Can a Real Left Party Save Germany From Itself? 

Behold the Zeitenwende in action.

The government in Berlin has declared its unconditional support for Israel through increased arms sales and backing at the ICJ. Meanwhile, it aggressively suppresses criticism of such moves, labeling it as antisemitism. 

On the Ukraine front, the government continues to rob from the country’s youth in order to support not-so-young-anymore Ukrainians’ march into the meat grinder. The escalation of commitment continues despite the austerity it’s set to bring on the homefront, and the latest German program on the chopping block to free up more money for Ukraine is theFederal Education and Training Assistance Act – a program provides grants so that low income students can get a higher education. The traffic light coalition of the Greens, Social Democrats and the Free Democrats promised an increase of funding upon entering office in 2021. Now, that long-awaited boost will instead be smaller relief for less recipients. 

It’s difficult to take seriously the German Defense Ministry’s planning for war against Russia recently leaked to the tabloid Bild. This is the same country that is deindustrializing and can’t even send a brigade of soldiers to Lithuania without it setting off alarm bells that the country is low on manpower and also facing shortfalls in everything ranging from artillery shells to tents.

As Germany doubles down not only on Ukraine, but also on its mission to join itself more tightly at the hip to the American empire and become more interventionist and more belligerent towards Russia and China, critical voices are hard to find in Germany. The media instead spends its time vilifying anyone who questions the logic of all these self-defeating measures. 

This is a bit of a long-winded introduction to the topic of this post, but hopefully provides an idea of the lay of the land on which a new political party in Germany arrives with the aims of restoring some reason to the discourse. The temporarily named Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht – For Reason and Justice 

is a breakaway faction from Die Linke (The Left) and launched on January 8.

Along with the ethno-nationalist Alternative for Germany, the Wagenknecht-led party is the only one playing out of tune to the drumbeats of war, and for that they are relentlessly attacked. 


Born in 1969 in East Germany to German and Iranian parents, Wagenknecht was a longtime member of the Party of Democratic Socialism, which later became Die Linke. She represented the party in the Bundestag from 2009 until last year when, after years of disagreeing with the party’s abandonment of working class politics, she left to form her own party. 

Front and center in Wagenknecht’s new party is her acknowledgment that Germany’s current foreign policy has cast a shadow over domestic policy and is decimating the working class. It’s worth quoting Wagenknecht in full on her views of what German foreign policy should be:

Our foreign policy sits in the tradition of the German Chancellor Willy Brandt and the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who opposed thinking and acting in the logic of the Cold War with a policy of détente, reconciliation of interests and international cooperation. We fundamentally reject the resolution of conflicts by military means. We oppose the fact that more and more resources flow into weapons and war equipment instead of into the education of our children, research into environmentally friendly technologies or our health and care facilities. Nuclear armament and escalating conflicts between nuclear powers put the survival of humanity at risk and must be stopped. We seek a new era of détente and new treaties on disarmament and common security. The Bundeswehr has the mission to defend our country. It must be adequately equipped for this task. We reject the deployment of German soldiers in international wars as well as their stationing on the Russian border or in the South China Sea.

A military alliance (NATO) whose leading power has invaded five countries in the past years in violation of international law and killed more than 1 million people in these wars threatens others and leads to defensive reactions and thus contributes to global instability. Instead of an instrument of power for geopolitical goals, we need a defensive defence alliance that respects the principles of the UN Charter, strives for disarmament instead of committing to rearmament, and in which members meet as equals. Europe needs a stable security architecture, which in the longer term should also include Russia.

Our country deserves a self-confident policy that puts the well-being of its citizens at the centre and is driven by the realisation that US interests are sometimes very different from our interests. Our goal is an independent Europe of sovereign democracies in a multipolar world and not a new bloc confrontation in which Europe is ground down between the USA and the increasingly self-confident new power bloc around China and Russia.

These arguments are already resonating with German voters who are enormously dissatisfied with the current government and the state of the country as austerity is being implemented in order to increase military spending.The war against Russia has been an unmitigated disaster for most Germans. By severing itself from Russian energy, its industry has become uncompetitive and the effort to subsidize energy has drained government coffers; at the same time, after emptying its military stockpile for Ukraine, money is needed to replenish it, and Berlin wants to increase military spending overall in order to become more interventionist.

Although Wagenknecht’s party is still in its infant stages, it could take 14 percent of the vote in national elections according to an Insa poll published in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper on Jan. 13. 

According to most national polls, that would mean Wagenknecht’s party is already fighting for third place despite only officially forming a few weeks ago. She’s ahead of the fake left parties like the war mongering Greens, a largely bourgeoisie cult that celebrates Germany’s deindustrialization and economic contraction because that means emissions reductions. 

