Citing widespread dissatisfaction with inequality and a government reticent to take effective action against it, the leader of the German movement Aufstehen ("Get Up") said Wednesday that the world can expect major protests in the country in 2019, inspired by the recent Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vest, protests in France.
Sahra Wagenknecht, a member of parliament representing the left-wing Die Linke party and a leader of Aufstehen—which has also been translated to "Stand Up" and "Rise Up"—told a foreign press association that the group's 170,000 members have looked to the Yellow Vests as an example of direct action that has had a tangible effect on policies affecting working people.
"We have big plans for next year, not least because we recognize when people go on to the streets to protest—especially those who have not had a political voice for many years who rediscover their voice by protesting—then political change can happen." —Sahra Wagenknecht, Aufstehen"We have big plans for next year, not least because we recognize when people go on to the streets to protest—especially those who have not had a political voice for many years who rediscover their voice by protesting—then political change can happen," Wagenknecht said. "This is what we're seeing in France right now."
In protests that began in French rural areas in November and are still continuing, the Yellow Vests expressed outrage over President Emmanuel Macron's fuel tax, which was ostensibly meant to curb carbon emissions but had an outsized effect on commuters who had to pay more for gas—while wealthier people in cities were largely shielded from the tax. The government's "wealth tax," which slashed the taxes of the wealthiest families by 70 percent, was also among the economic inequalities with which the Yellow Vests have expressed frustration.
The protests have forced Macron to raise the minimum wage as well as suspend the fuel tax, with one economist lauding the movement for "shaking" the system.
Also inspired by the message of the progressive grassroots Momentum movement in the U.K., Wagenknecht plans to use the impossible-to-ignore tactics of the Yellow Vests to force Germany's government to correct its weakened social welfare system and an economic system in which 40 percent of Germans earn less than they did two decades ago, as well as offer a counter-narrative to that of the country's racist, anti-immigration far-right.
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"We also need resistance to the politics of the rich in Germany," Wagenknecht said in a Christmas Eve message posted on Twitter. "Next year, let us put pressure on our country to be socially designed."
"We want something new: no party, but a movement for all who want to fight together for our goals," reads the movement's mission statement, which also lists secure jobs, affordable rents, climate action, and "true democracy without the superiority of banks, corporations and lobbyists" as its objectives.
"We will be visible on the street and in the public eye in 2019," fighting for those goals, Wagenknecht told the press.
Wagenknecht stressed that Aufstehen is intent on advocating for change outside Germany's major political parties, uniting Die Linke with other left-wing groups including the Green Party and the Social Democrats (SPD) to build on one another's strengths and work together for common social justice goals.
"It is of importance to us to remain above party politics and I believe that for many people who are becoming involved with us, this is part of our charm, as well as of the movements in France and the U.K.—that they don't have to fall in line within a rigid party structure," Wagenknecht said.