BSW: the sensible alternative to Alternative for Germany
by Ricardo Nuno Costa on 23 Jun 2024 0 Comment

The elections on 9 June show us a new political landscape, with two anti-war formations making up almost half of the electorate in Eastern Germany. Thuringia will elect a new state government and parliament in September, as will two other eastern states, Saxony and Brandenburg. On 9 June, the AfD won 30.7 per cent of the vote in the state’s European Parliament (EP) elections. These figures would give the AfD the chance to form a government with the CDU (24.7 per cent) if the trend continues and the Christian Democrats break their promise not to form an alliance with the far right.


Thuringia is currently governed by a left-wing coalition led by the post-communist Die Linke with the SPD and the Greens. The three parties suffered a sharp downturn last week and together now have less than 19 per cent of the vote.


Also from Thuringia is Sahra Wagenknecht, who made a breakthrough in the European elections with her new party “Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht – Sense and Justice” (BSW), winning 6% nationwide and electing 6 MEPs. In her home state, the former Die Linke MP won 15 per cent (also the average for the new formation in the six states of the former GDR), taking 8.1 per cent of the vote from Die Linke, which fell from 13.8 per cent to 5.7 per cent.


Thuringia’s state premier Bodo Ramelow, who is already facing the exit door from the state government in September, accused the BSW of undermining basic democratic principles. “With the organisation centred on one person, party democracy is being reduced to absurdity,” the Die Linke politician complained in Stern magazine.


Sahra, a career begun in the GDR


Wagenknecht’s career in Die Linke is long and goes back to her militancy as a young communist in the GDR. A member of the Bundestag since 2009, she gradually distanced herself from the party’s orthodox line until she finally broke with it over the issue of Covid-19, when the party supported the restrictive anti-pandemic measures of first the Merkel government and then Scholz.


Immigration had already been a point of friction between the parliamentary group and Wagenknecht since at least the refugee crisis of 2015-16, with the MP taking a radical stance against the open-door policy of Merkel and the other parties, except the AfD. Since then, she has had problems with the leadership of the group, until she left in January this year, taking 10 of Die Linke’s 38 MPs with her to form a new parliamentary group.


In her book “Die Selbstgerechten: Mein Gegenprogramm – für Gemeinsinn und Zusammenhalt” (Campus Verlag, 2021), something like “The self-righteous: My Counterprogram for Community and Cohesion”, Wagenknecht, who holds a degree in Philosophy and a doctorate in Economics, delivered a fierce critique of the liberal political class, including the intellectual left. It was a book that went down very badly among activists and especially among the leadership of Die Linke.


“Urban, diverse, cosmopolitan, individualistic – for many today the left is primarily a lifestyle issue. Policies for social cohesion have fallen by the wayside, along with low-income women, poor immigrant children, exploited temporary workers and large sections of the middle class. Whether in the US or Europe, those who focus on gender stars instead of equal opportunities and neglect the culture and sense of belonging of the majority of the population are playing into the hands of the political right,” says the book’s introduction.


Neither left nor right


Five months after its creation, the new party doesn’t want to be identified with either the left or the right because it has characteristics that cross both. It defends the state and social justice, guaranteed pensions, public education and healthcare, affordable housing, SMEs, but also individual freedoms, which have been seriously threatened since the pandemic. Wagenknecht appeals to ordinary citizens who feel threatened by the dismantling of the state, by the import of cheap labour, by green deindustrialisation, by the lack of energy, which they have become accustomed to buying from Russia, by the social injustice increasingly represented by neoliberalism, lobbyism and a warmongering that now threatens a war with unpredictable consequences.


Against the warmongering of the traffic light government


On the subject of international politics, Sahra Wagenknecht has said from the outset that there is only one way out of the Ukraine problem, and that is diplomacy. The BSW wants Berlin to play a stronger geopolitical role and take the initiative in mediating this and other conflicts, instead of being dragged down by the warmongering of NATO, which is so well represented in the current “traffic light coalition” government.


In February 2023, Wagenknecht and veteran journalist and publicist Alice Schwarzer launched the Manifesto for Peace, which was signed by dozens of German public figures from various sectors and petitioned by almost a million citizens, bringing the peace movement onto the streets of Berlin for the first time in years, in a major demonstration against the arms drift the country is slipping into.


Last week, during Zelensky’s visit to the Bundestag to ask for more money and weapons, BSW lawmakers were absent, as were AfD members on the other side of the chamber. The BSW accuses the Scholz government’s policy of “fuelling a highly dangerous spiral of escalation”. MP Sevim Dagdelen told AFP that “by not attending, we are also sending a signal of solidarity to all Ukrainians who want an immediate ceasefire and a negotiated solution instead of being forcibly recruited by President Zelensky as cannon fodder for an unwinnable war”.


Local, state and federal elections


The possibility of new coalitions at both local and state level, with an eye to the 2025 federal elections, is another interesting topic for a party that claims to be ideologically transversal. The BSW (like the AfD) also won the local elections on 9 September in several municipalities in the east, with even better results than those of the EP. However, both parties won’t be able to fill some of the seats they won because they simply don’t have the candidates. The seats remain vacant until the next elections in five years’ time, and the votes are lost.


Shortly before the EP elections, the leader of the CDU, Friedrich Merz, said on ARD: “It’s absolutely clear, we’ve always said it: We don’t cooperate with far-right and far-left parties”. He was referring to the AfD and Die Linke, but added that the BSW was “far right on some issues and far left on others”, thus also ruling out any possible alliances with the new party.


Following the electoral success of both the AfD and the BSW in the east of the country, the CDU leader reversed himself and admitted that he was open to working with the BSW. “We will have to see what constellations emerge” in the September state elections in the east of the country, he said. The CDU and the BSW are at the poles of social and economic, geopolitical and ideological models. They have almost nothing in common, but Merz likes the idea of corrupting the BSW in order to win another state in the east of the country.


Despite some common ground with the AfD, particularly on the war in Ukraine and relations with Russia, it would be premature to talk about possible alliances. It’s unlikely that the lists together would win a majority in Thuringia or Saxony, but they could come close. This possibility cannot be ruled out in other eastern states in the future.


However, there are clear ideological differences between the two programmes. In a recent tweet, Maximilian Krah, still the AfD’s leader in the EP and a native of Saxony, charged that “the welfare state of Wagenknecht & Co. leads to a redistribution from Germans to immigrants, which patriotic solidarity avoids without being radical. The AfD will defend its concept offensively and oppose Wagenknecht”.


Ricardo Nuno Costa ? geopolitical expert, writer, columnist, and editor-in-chief of, especially for New Eastern Outlook. Courtesy


User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top