Beyond Realos and Fundis the Need for a Broader Understanding of Green Party Change

Binary distinctions such as those between realos' and fundis' represent an effective analytical tool for examining strategic positioning and change among the European Green parties. However, the breadth of change experienced within these parties demonstrates that strategic change is not the only focus for reform. Indeed, a brief inspection of recent developments within a number of European Green parties highlights the difficulties associated with adopting these approaches to Green party change, both structural and strategic. In particular, party change does not always result from the existence, and attempted resolution, of factional disputes within the parties based upon such dichotomous distinctions.

The Green parties in both sweden and Austria experienced significant structural changes that cannot be fully understood purely in terms of internal realo-fundis divisions among activists. The Swedish Green party, Miljöpartiet de Gröna, as will be seen in later chapters, embarked upon a significant period of organizational change during 1991-1992, which was remarkably free of internal ideological division and conflict.

The implementation of structural change within the Austrian Green party, Die Grüne Alternative, during the same period, is also difficult to explain in terms of bitter intra-party squabbling along realo-fundis lines. Indeed, as Frankland points out, moves towards a more professionalized, pragmatic Green party did not lead to incriminations, resignations and splinters' (Frankland, 1996, p212).

An examination of strategic change within both the British and French Green parties also suggests that such change cannot be identified solely as the result of internal party feuding. Despite the deep divisions witnessed within the British Greens during the early 1990s, subsequent Green Party strategy has been shaped by both an anti-partyist' and pragmatic' stance.25 Similarly, Les Verts have been embroiled in numerous strategic upheavals which, closer analysis suggests, have had more to do with the state of political competition than with internal ideological commitments and concerns.

Cases such as these begin to raise questions concerning the nature of Green party development that cannot be fully understood via factional conflicts over party strategy. For example, why should the Green party in Sweden be able to successfully restructure the party organization with relatively little sign of a strategic realo-fundis style conflict, especially when its roots can be traced clearly to the style of new social movement activism at the heart of fundamental Green party commitments? A similar question can be raised in the case of Austria. In contrast, why should the Green party in the UK be ravaged by internal party conflict over issues of party organizational structure, when the changes suggested were markedly less dramatic than those in the Swedish case? In addition, how can one explain the fact that although the party is now dominated by what would be identified as fundamentalists', it has maintained the organizational structures that were designed as a more pragmatic approach to party politics? Clearly, certain issues have proved more controversial in some Green parties than in others. All appear to have undergone a process of transformation, but have experienced this process in markedly different ways. Green party development and change thus appear more far-reaching than the previous picture of strategic division can identify.

One of the key difficulties within Green party analysis is the apparent gap between Green political theory and the practical experiences of the Green parties themselves. Bennie et al acknowledge this problem, claiming that:

There is . . . quite a substantial gap between 'green political theory' as developed and discussed in academic circles, and the ideas and beliefs of 'actual' Greens involved in practising 'Greenpolitics' (Bennie et al, 1995, p218).

Not only does this apparent gap' between theory and practice create problems in analysing Green party development, it has also been identified as having a direct effect on the parties themselves. Kenny, for example, suggests that the conflicts experienced within the European Green parties could be understood as resulting from a lack of ideological guidance due to the absence of a cogent and clear Green political theory' (Kenny, 1994, p222). Ecologism, as highlighted, offers a strong critique of modern industrial society and identifies the need for a change in humans' relationship with nature. However, the divergence within Green political thought and eco-philosophy leaves Green parties and environmental movements without a clear picture of the practical measures through which this change should be achieved. The nature and style of Green political theory, one might argue, does not adequately tackle the political realities facing the movements who are seeking to actively implement Green ideas.

Barry (1994) argues that it is important to attempt some level of integration between the philosophical aspect of Green political theory and the practical activism of the various Green movements, of which Green parties represent a case in point. He claims that the problems have arisen due to the separation of Green political theory into two distinct camps - namely, the shallow and the deep, long-range ecology movement, at the heart of which is an eco-philosophical dispute between anthropocentrism and ecocentrism' (Barry, 1994, p370). The emphasis currently placed upon deep Green philosophy has created a common perception whereby only ecocentrically motivated political action is identified as truly Green'. It is this distinction, Barry claims, that has resulted in inappropriate classifications of Green political activity. To gain a more accurate perception of Green political action, we must therefore move away from this focus upon deep' and shallow' Green politics. In practice, this involves questioning what is actually at the core of Green political thought and Green ideology. Barry's approach is to argue that:

The reconciliation of Green philosophy and politics depends on seeing that the normative basis of Green politics includes a concern with the human social world and its organization, as much as a moral concern with the non-human world (Barry, 1994, p369).

The ecocentric standpoint, therefore, from which deep-shallow' dichotomies are produced, neglects a central aspect of Green party activism - namely, that at the heart of this activism is an inevitable concern with the human social world. By neglecting this factor and drawing a distinct line between dark' and light' Green, theorists are actually moving further away from providing an accurate picture of Green activism and widening the gap between thought and practice.

This theoretical gap' would appear to be central to the problems involved in providing an effective explanation of Green party development, change and conflict. In this case, analysis has focused predominantly upon the theoretical roots of the Green parties, emphasizing both the newness' of the political challenge and identifying what it means to be Green', along both ideological and philosophical dimensions. However, Green party research has yet to devote similar levels of attention to issues surrounding what it means to be a small, new political party struggling for recognition and attempting to represent and implement a distinctive and broad-ranging Green' ideology within established party systems. This may be one reason why, as Bennie et al note, one can identify a significant difference between the style and content of Green political theory and philosophy, on the one hand, and the empirical evidence that emerges from studies of Green party politics and activism, on the other (Bennie et al, 1995, p218).

The development of classifications, such as those between realos' and fundis', serve to provide an initial link between theory and practice within Green party analysis. However, closer inspection raises concerns that these approaches may tend to obscure more than they actually clarify. The strategic debates and changes that these classifications identify are often translated as a process of ideological dilution through a strategic shift away from broader ideological objectives. Hence, strategic change is connected with the pragmatic relaxing of party commitments to values identified as being at the heart of the ecological-new social movement framework. The identification of realo-fundis-style conflict has therefore taken on much broader ramifications regarding the professionalization' of the Green parties and, with it, the implication that recent developments have witnessed the increasing institutionalization of the new politics'.

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