The Greens have unexpectedly become the conscience of Germany

Habermas promotes the idea that a modern and increasingly pluralistic society can’t be united by a language, cultural and historical affinity. That community should be consolidated through values and rules.

They make their presence felt in the German government through disagreement on eastern policy. When Ukraine fights off Russia’s attack, Chancellor Olaf Scholz acts aloof, while the chief diplomat, Annalena Baerbock, backs a hard line against the Kremlin. This is how the war in the east divides the Social Democrats and the Greens in Germany. The first are represented by Scholz, the second – by Baerbock.

Some time ago, the prime minister gained an influential attorney of considerable standing. The defense of Scholz was taken up by the well-known German philosopher and sociologist, Jürgen Habermas.

In May 2022, the international elder statesmen of the humanities (on June 18, 2022 he will celebrate his 93rd birthday) published an article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung where he addressed the accusations against the chancellor of Germany that he is being soft towards the Kremlin. He warned against provoking Russia to actions escalating the conflict. He stated that Russia is a nuclear power that has to be reckoned with. And he expressed support for negotiations and not confrontation in the West’s position towards the Kremlin.

Habermas is heir to Enlightenment rationalism, though he is not uncritical towards it. He rose to fame as the creator of the concept that assumes (to put it very briefly) that the key to settling various disagreements and undertaking constructive activities is interpersonal communication, but free from socio-cultural conditions. It sounds like pretentious baloney but the German thinker is not an exception against a backdrop of many intellectuals who want to fix the world.

The guru of the German left – since this title is suitable to Habermas – called on his countrymen to settle accounts with the burden of the past, especially when it comes to responsibility for the Holocaust. He condemned all nationalisms, to which he gave particular expression in opting for the transformation of the European Union from an organization of sovereign national states into a federal, supranational superstate. While promoting the term “constitutional patriotism,” he disseminated the view that a modern and increasingly pluralistic society can’t be united by a language, cultural and historical community, and that this community should be consolidated through values and rules, which endow the law.
Jürgen Habermas (center) in 2004 President of Germany Johannes Rau, and his wife Christina. Photo: aslu/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Today’s situation in the world exposes the weakness of Habermas’s diagnoses and prescriptions. The conciliation of the politicians of western countries towards the Kremlin has emboldened rather than induced it to concessions. You can do intellectual cartwheels over what communication between politicians on the international stage should be like, in order for peace to reign, and even then the final word will be the interests of particular countries and various economic pressure groups. And you can’t abstract away from socio-cultural conditions. Since they shape the mentality of the players in political games. The truth is that Russia can only be suppressed by the power which in turn confuses the leaders of the West.

Against this background, the dissonance in eastern policy between the coalition partners in Scholz’s government is worthy of attention. The disillusionment of Habermas with the Greens is characteristic. During the Cold War, this grouping had a pacifist character (global nuclear disarmament was promoted) and to some degree it achieved the vision of the German philosopher. But then changes began.

It's worth remembering that as a Green politician, Joschka Fischer, Germany’s minister of foreign affairs in 1998–2005, advocated for armed NATO intervention in Kosovo (in order to prevent the massacre of the Albanian population of the region by the Serbs) and Afghanistan (in order to deal with the Taliban after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001). This fomented serious arguments in his party since it signaled the rejection of the pacifist agenda.

Currently, in contrast to a large proportion of the German political class, the Greens are not holding any illusions towards the Kremlin, nor are they putting their heads in the sand on eastern matters. They are condemning what President Vladimir Putin is doing both inside of Russia (authoritarianism), and in the world (expansionist operations). Last year, through the words of Annalena Baerbock (before she became the minister of foreign affairs) they spoke out against activating Nord Stream 2. Among the objections to this undertaking was that Russia treats the gas pipeline as a tool for energy blackmail.

On the other hand, the politicians of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) are behaving differently than the Greens. Though much unites the two leftist groupings (including the project of European federalism or the favoring of various “minorities”), the Social Democrats are the heirs to the line carried out at the beginning of the 21st century by their leader at the time, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Then, he and the president of France, Jacques Chirac, stood at the head of the EU’s anti-American front. He carried out a policy based on the hegemony of Germany in Europe, resulting in a “symmetrical” position towards the US and Russia. And just before the end of his work as chancellor, he signed a contract with the Russians to build the first Nord Stream.

As is commonly known, Schröder, a politician of “old” Europe (and that of the mainstream, not the anti-establishment right) in allowing himself to be corrupted by the Russians, became an emblematic figure. Just as soon as he stopped being prime minister of Germany, he accepted a position in the Gazprom-controlled consortium building Nord Stream. He made money from Russian energy companies.

The best excuse for war

Just a few hours after the “outrageous attack” on the radio station in Gleiwitz (today’s Gliwice), the Wehrmacht invaded the territory of Poland from the west, north and south.

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Russia’s attack on Ukraine triggered a heated discussion in Germany about his entanglement in Russian business. Even the Social Democrats raised this issue, including Olaf Scholz himself. As a result, it might end with the former chancellor being kicked out of the SPD. For now, Schröder resigned from the position of chairman of the board of directors of Rosneft, and he renounced membership on the board of Gazprom. And the German parliament withdrew funding from his office.

For many Poles it might be a surprise that in Germany the Greens are the party whose eastern policy program most corresponds to Poland’s national interest. But they are just the ones turning out to be the conscience of the German political class in relations with Russia. And it doesn’t change the fact that in other areas they are trying to saddle Poland with various, harmful measures, which are the result of their ideological obsessions. The traces of which can be seen in the ideas of Jürgen Habermas.

– Filip Memches

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

– Translated by Nicholas Siekierski
Main photo: Photo: Fotomontaż / Chromorange / Vario Obrazy / Forum
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