#StandUp, the new “broad movement” initiated by Sahra Wagenknecht and Oskar Lafontaine (both leading members of the German Die Linke — The Left — party), will have its public launch on 4 September.
To date, #StandUp has existed only as a webpage, a Facebook page, a Twitter account and an e-mail address list. But, boast Wagenknecht and Lafontaine, some 85,000 people have already signed up to the initiative.
That’s greater than the total membership of Die Linke itself. But what people have signed up to remains as unclear as is the level of commitment expressed in clicking a box to receive a weekly e-mail.
The #StandUp website now carries a number of questions, such as: what is #StandUp, how do we want to #StandUp, and what do we want to #StandUp for? But the answers provide little by way of clarity:
“Standing up comes after waking up. We must stand up to change this country. A majority of the population want social policies, a healthy environment and peace. But the interests of the majority do not have a majority in Parliament. In spite of elections. …
“We can take our destiny in our own hands — in Germany as well. This has been demonstrated by the movements around Bernie Sanders (USA) and Jeremy Corbyn (Great Britain), and by the new social movements in France, Spain, Portugal and Greece. …
“We want to conquer the internet and the street. We want to shake up politics with popular campaigns. Everybody can join in! ...We want to change the way politics is done, in order work out together a perspective for justice and peace. …
“To achieve that we want to exploit to the full the possibilities of digital technologies for democratic decision-making, in order to use all our creativity and ideas for #StandUp.”
Membership of #StandUp will also be free-of-charge.
One of #StandUp’s proclaimed goals is to pressurise established political parties to adopt and implement its political demands.
But despite its 85,000 sign-ups, there is no sign of #StandUp have a sizeable base of support in the SPD, Greens or Die Linke. Only isolated members and former MPs have spoken up in support of #StandUp.
Although the politics of this broad movement are unclear — according to Wagenknecht and Lafontaine, they will emerge from online interactions with its supporters — what is known of its general politics already acts as a repellent to sections of the left.
Wagenknecht and Lafontaine have a track record of attacks on migrant labour (cheap labour for the bosses, more competition for workers) and refugees (too many of them). This alienates Greens and Die Linke, which reaffirmed a policy of open borders at its last conference.
Their concern to promote “peace” translates into a less-than-critical attitude towards Putin, especially in relation to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and support for separatists in Eastern Ukraine. There is a market for this politics in Die Linke, but not in the SPD.
The positive coverage given to #StandUp by the German channel of the Russian state-run television station RT has further strengthened hostility to the #StandUp version of improved relations with Russia.
A draft of a programme for #StandUp also flirted with identity politics (“… maintaining cultural independence and respect for tradition and identity …”), anathema to general left-wing politics in Germany, and seen, justifiably, as a political shift onto the terrain of the far-right AfD.
In fact, the general political basis of #StandUp can fairly be described as a variation of Blue Labour: left-wing politics are too concerned at present with middle-class fads and should instead focus on working-class bread and butter issues.
According to the dramatist Bernd Stegemann — whose writings, it now turns out, provided the inspiration for Wagenknecht’s decision to launch #StandUp — the left is dominated by “a well-meaning bourgeois class” obsessed with “a bio-political perfecting of everyday life and the linguistic rules of political correctness.”
According to the actor Sebastian Schwarz, another #StandUp supporter, “social questions must return to the centre of attention and decadent political correctness be driven back.” What is needed are “policies which have an exclusively urban focus.”
But this dismissal of left-wing politics as just so many middle class fads is hardly consistent with the composition of the 40 “prominent supporters” whose names will be announced at next week’s public launch (i.e. a press conference involving Wagenknecht and a couple of others):
“The majority of our currently forty-plus prominent founding members do not have a background in politics. They are actors, singers, writers, scientists, cabaret performers and people from the world of theatre.”