Two controversial German figures, Sarah Wagenknecht and Alice Schwarzer, released a Peace Manifesto on change.org on February 10, which gathered close to half a million of signatures in less than a week. In essence the manifesto calls for an immediate end to the escalating armament of Ukraine by Germany, a ceasefire and peace negotiations.
Wagenknecht, a member of parliament for die Linke (the left party), is one of the party’s best-known as well as most controversial figures. In the early days, she identified with die Linke’s communist tendency. Over the past few years her populist statements have led far-right party AfD (Alternative for Germany) to urge her to join forces with them. She recently appeared on the front page of the AfD’s monthly magazine Compact, with the headline: “The best chancellor — a candidate for the left and the right.” Her regular YouTube broadcasts are viewed by up to 2 million people.
Wagenknecht released her book, Die Selbstgerechten (The Self-Righteous) in 2021, which illustrates the controversy around her positions. In it, she accuses die Linke of having neglected “ordinary people” in favour of a city-dwelling “academic clientele” — as she refers to activists in urban areas. She laments the party’s preoccupation with issues such as “gender-conscious language and pricey organic products” rather than bread-and-butter issues, such as “fighting low wages”, and blames this for alienating the party’s grassroots working-class support base. She also denounces immigrants and refugees.
In a recent speech to the Bundestag (parliament) Wagenknecht accused the government of damaging German-Russian relations by launching “an unprecedented economic war against our most important energy supplier”, responding to the government’s move away from Russian gas supplies in protest at Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Her speech received support from one section of die Linke and the AfD, while other members of die Linke resigned in protest.
There is now speculation that Wagenknecht will set up a new party. She recently said: “I am still a member of [die Linke], but I see the need for a credible party that stands for peace and social justice.” Spokespeople of the far right have noted that the AfD has little chance of winning elections on its own, but, by joining forces with a Wagenknecht party, millions of disenchanted voters could be mobilised.
Schwarzer is one of Germany’s leading feminists and was the founding editor-in-chief of Emma, one of Germany's first feminist magazines, launched in 1977. Schwarzer is controversial for numerous reasons, including her opposition to the decriminalisation of prostitution — calling for repressive interventions of the state instead. She has promoted anti-Islam and anti-Muslim positions, denying Muslim women the choice of wearing a hijab, arguing that the hijab is always repressive.
The Peace Manifesto’s launch has received critical support on the left, but several weaknesses have been identified with it. Firstly, the document fails to reference the costly militarisation and rearmament of the Bundeswehr (military). Given the lack of funds for education, health and housing this is a major shortcoming. Secondly, the broadness of the manifesto also serves the far-right, leading key AfD figures to publicly sign on to it.
Wagenknecht has responded to these criticisms, saying that support from the AfD was not desired and that national flags and right-wing symbols will not be tolerated at anti-war mobilisations.
Critical support for the document is provided on the basis that the Peace Manifesto is useful in light of the upcoming national mobilisation for peace planned for February 25, since the manifesto includes clear criticism of the escalating spiral of arms deliveries and sanctions.
Some voices in die Linke also argue that lack of support for the manifesto creates a danger that the AfD is perceived as the only party for peace, further bolstering the potential for the creation of a new populist party under Wagenknecht’s leadership.
Wagenknecht and Schwarzer have filled a vacuum created by the failure of the peace movement as well as die Linke to adequately respond to the challenges of Russia’s war on Ukraine. As such it has been suggested to combine the fight against the war with that against inflation.
The following is a translation of the Peace Manifesto:
Today is the 352nd day of the war in Ukraine (February 10, 2023). Over 200,000 soldiers and 50,000 civilians have been killed so far. Women have been raped, children are frightened, and an entire people have been traumatised. If the fighting continues like this, Ukraine will soon be a depopulated, devastated country. And many people across Europe are also afraid of an escalation of the war. They fear for their and their children's future.
The Ukrainian population brutally attacked by Russia needs our solidarity. But how can we demonstrate solidarity now? How much longer will there be fighting and dying on the battlefield of Ukraine? And now, a year later, what is actually the goal of this war? The German Foreign Minister recently said that "we" are waging a "war against Russia". Seriously?
President Zelensky makes no secret of his goal. After the promised tanks, he is now also demanding fighter jets, long-range missiles and warships — to defeat Russia in its entirety? The German chancellor still assures that he does not want to send fighter jets or "ground troops". But how many "red lines" have already been crossed in recent months?
It is to be feared that Putin will launch a maximum counter-attack at least if Crimea is attacked. Will we unstoppably slide towards world war and nuclear war then? It wouldn't be the first major war that started like this. But it might be the last.
Supported by the West, Ukraine can win individual battles. But it cannot win a war against the world's largest nuclear power. That's what the highest military in the United States, General Milley, says. He speaks of a stalemate in which neither side can win militarily and the war can only be ended at the negotiating table. Then, why not now? Immediately!
Negotiating does not mean surrendering. Negotiating means making compromises on both sides. With the aim of preventing hundreds of thousands more deaths and worse. That's what we think too, and that's what half of the German population thinks. It's time to listen to us!
We citizens of Germany cannot directly influence America and Russia or our European neighbours. But we can and must hold our government and the chancellor to account and remind him of his oath: "Avert damage to the German people."
We call on the Chancellor to stop the escalation in arms deliveries. Now! He should lead a strong alliance for a ceasefire and peace negotiations at both German and European level. Now! Because every lost day costs up to 1000 more human lives — and brings us closer to a third World War.