More Upheaval in German Politics Over Ukraine War, Russia Sanctions and the Heavy Hand of the US 

The German elite’s firewall against the ultra nationalist, anti-EU Alternative for Germany party has begun to crumble. Germany’s business groups were unified in their opposition to the AfD whose immigration stance goes against big businesses’ desire for cheap labor. All of Germany’s main political parties say they are opposed to the AfD and are discussing an outright ban of the party, but last month, the Christian Democrats and the pro-business Free Democrats needed votes to defeat a regional government in a crucial budget bill. They turned to the AfD.

Together they were able to push a tax cut through Thuringia’s parliament against the wishes of the left-wing coalition.

Germany’s main opposition leader, Friedrich Merz who leads the Christian Democrats, had ruled out cooperation of any kind with the AfD. Merz, a former corporate lawyer who has  sat on numerous company boards including BlackRock Germany, had been heavily criticized for previous comments after AfD election wins in Eastern Germany local elections. He said at the time that they were democratic elections that “we have to accept, and then of course ways have to be sought in local parliaments to organize the town, the countryside or the county together.”

It’s going to be increasingly hard to ignore AfD if they continue to add to their vote share, which they are likely to do should the German political class keep refusing to address Germans’ declining living standards while cutting social spending and increasing militarization.

Elections earlier this month in the two wealthy German states of Bavaria and Hesse showed the AfD continuing its meteoric rise. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD trailed the AfD in both states – an absolutely humiliating outcome for his party and a sign of the unprecedented frustration with the current government.

In Bavaria, the CSU came in first with 37 percent, followed by the Free Voters at 15.8 percent. The AfD was third with 14.6 percent; the Greens fourth with 14.4 percent; and Scholz’s Social Democrats were fifth with 8.4 percent.

In Hesse the vote broke down as follows:

CDU – 34.6 percent.

AfD – 18.4 percent.

SPD – 15.1 percent

Greens – 14.8 percent.

FDP – 5 percent.

Left Party – 3.1 percent.

While the CSU/CDU is in favor of continuing Germany’s bellicose foreign policy, the AfD is the only party drawing connections between the German government marching to US orders and the devastating effect it is having on the German economy – until last week.

One left-wing politician has been making that connection, although her party tried to silence her. Now Sahra Wagenknecht finally announced last week that she is founding her own party, potentially putting a final nail in the coffin of the moribund Left Party she is leaving and posing a threat to claw back voters from the AfD.

The Wagenknecht wing in the Left Party has been a vocal critic of Germany’s submission to US interests, although the party as a whole has failed to adopt this message. Instead it has joined in the attacks from all sides against Wagenknecht. For her pro-negotiations approach she has been labeled a Putin apologist. She has also been targeted for questioning Germany’s immigration policy.

Meanwhile, the Left Party as a whole, which is considered a direct descendant of the Socialist Unity Party that ruled East Germany until reunification, has completely collapsed after abandoning nearly all of its platform in an attempt to appear “ready to govern.” The party’s polling figures have dipped below 5 percent, which would keep it out of the Bundestag should those figures hold in the next national election. Much like the bourgeoisie Greens, the Left increasingly stands for neoliberal, pro-war and anti-Russia policies. But while the Greens have a solid base of upper class support, the Left used to appeal to Germany’s working class, which has increasingly switched to the AfD in response to the Left’s neoliberal drift.

Here is more on Wagenknecht from Tagesspiegel:

Wagenknecht has positioned herself as a sharp critic of the federal government’s Ukraine policy and the energy sanctions against Russia. She is for the import of cheap natural gas and against overly strict climate protection policies . She also advocates limiting migration . She has repeatedly described the Greens as the most dangerous party. Additionally, a poll from Bild am Sonntag that shows 27 percent of people in Germany would consider voting for the Wagenknecht-led party.

Other polling shows Wagenknecht’s yet-to-be-named party already more popular than the war mongering Greens.

More on Wagenknecht’s move from NC reader MD in Berlin:

Out of the Left Party’s 38 Bundestag members, 10 have left to form the new party. They are serious figures. 5 are women.

At least 5 (!) have what Germans call “a migration background”. The new formation rejects IdPol. The residual Left Party (Rest-Linke) slants heavily to IdPol. The composition of the core group will defuse Rest-Linke criticisms, esp on migration policy.

SW has played a blinder tactically. Anti-war demo in Feb planted a flag. Will-she-won’t-she ever since kept question in media. Step is response to a perceived voter demand, but not an activist movement. Enthusiasm for joining and working remains unclear.

