German farmers express discontent with government in ominous symbolism
In the first days of the new year, German farmers expressed their discontent with the government through unambiguous and ominous symbolism. Along rural roads across the country, makeshift gallows were spotted dangling traffic-light signs, representing the colors of the three governing parties.
The chilling sculptures serve as harbingers of unprecedented cross-sector protests and strikes set to hit German roads and railways. Farmers are planning an eight-day countrywide protest, involving motorway blockades, described as “the like of which the country has never experienced before.”
This dramatic change of mood in a country long feted for its consensus-seeking approach to industrial relations is a sign of growing anger and frustration. The protests are uncoordinated and focus on different demands, but their concurrence has given the far right a perfect opportunity to stoke populist fantasies of a coup d’etat.
The far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party is using social media to paint a picture of ordinary people being “driven into ruin by an irresponsible political leadership like in the middle ages,” and urging citizens to join what it has called a “general strike.” Some protesters have shared AI-generated pictures of a burning Reichstag surrounded by tractors, with the words: “Come to Berlin and chase away the traffic light!”
The German farmers’ association has tried to distance itself from “violent fantasies of a coup d’etat” and criticized the blockade of the vice-chancellor’s ferry. The association of small farmers in Saxony stated that the protests are playing into the hands of the far-right party before elections in September.
The subsidies cuts that have riled German farmers this winter were less planned than forced upon Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government by an opposition that is now gleefully rubbing its hands. The proposed cuts, mainly targeted at the Greens, has drawn criticism even among farmers with sympathies for the environmental party’s agenda.
The proposed cuts have triggered populist anger and have been criticized by farmers who see it as a way of being overregulated by zealous bureaucrats.
The protests and strikes in Germany are a clear indication of the mounting frustration and resentment among farmers and other sectors. The country is facing a period of significant unrest and discontent with its current government.