Green Revolutions? the Role of Green Parties in Eastern Europe's Transition, 1989-1994

By Frankland, Erich G. | East European Quarterly, Fall 1995 | Go to article overview

Green Revolutions? the Role of Green Parties in Eastern Europe's Transition, 1989-1994


Frankland, Erich G., East European Quarterly


The dramatic events in Eastern Europe beginning in 1989 caught many policy-makers and social scientists by surprise. The collapse of communism opened many doors, but it also left many troubling legacies for the emerging democracies including environmental devastation and severe economic problems. The revolutions of 1989-1990, which can be characterized as popular patriotic empowerment (Frankland, 1990), have since given way to parliamentary politics. Of particular interest is the universal emergence of "Green" parties and movements in the former communist countries. Their appearance provides an excellent test for Ferdinand Muller-Rommel's (1989: 8) assertion that "Green parties clearly transcend frontiers of political systems and cultures." Will these Green parties assume similar characteristics and roles as like parties in Western Europe, or will they dissipate as their members join "regular" parties or withdraw from politics, or will they emerge as uniquely Eastern parties? Green parties played major roles in most of the revolutions, but the political salience of these parties in the aftermath is questionable. This article examines the impact of Green parties on the content and direction of the transitions away from communism. Although the transition process away from the communist regimes is still ongoing, this article evaluates the role of Green parties in the new systems and in the future.

In Western Europe, Green parties represented a break from traditional politics with their "new" organization, new issues, and new strategies. Whether these characteristics are transferable to Green parties elsewhere provides the context for much of this article. The first section of the article describes the development and variations of Green parties. In addition, this section examines the relationship between Green parties and new social and political movements, which is important in Western Europe and even more so in Eastern Europe. The second section briefly identifies the environmental and political context for the emergence of Green parties in Eastern Europe. For the purposes of this article, Eastern Europe is largely confined to Poland, Hungary, the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (Czechoslovakia), Romania, and Bulgaria. Important develop meets have occurred in other countries in this region, such as East Germany which was absorbed by the Federal Republic of Germany, but the five cases exemplify the various problems and promise that Green parties have in Eastern Europe. The third section describes in detail the role and characteristics of Green parties and movements in the three northern cases - Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. The fourth section deals with the Romanian and Bulgarian cases, and also provides an overview of other Greens in Eastern Europe. The final section evaluates the impact of Green parties on politics in Eastern Europe and offers predictions about their future roles in these emerging democracies.

Green Parties and the Antipolitics of "New" Politics

It is problematic to speak of "the Greens" because of the ideological and political diversity among "Green" parties. Although a Green party first appeared in New Zealand in 1972, the development of Green parties has since centered in Europe. The emergence of Greens in Eastern Europe provides another chapter in this development and an excellent set of cases so that the transferability of Green characteristics and policies can be examined. There have been repeated attempts to create a typology that would account for the diversity within the Green movement and its relationship to new politics. Interestingly, many observers have forced left-right distinctions upon a party that is supposed to transcend the traditional political continuum. Most Green parties continually struggle with their "antipolitical" focus of nontraditional organization, excluded issues, and disagreement over whether they are a movement or a party. Thomas Poguntke (1989: 176) argues that the Greens can be divided into conservative "green" formations and leftist "emancipatory" parties. …

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