Policies essentially left populist. Nothing wrong with that.No visible labour movement connection. Though participating MP Klaus Ernst originates from the IG Metall milieu. Could potentially emerge if labour movement were to awake.

And from Deutsche Welle:

Wagenknecht’s public profile exploded last year when she became the leader of a “peace campaign” demanding that the West stop arming Ukraine to defend itself against Russia. Elsewhere, Wagenknecht criticized her own party leadership for pandering to what she calls “lifestyle leftists,” whose policies of inclusion for marginalized communities, she argues, were themselves marginalizing the Left Party’s core voters, especially the working classes in eastern Germany.

Wagenknecht has grown particularly popular in eastern Germany, and a Thuringia poll by the Insa institute in July found that Wagenknecht’s as yet non-existent party could potentially win an election in her home state — with 25% of the vote, three points ahead of the AfD. Perhaps it is no coincidence that, in the aftermath of her “rally for peace” in February, Thuringia’s AfD leader Björn Höcke — himself no stranger to provocation — invited Wagenknecht to defect to the far-right AfD.

Wagenknecht has ruled out working with the AfD. While the AfD has a small solid base of support from voters with hard right views, they are siphoning off disenchanted voters from elsewhere (especially from the Left Party), many of whom just want to give an extended middle finger to the German establishment.

That’s not surprising considering the German government is doing its best to anger voters and drive them to the AfD. Let’s just take the issue of housing. It is increasingly hard to find and more unaffordable than ever. Details from Deutsche Welle: 

Germany is traditionally a nation of tenants. While across Europe around 70% of the population own the house or apartment they live in, only 46% of people living in Germany do so. In major cities, that ratio is even lower.

If you want to rent a nice apartment in a good location in Berlin, you need a lot of money. A “wonderfully spacious 4-room apartment” in Berlin’s upmarket Charlottenburg district: 182 square meters, furnished, the rent is €8,190 ($8,947) per month. Plus heating, electricity and other incidental costs, that amounts to over €50 per square meter.

A so-called rental price cap was included in the German Civil Code in June 2015. According to this, when signing a new rental agreement, the rent may not be more than 10% above the local comparative rent. But in Berlin and other large cities, landlords have found a lucrative way around this: The cap does not apply to furnished apartments and contracts for short rental periods. So now, more than half of all apartments in Berlin are offered as “furnished.”

A rent level of €6.50 to €7.50 per square meter is considered socially acceptable in Germany. But for that price, you can’t even find an apartment on the outskirts of Berlin these days….

In Germany, the average net income — the amount that remains after taxes and social security payments have been deducted — currently stands at €2,165, according to the Federal Statistical Office. Around one-third of this income is spent on rent. But even that is often not enough. In Munich, a square meter now costs €19 in rent, in Stuttgart €18, in Dusseldorf and Cologne €12 to €13 and in Berlin €11.

Yet, at the same time that Germans are struggling to find and afford shelter, the government isn’t just doing nothing to remedy the problem; it is actively making it worse. It continues to embrace a policy of more immigrants who need housing when they arrive in Germany, which increases competition for scarce supply. Simultaneously, the government in Berlin is planning to cut back on housing benefits as part of social cuts across the board in order to increase military spending.

This assault on the working class comes at a time when the prices for everything have gone through the roof causing Germans’ real wages to plummet. But the German government has no plan to deal with this; they only double down, promising the Americans they will lead a more militarized EU against their former supplier of cheap and reliable energy (Russia) that allowed for their export economic model to their biggest trading partner (China) who they are now also getting aggressive with.

Nevertheless, the German government, rather than examine its own failings, is blaming voters for not fully understanding their policies. And the effort to discredit Wagenknecht as a Putin stooge has come roaring back to life following her announcement – this time coupled with charges that her forming a new party is “bad for democracy.”

Waknerfekt has long been pilloried in the media, however, so the fact that 27 percent of the German electorate would still consider voting for her party shows the limits of such propaganda.

The formation of a true party on the left sets up a scenario where the German elite could end up facing a choice: the left or the AfD?

The German establishment has tried everything to stop the rise of the AfD except responding to the economic concerns of voters. They have repeatedly labeled the party a threat, there are constant media stories on their fascist ties and dangerous nationalism, they’ve been placed under surveillance, and there have been growing calls to outright ban the party under questionable legal grounds. In the end, a true party for the working class might do the trick at capping the AfD’s support .

