Sahra Wagenknecht and her historical revisionism

In parts of the left, there has long been a certain tendency to defend Kremlin policy. Russia's invasion of Ukraine to simply conquer it had then shown the ugly face of the Kremlin regime in a clarity that had at least made this understanding of Putin no longer openly possible. But after a year of Russian war of conquest against the Ukrainian civilian population and intensified repression of the Russian population, politicians like Sahra Wagenknecht are promoting a renaissance of understanding Putin.

I still remember when Gregor Gysi immediately said in February 2022 that he was "bitterly disappointed by this move on Putin's part". Everything he had said so far about Russia had "died on the day that a war in violation of international law begins."[1] At the time, Sahra Wagenknecht, too, could only evade the question of whether Putin was a war criminal by shifting the focus from him to the war, but at least saying that the belligerent incursion was a crime. Or she saw herself obliged to say that then, however, other war criminals:inside were too.[2] But slowly Wagenknecht and consorts are crawling back again. I think these parts of the left are much more dangerous for the Ukrainian resistance, at least in Western Europe, than those parts of the left that have never moved away from seeing the Kremlin regime fundamentally as a victim.

Is the Kremlin master becoming presentable again?

Certain left-wing opinion makers who showed clear solidarity with the Ukrainian resistance at the beginning of the Russian invasion are now falling back into the old reflexes and relativising criticism of the Kremlin and its foreign policy. And that has a system!

I explain the relapse into these old patterns and defensive reflexes by the fact that the immediate and deep shock of the fact that, even in the current post-war order, a European state simply invaded another European state is slowly fading. Moreover, certain thought patterns and interpretative schemes had never quite lost credibility among certain leftists deep down. The humanitarian catastrophe that the Kremlin regime so deliberately brought upon Ukraine appealed to human compassion, and many Putin sympathisers felt an affinity with the Ukrainians in their being under attack. Ultimately, however, parts of the left were incapable of thinking in a new and multidimensional way about the interaction between NATO's eastward enlargement, Russia's aggressive expansionist policy, the real fear of eastern and central European populations of Russia, and the independent identities, interests and perspectives of eastern and central European populations (in comparison to those of NATO or the USA). There was still only one level of interpretation, according to which the real aggressor was NATO, which wanted to surround Russia in Eastern and East-Central Europe.

In the process, certain opinion makers, activists and politicians like Wagenknecht consciously and strategically shape discourses: the limits of what can be said are to be exhausted step by step in order to gradually make views acceptable again to the outside world and to close the dissonances in self-image internally.

The fairy tale of the conciliatory Russia and the warmongering West

On 8.02.2023 Wagenknecht was a guest on Sandra Maischberger on the occasion of the German promise to send leopard tanks to Ukraine. In three key points, she gave a good insight into what is to become sayable again.

Many of Wagenknecht's arguments play off an early end to the war against the benefits of Ukrainian resistance. For example, Wagenknecht said on Maischberger that negotiations do not equal capitulation, which in principle she is right about. Except when it refers to the attitude of militant resistance towards a peace-unwilling rabble-rouser. For Wagenknecht sweeps the expansionist motives behind Russia's incursion under the carpet and, in a historical revisionist manner, portrays the Kremlin regime as willing to make peace and sympathetic to Ukraine, while the West is the factor keeping the violent conflict alive. The fact is, however, that everything could be over immediately if the Kremlin were to stop its war activities and withdraw its troops.

Wagenknecht spoke on Maischberger about this - and repeated the same statement again on Markus Lanz on 23 February 2023[3], despite the factual correction that has been published in the meantime - that one should not simply see Russia as the imperialist. After all, it was the West that had let viable peace negotiations fall through. For in the spring of 2022, Russia was still "prepared to make considerable concessions". Indeed, Wagenknecht claims, citing former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, that there had already been a "negotiated peace deal" between Ukraine and Russia in the spring of 2022, but that Ukraine had "abandoned the peace deal, which was said to have been within reach", ultimately due to pressure from the West.[4] However, it is important to get the picture here.

Here, however, it is important to get a picture of what the Russian or Ukrainian willingness to make peace, their motives and the appropriateness of their respective behaviour actually looked like. To this end, it is important to keep in mind that in addition to the peace talks in which Bennett had acted as a mediator, which only became public after the fact, official peace talks were also underway under the aegis of the two foreign ministers, Sergei Lavrov and Dmytro Kuleba.[5] In fact, Bennett was appointed by Vladimir Putin as a mediator.

