An armada of red SPD flags greets everyone who comes out of the subway station on Berlin’s Nollendorfplatz on Saturday evening. It is the last night before a decision is made on the composition of the next Bundestag, and the comrades from the Schöneberg district traditionally celebrate their election campaigns here. They advertise Olaf Scholz with flyers and champagne. Shortly before nine o’clock, one of his most prominent supporters appears.
The SPD “hid” the socialist Kevin Kühnert during the election campaign, it was said on the part of the Union. Armin Laschet said the 32-year-old looked like Troubadix from the Asterix– Staple that is gagged and tied up because of its horrific singing. At the weekend, Kühnert won the direct mandate for the constituency of Tempelhof-Schöneberg in the federal election with 27.1 percent of the vote – but is he still suitable for a revolutionary?
At a party congress in 2019 he – at that time still Juso boss – said in Marxist style that he missed “radicalism in the literal sense” of the SPD. Already two years later, the comrades were getting a boost in the polls, he announced the not-so-radical Scholz at an election campaign in Berlin as the “power bar behind the red bar”: an allusion to Gerhard Schröder and his statement that the currywurst was the “power bar of the skilled worker”. Was the Schröder comparison a tip against Scholz? Was there between the lines that the latter was an incorrigible agenda politician, anything but left-wing, rather neoliberal pampas? “Just a bon mot from the moment,” said Kühnert on Saturday evening at the edge of the information booth, “that had no false bottom.” Since Scholz’s nomination for Chancellor candidate 13 months ago, Kühnert has remained loyal to him.
In autumn 2019, he supported the left-wing duo around Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans in the internal party struggle for the SPD leadership. Kühnert can also explain this contradiction: his “match” with Scholz results from the party program. After all, 16 years ago he did not join a “left fighting organization” like the Antifa, but instead joined social democracy, which stands for “building a bridge” between the various positions. And technically, Scholz would get dribbled with the Chancellery. Since Kühnert handed over the office of Juso boss to Jessica Rosenthal in January, it seems as if he is getting rid of the radical shell faster than his predecessors and ingratiating with the party establishment. But that would be too short-sighted: he would like 53 percent for the top tax rate, just like in Helmut Kohl’s time, and is eight points above Olaf Scholz’s demand. He also announced ten days before the election that if the grand coalition were to be reissued, he would resign from his post as deputy party chairman, which he had assumed in December 2019. Troubadix has taken a softer note, yes, but he sings the same song as before: no GroKo, higher taxes for the wealthy and a minimum wage of twelve euros. Kühnert has changed little in his most important positions in recent years. If it weren’t for the issue of expropriation. As Juso boss, he proposed the socialization of BMW in a Zeit interview in 2019. In the real estate sector, he added that it was not a legitimate business model to “make a living with other people’s homes”. When on September 26th, the day of the Bundestag election, the referendum “Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co” was voted in Berlin, he still voted “No”. A few days before the referendum, on Markus Lanz’s talk show, he raved about self-employed craftsmen whose retirement provision depended on “one or two owner-occupied apartments”. The attacks on Twitter were not long in coming: Didn’t the guy check that the referendum was only about the big real estate groups that own more than 3,000 apartments? Kühnert does not understand the excitement: He just wanted to make it clear that small apartment owners are not automatically “bad rip-offs”.
In parliament he will be the spearhead of a young revolution: 48 members of the Juso age are moving in, that is almost a quarter of the SPD parliamentary group. Given this power constellation, how long will the social democratic truce with the Scholz camp last? A traffic light coalition would have a majority of 48 seats – that would correspond exactly to the number of young troops. Many capital city journalists therefore already see a future looming in which nothing is possible in Germany without “Kühni”.
He broke off a degree in journalism. From the precariously employed employee in a call center to the much-noticed (and initially ridiculed) leader of the “NoGroKo” campaign, Kühnert has become one of the most important parliamentarians of the coming legislative period. After his party’s election victory, he spoke to the Daily Topics self-confident of the “Voodoo Program” of the FDP. Lower taxes for the rich, increase investments and, at the same time, reduce debt: “Some of this will not work.” In the next Bundestag he wants to become a “simple member of parliament”, says Kühnert, that is enough for him. In the building committee he wants to do “land policy in the radical sense of the word”. Perhaps it is with Kühnert’s revolutionary spirit like with the old aunt SPD: You think it was the end – but it is not.