Breaking: Fischer Resigns, and a Green Light

Handelsblatt reports that Joschka Fischer, one of the Greens’ two co-leaders and the Red-Green government’s foreign minister and deputy chancellor, has announced his resignation from both his party and state offices. He will, however, take up his seat in the Bundestag. Apparently he thinks the Greens need “a new formation” (eine Neuaufstellung) and that “clarity must reign”. Further, the party needs to be led by younger people.

Perhaps more importantly, he also said that it could be “realistically expected” that the Greens would not be represented in the next government. That can only realistically mean that he expects a grand coalition – an SPD/FDP/Left or CDU/SPD/Left coalition can be ruled out with some confidence, and a CDU/FDP/Left coalition with absolute certainty. The Greens will now have to elect two new parliamentary leaders.

Which brings me to another point..

I’ve been commenting all over the blogosphere that I consider the so-called “Jamaica coalition” absurd and deeply unlikely. Here’s why. To join such a coalition, the Greens would have to flip through 180 degrees on all the following issues:

1. Nuclear Power.

The absolute beginnings of the Green movement are in the linked anti-nuclear power and anti-Cruise/Pershing deployment campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s respectively. And the capital achievement for the Greens in government was to extract the commitment of the SPD not to replace Germany’s nuclear power stations at the imminent end of their design lives – the so-called Atomausstieg. Both the CDU and the FDP are strongly pro-nuclear. Not only are they in favour of engineering work on the existing stations to extend their operational life, they are open to building new ones, indeed to building more. The Greens are as likely to agree to life-extension of nuclear power stations as they are to the invasion of Denmark.

2. Renewable Power.

This is the Greens’ replacement for the nuclear stations. One of their campaign slogans is Weg vom Öl – Away from Oil! – and they pushed forward with a huge windfarm construction programme. Immediately before the elections, statistics were released showing that renewables had overtaken nuclear as a percentage of Germany’s energy needs. The CDU want to cut funding for the wind programme.

3. Pacifism.

The Greens are not strictly pacifist, but they are strongly anti-militarist, which again is part of their 1980s peace movement/antinuke source code. The party nearly exploded over sending a handful of soldiers to Afghanistan in 2001, and remains sceptical about NATO, viscerally opposed to the Iraq war, and keen on a European defence identity, although equally paranoid about the “militarisation of the EU”. The CDU/CSU and FDP are stalwart Atlanticists and grew up politically in the days when the Bundeswehr‘s main mission was to put 500,000 men on the Intra-German Border FEBA within 12 hours of a mobilisation order and hold on for the NATO REFORGER reinforcement convoys to arrive.

4. EU Enlargement.

The enlargement of the EU was a priority for Fischer as foreign minister, and the party is Turko-enthusiast where the CDU are Turkosceptic and the CSU are frankly Turko-hostile. This is yet another point of substance that the Jamaica parties hold mutually exclusive positions on.

5. Feminism.

This was just as important to the Green founders’ generation as environmentalism or pacifism and is still at the core of Green identity, not to mention the party’s constitution. That’s why they will elect two parliamentary leaders – top Green posts are duplicated between a man and a woman. The CSU, especially, is barely capable of accepting that Angela Merkel is the party leader and not in charge of cakes, so pretty much the entire Green social/family agenda is on the CDU/CSU’s list of things the Greens would have to drop. And the other way around.

This report from the FAZ quotes Claudia Roth, Jürgen Trittin, Krista Sager, Renate Künast, and Katrin Göring-Eckhardt – in other words, the entire Green front bench less Fischer – as saying what I’ve just said above. Interestingly, the FAZ takes a different reading of Joschka’s remark when asked if he would be available for a ministerial portfolio, “Bleiben Sie Realist!” (Stay realistic!) , to that of the Handelsblatt. The HB interpreted it as a suggestion that none would be offered, the FAZ (at least in the slug for the article) as a signal that he would accept if one was.

There is, though, an even bigger obstacle to the Jamaican solution – identity. The Greens exist in opposition to the CDU/CSU and everything it stands for. They were created by the post-68 generation positively dripping with Theodor Adorno and positively drunk on Herbert Marcuse, seeking a Critical Politics and a Critical Gender Politics to go with the Critical Theory they imbibed. To your average CDU MP, and ten times more for the CSU, your daughter being a Green was until very recently barely distinguishable from her dating Ulrike Meinhof’s ghost. Ashen-faced commiserations…and chilly silences in the Fraktionsklub.

