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Young Socialists Criticize the SPD's Lack of a Strategy vis-à-vis the Ecology Movement (1979)

In a position paper, the chairman of the Young Socialists (and later chancellor) Gerhard Schröder comments on the initial electoral success of the “Greens” in Bremen. According to Schröder, unless the Social Democrats began to take environmental questions more seriously, the rise of a competing party was to be predicted.

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“The SPD has no Strategy”

The election results for the Greens/Alternative List in Bremen have startled the SPD. The cause of the shock was the fear they might lose their “power” in Bonn, or at least whatever was regarded as such. If the Greens/Alternatives run in the Bundestag election in 1980, then this fear is justified in any case, since with great probability that would lead to the grotesque situation in which forces that, in the broadest sense, feel committed to social progress would objectively pave the way for reactionary politics. No other interpretation is possible if voter behavior in Bremen is projected for the Federal Republic.

In view of this, the SPD has no strategy for how to react to this development. It is uncertain. This uncertainty has been expressed in a helpless-sounding “double strategy.” Part of the party is trying to force the Greens/Alternatives into an antidemocratic corner to make it seem impossible to vote for them. The other part is running around in overalls, overdoing their superficial attempts to curry favor and adapt to a “mass movement.” Neither one of these constitutes a strategy.

So what should we do? Or better, to avoid any misunderstanding: What now?

Before any answer can be ventured, there must be clarity regarding the potential of the Greens/Alternatives and the existing political power relations.

Two issues, in particular, served to mobilize roughly equal segments of voters in Bremen: environmental problems with a focus on nuclear power, and the threat posed to the political democracy by measures of state repression.

The voters who were mobilized by these issues are generally highly politicized. Two-thirds of them are young voters. They identify themselves as democratic socialists. The policies of the government have alienated them from the SPD. This alienation is by no means irreversible. It can be overcome.

Of course these voters are not only in Bremen, but throughout all of the Federal Republic. They probably make up about 2 percent of the vote. Based on the Bundestag election in 1980 they definitely want to keep [Franz-Josef] Strauß* out. But they will only decide to vote for the SPD if they are clearly shown the real difference between the social-liberal coalition and having Strauß take over, especially in the subject areas they are most concerned about.

* Conservative Bavarian populist with authoritarian leanings – ed.

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