And she’s way ahead of the party she left, Die Linke, which has completely collapsed after abandoning nearly all of its former working class platform in favor of identity politics in an attempt to appear “ready to govern.” Much like the Greens, The Left increasingly stands for neoliberal, pro-war and anti-Russia policies. Former Left voters have increasingly switched to the AfD in response.

Wagenknecht might be clawing some of those voters back. 

According to the Insa poll, her party could take 4 percentage points from the AfD and three percentage points from the conservative Christian Democratic Union. And one point each from the SDP and FDP. 

In addition to Wagenknecht’s foreign policy positions, her platform consists of the following (oversimplified here, but it’s the usual for a class-based party on the left [hat tip MD in Berlin]):

  • A fairer tax system that benefits the working class.
  • Secure and well-paid jobs, with an emphasis on restoring Russian energy and thereby German manufacturing.
  • More education funding.
  • Continue to take climate action but do so in a way that doesn’t make the working class shoulder the majority of the burden.
  • Strengthen the social safety net.
  • Encourage robust public debate with an end to cancel culture and strengthen public broadcasting.

From the outside, Wagenknecht’s positions seem relatively boilerplate for a party on the left, but at the moment in Germany with the current atmosphere of uniformity in politics and the press, they are almost revolutionary. 

She draws a clear line between Berlin’s belligerence towards Russia and how the weight of that stance falls most heavily on the German working class through deindustrialization and austerity in almost all areas of the budget except military. 

Germans and European members of the working class as a whole agree. 

The EU-wide division along class lines remains clear. 71 percent of the working class feel the war hurts them financially. Only 40 percent of the upper class feels the same way. 71 percent of those struggling financially say their situation has deteriorated in the past year while only 26 percent of the well-off feel similarly. Even the European Commission admits the following: 

Respondents who have difficulties paying bills at least some of the time, and those who consider they belong to a lower social class are less satisfied with the EU and national responses to the war and are more likely to report serious personal financial consequences as a result of the invasion of Ukraine. They are also less supportive of proposed defence co-operation and spending measures, and less supportive of the energy policy directions presented in the survey.

And yet few parties across Europe make the connection between the war against Russia and the worsening economic fortunes of most citizens. Wagenknecht does. For that reason and the fact she ignores identity politics in favor of positions built firmly on class, she is being attacked just as much from supposed leftists as from the right. 

It’s one thing to have Viktor Orban in Hungary or the new Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico speak the truth about Ukraine, but a voice on the left in the heart of Europe would be quite another. 

Success from Wagenknecht could help alter the direction of the European left, reorienting it back to class-based politics, which could also mean a political voice for working class opposition to not only the proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, but also whichever future wars the US-NATO cheerleaders want to sign up for without considering the repercussions for European workers.

Liberal Lines of Attack

Maybe more interesting than Wagenknecht’s platform is the response to it. 

The fear it causes are evident in the intensifying attacks on Wagenknecht and are best summed up by a few recent pieces by liberal Oliver Nachtwey and a supposed expert in ideological polarization, Torben Lütjen. 

Nachtwey, a voice of liberalism and an associate professor of social structure analysis at the University of Basel, has penned recent pieces in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Jacobin, and New Left Review lampooning Wafenknecht. He ridicules her neat clothes and hairstyle. He’s fond of reciting former German Party of Democratic Socialism chair Lothar Bisky’s comparison of Wagenknecht with Rosa Luxemburg: “Soon she’ll be limping too.”

It’s an odd line of attack for someone claiming the leftist ground to make – mocking someone for wanting to emulate Luxemburg, a dedicated antiwar activist and Marxist – but also one that provides insight to Nachtwey’s allegiances.

Beneath such character assassination attempts lies a real fear of Wagenknecht and the politics she represents. In FAZ Nachtwey writes the following: 

Wagenknecht has set her sights on the anti-vanguard, or conservative workers who have managed some upward mobility and now fear backsliding. Politically speaking, this strategy is far from baseless. Although other German parties are also trying to win over this group, no one offers them the same cultural validation as Wagenknecht. No one is better at giving voice to their dark emotions — the emotions of those who consider themselves mainstream but feel like outsiders. 

The horror. How is she doing this? By appealing to voters who don’t fit neatly into a liberal box. Nachtwey explains that she is “attempting to link milieus that are alienated from democracy for different reasons” and  “is a populist in the classical sense, posing as a champion of the people against a corrupt and incompetent establishment.”

She goes against the establishment line that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a madman prepared to conquer all of Europe: 

In Wagenknecht’s geopolitical coordinate system, Russia’s war of aggression is a defensive reaction to NATO expansion, and Putin is a rational power player simply trying to keep the West in check. This line has its roots in the West German peace movement and the SED/PDS, and Wagenknecht has been able to garner support with it in the former East, where it still enjoys considerable purchase. At the same time, it has also made her a star among internet conspiracy theorists.

