The German green movement is currently managing a tour de force of succeeding by failing. I guess that’s true of most protest movements — winning is nice, but heroic failures are almost as good for building a movemnt.


A shipment of nuclear waste is currently in transit through Germany. It’s come from France by train, and is currently a few miles from it’s destination, the ‘temporary’ (anything but) storage area in Gorleben.

Along the way, some 50,000 people have protested. They’ve chained themselves to the rails, hung themselves from bridges, and devoted extreme effort to removing ballast from the tracks. [I’m not entirely clear how this latter works — is it likely to do more than make the train wobble a bit? Or is the appeal just that pinching a stone is the smallest imaginable unit of “direct” action? Anyway, it seems the Thing To Do].

This happens every year — it’s a standard bit of protest theatre. This year’s protests have been bigger than ever before, because Germany’s nuclear plants have just had their lifetime extended 14 years. Also perhaps because it comes on the back of another huge environmental protest, against an (unbelievably expensive) railway station in Stuttgard.

The nuclear waste will reach its destination. The nuclear plants will still be running in 14 years. The station — well, that one might have some effect, actually. But the main effect is that the Green party are on the up, and the wider Green movement is ballooning. Because it doesn’t matter if they lose; they keep everybody talking about an issue where the majority disagree with the government. Then they win votes, get into a coalition, and maybe eventually change a policy. “Direct” action is pretty indirect, but it might just work.

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