Kohl and the Greens spar over West Germany's Flick affair
The Flick scandal in West Germany is shaping up, in the eyes of some protagonists, into a titanic struggle against enemy conspiracies. But the conspiracies Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Green member of Parliament Otto Schily perceive are quite different.
Dr. Kohl sees his center-right government as the target of a campaign of ''defamation'' mounted by newsmagazines, the opposition Social Democrats and Greens, and some others.
He sees his coalition government fighting to preserve West German society against the Green ''system changers'' who would dump the Western alliance, reject Western nuclear weapons, yield to Soviet pressures, sacrifice industry to romantic ecology, and trample on traditional morality and respect for authority.
He is attacking the news media for highlighting payments by the Flick conglomerate to the conservatives while playing down similar payments to the Social Democrats by industry and trade unions. He cites the ''recompense money'' granted the Social Democrats after World War II because of the killing and imprisonment of Social Democrats under Hitler.
In contrast, the conspiracy Mr. Schily perceives is the old-boy network of big business and big politics that is epitomized by Flick's largesse toward all the established parties. The Greens and the Social Democrats are outraged by Kohl's equating of under-the-table industrial bankrolling of parties with the public granting of compensation funds to Jews and other victims of Nazism.
The Greens point out that - in the 1930s and '40s - Flick funded the Nazis out of expedience. After the war the founder of West Germany's largest privately-held company served several years in prison for that and for use of slave labor during the war. Is postwar Germany any better served by a cozy political-industrial complex? the Greens ask.
Schily, a razor-sharp lawyer who gained fame as counsel for Baader-Meinhof gang defendants, answers in the negative. He is the Greens' top representative on the Bundestag committee investigating the Flick affair.
The Greens, who clearly have not accepted any favors from business, relish every revelation of clandestine financing of other parties.
They are looking forward to grilling Kohl in committee Nov. 7 - especially about lists a former Flick manager allegedly kept of persons associated with political payments. According to Der Spiegel, Kohl's name as well as those of his coalition partners Franz Josef Strauss and Hans-Dietrich Genscher are on the list.
Some lists and other prosecution evidence are available to the Bundestag committee only because of court injunctions secured by the Social Democrats and Greens. In coming months the Greens plan to press for rules of financial disclosure by office-holders. No such disclosure is currently required.
The conservatives and Greens each tend to see political morality as their own exclusive possession. Each party likes to read moral lectures to the other, and each sees the other's moral lectures as dangerous hypocrisy.
The conservatives demand law and order. The Greens demand the broadest possible interpretation of civil rights. The conservatives (and Social Democrats) think politics should be conducted by professional politicians who are accountable. The Greens think politics should be conducted by amateur members of Parliament who are forced out after two years so they won't build fiefdoms.
On political financing Kohl has argued again in the past few days that funding of democratic parties by industry is honorable - while the Greens have again argued that it is corrupting. All this means that the new speaker, Philipp Jenninger, will have his hands full. He is to be voted into office on the nomination of the conservatives when the Bundestag reconvenes today.