And finally, a question. Yes, Guido Westerwelle of the Homeopathic Parachuting Club was terribly rude to Gerhard Schröder. Yes, the FDP publicly ruled out the “traffic light coalition”. But Schröder and Merkel both rejected the grand coalition, and the Greens have as good as rejected the Jamaican solution. Those options are no more ruled out than the traffic light. The FDP has 36 years’ form for sudden coalition betrayals, and the Greens precisely none. Why does everyone expect the Greens to behave like the FDP and the FDP to behave like the Greens?
Klaus Wowereit, the SPD Mayor of Berlin, told today’s Handelsblatt both that Schröder could be dumped and that the FDP had a “strange understanding of democracy” if they didn’t want to talk. In the FAZ article above, the Green Customer Minister Matthias Berninger practically invited the FDP in, as did SPD Rheinland Pfalz Minister-President Kurt Beck (again).

14 thoughts on “Breaking: Fischer Resigns, and a Green Light

  1. Alex, not quite clear yet – tagesschau.de reports something slightly different:

    “…wenn die Grünen in die Opposition gingen, werde er weder in der Partei noch in der Fraktion ein hohes Amt anstreben. … Für den ‘unwahrscheinlichen’ Fall einer Regierungsbeteiligung der Grünen könne er sich aber ein Regierungsamt vorstellen.”

    “…if the Greens aren’t represented in the government he would not seek any important office neither within the party, nor within the Parliamentary party. … however, in the unlikely case of a government-particpation of the Greens he doesn’t rule out an governmental office.”

  2. Tobias,

    yes, but still, the default scenario is now that Fischer is hanging up his boots (‘it is the time for a younger generation to yadda yadda yadda’, etc.). It looks to me like what he’s saying is: ‘OK everybody, I won’t rule out that I’d take up a portfolio, should the Greens in fact help form a government. But I don’t expect they will; I expect a grand coalition.’

    Unless, of course, this is Joschka’s way of persuading Guido to start thinking about that Ampel. For, if the Greens aren’t in government, the FDP won’t be either.

  3. In other words he will be Euro commisionar if they stay out of power and stays minister when they form a goverment.

  4. And there was me thinking (thanks to Der Standard’s discussion forums) he was really a CIA agent all along!

    The actual words of the Fischer seem to suggest he’s off but is leaving a tad of wriggle room.

  5. This German political circus/crisis is quite interesting to watch but as Mrs T. stated, why is such a convoluted electoral system set up that penalizes the winning party?

    From the last journal post, Alex states in his entry that the CDU is opposed to wind power. The US uses 70 % more oil to produce a $ of GDP than Germany.
    Being a fiscal conservative and energy conservative, I expect Germans to support existing and future nuclear power plants. Also, give matching funds(in proportional terms) to wind power. Germany’s military should be strengthened. And lastly, like the CDU, I am not in favour of bringing Turkey at all into the EU. The SPD and Green Party need to rethink their policy towards Turkey. Turkiens needs to ferment and boil where they are until they burn off all traces of Erdogan’s government. Having a muslim country WITH a muslim government in power is not my idea of a EU country, either in 2005 or in 2017.

    Sanjay
    Bangalore, India

  6. why is such a convoluted electoral system set up that penalizes the winning party?

    For a good, classical democratic purpose: Divion of powers and limited government.

    Remember that from 1933 to 1945, the Germans had some rather unfortunate experiences with a party that was not penalized in the way they could govern. And a substantial part of the country had similarly unfortunate experiences (OK, not quite so bad) until 1989.

  7. And trying to explain the thinking behind the election scheme of the Bundestag:

    The idea is to combine the advantages and reduce the drawbacks of the two common ways to elect a parliament: district representatives and proportional representation.

    As our British and American friends no doubt will know, first-past-the-post systems can leave a large part of the votes irrelevant and a party can win a large parliamentary majority with only a small advantage in votes. On the other hand, it leads to close ties between representatives and their local constituencies, which can be seen as an advantage.

    Proportional representations, on the other hand, ensure that parliament reflect the spectrum of public opinion. But in its pure form, parliamentarians are very dependent on their party support, but have no links to a home base.

    The German system tries to take the best of both systems.

    In fact, I think it is quite successful at that, in spite of the occasional quirk.

  8. As an American who is largely ignorant of German politics but who has spent some time in Europe (Italy, mostly), first, let me say I find this blog and the list of contributors (under “About (draft)”) extremly interesting.

