Can a New German Party Steer the European Left in a More Effective Direction? 

The German political establishment is so gripped by paranoia over Russia that Chancellor Olaf Scholz is now being compared to Neville Chamberlain:

This is the environment in which German opposition figure Sahra Wagenknecht’s new party will test its platform in the June European Parliament elections. (It will also get to measure its appeal in state elections in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg in the fall.) A key part of that platform is opposition to war against Russia, which Wagenknecht made clear in a recent Bundestag speech:

Aside from Ukrainians, the war against Russia has arguably hurt working class Germans more than anyone else. Despite that fact, Wagenknecht is labeled a “Putin appeaser” and one with “sympathies towards Russia” for her opposition.

It’s also means that how the party steered by Wagenknecht – Reason and Justice (BSW) – fares in the European elections, and what it does afterwards will be interesting to watch.

BSW is projected to become the largest left delegation within the European Parliament after the June vote, and she is reportedly planning an attempt to form a new parliamentary group – one that could effectively demolish the existing moribund Left Group.

The Wagenknecht Platform

Wagenknecht’s “left-wing conservativism” would mean a left less focused on identity issues while prioritizing working class economic issues. While not opposing immigration on any racial grounds, she acknowledges voters’ concerns that too much immigration can be problematic: “​​people are experiencing a lack of housing, teachers are overworked, children can’t speak German and there are cultural conflicts.”

Wagenknecht gets a lot of criticism for her stance on immigration, but the fact is that’s what German voters are most concerned about:

And it’s what has led to the rise of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a party that has fascist elements at its core:


Both the AfD and Wagenknecht’s BSW are in favor of reclaiming German sovereignty from the EU and the US/NATO and acting in Germany’s national interest, which would mean ending its participation in the economic war against Russia that has done far more damage to Germany. They also both favor rethinking German immigration policy.

The struggle for Wagenknecht is drawing distinctions between the two parties. To do so, BSW is focusing on three lines of attack:

  1. That BSW is the true representative of the working class while AfD opposes globalists in favor of a more national oligarchy. (The AfD, after all, did receive its seed money from a Nazi billionaire family.) BSW likes to point out AfD’s hypocrisy in supporting the recent farmers protests in Germany while the party’s program simultaneously calls for removing farmer subsidies. “This is not an anti-system party. It is the system, but undemocratic and mean,” says BSW General Secretary Christian Leye.
  2. That the AfD opposes immigration on racial grounds that harken back to some dark chapters in German history while BSW wants common sense approaches that would benefit the German working class.
  3. The BSW also describes itself as the only consistent peace party in the Bundestag. The AfD, on the other hand, is not at all opposed to militarization. In fact, the party calls for the full restoration of operational readiness of the German armed forces. The AfD’s problem is that the US/NATO exercise too much control over the German military without taking into account German national interests.

Here’s more on Wagenknecht’s European elections platform from Table Europe:

The leitmotif of the program is: “Less is more.” The BSW strives for an “independent Europe of sovereign democracies.” The integration of Europe “in the direction of a supranational unitary state has proven to be a mistake.”

The BSW wants to prevent wage dumping in the internal market and is calling for the introduction of a European minimum wage. A postulate that the Left Party also has in its program. The demand for an excess profits tax in the industrial sector and a reform of the debt brake is also common to both parties. The power of large corporations such as Google or Amazon must be restricted, said De Masi. The BSW is calling for an end to energy sanctions against Russia. They were not harming Putin, but Germany.

De Masi left out the topic of migration in his speech. The program remains relatively vague on the subject: illegal migration must be stopped and prospects in the home countries improved, it says. The right to asylum is not called into question. However, immigration should not overburden local capacities.

Who Supports BSW?

Mainly working class voters opposed to the Ukraine War.

The ZDF political barometer from February shows that while a little more than 50 percent of respondents rated their economic situation as “good,” just under one in three BSW supporters say the same. And nearly half of BSW supporters believe that they will be worse off in a year than they are today. At the same time, while a majority of respondents were in favor of supplying more weapons to Ukraine, among BSW supporters it was less than 40 percent.

