Redefining the Environment Changes in Green Party Policy

The public expects us to be environmental. We have to work out how to secure that, and then demonstrate that we are also concerned with social issues and economic issues. How do we fill it out from there, rather than saying we've been too environmental, now let's be social. It's about bringing things into your own identity and securing your own space (Interview with Green party activist, 7 August 1995).

It is one thing to identify the damaging environmental impact of modern industrial society, but it is quite another to provide a political programme that ensures a radical change in this process. When identifying the distinguishing characteristics of the European Greens, Poguntke and Müller-Rommel place the specific nature of the Greens' programmatic profile alongside organizational structure and electoral profile as the essential elements of new politics' (Müller-Rommel and Poguntke, 1989, p21). The policy dimension represents the attempt to develop abstract Green ideals into practical political change. As with party organization, it provides not only a critique of existing attitudes and approaches to political decision-making, but also offers a Green alternative reflection of the new politics' identity. This identity can largely be summarized as follows:

Ecological politics, opposition to nuclear power, individualism with a very strong focus on self-determination and self-actualization, participatory democracy with direct citizens' involvement with decision-making, a general left-

wing orientation, redistribution of global wealth in favour of the developing nations, and an unambiguous preference for unilateral disarmament (Müller-Rommel and Poguntke, 1989, pp21-22).

As outlined in previous chapters, the manner in which Green parties have portrayed this new politics' identity has changed as the parties have developed and evolved. As the parties have sought more effective ways in which to put across the Green message to the public, these reforms have raised questions among party activists regarding the focus and priorities of Green policy.

In Germany, the balance between different aspects of the ecological identity within the party's programmes often reflected the diversity of influence of the various factions within the Greens. As such, the focus of the Green party programme has been an issue for debate since the party's formation in 1980. While the Greener' elements within the party have favoured the prioritization of environmental concerns, the broad new social movement base provided vociferous support for a much more diverse programmatic perspective, which presented a more radical systemic challenge.

The initial party programme in 1980 attempted to pull these diverse strands together, arguing that Germany was faced with an economic and environmental crisis. While this crisis was most clearly reflected in an ongoing process of environmental destruction, the root causes of this destruction lay in a capitalist system that placed excessive emphasis upon economic growth and the pursuit of profit. Reflecting the ideological roots outlined in Chapter 1, the party argued that change could only occur as the result of a changing process of interaction both in human relations and in human relationships with the natural world. This meant not only a commitment to environmental protection, but also greater emphasis upon direct democracy, participation and equality.

Frankland and Schoonmaker portray the Greens in their early federal programmes as being champions of underdogs abroad and at home,' claiming that:

The Greens advocate full equality for women. They promote the rights of foreign workers, homosexuals, gypsies, the handicapped, prisoners and the aged. For all citizens they stress the right of free speech and assembly, the right of conscientious objection to military service and the right to be free of surveillance (Frankland and Schoonmaker, 1992, p131).

Throughout the party's history, the balance between ecology and broader new social movement objectives has shifted within the parties' policy priorities. The increasing importance of environmental and antinuclear campaigns in Germany during the 1980s helped to concentrate greater attention upon the Green message. Not only did the German Greens improve their position electorally, but other parties started to recognize the electoral salience of Green issues. The Social Democrats (SPD) were particularly keen to accommodate the Green agenda within their programmes, claiming that the Greens raised important issues but failed to provide practical programmatic solutions. It was one thing to identify problems, but quite another to actually tackle the task of putting these problems right. As such, the Greens were often portrayed as an irresponsible' opposition party that lacked a concrete programme for reform.

Parliamentary representation added a new dimension to the policy debate. Rapidly expanding parliamentary success increased calls within the party for a more concrete programme. If the party was to seek coalition with the SPD, it was argued, it needed concrete policy proposals rather than vague ideological statements of intent. As such, debates within the party over policy direction focused upon whether the party should maintain a longer-term commitment to a radical overhaul of industrial capitalist society, or whether it should focus upon more short-term objectives that could be achieved through coalition activity at regional and federal level. During the 1980s, therefore, emphasis moved away from an ecological stance.

