“A hard place” – Left-wing local politics in Bavaria

Melanie Demmelhuber ran for the party Die LINKE in the local elections 2020 in Straubing/Lower Bavaria. She received 1,572 votes and could not get a seat in the city council. The Royal Bavarian Antifa spoke with her before the elections about leftist local politics in Bavaria.

Convinced antifascist: Melanie Demmelhuber (Die LINKE)

Mrs. Demmelhuber, why on earth did you become a left-wing local politician in Lower Bavaria of all places?

I was born and grew up in Straubing (Lower Bavaria), so this place is very close to my heart. However, I started my political career in Regensburg. There are different anti-fascist groups, structures and meanwhile almost weekly demonstrations. Coincidence led me back to Straubing two years ago. Here there was almost nothing left-wing-political, which gave me the opportunity to start with it and to get involved here. Few people are active, so it depends on every single person who gets involved. Every idea can be realized and you can see what even few people can achieve. In Straubing or Lower Bavaria active, progressive left forces are strongly needed, therefore I wanted to support and participate here on site.

The left is obviously struggling to win even one flower pot in the deep black Gaeuboden. In your opinion, what is going wrong and how much personal responsibility does your party share in this?

It is already a hard place here. Our election results in Lower Bavaria are usually not very sparkling and the strength of the right-wing forces is increasing. In general, the left does not have an easy time in Bavaria, as Bavaria is very conservative and it is therefore difficult to gain a foothold. Of course, we ourselves are responsible for this as well. For a long time we have not been able to determine the public discourse, although our core issues are more topical than ever. However, many people are also very closed to left-wing politics and have many prejudices. One experiences hostility at all corners and yet one notices very strongly this “In Bavaria they vote for CSU”1the Bavarian conservative party and “It was always like this” mentality.

Hand on heart, how extreme left-wing are you on a scale from ‘Martin Schulz’2former chairman of the German Socialdemocrats to ‘Mao Tse-tung’?

That question made me smile. I fundamentally reject the theory of extremism. I demand social justice. I find it fatal to compare left and right, because a right-wing ideology discriminates against people, excludes them and puts human lives at risk, whereas a left-wing ideology stands up for people’s rights. A clear dividing line must be drawn here between us and the enemies of democracy. If nowadays you are called left-wing extremist because you are an anti-fascist, then I like to be left-wing extremist for these people.

With the election of the Prime Minister in Thuringia, the debate about the lack of demarcation between Liberals and Conservatives and neo-fascism has flared up again. What is the situation in Straubing? Are CSU and FDP3German Liberal Democrats drawing clear boundaries to the AfD4German right-extremists in the city council?

The example of Thuringia has shown how easily it can happen that FDP, CSU and AfD share a common line. Currently there are no incidents in Straubing, as neither FDP nor AfD are represented in the city council. This will probably change after the next election in March. Capitalism and fascism hand in hand will, in my opinion, not stop at Straubing.

What is the relationship between a local left-wing politician in Bavaria and the police?

Especially after the PAG, the situation in Bavaria has become extremely negative with regard to how the police deal with demonstrators. On the ground, too, the relationship is not always optimal. You can already see that the police like to celebrate their power. At our local demonstrations, unlike in many other cities in Bavaria, there were no major clashes yet. But here too, the PAG offers the state apparatus new options for criminal charges.

What role does antifascist action play in your political work and what are the structures you are confronted with in Straubing on the right side of the CSU?

I see myself clearly as an antifascist. In the left-wing youth [‘solid] Straubing we organise many local protests against the right. Several times a year the Third Way has an information stand or a rally in Straubing, Michael Stürzenberger was also here last year and the AfD has regular information stands. However the AfD has at present due to anti-fascist work no local for its regulars’ table in Straubing.

The antifascist scene in Bavaria seems to be concentrated in the bigger cities and despite well-intentioned slogans like “Antifa bleibt Landarbeit” and “There is no quiet hinterland” the Radical Left often has difficulties to get out of its scene bubbles. Do you sometimes feel left alone?

Sometimes I do. One stands here on an antifascist protest sometimes five to ten, that is often difficult. In spite of all this we must not be discouraged and my motto therefore remains: If it is urgent, i will stand alone to protest. Every resistance is a resistance.

Democratic politicians are increasingly becoming the target of hatred and violence by fascists. Do you also experience this on site in Straubing?

Yes. Especially via social media, because it seems more anonymous there. But also on the street, privately in front of the door or in the mailbox. We know each other here in the village, so it’s not difficult to find addresses. To be honest, this motivates me. To feel fear or hate would not be my way, so I turn this negative energy that is brought to me into positive, constructive politics. Every incident makes me very productive in planning new actions and gathering ideas.

And what would you advise young people who are just starting to get involved in left-wing politics or anti-fascist activities?

Don’t let yourselves be distracted by critics. Be brave and get involved, put your ideas into practice and always remember: Don’t fuck up…and if you do, wear black.”