23 Oct 2023, 13:22
Julian Wettengel

Prominent German leftist to launch new party, criticising move away from Russian energy

Clean Energy Wire / Table.Media

Several formerly leading politicians from Germany's Die Linke (The Left) party have split off with the aim to found a new political party in the coming months to enter the EU election campaign 2024, focussing heavily on criticism of the current government’s climate policy and its decision to turn away from cheap Russian energy supply. “We have cut ourselves off from cheap energy through economic sanctions, with no viable alternatives,” said Sahra Wagenknecht, the leading figure in the split, during a press conference which was set up to showcase the direction of the party. On its website, the new group says that Germany should enter into negotiations with Russia on the resumption of gas and oil deliveries. “We also have to get away from blind, haphazard eco-activism, which makes people's lives even more expensive but actually does nothing at all for the climate,” Wagenknecht added, without elaborating further. The group writes on the website that it opposes CO2 prices that "do not have any effect if there are no alternatives" and expensive emissions trading allowances which "drive important industries out of Europe." Punctual, affordable, and attractive local and long-distance transport would be a "much more sensible means of reducing car traffic than making fuel more expensive," it writes. The group also rejects the phase out of new combustion engine cars by 2035, calling for "more fuel-efficient combustion engines and intensive research into climate-friendly fuels instead of destroying 150 years of technological know-how and the basis of our most important industry." Wagenknecht said that the most important contribution Germany could make to international climate protection was the development of “future technologies” for a climate-neutral and nature-friendly economy, but there were “fewer and fewer future technologies made in Germany,” she said.

The split could have severe consequences for the country’s left camp, but the new group also aims to draw voters from other parties, including the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). Media like Reuters said Wagenknecht was about to launch a populist party and added that polls suggest could capture up to 20 percent of the vote. The political scientist Horst Kahrs told Table.Media that the new party is set to act in a polarising way. “The new party, like the AfD, will operate along the lines of the polarisation model of simple people, real life, vast majority versus aloof elites, global corporations, and the super-rich,” he said. The Green Party is likely to be the main adversary, while the new party will campaign “against the supposed destruction of "German industry" as the basis for a functioning national welfare state and for a slowing down of the phase-out of the fossil fuels-based way of production and life,” he told the media service.

Ten MPs today (23 October) quit the Left Party but remain in parliament. The new party could be founded by January 2024 with aim of competing in the European Union elections in June. Wagenknecht said her team was against the transfer of more power to the European Commission – “which is close to the corporate lobbyists and very far away from the citizens” – and would vouch for increased decision-making power in member states. After more than a year of fighting in Ukraine, Europe is still struggling with the consequences of the energy crisis, where high prices put leaders under pressure to shield businesses and households. Cost of living fears often dominate the debate and make climate policy debates tougher. The soon-to-be-founded party is also aiming to compete in three eastern German state elections next year, said Wagenknecht. Populist and far-right parties like the AfD, which have especially seized on people’s fears of change and high prices, poll very high in the region.

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