BERLIN (AFP) – The German far left’s star politician Sahra Wagenknecht said yesterday she was quitting the leadership of a new populist movement that aims to address the concerns of the poor and win back working-class voters but has struggled to gain momentum.
Leader of the far-left Die Linke party Wagenknecht said the “Stand Up” alliance she co-founded last September needed a complete reorganisation at the top.
“The party politicians should take a step back, that also applies to myself,” she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine daily in an interview.
“Their experience was needed at the start but now it’s right to hand over responsibility” to grassroots supporters, she said.
The surprise retreat comes as the movement “has gone quiet”, Der Spiegel weekly noted, after an initial burst of activity when it attracted 100,000 members in the first month of its existence.
Some six months later that number has climbed to just 170,000, despite the fact that membership is free and requires just an online registration.
Der Spiegel said the envisaged loose alliance of leftist groups has run into scepticism from other parties and lacks a clear profile – with even Wagenknecht’s own Die Linke “unsure how to deal with the political initiative”.
The Stand Up (Aufstehen) movement is the brainchild of Wagenknecht and her husband Oskar Lafontaine, a firebrand socialist, ex-finance minister and defector from the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD).
Its declared goal is to counter the “neoliberal policies” of Merkel’s centrist coalition government and fight for secure jobs and pensions, environmental protection and “a true democracy not ruled by banks, corporations and lobbyists”.
But in a break with the left’s “open borders” policy, the movement also advocates a tougher stance on immigration in a bid to woo back citizens who have drifted to the far right.
In the Sunday newspaper interview, Wagenknecht lamented the “bunker mentality” of Germany’s leftist parties that had prevented them from embracing her project.
While the ecologist Greens and the centre-left Social Democrats do govern with the far left on a regional level, they have never teamed up in a national coalition – in large part because of Die Linke’s uncompromising hard-left positions, such as wanting to abolish NATO.
“The party leaderships of the SPD and the Linke apparently feel so comfortable in their dead-end streets that they are missing the chance that ‘Stand Up’ represents,” Wagenknecht said.