Politics

What’s Happening in Germany Reveals the Strange State of the Left

On Monday morning, Sahra Wagenknecht, the most charismatic politician in Germany’s Left party, led an uprising against it. A longtime member of the national Parliament and until 2019 a co-leader of the Left’s parliamentary delegation, Ms. Wagenknecht apparently now has a different idea of what “left” means. She announced that she and nine fellow Parliament members will start a new party in January to court voters who share her discontent.

Ms. Wagenknecht has been hinting at the break for months. The Left party descends from Communist East Germany’s old ruling party, which Ms. Wagenknecht joined in 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. But it is not the party it once was. To put it in crude American terms: It has become too woke for Ms. Wagenknecht. Germany’s present government is made up of Social Democrats, Greens and market-oriented Free Democrats. It offers an agenda for a “lifestyle left,” to use Ms. Wagenknecht’s phrase, not a real left. And yet many of her longtime colleagues have been seduced by it.

At a time of housing shortages and weak wage growth, the government’s unwillingness to stem the influx of economic migrants is “irresponsible,” Ms. Wagenknecht says. Its heavy-handed energy regulations are burdening poorer families. Its uncritical assent to the United States’ backing of Ukraine is prolonging the war, driving up energy prices and crippling the German economy.

Ms. Wagenknecht faults her party not just for failing to oppose the government but also for bullying and belittling those citizens who do. In 2021 she wrote a best-selling attack on fashionable leftism that she titled “The Self-Righteous.” That fall she appeared on one of Germany’s top political talk shows to insist that those who dissented from Germany’s draconian Covid rules were “normal citizens” and to explain why she was unvaccinated.

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