At New Left Review he writes that, “By juxtaposing ‘globalist’ institutions to national ones, Wagenknecht’s counter-programme offers nothing more than an improbable return to capitalism’s Golden Age.” On the ideas of ‘sovereignty’ and ‘industrial competition’ Nachtwey writes:

Both concepts, which feature heavily in the work of sociologists like Wolfgang Streeck and Anthony Giddens, are dubious from a Marxist point of view, since they substitute internationalism with national-Keynesianism, cooperation with capitalist rivalry. Moreover, if reverting to an embedded national welfare state is difficult in a world where capital flows and productive relations have become transnational, the likelihood is that this project will simply end up producing a regressive form of politics. Wagenknecht exemplifies this danger. Her singular focus on resovereigntization has supplanted a politics of class with one of the nation.

If Nachtwey doesn’t have you convinced, there is the serious argument put forward by serious people that Wagenknecht is a 21st century version of Benito Mussolini. 

Torben Lütjen, a German author and political scientist who from 2009-15 headed a Volkswagen-Foundation-funded research group at the University of Düsseldorf that explored ideological polarization in Western democracies, makes this case in a November piece published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. It is titled “The Great Metamorphosis. From the Early German Romantics to Benito Mussolini to Sahra Wagenknecht and Back: A Sociologically Informed History of Political Conversions.”

In it Lütjen compares Wagenknecht to Mussolini who was a socialist before he went on to his more infamous role. One of the problems with analyses like these that compare a present day figure to an historical one is that it’s fairly easy to come up with parallels. For example, you could note how Mussolini fancied himself an intellectual and later favored war with the USSR, therefore any highbrow European supporting today’s Russophobia is similar to the fascist dictator who ruled Italy for two decades a century ago. 

Anyways, according to Lütjen, Wagenknecht is “join[ing] a long line of political defectors from left to right.” More:

From the statements surrounding her founding of the party, however, it becomes clear that Wagenknecht has long since taken a step further: she is already in the stage of the renegade, the convert.

The renegade is already clearly and publicly breaking with his old beliefs, claiming to have freed himself from a corset of outdated and ossified beliefs. Because he is finally free, he can now speak the truth without regard to the old dogmas.

This argument that Wagenknecht is not of the left rests upon the belief that she has changed rather than the political parties around her, which is demonstrably false. After all, Die Linke, the party Wagenknecht bolted from, once held her same positions. It was only in recent years with neoliberalism’s takeover in Germany that it began to abandon most of what it previously stood for.

It seems to me what Nachtwey and Lütjen are saying is that favoring working class policies is regressive and dangerous, and these arguments are representative of the fear that the return of a class-based left would crash the cushy party of a finance-centered political economy that is welded to the politics of recognition.  

In this sense, Wagenknecht is “anti-vanguard” as Nachtwey claims, as her progressive populism aims to return to a worker-centered counterhegemony against that of finance capital.

I wonder if Nachtwey and Lutjen’s writings reach or are even intended to reach many of the working class voters Wagenknecht is trying to appeal to; instead their arguments are more likely for upper class liberals in order to reassure them that neoliberalism is on the side of the angels, that Putin and the Russians are evil, and that this Wagenknecht character who questions these certitudes is a member of the riff raff. 

These efforts to depict Wagenknecht as right-wing (also recently featured in The Guardian), are similar to what was coming from Wagenknecht’s former party and unintentionally show the bankruptcy and increasing irrelevance of neoliberalism and its parties’ attempts to pretend to be on the left while ignoring class-based politics. Die Linke, which was already in a tailspin, has collapsed since Wagenknecht’s departure. 

Wagenknecht had become a pariah in Die Linke for her arguments against joining the political groupthink on Russia, as well as a refusal to focus on identity politics instead of class. 

Back in 2016 at a Die Linke party conference, a member of the “antifascist” group, “Cake for Misanthropists,” shoved a pie in her face apparently in retaliation for Wagenknecht suggesting there were limits to the amount of refugees and immigrants Germany could take in. 

Based on her early strong polling, Wagenknecht may yet have the last laugh. 

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  1. Trees&Trunks

    It could be that Sahra Wagenknecht is for real given the enemies she has.

    “The informant of the Foundation to Battle Injustice warns that NATO is currently considering German woman politician Sahra Wagenknecht, Deputy Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Salvini, British politician Tommy Robinson, leader of the French Patriots party Florian Philippot and deputy of the National Assembly of France Thierry Mariani as the highest priority targets for elimination.”

  2. JR

    To me, Wagenknecht is demonstrating that there is an alternative political framework that challenges the current political framework, that will pull in people from every corner, and that has the potential to achieve governing status. Call it a New Center or some other name, but it is there. The question is: who has the good character, vision and ability to articulate it and take it forward?

    Here in the US, one has to see RFK, Jr. as an analogue to Wagenknecht (tho to be sure there are quite a lot of other issues with RFK, Jr).

