Conservatives rejoiced after the general election: The youth are not left at all! 21 percent of the young voters made their mark with the FDP – almost as many as with the Greens. Eva von Redecker is working on new forms of revolutionary struggles – but do these young people even want a revolution?
Friday: Ms. Redecker, the majority of the first-time voters are liberal – did that surprise you?
Eva von Redecker: Above all, I was happy!
The many young FDP voters refute the thesis that the climate issue is a generation conflict. You don’t have to be young to be interested in the future – and you can be young and only be interested in your own future.
When you speak of the “revolution for life” in your book – does that mean that FDP voters are not one of them?
No, I wouldn’t call a green-liberal youth revolutionary. To do this, these young people would have to work on a break with the existing, on a radical change towards something that until recently seemed unthinkable. The Greens and the FDP, however, have one thing in common that they stand for a “business as usual, that will be fine”. The former with moderate climate protection reforms – and the liberals have the crazy idea that the climate issue can be solved with capitalist innovation.
These green-liberal youth may not want a break with capitalism – but can a break with the encrusted analog world also be revolutionary?
Nobody has said that my diagnosis of what this society needs now corresponds to the wishes of young people.
Well: that the youth is somehow ticking left, this idea has been around since 1968, right?
Then there would be a lot more young people on the street. The majority agitates rather for a kind of spicing up what already exists. This is in line with the interests that one can have as a young person in Germany: In view of the climate crisis, many are preferring to preserve their vested rights. Opposed to this is the small, left-wing climate justice movement: It does not fight for its own interests, but for justice in the global south. I am not at all surprised that this position does not currently have a majority.
Now the active members of the 1968s were probably not the majority of their generation either. But today, even at Fridays for Future, many do not refer to themselves as leftists.
The fact that protest is also coming from the right today is not new: The protests against marriage for everyone in France, or here Pegida …
In these right-wing protests, however, the participants are middle-aged.
Yes: We are lucky that the AfD did not manage to establish an attractive, right-wing identity youth movement. After all, young people here “only” vote for the FDP to defend their privileges.
Photo: Horst Galuschka/IMAGO
Eva von Redecker grew up on an organic farm in Kiel and studied philosophy, German and history in Cambridge and Potsdam, among others. Your most recent book publication: Revolution for Life: Philosophy of New Forms of Protest
Do you see the FDP exclusively as a party defending middle class privileges? According to surveys, freedom and digitization were most important to their voters.
If we want to empathize with these young people, we have to look at the social experiences they have had so far. You’re from school. You have hardly been confronted with the pressures of capitalism. Everyday school life leads to the false conclusion that discourse rules and progressive decency are easily enforceable: the – often progressive – teacher is responsible for this. You can also see that with the Fridays for Future: They are relying on the appeal to a rational authority – the federal government, which will already judge it. That is quite unusual for a movement that stands for radical change.
In the family, children definitely learn power dynamics: gender hierarchies, for example.
Nevertheless, the family has something of a socialist economy. This is about meeting needs. As a child, one hardly experiences the hardships and injustices of the market.
At least not in upper and middle class families.
Yes, important note. Due to the strong social divide between the school types, middle-class pupils only see their equals in social terms, and the achievement principle counts among each other. You have no idea what’s going on in the world out there! What’s going on in the executive suite! I only became a feminist much later, after leaving school.
In the social media, however, there is blatant competitive pressure: showing yourself well on Instagram, compulsions for self-optimization. Are young people more influenced by these performance values than in the past?
Perhaps – it moves on the Internet within a framework in which every user apparently has the same start-up capital. Everyone starts with zero followers, then the performance and self-optimization principle applies. With influencers, you don’t see how social inequality is inherited through wealth. In this world, little speaks against the FDP, on the contrary: it stands for hip digitization.
In the USA and Great Britain, on the other hand, there is a broad movement of “millennial socialists”, young socialists like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez are popular. Why is this so unimaginable here?
In Germany, the experience of actually existing socialism is much closer, the term is tied back to it, has this undemocratic, authoritarian stench. In the USA, “socialism” does not point to the past, but to the future: There it is also combined with an intersectional, progressive utopia.
Earlier you spoke about the life experiences of German middle-class youth. Do these look so different in the US?
Yes, young people there are confronted with student debts early on, with the risks of a non-solidarity health system. In the UK, too, people are exposed to the drastic effects of marketed infrastructure early on. In Germany, a broader bourgeois class is socially buffered, we also benefit from the fact that the neoliberal deconstruction begins later.
So the awakening that young people want here is less social than green-liberal?
I am still not convinced that the FDP voters stand for a liberal departure. Rather, it seems to me that the FDP is the form of non-departure that is acceptable for young people. The party claims that solutions can be found without having to change much in our way of life and production.
The FDP also stands for the reduction of bureaucracy; for quick construction of wind power structure.
How should this rapid structure build-up together with the anti-prohibition culture look like? If I want to put a wind farm next to a place, shouldn’t the residents have the right to defend themselves against it? That slows down the processes. But the FDP certainly does not want to ban citizens’ initiatives? Expropriations are often used for the construction of infrastructure: land is nationalized in order to build highways or solar parks. How does the FDP deal with it? If the state does not want to prohibit, regulate, or expropriate anything, that amounts to renouncing politics. What kind of departure is that?
The spirit of optimism lies in the love of technology?
There is not a single reasonable suggestion of how technology can effectively stop climate change. There is no indication that the current capitalist innovations are compatible with the common good and the environment. On the contrary: The FDP stands for patent protection, against the global distribution of vaccines. That gives me the impression that behind her choice is more of a post-neoliberal, very individualistic, wanting-to-have-the-last-bit-fun-with-daddy’s-car-on-the-autobahn .