One has to wonder, however, if this is just delaying the day of reckoning. Say the CDU/CSU heads the next government; will much of anything change? If the German establishment continues on its current neoliberal, militaristic path that is subservient to US interests, the prospects for Germany’s working class will only worsen.

The problem for Germany is that its foreign policy and vassalage to the US is inextricably linked to its domestic financialization and economic woes. It is so wholly captured by Washington that none of the major political parties even agitate for a more thorough investigation into the Nord Stream destruction. None of them call for a reexamination of  the country’s policy towards Russia (and now China too) and whether following the US/NATO lead is truly in the interest of Germans.

Until Germany is able to thoroughly raise these questions, it’s hard to envision a soft landing for its political system and society at large. For Germany to find a way out of its current decline will likely require the rise of nationalism. As Michael Hudson writes in his The Destiny of Civilization:

There is still a tendency to think of nationalism as a retrograde step. But for foreign countries, breaking away from today’s unipolar global system of U.S.-centered financialization is the only way to create a viable alternative that can resist the New Cold War’s attempt to destroy any alternative system and to impose U.S.-client rentier dictatorships on the world.

As it stands now, Wagenknecht’s new party likely solidifies the CDU/CSU frontrunner status for the next elections.

Federal elections aren’t currently scheduled until 2025 – if Scholz’s coalition survives that long. Its infighting and record unpopularity leave open the possibility of government collapse and early elections. Recent polling shows that two-thirds of Germans want a new government.

Whenever the next national elections occur, they will be followed by the coalition building. The CDU/CSU is already moving towards the AfD on the issue of immigration, although its leaders maintain they are not open to working with the AfD. One has to wonder, though, should it come down to a choice between the left and the AfD, which would the German elite choose?

Reader Matthew G. Saroff predicted the following in a comment on a recent Germany piece here at NC:

The dirty secret here is that the mainstream German politicians will embrace AfD over Die Linke, because they would rather have Fascists in power than Leftists. Why does this sound familiar to me? (1932)

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  1. BillC

    I have been following Wagenknecht for a year or so. As an Italian resident moderately attentive to the EU press, she seems to me to be the only EU politician with national visibility who makes sense on Ukraine and EU’s Russia sanctions. She is smart, attractive, and expresses complex economic and geopolitical issues clearly but not over-simplified to a mass audience. I’ve been hoping for months that she would go ahead and launch a party that can become the spearhead of a movement to restore sanity to EU policy.

    1. digi_owl

      Given that even Varoufakis seems to have given up on EU reform, i dunno if it is worth getting hopeful.

  2. RSHayes

    Clearly Germany is a vassal of the US. But what are the precise mechanisms of control? Can anyone point sources on this? Perhaps a subject for Conor to address in one of his future highly illuminating posts.

    1. divadab

      Start with an army of occupation, 50,000 US troops still there iirc, almost eighty years after Nazi Germany’s defeat. Add a comprador elite, beholden to the US and its media and secret service tentacles, and you get weaklings like Scholtz, utterly without agency, insulted in public by Emperor Joe, and acting directly against the interests of his countrymen.

      It’s hard to believe that this supine, defeated nation, was once the terror of the world, and only the forces of the USA and its imperial vassals, and the USSR could defeat them.

      1. JonnyJames

        Indeed, I have visited many of those bases as well as NATO bases all over occupied Europe. Another example to underline your point: documents published by Wikileaks showed that the NSA had tapped Angela Merkel’s phone for many years. The BND had knowledge of it, yet did not inform their own Chancellor. The BND was largely created by the CIA in the first place.

        The mass media even reported on it.

        No wonder HRC, Mike Pompeo and others wanted to murder Julian Assange.

      2. scott s.

        When you write of “army of occupation” then look at the numbers it seems predominantly HQ and support personnel. If by “army” you mean combat troops, that seems like 2d Cav Regiment, 12th Combat Aviation Bde, and 41st Field Artillery Brigade (discounting Air Defense Artillery – Patriot/THAAD batteries). So let’s say about 2/3rds of a division.

      3. Cat Burglar

        “Bags and bags of money” has been adduced as one reason the US can control German politicians. It wouldn’t be surprising if US surveillance has discovered things to blackmail the politicians with — it is their job!

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Elite education. A soft form of control. After all, how could Boston, near Boston, be bad (sarcasm)? Their knowledge of the US is limited and tends to towards CNN levels of discourse in the end. So they will follow dolts lIke Biden because they went on a bender in Cambridge.

