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German Left Launches Bold New Political Movement

Left-wing German politician Sahra Wagenknecht says left-wing populist movements like Stand Up are necessary to counter the pseudo-populism of the right. (YouTube screen grab)

Looking to spark a political revolution in the mold of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ in the U.S. and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s in the U.K., Sahra Wagenknecht and her husband, Oskar Lafontaine—two leading figures of the German left-wing party Die Linke—officially launched the “Stand Up” movement on Tuesday with the goal of confronting Germany’s “crisis of democracy,” countering the rise of the nation’s racist far-right, and offering an inspiring alternative.

“Many people don’t feel represented anymore and are turning their backs on politics. This is more than just a feeling,” Wagenknect said at a press conference on Tuesday, citing economic data showing that 40 percent of German citizens have less take-home pay today than they did two decades ago. “In such a country democracy is no longer functioning.”

“This is about courage to overcome the neoliberal mainstream, about a social policy in the interest of the majority,” Wagenknecht added in an interview with the website Nachdenkenseiten.de. “The globalization steered by corporations, the disintegration of the welfare state, an endless string of new wars—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.”

The emergence of the Stand Up movement—which has also been translated as “Get Up” and “Rise Up”—comes just days after thousands of neo-Nazis marched and rioted in the German city of Chemnitz, just one of many signs that the nation’s far-right is emboldened and increasingly dangerous.

Wagenknect argued that a left-wing populist movement like Stand Up is necessary to counter the pseudo-populism of the right, which seeks to exploit very real economic suffering and despair for racist aims.

“Anger that has been piling up has helped form a breeding ground for hate and violence. If we don’t take counter measures this country will not be recognisable within five to 10 years,” Wagenknect argued during the launch of Stand Up on Tuesday. “The climate is more raw than ever, the social divides are deeper. Had we needed another impulse then the events in Chemnitz show us that we urgently need a new political revolt.”

According to The Local, Stand Up’s primary objective is to galvanize and inspire members of the “Die Linke party, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), and ecologist Greens—but also to win back disenchanted working-class voters who have drifted to far-right protest parties.”

While the leaders of Stand Up have not explicitly modeled their movement after Sanders’ “political revolution” in the U.S. or Corbyn’s “for the many, not the few” campaign in the U.K., the parallels are obvious in the rhetoric and political goals of the movement’s supporters.

“The main problem for me is those in power have absolutely no feeling anymore for what the people are going through,” Mario, a supporter of Stand Up, declared in an interview on the movement’s website. “That’s why we want Stand Up, so that people like you and I get a voice, and that politics is done for the millions, not for billionaires.”

Jake Johnson / Common Dreams

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