Thursday, January 13, 2005

Peaceniks and Realpolitik - Germany´s Greens 25th Birthday

It´s the German Greens´ 25th birhday today, and everywhere they are being garlanded with praise. The adroit transformation of this activist, idealistic "anti-party" to key power-broker in the current govenment impresses, but it´s come at the cost of its identity.

Founding principles have been ditched as easily as sandals have been swapped for suits. Joschka Fischer, the policeman-beating peacenik of yore, now peddles arms as Foreign Minister. The government on whose behalf he strides through the world´s chancellories seeks to lift the Chinese arms embargo: Germany´s weapons exports need a boost.

Other founding impulses survive. The Greens´ visceral objection to nuclear power has cost German industry billions in ecological taxes on "dirty" fuels. These taxes are pumped into uneconomic windfarms and solar panels - gesture politics at their most magnificently futile.

As personalities, the Greens do provide good value for money. Fischer himself is a charming, chubby, cynical fellow with endearing addictions to women and gormandise, his eye fishily fixed on the main chance. In his colleagues, such as Renate Kuenast (Minister for Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture) and Juergen Trittin (Minister for Environment, Nature, Conservation and Nuclear Safety), the Greens supply some of the most comically inept, self-satisfied, glibly leftist members of Schroeder´s sclerotic, business-hating government.

Are the Greens still as dangerous as they were in their days of unilateral disarmament and withdrawal from NATO? Not in as obvious a way, perhaps. But as a proof of how easily pressure-group inanities can become mainstream pieties, they are a portent of more of the same to come. Their soulmates in the EU Parliament have picked up helpful tips from the Greens´ performance, and will be putting those to good effect as they assume roles of even greater power, on the even bigger stage that is Europe.

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