Green Parties: The real history

oct-2016-steinBy MARTY GOODMAN

This year activists received an education in corporate politics when Wikileaks revealed the dirty tricks played on Bernie Sanders by Hillary Clinton operatives. Just as in corporate America, you can’t find two cents worth of democracy in the Democratic Party. For those tired of the corporate rule of both major parties, the Green Party (GP) seems a way out—or so you might think. But, facts matter. A close look at the Green movement is overdue.

There are Greens in 70 countries. If you’re anti-capitalist, some of their politics may surprise you. Some Green parties and many Green leaders have been in capitalist governments, dishing out austerity and supporting imperialist war. The Greek Green Party, for example, agreed to the SYRIZA government’s 2015 austerity “loan” package of the European Union on behalf of its crooked banks and backed by the U.S.-dominated IMF. Below we’ll focus on Green politics in Germany, France, and the U.S.

The German Greens

The Green Party movement began as an organized political force in Germany in 1979, during the intense struggle against deployment of U.S.-supplied nuclear weapons and mass mobilizations against nuclear power following the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster. They first entered parliament in 1983 with 5.6% of the vote. Following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, the GP demanded the immediate shut-down of nuclear facilities and gained in popularity.

Soon, an internal battle erupted between what was called the “realists” (Realos) and fundamentalists (Fundis) over joining in coalition with the mainstream, so-called party of labor, the Social Democratic Party (SPD). In 1998, the GP entered the SPD government as a junior partner, which lasted until 2005. A prominent Green, Joschka Fischer, became Foreign Minister. Fischer also supported and helped draft the most severe welfare cuts since World War II, known as Hartz IV, labor laws that slashed benefits.

In 1999, betraying the Green’s pacifism and opposition to the U.S.-run NATO military alliance, Fischer voted for sending German troops to fight with NATO forces in Kosovo and Serbia, and later, in the U.S.-led war drive in Afghanistan in 2001. Kosovo and Serbia were the first foreign deployment of German troops since World War II, officially banned in 1945, but rescinded after the Cold War. Today, German troops are in 16 countries, from Afghanistan to Mali—with the help of the Green Party!

When the capitalist financial crisis of 2008 erupted, the German GP supported a corporate bailout and austerity aimed at working people. Katharina Fegebank, General Secretary of Hamburg’s Greens, said, “Such a reform could only have been launched by a red (SPD) and green alliance. If the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) and the FDP (Free Democratic Party) had taken the initiative, it would have caused a revolution” [note: the conservative CDU and FDP are mainstream capitalist parties.]. In fact, the GP is in a coalition government in Hamburg with the CDU of Chancellor Angela Merkel—the same party that raped Greece’s working class via its leading role in the European Union (EU), devastating Greece with unpayable debt and austerity!

As a result, many Greens abandoned the party and joined the Left reformist Die Linke, an amalgam of former East German Stalinists, Social Democrats, and others. The German Green Party has continued its rightward spiral, in particular advocating a bellicose policy toward Russia.

Jutta Ditfurth, a GP co-founder who quit in 1999, called the party, “a neoliberal party on bikes.” Dirfurth says the Greens have “59 years of experience” in numerous regional and national capitalist governments, that is, administering cuts, worker exploitation, and “law and order.”

The French Greens

French Greens often express their political axiom as “neither right nor left,” an opportunist view echoed by many German Greens.

In 1997, the French Green Party, as part of the Plural Left coalition, first gained a parliamentary representative and later representation in the European Parliament. In 2010, the Greens fused with Europe Ecologie to form the EELV. In 2012, despite a 1997 decision of the Greens not to enter government, the EELV joined the administration of President François Hollande of the Socialist Party, a capitalist government fully committed to imperialism.

EELV National Secretary Cecile Duflot resigned to take an appointed post as Housing Minister (2012-2014) in the Hollande cabinet. Another leading Green, Pascal Canfin, was Minister for Development under the SP’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. In February 2016, Hollande named an EELV member, Emmanuel Cosse, as Housing Minister.

