GLW: German Greens betray anti-nuclear movement

Green Left Parramatta glparramatta at
Wed Apr 11 06:52:14 MDT 2001

The following article appeared in the latest
issue of Green Left Weekly (,
Australia's radical newspaper.

See also


GERMANY: Greens betray anti-nuclear movement


By supporting the March 26-29 shipment of high-level
radioactive waste from France to the German town of Gorleben, the
German Greens have ditched all four elements of their original
platform  --  environmental sustainability, disarmament, social
justice and democracy. All that remains is the conservatism and
opportunism implicit in their mantra ``neither left nor right but
out in front''.

Six ``Castor'' containers  --  each with about 10 tonnes of vitrified
wastes arising from the reprocessing of spent fuel from nuclear
power reactors  --  were taken by train and truck from nuclear
company Cogema's reprocessing plant at La Hague, France, to
Gorleben, where a salt mine is being used as a ``temporary'' dump.

In the weeks preceding the shipment, tens of thousands of
protesters launched a wave of demonstrations across Germany.
Along the route of the waste train, thousands of people protested
and many delayed the train by sitting on, or cementing or
chaining themselves to, the tracks. About 20,000 police were
involved in the counter-operation, and water cannons were used to
drive back thousands of protesters as they tried to storm
Dannenberg railway station.

Thousands of tonnes of German-origin spent fuel and reprocessing
wastes remain at La Hague, and the German and French governments
plan two shipments annually.

Although the six Castor waste containers arrived at their
destination, the political and financial costs to the German
government  --  the police operation cost over 10 million German
marks ($9.3 million) according to the March 28 British
Independent  --  have jeopardised future shipments.

The transfer of reprocessing wastes to Gorleben was a politically
expedient way of ``solving'' a problem for German nuclear power
corporations, which have limited spent fuel storage capacity.

Cogema's motives are similar to those of the German nuclear
corporations: it must get rid of reprocessing wastes in order to
assure the future of its operations.

As a result of the waste shipment to Gorleben, German nuclear
corporations will shortly resume spent fuel shipments to Cogema.

Public opposition to waste shipments is motivated by the
environmental and public health risks they pose. In 1998 it was
revealed that Castor containers had been travelling across Europe
for about a decade, emitting more radiation than was permitted.
The radiation limit recommended by the International Atomic
Energy Agency was exceeded in a number of cases, sometimes by a
factor of more than 100.

As a result of the contamination scandal and the public reaction
to it, the then Christian Democratic Union government was barely
able to keep the waste shipments going and was forced to call a
halt to all Castor rail transports. The March 26-29 Castor
shipment was the first since 1998.

Jochen Stay noted in the February 16 news communique of the World
Information Service on Energy, ``Now the transport ban is coming
to an end, but it is still questionable whether a Castor is safer
now just because the current Environment Minister carries a Green
Party membership card.''

`Consensus nonsense'

The German Greens became the junior partner in government with
the Social Democratic Party in late 1998. Both the Greens and the
SPD campaigned for phasing out nuclear power and promised such
legislation within 100 days of forming government.

In the end it took about 600 days, and instead of legislation the
SPD-Greens government came to a ``consensus agreement'' with
nuclear corporations on June 14, 2000.

The agreement was hailed as a ``great victory'' by Australian
Greens' Senator Bob Brown, but most commentators believe it was a
great victory for the nuclear corporations and deride the
agreement as ``consensus nonsense''. The share prices of German
nuclear corporations rose by 4-5% on the strength of the
consensus agreement.

Previously, the German Greens had called for a ``clearly defined
schedule for the end of atomic power''. However, the June 14
agreement did not specify a timeline for the ``phase-out'';
instead, it puts a cap on the lifetime output by all 19 operating
reactors, equivalent to an average reactor lifetime of 32 years.

The Greens dropped their demand for the closure of the two oldest
reactors before the 2002 national election during negotiations.
Greens and SPD leaders also dropped a Greens proposal for a new
input tax on nuclear fuel.

In January 1999, the SPD-Greens government announced that it
would ban the reprocessing of Germany's spent fuel from January
1, 2000. The Greens hailed the decision as an ``about-turn for
nuclear energy''. It turned out to be yet another broken promise  --
the consensus agreement allows reprocessing to continue until
July 1, 2005.