By 1990, however, the German Greens were again focusing upon environmental policies, ironically at a time when the agenda had shifted. Thus, in an election dominated by the implications of German unification, the Greens found themselves focusing upon the perils of climate change. While undoubtedly a significant issue to focus upon, it was far removed from the top of the political agenda of most of the voters. The campaign focus was identified as a key factor in the poor electoral performance during 1990, leading the Greens to another change of emphasis during the 1990s.

During the 1994 federal elections, the Greens, conscious of the potential for coalition with the SPD, focused their electoral campaign upon broader social issues, including the shortening of work time and the creation of more jobs. This clearly reflected the primary concerns of a large proportion of the German electorate.1 Electoral success in 1994 and the strengthened political position of the party encouraged the Greens to continue this policy approach. Indeed, the Greens' social agenda was a vital dimension of the coalition agreement with the SPD after the 1998 federal elections. Unemployment again figured high on the party's agenda and was seen as a more vital indicator of the party's performance in government than other more directly environmental' concerns. When joining the coalition government in 1998, the Greens declared that their performance in government over the coming four years should be judged mainly by the contribution that they had made to combating unemployment.

As the brief outline above demonstrates, the German Greens have regularly experienced a fluctuation in the focus and prioritization of their policies, from social environmental' to natural environmental' issues. Overall, however, recent years have undoubtedly witnessed a focus upon the social' dimension. For some, this represents another dimension in the process of institutionalization of the new politics'. As the Greens have become an established part of the party political system, so they have been forced to focus upon expanding the Red-Green dimension of the party's identity at the expense of a more ecological deep Green' perspective in order to maintain strong links with the SPD.

The divisions over policy priorities within the German Greens, outlined above, have also often been used to identify divisions between different types of Green party. In particular, the choice of either a natural' or social' focus has been interpreted as reflecting the different heritages of the parties, the variation in activist base and also a distinction in the level of commitment to a deep Green ecological' ideological perspective.

These divisions are primarily focused upon the manner in which parties incorporate, represent and prioritize the different aspects of the new politics' identity outlined above. Müller-Rommel, for example, identifies a split in policy orientation between pure Green reformist parties' and alternative Green radical parties' (Müller-Rommel 1985, p491). He suggests that pure Green reformist parties prefer to select genuine ecology issues that do not bring them deeply into policy conflict with the established parties over the social welfare state and foreign policy' (Müller-Rommel, 1985, p491). By contrast, the alternative Green radical' parties are characterized by a commitment to fundamental changes in social and political institutions' and seek a new alternative, social-radical democratic paradigm' (Müller-Rommel, 1985, p491).

These alternative approaches to Green party policy are identified by Arne Naess as being reflective of a deeper ideological commitment within the Green parties to different levels of Greening' society. He claims that there is a difference in the style of Green thinking between the countries of central and Mediterranean Europe, such as Germany, France and Italy, and those of the marginal lands' - namely, Scandinavia and the UK. The latter represent the natural' Greens, whose primary policy focus rests with environmental protection issues, while the former, the social' Greens, place greater emphasis upon society in a wider context (Naess, 1988, p4).

Prendiville clarifies these classifications within an empirical study of policy priorities within Les Verts. He identifies social' issues as focusing upon socio-economic problems, solidarity, anti-racism, democracy, self-management and unemployment' (Prendiville, 1994, p109). He outlines the basis of natural' environmental priorities as environment, conservation, recycling, organic farming, animal protection, nuclear, pollution and energy' (Prendiville, 1994, p109).2 These distinctions undoubtedly reflect the more philosophical binary divisions discussed in Chapter 1, and the implications associated with these strategies suggest a distinction between those parties with a pure ecological' identity, on the one hand, and those who have been more open to compromise, on the other. Shull (1999), for example, claims that these distinctions reflect an ongoing debate within the Greens regarding the prioritization of efficiency over identity. As the Greens become more enmeshed within the political system, it appears that the commitment to a pure ecological' perspective has been diluted in favour of a broader picture of environmental' politics.