    I see the emergence of this alternative political framework as an opportunity to do some good.

    1. The Rev Kev

      ‘Here in the US, one has to see RFK, Jr. as an analogue to Wagenknecht’

      Uhh, no. RFK jr is all gung-ho with what the Israelis are doing in Gaza while Waganknecht has been savaging the government for their support of the Genocide in Gaza. Big difference. In my book that makes RFK jr garbage.

      But this article brings up an interesting point. People like Scholz and Habeck would love to ban the AfD party because of its increasing popularity. ‘According to the German Constitution (Article 21.2), the Constitutional Court (and only that court) can prohibit a party when it substantially endangers the constitutional order of the Federal Republic or its existence itself.’ Now the ASfD steers to the conservative right while Wagenecht steers to the real Left. The ones that every other party in Germany abandoned. Of course Scholz and Co. would love to ban both parties but that would be a bridge too far. So, given a choice, which party represents the biggest threat to the present neoliberal/neocon political establishment – AfD or Wagenecht?

      1. Feral Finster

        The ban is baked in the cake. The message to those such as Wagenknecht will be quite clear.

        Make peace with American hegemony in general and the War On Russia in particular, or else!

          1. Feral Finster

            I doubt that anything so crude will be needed.

            Germans are, as a rule, rule-followers and they tend to trust authority, even to the point of meekness or deference.

            1. caucus99percenter

              East Germans broke that mold and, in 1989-1990, peacefully protested and brought down the Socialist Unity Party dictatorship.

              The West Germans and the EU, US, and all of NATO celebrated them as freedom-loving heroes.

              Now those same eastern Germans organize, protest, and vote against the establishment and those same EU, US, NATO, and western German elites defame them as neo-Nazis and tools of Putin and Moscow.

              The AfD and Sahra Wagenknecht are just practicing that Steve Jobs and Apple philosophy — “Think different”.

      2. Felix_47

        I live in Germany. The AFD and Alice Weidel present the biggest threat to the current government. Wagenknecht, who I like, is a more or less doctrinaire leftist. Her husband used to run the SPD which was garden variety socialist with an illustrious history. Although he left the SPD to go to the Linke he maintains good relations with his cohorts. If you watch the Bundestag you will see that Wiedel takes no prisoners. She tells it like it is. She is kind of a female Vivek (wealthy, brilliant, fluent Chinese and English speaker, used to work for Goldman Sachs) and a lesbian as well but opposed to woke LBGT/race orthodoxy and legislation which is a major element in the current ruling government. I suspect that the establishment encouraged Wagenknecht to set up this party because they realized they could kneecap the AFD since they attract similar voters especially from the old east zone. It is kind of like how Bernie was used to beat Trump in the last election or how they are using Nikki Haley now. If Wagenknecht was really committed to changing this government she would have negotiated something with the AFD and joined them since many of her views match Wiedel’s including wanting to limit migration. The AFD is fundamentally economically conservative and is advocating an anti EU economic program, rebuild nuclear power, work with Russia and build the economy back. Wagenknecht is a socialist but with many similar views. Both want good relations with Russia and see this war as useless. But just as Washington has branded anyone who is on the right as a racist the established parties in Germany have branded the AFD as a racist, neo Nazi party. Wagenknecht is not willing to work with them so the populist vote will be split which is the establishement’s goal. If she worked with the AFD it would be like RFK Jr. joining Trump, a very threatening combination coming from different parts of t he political spectrum, but a combination that would have a good chance of winning. (Excluding the Israel issues which the dems have as well.) And if you can’t win and take power what is the point?

        1. Don

          This makes sense only if you believe that there is any daylight between RFKj, Biden, Bernie, HRC, Trump, Haley, Weidel, et al… Wagenknecht is a totally different creature. She is supposed to band together with the AfD to prove her seriousness? And what on earth would be signified by “RFKj joining Trump”, or RFKj joining Biden or Biden joining Trump or Clinton joining Bernie —pick any two names from the list in my first sentence — who cares?

          To answer Rev Kev’s question: Wagenknecht; AfD doesn’t even merit consideration.

          (Great piece from Conor Gallagher, BTW)

        2. OnceWere

          We agree on what some of the problems are, so why can’t you just vote for our hard-right party is not a convincing argument. Where is the sense in accepting a “you dissolve your party and vote for mine to avoid splitting the protest vote” proposal when you’re not even working under a first-past-the-post, winner-take-all electoral system. In a system with proportional representation like Germany, there’s nothing stopping a right-wing populist party forming a coalition with a left-wing populist party if that’s the route to power they want to take. That would give the left the leverage to demand an important Ministry or two which is why right/left populist coalitions simply don’t occur. At the end of the day, the deal the populist right wants to offer to the populist left is the same that the liberal centre offers : “We’ll take your vote, but don’t expect any representation in government”.