    Second, I would like to throw out some comments about the issues on which you say the Greens would have to do a 180 in order to join a Jamaica coalition. Please feel free to blow my ideas and thoughts to pieces; that’s what they are there for.

    1. The Nuclear Power Question

    Yes, I remember one of the biggest parts of the Green platform in the beginning was opposition to nuclear power. And CDU/CSU are supposedly strongly in favor.

    Why not let the market decide? Take away all the government subsidies and limited liability laws and tell the nuclear power industry that, if they think they can build an environmentally safe nuclear power plant that complies with all applicable government regulations and is able to obtain adequate insurance in the private insurance market, they are welcome to try.

    2. Renewable Power

    Cut whatever subsidies either side wants to cut and, again, let the market decide.

    As a parenthetical, how do the respective sides, Greens and CDU/CSU, feel about natural gas and the international dependencies that heavy use of natural gas are likely to create?

    3. Pacifism

    On a fundamental, ideological level, there is no conflict between classical liberalism and pacifism. In fact, classical liberalism opposes war on principle. If you don’t believe me, read what Ludwig Von Mises has to say on the subject. If CDU/CSU is anti-pacifist, that position is coming from somewhere other than a desire to move the country in a more capitalist direction.

    In addition, although I would love to see a pro-U.S. Germany, the reality probably is that Germany needs to follow a more idependent foreign policy. Opposition to Pershings is irrelevant as is the ability to field a 500,000 man army in central Europe on behalf of NATO. (In fact, NATO is obsolete and potentially dangerous, but that is the subject for another post.)

    4. EU Enlargement

    Here the Greens need to face reality: Enlargement ain’t gonna happen anytime soon, if ever, given rising anti-immigrant and anti-muslim attitudes in much of Europe. The harder they try for enlargement, the stronger the backlash becomes. If the CDU/CSU were to do nothing to advance enlargement and let someone else do the actual dirty work of blocking enlargement, there could be room for a modus vivendi here.

    5. Feminism/the entire Green social/family agenda

    I don’t know what “the entire Green social/family agenda” is, so I can’t comment, but I thought the whole point of Angie was to get the good ol’ boys out of power.

    >>>There is, though, an even bigger obstacle to the Jamaican solution – identity. The Greens exist in opposition to the CDU/CSU and everything it stands for. They were created by the post-68 generation positively dripping with Theodor Adorno and positively drunk on Herbert Marcuse, seeking a Critical Politics and a Critical Gender Politics to go with the Critical Theory they imbibed. To your average CDU MP, and ten times more for the CSU, your daughter being a Green was until very recently barely distinguishable from her dating Ulrike Meinhof’s ghost. Ashen-faced commiserations…and chilly silences in the Fraktionsklub.<<

    A lot of this is cultural, and I can’t comment. Personally, those Greens I’ve run across I happen to like on a personal and cultural level, and I am no socialist. What I could never figure out is how to reconcile the fundamentally authoritarian nature of socialism with the fundamental anti-authoritarianism of the Greens.

    Anyway, I see the possibility of common grounds here, notwithstanding differences which, at the end of the day, I find to be objectively superficial.

    So, fire away, and let me know why this uninformed and ignorant American is wrong.

  9. 1. The nuclear business is a business were the money is made before the cost are incured. You need a lot of state intervention to run that even remotely well. And with state intervention you can direct the outcome to yes or no. A CSU goverment would make it an absolute certainly that the market would build nukes while a green goverment would make it cerain that the market wouldn´t build nukes. Claims that you can the market decide this are just false claims.

    2. The CDU wants to cut everything and the greens want to cut nothing. Either would mean that the CDU would cut everything.

    3.

    4. Europe needs a connection to the Middle East even if it is only to import Iranian gas.

  10. 1. Nuclear Power — >>>You need a lot of state intervention to run that even remotely well. And with state intervention you can direct the outcome to yes or no.>>Europe needs a connection to the Middle East even if it is only to import Iranian gas.

  11. Let me try this again:

    1. Nuclear Power: >>>You need a lot of state intervention to run that even remotely well. >>Europe needs a connection to the Middle East even if it is only to import Iranian gas.<<

    Um, actually, in the case of Germany, I think they get most of their gas from Russia (or plan to in the future). Europe as a whole gets LNG gas from a lot of different places (Algeria, etc.), but LNG, like oil, is a commodity with a world-wide market which does not require a connection with any particular locale and certainly does not require Turkish membership in the EU.