The Greens achieved some gains in agreement with their SP partner: a pledge to reduce nuclear energy from 75% to 50% by 2025 and to shut down 24 nuclear reactors, a tax on carbon emissions, and increased taxes on the wealthy. Although the party has not backed Hollande’s austerity measures, as a governmental partner the EELV has enabled France’s capitalist class to hammer the workers—under the guise of being “pro-labor!”

In 2013, at a time when unemployment was 10.6%, Hollande sponsored a bill that allows companies to temporarily cut workers’ salaries or hours during times of so-called economic difficulty and makes it easier for bosses to fire workers. In addition, workers’ pension contributions were increased by Hollande, despite mass protests. Hollande vowed to cut 50 billion from public spending in 2017.

On the international front, Hollande’s SP government refused to back Greece in its fight against the European Union’s austerity demands. France retains membership in the U.S.-led NATO military alliance, which has provocatively placed military units near the Russian border. Moreover, the SP government has given military support for the reactionary Saudi dictatorship in its deadly war on Yemen’s Houthi rebels. France sold $18 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia last year.

Green Party of the U.S.

During the current presidential cycle, the Green Party’s presidential candidate, Jill Stein, proposed to self-styled socialist Bernie Sanders to run as the Green candidate. Although Sanders had voted with the Democrats 98% of the time, Stein wanted him to switch parties as if it were merely a question of changing hats! In California, Stein asked voters to back Sanders in its primary. It was all quite at odds with her double-talk about the Democratic Party as “counter-revolutionary.”

Some leftists in the Green Party now make the boast, echoed by the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in the Aug. 9 issue of its Socialist Worker newspaper, that the August GP convention adopted an “explicitly anti-capitalist” plank (Amendment 835), which called for “an alternative economic system” based on “workplace and community democracy.”

Where’s the socialism in this resolution? Are greedy Wall Street crooks to be nationalized or not? And what does “workplace and community democracy” really mean? It’s miles short of a socialist program—i.e., for nationalization of the economy under worker’s control. How can “workplace and community democracy” replace capitalism if society remains in the hands of the bosses? The GP’s slight-of-hand here is meant to placate radicalizing youth, while not alienating middle-class voters. (As of Oct 3, the “anti-capitalist” plank does not appear on the GP website.)

The Greens do not call on working people themselves to take up the class struggle, pushing aside union misleaders if need be. Nowhere does the Green Platform advocate striking as a powerful weapon for workers, public or private. Their proposals for a $15 an hour minimum are laudable, but there’s no call for workers themselves to organize the fight for $15 (and more!), and not wait years for politicians to bestow raises that have been lowered in value.

Lastly, the platform says, “End police brutality and mass incarceration. Create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to understand and eliminate the legacy of slavery that lives on as pervasive racism in the economy.” Indeed, ending racist police murders is urgent, but a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission?” Socialists demand, “Black control of the Black community,” not “reconciliation” with racist cops! The GP doesn’t call for socialism, and like Green Parties worldwide, is objectively a liberal capitalist party.

The Socialist Action campaign

Socialist Action is running Jeff Mackler, a decades-long antiwar and anti-racist fighter, for U.S. president, and Karen Schraufnagel, an anti-Zionist and antiwar activist from Minneapolis, for vice president. Our candidates and members build struggles and demonstrations, unlike the mainly electoral Green Party. We champion non-sectarian, democratic mass-action united fronts.

We don’t expect to win the White House, of course, but we are bringing socialist politics to a whole new generation as well as veterans of the struggle. We never support Democrats. We seek a genuine socialist transformation through revolution, without neglecting day-to-day struggles. And we know that elections don’t bring socialism, only revolution does.

Agree with us? Join Socialist Action or check out our campaign at http://www.socialistaction.org. In this election year, it’s the most revolutionary thing you can do!

Photo: U.S. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein takes a selfie with supporters in Vermont.