      3. JR

        Thank you for your comments Rev Kev, and apologies for my delay in responding. I take your point to be that RFK, Jr.’s position on what is happening in Gaza to be so divergent from Wagenknecht’s position on that issue that any claim of analogy falls short. Your point is a good one, and is one I tried to anticipate in my original comment by stating “(tho to be sure there are quite a lot of other issues with RFK, Jr).”

        With respect to RFK, Jr., I do find myself wondering how he reconciles his position on Ukraine with his position on what is happening in Gaza, as those two divergent positions appear to be incoherent and I would expect they would create a fair amount of dissonance.

        Returning to your point, and though it is a good one, I still contend that the Wagenknecht/Kennedy analogy holds in that both are articulating and running on platforms that look up and down as much as they look left and right, both are gaining much more purchase than initially estimated, both represent a not insignificant possibility of changing policy, and both are pulling voters from traditional right and left parties.

        As noted in my original post, I also continue contend that we are starting to see the emergence of an “alternative political framework that challenges the current political framework, that will pull in people from every corner, and that has the potential to achieve governing status.”

        I hope that my contention is correct and I hope that we shall find people with the good character, vision and ability (perhaps in the vein of Henry George and Mary Elizabeth Lease, to name but a few) to pick up this mantle and move it forward.

        1. The Rev Kev

          You can bet that the main political parties will refuse to give up their power and will employ the full power of the State to protect their decades long held positions. Life in the political wilderness would hold no attraction to them.

    2. Hastalavictoria

      Interesting article.Previous articles I have read suggest that large parts of old the GDP who have suffered under the greater integration may provide Wagernecht with significant support.Also it will be very interesting to see how her immigration policy plays out.

      From my many years experience as a shop steward / trade unionist in the UK for many traditional Labour party voters this has long been a great concern to them – especially in low paid,low skilled jobs and a significant reason for their migration to UKIP and Brexit*

      Still,if W is the reincarnation of RL she gets my vote.But remember the Social Democrats killed her!

      Interestingly also in the comments yesterday regarding an American left party. Does such a similar party have any legs?

      *If I had a pound for every TU member I tried to dissuade from deserting Labour on this issue I would be a rich man.

  3. Lord-Admiral of the Pyrenees

    She ignores the elephant in the room in that the old German export model cannot be used to raise the standard of living of the working class. It requires wage suppression. She wants to return to the 2010s but you can’t have a big export surplus and have strong wage growth for the working class.

    The other thing is this idea that just getting the Russian gas back will solve all the problems. I wasn’t aware that the German factories generated money instead of goods that need to be SOLD TO SOMEONE first. I never ever ever hear this aspect mentioned.
    Russia is not enough of a market and China is becoming a competitor to Germany, they also have a relatively weak consumer base.
    You don’t think the US would take action against Germany/EU if they tried to go it alone on Russia?
    Germany cannot have an independent foreign policy with its model of weak consumer demand and over reliance on foreign demand.
    The debt break must go, there needs to be massive government investment, far more redistribution, and a focus on a strong demand based economy then can it have a serious foreign policy.

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      I agree that the old German export model has issues, but I would choose different remedies.

      What Germany needs is different products for export, such as:

      a. Food systems that use local inputs to produce local food
      b. Building materials that can be made from local inputs
      c. Energy production systems that can be assembled, installed, serviced and operated on a small local scale

      Just to name a few. There is a world-wide, all-continents market for these sort of products. In addition to manufacturing the products, Germany could manufacture the regional-scale manufacturing equipment that makes these products. This is akin to what Germany is doing now outside the automobile marketplace – they make a lot of industrial tooling.

      And while Russia isn’t a big enough market on the consumer end, it’s a _huge_ market on the industrial end. Building out Russia would keep Germany fully employed and well-remunerated for decades to come.

      Yes, China is a technological rival to Germany, but it makes good sense to have multiple vendors on any big procurement(s). Eggs in one basket, etc.

      Germany needs a new strategic vision that leverages their leadership in environmental engineering, design, fabrication, and global sales capacity.

      Of course they should buy Russia’s gas, and sell them industrial equipment, agricultural systems designed for northern (hostile) climates, railway, mining, ship-building equipment, etc.

      Who is China’s Siemens? Bosch? Bayer?

      And no, the export market doesn’t require wage suppression. It requires superior labor utilization, which involves superior design and application of manufacturing technology, and a partnership between management and labor. Remember that idea?

      It’s a good idea. Germany needs to dump its bad managers, and get some new ones that actually know what they’re doing. Ms. Wagenknecht seems like a great model for the new leaders Germany needs.

      1. CA

        “Who is China’s Siemens? Bosch? Bayer?”


        Wonderful question. Each of these German companies is actively investing and expanding in China, while Chinese companies such as Huawei and BYD are alongside.

