Shades of deep khaki

by Paul McGarr

"Many Green supporters are horrified that a Green foreign minister is sending bombers against Serbia"

IN A recent letter to Socialist Worker, Ankaret Harmer wrote that unlike the Tories or New Labour, "The Green Party is committed to helping the poor and working class, and is anti-racist." Ankaret reflects a more widely held view.

Green parties across Europe, however, have come under severe pressure in recent weeks, as NATO's bombing of the Balkans has forced all political organisations to decide their stance. In three European countries—Germany, Italy and France—Greens are part of governing coalitions, alongside Labour type parties. In the "Red-Green" coalition which governs Germany the foreign minister is Joschka Fischer, the Greens' leader. Fischer, like many of his fellow Greens, has a long and honourable record. He marched against the Vietnam War and in opposition to General Pinochet's 1973 coup in Chile. His party grew rapidly at the heart of anti-war and anti-nuclear protests in the 1970s and 1980s.

Yet in government Fischer has urged on the NATO bombing and insists it is right for German planes to join the war. Many Green supporters are horrified that a Green foreign minister should be sending the German airforce to war for the first time since 1945. It has led to sharp rows in the party. Rank and file activists are pushing for a No War position at a special conference next month. There is talk of the party splitting down the middle over the war.

The Greens in Italy talk about a "diplomatic solution" in the Balkans. But whatever their private views they refuse to oppose the bombing openly and rule out any suggestion that they might quit a government which backs NATO's war. The Greens in France are in coalition with the Socialist [Labour] Party and Communist Party. Early protests against the NATO bombing saw some Greens on the streets, and environment minister Dominique Voynet made some critical noises over the war. But the Green leaders' stance has now shifted to wholesale backing for the bombing, and even calling for a land war.

GERMAN GREEN leader Joschka Fischer (right) arguing with anti-war Green Hans Christian Ströbele

Daniel Cohn-Bendit has played the key role in the French Greens' pro-war stance. He is best known as the leader of the May 1968 French student revolt. Cohn-Bendit is the main "intellectual" figure in winning Europe's Greens to backing military intervention in former Yugoslavia. He even claims to have converted his close friend Joschka Fischer. "I support European states backing the NATO action," Cohn-Bendit says. "A military invasion on the ground is needed. Political leaders need to prepare public opinion for sending troops."

That all Europe's Green leaders have dropped their long proclaimed pacifism indicates it is not just down to some personal failing. Their politics are a criticism of some aspects of the capitalist system, such as the way it leads to environmental destruction, but not a rejection of the system itself. That can lead them to seem like a radical alternative at times. But when in office they end up, just like Labour type parties, embracing the logic of the bosses' system and the states that rest on it. Cohn-Bendit insists, "There are times when one has to choose sides." Quite. He and the rest of Europe's Green leaders have chosen to side with NATO, with the bombing of civilians and with US imperialism.