      The nature of the EU power politics between capitals. Moscow and Ankara wouldn’t upset the apple cart but would give smaller countries alternatives to Berlin. The US doesn’t want greater EU integration and neither do the power brokers in Berlin. London had dreams of old empire, and Paris hitched it’s wagon to Berlin. Rome is under control of a dolt interested in unwinding years of effort to strengthen Italy’s place, and the Microstation are irrelevant and scattered without a major power backing them.

      Berlin needs acquiescence to run the empire.

      1. Mikel

        “Elite education.”
        Yes. In many circles it’s a form of “chosen ones” programming. Where global elites have more in common with each other than the pleebs in their countries who exist to them for exploitation and cannon fodder.

    3. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      I think the European PMC / leadership class has its own reasons to adopt this position / policy towards Russia (and others like China and Iran). Vide Uschi von der Leyen. This deracinated elite has its own agency and does not need Uncle Sam’s direction / instruction. From experience, the financialisation of the past five decades has helped to facilitate the Atlanticist positioning and, due to the prominence of US firms in managing the wealth of that elite, bridged the Atlantic and given the impression of the US doing the bidding.

      This said, and this is where your and similar questions may arise, it’s very rewarding professionally, politically and financially to do (or be seen by the US, a short hand, to be seen to do its bidding. I have observed British and EU27 politicians and officials build their retirement nest eggs by favouring US firms in government and join them at the earliest opportunity. They were already corrupt, but Uncle Sam’s money has turbo charged that process. US firms and think tanks pay very well. In addition, working with US firms and think tanks is like going out with a glamed up Hollywood star, not plain Jane next door.

      The mechanism you mention is employment at US firms and think tanks, appearances on air waves due to the prominence associated with US firms (vide Jose Maria Aznar and Jose Manuel Barroso) and think tanks (vide French former diplomat Gerard Araud and Macronist MP Benjamin Haddad), funding and personnel for electoral campaigns, quiet words for party selection panels, tertiary education scholarships for children, invitations to global leadership meetings in DC and NYC etc. That’s the carrot. The stick is kompronat held by the likes of the Murdoch and Springer presses or just plain character assassination without evidence (vide Jeremy Corbyn). These presses have their own mud for commercial reasons (as three UK Liberal politicians allege), but are happy to use, ahem, third party dirt.

      One hopes former British diplomat turned academic Aurelien / David, whose blog / substack I can’t recommend enough, explains much better than me.

      1. Pym of Nantucket

        Another factor is the deeper sense that they feel superior in some way to their churlish masters, and could have a positive impact by influencing them from within. I doubt this works much but it is comforting to elites who might have passing feelings of self doubt for their traitorous behaviour. The evidence surrounds them that Europe is being strip mined, but they keep on complying hoping to have impact on how their industry and resources are cannibalized.

        Clearly there is a good sized chunk of educated elite in Europe who see the way forward is to try to influence or manipulate the hegemon. It is similar to a Stockholm Effect with the added heritage of old money thinking that deludes them into perceiving they have control. The dog who tries to control the owner by pulling on the leash.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you.

          I think there’s much truth in that, beginning with the British. Harold MacMillan spoke of the UK being Greece to the US’ Rome.

          1. lyman alpha blob

            An apt comparison, although I might describe the UK as being Greece minus the culture, John Cleese’s contributions notwithstanding.

      2. digi_owl

        And if they want to maintain appearance, USA can always organize a position at some big name NGO. Maybe even the UN…

      3. Aurelien

        That’s kind of you Colonel. I think we also need to look at history. After WW2, Germany was understandably a little unpopular with its immediate neighbours. The Adenauer generation recognised that the only way back to international respectability was through membership of multilateral institutions and through, effectively, giving much of its sovereignty away to others, such that it was not seen as a threat. Germany was therefore a member of the European Coal and Steel Community from 1951, and of the EEC from the start in 1958. German remilitarisation, grudgingly accepted by other European states, actually turned out to be a better solution than the original idea of a Western Treaty Organisation as a permanent military alliance against Germany. All German troops were put under NATO control, and the Bundeswehr was not allowed to have its own operational HQ, and so could not conduct national missions. This, together with the subordinate relationship to France under the 1962 Elysée Treaty, was a kind of voluntary masochism, which helped to deflect very real fears of German revanchism. (Those fears, incidentally, are a large part of the explanation of why European states were keen to continue with NATO after the end of the Cold War). This subservience produced several generations of German diplomats and military officers (and I met many of them) whose greatest concern was to be seen as “good Europeans” and “good members of NATO.” Whilst they didn’t agree with the US on everything, a German government which followed the US lead could never be criticised.