In fact, Bennett had been invited by Vladimir Putin to fly to Moscow on 5 March. In coordination with France, the UK, Germany and the US, Bennett sought personal contact with Putin to mediate between Ukraine and Russia. Some time later, Bennett gave an interview to the Israeli journalist Hanoch Daum, where Bennett told of his role in the negotiations with the Kremlin and Ukraine - the source to which Wagenknecht refers. There, however, Bennett spoke of talks around peace negotiations in the process, but by no means of a negotiated peace agreement or ceasefire. Afterwards, Bennett would make it even more explicit via Twitter that he was neither sure whether the negotiations could have succeeded, nor whether he thought it would make any sense at all.

In the interview with Daum, Bennett described the positions of the individual Western allies. In the case of France and Germany, he saw a position where acute survival was weighed pragmatically against the advantages of repelling Russia, and an immediate peace agreement was desirable in principle; Britain found a continuation of the war against the criminal intentions of the Kremlin regime more appropriate, while the USA would look to Ukraine and agreed with both options. In fact, Bennett also said that the US had ultimately but in principle blocked the peace talks in which he was involved. There was, however, no mention of an actual intervention to finally end the negotiations. It would also be hard to imagine a third country vetoing peace negotiations.

However, as mentioned at the beginning - and Bennett would say this himself in his interview with Daum - the peace talks with Russia were anything but over with this, but continued in parallel in Istanbul. A real end to all negotiations was not announced by the Western allies, but by Ukraine itself. And above all, not at the behest of the West, but because of the Kremlin's unwillingness to provide sufficient security guarantees (against a renewed or continued Russian attack), and because the systematic massacres in Butcha, Irpin and Hostomel became known. [Experts are also convinced that it was the Russian crimes against humanity against civilians as well as unarmed and tied-up military personnel that put an end to Ukraine's willingness to compromise.

One must also consider the actual behaviour of the 'peaceable' Russian Federation during the peace negotiations: When the encirclement battle raged around the Azov steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine extended its conditions in the peace negotiations - actually understandable for peace activists - to include the demand for a humanitarian corridor for the encircled Ukrainian soldiers and civilians. Russia refused and stormed the site on 16 May.[8]

Wagenknecht had still simply suppressed this on Maischberger. And even after several media formats had published fact checks on this[9], she did not even use her appearance on Markus Lanz to try to escape. Wagenknecht let it shine through unbroken that she remains of the opinion that it was rather the outward journey of former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that had dissuaded Ukraine from trusting the Kremlin regime's will for peace. Under all circumstances, Wagenknecht said, "war crimes are no reason to continue a war". Rather, they are "one more reason to end a war".[10] However, this argumentation is naïve at best.

Imagine the Russian Federation conquering parts of Ukraine and carrying out a Russification (besides the banishment of the Ukrainian language, for example). 11]) and replacement of the regime, as the Kremlin slogans openly proclaim as their goal, or even a purge to suppress positions hostile to the Kremlin, as was attempted in the suburbs of Kyiv and Sumy. Under the cover and legal protection of the alleged sovereignty of puppet governments aligned with the Kremlin (see below) in the Russian-occupied territory of Ukraine, the Kremlin regime could brutally repress, intern, torture, deport, kill its new subjects. And the international community could hardly do anything about it, because Russia would always say that this is its own territory. And because Russia could successfully deny that human rights violations were taking place, due to the controlled leakage of information from areas that the Kremlin then effectively controls itself.

The broad concessions on Russia's part, which Wagenknecht enthused about, should not be left uncommented at this point. In the aforementioned interview with Daum, Bennett spoke of substantial concessions, but as concrete examples he only mentioned that Vladimir Putin, under the impression of the massive withdrawal forced on the Russian troops at the time, had agreed to renounce the demilitarisation of Ukraine and the killing of Selensky.[12] We are therefore dealing with a regime that still has to weigh up not to kill the head of government of another country, depending on how opportune that is.

In the same direction, the Kremlin regime is now making further territorial claims to Kherson and Zaporizhia a condition for being able to enter into peace negotiations again.[13] In what logic can more territorial claims - as if land takeovers were not already unpeaceful per se - as a reaction to failed peace negotiations be reconciled with a willingness to make peace? This is the typical explanation of a type of thug who seeks to blame the victim when he strikes again. And this strongly suggests that for the Kremlin regime, even peace negotiations offer an opportune opportunity to enforce its strategic advantages for its imperialist policy.

