In Lützerath there is more to the debate than a pile of lignite. At this location, which has been a symbol of the Greens for almost 30 years, the identity of this party is now being decided. In person: Neubaur or Neubauer, minister or activist.

The Greens’ current pain has a name. His name is Lützerath. And this pain and its possibly even more painful consequences can perhaps best be told along the largest hole in Europe. Because at that – at Garzweiler, this last stop in North Rhine-Westphalian mining history – it could now be decided what and who they are, the Greens.

The Lützerath complex tells of the march of the Greens through the institutions that, as we know from all sorts of generational conflicts, are no longer green for the children of the Greens. In short, their story from the other, the rebellious side of power is: If this capitalism is destroying the earth, it must be abolished. You can even understand that – if you allow yourself to be involved with this young revolutionary rigorism for a moment with old-fatherly composure.

On the other side of the barricade, with the Power Greens, there is a grand narrative. It is being presented by a woman who now has to fight this epic battle with herself for the Greens, almost single-handedly. Mona Neubaur, whose rebellious green counter-model has almost the same name as her, just with an e at the end and Luisa at the beginning.

Neubaur recently became deputy prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, and she reacts with a CDU man whose name is Hendrik Wüst, who has also been touted as the Union’s next candidate for chancellor. This is also what makes this constellation so fundamental.

Mona Neubaur’s grand tale goes like this: nobody is better at climate protection than we are, because we are phasing out coal eight years earlier. But we still have to generate electricity for some time, but Putin is to blame for this with his war against Ukraine. The price for this is Lützerath, and Lützerath is in any case no longer a community worthy of protection, but a unicum that is privately owned. Because Lützerath, an inhospitable spot in the Lower Rhine mud, belongs to RWE. Big business.

Neubaur’s story, and this is very important now, also has a constitutional side. It goes like this: “It is not possible to preserve Lützerath from an energy, water and open-pit mining perspective.” The rule of law itself decided to dredging based on an expert opinion, which is why this is Neubaur’s central sentence: “I will not bend the rule of law.”

The problem with Neubaur’s state-supporting sentence is that he doesn’t give a damn about the other half of the Greens.

Because this other almost half would have overturned the Lützerath-RWE deal by a hair’s breadth at the federal party conference of the Greens under the leadership of the Green Youth, they were not even missing a dozen votes. That, in turn, could have broken up the new coalition in North Rhine-Westphalia, and this black-green government is supposed to be the model for Berlin in less than three years. That’s what the green realpolitik majority thought along the way and then pushed it through – to the detriment of Lützerath.

Now to the other Neubauer, the one with an e at the end. The green boss of Fridays for future, 26 years old. She talks like the Greens used to talk, only that was up to 40 years ago and they promised in North Rhine-Westphalia high and holy and careless, the biggest hole in Europe, this irresponsibility of the industrial-political complex of SPD, RWE and IG mining, to prevent it altogether.

And today, after all the unsuccessful attempts to stop, Luisa Neubauer says this, it is a result of horror: The Greens are now pursuing “bulldozer politics”. The deal between the two most influential German economics ministers, the Green Robert Habeck in Berlin and the Green Mona Neubaur in Düsseldorf, is a “profit protection measure”. One was taken in by the RWE. The Greens had “abused” the energy crisis and in Lützerath it should finally show:

“How expensive, yes, how unaffordable it has become for a federal government to oppose the Paris climate goals, the climate movement and its own commitments in terms of climate protection.” The fate of the whole world is decided in a village, that is the activist view, you already know that from the air-conditioning stickers on the streets.

Thus “Lützerath” becomes a symbol for a fundamental debate – about the relationship of the Greens to the state and to the economy and between political and legal feasibility and pathetic world rescue unconditionalism. It is a dispute in which a company from the Dax is demoted to the backdrop, just like a red chancellor or a black prime minister.

Or an empty village, of which the NRW Minister of the Interior, Herbert Reul, coolly says that it is “not a village, just three houses”. In Lützerath, the green attitude is negotiated: compromise or truth, which is always called “the” science, whereby the core of science has always not been truth, but a struggle for a better understanding of the world.

In any case, it’s no longer about the people of Lützerath, because they moved away long ago, for good money from RWE for beautiful new houses that are guaranteed to be more climate-friendly than their old bunkhouses.

The Garzweiler story would be worth a whole suspenseful political thriller, full of well-meaning and ill-wishers and rich in intrigue and biographical twists, right up to its final chapter, which takes place in Lützerath. The Greens were already against coal mining when they had just entered the state parliament in Düsseldorf am Rhein, that was in 1980. In 1995, in the first red-green coalition, they started trying to achieve what went wrong in a legal way, because of the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats and the unions and the courts.

The Greens’ legal fight against the hole is a story of failure in becoming real, and that too is now fueling the fight of Fridays for future, Ende Gelände, Greenpeace and all the others. Activism should save what parliament and government work could not. Street versus representation, that’s the lineup.

However, one can study the difference between people and trees, namely: some are less suitable for recruiting than others. When it came to the “Hambi”, the stock of the Hambach residual forest – three years ago – 50,000 activists, many idealists and a few rioters came together – in Lützerath it has been 25 times fewer so far.

Want to say: The German forest as a zeitgeisty romantic myth always attracts more than a village that no longer exists anyway.

That is perhaps a consolation for the Greens. Mona fights, the rest is silent. And then it’s all over.