GREEN PARTIES WERE formed as a result of growing concern in the 1970s for the ecological sustainability of the planet and quality of life. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, many countries formed green parties, and several preexisting parties renamed themselves as such (e.g., Ecology Party in Britain and the Values Party in New Zealand). The nuclear accident at Chernobyl (then part of the Soviet Union) in 1986 gave rise to increased environmental activism and helped many green parties gain election success in the late 1980s. However, during the 1990s, green parties in Europe experienced a significant decline. Part of the problem for the green parties is that they have attracted a wide range of ideological viewpoints, resulting in significant internal divisions that become particularly visible as party members reached legislative positions. While many supporters simply express concern for issues such as clean air or water, others within the party represented more extreme views, embracing libertarianism, feminism, neo-Marxism, paganism, and anti-industrialism.
United under an international agreement of common purpose, the Charter of the Global Greens states “We declare our commitment to nonviolence and strive for a culture of peace and cooperation between states, inside societies and between individuals, as the basis of global security.” Many green parties subscribe to “10 key values” which serve as guidelines for their actions:
Grassroots democracy: Green parties believe that everyone deserves to have a say in decisions that affect them; as a result they work to expand public participation in government and ensure that government officials are held accountable for their actions.
Social Justice and equal opportunity: Citizens must commit to working to eliminate unfair treatment and unequal justice under the law.
Ecological wisdom: Human beings are part of nature and must work to achieve an ecological balance. It is important to live within the ecological and resource limits of our society and ensure that future generations will not be harmed by our present lifestyle. They support sustainable agriculture, an energy efficient economy, and respect for natural resources.
Nonviolence: There are alternatives to violence. Green parties support the elimination of weapons of mass destruction while recognizing the need for self-defense and the defense of others who may need assistance. They believe in working toward peace.
Decentralization: Decision making, where possible, should be brought to the individual and local level. They support a restructuring of social, political and economic institutions that move away from a system that is controlled by the privileged few, and instead empowers all citizens to be instrumental in the decision making process.
Community-based economics and economic justice: Citizens must support a sustainable economic system that offers meaningful work while paying a living wage that is reflective of the real value of work. Economic development must protect both the environment and the rights of workers and be based on broad public participation. Green parties support independently owned and operated companies that are socially responsible, as well as public corporations and cooperatives that encourage democratic participation.
Feminism and gender equity: Green parties support full participation of all citizens, and more cooperative styles of interaction that respect differences of opinion and gender.
Respect for diversity: Society must value and respect cultural, racial, sexual, religious, and spiritual diversity. Societal diversity should be reflected in our decision making bodies. The preservation of biodiversity is also valued.
Personal and global responsibility: People must work to improve their own lives while promoting ecological balance. We must join with people from around the world to promote peace, economic justice, and the health of the planet.
Future focus and sustainability: We must keep in mind the big picture and focus on long-term goals. Issues of concern are protecting natural resources, reducing waste and promoting sustainable development.
The following provides a brief overview of some of the most successful or otherwise noteworthy Green parties.
In 1984, the first U.S. Green organizing meetings were held, which led to the creation of a national membership organization of Green local committees and individuals: the Green Committees of Correspondence. Greens were mostly concentrating on local community elections, with the first Green Party candidates on a municipal election ballot in 1985 in North Carolina and Connecticut.
In 1990, Alaska became the first state in which the Green Party appeared on the ballot, followed by California in 1992. The national level Green Party was formed in the United States after the 1996 election in order to help state-level parties expand their participation. State-level action is still the primary focus of the party. In the 2000 presidential election, Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke ran for president and vice president; although unsuccessful, they received significant media attention and helped to energize the Green Party throughout the United States. As of February 2004, there were 206 Green Party members in various elected offices in 24 states.
The German Green Party, Die Grünen, began as an “antiparty” party that slowly grew into a credible political force. In 1985, elected members of the Green Party to regional government were caught up in internal conflicts and the realities of party politics, which forced the Green Party members to compromise on their agenda, to the disappointment of many of their supporters and party members.
The Green Party had significant electoral success in 1998, resulting in a coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD), popularly referred to as the Red-Green Coalition. However, the Greens were not really prepared to share power within a coalition, particularly with a party stronger in numbers. Rather than negotiating and making concessions for favored policies, they debated each issue in isolation, in the end losing ground in all policy areas. Greens were defeated on many of their core issues such as genetically modified food. They were able to make some significant political gains including plans to phase out nuclear power and changes to waste policy. In practice however, even these gains were lessened as the policies were significantly weakened at the implementation stage.
The war in Kosovo caused a significant divide among Green Party members, with some supporting German humanitarian intervention and most opposed. With the general population largely supportive of intervention, the Green Party suffered in the polls, and reports of their internal conflicts further weakened their public image.
In 2002, the Green Party campaigned on a platform of pacifism opposed to war in Iraq. They had their best ever election result, and the Red-Green Coalition was re-elected with a slim majority.
In March 1972, a group of activists formed the United Tasmania Group (UTG). In May, the Values Party was created out of the UTG as the world’s first national Green Party. The Values Party ran in the 1972 general election in New Zealand on a radical platform based on Zero Economic Growth, Zero Population Growth, and reform of abortion/drug/homosexuality laws. Over the next few years, these policies were debated and expanded to form the 1975 Values Party Manifesto “Beyond Tomorrow,” which was widely distributed internationally and contributed to the spread of the Green Party movement. The Values Party became active in numerous environmental campaigns throughout New Zealand, organizing for better public transport, recycling, and urban heritage preservation.
In 1989, the Values Party successfully contested several local elections throughout the country. In May 1990, the present Green Party of Aotearoa, New Zealand, was formed from a merger of the Values Party and the new Green groups that had independently formed. In the 1990 general election, the Green Party won 7 percent of the total vote, but no seats because of the “first past the post” electoral system. In 1991, the Green Party joined with other parties to form the five-party Alliance in response to the New Right direction of the National and Labor Parties. As part of the Alliance, Greens contested the 1993 and 1996 general elections, and in 1996, three Green Party members won seats in parliament. By the 1999 general election, the Greens had amicably split from the Alliance, and in the 1999 general election, they won seven seats and 5.2 percent of the vote under a new electoral system of mixed member proportional representation.
Since 2000, Green Party representatives have been elected to the national legislatures of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Volume 1 Left: Environmentalism; Germany; United States; France; Nader, Ralph.
Volume 2 Right: Capitalism; Germany, United States; France.
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