        1. Polar Socialist

          I think SAIC, FAW, Dongfeng and BYD manufacture as many cars each alone as are made in whole Germany annually. And CRRC is much bigger than Siemens.

          I do hope that China doesn’t have a Bayer, though.

  4. CA

    Arnaud Bertrand @RnaudBertrand

    In its manifesto for the upcoming European Union elections, the Party of European Socialists – the second biggest in the EU parliament – write that “we will strengthen EU cooperation with the US and China…we will build a new partnership of equals with the Global South” *

    Sounds naive and delusional.

    A) Not sure how you could strengthen EU cooperation with the US any further given the EU is already so vassalized…

    B) As we’ve seen time and time again, US policy is “you’re either with us or against us” – especially with regards to the EU – so unclear how they hope to combine this increased collaboration with the US with an increased collaboration with China…

    C) A Trump presidency looks more and more likely and he’s been pretty clear how little respect he has for Europe and how he wants to go “America first”. Biden too, with his Inflation Reduction Act that’s unabashedly aimed at stealing away EU industry and everything he did to trigger the Ukraine war and sever ties between the EU and Russia. So vowing a strengthening collaboration with the US in this context sounds like the height of cuckoldry…

    D) As for their desire for “a new partnership of equals with the Global South”: have they read the news lately? Do they understand the growing and immense level of disgust and contempt the global South has for the EU? Do they seriously believe they can just say “let’s all be friends in this wonderful world”? I’ve seen delusional but this is something else…

    The right policy would be for the EU to make a clean break, assert its independence vis à vis the US, start speaking and acting in ways that showcase this independence, abandoning its characteristic hypocrisy and double standards to finally have principles it can stick with, express a real vision for the future of an EU that’s not merely an appendage of an increasingly unhinged US… and then, and only then, maybe the rest of the world can start respecting the EU as an entity. Until then, the EU is condemned to irrelevance on the global stage, decline and mockery.

    * The Party of European Socialists (PES) wants the European Union to “strengthen” relations with both Washington and Beijing, while it rejects a regulatory “pause” to the Green Deal, a demand of other pro-EU forces such as the centre-right and liberals…

    2:48 AM · Jan 24, 2024

    1. spud

      and there it is, the left part and parcel with the free traders, the destruction of sovereignty, the labeling it as white entitlement and fascism.

      when in fact, the main stream left has embraced fascism, and has no story to tell.

      she should say we want our sovereignty back, nothing will change as long as we are in the free trade zone the E.U.

      even if she somehow gets elected, she will be boxed in by the world wide oligarch controlled E.U.

  5. BillC

    Sahra Wagenknecht: form your own opinion

    I recently stumbled across an excellent 1-hour documentary by WDR (a major German public broadcaster) in which reporter Markus Feldenkirchen accompanies Sahra Wagenknecht during several months of her national speaking, book-signing, and organizing activities. The show is in clearly-enunciated German and YouTube’s English translations are good (I noticed a very few insignificant errors).

    The format is interesting: Feldenkirchen, who is by no means uncritical, sits in a studio to watch his narrative and commentary along with Wagenknecht, who he invites to interrupt the show and respond at any time. She does so briefly a few times, but never in anger.

    The show shares Wagenknecht’s awareness of her organizational and emotional limits, but also her unshakeable commitment to offer the German electorate a combination of social, economic, and foreign policy of which they can see no other trace (i.e., like in the US and nearly all of the EU).

    I must admit I came to the show as an admirer, but despite Feldenkirchen landing a few punches, especially with respect to her organizational shortcomings and uncompromising relations with former party colleagues, I came away even more impressed with Wagenknecht as a person and as an effective campaigner for progressive (real, not faux) policies. She may not be the ideal administrator, but she is a unique package of the spirit and philosophy essential for any chance of rolling back neoliberal subversion of Western “democracies.”

    1. You're soaking in it!

      Thank you for this! I would not have thought to look on ARD for anything this fair, they have generally been smothering Wagenknecht with silence.

  6. .Tom

    Another useful summary from Conor. It’s hard to get a sense of what’s happening elsewhere from their own daily news even when you know the language.

    How long before she gets Corbyned? I guess that depends on what progress she makes in elections.

  7. JohnA

    I have always admired Wagenknecht and had no idea she was half Iranian. Surely that connection is enough for the German mainstream media to tar her as an enemy of the state, untrustworthy, and utterly despicable. After all, Iran is the biggest enemy of peace in the middle east (sarc).

    1. ZenBean

      No, not really. They rarely mention it and an Iranian father whom she never knew anyway isn’t particularly interesting. If Sarah was a neolib-green candidate though, then they would be mentioning it all the time because the idpol-obsessed Müslibourgeoisie loves diversity.

