The election results are in the news, the right-wing AFD managed to win a lot of votes in Germany, in particular amongst younger voters in the eastern parts of Germany from a working class background – what is happening? These notes from a recent meeting shed some light on current conditions in workplaces and working class communities and the situation of the political left. Further debate is needed: Is ‘honest syndicalism’, meaning, a combative grass-roots syndicalism enough to counter the right-wing? Do we need alternative political positions when it comes to war, crisis, the neoliberal destruction of working class communities – which includes an increase in poor-on-poor violence and crime? How can we avoid the trap of defending democracy when certain rights and fought-for freedoms, such as abortion rights or the freedom to kiss your same-sex partner on the street, are under attack? Are the ‘fascists’, e.g. the Meloni government in Italy, actually fascists or rather authoritarian neoliberalists? How can we discuss ‘communist revolution’ as a realistic and pragmatic social alternative, so that working class rebellion has an actual trajectory in times when ‘rebellion against the mainstream and the system’ has been captured by the right-wing? Thanks a lot to our comrades from the Angry Education Workers for helping us with editing the text.

Electrical engineer, anarcho-syndicalist, East Germany

There is a fundamental dissatisfaction within the class. Since the introduction of the Hartz4 Laws in 2004 [1], colleagues have been talking about politics again. The Hartz4 protests were fairly spontaneous. On the contrary, the summer of 2015, when a lot of refugees arrived, was not a ‘summer of welcome’, but a summer of hate, at least in eastern Germany. Since then things have calmed down a bit. The xenophobic attitude was not just prevalent among German tradespeople, e.g. on construction sites, but also amongst Eastern European workers who work in Germany. It is rather a type of social Darwinism than racism. The recipients of social benefits are hated more than the foreigners, or rather, the foreigners only to the extent that many of them receive social benefits. The only organized response to racism comes from the management: diversity culture is written in capital letters, probably because there is a general shortage of labour. So our hope is that there will be more foreign colleagues and therefore less racism over time. Neither the FAU nor IG Metall are in the position to organize an effective resistance against the right-wing. Some of the trade union officials are part of the right-wing.

Construction sites only last 6 weeks nowadays, there is a high level of fluctuation and there are language barriers. Actually, what we’ve always wanted to happen is happening: People are becoming active, they no longer believe the media, they are critical, they question the system. But unfortunately under right-wing auspices. The left needs to be part of all social movements and not stand on the sidelines and see whether there are right-wingers in the movement and then hastily distance themselves. It is about being present in the movements right from the start and to bring your own position across. The issue of migration is just a lightning rod. It’s actually about low wages, that you have nothing to say, that the bosses are from the West. It is about decaying infrastructure and that many construction projects and their realization are pointless nonsense. People immediately take to the streets at the first sign. The Hartz 4 protests succeeded in giving the protests a left-wing flavor. It’s also important to talk about the so-called Magida protests (Pegida in Magdeburg) during Corona, these were protests against the way the state organised the lock-down, with a substantial participation of forces with right-wing and conspiratorial politics. Many people who took part had many placards against the war and would have been open to other positions, as there was an open mic at the protests – but the leftists were on the other side, on a counter-demo together with the mayor! There was an attempt to intervene at the Corona protests, also at the inflation protests. People went to the AfD protests because the AfD was there. They were the first who organized protests against inflation, so people went there. The left must initiate protests, the problem is that the left only acts within its own scene, its own swamp.

Trade Union Secretary of the food workers union NGG East

There is a great alienation from the political system, a resentment that is not directed against the rich (because you can’t fight them anyway), but against the people who are on the bottom: people are fighting over the crumbs from the rich. Currently there is no organized action by the right-wing in workplaces. But there is a strong right-wing mood that dominates. That has become worse. Larger minorities in the workplace determine this mood. The AfD turns up occasionally during strikes. There are people in workplaces who are very vocal in their opposition towards the management and outside the company they are against the establishment: they then vote AfD.

There is a right-wing mood because the left has failed. The left must raise a flag against the prevailing order. It must not not stand on the fringes of the protests. It must find a language for fears of decline, feelings of powerlessness, simply saying that you have to be against the AfD does not work. The trade unions must distance themselves from the government. They said nothing when the pension reform 2 was passed, which set the pension level at 48%. The left must be present at the farmers’ protests, for example. In the workplace first of all you have to be credible as a trade union: workplace matters are to be discussed first of all, then politics can be talked about. Trade unions must resist the coalition government and not mince their words. Also in the workplace: the colleagues themselves must decide whether to strike, then the union is credible. Only when you are credible can you discuss the AfD. We need an independent left that accepts these challenges. Saying that workers are shit doesn’t help.

Trade union secretary of the service union Verdi from Jena

The mood has worsened since 2021, especially in care for the elderly and in the public administration. People have an ‘I’ve had enough’ attitude that needs an outlet, and when the Corona pandemic started, the AfD provided that outlet. It is a new thing that people are going to demonstrations. In their eyes, those who ‘scrounge’ and don’t contribute are the problem. Or, for example, those who are not well integrated into German society, who are recruited from abroad without a good knowledge of German and who are then sent to the care wards and meet overworked carers there. This leads to resentment. We need to talk about the real problem behind this. On the one hand, companies are doing nothing to combat overwork, on the other hand, they present themselves as cosmopolitan. The right-wing is not organized in the workplaces. However, there is now a ‘Zentrum Gesundheit’ [2] in Pirna. There is resistance from individual colleagues who are quickly burnt out. We need to create a network of colleagues across companies and sectors who are active against the right-wing. There was the ‘University against the right-wing’ in Jena, an initiative by students that had a huge impact. The university hospitals now want to do something similar.

Transparency is important. Discussing with colleagues, explaining why you do what you do. The AfD says there is no conflict of interest between the company and the workforce. They provide information about the AfD’s financial policy: the AfD’s financial policy is causing Thuringia to go bankrupt, there will be even fewer daycare places etc.. Good trade union work is the best anti-AfD activity.



‘Zentrum’ is a wanna-be trade union of the AfD, primarily active in a few car factories, as ‘Zentrum Automobil’