‘It represents well-off big-city academics’ – Former chair of Germany’s Left Party criticizes left-wing liberalism and identity politics

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Left-wing MP Sahra Wagenknecht, who previously served as parliamentary chair for Germany’s Left Party (Die Linke), has renewed her criticism of the left-wing liberalism, identity politics, and the left-wing elite in Germany and her party.

Left liberalism is neither left nor liberal, Wagenknecht told Focus Online.

“It represents well-off big-city academics rather than those who have to fight harder and harder for their small amount of wealth, which should actually be the concern of the left. And liberal? Because of its pronounced intolerance, modern left-wing liberalism should be called just left-wing liberalism,” she said.

According to Wagenknecht, left-wing liberals behave in a similar way. She said there is an archetype for the “lifestyle left”.

“He cares about the climate and is committed to emancipation, immigration and sexual minorities” and considers the “nation-state to be an obsolete model and himself a citizen of the world who has little in common with his own country,” writes Wagenknecht. “He finds traditional values ​​such as performance, diligence and effort uncool.”

She said that because this person was raised by “mostly well-off helicopter parents” a certain amount of security from “daddy’s small fortune and mama’s doting”, he or she are the type of people that can afford unpaid internships.

“They talk about immigration as a great asset, but at the same time pay close attention to their own children going to schools where they only get to know other cultures through literature or art classes,” said Wagenknecht.

Wagenknecht recalled Martin Luther King’s famous dream that one day the color of a person’s skin would no longer play a role. In left-wing liberalism, on the other hand, everything revolves around whether someone is White or Black, man or woman, straight or gay.

“It depends on who is allowed to talk about what and who is allowed to contradict whom. It is an attack on enlightenment and common sense,” she pointed out.

The left-wing politician was also skeptical about the “Fridays for Future” movement. She said it is indeed positive when young people get involved in social issues, but it is necessary to note that the rallies and climate protests were mainly attended by young people from academic households of the upper-middle class.

“That has shaped the movement: Anyone who lives in a perfectly renovated old apartment in a hip district may consider the rise in the price of diesel and heating oil to be a major climate policy achievement. The less favored skilled worker or craftsman in a rural region, who depends on his car every day and heats his moderately insulated house with oil, sees things differently. And those who despise people buying meat for discounted prices seldom belong to a social class where the bank account is empty at the end of the month,” said Wagenknecht.

She also did not hold back from criticizing her own party. The election results showed that the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Left Party (Die Linke) had lost large parts of their former electorate. According to surveys, a majority of the population would like more social equality.

“Instead of addressing this majority with a program that is attractive to it, SPD and Die Linke have accepted the Greens in an almost submissive manner as the intellectual and political avant-garde, thereby allowing AfD [Alternative for Germany party] to become the leading workers’ party. They have both strayed away from getting a chance from their own majority,” she noted.

Wagenknecht said she does not really like the gender issue either as she does not want to tell anyone how to talk, and if a journalist feels the absolute need to talk about gender, he should do it.

“But it cannot be that everyone comes under pressure or that you should experience a ‘sh*tstorm’ if you are not going along with it. I do not think we are doing our language or the goal of non-discrimination a favor through such contortions,” she added.

Wagenknecht was elected as the top candidate for federal election in North Rhine-Westphalia on the weekend despite resistance in her own party. Shortly before, the first passages from her new book provoked controversy among party members. The book “The Self-Righteous” (Die Selbstgerechten) is out this week and has been widely discussed in the media, including in Der Tagesspiegel.

In the book, Wagenknecht reckons with left-wing liberalism and accuses it of further dividing society. She also takes a harsh stance on the left’s identity politics. According to her, it boils down to “directing attention to ever smaller and more bizarre minorities, each of whom finds their identity in some quirk that distinguishes them from the majority of the society and from which they derive the claim to be a victim.”

Passages in the book in which Wagenknecht blamed immigration for low wages in Germany also met with serious criticism from within the party. She wrote that all parties besides the right failed to “even acknowledge the problems resulting from migration”. Instead, they would “morally condemn the angry victims”. 

When it comes to limiting immigration, the AfD has “the majority of the population behind it,” claims Wagenknecht. Her view is suggested by polling, with most Germans rejecting more migration. 

Other polls have shown that when the question of migration is broken down between EU and non-EU migration, Germans are not as welcoming as commonly portrayed. A major EU Barometer poll, for example, showed that Germans are more opposed to non-EU migration than supportive, with 48 percent saying they were against non-EU migration while 44 percent supported it, a finding that has not changed much since 2015. In 2017, a majority of Germans said they could not take in any more refugees and a major YouGov survey this year found that 63 percent of Germans did not trust their government on migration and 61 percent feel ‘insecure” about migration. Another 38 percent listed it as the top security threat the EU faces. 

Wagenknecht previously led the Left Party in Germany, and although she is still a politician within the party, activists in the party are believed to have pushed her from the position due to her opposition against open borders and mass immigration, which she argues drives down the wages of German citizens and benefits business with cheap labor. Despite the pressure she faced, her positions remain popular with a notably large portion of the party’s base. 

Title image: Sahra Wagenknecht addresses the media during the first press conference of the new political movement ‘Stand Up’ in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. Wagenknecht is co-faction leader of the German Left Party as well. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

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