      1. JohnA

        I meant more in the sense that the mainstream media will use any stick they can to beat a politician who does not toe the line when it comes to austerity, russophobia, nato etc. Corbyn is a classic case. A man who was excoriated and tarred as being a racist and antisemitic purely because he wants justice for Palestine, a more equal society, for the many not the few, etc. Even to the point that leading military figures in Britain and Pompeo openly talked about not accepting him as PM were he to win the election.

    2. Feral Finster

      I had a half-Persian, half-German boss during the years when I worked for a German company.

      He had to act more German than the Germans, and even then it wasn’t always enough.

  8. ciroc

    It is a sign of the changing times that the left has become more anti-immigrant. Those who were once the lowest rung of the hierarchy to be protected are now perceived as enemies who rob the working class of jobs, housing and security. The only people who are now “tolerant” of immigrants are business owners, who see them as cheap labor, and liberal politicians, who see them as future voters.

    1. digi_owl

      I think it is more nuanced than that. Immigration will, unless being at a rate that unions etc can integrate into their ranks, be a source of wage suppression. Thus a proper left is not so much anti-immigration as anti-wage suppression. But in order to avoid the latter, one have to control the rate of the former.

      Another thing is that the neolibs have allowed the xenophobic right to blur the line between work migration and refugees, by labeling all of them as “migrants”.

    2. Skip Intro

      You fall into the trap of conflating tight immigration policies with anti-immigrant policies and sentiment. This is a brilliant piece of neoliberal divide&conquer framing that is hard to avoid. Ongoing policies that produce a large illegal immigrant population, combined with non-existent labor power produce an exploitable, expendable threat to wages. They also become political footballs, so working class opposition to ‘open borders’ is recast as anti-immigrant sentiment (i.e. racism), while bleeding hearts are convinced that the exploited immigrant population will be helped by allowing more immigrants in. Little is done to prevent the low wage jobs they fill from existing in the first place, as they are economically indispensable. Are they hated because we depend on them?

  9. Michael Hudson

    The first thing I noticed about Sara Wagenknecht when I met her was how well dressed she was. A wonderful coat, wonderful clothes. Very confident.
    We were being interviewed by Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung, whose then-editor of Fuellitines was hoping to open up the foreign policy discussion. She didn’t speak English and my German isn’t that good for discussing subjects apart from music, but we had a long interview. I was very impressed, and liked her.
    The right-wing shift of Die Linke occurred rather suddenly. Five years ago I didn’t see it when I addressed their annual conference at the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. Part of the problem is that their base was in the East, and there still is an almost traumatized anti-Russian feeling from the awful East German occupation. It really is a trauma. (I have visited there often.) So the anti-Nato voters in the East are backing AfD.
    That suggests to me that the gains for Sara’s party will be mainly in West Germany, especially in the industrial areas where employers are shutting down their operations and moving either to the US or China where they can get the gas that the ruling parties have blocked them from getting from Russia. The Social Democrats formerly were amenable to my focus on debt at the Boeckler Stiftung, but now have focused on global warming and other non-financial problems. So Sara’s party is really the only one talking about economic problems and opposing NATO and the German right-wing financial policies.

    1. MD in Berlin

      It’s complicated… Opposition to the Ukraine war has been strikingly more visible in the former East, and support for Wagenknecht is currently highest there.
      The Left Party was also strongest in the east, entered the state parliaments, also some state governments. Got comfortable, moved right. Gonna get trashed in the coming elections.
      Encapsulated by a recent story from my own small town. Hospital ward closure protests ongoing, unions involved, farmers turned up to support. But the Left Party? Not participating. Their local bigwig has a seat in the state parliament and is on the supervisory board of the hospital (!)

    2. v

      “awful East German occupation” Rubbish!

      I don’t know where you have that impression but there is no large anti-Russian feeling in East Germany let alone a “trauma”

  10. MD in Berlin

    Another great piece Conor, thanks. As well as parties I think we need to look at moods and movements. The mood in Germany was discussed in prevous rounds. Some alienated, some angry, some both.
    The movement side has suddenly become highly dynamic.
    – Palestine solidarity movement had to fight for the right to demonstrate at all, and still faces heavy repression. The nexus of anti-imperialism and state repression is a recipe for radicalisation. Brings together migrant milieus and student-type activists (many of whom were not on the streets over Ukraine)
    – Huge spontaneous and organic demonstrations against the AfD after the latter’s deportation plans were revealed. Like, millions. Involving many people who otherwise never demonstrate. Two sides to this. One says democracy = mainstream neolib parties, all else is bad. Other says “even if this government is shitty, racism is no solution”. This is going somewhere but not clear yet.
    – Farmers also
    – Labour movement: currently a solid 6-day rail strike, but all industrial action still fully under control of leaders. Little sign of rank and file organisation.
    Certainly feels like we are creeping from “gradually” to “suddenly”

      1. Uwe Ohse

        Yes, that is something we are already feeling around here, but also something nobody likes to speak about (as if it would go away by ignorance).
        Chemistry, mechanical engineering, electrical equipment and automobiles are all going down.

