by Philip O’Connor
The geopolitical aspect of the Greens was born in the 1967 student revolt in Germany (yes, it started there a year before the Paris riot). The “Alternatives”, as they were called, came out of those street fights, house occupations and endless debates, including Cohn Bendit and Fischer. They were hippy left, libertarian, anti-industrial, anti-establishment, dope-smoking serious “revolutionaries”, and have indeed enacted a revolution.
Their heroes were American libertarians and French deconstructionists. They were like the part of the New Left Review which used to rant and rave equally against “Stalinism” and “corporate capitalism”.
I remember an early influential book from their world – anti-growth, anti-industry and anti-labour movement, prophesising the new libertarian dawn – called “Goodbye to the Working Class” (was the writer André Gorz or something like that?). It was a big read among the German New Left. Way before the US left, they identified the proletariat as “deplorables”, “illiberal”, unenlightened, and “backward” in their clinging to industry, family, country. The great unifying Green cause in the 70s before they won any seats was “Atomkraft – Nein Danke!”, with the sunshine emoji everywhere. But that was for the weak-minded, the followers.
It is often forgotten that the Greens emerged as a political force in Germany not as a purely environmental outfit like in England, but as a coalition, originally even officially named “The Green – Alternative List” (which is how they appeared on the ballot paper). And it was an actual coalition, with the “Alternatives”, composed of a variety of movements and groups (incl. former Maoist and Trotskyite micro-parties), the business end. The so-called “realist” wing of the “party” (e.g. Fischer) all came from the “Alternatives” stable. The old Greens were harmless sandal-wearing leaf-eating goat-raisers, who could never have won more than a few council seats, but what made the party a serious business intent on a “long march through the institutions” to political power were the Alternatives, who, as said, came out of the substantial student “New Left” of 1967 (which, like in England, included many people of the first generation to rise socially through university formation from their working class backgrounds).
The Alternatives didn’t only despise the “backward” working class. They also despised their parents’ nationalism, such as it was. In hating German “nationalism” they were the original universalists. Only European (though in fact globalist) liberalism could save the world. If you go back through the LRB, NLR or NYRB you will find articles by Fischer, Habermas etc saying all of this quite explicitly.
The conundrum is that the issue that propelled them finally into national politics was the 1980 Peace Movement, which arose against Reagan’s Neutron Bomb and Schmidt’s agreement to allow US tactical “medium range” nuclear weapons to be deployed in Germany (he, of course, had no choice). There were mammoth demos and marches. Remember Petra Kelly and General Bastian. But they and their type were soon labelled the “Fundis” (“fundamentalists”, on peace, political compromise etc.) while the Alternatives came to be called the “Realos” (“realists”). At an early point the Realos came out in defence of NATO (though of course it should be feminised).
Other key aspects of the Alternatives include their absorption early on of the more radical feminist movements and LGBT groups, for which they became champions. The current government is committed to extending abortion rights to the Anglo-Saxon model. Cohn Bendit in his libertarian days had been an advocate of “reasonable” paedophilia.
This Green Anglo (definitely not German) liberalism is the new creed. It really struck me how their ideologists never sought out roots in actual 19th-20th German liberalism, but always in Anglo-American liberalism. In fact they picked at the “faults” of classical German liberals, in favour of the USUK creed. Today, the party abroad they most identify with is the US Democratic Party as embodied by Hillary Clinton. On a curious note, they are also the leading anglophiers of the German language. It is they who most defer to English terms and use them widely in their PR. German even as a language is just uncool and somehow suspect!