The interaction between the extent of territorial concessions the Kremlin regime demands from Ukraine for peace and the respective success of Russian offensives suggests that the Russian Federation has not secretly moved away from its original wartime goal of conquering Kyiv. Territorial concessions to the Russian Federation to facilitate peace could thus be, from the Kremlin regime's point of view, a kind of temporary tactical retreat to prepare future offensives against the whole of Ukraine from Russian-occupied territories. It is therefore downright negligent to simply take at face value the Kremlin regime's claims that it is ready for peace. Wagenknecht's positions, and her ambitions for a peace movement in general, accordingly prove to be extremely naive.

Wagenknecht's half-falsities, however, are extremely revealing of her fundamental position: in principle, she tells us that the USA had pushed Ukraine and that it had subsequently dropped the negotiated ceasefire. What is meant to be expressed between the lines is equally clear: Ukraine has had enough of war, but the West is instrumentalising it against its will for peace. Russia is, in some way, just as willing to make peace. Ukraine and Russia could actually be brother nations again, if only it weren't for the West. Because if Ukraine is suffering from something, it is its own resistance that is being imposed on it.

Nevertheless, it remains correct to say that negotiations do not equal capitulation and that peace initiatives must continue to be launched. However, in order to ensure that negotiations do not lead to Ukrainian surrender sooner or later, given the Kremlin regime's continued unwillingness to expand in the face of peace, we must move away from this absolute dichotomy. It is not simply an either-or of self-defence or negotiations. During the negotiations in the spring, the Russian Federation refrained from suspending its hostilities and then massively escalated the attack again. Peace initiatives cannot be conditioned by a halt in arms or ammunition deliveries.

Blurring the difference between aggressor and victim

Another argument that Wagenknecht likes to use is the democratic deficits in Ukraine. Wagenknecht considers the idea that in Ukraine "freedom and democracy are being defended" and that there "democracy is fighting autocracy" to be false.[14] In fact, however, she is mixing up two things here: freedom through constitutional civil rights and guaranteed rule of law, and freedom through national self-rule. It is true that she is right in saying that Ukraine is only a hybrid system[15] or a so-called defective democracy[16] - whereas Russia would still be an authoritarian regime[17]or a moderate autocracy[18] by the same standards. Only this remark misses the point, especially as far as the legitimacy of the Ukrainian resistance is concerned. Wagenknecht deliberately blurs the two freedoms mentioned above. She pointedly steers the issue into a subject area which, although not related to the question of war guilt, is where the difference in fairness between Russia and Ukraine can be blurred.

But the question of the legitimacy of the (armed) Ukrainian resistance is not about the nature of the Ukrainian state system. One dimension of freedom is respect for territorial integrity and national sovereignty. This freedom means avoiding foreign domination by masters who are far more autocratic at home and whose military does not shy away from crimes against humanity on foreign territory. It is about defending self-determination as a state and/or population, which protects against death and torture and is a prerequisite for initiating a democratisation process at home.

Wagenknecht uses the same blurring of the distinction between perpetrator and victim when she speaks of a war between "Russian oligarch capitalism against Ukrainian oligarch capitalism"[19]. In terms of content, it is immediately clear what is intended by this rhetorical equation. By speaking of Ukraine's lack of democratic guarantees vis-à-vis its own population in the context of the question of the legitimacy of Russia's resistance or peacemaking, it is blurred that the corrupt system of Russian oligarch:domestic capitalism led to the war. But the (less[20]) corrupt system of the Ukrainian oligarch:inner system did not! Wagenknecht is essentially equating the reason why Ukraine "never even became a candidate for the EU" with the reason why Russia invaded a country.[21]

Relativising the Kremlin's policy

Sahra Wagenknecht and the Russian Liberator

The most dangerous aim of Wagenknecht's arguments is probably to relativise Kremlin policy. It is obvious that Wagenknecht refers to the "prehistory" of the war.[22] What prehistory? In an earlier interview with Maischberger from 2022, Wagenknecht, when confronted with the rapes by Russian troops and the executions in Butscha and Irpin recognised as genocidal by some Western parliaments, the mass deportations and the mass graves in Mariupol, could only resort to the weapon of whataboutism, to countering arguments with counter-accusations. According to her, in the war in the Donbass since 2014, the UN had complained that human rights violations had also been committed by Ukrainian troops. Wagenknecht is right here, of course. However, it is strange that she does not take into account the historically exceptional scope of Russian human rights violations through the Russian war of aggression since February 2022. Wagenknecht does not even specifically acknowledge the war crimes of the Russian Federation per se, but directly and unhesitatingly contrasts them with war crimes committed by Ukrainian military forces between 2014 and 2021.[23] But how is this supposed to make Russia's actions more comprehensible? Despite the Ukrainian human rights violations in the Donbass between 2014 and 2021, this still does not explain or relativise Russia's current role in the Donbass.