        It’s changed a lot since then, of course, with the change in the balance of the Franco-German relationship and the complete transformation of the European security scene. It’s been observed especially that, on the rebound after decades of good behaviour, the Germans don’t have the diplomatic reflexes they really need, and risk getting themselves into an incredible mess. The existential problem of what Germany even is, never solved in its history, means that for many in positions of authority, the best and easiest solution is to follow the US, because that worked well in the past.

    4. fjallstrom

      According to a German TV interview with Kohl’s guy in charge of dealing with the US, when the US doesn’t get what it wants it brings out the blackmail.

      As revealed in the 2009 FRA debate in Sweden, one of the functions of the FRA legislation that the cabinet pushed against the opinion in the country and the opinion in their parties, was to give NSA a direct tap on all internet traffic in and through Sweden. With Swedish FRA as a sub contractor.

      A couple of years ago a Danish whistle blower revealed that the Danish intelligence agency had files on politicians in surrounding countries. For lack of interest, it didn’t survive long as a story. A possible source of lack of interest would be if surrounding countries does the same.

      Assuming the relationship between these states and the US are not unique, national intelligence agencies work as sub contractors to the NSA and compile files on politicians in surrounding countries. If the US gets wants it want through soft power, you are best friends, but if it doesn’t get what it wants it brings out the blackmail. Generalised over the EU, one tends to get close to Michael Hudson’s view on the relationship between EU, EU countries and that small room in Pentagon’s basement.

      1. digi_owl

        One thing i remember of that FRA thing was that Norway’s privatized telephone company (Telenor) had to scramble to get its customer email servers back into Norway. Apparently they had relocated them to Sweden to save money, meaning that with FRA the Swedish military could read everything.

    5. Acacia

      But what are the precise mechanisms of control?

      To the points noted by others, above, I would add two:

      NSA tapped German Chancellery for decades, WikiLeaks claims

      Any reason to believe the spooks haven’t tapped Scholtz’s communication?

      See also, the German journalist and writer Udo Ulfkotte’s exposé of media infiltration by intelligence agencies in his book Gekaufte Journalisten [Bought Journalists], published in 2014.

      1. JonnyJames

        Sorry you were first, I just posted a similar link as well. Of course the clam is made by the primary documentation released by Wikileaks, not by a claim from Wikileaks itself. The Guardian ran many stories provided by Wikileaks documents, yet threw Assange under the bus. Craig Murray has suggested the Guardian is now run by MI6, or might as well be.

      2. jsn

        Between Dulles incorporating the Ghelen Organization into the BND and operations in Greece and Italy after the war, leftist leaders and intellectuals across Europe were either eliminated, intimidated or bought.

        The secret foreign policy of the US after Roosevelt’s death was to consolidate financial control on subject countries resources to integrate them into a global, corporatist NeoLiberal order much as envisioned by Mises and institutionalized by Mont Pelerin, using the idealist Hayek to give it a pretty face.

        In 1980, Reagan brought it home to the US with a CIA director his VP and another his Campaign Director. The last 40 years has just been this Globalist Mob moping up.

        1. JonnyJames

          “Globalist Mob” is a misnomer: It’s the US oligarchy/empire and vassals run by client oligarchies. The rest of the “globe”, the global majority, is not part of this. Let’s be clear.

          1. jsn

            I intended “Globalist” as per the Atlanticist, Globalist project, a “self identification”. I thought “Mob” captured reasonably who they actually are.

            While controlling the globes resources has clearly been their intent since WW2, the UN Ceasefire vote tells the true tale: 165 against 14 when you consider “in favor” and “abstentions” as opposed to “against”.

            So my Globalist Mob has effectively taken control of 14 States while trying to control another 165. It had a lot more control of that 165 two years ago…

    6. Feral Finster

      From my years of living and working in Europe, the average frustrated European is better educated and more informed than the average American – BUT – original thinking is much rarer over there and is not encouraged.

      For better or worse, signaling matters a great deal in Europe, and questioning American hegemony is a faux pas on the level of questioning the EU or standing up to interrupt a High Papal Mass to demand that the person who just farted please identify himself.

      It doesn’t matter that nobody believes a word of it, You Just Don’t Do That, and Europeans are, if nothing else, all about The Done Thing.

