The Passion of Joschka Fischer


When in 2000 a journalist named Bettina Roehl provided the German news weekly Stern with photographs of the country's foreign minister Joschka Fischer wearing a motorcycle helmet and assaulting a police officer during a 1973 demonstration, the German press went through one of its frequent periods of protracted self-reflection—this time focusing on the wave of left-wing terrorism that gripped the country throughout the 1970s. Roehl, who had previously written for assorted fashion magazines, had a particular interest in the Baader-Meinhof period: her late mother, Ulrike Meinhof, was the group's titular head. Besides tossing Molotov cocktails and advocating violent revolution, Fischer, it soon became known, once hung out with terrorist and Carlos the Jackal acolyte Hans-Joachim Klein, who would later participate in the deadly 1975 raid on an OPEC oil ministers conference in Vienna.

But the media storm passed, and most Germans forgave Fischer his youthful, err, indiscretions. Fischer, who has gone from looking like a roadie for The Band to a more corpulent version of Mr. Bean, settled into the Green Party establishment, even advocating military action in Kosovo, much to the horror of most party members.

And now London's Independent newspaper reports that in Fischer's recently released memoir (which covers the period from Kosovo to 9/11), the former foreign minister "has bitterly attacked the party, warning it would face collapse if it returned to its left-wing pacifist roots":

Since losing power in 2005, the Greens have become a minor opposition party. In an attempt to regain a higher profile, the party has shifted leftwards and begun a heated debate about the country's military role in Afghanistan.

But Mr Fischer warned yesterday that the party would face "complete political collapse" if it continued on such a course. "If the Greens think they can restore their profile as a leftwing protest party without paying a heavy price, they are deluding themselves. Our support comes from the centre ground," he said.

The first part of his book is a personal reckoning with the Greens and his time in power with Mr Schröder. He says he would have resigned as foreign minister had France and Russia not joined Germany in opposition to the Iraq war in 2002.

The autobiography devotes much space to Mr Fischer's battle to persuade the Greens to sign up to German support for the Nato bombardment of Serbia in 1999. The decision by the ruling coalition at the time, of Social Democrats and Greens, to support Nato broke with more than 40 years of post-Nazi era policy, which stipulated that the country should not engage in military operations beyond its borders.

For those interested in modern European radical movements—and interested in a fine portrait of Joschka Fischer—I highly recommend Paul Berman's Power and the Idealists, a portion of which can be read here (pdf).

Update: I neglected to mention that reason contributing editor Michael Young reviewed Berman's book last February.

NEXT: Friday Not-So-Fun Link

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  1. I miss the days of violently protesting pacifists.

  2. version of Mr. Bean, settled into the Green Party establishment, even advocating for military action in Kosovo, much to the horror of most party members.

    So what you’re saying is, he became “The Man”.

  3. Is Joschka Fischer the guy who let the so-called ‘palestinians’ stay at his apartment before they went to the Munich Olympic dorms to murder the Israeli athletes? Or was that a different Baader-Meinhof gang member?

  4. I notice the smashed front end of “The People’s Car” in the photo.

  5. I notice the smashed front end of “The People’s Car” in the photo.

    I’ll bet that very VW is still running like a champ in some 3rd world country…

  6. Is Joschka Fischer the guy who let the so-called ‘palestinians’ stay at his apartment

    I didn’t know that Rabbi Meir Kahane posts at H&R.

  7. “”The People’s Car””

    The peoples ‘wagon’ thank you very much.

  8. So neo-cons are communists but pro Kosavo bombardment are centrists….hmmm.

  9. Fringe movements and parties like the Greens have trouble actually governing because they define themselves as existing in opposition to real and imagined domestic opponents. Their ideologies evolve while devoting so much energy pushing against their opposition that they loose the ability to balance without the opposition. When they actually acquire real power they find themselves unable to make the tradeoffs that real world decision making requires.

    In the case of the Greens on Kosovo, the Greens had struggled so hard against all forms of militarism that once they found themselves having to make the real practical trade of using a little violence to prevent even worse violence they couldn’t do it. They stood paralyzed while the Serbian death machine rolled.

    You see the same behavior in fringe groups right and left in the US. Even libertarians can grow so accustom to defining themselves as opposed to big government that they lose the ability to make decisions about trade off between using a little government power to prevent the use of lot.

  10. Just so we’re clear…Does Moynihan think it would be a good thing if the Green Party were more enthusiastic about using military force abroad? Because I hate to state the obvious, but it seems to me like the world needs less saber-rattling now, not more.

  11. Show of hands, please – anyone surprised that a hard-left terror sympathizer wound up in the Green Party? Anyone at all?

  12. Yeah, because people who are deeply invested in the future of the environment don’t tend to stray too far from their Kalashinikovs and Che Guevara shrines. In other news, pro-lifers are just out to bomb abortion clinics and libertarians just wish the poor would die already.

  13. Ashish, not all hard Greens are former commies, but a lot of ’em are. When their patron in Russia went toes up, they had to find a new face to put on their program. If for one find it exceedingly coincidental that whole global warming thing is being used to push international control of people’s material lives.

    The terms you’re looking for are “watermelons” and “useful idiots.”

  14. I don’t get why the picture and the reference to his protest days were presented as the lede to the story. It’s about half the blog post.

  15. I haven’t bothered to read the post but I just bwanted to let you know that I appreciate your title. I know that almost no one will but I want you to know that it’s not in vain.

    And now my disjointed sentences must cease. Adieu.


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