Social Democrats in uproar as youth leader calls for BMW to be nationalized

The Social Democrats were falling into civil war on Thursday after the leader of their youth movement gave an explosive interview in which he called for luxury carmaker BMW to be nationalised and the property rental market to be abolished.

Social Democrats in uproar as youth leader calls for BMW to be nationalized
Kevin Kühnert. Photo: DPA

Kevin Kühnert, head of the Young Socialists (known as Jusos) told Die Zeit newspaper that he wanted Germany’s most famous car brand to be taken over by the state “in a democratic manner”.

“It's of little importance to me whether BMW's address states 'state-owned automobile company' or 'cooperative automobile company' or whether the collective decides that BMW is no longer needed in its current form,” he stated.

The 29-year-old, who is widely regarded as the up-and-coming star in centre-left politics, also said that he believed that nobody should be able to make a profit by renting out apartments to tenants.

SEE ALSO: Germany's SPD shifts back to leftist roots, straining ties with Merkel

“At most everyone should own the space that they themselves live in,” he said.

Kühnert is known for taking up positions to the left of the mainstream in his party. But the Die Zeit interview has caused outrage in a country in which talk of property expropriation and state-run industry brings back dark memories of the dysfunction East German state.

Political opponents said on Thursday that Kühnert had revealed himself as having more in common with Karl Marx than modern-day social democracy. And within the SPD itself, the criticism has been furious, with some calling for him to be ejected from the party.

Michael Frenzel, head of the party’s economic forum, said that the leadership had to take strong action. “There is only one reaction: ejecting him from the party,” he said.

Kühnert’s opinions were “a steep step to bring the SPD closer to the old SED [the ruling party of the GDR] and to further alienate us from the middle,” Frenzel added.

Johannes Kahrs, another leading moderate in the party questioned weather Kühnert was on drugs when he gave the interview.

“What nonsense,” he said on Twitter. “Whatever he was smoking, it can’t have been legal.”

Others in the party have cautioned that Kühnert should be allowed some freedom to think radically as a member of their youth movement.

“A chairman of the Young Socialists is allowed to think outside the box about the connections between capitalism and social democracy and that is his right,” said party deputy leader Natascha Kohnen. “This should not lead to a hysterical debate among the other parties.

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Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has sued the German parliament for removing some of his official post-retirement perks over his links to Russian energy giants, his lawyer said Friday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder sues German Bundestag for removing perks

Schröder, 78, has come under heavy criticism for his proximity to Russian President Vladimir Putin and involvement with state-backed energy companies.

The decision to suspend Schröder’s taxpayer-funded office and staff in May was “contrary to the rule of law”, Michael Nagel, told public broadcaster NDR.

Schröder “heard of everything through the media”, Nagel said, noting that the Social Democrat had asked for a hearing before the budget committee responsible but was not given the chance to express himself.

READ ALSO: Germany strips Schröder of official perks over Russia ties

Schröder’s lawyers filed the complaint with an administrative Berlin court, a spokesman for the court confirmed.

In its decision to strip him of the perks, the committee concluded that Schröder, who served as chancellor from 1998 to 2005, “no longer upholds the continuing obligations of his office”.

Most of Schröder’s office staff had already quit before the final ruling was made.

Despite resigning from the board of Russian oil company Rosneft and turning down a post on the supervisory board of gas giant Gazprom in May, Schröder has maintained close ties with the Kremlin.

The former chancellor met Putin in July, after which he said Moscow was ready for a “negotiated solution” to the war in Ukraine — comments branded as “disgusting” by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Last week, the Social Democrats concluded that Schröder would be allowed to remain a member after he was found not have breached party rules over his ties to the Russian President.

Schröder’s stance on the war and solo diplomacy has made him an embarrassment to the SPD, which is also the party of current Chancellor Olaf Scholz.