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On Morality and Human Dignity (excerpts)
by Petra Kelly, German Green Party
[Excerpts from the late Petra Kelly’s speech “Morality and Human Dignity,” which is included in the collection Nonviolence Speaks to Power.]
Sometimes I almost despaired of this attitude, particularly within my own party. What is left of the honesty and credibility of a party that set out to do things completely differently? How quickly the established behavior in Bonn was assimilated by our party! Many members attached more importance to a regular drink with journalists, a reception at an embassy, or party infighting than to everyday political problems, which we had wanted to solve in a different, more caring spirit of solidarity. Struggles for power within the Green party, whether at the parliamentary or constituency level, suddenly became the navel of the world, and everything else was shadowed by this maneuvering and infighting. I never became involved in this, nor did I want to. I found it exasperating to see the so-called mullahs of the party’s various wings perniciously combating each other for hours on end almost every week. Since our meetings are always open to the public, no matter how painful for those being rebuked or criticized, the press in Bonn has always been present, eagerly absorbing the occurrences and obtaining news of Green parliamentary work fit for the headlines. But it is not the fault of the press—we are the ones to blame for the impression created. The passion displayed in the infighting was all too often lacking in our treatment of genuine political issues.
My vision is of a completely demilitarized Europe without military blocs…
The Greens, set up as a kind of anti-party party, have turned into a party obsessed with power, into a “dead boring German party,” as Josef Beuys so aptly put it shortly before he died. In my opinion, it is still very doubtful whether the civil rights movements from the former GDR [East Germany], united as the Greens/Alliance ’90, can help us to evolve further and overcome our own sterility. The power blocs that emerged when the Green party was founded still exist, and nearly all fundamental and strategically important discussions are conducted within a group of 60 or 70 Green members.
This certainly has little to do with thriving grassroots democracy. You only have to look at the lists of speakers at party congresses and delegates’ meetings to discover that little regeneration is occurring in the ranks of the Greens, and that there are few signs of a feminist, imaginative, and caring party. Thus the Greens, originally intent on transforming power from below, have meanwhile become victims of power from above. The individual members of the party have to be honest about this...
My vision is of a completely demilitarized Europe without military blocs, without nuclear power stations, without a chemical industry that causes cancers, and without an Iron Curtain in people’s minds. It is not our friends from the Eastern European movements for civil rights and democracy who have a great deal to learn. No, it is we in the West who still have much to learn and who must acquire the courage to stand up for our own convictions in the political field. There is no longer any time for silly claims of victory or for German or Western European self-content… The entire parliamentary debate on nuclear energy and weapons reminds me of a comment by Henry David Thoreau: They hesitate, express regret and sometimes even sign petitions, but they do nothing seriously and effectively. In their position of ease, they wait for others to remedy the grievance so that they no longer have to take offence at it. At most they cast their vote in the elections, this does not cost much. And they give a brief nod to justice as it passes by, wishing it well.
Without honesty they cannot really call themselves politicians. All of us must learn anew every day what it means to think with our hearts and to make political decisions with our hearts. The electorate rightly demands more credibility and sincerity in politics. I believe that the voters have had enough of political media stars and of those who regard the political arena as their own stage. They have also had enough of the Federal Government’s countless contemptible arms scandals, of the vanity fair and grandiose speeches, of maneuvering to form coalitions, of party discipline, and of jockeying for publicity. It is up to us to ensure that the public does not become indifferent to politics. (p. 148)
Translated by the author from the original German text of November, 1990 (written in the last few days of her membership in the Bundestag). Printed with permission of the Center for Global Nonviolence.