  3. The Rev Kev

    Wagenknecht may have ruled out working with the AfD but I bet that she would be more than willing to work with the AfD on policies of mutual interest like the Ukraine or emigration. A survey conducted by the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce this week showed that ‘Businesses in Germany are slashing their investment plans and freezing hiring as they see no evidence of a “self-sustaining” recovery in the EU’s leading economy.’ In other words things are going to get worse in Germany and having the main political parties doubling down because Russia!Russia!Russia! is not going to cut it as an excuse. Especially when voters are going to be thrown to the wolves so that more money can go to the military. Personally I hope that those political parties get annihilated at the next polls but even then, I think that as they get sent off to the political fringe they will still shout that they are morally right and it was the voters who failed them.

    1. MD in Berlin

      Hell will freeze over before Wagenknecht cooperates in any way with the AfD. It would be political suicide.

      1. The Rev Kev

        If you only ever cooperate with people that only think like you and have the exact same beliefs, in the end you concede all political ground to people that have the opposite thoughts and beliefs.

        1. Revenant

          A UK minority party can govern through a “confidence and supply” deal, where other parties agree to support it only on motions of no confidence and motions of supply (finance bills).

          If Germany permits something similar, Wagenknecht and the AfD could agree on economic matters, including international aspects like sanctions, and agree to disagree on other issues. If she is not governing with an idpol slant, it is hard to see how her manifesto would differ from AfD’s other than tonally in her reasons against migration and the extent of assimilation.

          It is quite possible that the two parties could find a minimal common ground and act as kingmakers on those issues in the Laender as well as Federal elections. But more likely the other parties will circle the wagons against them both. :-(

          1. hk

            Minority governments are fairly common in certain parts of the world–Scandanavia, particularly, but also appeared in countries with FPTP system–UK and Canada. Parties can agree to cooperate to keep the govt in power without joining the cabinet, in return for cooperation in select dimensions and/or favors.

            Having said that, AfD and the former Linke joining Wagenknecht probably won’t cooperate much, even unofficially. Ideological parties’ supporters have trouble tolerating the party politicians helping their presumed ideological foes. BQ supporters, if I remember right, had trouble stomaching their party propping up the Harper govt in Canada.

      2. hemeantwell

        What is the threshold for hell freezing? Both parties voting against policies? Jointly crafting policies? Joint participation in a ruling coalition? In any event, I’m delighted that she’s taking this route. Jacobin has a Wagenknecht announcement article that raises the possibility of her further diluting her social dem commitments but could do little more than fret. In the current conjuncture it seems essential to build some kind of alliance to end supplication to NATO. The rest comes later.

        1. MD in Berlin

          Wagenknecht has at least the following possibilities for supporters, allies and coalitions:
          – Trades union members, with or without their leaders
          – The Left Party on certain issues
          – Disenchanted voters and members of Greens and Social Democrats
          – Current non-voters
          – About 8 million settled resident non-Germans who are excluded from voting*
          – The AfD’s nihilistic protest vote (but explicitly *not* its core)
          – According to the polls, a good part of the pro-business FDP’s vote**

          That would be a very powerful and coherent alliance. Why on earth would she throw in her lot with the Heirs of Adolf?

          * IMO a neglected flaw in the “democratic” systems of many European states

          ** Here I was surprised by the polling and would have to dig a bit if I wanted to find an explanation

          1. hemeantwell

            Among my hopes is that Wagenknecht will help shape up opposition among union members to NATO policies. I can see union activists supporting her not only because of her break from NATO-driven deindustrialization, but also because they could see her helping to reestablish ties with disaffected workers who have tilted to the AfD.

    2. Skip Intro

      Much of her influence will come from poaching AfD’s new voters, meaning that the two parties are unlikely to share power. Wagenknecht’s rise will come at the cost of loss of voters for AfD.

  4. Ali

    “Germany is traditionally a nation of tenants. While across Europe around 70% of the population own the house or apartment they live in, only 46% of people living in Germany do so. In major cities, that ratio is even lower.”
    Although this is not “wrong,” it is misleading. The reason is that the children of German families leave the common home much earlier than elsewhere. And they cannot afford their own apartment. So the only option is to live in rented accommodation.
    Instead of saying “population,” we should be talking about “families” – and they vary greatly in size and composition in different countries.

    1. Mikel

      And with everything going on now in the world, I’ll make the stretch and say I’m also reminded of Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby.”
      After all the terror, the movie ends with Rosemary rocking the devil’s baby. Embracing all the horror as a normal, daily part of her life.

  5. caucus99percenter

    My prediction is that — unless Wagenknecht changes her mind and her new grouping decides to work with the AfD where they find common ground — German voters fed up with the status quo will remain divided into two camps, nominally “left” and “right”. Since that will keep either from attaining critical mass, nothing will change.