All the less so as the Kremlin regime is actively escalating the frozen conflict in the Donbass again, for example by dropping bombs with fragmentation charges on civilians at the Bachmuter railway station.[24]

Unlike Wagenknecht, the Kremlin's official position is clear and explicit: Russia is liberating the people of the Donbass from genocide by the Nazi government in Kyiv. A little spoiler before we get to said backstory. International organisations such as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) do not see genocide on the part of the Ukrainians in the Donbass. However, this is not to absolve the Ukrainian army and government of human rights violations committed on both sides.[25]

After the eight-year war, which has claimed 3,404 civilian victims and human rights violations by both sides - the Ukrainian army as well as the pro-Russian separatists and the Russian military illegally present on Ukrainian territory - it is time to take the people of the Donbas seriously.[26]But this also means taking the role and actions of the Russian Federation seriously, as well as the Kremlin's motivation behind them.

Here it is particularly striking that Russia did not initially insist on the integration of the Donbas into the Russian Federation, unlike with Crimea. The Minsk agreements envisaged a settlement of the violent conflict through the reintegration of the Donbass into Ukraine. Minsk I and II had come about in a situation when the Ukrainian government had suffered heavy defeats in the Donbass. It was thus the Kremlin that had enormous leverage in shaping the Minsk agreements, arranging that Ukraine would thereby be obliged to amend its constitution to allow for greater federalisation in exchange for Luhansk and Donetsk, granting both oblasts special administrative status and 'reintegrating' them on the basis of that. (In the end, the agreements were repeatedly broken by both sides.) At first glance, it seems very unusual that the Kremlin regime insisted on reintegrating the Donbass into Ukraine after the annexation of Crimea. In fact, the Kremlin thus wanted to consolidate at the level of inter-state treaties what illegal Russian troops had already achieved on the military ground of the Donbass: a Russian bridge-tongue into Ukrainian domestic politics to exert pressure or influence. Meanwhile, the disappointment of the separatist:inside leaders at not being incorporated into the Russian Federation did not matter to the Kremlin.[27]

The Kremlin had no qualms about instrumentalising the political-cultural situation of the Donbas population as a population caught between two stools. This is shown by a critical appraisal of the narrative with which the Kremlin clique has distinguished itself in the Russian domestic sphere, and which has justified the invasion of Ukraine since 24 February 2021. In reality, the Russian Federation is anything but the liberator of the Donbas populations, which has been fighting for the disenfranchised Russian speakers in the Donbas since 2014.

The governments of the so-called 'people's republics' in Donetsk and Luhansk were authoritarian regimes as of 2020 and 2021, which came about through electoral fraud and where genuine political competition was systematically excluded. The situation was similar with the respective legislatures. In Luhansk, the party Peace for Luhansk, which dominates parliament, was confirmed in 2018 through rigged elections with 74.1% of the vote. Apart from that, only the so-called Luhansk Economic Union sat in parliament. The same - spectacle, it must be said - took place in Donetsk, where the Donetsk Republic Movement was also able to consolidate its dominance with over 72.5 % of the vote and only had to share parliamentary seats with the Free Donbass party. Both small parties are bloc parties, which means that there was no opposition in the official decision-making structures. Both supposed people's republics were therefore sham two-party systems, where officially two parties were elected, but de facto they represented the same point of view. Other political organisations were effectively banned, even pro-Russian ones like the Communist Party. Pro-Russian bloggers and media workers who criticised the autocratic parties acted anonymously for fear of being arrested.

Civil interest groups were incorporated into the state apparatus and independent civil society organisation was not possible. Trade union structures had been converted to mobilise workers for the state apparatus instead of protecting them against the state and companies. Since 2014, no demonstrations were allowed. Spontaneous outbursts like the 2020 mine protests were actively suppressed. There was also no free press. All media outlets were in the hands of the separatist leaders and de facto constituted a kind of position journalism that spent a lot of space on statements and information from domestic and Russian authorities.

In any case, the question arises as to how much was decided in the autocratic parties of the Donbass. Strategic points in the infrastructure (education, economy, public service) were staffed with people who were in bondage to the approved parties. What stands out is how key positions were filled directly by Russian citizens. Donbas state organs often made very similar decisions to their Russian counterparts in a timely manner, without any decision-making process of their own, which strongly suggests that concrete policies were pre-established in Russia. A central role in enforcing the rule of the official separatist parties was played by the secret services, which were controlled by the Russian FSB. Not only were the sham democratic states based on the model of the Russian Federation, but they were also brought into line with the Russian secret service circle around the Kremlin.[28] The Russian secret service was the main force behind the separatist parties.