    Parenthetically, overdependence on Russia for energy might be one reason CDU/CSU supports nuclear power. Is that true? What do the Greens say about that?

    Frankly, I do not understand the politics of Turkish EU membership very well — who supports it and why, who opposes it and why. Maybe you can explain why the Greens would consider this a central part of their ideology and platform such that it cannot be bargained away or at least deferred in the manner I describe above.

    5. “Family Values”: It is certainly understandable that CDU/CSU do not see eye to eye on what I will, without really knowing what they are, call the “lifestyle issues.” The Greens have their roots in the ’60’s countr-culture, and the CDU/CSU are Christian/Catholic, conservative, and (historically) the vehicle by which the Church intervenes in politics.

    Yet, the same Hayekian principles of freedom and competition apply to all areas of life as they do to economics. In other words, through an evolutionary process of innovation and competition, those lifestyles and forms of social relations which best serve the needs of the people come to be widely adopted and to prevail. The proper role of the state is to create the conditions which foster this innovation and competition and to avoid taking sides.

    If Angie has a deep understanding of classical liberal ideology, then she should understand this. If the Greens believe in freedom and why freedom is important from a social utilitarian, as well as personal, perspective, they should agree with it. If those who want to use the state to promote a particular set of (religious or secular) values will step aside (or at least focus their energies at the local level rather than the national level), then this set of common principles could form the basis for agreement. (*If* the Greens believe in freedom, then the same principles might lead them to give some ground to Angie in the economic sphere.)

    Here is what Stratfor has to say about the current situation in Germany:

    “As improbable as it sounds, a CDU/FDP/Green alliance is probably Merkel’s best — nay, only — bet. Unless Schroeder comes down with a severe case of humility, the only other option would be the Left, which would run screaming from any offer to join the conservative parties. . . .

    “The probably insurmountable problem that Merkel faces is that the Greens have been Schroeder’s coalition partner for the past two governments. Merkel will have to promise the Greens something better than what they could expect to gain under a third Schroeder government, but not so much that the FDP — which despises the Greens — leaves the coalition talks in disgust. It could be the most likely successful coalition, but it remains a long shot at best.”

    I am an outsider, and certainly am in no position to tell the Germans what to do. But if they want this course of events to take place, rthen the FDP needs to get over it. And all the parties need to take a good hard look at the fundamental bases of their respective ideological beliefs to see where common ground exists.

    Otherwise, they may start sliding down the slippery slope towards Weimar.

  12. Jerry,

    I take no position on your position re: nuclear power. But I think you are labouring under a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Union is about.

    You keep going on about Angela Merkel’s commitment to unfettered free markets. She has no such commitment. If she did, she’d be in the FDP, not the CDU.

    It’s true that Merkel is, by the standards of the Union, quite liberal. But then, by any objective standard, the Union are not liberals. (I am using ‘liberal’ here in its correct, not its US sense.) CDU and CSU are markedly more management-friendly and less labour-friendly than the SPD; but are not, repeat not especially free-market-friendly. And even their management-friendliness is relative. On ‘values’ issues, the Union may (and the FDP may not) fairly be compared with the US Republicans. Economically, though, the Union are Democrats, and not particularly rightwing Democrats either.

    And there’s nothing remotely Weimarish about Germany’s current situation. If Köhler’s solution to the impasse is to ask a fascist dictator to run the government, you may come back and ask me to do a rethink.

  13. Mrs. T-

    If not a liberal, then what is Angie?

    What is her attitude or point of view towards personal and economic freedom?

    From what ideological or philosophical tradition does she derive that point of view?

    And I’ll ask the same questions with respect to the FPD and the Greens?

    What do these views of the importance of freedom have in common?

    Because, when all the complexities are boiled down to their esence, isn’t the fundamental root of the problem: an absence of freedom?

    (And I appreciate your using the word liberal in its proper sense.)

  14. In other words, through an evolutionary process of innovation and competition, those lifestyles and forms of social relations which best serve the needs of the people come to be widely adopted and to prevail. The proper role of the state is to create the conditions which foster this innovation and competition and to avoid taking sides.

    You’ve just called for the abolition of the public pension system. This is on par with importing children’s corpses for breakfast in German politics. Which lamppost would you like to dangle from?

    The need of the people is not equal to the common good. There is a deplorable tendency not to reproduce, use up finite resources and underinvest in research and education.

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