If you couldn't tell from all the red banners this was a far-left rally, you could probably tell by the smell. It was an earthy group consisting of various age groups and even more various hair dyes. They seem to like denim. And I think I've figured out how they managed to give their blue jeans that unwashed look.
In Frankfurt's Rossmarkt square, beneath the shadow of the Deutsche Bank building and an enormous Rolex sign, members of die Linke claimed that Germany's Social Democratic party is no longer socialist: As the junior partner of the CDU in the former grand coalition, the SPD essentially issued blank checks to Merkel. They simply enabled the chancellor while moving away from leftist values. Under the SPD-Green regime, the horror of social welfare reform was unleashed under the guise of Gerhard Schröder's Agenda 2010. So just as the FDP has said it is the only true party of freedom, die Linke says it is the only true party of the left. The only difference is the Free Democrats want to remain in a coalition government with the CDU. Based on what Sahra Wagenknecht, vice chairman of die Linke, said at the podium, her party isn't interested in dealing with Social Democrats. But they do want to be in the Bundestag to send the message that change is needed. After all, who else will stand for social justice?
Wagenknecht, a 40-year-old East German and hard-core Marxist, spent 55 minutes haranguing against the SPD, the CDU, and the FDP. She demanded a millionaire's tax, 10-euro minimum wage ("a good starting point"), and increased welfare spending. She didn't mention exiting from NATO (or maybe she did but I was distracted by the little red statue of Karl Marx on the stage), but she did go after the government over Syria. Just the other day a report emerged that in the early 2000s Germany allowed firms to supply Syria with components for chemical weapons. This gave Wagenknecht a real wedge issue. There were others: Her party could legitimately gripe about the NSA and violations of privacy whereas the CDU and FDP are implicated, despite Merkel's denunciations. Wagenknecht also railed against the Greek bailout. "Two hundred billion euros!" she shouted. The other parties were in favor of the rescue.
This also explains, incidentally, why the FDP is not doing better in a thriving economy. The Free Democrats always stood for privacy but what did they know about sharing information with the NSA? A sizable contingent of FDP voters also opposed bailing out Greece.
Of course Wagenknecht insisted that the economy is not in fact thriving. She criticized the jobs numbers by saying they were inflated by part-timers. And what about social justice? The children and the elderly—the weakest among us? "We are supposed to protect them!" she sternly reminded us. And there were more speakers who would follow her and remind us about the depredations of the big banks, Greece, the NSA. But it was time to go.
We left a still-teeming crowd of Germans who don't seem to mind long-winded speeches in the least. Walking through the crowd, some of us caught a whiff of reefer. One of our group asked, "Did you smell that?" But someone else replied, "No, I couldn't get past the body odor."