Which country had the first Green Party?

Origin of the Greens


The student movement

The social roots of the Green Party go back to the 1960s. Prosperity and economic growth determine the political program of the Federal Republic, but the shock of the recent war past is still deep.

When a grand coalition of CDU / CSU (Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union) and SPD (Social Democratic Party) was formed in 1966, the academic youth in particular doubted the existence of a real democracy. Out of this doubt, the Extra-Parliamentary Opposition (APO) develops, which primarily criticizes the emergency laws, which are perceived as anti-democratic.

With the help of the unions, the students want to change Germany. Herbert Marcuse's work "The One-Dimensional Man", which is critical of capitalism, and the Frankfurt School around the philosophers Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer serve as an ideological basis for them.

Marxism is also being rediscovered. The Socialist German Student Union (SDS) around Rudi Dutschke forms the core of the student movement. Again and again there are violent clashes between students and the police during demonstrations.

But the protests received little support from the German population. When the Bundestag finally passed the emergency laws on May 30, 1968, the student movement quickly lost ground. The aim of their endeavors has failed. APO and SDS dissolve.

New social movements

But the spirit of change has not disappeared in Germany. The people are demanding a new policy that they see less and less represented in the old party system. "New social movements" are developing, which mainly revolve around the issues of the environment, peace and women's rights.

Like the student movement, they too are leaving the usual path of political influence, holding demonstrations, blockades, and squatting. In contrast to the students, however, they can mobilize a much larger part of the German population.

Atomic energy and the cold war are the threatening words at this time, which, above all, drive sympathizers into the arms of the environmental protection and peace movement. There is a general feeling of fear in the air. In many places there are citizens' initiatives against planned large-scale projects such as nuclear power plants in Wyhl (1975), Brokdorf (1976) or Grohnde (1977) as well as the fast breeder in Kalkar (1977). At the borehole of the also planned repository in Gorleben, demonstrators even proclaimed the "Republic of Wendland" in 1980. The area will then be cleared by the police.

When the Bundestag approves NATO's double resolution in 1979, which provides for the stationing of Pershing II medium-range nuclear missiles in the Federal Republic, the peace movement turns into a mass movement. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets over the next three years to protest the new nuclear threat. Without success. In 1983 the Bundestag decided to deploy the missile despite all the opposition from the population.

First steps

It is these experiences of failure that have a decisive influence on the development of the Green Party. At the end of the 1970s, they led to a rethinking within citizens' initiatives. If it is not possible to get hold of the existing system from the outside, so the thought, it must be possible from the inside.

On May 11, 1977, the citizens' initiative against the planned nuclear power plant in Grohnde dared to take the decisive first step. The first "environmental protection party" is founded in Lower Saxony. The stone is set in motion.

The "Green List Environmental Protection" (GLU) is being created in neighboring Hildesheim. She makes it to the local council within a month. The two groups come together under the name "Green List Environmental Protection" (GLU) to form the first regional association. In the Lower Saxony state elections in June 1978, the GLU already won 3.7 percent of the votes with its environmental issues. Even if it misses the five percent hurdle, the election is a success for the young eco-party. She will then be reimbursed 715,000 D-Marks as election campaign costs.

The rest of the republic followed the example of the Lower Saxony environmental movement in 1978. Depending on their basic political orientation, the former environmental and peace activists organize themselves nationwide in "green", "colorful" or "alternative" lists and associations. They all share the common goal of bringing ecological awareness into parliaments.

Detour via the European Parliament

The only problem: Almost each of the groups is too small to have any real hopes for election success. The "Federal Association of Citizens' Initiatives Environmental Protection" therefore proposes joint participation in the upcoming European elections. The big advantage: A formal party formation, which would initially require an agreement of the various ideological currents within the eco-movement, is superfluous here.

In 1979 the "Other Political Association (SPV) / The Greens" was launched. The former CDU man Herbert Gruhl, Petra Kelly and the artist Joseph Beuys enter the race as the top candidates of the rather bourgeois-conservative list alliance.

The prominence is not enough to raise the SPV / Die Grünen above the five percent mark. For this, however, the coffers of the list alliance ring with 4.5 million D-Mark reimbursement for election campaign costs. A successful coup, about which a commission of experts will write years later: "The history of the formation of the party 'The Greens' thus represents a case of state-subsidized party formation that is unique in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany."

The SPV / Die Grünen has long thought of forming a federal party. In January 1980 the time had finally come: the SPV / The Greens became the federal party "The Greens" in Karlsruhe.

The last stage

The timing is well chosen. The issues of the peace and environmental movement largely determine the public discussion and thus also bring the new party into discussion. In Baden-Württemberg, the first representatives of the Greens were soon to sit in the state parliament, but the young party still missed entry into the Bundestag in 1980. The "battle of the heads" between Helmut Schmidt (SPD) and the Bavarian chancellor candidate Franz-Joseph Strauss (CSU) had too much of a polarizing effect on the electorate. Many potential Greens voters decide in favor of the SPD in order to prevent a Strauss victory.

But soon afterwards, the Greens unexpectedly have a new opportunity. The red-yellow government coalition is not stable and will eventually break up. A subsequent constructive vote of no confidence by the FDP and CDU brings the incumbent Chancellor Helmut Schmidt down. The Helmut Kohl era begins.

In the early elections on March 6, 1983, the Greens received 5.6 percent of the vote. The goal is reached. With the four party principles of nonviolence, ecology, social justice and grassroots democracy, Green MPs are entering the German Bundestag for the first time.

Author: Rebecca Hofmann