Susanne Hennig-Wellsow is patient. With a petrified expression, she stands next to the ZDF microphone in the Festsaal Kreuzberg in Berlin, it is 6.16 p.m., her party has been shaking for 16 minutes about her entry into the Bundestag, and there is no connection. To ZDF. “We have been here for ten minutes,” hisses the presenter into her microphone, next to her Hennig-Wellsow: stands. No eyelashes.
An hour earlier, the garden of the left party election party is filling up so slowly, Robert Blättermann is sitting at the beer garden table and scrolling through his messages. “Here!”, He says and shows his cell phone, “look at that, this euphoria!” The Telegram group has 380 members: door knockers from all over Germany post photos and talk enthusiastically about conversations.
For a year and a half, Blättermann helped organize the doorstep campaign for the left. In 2017 the party was at 10,000 doors. In 2021 there were almost 180,000: in Cologne, Bamberg, Stuttgart, Leipzig, Oranienburg, in Teltow-Fläming. Hennig-Wellsow took part, the managing director Jörg Schindler also took part, and after a conversation he was even invited to a wedding. The mood was great. The last polls are not.
At 6 p.m., Blättermann prefers not to stand in the front row. “I don’t have my face under control today,” he says. At 6:01 p.m. everything actually falls off his face. He holds his hand in front of it. The cameras find him, at the very back, Blättermann in shock.
The left has reached 4.9 percent, and it is only thanks to its three direct mandates that it makes it into the Bundestag. A minus of 4.3 percent. She almost got kicked out – that had happened to her predecessor party, the PDS, before, in 2002.
What is a lifestyle left?
Blättermann goes out again, takes his smartphone. Friends send him a screenshot: Blättermann’s shocked face on the news. He has to laugh. “Oh, that’s just shit!”
“We lost most of it to the SPD and the Greens”, it later whispers through the small groups outside in the garden, “a million voters!” In third place of the emigration: 370,000 non-voters. If you ask for reasons, you get to hear many, but always one thing first: “What has gone wrong in this party for almost ten years cannot be made up for in a few months.” made great performances. No, the internal dispute over almost every political issue in recent years is to blame. Sahra Wagenknecht wanted a more restrictive migration policy, others called for open borders. Katja Kipping wanted more Europe, Oskar Lafontaine wanted to leave the EU. Younger members wanted a radical climate policy, Wagenknecht insulted them as a lifestyle leftist. What went under was what naturally united all camps: the plan to abolish Hartz IV, raise minimum wages and pensions, and lower rents.
At the beginning of the election campaign, of all places, the dispute escalated when Wagenknecht published her book – harsh criticism of her party. Then the proposed process of elimination. Finally Hennig-Wellsow stepped in and brought the party back together in a joint appearance with the two runaways in Weimar. End of August. Four weeks before the election.
Too late, as the campaigners report: The discussions were dominated by the dispute. “Local journalists actually come to our information booth and ask what a lifestyle leftist actually is,” sighs Simon Paun in Cologne, annoyed by these “eternal debates”: “You can talk about people forever, but that interests people not. Now we’re talking to them. ”The 30-year-old stepped into the Left in 2018, and in 2021 he knocked on around 1,500 front doors. First he had to overcome himself, was afraid that nobody would want to have anything to do with the left anyway. Now he is euphoric by the talks, even on the Monday afternoon after the election. “It’s about very specific problems. Topic number one here in Cologne: the rents that are too high. Number two: the climate issue. ”He talked to people about that and it worked really well. Works great? The left reached 6.4 percent in Cologne III, in 2017 it still had 12.8 percent here. “Well,” says Paun, “it was often like this: In the voting machine, people were shown the left at the top. But they still wanted to vote for the Greens or the SPD. ”Paun blames the question of the Chancellor, who preferred Annalena Baerbock or Olaf Scholz to prevent Armin Laschet’s CDU.
“It’s true, the election of the chancellor gave us the rest,” says Tobias Lübbert, who also sees it at the party base on the other side of the republic, Teltow-Fläming, Brandenburg. He, too, was repeatedly approached about the dispute over the Wagenknecht camp – from both sides. “That was absolutely balanced: They told me, before I indirectly vote Wagenknecht with my second vote, I’d rather go to the Greens, and the others scolded: I’m now voting for AfD because you shot down the Wagenknecht. One of them really said that: shot down! “
“The dispute must finally come to an end,” everyone in Berlin-Kreuzberg agreed on election evening, “we must finally hear the shot!” should she resolve the dispute?
“To the front,” says Tobias Lübbert and explains: “I heard this here even more than sayings for or against Wagenknecht: ‘I voted you three, four, five times, and nothing happened.’” The announcement the party leadership to be ready to govern in the federal government? I couldn’t convince. It was completely different in the district election campaign. The Left Kornelia Wehlan has held office in Teltow-Fläming since 2013, and when people saw her, everyone was happy: “Of 115 doors, 72 were opened, and only one reaction was negative.” People talked to her about the Public transport, medical care. The district administrator has already been able to organize more buses. And that was well received. Wehlan got 26.3 percent here on September 26th.
At Lübbert there is hardly any hangover feeling on this Monday. “We must first create the upheaval in the party at the district level, which is what we are working on in Brandenburg: becoming younger and politically more attractive, more binding. Greens and FDP have already passed, now it’s our turn. “
6:17 p.m., Berlin-Kreuzberg, the ZDF presenter gets her connection and turns to Hennig-Wellsow. “We made a lot of mistakes, but we are also ready to take it together now and develop our party anew,” she says and almost creates a confident smile. “Where do you see these errors?” – “We will deal with them.”
Later, Hennig-Wellsow is sitting on the stairs next to the stage, her employee has brought her potato wedges, falafel and beer, it’s after 10 p.m. “We need both camps to become strong,” she says, “because in this election both decided to go: to the SPD for the social issue, to the Greens for the climate issue.” But now it’s a matter of taking responsibility take over. Everywhere, also on site, in the municipalities, in initiatives, neighborhoods. In the east, the left is getting older and older. But there would also be a lot of young people. Not enough. “Our only chance is to rebuild the party from below. It takes resources, it takes people, it takes ideas, it takes energy. And that takes time. You don’t do that in six months. “