Famous Five go on a political adventure

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The Independent Online
UNLIKE MANY Greens who are still agonising over their future in a party that is now waging war in the Balkans, Norbert Hackbusch did not hesitate for long. On 13 May the Greens' conference in Bielefeld adopted a resolution backing their leadership, including Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister. Sure, the party also called for a "pause" in Nato's bombing campaign, but Mr Hackbusch knew that was a token gesture.

That night he became the first Green member of a regional parliament to announce his defection in protest against the war in Kosovo.

THE GREENS have always been riven by discord between Realos and Fundis. In Bielefeld the Realos won and the Fundis had to decide their next move. Mr Hackbusch is one of 21 Green members of the Hamburg parliament. On the Sunday after the conference, he and his fellow Fundis meet in the deserted Green office at the Hamburg assembly. "We decide to leave together as a group, and set up an independent parliamentary faction," he says. There are five people present, all in agreement on basic principles.

"We are against this war that Nato is waging," Mr Hackbusch, a 44-year- old researcher better known on the national Green scene as "Hacki", explains. "We are against the bombs. We think they do more harm than good. We are also opposed to Nato acting as the new global policeman. We no longer want to represent a party that voted in favour of it in Bielefeld. The party has turned into a Joschka Fischer fan club."

THE FOLLOWING day finds the five meeting again to make their separation formal. At 4.30pm the Green parliamentary group is convened. "Most of them had some inkling of our plans, but had still hoped that we would not go ahead," Mr Hackbusch says. "Many were astounded."

ON TUESDAY there is a heavy turn-out, by Hamburg standards, for the Famous Five's press conference. Fifteen television crews are in attendance. A district councillor joins the five defectors. They announce plans to hold a meeting on 6 June in Dortmund to rally the burgeoning movement nationally. Greens are tearing up their membership cards all over the country. The journalists ask how the defectors can justify keeping their seats in the Hamburg parliament, won on the Green list.

"We are of the opinion that it is not we who have changed our political allegiance, but the Green party," Mr Hackbusch replies. He cites poll figures showing that 40 per cent of those who voted Green last September no longer support the party.

In the evening Greens and former Greens gather for a final drink. The atmosphere is jolly. "We are in that stage of divorce when there is no hatred yet," Mr Hackbusch says.

THE HAMBURG parliament holds its first session since the schism. Five new seats at the back await the nameless group, plus lots of flowers and chocolates. They have been sent by Anna Bruns, a Fundi who left the Greens and renounced her parliamentary seat six months ago. Several Greens and Social Deomcrats come around to offer comfort and eat the chocolates.

ON THURSDAY the new office is sorted out. The phones are ringing, mostly from Bonn. Antje Radcke, a member of the national presidium, tries to make peace. Also on the line are Annelie Buntenbach and Ullrich Cremer, two pacifists who are staying in the party for the moment, but want to be involved in the new movement.

In the afternoon, a meeting with radicals who used to work closely with the Greens, but distanced themselves in recent years. After nearly two decades of party politics, the rebel Greens are returning to their roots. "We will not be a party," Mr Hackbusch says. "All we want is a national office to co-ordinate the campaign against the war." The leader of the faction is elected on Friday. In the afternoon, a meeting with district party organisations. Between 50 and 60 just-left Greens are present. The movement is taking off.

AFTER A hectic week, a politics-free day. Mr Hackbusch takes his 10- year old son, Jannis, canoeing on the Elbe. He is too young to care about politics, but Mrs Hackbusch frets that her husband will be even busier now co-ordinating a movement that still lacks a name. But 16-year old Hanna, something of a Fundi herself, is on her father's side.

"My daughter has always berated me for carrying on with this party," Mr Hackbusch says. "Now she is happy."