Germany: New 'Aufstehen' movement of Sahra Wagenknecht is shaking up leftists

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Germany: New 'Aufstehen' movement of Sahra Wagenknecht is shaking up leftists

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Germany

Germany: New 'Aufstehen' movement of Sahra Wagenknecht is shaking up leftists

Only days after Left politician Sahra Wagenknecht announced her new movement, dubbed 'Aufstehen' or 'Stand Up,' tens of thousands of people vowed support. The movement could present a leftist case for limiting m igration.

Sarah Wagenknecht speaking with microphone (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Woitas)

After months of floating the idea of an overarching leftist movement in Germany, the Left party's parliamentary leader, Sahra Wagenknecht, has unveiled the first stage of her "Aufstehen" ("Stand Up") initiative by rolling out a website that offers visitors a chance to join the movement.

According to Wagenknecht, the movement is meant to rally left-wing voters and pressure politicians to create a majority that would result in a left-wing government. It also aims to win over the "protest voters" who currently support populist parties such as the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD).

Read more: Sahra Wagenknecht, the uncomp romising face of the Left party

"This is about courage to overcome the neoliberal mainstream, about a social policy in the interest of the majority," Wagenknecht told the online portal Nachdenkenseiten.de. "The globalization steered by corporations, the disintegration of the welfare state, an endless string of new wars â€" this not a force of nature. There are alternatives to it and we want to give people back the hope that politics can be changed."

Watch video 01:44 Now live 01:44 mins.

Wagenknecht "won't make neo-liberal policies"

Aufstehen, however, is not a political party in itself, and it welcomes the members of other parties, including the Left, the SPD and the Greens, as well as people without party affiliation.

"Nobody needs to leave their organization to work with us, but we especially want to encourage those peopl e who don't feel at home in any party to act," she told the Spiegel magazine.

Read more: Wagenknecht calls for security union with Russia, dissolution of NATO

Aufstehen is also not endorsed by Germany's Left party, and several senior leaders have already spoken out against the movement and Wagenknecht. The 49-year-old parliamentary leader has a history of clashing with party heads.

A threat for the Left?

The Aufstehen web page, which went online a week ago on Saturday, currently consists of a collage of video clips with people across Germany discussing leftist ideas. It notably does not give details on what the Aufstehen members should stand up for, and the group's manifesto is set to be published only in September.

Even so, over 50,000 had pledged their support to the movement by Thursday. Wagenknecht's husband and political ally in the Left party, Oskar Lafontaine, praised the early suc cess of the initiative.

"We are very satisfied." he told the DPA news agency. "We didn't necessarily count on such overwhelming support."

By Friday, there was more good news for Wagenknecht's platform: A poll ordered by the Focus magazine showed that more than a third of German voters "could see themselves" voting for Aufstehen if the movement transformed into a political party. The response was overwhelmingly positive among the Left voters, where 87 percent were open to supporting her initiative at the polls.

Screenshot of aufstehen.de (aufstehen.de)

The upper section of the Aufstehen.de web page offers the visitors a chance to join the movement

Migrants take center-stage

The initiative prompted some Left politicians to accuse Wagenknecht of trying to split the party or infringe on the shrinking pool of left-wing voters. Cracks between Wagenknecht and other Left party leaders have been visible for years, but the final push was likely the dispute on migration during the Left party congress in June. During the summit, Wagenknecht argued against open borders and granting migrants unlimited access to Germany's labor market.

Watch video 00:12 Now live 00:12 mins.

DW Interview with Sahra Wagenknecht

Wagenknecht also warned that the Left party was bleeding supporters to the right-wing AFD, which calls for strict limits on migration. At least 400,000 voters have already switched sides, putting the AFD ahead of the Left in nearly all of the Left's traditional stronghold in the east.

However, she was booed during her speech and unable to secure enough support.

Read more: Left party congress calls for 'open borders' and legal escape routes for refugees

Teaming up with a playwright

Behind the scenes, Wagenknecht was already cooperating with notable Berlin playwright Bernd Stegemann and other notable leftist intellectuals who criticize Germany's current refugee policy. Stegemann, another leading figure in the Aufstehen movement, reportedly inspired Wagenknecht to start the initiative with his articles on populism and political correctness. He argues that letting in migrants makes life harder for people who already need to fight for lower-paying jobs or affordable housing.

This week, Wagenknecht and Stegemann published a joint article in Nordwest-Zeitung where they argue for a "realistic" migrant policy between the populist anti-immigrant resentment and "unlimited" welcome for newcomers.

Such policy would support people who were helping integrate the refugees, but "would not let people-smugglers determine which people illegally come to Europe," they said.

'They have every reason to be angry'

Wagenknecht and Stegemann also said that "fixation" on refugees was an expression of misplaced anger among poorer voters.

"People working under short-term contracts, or with too small pensions, and with children that can longer receive a decent education because the public schools are falling apart and don't have enough teachers, they have every reason to be angry at 'those above'," they said.

"We need to make sure these voices are heard once again."

Read more: Left's Sahra Wagenknecht gets pie in the face from antifascist group at congress

The leaders of the Aufstehen movement are scheduled to present the platform's manifesto on September 4 and publish a list of 40 grounding members, which is said to includ e many prominent intellectuals.

Watch video 26:06 Now live 26:06 mins.

GermanyDecides: Meet the Candidate Sahra Wagenknecht

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GermanyDecides: Meet the Candidate Sahra Wagenknecht

Wagenknecht "won't make neo-liberal policies"

DW Interview with Sahra Wagenknecht

  • Date 11.08.2018
  • Author Darko Janjevic
  • Keywords Aufstehen, The Left party, Sahra Wagenknecht, the AFD, migrants, German politics
  • Feedback: Send us your feedback.
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink https://p.dw.com/p/330yo

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  • Date 11.08.2018
  • Author Darko Janjevic
  • Keywords Aufstehen, The Left party, Sahra Wagenknecht, the AFD, migrants, German politics
  • Send us your feedback.
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink https://p.dw.com/p/330yo

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