If those numbers seem high, it’s probably a sign of the atmosphere in Germany where those opposed to sending Ukraine missiles capable of reaching Moscow are labeled Neville Chamberlain. 

Plans are in the works for Wagenknecht’s party to form a left contingent in the European Parliament opposed to the Russia policy and steer it away from the party she left, Die Linke (The Left), 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.

To form a new parliamentary group within the chamber, Wagenknecht would need 23 MEPs from seven EU countries. Who are its potential allies?

BSW representatives have confirmed prospective talks with France’s La France Insoumise. Other European Parliament members opposed to Project Ukraine are possibilities. Slovakia’s ruling Smer party, for example, was recently suspended from the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group in the parliament for questioning NATO and its social conservatism.

A hostile takeover of the current left delegation is also a possibility as there may not be enough MEPs to sustain two separate left-wing factions.  According to The European Conservative:

Tactically, the German politician has not ruled out joining the current parliamentary Left faction—becoming the effective kingmaker within—and could simply be using the threat of a new  group as leverage.

Regardless, Wagenknecht’s BSW will likely be another thorn in the side of von der leyen (should she remain as European Commission president). We could always use more of this:

Criticism from All Sides

Wagenknecht’s BSW doesn’t just get it from what’s now referred to as the German “center” (i.e., the parties of warmongers and anti-working class policies).

It also gets a lot of criticism from the left – especially on the immigration issue.

They say that Wagenknecht’s party is just another flavor of capitalism and criticizes the party for its declared willingness to work with other parties to advance its issues. That is not the solution; according to WSWS, it is the following:

The only way to oppose militarism, prevent a third world war and defend social rights is through the international mobilisation of the working class against capitalism. No problem can be solved without breaking the power of the banks and corporations and bringing them under democratic control. Such a movement requires the unification of workers across all national, ethnic and religious boundaries.

While this is at least genuine, the disingenuous criticism from liberal identity wings is that Wagenknecht is “anti-vanguard” for ignoring identity issues in favor of class-based politics. In their eyes this makes her right wing (and even comparable to Benito Mussolini). 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.

There’s an argument to be made that Wagenknecht’s brand of politics is one hope at containing the rise of the far right, and it’s one that Wagenknecht makes herself:

Wagenknecht also blames the government for the rise of the AfD. Any criticism of politics is immediately defamed as right-wing, as was recently the case with the farmers’ demonstrations. We already know this from the protests during the Covid pandemic. “If people have been told for years that any reasonable criticism is right-wing, then it’s no wonder that a right-wing party is successful.” The fact that the traffic light politicians are now taking to the streets at anti-AfD protests is absurd. “If they really want to weaken the AfD, they don’t need to demonstrate, they need to finally change their miserable policies.”

Not only is Berlin ignoring that advice, but the same is true across Europe where the overall picture is one of an ascendant right. Right-wing parties are expected to win the election in six of the EU’s 27 member states, including France and Italy.

It’s a strong possibility that a right-wing coalition will take the reins in the parliament for the first time in its history. There is however, a lot of variation on the right – especially on the issue of Ukraine. Some are true believers, others were against the EU/NATO before they were for it, and others still oppose the war against Russia.

The European Peoples Party, which is projected to remain the largest bloc in the parliament, is a major backer of Project Ukraine. The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) is too. ECR is led by Brothers of Italy, Law and Justice in Poland, VOX in Spain, and the Sweden Democrats.

The opposition to Project Ukraine can be found on the right in the Identity and Democracy (ID) party, although it might be softening – at least in the case Rassamblent National:

Germany’s AfD and Lega in Italy continue to hold onto their opposition to the economic war on Russia and are constantly hammered by spooks, media, think tanks, and politicians over it. Nonetheless, ID, which also includes Geert Wilders Party for Freedom and Austria’s Freedom Party, is projected to become the third largest EP grouping, up from its sixth-place finish in the elections of 2019.

At the end of the day, the sad reality is that parliament has a limited ability to do much other than provide a facade of democracy. The parliament is supposed to act as a check on commission power. It has to approve legislation proposed by the European Commission, it can censure the Commission, and the European Council has to ‘take into account’ the result of the parliament elections to nominate the Commission president – although the latter process turned into a backroom disaster in 2019 when Ursula von der Leyen failed upwards into the job.

