Realos and Fundis the German Greens as a Model for Understanding Party Development and Change

The groundbreaking success of the Green breakthrough in Germany has resulted in the German Green party Die Grünen (later Bundnis'90/ Die Grünen, following German unification) becoming the focal point for a large proportion of the analytical research into Green parties. The party experienced an initial period of development and success, followed by a period of internal debates and conflict caused by, and reflected in, a series of disappointing electoral performances. It is not surprising, therefore, to discover that much of our current understanding of Green party division and change has emerged from the analysis of the experiences within Die Grünen during the 1980s and early 1990s.

Central to the German case, and later transposed onto other Green parties, has been the identification of an internal factional conflict between two groups, reflecting the divisions highlighted by Kitschelt, which became known as realos' and fundis'. The conflicts within Die Grünen encompassed many important facets of Green party ideology and identity. In particular, conflict centred around how the party should move forward or, as Markovits describes it, defining Die Grünen's optimal strategy' (Markovits and Gorski, 1993, p119). How was social change to be achieved? What role did parliament play in this and what relationship should exist between parliamentary and extra-parliamentary activity? Also, what relationship, if any, should exist between Die Grünen and the social Democrats (sPD)? (Hulsberg, 1988, p141). It is around these issues that the clearest picture of realo' and fundis' stances are presented.

Realos advocated a move away from a mass-movement focus and towards parliamentary politics, emphasizing the role of alliance and compromise within Green party policy. Coalition, it was argued, represented the only practical way to challenge the German right, as well as providing a pragmatic way to introduce Green policies into the political arena (Hulsberg, 1988, p146). For the realos, therefore, the role of the party can be identified as one of parliamentary mediator for minority social movements. Achieving these objectives, however, implied major changes to the nature and style of Die Grünen's organization, as Frankland highlights:

The realos rejected the 'warehouse catalogue' of demands approach to programmatic development; political priorities must be set and 'conscious compromise' must be a foundation for Green politics (Frankland, 1992, p140).

The realos aimed for a parliamentary focus within the party, advocating the restructuring and professionalizing' of the party for a 'reformpolitik that could be supported by a wider social base (Frankland, 1992, p114).

By contrast, fundis rejected any form of tactical orientation merely for the purposes of electoral gain. Any revision of style and objectives was viewed as betraying the original principles from which the party developed. The ideological objectives of Die Grünen, fundamentalists claimed, should not be open to compromise. As Greens no longer viewed left-right political distinctions as capable of solving the problems of modern industrial society, fundis argued that the party would not benefit from the development of left-wing coalitions. Parliamentary power could be utilized to greatest effect through tactical and logistical support of the social movements, such as public relations work, and financial and organizational support (Markovits and Gorski, 1993, p122). The stance of the fundis reflected a deep' Green conviction that only radical social change would provide lasting environmental solutions, reflected in Petra Kelly's claim that:

In certain questions, the Greens cannot enter into any compromises. There is not just a little bit of death, a little bit of annihilation, a little bit of cancer, a little bit of war or violence (cited in Markovits and Gorski, 1993, p123).

The realos faction, as later chapters discuss, eventually gained the upper hand and instigated significant reforms within the party. However, the significance of these debates, and the eventual outcome, had important implications beyond merely organizational structures within the German Green party. Frankland identifies it as a defining moment in the development of Green party politics, during which:

. . .the anti-organizational allergies of the movement activists... collided with the pragmatic realos, who accepted the inevitabilities of parliamentarization, professionaliza-

tion, and the role of the promis as political leaders (Frankland, 1992, p217).

Markovits and Gorski similarly identify the debates as reflecting a desire within the two groups for completely different types of political party, rather than merely an internal party struggle. Fundamentalists, they argue, sought the development of a radical, leftist, Socialist ecology party, reflecting the ideological and activist commitments of the new social movements.22 The realos, in contrast, wanted to create a reformist party that would appeal to moderate middle-class voters and would provide a pragmatic approach to parliamentary electoral politics, developing an ecologically and socially informed restructuring of industrial society' (Markovits and Gorski, 1993, p216).

The nature of the conflict, therefore, appears to represent more than just an internal party struggle. To some it demonstrated that the principles of grassroots democracy were incompatible with the need for efficient political performance under the conditions of parliamentary democracy (Poguntke, 1993, p380). Others saw it as reproducing the structural tensions that had already existed between the new social movements and the newly formed party, although now at a higher political level (Markovits and Gorski, 1993, p216). The conflicts within Die Grünen clearly raised important question marks over the ability of the Green parties to maintain a commitment to new social movement principles, while also aiming to develop a solid and effective party platform from which to represent ecological concerns.

Issues and divisions such as those surrounding the realo-fundis' debates within the German Greens have also been transposed onto the patterns of development, change and conflict witnessed within other European Green parties. Here, again, analysis has focused upon the difficulties of marrying the parties' commitment to achieving ecological change with their commitments to the ideals and organizational style of the new social movements. The application of these themes to the European context has enabled Green party researchers to distinguish between light' and dark', electoralist' and decentral-ist', and realist' and fundamentalist' tendencies within Green parties, and to view change as the attempted resolution of factional disputes along these dimensions.23 However, closer inspection begins to suggest that the experiences of these parties are actually far from homogeneous.

