Mass protest against nuclear energy, Green Party victory in regional elections
Last weekend saw 240,000 people marching in four big regional demonstrations against nuclear energy – the biggest ever anti-nuclear mobilisation in Germany. After the Fukushima disaster, nuclear energy is the dominant topic in German society. Unlike many other countries, a majority of the population have been against the use of nuclear energy for many years. The Green Party was originally built in the 1980s partly on the basis of mass campaigns and struggles against the building of nuclear power stations and nuclear energy in general.
When the Greens entered a national government for the first time in 1998, they agreed with the energy corporations a so called “nuclear compromise”, which meant a long-term “exit strategy” from nuclear energy. This at the time was criticised by socialists and the more left wing members of the anti-nuclear movement as a rotten compromise, guaranteeing the running of nuclear power stations for decades and guaranteeing huge profits for the corporations. When the present conservative-liberal coalition took over, they agreed to a lifetime extension of these plants, which had already triggered a growing anti-nuclear movement in the last year. Up until Fukushima, the government was uncompromising on this issue. Fukushima changed everything. In a complete turn, Chancellor Angela Merkel now tries to portray herself as being opposed to nuclear energy. Knowing the explosive potential of this issue, she announced a moratorium of the lifetime extension and started a discussion about ending nuclear energy completely. This is a reflection of the fear of the ruling elite of a mass movement and of sharp shifts in consciousness. Probably, it also reflects the fact that a faction of the bourgeois themselves are shocked by the Fukushima events and are coming to the conclusion the nuclear energy threatens their own system and are looking towards a possible exit.
This turn-around did not stop a sweeping Green Party success at the regional elections in Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz, two West German federal states, last Sunday. In both states, the outgoing ruling party, the Christian Democrats in Baden-Württemberg and the Social Democrats (SPD) in Rheinland-Pfalz, did badly. For the first time ever the Greens became the strongest party in Baden-Württemberg and will take the position of the state’s minister-president, in an area ruled by the CDU for nearly 60 years. The Green’s victory is not only based on the nuclear power question but also on the struggle against “Stuttgart 21“, the building of a new train station in the federal state’s capital Stuttgart. For more than a year, a mass movement has fought to stop this expensive project, with weekly demonstrations of thousands and mass demos of up to 100,000 (see previous reports on socialistworld.net). The Greens took part in this movement and are seen as the main party against both nuclear energy and Stuttgart 21. They also profited from the fact that they have not been in the national government for six years now and were able to develop an oppositionist image. However, they will not use their governmental position to actually stop Stuttgart 21. Forming a coalition with the pro-Stuttgart 21 Social Democrats, they will just go for a referendum and are prepared to continue the building of the train station if the referendum ends with a majority for that. This is not ruled out given the possibility for the corporations, the Deutsche Bahn railway company, the main bourgeois parties and the media to launch a propaganda campaign which will probably focus on asserting that the costs of stopping the project would be astronomical.
The Left Party
DIE LINKE (Left Party) did not get over the five percent threshold in both states. This is more than disappointing. Despite the fact that the conditions were not the best for the party (given a low level of class struggle) the bad result of 2.8 percent in Baden-Württemberg and 3 percent in Rheinland-Pfalz is largely homemade. The Left Party’s vote stagnated and was not able to benefit from the fall in the SPD’s vote. The problem is that the party acts as a force of more ‘social pressure’ on the SPD and the Greens and does not put forward an independent and combative socialist strategy. Even worse, it did not play a leading role in the mass movements against Stuttgart 21 and nuclear energy, leaving the field to the Greens. Many people do not see the point in voting for a party which does not seem to make a fundamental difference. Given the polarisation in Baden-Württemberg, surely there were many who voted Green despite sympathising with the Left, in order not to “throw away” their vote, as in opinion polls the Left Party was always just below five percent, which is necessary to get into parliament at all. But DIE LINKE made things worse, by claiming that the only way to get rid of the hated conservative PM Mappus was to vote the Left – which was simply not true, as was seen on election day.
SAV supporter elected in Kassel
Simultaneously, council elections were held in western state of Hessen and in the city of Kassel, the Left gained 6.8 percent, maintaining its percentage of the vote from last time. SAV supporter and local teachers’ union chairperson, Simon Aulepp, was elected onto the council. By getting many individual votes he moved from fifth position on the Left slate to fourth as did other SAV candidates which were lower down on the slate.
SAV continues to energetically participate in the movements against Stuttgart 21 and nuclear energy. We demand the immediate switching off of the nuclear power plants (which is entirely possible even on the basis of present energy consumption, given the large overcapacity which exists) and the expropriation of the energy corporations under democratic workers’ control in order to develop a democratic plan for energy production and investment into renewable energy. We also use the slogan “Switch off black-yellow“ (meaning the government coalition) and explain the need for a government in the interests of the working class which gets out of nuclear energy and develops a programme in the interests of the mass of the population.
In Stuttgart, we campaign for a continuation of the mass movement against Stuttgart 21 to put pressure on the new green-red government and to make sure that the underground train station is never built.