The relationship between the SPD leader and Wolfgang Thierse has long been considered broken.
After the election of Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken, the former President of the Bundestag let himself be carried away in 2019 to speak of “upheavals in the SPD” and a “total crash”.
The "Tagesspiegel" quoted him at the time with the words: "A party that does not learn to praise its own government achievements, but is characterized by a climate of dissatisfaction, suspicion and hatred, will have no future."
Now what he might have meant comes to light.
Saskia Esken, Wolfgang Thierse and the deputy federal chairman of the SPD Kevin Kühnert have a lot in the hair.
It is about an existentially important future issue that is currently on everyone's mind: How do we deal with the segregation of our society and what role should identity-political thinking and acting play in this?
The dispute was sparked by an essay by Wolfgang Thierse in the features section of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”, which has not only been causing discussions in social media for days - the Deutschlandfunk had Thierse defied in an interview the very next day (the conversation caused actually for the excitement, because statements seemed much shorter here than in the written essay) and has published several articles on the topic: from harsh comments to an interview with the gender researcher Andrea Geier, who complained about equating left and right identity politics.
Esken's resignation in the super election year: Now it's rumbling in your SPD
In comparison, Thierse's essay in the FAZ seemed rested and prudent, was headed “How much identity can society tolerate?” And was introduced with an honest suggestion: “Debates about racism, post-colonialism and gender are becoming more violent and aggressive.
Identity politics must not turn into a trench warfare that destroys public spirit.
A guest contribution by the former President of the Bundestag. "
So far so unexciting.
If there hadn't been an incident, two days before publication in the FAZ: The online event "Culture creates democracy" by the SPD culture committee and the SPD basic values commission around Gesine Schwan had escalated completely.
The topic, even if nobody was really aware of it: Identity politics.
It was about a short gloss that appeared in the FAZ feature section at the beginning of February and dealt with the collective outing of 185 actors in SZ-Magazin under the hashtag #ActOut, accusing the artists of “calculus” and not acknowledging existential concerns.
The journalist was called homophobic, and the author referred to "criticism of ideology".
The FAZ journalist, representatives of the Lesbian and Gay Association, SPDqueer and two actors from the initiative tried a pronunciation that ended in a wild verbal scramble: "Cancel Culture", "Homophobia and new right speech" is just an excerpt from what we think threw at the head.
Although parties actually sat across from each other, which should actually succeed in such a debate.
Because: The journalist has attracted attention in the past twenty years because of her affinity for various things.
And yet their reaction to the outing shows a certain tension in dealing with the blatantly increasing number of reports on actions that vehemently pursue the interests of specific groups and do not appeal to society as a whole.
All of this combined, however, resulted in a toxic mixture for Wolfgang Thierse, because his article was viewed from the outside as a direct statement on the incident at the SPD event - and it is, whether intentionally or not.
The SPD top did not try to mediate, but sent a letter of apology to the LGBTI community and invited to the reconciliation meeting on March 11th.
Esken and Vice Kevin Kühnert complained about a "lack of sensitivity in dealing with the guests from your ranks, some justification afterwards - we are deeply ashamed of all of this".
The party leadership does not mention Thierse, but refers directly to him at another point: “Statements made by individual representatives of the SPD on the so-called identity politics that were made in the media, on platforms and within the party”, “particularly in the light of the latest debate a backward-looking image of the SPD that disturbs your community, third parties, but also us, ”the Esken und Kühnert association reproduces.
Actually, a debate between Esken and Thierse would be the order of the day.
but he did not get the offer.
And so Thierse wrote a letter to the SPD chairman Saskia Esken, which is circulating and "Welt" is available.
In it he is dismayed that he learned of the apology from the “SPD media and information service”: “I gather (from the letter, note from the editor) that you (and Kevin Kühnert too) are“ disturbed ”about me Be that you are ashamed of me (and especially Gesine Schwans) and distance yourself from me (from both of us). "
In his essay, he attempted, in the face of intensified, increasingly aggressive confrontations in the social debate, to urge moderation and to direct increased efforts towards what is common and unifying in a more pluralistic, diverse society than ever.
Thierse makes it clear that he wanted to appeal to social cohesion with his text: His "essay ends with the following sentences: Because social cohesion in a diverse, socially and culturally fragmented" society of singularities "(Andreas Reckwitz) is no longer a matter of course, it must expressly be the goal of democratic politics and cultural efforts, and above all of social democracy.
It must be their cultural offer that solidarity, which is what is at stake, is not a one-sided relationship, not a relationship of claims against others, but rather aims at reciprocity and the whole in a comprehensive manner. "
As a result, he expresses his disappointment: "But now I read that the chairman (and a deputy chairman) of my party think that they are publicly ashamed of me and must distance themselves from me." Thierse asks Esken to inform him also publicly whether his staying in the common party is still desirable or rather harmful: So he asks Saskia Esken to decide for or against him, to raise or lower his thumb.
And ends with the sentences: "In any case, I have doubts when two members of the party leadership distance themselves from me - in view of a text that aims at social cohesion, cultural common ground, political solidarity and the conditions of social communication processes."
"There is nothing more and nothing less to say about this"
This escalation does not surprise anyone within the SPD.
When asked by WELT whether he would like to comment on the letter, Wolfgang Thierse replied briefly: “I have not formulated a resignation announcement.
Nothing more and nothing less can be said about this. "
From the outside, especially from the perspective of the feature pages and its debates, one wonders what level politics is actually at: Sigmar Gabriel was allowed to go unmolested in a parliamentary group meeting at the end of 2016 when he wanted to become chancellor candidate of the SPD on “too much political Correctness ”in dialogue with the citizens.
That’s all over.
At least in the SPD: An identity-political camp has formed that polemicizes against the employee-oriented popular politicians.
But how do the followers of a Wolfgang Thierse find their way under this leadership?
Thierse is not just anyone: He stands for the East, is former President of the Bundestag You shouldn't underestimate how many in the SPD support him - like Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.
His character is a candidate for chancellor.