EU leaders dismissed all the parties’ candidates and surprisingly elevated Ursula von der Leyen, who had not featured in the race and was doing a poor job as Germany’s defense minister.

As president of the European Commission, she holds sweeping powers on a range of issues, including tech, healthcare and social rights. Recent polling shows that a majority of voters (63 percent) either view the Commission’s work negatively or have no opinion.

Nonetheless, von der Leyen looks like the odds-on favorite to return to the job and continue her reign.

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  1. digi_owl

    The problem is that “immigration” means different things to different people.

    For those high up in the social stratas, it means refugees from the many imperialist wars around the globe (while still cheering in the wars as protecting the western democratic garden from the beasts of the jungle beyond).

    For those closer to the primary industries it means any and all foreigners that come in and undercut wages or mooch on the welfare system (seen as driving up taxes by adding more expenses to the nation).

    And the latter is why the xenophobic right can be cheered on when they try to chuck refugees back into the ocean, while still bringing in the temp workers to goose the profits of their companies via suppressed wages.

    1. eg

      “For those high up in the social stratas” immigration, besides an opportunity to flaunt their “progressiveness,” also means cheaper gardeners and nannies and dog-walkers and food delivery and — well, you get the picture.

      “Our betters” are whited sepulchres of exploitation …

    2. Feral Finster

      When you say “more immigrants” to an urban yuppie, German or otherwise, they hear “cheaper au pairs and ethnic restaurants, O Goodie!”

      When you say “more immigrants” to a working class person in social housing or whatever, they hear “more competition for jobs, longer lines for services, less benefits and housing to go around.”

      I am generally in favor of immigration, but let’s not pretend that there are no costs to immigration or that those costs are shared equally.

      1. fjallstrom

        And they are unequally shared by design.

        During the period of full employment policies in western Europe, migration was seen as more of a net loss for the country losing population. It was East Germany, not West Germany that suffered from young germans fleeing from East to West.

        With full employment policies in place Western European states created an economy were employeers were competing for employees. New immigrants got jobs quickly among the jobs were it was hard to find any native workers who wanted it, because they already had better jobs. Win-win except for employers. Which is why it was destroyed.

  2. MD in Berlin

    Very very good piece, covers all the bases. As a resident of Germany who follows politics closely, I can only recommend. Stands out head and shoulders above the generally dismal English-language reporting.

    1. Devin Bal

      I am a german turk in berlin. Being an immigrant if the third generatio ( my grandpa came as guestworker ) i hate the main stream parties. People forget the türks stayed, because the law changed. Businesses wanted the türks to stay because of low wages and so the business class did not want them to leave. Honestly mass migration is only a tool for massive cheap labor.

  3. BillC

    I’ve been following Fr. Wagenknecht for at least a year and consider her the only politician with national visibility in the “western” world who makes practical sense regarding foreign, economic, and immigration policy. I would like to support BSW’s campaign but do not know what legal or practical hindrances there may be for non-residents of Germany to contribute to German political parties (e.g., cumbersome accounting and reporting requirements). Can anyone provide reliable information as to whether it is permissible and a net benefit to BSW for an EU resident (not citizen) who resides outside Germany to contribute financially to BSW?

    1. Altandmain

      Maybe George Galloway in the UK, but he doesn’t have a wider party as well that could run in all seats in the House of Commons. I hope that change someday.

      I suspect that much like the talk of banning the AfD, there will be talk in Germany of banning the BSW.

      1. Fireminer

        George Galloway is an opportunist through and through, so keep your expectation low. Though his campaign put forth a good question to the ruling class: How can a man just by being a degree more logical, sensible and empathetic than them became so popular so quickly? Zionism has called Britain home for over a century now, and neither the politicians nor the pundits realize how rabidly evil they look by backing Israel to the hilt.

        1. CarlH

          Could you possibly expand on why you consider Galloway an opportunist? I’m genuinely interested because I do not know very much about him other than what I have seen on his talk show.