The SPD-Greens government could have brought about a rapid end to
nuclear power, either by legislating it, or simply by refusing to
allow further shipments of spent fuel to reprocessing plants in
France and Britain. The government chose the consensus agreement
instead, and as a consequence supports the resumption of spent
fuel shipments to France and Britain and the return of
reprocessing wastes to Germany.

The Greens voted by an overwhelming majority at a party congress
at Stuttgart on March 10 to oppose blockades of the March 26-29
waste shipment. The resolution passed by the congress urged
Greens not to build or support ``actions, demonstrations or
blockades that are directed against the nuclear consensus''.

The Greens' betrayal of the anti-nuclear movement is just the
latest sell-out of their stated principles of environmental
sustainability, disarmament, social justice and democracy.

The Greens have shown a remarkable capacity to put a green gloss
on neo-liberal policies. In February 1999, Martin Hufner, chief
economist with Germany's second largest bank, said the Greens
were ``emerging as the voice of economic reason in a number of

Hufner said the Greens were applying the concept of
sustainability to economic and social policy. He cited Greens'
opposition to pension increases, which were justified with
references to ``generational equity''  --  one of the buzz words of
ecologically sustainable development. The Greens argued that it
would be unwise to add to the financial burden of future
generations by increasing pensions.

Increased taxes on fuel and power, introduced in 1999, have been
sold as ``eco-taxes'' but are having a disproportionate impact on
low-income earners while largely exempting business. Massive cuts
in state spending  --  affecting pensioners and the unemployed, in
particular  --  have been supported by the Greens and justified with
reference to green catch-phrases such as thrift, resourcefulness
and autonomy.

Dis-disarmament and non-non-violence

The Green principles of disarmament and non-violence have also
been ditched. In the lead-up to the 1998 election, the Greens'
election program stated the aim of a ``de-militarisation of
politics  --  all the way to the abolishment of the army and the
dissolution of NATO''.

A few months after the election, the Greens supported NATO's
military offensive against Serbia and Kosova. Ironically, in 1999
some Greens defended the party's militarism as a necessary price
to pay for winning a ``commitment'' from the SPD to force the
closure of nuclear power plants.

Some Greens have also supported military attacks on Iraq since
1998, most recently in February when foreign minister and Greens
leader Joschka Fischer refused to condemn US and British bombing
raids, instead expressing his government's ``understanding'' of

The Greens also support the militarisation of the European Union,
which has so far resulted in the establishment of a military
planning staff and a political and security committee, with plans
for a 60,000-strong ``rapid reaction force''.

Three months after the end of the NATO bombing of Kosova and
Serbia, Angelika Beer, the defence spokesperson of the Green
parliamentary group, presented a paper in which she argued for
German armed forces ``characterised by great mobility, technical
and operational superiority, leadership-adapted discipline and
flexible deployment capacity in the context of multinational and
international operations''.

Bastardised green concepts are peppered throughout Beer's paper,
titled ``Less is More!'', which turns green frugality and
resourcefulness into support for ``higher performance and more
cost-efficient armed forces'' with which Germany, the European
Union and NATO can pursue their imperialist interests.

``Liberation'' for Beer means liberating the German army from its
slumber: ``Insufficient structural reforms have led the army into
a dead end, from which it must be liberated in order to be
prepared for the future''.

As for the last of the Greens' principles, democracy, Fischer
told a Greens conference on May 13, 1999, ``If you pass a
resolution calling for a unilateral stop to the [NATO] bombing
[on Serbia and Kosova], without a time limit, I will not carry it

Federal elections will take place in Germany next year. The
Greens' vote has declined in numerous state and local elections
since the 1998 federal election, and it is doubtful whether the
party will secure the 5% vote necessary to secure parliamentary

It is debatable whether it would be a set-back for Germans (and
others) if the Greens lose their parliamentary representation.
The Greens have won some gains  --  a substantial growth in wind
power, for example. However, on a series of important issues  --
such as German involvement in the war on Serbia and the nuclear
power fiasco  --  the Greens have actively blocked progressive

The balance sheet is overwhelmingly negative and the political
trajectory of the Greens into the arms of the ruling class is
equally clear. According to Peter Staudenmaier of the German
Institute for Social Ecology, ``The formerly activist-driven
`anti-party party' has shrivelled to a coterie of thoroughly
professionalised career politicians without any ties whatsoever
to grassroots movements''.

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