Interview with Viktor Rüegg*, «Chance-21»
mw. In the joint efforts of various citizens’ groups for a direct democratic and neutral Switzerland, several years ago, together with friends, I got to know some of the active members of “Chance-21”, who also held municipal parliamentary seats in the canton of Lucerne for a while. Before the federal referendum on the limitation initiative, I accidentally came across “Chance-21” again: As one of the few groups outside the SVP and AUNS (Campaign for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland), it recommends support for the initiative.
In the following, the arguments of “Chance-21” for the initiative are presented as well as a conversation with Viktor Rüegg about the party landscape in Switzerland and the reasons why “Chance-21” has chosen the path of an independent political citizens’ group.
Current-Concerns: Mr. Rüegg, I am very pleased to be able to talk to you. Could you first explain what the goals of “Chance-21” are?
Viktor Rüegg: We don’t see ourselves as a party, but as a movement of people who are positioned between the Greens and the SVP. On the one hand we have ecological and also social concerns, but on the other hand we also want to ensure that Switzerland’s independence and the small-scale nature of our decisions are respected. It is simply not possible to reconcile the two, either with the SVP or the Greens or with others on the left. This is why we have been around since 1995, when we participated in National Council elections as the “Movement for a Neutral Switzerland” and then twice as “Chance-21”. Since 2003 we have had one seat in parliament each in the city of Lucerne and in the commune of Kriens. Since 2010 the political movement no longer exists externally, only internally. Four times a year we hold discussions on voting slogans, and a group of interested people meets to exchange views.
Today, the conditions for “Chance-21” would perhaps be better if we started again, probably we would have more popularity. Back then we were able to get three to four per cent of the votes, here in the city of Lucerne, that was enough for one seat. Today, with the climate problem and with corona, there would perhaps be more willingness to decide more on a small-scale level and to reduce the big, international issues. But if there is to be something new, it must come from below, from the twenty or thirty-year-olds.
Core difference: International alignment or small-scale,
direct democratic decisions?
What you have said about the parties is also of concern to me and to us at Current Concerns. You said that they can’t go together, certain arguments from the SVP and the Greens.
For us at “Chance-21” it does, but not for the political parties.
But if you look at the arguments of “Chance-21” for the limitation initiative (see box), then there are quite a few that every Green could sign. Why is it not possible to create a broader political committee or campaign for a “Limitation Initiative”?
This is probably difficult because the demarcation from the SVP is so desperately defended. In the last twenty or thirty years there has been a connection between the FDP, the centre and the left, who agree that international action and decision-making should be taken. That is the big political sticking point for us. At “Chance-21” we believe that there are certainly issues that need to be regulated internationally, for example in relation to airspace. But we feel that most decisions are better anchored at the local or national level and can also be made in a direct democratic manner, rather than somehow being regulated internationally, where direct democracy is ruled out.
That is the core difference. The people of the FDP, CVP are for economic reasons, because of the big corporations, for the international level, and the left is for so-called “solidarity” reasons, the Internationale of the left, for this level. They have come together against the “right-wing nationalists”, who are more national and small-scale positions. This is the main struggle of the last thirty years.
And the question of the EU linkage.
The EU is of course a fine example of the international, undemocratic level. Everyone is in favour of it, with the exception of the SVP. It goes on to the UN level, where some areas are affected. And for us at “Chance-21”, the key question is: Do we want direct democratic, small-scale, self-determined decisions, or do we give that up and say that some delegates should decide for humanity, whether in Brussels or in the UN or wherever. That is the core question for us.
You plausibly explain why many are against the SVP, but isn’t it also true the other way round, that the SVP also sets itself apart from the others?
Yes, of course the SVP also has its fears of contact, in the social and ecological area. For example, it has long denied that climate change is happening. Today it says that it is happening, but that that is normal that has always been the case. But this is an issue related to our way of life, for example so let’s leave aside how devastating it is. A party like the SVP can be expected to give an opinion on how to tackle the problem. This is an example where the SVP does not take up serious concerns of the other side either. That is why we are not part of the SVP; I am not in any party.
“We do not care which party is behind a slogan”
The arguments of “Chance-21” are partly the same as those of the SVP, and some of them, as already mentioned, would actually be the concerns of the Greens.
Yes, we are not afraid of contact if we find something reasonable. We do not care which party is behind a slogan. We are an independent movement that thinks and discusses and decides for itself. I always look at the reasons and arguments of both sides, and from the analysis we come to the result. We recommend a yes to the initiative for moderate immigration, but it is difficult to actively fight for it.
I believe that the mutual demarcation between the parties will remain so in the coming years. Something new must come, perhaps at some point, we’ll see.
When the GLP [Green Liberal Party, which split off from the Zurich Green Party, mw] came into being in Zurich, at about the same time as “Chance-21” in 1995, 1996, we contacted them to see if it would be possible to set up a branch in Lucerne. But we soon realised: In the whole question of global corporations, of international business, they are on the same level as the FDP. They want to create the best possible conditions for international companies, also in Switzerland. This is at the expense of SMEs, and we are more on the side of small structures. The economy is more directly determined, more democratic and more controllable in SMEs than in large companies.
At the time, it was thought that the green liberals were an opportunity to unite the various points of view.
We hoped so too, but we knew after the first exchange of letters: this is hopeless. So we stuck to the path of an independent citizens’ movement.
Thank you very much, Mrv Rüegg, for the informative and stimulating conversation. •
(Interview Marianne Wüthrich)
* Viktor Rüegg is a lawyer in Kriens, canton of Lucerne. From 2004 to 2009 he held a mandate for the “Chance-21” in the parliament of the city of Lucerne. Up to date he chairs a “Less is more” committee, which fights the construction of a large sports hall with 4,000 seats in Kriens as completely exaggerated (see SRF News of 22 July 2020)
Therefore Chance-21 says yes to the Limitation Initiative
We recommend supporting the “Initiative for Moderate Immigration” because
The success of this initiative is much more important than ostensibly assumed!
This can be derived in particular from the financial commitment of various large corporations (e.g. Coca-Cola). The fact that international corporations and think tanks are interfering in the voting campaign should give us food for thought.
Or do you seriously believe that these neoliberal multinationals and organisations focus on the wellbeing of the Swiss population?
Your vote matters!
of 17 August 2020
mw. The limitation initiative aims to mitigate the negative effects of excessive immigration. The question now arises as to the positive effects of the free movement of persons. Here are the remarkable statements of two renowned Swiss economists on the question: Has the free movement of persons boosted wages and economic growth – also per capita?
Reiner Eichenberger, Professor of Economic and Financial Policy at the University of Fribourg: “No, of course not. Immigration means large and rapid population growth. It only inflates the economy as a whole, but over time it has increasing overcrowding effects: land, infrastructure, environmental goods, etc. become scarcer and more expensive, which of course reduces real per capita income – correctly calculated. The normal citizens are the losers. The winners are those who benefit in the short term from the inflation of the economy, state budgets and problems: Governments, politicians who like to regulate, umbrella organisations, big landowners and some managers.”
Professor Christoph Schaltegger, Professor of Political Economy at the University of Lucerne, answers the question as follows: “The causal effect of the free movement of persons on wages, economic growth and productivity can hardly be precisely determined. [...] The free movement of persons has presumably resulted above all in a quantity effect: more people have produced and consumed more goods and services in Switzerland.”
Source: Kälin, Karl and Altermatt, Sven. “Wie viel wert sind die bilateralen Verträge?” (How much are the bilateral agreements worth?),
in: St. Galler Tagblatt of 1 September 2020
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