          1. Alex Cox

            He is entirely sincere and one of the few socialists in the UK parliament. With luck Craig Murray and others will join him there under the Workers Party rubric.

            1. Matthew

              Agree. Relishes the attention–bears up under it–in a sometimes smarmy-seeming way. But I have rarely disagreed with him.

              Once took a pee with him at the World Social Forum in London; chatted a bit, listened to his several interventions. Pleasant person, fwiw.

    2. akuma

      It’s covered here:
      In essence if you’re an EU citizen anything goes, if not up to 1 k€ is no problem. If you want to donate more you should get in touch with BSW. Good luck!

      1. BillC

        Thanks a bunch, akuma! I didn’t expect the BSW website to directly address such a corner case … I figured the information would be buried deep in some arcane legislative website.

        If anyone else is interested, at the above link, under the 4th topic heading “Spenden,” check out the Q, “Kann ich aus dem Ausland spenden?” It fully confirms Akuma’s statement. The first Q under the same topic contains the banking coordinates needed for one to contribute via IBAN bank transfer.

        Sahra said months ago she’s not a great organizer and needed lots of good help to get a party organized … and it looks like she has found it!

  4. The Rev Kev

    I fear that if the BSW does well in the European Parliament after the June vote, that they will crack down on Wagenknecht and her party. There may be charges of collusion with the Russians or perhaps the eligibility of their members to run. The entire German political establishment and the media will go after her as dissent is no longer tolerated in modern day Germany. As an example, there was supposed to be a three-day event in support of Palestine but they denied entry to speakers (even via video-conferencing), froze a bank account and finally sent in the police to break the whole thing up-

    I could easily see them doing the same to Wagenknecht and the BSW. Ordnung muss sein!

    1. Feral Finster

      “The entire German political establishment and the media will go after her as dissent is no longer tolerated in modern day Germany.”

      Exactly, not to mention the entire German government bureaucracy. Note that in France, LePen has walked back her earlier statements about NATO and the EU. She knows full well what will and will not be tolerated.

  5. JW

    Great article. Wagenknecht and Daly shine like lights in Europe: virtually all the rest are dismal.

  6. Palm & Needle

    About a century ago, the European working class – led by its left-wing parties – betrayed the international workers movement and sided with the imperial ruling class instead of pursuing the revolutionary path. As a consequence, we have had two world wars, but in the bargain European workers eventually gained a welfare state and migrated away from the factory floor to become office plankton and service-sector employees.

    But Empire does not stop on its own, and Empire is not nationalist. And today, the ephemeral benefits European workers gained are being systematically withdrawn.

    It is the historical task of the European working class to understand Empire, recognize its role in reviving it, and then finally turn against it to kill it from within.

    Is BSW up to this task?

  7. Feral Finster

    Even if Wagenknecht or Alice Weidel were to become Chancellor tomorrow, they would find themselves unable to change much of anything, because the state bureaucracy would refuse to cooperate.

    As it is, Scholtz will be goaded until he gives the PMC the direct and open war with Russia that they want/

    1. Kouros

      Executive management, forced by their political bosses could put everyone refusing to cooperate in the “Club Med” wing of government and hire replacements. You’ll see how fast the bureaucracy will change course and how fast mid management or worker bees will be in replacing unyielding upper echelon.

      Oh, I could have soooo much fun!

  8. Kalen

    Let’s not have here a fancy talk about new voice for German left. In today’s political environment we must first talk about BSW as a sole voice of German political sanity. Aware of Nazi past political insanity vs hard realism is still extremely sensitive issue in Germany.

    We must talk about psychosis of current German leadership that compelled return from forced political retirement a prophetic figure of Sarah Wagenknecht as sole political force for peace who warned Merkel already in 2014 of catastrophic consequences of German foreign policies inevitably leading to war with Russia. She asked Merkel government in scathing Bundestag speech paraphrasing “if Germany really wanted to get another history lesson from Russians tanks rolling through Berlin streets after 70 years”.

    Wagenknecht recent “Are you Mad” speech at Bundestag as a leader of BSW echoes 2014 again warning about delusions of entire mainstream German politics to the point of collapse of German statecraft de facto dynamiting foundational legitimacy of German state. It is not just a problem of total German political dependency on US. It is a matter of political existence.

