[Marxism] Germany's David Cobb

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jul 28 07:09:09 MDT 2004

Boston Review, Summer 2004
The Chameleon
Does Joschka Fischer really believe in anything?
by Paul Hockenos

8 On November 14, 2003, technicians at the Stade nuclear power plant, 
just outside Hamburg, switched off the 630-kilowatt reactor for the last 

The facility was the first taken off line since Germany’s “red-green” 
government, a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens, brokered a plan 
to shut down all the country’s nuclear power plants.

Ostensibly, the 2000 agreement between the government and German utility 
companies marked a hard-fought victory for the Greens and their leader, 
Joschka Fischer, Germany‘s foreign minister. The party coalesced from 
regional anti-nuclear groups and other left-wing projects in West 
Germany over two decades ago, and no issue is linked to the Greens more 
closely than nuclear power.

But the reaction of anti-nuclear activists to the closure of Stade was 
anything but jubilant. In fact, the agreement four years ago to phase 
out nuclear power over a 20-year period sparked a rash of angry 
defections from the Greens. This schedule enables most of the country’s 
reactors to operate until the end of their natural lives, some beyond 
2020. Green critics blasted the compromise as a sellout and a 
“pseudo-measure” that ultimately upgrades existing reactors and leaves 
huge loopholes for the industry to backtrack the day the Greens leave 
office. This wasn’t what activists had in mind when they braved icy 
nights blockading power plants and nuclear-waste deliveries.

Insiders estimate that the deal made with the nuclear industry caused 
more members to abandon the Greens than did the party’s spring 1999 
approval—muscled through by Fischer, then freshly installed as foreign 
minister—of Germany’s plans to participate in the NATO bombing campaign 
against Yugoslavia, the first time since World War II that Germany has 
sent troops into combat. The red-green coalition hadn’t been in place 
for two years and the Greens had managed to lose about a quarter of 
their core supporters.

Fischer is the single figure most closely identified with the Greens’ 
reformist path as well as their electoral triumphs. He is the party’s 
uncontested leader and visionary, the country’s most popular politician, 
and a foreign minister of international renown. Time magazine recently 
listed him among the world’s most important thinkers.

Despite his international celebrity, Fischer is nowhere more 
controversial than within his own party.1 The angry response of the 
Greens’ grass roots to the nuclear compromise is characteristic of the 
intense internal battles that have accompanied the party’s 
transformations over its 24-year history. In order to become a governing 
partner acceptable to the nation’s political elite, the unruly 
“anti-party” party jettisoned more than jeans, wool sweaters, and 
beards. Under the Fischer-led pragmatists, it tempered—or betrayed, 
depending upon the observer—its stands on virtually every issue from 
recycling to NATO.

The final phase of that metamorphosis began in the autumn of 1998, when 
the Greens and the Social Democrats captured a left-of-center majority 
in Germany for the first time in nearly 20 years. The Greens, with 7.6 
percent of the vote, joined as junior coalition partner, taking the 
portfolios of the foreign, environmental, and health ministries. The 
“long march through the institutions,” as the left’s post-1960s strategy 
had been dubbed, was consummated with Fischer assuming the 
second-most-important post in the Federal Republic. But even the Social 
Democrat–dominated coalition pact only hinted at the compromises that 
Fischer and the Greens would have to make to remain in power.

Fischer’s own dramatic transformations dwarf those of his party: from 
revolutionary Marxist in the ’70s, to Green politician in the ’80s, to 
his present-day incarnation as debonair European statesman. His recent 
memoir Mein Langer Lauf zu mir Selbst chronicles his personal 
rehabilitation from a 245-pound wreck, crushed after his third wife left 
him, to a lean, remarried marathon runner in just one year. The 
ostensible ease with which he makes such jumps unsettles even loyal 
supporters. Does Joschka Fischer really, passionately believe in 
anything? Or is he driven entirely by personal ambition?

full: http://bostonreview.net/BR29.3/hockenos.html


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