“Not a showpiece, what saskia esken has delivered there”

There is a dispute in the SPD. At ie are remarks by Wolfgang Thierse, who has criticized the party's focus on identity politics. Karin Kortmann is herself a party member and cannot understand the nature of the debate.

Interviewer: Former Bundestag president Wolfgang Thierse criticizes some aspects of his own party. There is trouble and in the end he even offers to leave the party. What's going on in the SPD?

Karin Kortmann (former. SPD member of the Bundestag and vice president of the Central Committee of German Catholics): I believe that the SPD is concerned with what is also taking place in many other social organizations and companies, namely the question: how can we help to shape a society that is as free as possible from discrimination and focuses on human dignity? What instruments and language do we have for this?? The way we deal with it is an important indicator, and the SPD is struggling to find it. However, anyone who reads the SPD's draft election program will also see how strongly the theme of "social justice" runs through the entire election program. I'm not worried that identity politics would be the only perceivable ie for the SPD. But it is one. And especially today, on International Women's Day, it is a very important topic that the SPD, like all others, must face up to.

Interviewer: Does the SPD really focus too much on the interests of individual groups and thus neglect its profile as a party of social justice??

Kortmann: No, it doesn't. It does not do that at all, but on the contrary. The SPD, like all other parties, is an association of people of very different ethnic, cultural backgrounds and sexual orientations. And the best possible way is being sought on the question of how to take account of the different identities.

This is shown by the difficulty in finding the right language, whether gender asterisk or underline. Within the SPD there were very early groups that dealt with the topic of lesbian relationships and homosexuality. And the fact that it finally came to a decision in the Bundestag of the same recognition, is a sign of how long and cumbersome this path is. I don't see that the SPD is going down the wrong path; on the contrary, this discourse is the right one. If we didn't have it in the SPD, we would rightly be accused of not being aware of certain social developments.

Perhaps I can also illustrate this with an example. And with that there is also the bridge to the church. We had last week Friday in the meeting of "Justitia et Pax", the commission meeting exactly this topic. What did colonialism actually bring in terms of racism and what are the right answers today? That one is sensitive to the fact that I don't ask someone who perhaps has a possible optical migration background: Where were you actually born?? Or that I deal sensitively with the street signage.

All this shows that the SPD is not the forerunner. But it is right in the middle of this discourse and debate. But we have to be careful not to deny people political sensitivity because they have a certain background, but to say: This has to be talked about, this has to be argued about. And solutions must also be found. In this respect, I take a rather relaxed view and am also very much in the process of saying: Please take care not to parade people here in public because they have a different opinion than perhaps the party chairwoman.

Interviewer: What is the position of the church in the dispute over identity politics?. Could she mediate?

Kortmann: It is not the task of the church to mediate on this point. The church itself must be clear about its role. If you ever read church documents: We have, for example, almost universally the masculine spelling. In job advertisements we now have male, female, but we know that in many cases it cannot be meant that way, because it still has to do with certain questions of ordination. The church sets out on the road, especially on this ie. Above all: What does our commitment to the world church mean? What do we perceive there? And how do we deal with people in Germany, in our partner countries, so that this identity, from the church perspective, the dignity of every human being is central? That we do not go and follow a mainstreaming, but pursue the question: What does it mean when we talk about it in a world church context?? This also concerns the reappraisal of colonial relations. And we know that this is one of the crucial questions that is also related to church reappraisal history. Only if we face up to the political processes that led to colonial history at the time, acknowledge our responsibility and then ask the question: What is our job to do today? Then we know that churches are also in the middle of this identity politics.

Interviewer: There were immediately fierce reactions and hateful attacks on Wolfgang Thierse in the social media because he brought up the ie of identity politics. How much does this concern you?

Kortmann: That makes me catchless. On the one hand: anyone who knows Wolfgang Thierse and his great commitment, also with regard to reconciliation and public spirit, will not be able to accuse him at all of being blind in these eyes. But on the contrary, one should say: "Dear Wolfgang Thierse, let's talk about it and see: What is your catch? Where do you worry that the SPD is perceived as too strong on identity politics and too weak in other areas?" One talks about it. But to denigrate people so publicly, as has happened via the party leader and Kevin Kuhnert – that creates head-shaking and actually makes sad, because we have forms of dialogue within the SPD that are used for this purpose. But it shows that the yardstick between public distancing, political attacking and the question of how hard these are led apart, that there are very small nuances only and we must be careful that we do not deny each other the respect and recognition to seek the best and also implement it. It was not a showpiece what Saskia Esken has delivered there.

The interview was conducted by Dagmar Peters.

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Christina Cherry
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