    It looks to me that Wagenknecht facing mass suppression of political diversity in matters of the state and foreign policies amid rampant Russophobic hysteria in Bundestag feels like few SPD members of Reichstag who in fall of 1933 gave last warning, last call for sanity to entire political class of Germany before scheduled vote for so called Enabling Act that legalized Hitler dictatorship and hence put Germany on a path to inevitable war and self destruction.

    For that reason alone she deserves support of all Germans who care about future of their children as steamroller of war’s begun to move.

    1. Feral Finster

      Of course. That said, the German establishment in and out of government will do whatever it takes to keep her or anyone like her out of power, for much the same reason Trump must be suppressed, even though he cannot really do very much.

      1. Kalen

        At this point Wagenknecht voice became the only remaining safety valve within in political spectrum with proven credibility not only in Germany but in most of EU before militarism completely consumes this sorry continent that it seems ultimately refused to learn its repeated bloody history lesson. If she is silenced and she likely at some point will pressure for war will only increase.

        The stand of formerly neutral countries like Austria, Switzerland or Ireland not to mention Sweden of Finland or even Moldova is most appalling as they supposed to be voices of political sanity, gravity and deliberation as their international modus vivendi instead of proliferating fear and panic. This time they joined bandwagon to oblivion.

        Most shocking is what Switzerland is doing as they de facto abandoned their political neutrality that was a foundation of their wealth and prestige for almost 210 years after they abandoned monetary fiscal and economic neutrality by close integration with EU and US economies and financial systems. I believe NC wrote about that in the past.

        After severely eroding political neutrality by joining UN at the turn of millennium in 2022 they made another this time catastrophic mistake by joining illegal for any UN member sanctions against Russia among others by freezing Russian Central Bank assets and ultimately contributing militarily to Ukrainian war via weapon technology and ammunition. By that act they tied all Swiss fortune to a single declining foreign power that by means of such imbalance destabilizes Swiss nation.

        Now whe tide of war turned they try to frantically backpedal with too little too late pretenses of ceasefire/conflict freeze diplomacy, limiting military licensing for Ukraine and promising not to seize any frozen Russian state and CB assets including interest earnings. Now they seem to have refused to join EU organization created specifically to track, investigate and seize Russian assets in EU and ultimately to transfer them to Ukraine. But implied independence and crucial trust of global majority is already gone so Swiss Neutrality premium they so much enjoyed and benefited from for last two centuries.

  9. Wild Wombat

    After support for 3 genocides in a little more than 100 years–Namibia, Europe, and now Palestine–that’s 3 strikes and you’re out. Is it time to shun Germans as irredeemable?

    On Nov. 9 1989 I used to joke about it being the birth of the Fourth Reich, now I am not so sure it is a joke.

    But Wagenknecht makes me want to believe there is still some decency and hope for the German people.

  10. Rubicon

    Our Western Europeans have noted: the Left is no different from the Right. They are both bought-off parties.
    Most all of the EU governments/parties were bought-off by the US Financial/Political Powers starting with being the central figure in formulating the EU. Germany was another key power in that transformation.

    Now, Germany has once more done the bidding of their Master: They allowed the US to blow up Nordstrem Nordstrem. Thusly curtailing the once prosperous trade between Germany, Russia and China. .

    As some keen observers have noted: the entire EU has turned into a US Colony. The EU and the UK needs to be written off, completely.

  11. chuck roast

    So, “…Chancellor Olaf Scholz is now being compared to Neville Chamberlain…”. This would make the Germans comparable to the English. I’m still laughing. This followed up by Scholz, upon his arrival in Beijing to meet Xi, who was met at the airport by the Deputy Mayor of Beijing. If, to paraphrase Sahra Wagenknecht, the guy had any sense at all, he would have got back on his plane and headed west. Instead, he stayed and got a bad-ass spanking (in a nice way of course). The Full Monty…geez…this guy would be welcome in Northern New Mexico which I know a little about. He would make the perfect penitente.