There is no question that the people of Donbas must be taken seriously. Genuine democratic referendums, organised and monitored by a UN-mandated committee, for example, can help the Donbas achieve self-determination. But a Russian Federation for which the Donbass is nothing more than an outpost for the expansion of the Russian sphere of influence is not liberation! The Kremlin has not liberated the Donbass, but has made of it what it makes of all populations along the Russian periphery: anti-democratic vassal states that are allowed to bleed for the Kremlin's own interests (e.g. under Russian bombs). The past history in the Donbass is therefore very important for the people of the Donbas, but it must not be instrumentalised to relativise Russian foreign policy.

Sahra Wagenknecht and the Russian oppressor

The second mainstay of Russian propaganda, the second major ideologem in the Kremlin regime's self-representation, is being under attack. And here, too, Wagenknecht stretches the limits of what can be said in order to make the claim acceptable that the imperialist warmonger is in fact the oppressed of an imperialism.

In the political talk show hartaberfair on 27 February 2023, Wagenknecht revealed that she remains dangerously close to statements that the real aggressor is the West, which has put the Russian Federation on the defensive. Admittedly, in muted and innocuously ambivalent language. But the tendencies are clearly discernible. Wagenknecht spoke of the fact that the Kremlin's nationalist-imperalist rhetoric does not follow any independent logic. That the war was not also substantially driven by Great Russian chauvinism. Instead, she suggested that the nationalist-imperalist language was rather a propagandistically efficient tool to support the Kremlin's real goal: Preventing Ukraine from becoming a US military outpost located directly on Russia's western border.

Conversely, Wagenknecht was implying that the Russian Federation would leave a geopolitically neutral Ukraine, which is economically and politically oriented towards the West, alone. After all, the Kremlin could have no other interest besides its own geopolitical security in attacking Ukraine.[29]

Two days earlier, at her peace demonstration in front of the Brandenburg Gate, she even joined US economist and economics professor Jeffrey Sachs live to give prominent voice to the claim that the fall of Viktor Yanukovych and Ukraine's orientation towards the West was nothing more than a consequence of a geopolitical coup by the US in 2013/14. The USA had deliberately escalated small protests to overthrow the government. Sahra Wagenknecht is thus no longer far from explicitly distancing herself from the fact that it was actually the Russian Federation that was threatened and that the Dignity Revolution was merely a US staging; part of a Western plot to bring Ukraine into the American sphere of influence and set it up against the Russian Federation. That this happened in the context of such a mass event as the Uprising for Peace, which was open to all sides of the political spectrum, shows Wagenknecht wants to make Putin understanding an ancestral position in public discourse again.[30]

What needs to be understood about Putin's understanding

There are only three motives at all in which the rebuttal with the antecedents in the Donbass to the question of the aggressor in connection with the Russian war of aggression would make sense: 1.) the Russian Federation is really a liberator, 2.) Ukrainian presence on certain territories that formally belong to Ukraine constitutes a legitimate provocation of Russian integrity, or 3.) one would like to use a counter-accusation to deflect from justified criticism of the Kremlin regime's expansionist policy (whataboutism). The first two motives would directly affirm elements of the Kremlin doctrine, the latter indirectly if necessary.

Similarly motivated is the one-dimensional perception of the Russian war of aggression as a geopolitical confrontation between the USA and the Russian Federation. By reducing the Ukrainian populations to a military outpost, i.e. by negating the independent interests, the actual and threatened historically grown territorial and cultural identities of the resident people, the dimension of self-determination can be faded out. The perpetrator-victim relationship can then be reversed. A Russian Federation that since 2013 has responded to all efforts by people on non-Russian territory to defend themselves against foreign domination by annexation or the illegal presence of its own military does not fit into the narrative of the oppressed. That is why independent populations become identity-less satellites. Only in this way can popular movements or resistances that stand in the way of the preferred narrative become covert coups that threaten the Russian Federation.

Advocacy for Putin: A handout to the right or useful groundwork for the right?

There is another direction in which Wagenknecht's advances go. Under the motto "Uprising for Peace", Wagenknecht organised a demonstration in Berlin on 25 February 2023 to mark the sad anniversary of the Russian invasion, which violated international law and was inhumane. There, Wagenknecht and the bourgeois feminist Alice Schwarzer called for an end to the supply of weapons to the Ukrainian resistance and for negotiations with the Russian war-monger in front of well over 13,000 people - organisers speak of up to 50,000. Two things stood out.

