actively promoting so-called ‘green technologies’ which have already proved to be neither peaceful nor ecological in their repercussions.

Although Fischer dismissed the idea of the Greens entering a cdu-led Federal coalition after the 2005 election, such alliances were soon being reached at state level (indeed they had been promoted by eco-libertarians like Thomas Schmid since the early 80s). In 2008 the rise of Die Linke offered the possibility of a Red–Red–Green coalition in Hamburg; the Greens scuttled it by entering a coalition with the CDU. In Saarland the following year, a strong swing to Die Linke again left the Greens as king-makers; they vetoed a left coalition with the SPD and Lafontaine’s Die Linke and entered office with the CDU and FDP. In staunchly conservative Baden-Württemberg, a series of mass protests against far-reaching plans pushed by the ruling CDU to rebuild Stuttgart’s station at massive cost led to the election in 2011 of the Greens’ first Land Minister-President, Winfried Kretschmann. A former KBW veteran, Kretschmann could not have been more cocky and conceited about presenting himself to the electorate as a provincial Catholic of good petty-bourgeois stock. Once in office, he began to backtrack on cancelling the new station, declaring that a further referendum would have to be held. The Greens are currently presiding over its construction.

The Greens may still play king (or queen)-maker in Berlin. There was a time when that prospect might have caused anxiety in Washington, but the Greens are the American Embassy’s favourite German party nowadays. And why not? The Green Party has reduced the struggle for universal emancipation to the small change of ‘organic’ and ‘fair trade’ consumerism. The harmless memory of a dissident past now serves as an inexhaustible source of legitimacy, not just for their own actions, but for German power and the state apparatus itself. Reality is turned upside down: it is not the Greens who have changed, apparently, but the world—making yesterday’s opposition to war the moral source for ‘humanitarian intervention’ today. NATO now figures as the key instrument for disarmament in the party’s policy papers, while the Lisbon Treaty, the EU’s de facto charter for a technocratic oligarchy, becomes a major step towards democracy and transparency, and economic domination over Greece is exerted in the name of European solidarity. Let the conservatives wage war under the banner of national interests; the Greens will dispatch the army in the name of a just and righteous ‘world government of the enlightened’. This is not to imply that the Greens deliberately do the opposite of what they pretend; on the contrary—and much more chilling—they may mean it.

“What’s Become of the German Greens?”, Joachim Jachnow, New Left Review