Germany – The Collapse of the German Left

In the wake of the recent European election, Germany's far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has gained significant traction, posing a formidable challenge to the traditional political landscape and highlighting the ongoing struggle of the German Left amidst rising nationalist sentiments. By Joseph Healy

 

In 1945 after the defeat of Fascism, the German Communist writer Bertolt Brecht wrote: “The Beast is dead but the Whore that bore him still lives.” It remains a grim warning from history that the forces which produced Hitler and Fascism in Germany in the 1920s and 30s still remain. For many this became an all too real reality with the European election last week.

Alternative fur Deutschland, the Far Right party, swept the boards gaining the second largest vote after the mainstream CDU (Christian Democrats) the traditional Centre Right party. Many had feared that this would happen as the polls had been warning about the coming disaster for months. The AfD is so noxiously Fascist that even Le Pen’s party in France has refused to work with them in the next European Parliament. Huge protests swept Germany a few months ago when it was revealed that the AfD had been holding talks about plans to deport all immigrants not born in Germany or those who did not have traditional German blood! At that time it seemed that Germany had at last woken up to the nightmare but it was not to be.

The geographical sources of the party’s support are also revealing. They received huge support from the areas in the former East Germany, which are perceived to have the lowest incomes and the most run-down post-industrial towns. However, their support was also strong in some of the more traditionalist Catholic areas in the south. Another big factor seemed to be granting of the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds and the dominance of AfD on TikTok. They received the most votes among those aged between 16 and 24. This is a grave concern going forward as it suggests a real hardening of racist and nationalistic sentiment among the young. Their economic programme also appealed to many at a time when German industry is seen as rundown and they promised a return to cheaper energy, including a return to nuclear power, which the Greens in the ruling coalition have blocked.

The CDU have strengthened their position as the leading party, particularly in their traditional strongholds of Bavaria and Baden Wurttemberg but with the AfD snapping at their heels it is now quite possible that they will orient themselves to some form of accommodation with the Far Right. As the Communist character in a famous German film by Verhoeven about Nazism in small town southern Germany, The Nasty Girl, says: “The black and the brown have always worked together.” The black being the colour of Conservatism and the brown that of Nazism. More about the merging of colours later. The CDU have also benefited from not having been in government during the various crises.

The main losers of the election are the Greens and the Social Democrats (SPD). The Greens have been heavily criticised because of the perceived cost of their policies, particularly on energy and their critics include the strong farming lobby alienated by the EU policies on tackling the climate crisis, mainly driven by the Greens. The other big factor in this election is the war in Ukraine. Here, the German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, who is a Green has played a large part in guaranteeing support for Ukraine. In my opinion, the war in Ukraine has damaged both government parties and the German Left as it has been portrayed as one of the main causes for the economic impact on the German working class.

The SPD, once one of the main Social Democrat parties of Europe, received 14% of the vote, their lowest vote share since World War 2 and this presents a real crisis for both the party and the government of Olaf Scholz. I believe that it may also presage the destruction of Social Democracy in Germany. Like France the Centre is collapsing but unlike Macron Scholz has not decided to go to the country but to play for time.

Die Linke, the main party of the Left, with its roots in the East German PDS party and once supported strongly in the East, has been the other main victim of this election. This year Sarah Wagenknecht, who can be loosely described as the George Galloway of Germany, left Die Linke, taking several MPs with her. She pronounced this as a tack away from Left ideology and towards pragmatic policies for the German workers. The party is vehemently opposed to the war in Ukraine, using simple messages addressed to those worse off that the reason why their gas bills have increased is because of the war and the end of cheaper Russian gas. This messaging has hit home. Wagenknecht’s new party, BSW, named after her gained over 6% in the European election and overtook Die Linke as the main Left party. However, I would not describe it as a Left party as like Galloway’s Workers Party, it has a deeply anti woke agenda, wanting a clampdown on asylum seekers and support for trans rights etc. It proclaims itself as supporting German jobs for German workers. It is essentially a Red Brown formation, often happy to appear on platforms with the AfD opposing rights for migrants and campaigning for peace in Ukraine.

The German Left, like virtually all German parties, disgraced itself on the genocide in Gaza, with Die Linke taking the general line in support of Israel. Wagenknecht and BSW have opposed the genocide and supported pro-Palestinian demos. For the German government and most parties the legacy of the Holocaust is seen as preventing any criticism of Israel and its appalling policies in Gaza. Wagenknecht has effectively destroyed Die Linke and it is highly unlikely that the party will gain the necessary 5% to enter parliament in the next German general election, which may well lead to its demise, though it did manage to get one or two MEPs, despite its vote being much lower than that of the BSW.

I believe that the war in Ukraine is a central factor in German politics and when President Zelensky visited the German parliament this week the two parties which boycotted his visit were the AfD and the BSW. This recreates a current in German political history during the Weimar period when the nationalist Right wanted to cooperate militarily and otherwise with Bolshevik Russia. Wagenknecht comes originally from the former East Germany and the area is also one of their strongholds. This populist party will test the waters in the state elections in September.

It would seem that the led government is deeply unpopular and an election soon is likely to see some form of CDU led government. It is a sign of the deep political malaise affecting European politics that a country like Germany with such a terrible history of Fascism and war, could turn again to those who openly admire Nazism. Let us hope that the fragmented German Left can gather its forces and that progressive Germans can oppose the Brown tide. Brecht’s warning rings out from history.


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Joseph Healy is a member of Anti*Capitalist Resistance.


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