John W. Warnock

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Green Politics: The Rise of Green Parties in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada | Most Green Parties Have Moved to the Right | There Are Now Red/Green Parties of the Left



The Rise of the Green Parties


The environmental movement began in a serious way in the 1970s. It was not long until new Green political parties were formed, most notably in Australia and New Zealand. The most important breakthrough came in Germany with the formation of the Greman Greens, now known as Alliance 90 - The Greens.


The German Greens, and their counterpart in France, set the original Green Party principles and platforms. Aside from their position on ecology, they were known for their strong opposition to militarism and military alliances. They were also strong advocates for rights for women and human rights in general.


The early slogan of the German Greens was `Neither Left nor Right.`This summarized their opposition to the socialist system represented by the Soviet Union and their opposition to highly centralized corporate capitalism. In contrast, they advocated decentralized politics and economics, with as much emphasis as possible on grassroots democracy and decision making. There was a strong left wing element in the German Greens at this time, and the party was committed to social justice through state activity.


The political struggle that developed within the German Greens was between the parliamentary caucus and the gress roots party organization. The federal caucus had the advantage of funding and organization, and the original direction of the party was changed. Under the leadership of Joschka Fischer, the federal Greens moved steadily to the political right. In 1998 the federal caucus joined in a coalition government with the social democratic SPD. With this, the party formally accepted NATO and support for German militarism. In two coalition governments with the SPD the Greens accepted a far reaching austerity program that fell most heavily on those who worked for a wage and a salary.


In general, this was the pattern that was common among almost all of the Green parties in the advanced capitalist world. What is notable is that they have not increased their popular support, even given the growing puiblic concern over climate change. Most of the Green Parties moved to the right politically, accepting militarism, the decline of the welfare state under the politics of austerity, and the enhancement of corporate power under the politics of the free market and free trade liberalism.


The failure of the Green Parties to grow is not surprising. Is there a need for another middle of the road, middle class partyÉ One that in the mind of the general public is now almost a one issue party placing great emphasis on ecological issuesÉ


One other development has been the emergence of a few Red-Green parties. They can now be found as members of the Nordic Green Left Alliance, a coalition of left green parties from seven European countries. Other independent socialist parties -- like the Red-Green Alliance in Denmark and the Left Bloc in Portugal -- have adopted green policies. But these parties remain relatively small.


In Canada the federal Green Party was formed in 1980, based on the experience and policies of the German Green Party. Their policy shifted well to the right under the leadership of Jim Harris and Elizabeth May. The party has had limited success outside of British Columbia.



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