Germany’s new ‘left’, and its contradictions

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‘Aufstehen’ says it aims to give a left-ward tilt to the political mainstream. However, its leadership’s stance on the refugee question has caused concern and sceptic by Sahra Wagenknecht, a leading politician of the left-wing party Die Linke, Aufstehen (‘Stand up’) wants to scrape together different people from the left of the political centre. Its appeal could also extend to members of parties such as the Social Democrats and the Greens.

Another dominating figure of the movement is Oskar Lafontaine, leading Die Linke politician and Ms. Wagenknecht’s husband. When Aufstehen started its website in August, it claimed that it had the support of tens of thousands of people. However, it is not yet clear how to become its member.

The movement, according to its founders, aims to launch officially in September. Several figures from German politics and culture support Ms. Wagenknecht’s plan and believe that a “left-wing alternative” to Germany’s current political mainstream is necessary.However, the movement is already facing several issues. First, it appears that Ms. Wagenknecht did not inform the core of her party, a crucial part of the Opposition in the German Parliament, of her plans. Many observers believe that this points to an ideological split within the movement.

Die Linke consists of two groups of people with differing views. While the leadership has a clear stance on the refugee question, Ms. Wagenknecht’s wing appears to be sceptical of the European Union and the NATO and demands a closer relationship with Russia. Additionally, and this is the most crucial topic of disagreement, Ms. Wagenknecht has explicitly said that she does not support endless, open borders and that “not all refugees could come to Germany”.

Targeting the far-right electorate?

According to some observers, Ms. Wagenknecht is just trying to fish voters from the far-right electorate. For that reason, many are sceptical of her new movement. “There is consensus in the new ‘movement’ to keep refugees and migrants away. Such policies are not ‘left’ and make one fear of the worst part of Germany’s past when those without ‘pure’ German ancestry were the target of nationalist and socialist demagogy,” said Otmar Steinbicker, 65, peace activist from the city of Aachen. He believes that migrants and refugees will be made the scapegoats again. “Resistance against such policies is our duty,” he said.

However, according to Die Linke politician Fabio De Masi, Aufstehen has different intentions. In an interview with left-wing daily Neues Deutschland, he said that the movement wants to attract people who do not want to become members of political parties. “It doesn’t make sense to establish a new party,” said Mr. De Masi, who supports the movement. Leading figures of the new movement regularly say that their future course of action would be similar to those of Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom and Bernie Sanders in the United States. “If we use Aufstehen to strengthen people within the parties and to win people, like how the campaigns of Sanders and Corbyn did, we could also win elections,” said Mr. De Masid.

Some commentators believe that it is too early to criticise Aufstehen, especially in as harsh a manner as has happened in the last few weeks in the mainstream media. Also, the videos on its website stress diversity, giving voice to many people with a migrant background. However, some people believe that in the end, the movement in itself might not be the problem, but its founders will be.

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