One of the last big-name members of West Germany's Greens has left the Bundestag in a blaze of rhetoric. Otto Schily -- one-time lawyer for terrorist defendants, toppler of a Bundestag speaker, and perpetual maverick -- gave his last speech in the lower house of the West German Parliament, then resigned his seat Thursday in line with the radical democratic rotation practiced by the Greens, a pacifist, ecology-oriented party. (Greens deputies stand down midway through a parliamentary term in favor of other individuals on its electoral list.)
He leaves as his one remaining Greens colleague from the slate elected in 1983, peace activist Petra Kelly.
Schily lectured a few dozen members of Parliament and an expanse of empty seats on the ``Flick scandal.'' The affair, involving surreptitious industrial donations to political parties, had poisoned West German democracy, Schily said. There was ``unimaginable'' corruption and a ``degenerate, worn-out sense of law'' in West Germany's political system. But this could be corrected if politicians were willing to learn; Schily was not pessimistic about the system.
Schily was less rumpled than usual, more in line with the combed-down mores of the established parties and -- in his customary jacket and tie -- in defiance of the Greens' own counterculture dress code of jeans and sweaters.
However, he was as uncompromising as ever, demurring from both the majority and minority reports of the Bundestag committee investigating the Flick affair. The Greens, respectful of Schily's merciless questioning in a sometimes-bland committee, allowed him to stay on past last year's legislative mid-point until this week's completion of the investigation.
On the dais Schily refrained from repeating his charge that conservative Chancellor Helmut Kohl may have lied to both federal and state parliamentary investigating committees; he had to delete this charge before the Bundestag would print his dissenting minority report.
Outside the Bundestag, however, Schily made it clear that he was glad that two prosecutors' investigations into Dr. Kohl's testimony have been opened on the strength of Schily's initial evidence.
The conservatives accuse Schily and the prosecutors who unexpectedly opened a second investigation this week of trying to defame Kohl before a state election in June and the general election next January. They say further that some 80 percent of prosecutors' investigations never lead to indictments, let alone convictions.
But the conservatives are worried that the charges could hurt their electoral prospects. And they are mindful of the downfall of conservative Bundestag speaker Rainer Barzel two years ago after Schily's questioning revealed that Mr. Barzel pocketed Flick money that even his own party was unaware of.
It was therefore with particular bitterness that some of the few conservatives on the Bundestag floor yesterday shouted ``lies'' and ``untruths'' when Schily began his speech.
They then listened in silence as Schily traced the history of the giant Flick concern, its donations to the Nazis in the 1930s (and its lucrative arms contracts from them), the sentencing of company president Karl Friedrich Flick to seven years in jail by an Allied military court after World War II, and the rebuilding of the Flick fortune that began even before Flick's early release in 1950.
All the established parties vehemently protested the vision of West Germany as a ``sold-out republic,'' however, and Schily's implicit equation of Flick's funding of the Nazis with the firm's donations to all the established parties in the 1970s.
Characteristically, Schily's swan song was a lesson in democratic morality. His distress over the number of Nazi supporters who returned to high positions in West Germany in the '50s and '60s figured in his designation of himself in the early '70s as a ``liberal Communist'' -- an impossible combination, he freely acknowledged at the time.
When the Greens sprang into existence in 1980, Schily thought he had finally found his political home. His own convictions have sometimes been as uncomfortable for the Greens as for the established parties, however. In particular as a ``realist'' he has long advocated a Greens coalition with the Social Democrats -- a coalition the Greens ``fundamentalists'' like Petra Kelly absolutely reject.