The Czech Greens and The Irish Greens: Greens in Power
Considering the Green movement is a global movement, I thought we could use more news and commentary about our sister parties abroad.
Green Parties around the globe have seen more success than us here in the U.S. with some gaining representation in national legislatures and local councils. There are even a few Green Parties that have served in coalition governments. The most famous of such coalitions is the 1998-2005 Social Democrat-Green Party coalition in Germany.
Today, there are several Green Parties that serve as junior partners in a number of coalition governments. The first two Green Parties that come to the top of my mind that serve in government are the Irish Greens and the Czech Greens. Both Green Parties have entered coalition governments with center-right parties. And both Green Parties are experiencing tough times given the public outcry over the slumping world economy and also internal disputes within both parties.
On the surface it may be surprising to see a Green Party working with a center-right party, but it’s important to recognize the unique socio-historical-geo-political context of each part of the world. Yes, the Four Pillars unite Greens all around the world, but for many reasons no two country’s Green Parties are ideologically the same (just as no two state Green Parties are ideologically the same here in the U.S.). The Czech Greens can be described as centrist and more open to market reforms while the Greens in Portugal are stridently more left-wing and eco-socialists. And of course, each country’s Green Party has divisions and variant political thoughts within the party (ex: the fundis and realos factions from the German Greens). I personally think this diversity in Green Party political beliefs is great because each party’s values are grounded in the local context (think grassroots democracy, community-economics, decentralization!) and that diversity in general strengthens the whole (think multiculturalism and biodiversity!).
But I digress, we’re talking about the Czech and Irish Greens in government. I’ve gathered that all is not well in both parties. Some party members in both countries are angry that their party is making too many concessions to their bigger center-right coalition partners. These disputes have resulted in members leaving or being thrown of the the party. In the Czech Green Party, four members (two of them members of the lower house) were expelled for being critical of the Green Party’s chairman, Martin Bursik as well as speaking out against many official party stances. I don’t want to cast judgement because I probably don’t know the whole story nor the local context.
In Ireland, two local councilors left the party in January 2009 because they felt that the party reversed many of its platform policies as a result of working with the their center-right coalition partners.
It remains to be seen what legacy both the Czech Greens and Irish Greens will leave; whether or not they were able to implement Green policies; whether or not they’ve established their parties as a permanent force in the political landscape as the German Greens have done. Serving in government definitely requires a delicate balancing act; trying to stay faithful to the party platform and to Green values while being pragmatic. Being completely unyielding and doctrinaire will not get Green policies implemented, but neither will completely selling out the party’s principles in order to hold onto power. We can learn a lot from our friends abroad; both from their mistakes and their lessons.
Here in America, there are definitely differences in opinion within the party on how to run elections, what are the party’s priorities, what policies should the party adopt, etc. I truly believe that we are not a dogmatic doctrinaire party and that we are able to discuss and debate party policy and accept dissent while respecting the majority. When we get into power eventually (Because we will! That’s for another blog topic.) we are going to have these internal disputes and disagreements. I think it’s important to accentuate what we Greens have in common (ex: Ten Key Values) while embracing our diversity. That’s what going to keep us together and help us accomplish our goals of implementing Green policies. We’re going to have to work together whether we like it or not. After all, too much is at stake for our planet and for our posterity.