    1. bertl

      Like most of the British people, in the 1930s Chamberlain wanted peace, however uneasy, to prevail. He also continued and enlarged Baldwin’s programme to re-arm on the off-chance there would be a war.

      My grandfather, who had spent four years on the front in the first war, helped kick off the second by sitting on the beach at Dunkirk wondering whether he was going to spend the rest of a very short war as a POW. But then the big ships arrived and gave my grandfather and his pals a ride home (big ships, not little boats, mind you – the little boats sailed by their brave owners plucking the British army from under the Nazi boot was a bit of morale boosting propaganda which helped to explain away the fact that there were a lot of little boats filled with getting in the way of operations) and he decided to retire from the war and went back to the comfort of a pit in West Fife.

      His politics were not Chamberlain’s but he always gave Chamberlain his due. Even if Chamberlain didn’t want the worst and didn’t expect it, he re-armed and prepared the country for war as best he could. Scholz is not Chamberlain, nor is he an effective blowhard capable of making rousing and vital morale boosting speeches like Churchill. He is just a very tawdry, very little man, more than happy to operate as bagman for the US and the Israeli génocidaires, and it is Germany’s misfortune that, somehow, perhaps because we have an overly whimsical God, he holds but fails to fill the office which Bismarck created when he guided the German State into being.

  12. AG

    from what I observe from the outside: I assume the BSW party leadership is dragging its feet to tread the immigration issue in a way that it won´t hurt BSW substantially either due to inner frictions or, what the media wish for, voter neglect. It is a very dangerous subject which could destroy the project if handled unwisely. However I think Wagenknecht and Co. have been playing the game long enough to be smart.

    After all a substantial part of the party leadership is of immigrant background and knows the problems. And since these people are not corrupted yet they are aware of all sides. But BSW with its brand new basis will carry you only so far. As realism goes the voters want immigration addressed in repressive forms. Thats just a sore fact. And probably one of the reasons BSW – if the info is not rigged – so far is lagging behind with voters under 45.

    Those don´t understand and want to, what inherent contradictions of a capitalist system mean and what they do to such a party. They just believe BSW are traitors to the true cause (see the dreamy WSWS comment). Of course with such a verdict comes the likelihood of privilege, either due to no familial responsibilities or no financial worries.

    The complicity and lies of the media are the worst thing about this. Since they do know that between 3000-6000 refugees die every year trying to cross the southern waters to reach Greece, Italy and Spain. And this has been the case for 25 years. Long before the AfD existed.

    btw NATO 2022 (or 2021 I forgot) – I already wrote this – has included refugees as one of the three major threats to the EU, along nuclear powers Russia and China. This alone should cause public upheaval and condemnation for fascist thinking. But the GREENs whose job this used to be and THE LEFT are in silence.

    The discourse on immigration has shifted harshly to the right. That´s a fact. And the reasons for this are so obvious you have to be blind not to see them. But BSW must address this in a wise manner that might not get it killed.

    p.s. Several coalitions in the FRG in essence have been far-right one way or the other. Media just covered and labeled them in dishonest ways. The early Adenauer years were full of Nazis, naturally (while the German Communist Party was banned). Anti-Russian thinking was so much standard that it just wasn´t noticed. The 60/70s changed something. The 90s threw us back with the destruction of the immigration laws just a few years after unification. And Helmut Kohl´s reign for 16 years. What we experience now is the same just with less money available to the vast population. But the system is highly suppressive. At the moment I would doubt CDU has the guts to rule with AfD officially. AfD is mostly a tool to hold at bay the left movements and control the public. But it doesn´t matter how you call the coalition. The only thing that matters is what they do. And by that standard there is not much difference between the AfD and the SPD. The same would be true in France with Macaron and le pain.

  13. Jams O'Donnell

    While in theory I mostly agree with the aims of the WSWS, in practice I don’t, as what they promote is ‘pie-in-the-sky’. I would love to see mass solidarity among the working classes worldwide, and a Marxist UN. But ‘any full kno’ it is not going to happen. And the WSWS’s holier-than-thou stance is an active stumbling block in the way of actual but inevitably limited progress. So any criticism from them against BSW should be taken with a gigantic dose of salt.

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