Six weeks before the federal election, SPD candidate for chancellor Olaf Scholz presented his plans for the society of the future in Berlin on Monday. At the invitation of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), he openly addresses the problems in his "Berlin Speech".
For Scholz, for example, while it is "good news" that a lot of solidarity was shown during the Corona pandemic and the severe weather disaster in western Germany. "The overwhelming willingness of countless citizens to help" had "touched and encouraged" him.
Radicals fuel conflicts
But: The overall picture unfortunately also included "right-wing extremists and Reichsburger, conspiracy ideologists and so-called lateral thinkers". Scholz is outraged: "These people have appeared in the flood regions – with the cynical calculation to draw their own political profit from the distress of those affected." They had used the catastrophe "to sow discord and incite those affected against the democratic order and its representatives". For the SPD candidate for chancellor, it hardly gets more "cynical and repugnant" than this.
The existence of such radicals is an expression of new conflict situations: they deal with topics such as globalization or migration. For example, the 2015 refugee movement was "a stellar moment of humanity for some in Germany," while "others experienced these events as a loss of control". Corona and climate change are also such polarizing themes, he says.
Scholz: "We need more cohesion – not less!"
"These tendencies of our societies to fall apart into polarized camps that no longer trust each other to cross paths – that is the exact opposite of what we urgently need in Germany," Scholz emphasizes. "We need more cohesion – and not less!"
This, he said, is also the prerequisite for tackling major challenges such as climate change. That will only succeed, he said, if policies "also benefit and promise a good, safe life to those who today are still fearful of the change ahead".
The guiding principle of a society of respect
Scholz’s answer is: "My own guiding principle, my own proposal in the face of this situation is a society of respect", says the SPD candidate for chancellor. "Practicing respect and being respected – this means that despite all our differences, we perceive each other as equals." For Scholz, respect means "that no one looks down on others".
Many resentments also have to do with the fact that people do not feel adequately perceived: "Some people rightly want to be represented by language and not discriminated against. The others do not want to be lectured and patronized."
Fight against any form of discrimination
"The way to the solution" for Scholz is: "More respect!" Thus, the Corona pandemic had taught one thing: "that there are no higher- or lower-value activities". Each and everyone had the right to be recognized with their own performance. "After all, the cashier at the supermarket, the nurse, the cleaner, the parcel carrier at DHL, the train conductor on the regional express – each and every one of them makes an indispensable contribution to our community."
Scholz calls for "a vigorous policy of respect". This includes consistently combating racism, sexism and every other form of discrimination. "We have already overcome many state and everyday discriminations against women or LGBTQ persons in Germany – but by far not all of them yet."And he promises: "Here we must not slacken, and be quite sure: Here I personally will not slacken. Because the cohesion of our society also depends crucially on further progress on this issue."
Full participation for all migrants
The concept of respect is also particularly important to me with regard to "fellow citizens with non-German roots," says Scholz. It goes here after all nearly a quarter of the population. "They all have the right to full participation in the social life of our country." Germany is a country of immigration. "But we have to become an even better integration country," he warns. For this he feels responsible. "And all those who make an effort for their personal future here in Germany have me at their side."
For Scholz, the topic of respect is also "about very tough material, social and economic issues": for example, the problems of low wages, precarious working conditions or poverty in old age. In all of these cases, the people affected feel that there is a lack of respect for their performance.
"Tackling problems with all our might as Federal Chancellor"
"That’s why these are the problems I want to tackle with all my might as chancellor," explains Scholz: "With a minimum wage of 12 euros and more collectively agreed wages, with a stable pension, with 400.000 new dwellings in the year, of it 100.000 social housing units, with fair participation of the very wealthy and top earners in the financing of the community and a real equality between women and men."Tackling these concrete problems with a policy of respect is also important for restoring confidence in democracy, he says.
For Olaf Scholz, one thing is clear: "We will only be able to solve the very big problems of our time if we do not lose the cohesion of our society along the way."