Swedish Green: Democracy key to saving the planet


Interview by Bryan Thomas

FIONA BJOERLING is speaker of the Swedish Green Party. She was interviewed for Green Left by BRYAN THOMAS.

How important do you think democracy is in helping to save the world?

The Greens are concerned with two crises facing modern society: on the one hand a biological, environmental crisis, and on the other a human, social or political crisis. The proof of this second crisis, the democratic deficit, lies in the fact that we simply are not dealing with the first crisis. Humanity appears unable to face and solve the survival problems it has landed itself with.

From an ecological point of view, it is evident that local threats to nature have linked up to become systematic, affecting the entire planet. But even before that happened, the direction of industrialisation and capitalism was obvious. Industrialisation and capitalism both reside in and foster an ethic of expansion and control.

Western man expands his territory, invading other cultures at the same time as he seeks to gain control over nature with the help of technology. Democracy has not kept pace with the dynamic of expansion and control.

What a tragic irony that just as our friends from the "free East" emerge into what they believe to be the Western model of democracy, we are witnessing a demise of the democratic model so proudly upheld by the advocates of market economy.

The situation is serious because people without insight, people without influence or power, finding themselves in a world of formidable problems, are likely to give up, to shun responsibility.

Are you in favour of European unification?

In the notion of European unification I sense a belief in utopia. I am strongly for regional cooperation and against unification. As we in Europe know only too well from the history of the 20th century, utopian dreams are dangerous.

Utopian models — be they rational as communism or emotional as Nazism — are models of perfection, static models at that. They are abstract and anthropocentric. They are typical products of a man's mind as he cuts himself off and works apart from other living things.

We Greens should instead think ecologically, learn to dream a

little as nature works. This means bringing change and the unforeseeable into the centre of our plans for the future.

Ecological thinking embraces the reality of difference, variety, change and complexity. It means giving up the ethics of expansion and control, giving up over-clear visions of how the perfect society could work. It means not working with a set of values used like a compass to point at any given time and place but towards a world in solidarity with nature, with future generations, the poor and deprived.

The task is to find a model of cooperation which guarantees certain basic people's rights without at the same time wiping out the cultural and political variety.

Is the motive for cooperation to strengthen the economic and political power of the new community with regard to states beyond?

At the heart of the integration process in the European Community lie economic interests, the "together we are stronger than the others" mentality. A policy based on economic growth is automatically involved in the international power game. To root cooperation in economy when economy means growth leads to at least two results which betray the green cause; on the one hand an intensification of power in Western Europe as regards other parts of the world, for example the developing countries; on the other hand the fact that every aspect of social decision making is based on the growth economy and is drawn into the central decision-making sphere. The bureaucracy blocks citizen participation in politics.

A green vision, focussed on self-reliance, has no need to make Europe stronger with regard to the rest of the world. A network cooperation can focus on precisely those areas which have to do with people's integrity. These issues are the concern of the non-economic, solidarity organisations such as the UN, the Helsinki process, the European Security Conference and the Council of Europe.

Instead of harbouring utopian visions of following the EC into a political and defence union with the hope of being able to change its direction once speed has gathered, we greens would do better to concentrate our efforts on intensifying the work of cooperation which has already been initiated in the organisations I have just mentioned.