Greens with the blues

Join the establishment? It’s enough to make an old Green cringe


Associated Press Writer


COLOGNE, Germany (AP) – You can’t tell a Green by his clothing these days. Take Josef Zander, who wears a suit but is more leftist than some of his tie-dye-wearing counterparts. 


Zander, 65, helped found the party in 1979. He is not a happy Green. 


“It’s not like it used to be, a grassroots democracy,” he said in an interview at the Greens Nov. 5 convention. “Now we have dictators and self-proclaimed leaders” of the party. 


This band of pacifists, feminists and ecologists is starting to become part of the establishment it once abhorred. Zander, for one, considers that development a sellout.


“They’re drifting to the right,” Zander said.


The new breed of Greens gives lip service to the party’s original demand that Germany’s military be dismantled. But if the government wants to send German troops on U.N. peacekeeping missions, German leaders say they won’t stand in the way.


“We haven’t betrayed our principles at all. We’ve made them practical,” argues Greens party spokesman Ludger Volmer.


He and other moderates hope that when the next federal election comes around in 1998, the Greens will have won enough respectability to enter a governing coalition with the oppostion Social Democrats.


The Greens won 49 parliamentary seats in the Oct. 16 elections, rebounding from the disappointment of the 1990 elections, when the party almost died. They are now the third-largest parliamentary party, up from No. 5.


They lost all but eight of their 42 seats in reunited Germany’s first election in 1990.


With more seats even than the Free Democrats, junior partners in Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s coalition, the Greens have more blocking power in Parliament than ever.


It’s what they’ve always dreamed of. But more punch to their politics left them ironically long-faced at the weekend convention. Old factions were still evident.


Zander grumbled about the leadership. “Earlier, the party basis was integrated” but hard-core Greens who don’t like the party’s direction are leaving, he said.


Volmer argued there is no betrayal. “We’re working through institutions to accomplish our ideals,” Volmer said.


Among those ideals are the scrapping of Germany’s nuclear power plants, reducing auto emissions by hiking gasoline to a price that would discourage motorists, winning more rights for Germay’s 6.9 million foreigners, and getting a law passed that would permit same-sex marriages.


In typical Greens fashion, they party is bickering despite its political comeback.


The Greens have little support in former East Germany. That’s mainly because the Party of Democratic Socialism, the reconstructed Community Party, has grabbed the leftist niche there.


Volmer told the convention that the Greens could wither and die unless they attract more east Germans.


He suggested the Greens recruit “little Gorbachevs,” meaning moderates in the former East German Communist Party.


“Isn’t it time to reach out our hands – to work together for a human and social republic?” Volmer asked.


But Werner Schulz, Greens party whip from the east, said Volmer didn’t know what he was talking about. The East German Communists had no reform-minded people like Gorbachev, Schulz said.


Party leader Fischer is trying to get the Greens to forget their squabbling, grow up, and consider the possibility of implementing policies, rather than always protesting them from the outside.


“We need to concentrate our forces against the political enemy and not against ourselves,” he said.


But one thing the Greens are learning is sometimes it pays to collaborate with the enemy.


During the first post-election parliamentary session Thursday at the Reichstag in Berlin, Greens walked in with enormous sunflowers.


The session chose Green Antje Vollmer to be a vice president of the Bundestag, parliament’s law-making lower house. She is the first Green to hold the post.


She was elected with parliamentary votes from Kohl’s Christian Democrats because Kohl wanted to keep the Social Democrats from getting the post.


The old Greens might have turned down such a gift from the conservative Kohl. But the new Greens have started playing the kind of hard-ball politics Kohl is famous for.


November 11, 1994