Following the German government’s decision to remove some agricultural subsidies, Germany’s farmers have decided to mobilize again starting today, January 8, and are expected to largely paralyze traffic on the country’s highways.

Farmers also protested last week, culminating last Thursday (January 4th) when angry farmers from the state of Schleswig-Holstein blocked Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck from a ferry on his way back from his holidays.

Since then, “a debate has been taking place with some aspects as disturbing as the incident itself”, comments the Süddeutsche Zeitung. “Because it shows that Democratic party leaders are ready to make concessions to the mob – acting out of fear.

[…] As it seems the time has come to explain the obvious. This democracy has tremendous advantages: it allows everyone to exert pressure in factions, in unions, through Facebook, in demonstrations.” And that pressure often pays off, as it did in this particular case, as the German government revised some of the measures it was about to put into effect.

“But free democracy also includes an agreement about the form any confrontation will take. The rest of the opinions expressed are considered equal. We accept the majorities, we protect the minorities. We don’t threaten each other. And the end never justifies the means,” emphasizes SZ

A worrying socio-political phenomenon

For its part, the economic review Handelsblatt adds that in this case “the anger does not come, for example, from the right, but from the center of society – from farmers who stigmatize politicians as perpetrators and turn their tractors into combat vehicles. […] The reactions of the farmers, who have gone astray, show that the AfD’s methods resonate even in the center of society. These events could therefore only be a prelude to what is to follow in the future.”

This finding intensifies the concern that “2024 could be the year when the endurance of the federal democracy will be tested more than ever in its 75-year history. In the autumn, elections are held in three eastern states – and in all of them the AfD leads, while the party could take the east already earlier, in municipal elections for town halls and provincial administrations.

As HB explains, in these circumstances there is a great risk that “the traditional parties, afraid of the AfD, will attack each other, poisoning the political climate. But that would only benefit the AfD.”

Regarding the measures taken by the German government, the German newspaper considers that “the governing coalition is dealing with the major social conflicts, but it is doing so in such a chaotic way that the citizens feel even more insecure – as for example in the cuts that led to farmers in the streets. Initially the government wanted to take away some privileges from them, then with the first reaction it partially revises and finally creates the impression that practices like the one at the expense of Hambek are already being rewarded.”