This chapter examines the Greens' continuing attempts to represent the new politics' identity and assesses the changes that have occurred as the parties have evolved. In particular, it will question whether there are distinctive types of identity within the different Green parties, which is reflected within party policy, and whether the process of development and change has, in any way, altered this identity. Addressing these issues, the analysis will focus upon the following questions:

• To what extent do the divisions highlighted above provide an accurate portrayal of changes within Green party policies?

• Is there evidence to suggest that Green parties themselves see party policy within these contexts?

• Is it possible to identify the use of social' and natural' or fundamental' and moderate' distinctions within party policy debates and, if so, do they reflect the ideological divisions highlighted above?

Party analysis has often highlighted the complexities involved in identifying and analysing a party's policy commitments. Party policy is often multidimensional, and includes both day-to-day policy positions, which are responsive to changing political issues, and the more long-term core values upon which these policy stances are based. In presenting a comparative assessment of policy change, therefore, one is faced with a number of fundamental questions and potential obstacles. In particular, what exactly should an assessment of party policy examine; to what extent do policy changes alter the underlying values of a political party; and, subsequently, how can these changes be accurately measured? In tackling the first issue, one is faced with the analytical dilemma that party policy has traditionally been surrounded by considerable ambiguity' (Laver and Hunt, 1992, p3). This ambiguity especially concerns the identification of those policies that are representative of the core values and beliefs of a political party.

Party documents and, in particular, election manifestos provide the primary focus for identifying core policy ideas because they represent a clear statement of intent regarding a party's policy decisions and proposals. However, while manifestos may provide clarity on one dimension, they are, by definition, designed primarily with electoral considerations at heart and may not necessarily, therefore, portray a truly accurate representation of the core' values and policies of a party. Consequently, while analysts such as Hamilton (1989) accept the need to equate policy with the contents of party programmes and manifestos with all their ambiguity', analysis is conducted in the knowledge that what is presented is a range of policies within which interpretations fall' (Hamilton, 1989, p18). Understanding transformations in party policy is subsequently problematic, as change may merely reflect a change in focus within a broad range of core party policies, rather than a radical ideological shift.

Demker (1997) attempts to overcome this by distinguishing between a fundamental' and an operative' level within a party's ideology. The former is defined as the party's postulates', while the latter is defined as party doctrine':

The doctrine consists of concrete and dated wishes and claims in political life and includes verbal attitudes of the party about issues which have been raised in the political debate. This doctrine is founded on several postulates. Postulates are here understood as fundamental, core values and perceptions on an abstract level (Demker, 1997, pp412-413).

While analysis of party documents provides an overall picture of the party doctrine, this provides the basis from which one is able to search for the deeper, underlying core values' (Demker, 1997, p413). Demker's approach recognizes that the process of policy development functions on more than one level and that, while the underlying core values' of a party may stay relatively stable over long periods of time, day-to-day policy proposals based upon these core values, and identifiable in party manifestos, are far more likely to fluctuate in line with the contemporary political agenda.

This chapter, therefore, provides a comparative picture of Green party policy at two different, but related, levels. Firstly, it considers the parties' attempts to portray their core values and priorities to the outside world, focusing, in particular, upon statements within party documents and websites that attempt to classify these central beliefs and commitments. While these documents, arguably, still may not provide a complete picture of the core values of the parties, they highlight how the parties wish to be perceived by the wider public and provide a relatively concise identification of core beliefs and values that have been sanctioned by the majority of party members. Analysis of party manifestos and programmes, despite its weaknesses, remains the most direct method for accessing party policy stances and for identifying change. The second aspect of this analysis will therefore concentrate upon changes within party manifestos, focusing particularly upon differences between issue priorities during the 1980s and those in evidence during campaigns in the late 1990s.3 As with previous chapters, Harmel and Janda's model will be used to explain the factors influencing any policy changes. The chapter will then examine whether the changes identified may justifiably be viewed as reflecting a change in the parties' core values and in the ideological base of the Greens.

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