Firstly, in a kind of naïve pseudo-pacifism, Wagenknecht and Schwarzer called for "an end to the terrible suffering and death in Ukraine". For the Ukrainians, too, would be much more helped, at least in life and limb, by a cessation of fighting of whatever kind.[31] In its practical effect, however, the implementation of the demands would have quite different consequences: An abandonment of Ukrainian resistance would most likely result in a puppet government under Putin's nationalist-chauvinist ideology, which would threaten Ukrainian life far more systematically and permanently and undermine self-reliance as a Ukrainian nation. If Ukraine were to rely on the Kremlin's readiness for peace, this would be strategically very convenient for the Kremlin ruler, who had only exploited the West's previous appeasement strategy since 2014 to prepare future steps of infiltration and conquest in the Donbass and, since 2022, in the whole of Ukraine.

Secondly - and this should particularly give us food for thought: Wagenknecht's demonstration for peace also fell short of her usual red line and refrained from explicitly distancing herself from certain participants in advance. Right-wingers could also come, because "everyone is welcome". Only "right-wing extremist flags or symbols" should please stay at home.[32] The Saxon AfD state chair Jörg Urban promptly joined the rally.[33] This Wagenknechtian openness also corresponds to the fact that AfD members such as Tino Chrupalla, after all co-leader of the party, had also signed her manifesto.[34] Wagenknecht's manifesto was not a signatory.

Admittedly, an actual cross-front looks different. After all, Wagenknecht is not looking to join forces with right-wing or even extreme right-wing activists, politicians or opinion leaders in order to establish a common coordination or even a leadership committee. Therefore, it is much more likely that they will try to lease the peace movement for themselves with a naïve pacifism and thus mobilise as many people as possible. Precisely also people who vote right out of frustration or are even regulars in the right-wing pool.

In this context, it is also noticeable that Wagenknecht, who always likes to present herself as a class fighter, represents an anti-capitalism that is not so dissimilar to that of the right. Thus, it does not seem to matter to Wagenknecht - in her own publications, by the way - that our social structure is based on the fact that there is a fundamental clash of interests between those who own the means of production and those who have to sell their labour power there. In her book "Freedom Instead of Capitalism", Wagenknecht substitutes a perspective where the economy becomes a public affair, democratically planned and run by the population as a whole (i.e. the abolition of said class antagonism), with a very peculiar vision of "creative socialism". She enthuses about a mixed economy where private enterprises are subjected to state-controlled framework conditions in order to create a balance between a competitive market economy on the one hand and sustainability and social goals on the other. She thus dreams of a socially oriented ordo-capitalism. For this, Wagenknecht even refers to the CDU politician and economist Ludwig Erhard, who is considered the intellectual father of the social market economy, but without fundamentally criticising his social design. On the contrary, she suggests that her "creative socialism", about which she otherwise has little concrete to say, is more capable of fulfilling Erhard's premises than liberal capitalism.[35]

It is true that Wagenknecht distinguishes herself from the AfD, whose policies betray a tendency to dismantle welfare state redistribution and a radical market orientation.[36] What Wagenknecht has in common with the AfD, however, is the lack of internationalism in solidarity: for the geopolitical power of despots, international solidarity with struggles for self-determination and the ecological question are interrelated. Wagenknecht remains right that the traffic lights and the other European governments should not look for substitute gas from the human rights-abusing and undemocratic regimes in Azerbaijan and Qatar. However, their proposal to go back to Russian gas is exactly the same proposal in the opposite direction. The only way to free ourselves from the extortionist clutches of autocratic regimes that demand a foreign policy of appeasement towards their predatory land grabs from democratic governments in return for cheap fossil fuels is to de-fossilise Europe. The very fact that both Wagenknecht and AfD co-leader Chrupalla see gas supplies as a logical argument to disqualify a population's resistance to nationalist-chauvinist foreign domination is symptomatic of the overlap in worldview.

It is difficult to clearly assess Wagenknecht's strategy. Most likely, she is pursuing the goal of wresting her clientele away from the AfD by appropriating the peace movement under her name and making her person its figurehead. However, it is highly questionable whether this strategy will ultimately pay off for Wagenknecht. Be it for her personally, be it for a revival of the LEFT or for a broad national-social conservative front à la "Aufstehen". After all, since the LEFT is currently being pulverised by factional struggles and Wagenknecht is a driving factor behind them,[37] it is unlikely that an organised leadership will be able to form on the left of centre to successfully spearhead a mass movement with the pseudo-pacifist position. It is much more likely that Wagenknecht will thus create a stepping stone from which the AfD will benefit. In other words, Wagenknecht is practically mobilising and organising people for the AfD's concerns, who, after EU scepticism, immigration and Corona politics, have found a new crystallisation point for their apparent criticism of the system.