    1. Altandmain

      Yep. This has happened in nations like France, where Macron has played the 2 against each other.

      The only winner of this is the Establishment.

      Not working with people who don’t share 100% of your views means handing the opposition (in this case the German Establishment) free reign to exploit divisions.

  6. dougzero

    ‘rather than examine its own failings, is blaming voters for not fully understanding their policies.’
    This sounds very similar to me not fully appreciating ‘Bidenomics’ according to a nobel economist.

  7. Feral Finster

    “The German establishment has tried everything to stop the rise of the AfD except responding to the economic concerns of voters. They have repeatedly labeled the party a threat, there are constant media stories on their fascist ties and dangerous nationalism, they’ve been placed under surveillance, and there have been growing calls to outright ban the party under questionable legal grounds.”

    That is exactly what will happen. The German political class will ensure that the AfD (or any other political force that questions American hegemony in general or the war in Ukraine in particular) is banned on any pretext.

    1. caucus99percenter

      One of the more blatant ways in which the establishment has discriminated against the AfD: the grift with party-adjacent foundations. Every party in the Bundestag is entitled to have a party-affiliated think tank receive government funds. But all the other parties have colluded to shut the AfD’s think tank out of this cozy little scheme. The subsidies to all non-AfD parties in total now run about € 660 million (a cool $700 million) a year. That ain’t hay!

  8. Matthew G. Saroff

    When one talks about history rhyming, it appears that the mainstream German polity, when provided with an opportunity to form a coalition with the (small l) left, they choose to be in coalition with the fascists.

    1. caucus99percenter

      > they choose to be in coalition with the fascists

      People say that about Germany, but it actually characterizes the U.S. / NATO / the West as a whole, doesn’t it?

      Franco. Salazar. Operation Gladio. The Greek colonels. Pinochet. Syngman Rhee. . . .

      Not to mention many other Latin American and African “strongmen” and MENA monarchs.

      1. digi_owl

        Because fascists “respect” the property claims of the rich, while the communists would abolish them.

        This is why populist has become a swear word, as a populist king in times past would abolish debt and free slaves in order to resurrect a stagnant economy.

        Instead such a leader would be labeled a tyrant and dictator in these “enlightened” times, as he would be trampling the merchant’s free enterprise.

  9. ChrisRUEcon

    > Wagenknecht criticized her own party leadership for pandering to what she calls “lifestyle leftists,”

    Ha! We have a new left moniker!

    Welcome to the “LifeStyle Left”!

    Taking its place proudly beside these:
    Alt Left
    Bernie-Bro Left
    Dirtbag Left
    Left Infiltrate
    Liz Cheney Left
    NeoLib Left
    New Left
    Podcast Left
    Soi-Disant Left
    Synthetic Left

    Keep ’em coming!

    1. ChrisRUEcon

      And yes, no surprises as to whom the German elites would rather partner with. A proper Left political party would work against oligarchy and plutocracy … can’t have that in these war-mongering times, can we?

    2. digi_owl

      One i like from way back is Champagne Left.

      Frankly all of them are “left” only if you stick with the labels from before WW1.

      After that the rise of labor parties shifted things a fair bit, though in recent decades said parties have been overrun thanks to pax americana and the offshoring of most factory work.

      1. ChrisRUEcon

        Ha! Yes. I believe the original term was “Champagne Socialist” … almost an alliterative expression – or most definitely one if you say it like Sean Connery would … ;-)

        Added to my list! Cheers!

        > … in recent decades said parties have been overrun thanks to pax americana and the offshoring of most factory work

        Yep! Labour/Labor parties in the west have been slowly (in the decades sine WWII) co-opted by neoliberals/neoliberalism.

    3. Razor

      A late journalist for The Irish Times, John Healy, coined the phrase “smoked salmon socialists” for the Irish Labour Party.

  10. dday

    The more I read about Sahra Wagenknecht, the more I am struck by how her politics aligns with the predominant political culture of the commentariat at Naked Capitalism.

    From a recent piece in the New York Times by Christopher Caldwell:

    “She often talks as if there are really two lefts: a wage-raising left that wants to distribute wealth fairly and a speech-regulating left that wants to affirm gender identity or fight racism.”

    1. digi_owl

      Pretty much.

      I dear say politics in Europe derailed with the student uprising of 1968.

      Once many of the participants there made their way into politics formally, the wage and work hour concessions that previous generations struggled to gain and maintain were taken for granted. Instead came the idea that all of these issues would be solved by whole generations attaining university degrees.