Within the British Green party, for example, Robinson identifies a realo-fundis' split between:

. . .those who resolutely seek to defend the purity of their 'Green'principles, and those who are willing selectively to forsake some of these in the interests of pragmatism (Robinson, 1992, p211).

He identifies the fundamentalists as refusing to sell out' to the big power game of politics, while realists seek some level of political influence in the hope of achieving small, but tangible, environmental concessions (Robinson, 1992, p211). Although both groups are seen to share similar ideological beliefs, realists, it is claimed, are more prepared to compromise to achieve some level of political participation. Bennie et al's (1995) study, however, questions the ease with which we can utilize this dichotomy in the British case. Rather, they identify a far more complex pattern in which party activists were identified as realists' within particular spheres, such as party policy and strategy, but at an ideological level still viewed themselves as fundamentalists'. The study therefore raises questions regarding whether activist identification with such categorizations are largely issue specific rather than evidence of a completely distinctive ideological stance.

Realo-fundis classifications have also been utilized to examine changes and conflicts within the French Green party, Les Verts, and the Italian Liste Verdi. In France, debates over possible alliances with other parties have produced significant levels of internal factionalism and conflict within the party. These debates have been portrayed within the context of realo-fundis divisions, with Antoine Waechter's strategy of party autonomy being identified as a fundis' stance in contrast to Dominique Voynet's realo' position of favouring alliances with the left.24 In a slightly different context, Rhodes's analysis of the Italian Liste Verdi identifies a split between those activists which he defines as pure Greens' and those activists within the organization who hold a new left commitment. Again, however, a primary factor in this division appears to be a strategic distinction between parliamentary and extra-parliamentary activity. He suggests that:

This split tends to mirror that between the supporters of demonstrations and grassroots activism (the piazza) and the advocates of national lobbying and parliamentary politics (thepalazzo) (Rhodes, 1995, p186).

Doherty (1992) extends the comparative application of the realo-fundis typology by examining the extent to which realo-fundis conflicts and divisions can be identified as a common factor within Western European Green parties. In doing so, he attempts to address the issue of whether these conflicts are necessarily an inherent result of the Greens' radical ideology and decentralized organization (Doherty,

1992, p95). His definition of the realo-fundis division again emphasizes the centrality of the two primary theoretical dimensions highlighted throughout this chapter. He describes fundamentalists as:

Those who are, in principle, critical of coalitions with other parties, opposed to centralization of the party organization and sceptical about achieving radical change by parliamentary means (Doherty, 1992, p97).

By contrast, he claims that realists emphasize the importance of a solid parliamentary strategy, while not completely rejecting the importance of extra-parliamentary action. They seek changes to a number of the initial organizational principles of the parties, claiming that experience has demonstrated the weaknesses of these organizational structures when placed within the competitive system in which they seek representation and influence.

Doherty's analysis therefore focuses primarily upon the ambiguity in Green party ideas concerning political strategy. Within this context, the foundation for conflict and division rests with the balance struck between extra-parliamentary and parliamentary activity - in particular, between politics pursued outside existing channels of interest intermediation and a politics that accepts certain forms of institutionalization as inevitable' (Doherty, 1992, p97). He argues that these debates reflect many of the issues raised when the parties originally decided to move away from social movement activism and into the party political sphere. In attempting to remain true to their social movement origins, Green parties sought to create an organization and structure reflecting the ideals of these movements. It was only as these parties began to achieve electoral successes, and faced the organizational complexities of parliamentary representation at varying levels, that the original blueprint of party organization began to display cracks and deficiencies. Whereas diversity and debate regarding such issues represented a positive point for the social movements, it has proved more damaging to the Green parties as they attempt to represent many different opinions under a single coherent strategy.

Doherty's analysis suggests a common pattern of ambiguities within the European Green parties concerning the structure of the Green party and the parliamentary or extra-parliamentary focus for its activities, reflected within some form of realo-fundis dispute. Importantly, he also identifies a relationship between the specificities of internal conflict within Green parties, and the social and institutional conditions within which they function. Hence, controversy and conflict over strategy is often sparked by a relatively strong or weak competitive position. Either situation, Doherty argues, has the effect of polarizing the party between parliamentary and extra-parliamentary strategies (Doherty, 1992, p1l6).

To summarize, then, more recent Green party analysis has devoted significant attention to a conflicting division between realist and fundamentalist factions in Western Green parties that is largely reflective of the realo-fundi debates within Die Grünen. The factional division, as Doherty identifies, appears to focus upon ambiguities concerning Green party strategies towards parliamentary versus extra-parliamentary activism. The style of these conflicts, however, may also reflect specific national circumstances. The balance between realist and fundamentalist factions must therefore be viewed in relation to the party structure, the available political opportunities and the way in which Green party members respond to their own national and traditional contexts (Doherty, 1992, p117). Underlying this process we can clearly identify the continued ideological distinction between a true' or dark' Green perspective, focusing upon radical ecological commitments, and an alternative shallow' or light' Green perspective, which is more reactive to competitive party pressures and is prepared to compromise on key ideals and commitments. These splits are identified as being at the heart of the process of change witnessed within the European Green parties in recent years.

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  • markus
    What the greens party of germany inner conflict?
    6 years ago

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