The Failing Image of the Greens

Earlier this week Daniel Cohn-Bendit castigated his peers, this time criticizing the public image of the Green party’s ruthless ambition, which actually weakened the party during the elections and after. Some members even voted for the Left Front presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, reviving the debate about the Greens’ predicted extinction.

In an interview with French newspaper, Libération, last Friday, the co-president of the Green European party, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, criticized the EELV (Green party), singling out Cecile Duflot, former president of the EELV who was replaced by Pascal Durand.

In his provoking style, he said, “Our institutional successes are not accompanied, on the contrary, by a citizen dynamic. Our image has become detestable. We failed when we wanted to give back hope, in doing politics otherwise.”

The nature of competition for ministerial positions was particularly highlighted, as was the disappearance of the Greens’ rebellious spirit. “We are giving everyone a lesson in moral politics and, at the same time, we perfectly accommodate ourselves with the hierarchical, authoritarian and tribal functioning of traditional politics.” The former anarchist said these were the reasons for members’ departure from EELV.

Senator Jean Paul Place was also criticized, but accustomed to Cohn-Bendit’s malcontent, many Greens ignored the comments. Lucile Schmid said he was wrong to personalize his criticism. She added that the EELV reflects “a notion of the political ecology more evanescent than ever.”

During the Presidential elections, some Greens voted for the Front de Gauche (FG) – the extreme-left coalition – including Nicolas Hulot, candidate in the primary elections. Supporters of the EELV were expressly invited to do so by the spokesman of Jean Luc Melenchon – founder and candidate of the Left Front – in a paper entitled “Comrades and If The Grass Were Greener Somewhere Else?”

Many members believed Melenchon was clearer on nuclear issues while the more extreme EELV members were disappointed by the FG’s unwillingness to oppose nuclear activity all together. However, for many far-left supporters, the FG was a more practical alternative as the FG had a strong campaign strategy as well as relationships with many NGOs, associations, unions and lobbying groups. It also proposed a referendum on nuclear questions to ensure democratic rooting.

As most parties, the Green Party is divided between moderated and relatively extremist members. The latter expressed their refusal to form an alliance with the Parti Socialist (PS), accusing them of embodying neoliberalism. The electoral agreement between the two parties was said to be motivated by ideological convergences. But the agreement, adopted by a majority of 74% – 96 against 31 votes – and negotiated at the Party Congress, guaranteed a minimum of 15 seats (the minimum to constitute a parliamentary group) to the Greens, who finally gained 18 seats.

Many are also tired of the constant party infighting. Cohn-Bendit concluded that a more collegiate focus is the next challenge, and that renewal of the party is only possible if they can have an internal debate to question their own policies.

The party will need a pool of attractive ideas to reinforce its public support. Hence the project to revive the Foundation for Political Ecology, a green think-tank similar to those already operating for the PS and UMP, such as the Jean-Jaures Foundation or the Robert Schuman Institute. Schmid added that the recent success of the Front National, the extreme-right party, is a warning to other political parties that are not campaigning on what the constituents want. This is a serious signal that the extreme-left, particularly the EELV, has a major yet important task ahead of them.

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