Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Germany’s Die Linke Splits: Social Chauvinists vs Government Socialists

Sahra Wagenknecht is splitting from Die Linke and forming a new party. Her “left conservatism” is bad for immigrants but bad for German workers too.

Nathaniel Flakin

October 28, 2023
Facebook Twitter Share
Photo: Annegret Hilse / Reuters

On Monday morning, German politician and Bundestag member, Sahra Wagenknecht, explained her plans to found a new party. The East German politician announced she was resigning from Die Linke (The Left) and launching the Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance or BSW. (Given her nationalist views, it is no surprise that the website lacks any language besides German.) For the moment, they are not looking for activists — the only thing they want is money.

Amira Mohamed Ali, one of ten MPs from Die Linke who resigned alongside Wagenknecht, explained that the new party is “for all people who are not on the sunny side of life, for all those who work hard but are let down by mainstream politics.” Tellingly, the only people speaking at the press conference were politicians making €10,000 or €20,000 per month. Mohamed Ali, for example, is a corporate lawyer in the automobile industry. Her colleague Klaus Ernst, a wealthy union bureaucrat, drives a Porsche and caused quite a scandal when he became chair of the Bundestag committee on climate, as he defends fossil fuel motors. 

Wagenknecht herself is a multi-millionaire who seems most comfortable on TV shows and at cocktail parties of right-wing politicians like Peter Ramsauer — I couldn’t find a picture of her at a strike or demonstration since 2009.

The panel on Monday included the capitalist Thomas Suikat, the treasurer of the new alliance. It would not have been too hard to put an overworked, underpaid nurse in front of the cameras, but Wagenknecht doesn’t seem to know any. The program she presented is focussed on strengthening the Mittelstand, Germany’s medium-sized capitalists, by offering them “fair competition.”

Like any modern right-winger, Wagenknecht is incensed that people can’t say their opinions anymore — which somehow doesn’t prevent her from sharing her odious views to a hundred different journalists: she is against “uncontrolled immigration” and “blind ecological activism,” which she blames for growing inequality in Germany.

It’s not been easy to follow Wagenknecht’s rapid metamorphosis. People wonder: wasn’t she that communist lady? She indeed first became famous as a charismatic defender of East German Stalinism, as well as a Rosa Luxemburg impersonator. More than a decade ago, however, she abandoned any reference to socialism in favor of the “ordoliberalism” of West German conservatives from the 1950s.

Back in 2017, as the far-right AfD had its first electoral breakthroughs, Wagenknecht began arguing the Left should oppose migration. This evolved into a whole program of “left conservatism” with all the right-wing tropes: she wants to defend the German language, she claimed she didn’t get vaccinated against Covid, and — naturally — she hates trans people. Wagenknecht represents social chauvinism: the idea that German workers will do better if German capital is strengthened and non-German immigrants are kept out. 

So far, this might sound like Die Linke throwing off some ballast to their right, which could be a good thing. But the rest of the party is not very left-wing either. While Wagenknecht is calling for more deportations, Bodo Ramelow — the party’s second-most-famous politician — heads the government in Thuringia and carries out deportations every day.

Most of Die Linke aligns with Germany’s imperialist foreign policy, especially its unlimited support for Israel’s far-right government. On Monday, Wagenknecht referred to Gaza as an “open-air prison” — a simple statement of fact — and that earned her a rebuke from Die Linke’s Dietmar Bartsch.

Back in February, Wagenknecht organized a peace rally with 50,000 people at Brandenburg Gate — one that was explicitly open to AfD members and Nazis. Yet she is no antimilitarist: She is a German nationalist who wants more sovereignty, as opposed to the “transatlantic” orientation of kowtowing to Washington.

So which side of this split is worse, Wagenknecht or Die Linke? As Lenin liked to say, they are “both worse.” Social chauvinists are fighting with government socialists about the best way to administer German imperialism. What we need in Germany is a genuinely left party that seeks to unify the diverse working class in a struggle against the capitalists and their state.

Facebook Twitter Share

Nathaniel Flakin

Nathaniel is a freelance journalist and historian from Berlin. He is on the editorial board of Left Voice and our German sister site Klasse Gegen Klasse. Nathaniel, also known by the nickname Wladek, has written a biography of Martin Monath, a Trotskyist resistance fighter in France during World War II, which has appeared in German, in English, and in French, and in Spanish. He has also written an anticapitalist guide book called Revolutionary Berlin. He is on the autism spectrum.

Instagram

Europe

Thousands of Police Deployed to Shut Down Congress on Palestine in Berlin

This weekend, a Palestine Congress was supposed to take place in the German capital. But 2,500 police were mobilized and shut down the event before the first speech could be held. Multiple Jewish comrades were arrested.

Nathaniel Flakin

April 12, 2024

Fired by a German University for Solidarity with Palestine — Interview with Nancy Fraser

The University of Cologne canceled a guest professorship with the philosophy professor from The New School. In this interview, she speaks about Germany dividing between "Good Jews" and "Bad Jews," her politicization in the civil rights movement, and her time in an Israeli kibbutz.

Nathaniel Flakin

April 10, 2024

Pro-Palestine Activists in France Get Summons from Anti-Terrorist Police

As part of a repressive campaign against the movement for Palestine in France activists have gotten summons from “anti-terrorist” police. The movement for Palestine in the United States must oppose all repression of our movement here and in Europe.

Samuel Karlin

April 9, 2024

Berlin’s Mayor Loves Antisemites

Kai Wegner denounces the “antisemitism” of left-wing Jews — while he embraces the most high-profile antisemitic conspiracy theorist in the world.

Nathaniel Flakin

March 22, 2024

MOST RECENT

U.S. Imperialism is Pushing Tensions in the Middle East to a Boiling Point

U.S. Imperialism's support for Israel is driving the tensions behind Iran's attack and the escalations in the Middle East. It is all the more urgent for the working class to unite with the movement for Palestine against imperialism and chart a way out of the crisis in the region.

Samuel Karlin

April 15, 2024

Liberal Towns in New Jersey Are Increasing Attacks on Pro-Palestine Activists

A group of neighbors in South Orange and Maplewood have become a reference point for pro-Palestine organizing in New Jersey suburbs. Now these liberal towns are upping repression against the local activists.

Samuel Karlin

April 12, 2024

“We Shouldn’t Let this Stop Us”: Suspended Columbia Student Activist Speaks Out

Aidan Parisi, a student at Columbia University’s School of Social Work, was recently suspended and has been threatened with eviction from their graduate student housing for pro-Palestinian activism on campus. Aidan talked to Left Voice about the state of repression, the movement at Columbia, and the path forward for uniting the student movement with the labor movement and other movements against oppression.

Left Voice

April 11, 2024

The Movement for Palestine Needs Independent, Working-Class Politics

As the brutal genocide of Palestinians continues with the help of the Biden administration, there is maneuver underway to co-opt the movement for Palestine. We need to have a democratic and independent movement that relies on the power of the working class, the student movement, and mobilizations in the streets.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

April 7, 2024