The German Greens’ “Jamaica Coalition”

Distribution of seats in the Saarland Landtag (parliament)

Distribution of seats in the Saarland Landtag (parliament)

This blog has commented before on the rightward evolution of the German Greens.

It comes as no surprise therefore that in the German state of Saarland the Greens have now decided to form a so-called (after the parties respective colours) “Jamaica” coalition. It is forming an administration with the conservative Christian Democrats, and the free-market radicals of the liberal Free Democrats.

The politics of the Saarland, Germany’s smallest state, were shaken up in at the end of August the state’s parliament.

Both the tow main parties did badly. The CDU dropped 13 percentage points and the Social democrats dropped six.

The reason it hit the headlines though was the astounding breakthrough made by the Die Linke (“The Left”). It jumped 19 points to gain 21% of the vote. This of course the home state of Oskar Lafontaine, leader of Die Linke and former SPD candidate for Chancellor.

The free-market FDP gained four points. The Greens went up 0.3 of a point, winning just three seats.

But between the CDU on the right, and the SPD and Die Linke on the left, the Greens’ three seats made them the kingmakers.

Up until now the Greens have been seen as being on the “left” and have been in national government with the SPD.

As has been pointed out on this blog the Greens are a party who’s membership and base is thoroughly middle class (as Perry Anderson put it, the Greens have become the party of “bourgeois bohemians”). Its politics might seem left, but fundamentally they represent a break from ideas of class and their philosophy is a radical variant of liberalism.

This has meant that it is contradictory, and has tended to try and face both ways at once. But as with most of the European Green parties it has become ever more integrated into the system and have moved steadily to the right.

Saarland may be a small state but the future possibility of such a “Jamaica” coalition at a national level has been under discussion for a while in Germany. This is a step in that direction, as has been recognised by much of the German media.

Such as step would bet the final death-knell for the idea that the Greens are a party of the left.

The problem facing us in this country is the death of the Labour party as a party of the working class. The question arises of whether the Greens and their politics can make a contribution to the rebuilding of working class politics or whether they lead away from it, to a liberalism of the “left”. The warning from Germany needs to be taken seriously.


Der Spiegel on the “Jamaica” coalition (in English)

Perry Anderson, A New Germany, New Left Review

A. Stevens, Are the Greens an Alternative? The Junius Blog

Survey of articles on the rise of Die Linke

A New Hope in Germany, analysis of the German election results

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Filed under Germany, Green Party

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