Stopping destructive climate change requires socialist change

Students take to the streets in Cologne. Photo: Marco Verch/CC

Students take to the streets in Cologne. Photo: Marco Verch/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Sozialistischen Organisation Solidarität (CWI Germany)

In Germany, the Green party is riding a wave of popularity. Following the selection of Annalena Baerbock as its candidate for Chancellor (Prime Minister) it hit 28% in the opinion polls.

Currently at 26%, it is leading the polls, ahead of the conservative Christian Democrats/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU). At present, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) heads a governing ‘Grand Coalition’ comprising the CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats (SPD). After the elections in September a coalition government without the Greens is all but ruled out.

This support for the Greens is due to the failures of the CDU/CSU, which is tied up in corruption scandals, and of the SPD, which has completely lost any separate profile as the junior partner in the grand coalition with the conservatives. The Greens have also been able to present themselves as a credible alternative in recent years through their socially progressive rhetoric.

Mass movements like ‘Fridays for Future’ – mainly school student strikes demanding climate action – have placed climate change at the centre of political debate. The Greens have profited from this, because they still have a radical image on the issue. But the capitalist establishment no longer needs to fear the now tamed Greens.

Having thrown overboard the last remnants of opposition to capitalism, the Greens now carry out ‘normal’ everyday politics on behalf of the banks and big business in several state governments. Their draft programme for the coming parliamentary election makes it absolutely clear that they are prepared to implement policies at national level in the interests of the capitalists.

‘Germany. It’s all there’ is the title of their manifesto. And everything is in there too! They call for climate-friendly prosperity for all. They want to give the market economy a social-ecological framework and provide decent jobs and fair wages. They want fairness between the genders, affordable housing and much more – all packaged in the feel-good rhetoric of some corporate diversity and sustainability report. And that is the reality of their programme.

At the centre of their programme stands the “social-ecological transformation” of society. Above all, this is an offer to the ruling class which promises to modernise capitalism and make it more competitive. The system should become carbon neutral and for that it will get €50 billion investment a year.

They simply ignore the reality that serious, urgent intervention into economic production to prevent unsustainable climate change, while at the same time maintaining capitalist interests, ie maximising profits, is incompatible.

The Greens hardly dare touch the wealth of the super-rich, who have made record profits during the Covid pandemic. All they ask for is a 1% wealth tax on assets above €2 million.

Their vague social demands therefore appear to be just a fig leaf. For example, they want to replace the current strict benefits system with some “security guarantee.”

Overall, their manifesto is vague and mainly offers openings for a coalition with the CDU/CSU, with which any remaining social demands can be negotiated away. The Greens are throwing sand in the eyes of their voters, who really hope for meaningful social and environmental change, and who will be inevitably disappointed.

‘Practical politics’

You don’t need a crystal ball to predict that; just a look at the Greens’ record in office. Their participation in a coalition under the social democrat Chancellor Gerhard Schr-eder (1998-2005) is almost forgotten, but together with the SPD the Greens carried out the biggest social and benefit cuts since the reunification of Germany in 1990.

Since then, poverty levels of benefits (‘Hartz IV’), agency jobs and precarious work have been the sad reality for many people in this country.

The Green party, which partly emerged from the mass anti-war movement of the early 1980s, then became co-responsible for the first foreign military deployment of the German army since Hitler’s Reich, firstly in Kosovo, and then in Afghanistan. Recently, the Greens joint chair called for weapons to be supplied to the Ukraine.

Whoever hopes for action against climate change from a Green coalition government will also be disappointed. In the largest federal state of North Rhine Westphalia, where massive demos and occupations of open-cast brown coalmines have taken place, the Greens have voted as part of the state government for the destruction of the Hambacher forest, so that the energy giant RWE can continue to make profits. Brown coal produces the highest emissions of climate change gases and pollution.

In the state of Hesse, the Greens sent a huge force of police to clear protesters from the Dannenr-der forest who were trying to prevent the building of another motorway.

Nationally, the Greens pose as leading opponents of the far right and call for more transparency and accountability from the state. But recently they voted in the Hesse state parliament to prevent the publication of documents exposing the long-time failure of the security services to prevent murders by the neo-Nazi NSU.

And in Baden-Württemberg the Green first minister, Winfried Kretschmann, continues politics in the interests of the big car companies.

Time and again the Greens have shown that they will break their election promises by adapting themselves to the pressures of capitalism, and then carry out pro-capitalist policies against the interests of workers to the disappointment of their voters.

Halting catastrophic climate change, while creating millions of new sustainable ‘green jobs’ and decent living standards for the majority, requires removing the capitalist profit system and constructing a democratic socialist system.

The resources and technology currently exists in society to provide a long-term green economy. But achieving such a democratically planned future means taking wealth and power out of the hands of the capitalist establishment. In other words, halting climate change means the struggle for socialist system change – something the Green party is incapable of doing.

  • Thanks to Brent Kennedy for the translation