The pale aftertaste of deliberate manipulation of perceptions

To sum up, one should be alert when the Kremlin's expansionism is downplayed to the point where the Kremlin appears as a beaten-down supplicant, when the distinction between aggressor and attacked is simply blurred, or when ideologems justifying the invasion are (partially) taken seriously or Russian narratives are adopted. Such rhetoric is designed to expand the boundaries of what can be said and thought, to rehabilitate Putin-friendliness. Therefore, such statements also use real information content to construct false narratives. Facts are rearranged, partly omitted or interpreted idiosyncratically.

Such discourse positions are linked to other controversial topics through the person of Wagenknecht, who also serves other resentments. For example, with the frustration about the corona pandemic and/or the corona policy of a state, or the general frustration about the energy crisis. In the latter case, Wagenknecht even explicitly suggests a connection to the German government's "economic war on Russia" (sanctions against the Kremlin regime), whereby the subject of the escalation is suddenly the West.[38]

I believe that the relapse into old reflexes is only in its infancy and will become bolder as the war continues. At some point, the apparent pacifist argument that only a non-confessional end to the armed conflict can ensure justice will be replaced by arguments that openly admit that Putin has been put on the 'defensive' by the West and that his 'reaction' is therefore justified.


[1] Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger (2022): Gregor Gysi on Russia's declaration of war: "I hope that Putin still has remnants of his mind", available at:, (24.02.2023).

[2] ATTACK ON UKRAINE: Ms Wagenknecht, is Vladimir Putin a war criminal? - WELT Interview, 2022, [YouTube], 05:37-06:26.

[3] Sahra Wagenknecht defends herself against criticism of the manifesto | Markus Lanz from 21 February 2023, 2023, [YouTube], 02:41-07:30.

[4] Weapons or Diplomacy? Sahra Wagenknecht (Die Linke) and Gerhart Baum (FDP) | maischberger, [YouTube], 07:04-07:32.

Ms Wagenknecht speaks of a "negotiated peace agreement", Ms Maischberger immediately corrects, in: ://, 02:41-07:30.

[5] Fischer, S. (2022): Peace negotiations in the war between Russia and Ukraine: mission impossible, available at: (24.02.2023).

[6] Davis, C. R., Lakritz T. (2023): Former Israeli prime minister rebuts claim, boosted by Russia, that the US blocked a Ukraine peace agreement: 'It's unsure there was any deal to be made', available at: (24.02.2023).

[Klein, O., Schneider, J. (2023): Truce in Ukraine?

:Wie Wagenknecht die Realität verzerrt, available at: (24.02.2023).

[8] Fischer, S. (2022): Peace Negotiations in the War between Russia and Ukraine: Mission impossible, available at: (24.02.2023).

[9] WDR (2023): Faktencheck zu "maischberger". Broadcast of 08.02.2023, available at: (24.02.2023); Klein, O. Allegation by left-wing politicians: Is the West preventing peace in Ukraine? Available at: (24.02.2023).

[10] Sahra Wagenknecht defends herself against criticism of the manifesto | Markus Lanz, 21 February 2023, [YouTube], 06:19- 07:04.

On the unsubstantiated claim that Boris Johnson whispered the hard line on national borders to Selenskyj, see: Fedirko, T., Artukh, V. (2022): No, the West Din't Halt Ukraine's Peace Talks With Russia, available at: (24.02.2023).

[11] Freedom House (2022): FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2022

Eastern Donbas*, available at: (24.02.2023).

[12] Stutte, H. (2023): Die Methode Wagenknecht: Fakten verdrehen, Zitate verkürzen, Missliebiges weglassen, available at:

[13] (24.02.2023).

[13] (2022): Ukraine war: Moscow does not want to negotiate on Kiev's terms, available at: (24.02.2023).

[14] Weapons or Diplomacy? Sahra Wagenknecht (Die Linke) and Gerhart Baum (FDP) | maischberger, [YouTube], 09:56- 10:05.

[15] Wikipedia (2023): Democracy Index, available at: Democracy Index is an,the weekly newspaper The Economist(24.02.2023).

[16] Bertelsmann Stiftung (2022): Ukraine, available at: (24.02.2023).

[17] Wikipedia (2023): Democracy Index, available at: Democracy Index is an,the weekly newspaper The Economist(24.02.2023).

