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W. Germany's Greens: Focus on tomorrow, today

Beth Richards — November 1983

The breakdown of detente, the flare-up of the Cold War, the pitiful scenario in Geneva and the threatened deployment and testing of new, terrifying weapons have brought us all out of the woodwork. What was a small group yesterday has turned around and suddenly found itself, with relative shock, to be a movement.

Our diversity, cutting across social, class and professional barriers, is said to be our strength. Yet without unity (a unity that is more deeply defined that a one-shot, spontaneous campaign), our diversity may weaken our impact. In Canada the cruise testing issue has provided us with an arbitrary unity, an immediate focus and the blessings of having to devise only short-term strategy. The cruise testing issue may not last forever, but the goals of our movement must.

The sixties provided lessons on how movements are born and how they die, and in many ways the sixties became an experiment. In twenty years, however, the world has hurled itself to within an inch of peril. There 1s no time for experiment anymore. It’s now or never.

Perhaps no one has broached that topic in a public forum with more depth than Rudolph Bahro, a West German Green, who visited Toronto briefly in October.

“We must look beyond the threshold of a single weapons movement to the deepest roots of the arms race; to the crisis of life on this planet.” Bahro defined that crisis as one of dehumanising technology. and said that even if we avoid a nuclear confrontation, the biosphere will be ruined within two generations due to ecological waste and pollution.

“Ecological problems form the quintessence of the industrialist system in East and West,” said Bahro. “And with the popularity gained by the peace movement, we have to use that strength to become a third force with an independent ideology.” Citing the slogan of END, the European umbrella group, Bahro stated that we must be “neither loyal to one side or another, but loyal to each other;” That loyalty can be strengthened by more east I west exchanges of people, not of weapons or of diplomats. The Geneva arms talks are held by shoemakers discussing ways to abolish shoes, said Bahro, and only public disquiet can effect real progress.

In West Germany, protest is sharply focussed on the deployment of NATO missiles, but at least one group — the Greens — has urged the public to be more aware of larger issues, such as the existence of the bloc system. “Even if we manage to prevent deployment of existing weapons systems,” Bahro warned, “within five or ten years we will be threatened by even more dangerous weapons.”

It is seductively easy, he said, to appeal to the lowest common denominator, concentrating on a particular weapon and thereby ensuring the broadest grassroots support. But concentrating on a single issue may relegate the movement to a position of referee, accusing whichever superpower is ahead in the arms race at a given moment of being the bad guy.

The bloc system provides a self-perpetuating hegemony of the industrial/military north over the underdeveloped south. Unless West Germans get out of the bloc system, Bahro warned, their homeland will inevitably become a battlefield someday.

While nearly fifty million children die each year of starvation and disease, the north spends billions in arms production, maintaining that imbalance. The reason for this gross inequality, explained Bahro, lies in the fundamental nature of modem technology.

Whether an industry is run privately or nationally, relentless expansion forces workers into the role of robots, creates pollution and depletes energy resources — to name only a few of the real fruits of ‘progress.’ We must change from a civilisation of ever-expanding desires to one in which desires are suitably moderated, shifting from a consumer-oriented philosophy to a civilisation that is self-regenerating. Resembling the Buddhist concept of ‘Middle Way’ economics, the Green way stresses moderation and harmony with nature as two fundamental elements of a new society.

The Greens adamantly maintain that violence begets violence and only a sweeping change of consciousness on the part of humanity will ensure. the dawn of a new era. The enemy, explained Bahro, lies within.

By hurling accusations at outer enemies, whether real or perceived, we avoid confronting personal contradictions, thereby perpetuating an inhuman system by virtue of our own irresponsibility toward the immediate environment. As long as we are afraid of being individuals, we’ll always behave like sheep. West Germans are particularly sensitive to this phenomenon, having witnessed masses of their compatriots follow Hitler in a movement which stressed group, rather than individual, identity.

If we can save the world from its current dilemma, Bahro envisions the superpowers becoming “gentle, green, nonviolent republics” which stress self-sufficiency, ecology and the dignity of life. His expectations for this movement are broad indeed, but Bahro insists that the Greens offer a realistic perspective for the future. “This is not a dream,” he stated. “It’s the only way to survive.”