      Hence the current workforce predicament.

    2. ChrisRUEcon

      > She often talks as if there are really two lefts: a wage-raising left that wants to distribute wealth fairly and a speech-regulating left that wants to affirm gender identity or fight racism.

      #TangibleMaterialBenefits >> #IDPol + #TribalVirtueSignaling

      1. hk

        To be honest, the opposite is probably true in practice, I suspect. Delivering tangible benefits requires real work and involves taking responsibility if you fail to deliver on the promises. IdPol and moralizing requires little by means of real work, does not involve delivering real results, or taking responsibility. In yesteryear’s politics, people could see real results and appreciate it, but once not doing things becomes normal (perhaps because we ran out of things that are not uncontroversial? Building infrastructure became increasingly impossible because there are too many toes that such projects are liable to step on and too many palms that need to be greased.)

        The catch is that, i think, politicians who rose on the bases of idPol and moralizing do not command too much trust. Very few politicians in the West now can actually ask people to actually sacrifice something for a cause. Cheaply gained support is shallow.

        1. digi_owl

          We kinda ran out of visions to strive for. The raygun scifi of the nuclear 50s-60s was replaced with the nihilistic cyberpunk of the 70s-80s etc.

          Politicians, in particular after losing their eternal communist enemy, found themselves facing a future were they would not be visionaries but custodians. And it broke their minds.

        2. ChrisRUEcon

          > To be honest, the opposite is probably true in practice, I suspect. Delivering tangible benefits requires real work and involves taking responsibility if you fail to deliver on the promises. IdPol and moralizing requires little by means of real work, does not involve delivering real results, or taking responsibility.

          Ahhh, sorry … I should have qualified what this “great inequality” really meant.

          Firstly, for the non-mathematicians: “>” is used to denote “greater than”, and “>>” is used to denote “much greater than”

          hk’s understanding is correct if “>>” means “of greater ease”, in which case, yes, politicians can deliver on IDPol and Virtue Signaling with far greater ease that tangible benefits.

          My meaning of “>>” is “far better than” – i.e. tangible material benefits are far better than having the faces of the oppressor be increasingly brown and female, while earning “style points” for accepting bus loads of illegal immigrants to the point of straining receiving city services.

  11. JustTheFacts

    Typo: Waknerfekt should be Wagenknecht.

    Even if you have 27% of the voters supporting you, and the AfD has 14%, it makes sense to work together FOR YOUR ELECTORS to push through the policies the others don’t want — you just need to get another 10% to push them through. If you say that you won’t, a priori, then you can’t be effective and rational electors should not bother paying attention to you.

    This a-priori divide and conquer strategy (“oh you become untouchable if you work with so-and-so”) works very well to split the vote of those who want to see change and maintain the status quo. It’s worked in France keeping the Rassemblement National and the Insoumis from working with each other on common interests.

  12. Hombre

    Breaking news in Europe. All papers are screaming at the top of their lungs “Far-right AFD Politician Daniel Halemba (22) arrested…” because Naz1 utterances heard, because Naz1 paraphernalia found in his possession, because… whatever.

    It is obvious that the PTB are in full panic mode and want the AFD destroyed at all costs. The smear campaigns are the first shots in this battle. The next shots won’t be long in coming.

    An example of a headline in the Grauniad.

  13. Matthew G. Saroff

    Hey, I’m, “Reader Matthew G. Saroff.”

    Doing happy dance, and it’s good you can’t see. Watching this bald fat hairy (everywhere else) 61 year old dance is not for the faint of heart.

  14. Johnny Conspiranoid

    “That’s not surprising considering the German government is doing its best to anger voters and drive them to the AfD”
    Perhaps that’s the intention.
    “The German establishment has tried everything to stop the rise of the AfD except responding to the economic concerns of voters.”
    i.e.they have done nothing.

  15. Felix_47

    I live in Germany and I have been a fan of Wagenknecht for a long time. Of course, I am male so her good looks might have had an influence. But she excluded AFD people last November from the peace protest in Berlin. In addition she did not speak any substance but they projected Jeffrey Sachs from a You Tube video to make their point. Problem is the Verfassungsschutz. If one protests too much one is arrested. So her avoidance of the AFD might be protective. I cannot imagine that she is so stupid as to not understand that with the AFD she could have a real influence in Germany and without the AFD on her side she is going to remain a footnote. The reality is that right and left populists share many opinions. Let us hope she is not that stupid but if she is what else is new in German politics which is pretty much controlled by Washington anyway.

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