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New Left Review I/152, July-August 1985


Werner Hülsberg

The Greens at the Crossroads

The West German political scene of the 1980s has been transformed by the emergence—for the first time since the foundation of the Federal Republic—of a socially radical force with a significant electoral following in the society at large. The Greens have changed the map of the traditional party system and its prospects in the country. In a wider perspective, they have represented the breakthrough of a novel and unorthodox kind of left politics in the West, at a time when the labour movement has been on the retreat and the neoconservative right in the ascendancy. Socialists everywhere, both within and without Germany itself, have looked to the phenomenon of the Greens with hope and interest, against the background of a pervasive international reaction installed as much in Bonn as in London or Washington. In March 1983, the West German elections brought a coalition of the Right to power under Helmut Kohl—the Rhenish answer to Thatcher and Reagan. Simultaneously, however, the Greens narrowly cleared the undemocratic five per cent hurdle to parliamentary representation and established themselves as a national political force. For the first time since the banning of the old Communist Party in the 1950s, the Social Democratic Party (spd) was confronted with an organisation to its left that rejected the official ideological consensus of the Bundesrepublik. In the 1984 European and regional elections the Greens kept up their momentum, increasing their vote yet further. Political speculation about the possibility of an spd—Green alliance as a governmental alternative for the Federal elections of 1987 started to become widespread.

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