        I’m no insider and didn’t dig deep into the available data, but to me it looks like the culprit is the car industry, bringing the others down. I’m not sure, but the graphs look that way, though i wouldn’t be surprised if the losses in the chemistry had another reason.

        I worked for a company doing parts of the IT for two car industry suppliers beween 2019 and 2022, and one of them in that whole time didn’t invest an euro unless something was already broken (the other one was a bit better). I can’t imagine that this thinking was limited to the IT, therefore i expect that the non-investment was systematic.
        Of course that’s only anecdotal evidence, but it fits into the picture.

        It may be that this is part of the conversion to electrical cars, and will lead to future glory for the germany car makers, but i really don’t think. I expect it to be a downsizing of the german car makers (unavoidable if companies don’t provide what the market wants).

  11. Feral Finster

    What on earth makes you think that the German establishment wants or even would tolerate a “real left party”?

    Rather, they’ll ban it on any pretext as soon as it starts to get some traction.

    1. Uwe Ohse

      I don’t think there is any way to ban a left party in germany in the current environment.
      The establishment, whatever that is, either cannot or doesn’t want to ban AFD, and that makes any other party ban practically impossible.

  12. Chris Cosmos

    In the West, it seems that parties of the left have been highjacked by conservative pro-finance capital (the rentier class) to be real conservative parties. These “leftish” conservatives claim to be on the left because they favor identity politics (the most anti-left position anyone could take because it violates all notions of solidarity). Even the left part of the Democratic Party is now solidly conservative pro-censorship, pro-authoritarian, pro-war (the more and bigger the merrier for them because their clients will make more money), and so on. The Greens illustrate that even if they pretend to be pro-environment but they are pro-environment for conservative reasons as can be seen in the USA where supporters for a clean environment were often conservative (i.e., the didn’t like the smells coming out of industry).

    Those of us who are old-fashioned leftist are now joining with alleged (conservatives/libertarians) in opposing war, supporting workers, opposing mass immigration (the conservative’s traditional way of keeping wages and working conditions at the lowest level possible), and supporting civil liberties which the current left in the USA and most of Europe solidly oppose. The left exists in many places on the internet from Glen Greenwald to Tucker Carlson and many, many in between. A new and more ideologically broad perspective is emerging on the left/right that will, barring major repression (which will not work).

    1. digi_owl

      Because them old industry working lefties turned into post-war property owners.

      One local example was the decrying of a shipyard wanting to expand with a massive new building, as the locals were furious because it would impact their view etc. The very same locals that for a lifetime had donned coveralls to work at the very same shipyard, earning the money that allowed them to build a house and raise a family.

  13. Uwe Ohse

    It’s difficult to take seriously the German Defense Ministry’s planning for war against Russia recently leaked to the tabloid Bild.

    We have a saying around here: Someone was killed in an accident. Bild first spoke to the dead.
    Bild is more than weekly reprimanded by the german press council for breaking the rules, and often enough for carelessness.
    Something you see in Bild may be true, or may be a complete fake. In any case it’s suspicious.

    This is the same country that is deindustrializing and can’t even send a brigade of soldiers to Lithuania without it setting off alarm bells that the country is low on manpower and also facing shortfalls in everything ranging from artillery shells to tents.

    Yeah. That shouldn’t have come as a surprise, though. Our governments have slept very deeply even after 2014. Embarrassing.

    But i think there was a certain amount of inner political pressure mixed into the alarm. It seems to me that in germany no political change is possible anymore without public whining. Which doesn’t bode well, of course.

    1. Feral Finster

      Göring: Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.
      Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy, the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.
      Göring: Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
      • In an interview with Gilbert in Göring’s jail cell during the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials (18 April 1946)

  14. Mario

    Our foreign policy sits in the tradition of the German Chancellor Willy Brandt and the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev

    I’m disappointed they can’t think of a any better tradition to claim. Why not invoke Bismarck? That was arguably the best age Germany ever had, and it was largely due to his calculated friendship with Russia.

  15. Mickey Hickey

    I am an Irishman married to a German for over 40 years. When President Biden instructed Chancellor Scholz to cease importing gas from Russia and Scholz agreed, I was shocked. My wife explains to me that Germans revere the USA and some go so far as to say they venerate the USA. She speaks 5 languages and has worked for many Governments and Multinational Companies so she knows how the wind blows. To me it was obvious that Biden was ordering Scholz to deindustrialise Germany. Her relatives fully understand what will happen and have no objections to Scholz caving to Biden. Other than a few small unions engaged in Metallurgy nobody seems to be upset. In Ireland my mother would have been on the phone to her TD (MP) telling him to correct his mistake or he would not get out of the Dail (Parliament). Germany unfortunately is self sabotaging and since it cannot save itself it should not be looked upon as capable of protecting the EU from anything.

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