[18] Beterlsmann Foundation (2022): Russia Overall Results, available at:*2022*CV:CTC:SELRUS*CAT*RUS*REG:TAB (24.02.2023).

[19] Weapons or Diplomacy? Sahra Wagenknecht (Die Linke) and Gerhart Baum (FDP) | maischberger, [YouTube], 10:06- 10:12.

[20] In Europe there is one state that is even more corrupt than Ukraine: Russia. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Ukraine ranked 116th and Russia 137th among the most corrupt states worldwide in the period from 2020 to 2022 180 states surveyed, in: Wikipedia (2023): Corruption Perceptions Index, available at: (24.02.2023).

[21] Weapons or diplomacy? Sahra Wagenknecht (Die Linke) and Gerhart Baum (FDP) | maischberger, [YouTube], 10:22- 10:24.

[22] Weapons or diplomacy? Sahra Wagenknecht (The Left) and Gerhart Baum (FDP) | maischberger, [YouTube], 10:36- 10:38.

[23] "Arms transfers: Yes or No?" Sahra Wagenknecht and Marieluise Beck | maischberger, [YouTube],, 13:10- 17:00.

[24] SPIEGEL reporter in Bachmut: "People are losing their minds with fear" | DER SPIEGEL, [YouTube], 03:15- 04:15.

[25] Hinton, A. (2022): Putin's claims that Ukraine is committing genocide are baseless, but not unprecedented, available at: (24.02.2023).

[26] For the number of civilian casualties, in: Office go the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2022): Conflict-related civilian casualties in Ukraine, 2022, p. 3, available at: civilian casualties as of 31 December 2021 (rev 27 January 2022) corr EN_0.pdf (24.02.2023).

[27] Kozhiv, I: (2022): Everyone is talking about Minsk but what does it mean for Ukraine? Available at: (24.02.2023); see also Fedirko, T., Artiukh, V. (2022): No, the West Didn't Halt Ukraine's Peace Talks With Russia, available at: (24.02.2023).

[28] Freedom House (2022): FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 2022 Eastern Donbas*, available at: (24.02.2023).

[29] Hart Aber fair Peace with Putin's Russia: an illusion? of 27.02.2023, [YouTube], 12:40- 13:30.

Sachs, whom Wagenknecht probably did not call on despite his views at her peace demonstration, says that the Kremlin-friendly ex-president Yanukovych stood up for Ukraine's neutrality and that therein lies the real reason for the outbreak of war.

[30] Jeffrey Sachs on Ukraine, Wagenknecht-Deno, Peace, Berlin 25 February 2023, #aufstandfuerfrieden, [YouTube], 0:50- 1:21.

[31] DerStandard (2023): Around 13,000 at Ukraine demo "Uprising for Peace" in Berlin, available at: (26.02.2023).

[32] Höhne, V. (2023): Her populism becomes more dangerous: Wagenknecht plays with people's fears, available at: (26.02.2023).

While the police speak of 13,000, the organisers themselves speak of 50,000 demonstrators, in: Herrmann, B. (2023): Friedensdemonstration: "Eine unfassbare Relativierung des Faschismus", available at:

[33] ZDF (2023): "Uprising for Peace" in Berlin

:Thousands at controversial demo - including the AfD, available at: (26.02.2023).

[34] Tagesspiegel (2023): "Manifesto for peace" in Ukraine: AfD co-leader joins petition by Wagenknecht and Schwarzer, available at: (26.03.2023).

[35] Compare especially the chapters The broken promise of Ludwig Erhard and Erhard reloaded: Prosperity for all, not someday, but now!

[36] On the AFD's own statement, in: AfD (2022): ECONOMY & LABOUR. For a "Blue Deal", available at:

Critical analysis, in: Gramm, R. (2020): Wirtschaft und Soziales | Marktradikal oder "völkisch antikapitalistisch", das ist hier die Frage, available at: (26.03.2023).

[37] Sahra Wagenknecht remains very ambivalent about her future in another or her own party. However, on 3 March 2023 she announced that she would not run again for the LINKE. In principle, she remains committed to her criticism that large sections of the German population are looking for a party through which they feel represented, in: Folz, W. (2023): Wagenknecht no longer running for the Left, available at:,-wagenknecht-tritt-nicht-mehr-für-die-linke-an-_arid,5475400.html (03.03.2023).

[38] Own party, green double standards, Russia, woke madness | Sahra Wagenknecht at BILD, [YouTube], 06:25- 09:00.

Translated using Deepl, without proofreading