The Greens look to majorities, climate activists to physical reality. Is that why they should condemn each other? Please do not.

Announcement for the future: Annalena Baerbock at the virtual party conference Photo: Kay Nietfeld / dpa

There is speechlessness between the “Fridays for Future” movement and the Greens. Or, to be more precise: One speaks with and about one another, but the tone is derogatory and everyone is talking past one another. While the young climate activists are demanding a radical 1.5-degree climate policy from the Greens, based on inexorable physical facts, they feel unjustly pilloried.

And now? In order to understand this speechlessness, it helps to visualize the roles. A movement is different from a party. What Fridays for Future sees too little: For Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck, majority ability is a central category, perhaps the decisive one. The Greens, says Baerbock rightly, could not build a socio-ecological market economy alone – “not with 20 percent, not even with 30”.

All green work is therefore not only aimed at climate protection, but also on majorities. Whether it is the offensively presented leadership claim, the instagram-compatible staging or the warning to uphold institutions and the rule of law: Baerbock and Habeck take great care to keep the Greens attractive for what is commonly called the middle class. It is not for nothing that they write a celebratory snippet from the constitution about the green basic program, not for nothing that Robert Habeck himself sounds like himself in a party conference speech.

But to deduce from this that Baerbock and Habeck are betting on conservatism painted green or are traitors to the green cause, as many activists claim, does not do justice to the complex situation. Under Baerbock and Habeck, the Greens moved to the left in terms of social and economic policy. In the basic program, a modern understanding of the state shines, which redefines the value of services of general interest – and sets ecological and social guard rails for the market economy.

“Change creates stability”

The sanction-free basic security with higher standard rates would improve the situation of millions of Hartz IV recipients. The sentences in the basic program on the hair-raising unjust distribution of wealth in Germany are also quite committed, as are the regulatory interventions in favor of more ecology. Baerbock and Habeck combine the whole thing with a conciliatory language and gestures of humility that are sometimes too obvious to appear authentic.

What is decisive, however, is the message that you wrote about your program: “Change creates stability.” This sentence is very clever because it addresses the Germans’ need for security, but also expresses the will to reform. From a green point of view it is unfortunately the case that most Germans lived quite well in the fossil fuel age, so they only have a limited desire for change. You can find that terrible, but you have to take note of it.

Sven Giegold recently called the green mix “an inviting left-wing politics” in the taz. That hits it pretty well, although Baerbock and Habeck would of course not use the word “left” because: see above. If one looks again at majorities, such a strategic setup has several advantages.

If it were consistently declined, it would change a lot in Germany. It creates the habitual connection to the CDU, which the Greens need, because unfortunately you cannot rely on green-red-red. And, not to be underestimated, it makes you less vulnerable. In the 2013 election campaign, which was dominated by tax policy, the Greens once experienced how badly honesty is received – and learned their lesson. With their good-humored eco-republicanism, they want to dive like a submarine under the expected barrage of liberal-conservative opinion makers.

In other words: when Christian Lindner calls out that the Greens want to steal the schnitzel from the Germans, the liberals, who are no longer ticking away, believe him. Does anyone seriously think Habeck would ban meat? He still serves the canned beer with it. All of these, admittedly, are political tactical arguments. It’s true: Fridays for Future is right in many ways. Of course, the drama of the climate crisis made a more radical policy necessary.

Dishonest, but promising

Yes, the green line is probably not enough to meet Paris’s ambitious 1.5 degree target. To do this, the Germans would have to be subjected to a bitter shrinking cure, which would lead to social upheaval. For understandable reasons, the Greens are not prepared to do this, because they know that they are going to shoot themselves out of the orbit of German normality.

That is dishonest, but promising. The Greens prefer to hide a few uncomfortable truths. Of course, one should fundamentally question the meat consumption of our society. Air traffic would have to be drastically reduced, because the climate-damaging effects are huge even if jets ever fly with synthetic fuels from renewable energies. The idea that the Germans can continue to drive their cars as before, just electric, is naive, but is often tried.

The Greens do not want to imagine a world without the pressure to grow, maybe they are not even able to do so. A would-be government party finds it difficult to think utopian ideas – and to develop imagination beyond realpolitik. The lack of understanding with which the Hessian Greens look at the kids in the Dannenröder forest, who demand damn it, make the supposedly impossible possible, speaks for it.

The sociologist Niklas Luhmann has developed an overarching social theory. He assumes that society is differentiated into various sub-systems, the economy, politics, the media. Each system works according to its own logic. Profit maximization counts in business, news value in the media, power in politics, and so on.

A problem is perceived differently in all systems. Luhmann was accordingly skeptical about the opportunities for societies to adequately deal with ecological threats. The inertia is huge, change takes time. If you follow his theory, the Greens cannot think as visionarily realistic as Fridays for Future demands. The political subsystem is your mental prison.

Sure, Luhmann doesn’t excuse everything. It is very, very good for the Greens when a movement reminds them of what they were founded for. But on principle, should one condemn their attempt to take the mainstream a step forward?

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