- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Greens and the War

Posted by: bill on May 13, 1999 at 18:14:57:

(from another board - Australian Green's Magazine

Why Greens go wrong on Balkans war

By Allen Myers

The German Greens are to hold a special congress on May 13 to decide
their stand on the war in the Balkans. The party has been deeply
divided by the issue, and there is even talk of a split between the
pro-NATO wing, which includes foreign minister Joschka Fischer and a
majority of the party's MPs, and opponents of the attack on Serbia.

Whatever the outcome of the congress, the war has already dealt a
severe blow to Green claims to represent something new in politics.

US President Bill Clinton is clearly aware of the political
importance of Fischer's backing for the war. For example, speaking to
US newspaper editors on April 15, he declared: *... NATO is more
united today than when the operation began. Whether they are
conservatives in Spain, socialists in France, New Labour in Britain or
Greens in Germany, the leaders of Europe and the people they represent
are determined to maintain and intensify our attacks ...*.

The French Greens, who have ministers in the *socialist* government
of Lionel Jospin, have also backed the NATO bombing. The Greens in
France, known for the claim that their politics were *neither left nor
right*, are no more able than their German counterparts to live up to
their rhetoric.

This is a severe setback in the fight for a new society of peace,
social justice, democracy and ecological sustainability. The question
is why the Greens, in both countries, failed so ignominiously at the
first real test.

Much of the answer lies in the Greens' view of parliament. By and
large, Green parties around the world have accepted the notion that
parliament is where the important decisions are made -- the decisions
about questions such as war and peace, or environmental

This idea is easy to accept because it is part of the official
ideology of capitalist society; it's drummed into us all the time. But
it's not true.

The wealthy individuals and corporations aren't about to let what
they can or can't do to protect and increase their wealth be decided
by a democratic vote. So the powers of parliament are carefully
circumscribed by the constitution, by the courts and by the top public
servants. And who can get into parliament is controlled by an
electoral system in which lots of money and support from the big media
are prerequisites for serious involvement.

The reality of who really makes decisions can be illustrated by a
simple example. If you conducted a survey of all Australians, you'd
get a nearly unanimous *yes* answer to the question, *Should
Australia's wealthiest person pay substantial taxes on his wealth?*.
But Kerry Packer's *no* is enough to veto that near unanimity, and the
*powers* of parliament.

The Greens, because they accept the false idea that parliament is
where the real decisions are made, naturally concentrate their efforts
on trying to achieve parliamentary representation. Some Green parties
or members may also attach importance to building grassroots
movements, but even this is usually seen as primarily a way of
providing support for the *decisive* struggle over legislation or
deciding who forms government.

When the German Greens achieved the parliamentary numbers to form a
coalition with the Social Democrats, it no doubt seemed to many of
them that they were now on the threshold of achieving many of their
goals. In reality, they had made themselves hostage to exactly the
sort of dilemma they now confront.

To the majority of the German Green MPs, opposing the NATO attack is
unthinkable because that would destroy the coalition government. The
illusory power of parliamentary government is seen as the higher good,
to which their anti-war principles must be sacrificed.

Something very similar happened to the Tasmanian Greens in their
coalition or *accord* with the state ALP between 1989 and 1996. As the
Greens followed their Labor *partner* to the right, they lost support
among voters who had been promised a different sort of politics,
suffering a 25% drop in their vote in 1992 and a smaller decline in

Last year, Labor and the Liberals decided that enthusiasm for the
Greens had declined to the point where it was safe to rig the
electoral laws against them, and they did so.

Of course, at least some of the German Greens, like Fischer, claim
that they are not sacrificing their principles, but that support for
the NATO bombing is a lesser evil than not taking action against the
brutal government of Slobodan Milosevic.

*It's a contradiction, but we have to live with it. If we accept
Milosevic as a winner, it would be the end of the Europe I believe
in*, Fischer said last month in an interview with the Washington Post.

Fischer's argument is really an evasion, however. It simply shifts to
the international level the false dilemma that the Greens create for
themselves within the national parliament. In both cases, the view is
that those *at the top* -- capitalist governments -- are the only
forces that can solve problems, and so Fischer chooses what he
perceives or hopes is the lesser evil.

In reality, capitalist governments are not the solution to any
problem, no matter how *democratic* their election laws may seem. The
idea of participating in *responsible government* is a pipe dream
because capitalist governments are responsible only to capitalists.

*But what can we do now?*, defenders of Green parliamentarians demand
to know.

The sad truth is that we can do very little immediately to aid the
Kosovars, and backing NATO is not part of that little.

The crimes that capitalism inflicts on the world's peoples can be
stopped only by a mass political movement that overthrows capitalism
and its governments and creates a real democracy. A major reason for
the inability to aid the Kosovars is that too many people of good will
have allowed themselves to be diverted from the job of building such a
movement. The Greens' failure on Kosova demonstrates why the socialist
goal is not something for the distant future, but a necessary guide
for politics today.


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