Anyone who wants to watch the Greens split should look to Lützerath. Green, young activists against green, established politicians. And nobody looks after Mühlrose.
Lignite and climate change or not – Günter and Else Zech want to stay in their village until they die. The two are 84 years old and they live in the last hamlet that will be dredged in Germany for coal-fired power generation. No, his name isn’t Lützerath. The seniors live in: Mühlrose.
Luisa Neubauer has already had the police carry her away from the riot and activist hotspot in Germany’s far west. It has not become much quieter in the place on the outermost edge of the largest hole in Europe. The calm will probably take a while. Because now Greta Thunberg is also on site to save the global climate in Lützerath.
Things are much quieter in Mühlrose, just as quiet as it was in Lützerath before the climate activists came to this inhospitable place that had long been vacated. Detlev Rölke, the mayor of Mühlrose, which is located almost in the easternmost tip of Saxony, is grateful for the peace in his village: “We were always happy that so few people from outside got involved here.”
For years, the 200 residents of Mühlrose endured the noise of the opencast mine, now they are relieved, says Rölke, that it will soon be over. Mühlrose is to be excavated in 2024, and agreeing to that was “easy” for the citizens here in the end.
As easily as the citizens of Lützerath, who sold their houses and farms to RWE, made a decent cut and went on with their lives elsewhere. That’s how it works in Mühlrose, one after the other sells their belongings to the lignite company Leag, a few kilometers further the village is being rebuilt. And maybe the only ones who still object are the Zechs. “Someone could come by here and help us.”
But it doesn’t look like that, even if the climate minister in Berlin, not so far away, is campaigning for the fact that, after the West Germans, the East Germans will also phase out lignite by 2030 and not just 2038. East Germans can do what West Germans can do, says Robert Habeck’s State Secretary, Michael Kellner. Although the East Germans think that they shouldn’t be able to do that – because of the security of supply. In the down-to-earth East, they fear the impending cold more than the climate collapse.
At least that’s what all three East German Prime Ministers concerned wrote down and cabled to Berlin. Two of them are in the CDU, Michael Kretschmer and Reiner Haseloff, one is in the SPD, Dietmar Woidke. Robert Habeck is cautious, he speaks of “consensus”. And not by crowbar.
Habeck has now begun to defend the RWE deal that the Greens have agreed to and are up in arms against the Greens in Lützerath. Lützerath, Habeck calls that “simply the wrong symbol”. What his party friend Nyke Slawik, who is there right now, doesn’t think so at all. “I became estranged,” Slawik shares dramatically. She finds it “intolerable” how every state government is still being “led by the nose” by RWE. “People over profit.”
Whereby the “people”, at least the original inhabitants of Lützerath, have long since decided in favor of “profit” and have moved away from here at RWE’s expense, into houses that are much more climate-friendly because they are new. The problem of Nyke Slawik and other Lützerath Greens like Kathrin Henneberger: In the Bundestag they voted for the deal with RWE – earlier coal phase-out against Lützerath. But the shit storm that she catches from people who care about political credibility is less interesting. It is interesting how a Green party friend who was also attacked confronts them.
Anne-Monika Spallek, who represents the deeply conservative Bundestag constituency of Coesfeld in Münsterland, owns a horse business and has a doctorate in mathematics, dryly explains why you won’t find her at the protests and Lützerath: “I’m not protesting there, because we’re alive in a parliamentary democracy.”
This “because” is remarkable. With this, Spallek points out that she does not take to the streets because the German Bundestag – with her approval – has decided something different than what the streets now want. Just like her party friend in Düsseldorf, Mona Neubaur, who is climate minister and deputy prime minister there.
If you look closely, you can see two opposing green parties in and around Lützerath. On the one hand the Young Greens, the Green Youth around Sara Lee Heinrich and Timon Dzienus, the German Fridays for Future representative Luisa Neubauer, Nyke Slawik and Kathrin Henneberger. At 34, she is the oldest of the Lützerath Greens, the others are under 30, Neubauer is 26.
And on the other hand, the older Greens around 50, the two climate ministers Robert Habeck and Mona Neubaur, MPs like Spallek, who was born in 1968. So it’s not just an inner-green struggle of the established against the rebels, but also a generational conflict: middle-aged versus middle-aged.
The middle-aged generation has learned on its march through the institutions in politics or in the workplace that you can’t get through life without compromises. The boys find compromise compromising. If necessary, they justify violent means, as in Lützerath, with a mighty purpose.
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They don’t want to bother with negotiations, and they haven’t for a long time with big capitalists like this RWE. They are fighting against the end of the world itself, and that doesn’t allow for compromises. And so they claw into the muddy Lower Rhine soil, cling to Berlin autobahn exits and attack the offices of the Greens, i.e. those from whose laps they crawled.
Many are middle-class children from western Germany, grew up in prosperity and security, most have studied or are still studying. Friendly police officers, who carry them away without complaint or drive them across the battlefield in firecrackers, are part of their well-being.
Somehow they also live from the fact that there is this understanding environment in their native West, parents and grandparents who kindly share their worries and encourage them, because over the years in the West they have learned to think and feel green themselves.
And that’s probably why none of them come to Saxony. Mühlrose will die alone.