11.12.2021, Thüringen, Greiz: Polizisten und Teilnehmer eines so genannten Spaziergangs gegen die Corona-Maßnahmen stehen sich am Abend gegenüber. An der nicht genehmigten Demonstration beteiligten sich mehrere hundert Menschen. Foto: Bodo Schackow/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

The video showed a man in prison uniform with his hands tied and a sack over his head in a vehicle. The prisoner was to be Economics Minister Robert Habeck. With the staging, right-wing extremists campaigned for a demonstration in Heidenau, Saxony.

The video, which alerted the security authorities this week, is evidence of what has been feared for weeks: that right-wing extremists are trying to abuse displeasure with inflation and high energy prices and mobilize protests. For them, the Green Economics Minister is currently the number one enemy.

But while constitutional protection officers in Brandenburg and Thuringia are already warning of right-wing extremist plans for a “winter of anger” and violent protests, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and Chancellor Olaf Scholz are apparently afraid of self-fulfilling prophecies. They said this week they do not believe there will be popular uprisings or riots. So how big is the risk?

The important thing is that demonstrations are completely legitimate in a democracy – the aim does not have to be to prevent them. The risk is that enemies of democracy call for these protests, hijack them and radicalize people. At the moment, security authorities do not see that right-wing extremists are having much success in mobilizing. But to see that as an all-clear would be naïve.

Politicians must do everything they can to ensure that desperation does not drive people onto the streets and embrace extremists. You can’t give the federal government a particularly good report at the moment.

Their task is to give people the confidence that the state will not leave them alone with their existential financial difficulties. But even if Scholz emphasizes: “You’ll never walk alone” – when it comes to relief, the traffic light above all gives the impression of disagreement. She cannot agree on who exactly should be exonerated. Instead, the SPD, Greens and FDP are attacking each other and causing uncertainty about the gas levy itself, where central questions are still unanswered. How are citizens supposed to trust that?

But the opposition and civil society are also in demand: If citizens want to take to the streets, there must be democratic offers that they can join. Die Linke wants to make this its task and announces a protest offensive. However, she has to be careful not to create scapegoats and stir up hatred herself with her agitation against the “rich”.

Solidarity is key in times of crisis. To do this, society must understand the crisis as a common challenge. It does not help to stir up fears of cold living rooms and loss of prosperity with gloomy forecasts. Then everyone is their own neighbor and those who can buy a fan heater or hoard wood in the basement.

It needs a positive vision of where Germany wants to be at the end of this crisis and how everyone can contribute. The fact that strong shoulders carry more than weak ones shouldn’t just be an empty phrase. The traffic light needs a common concept of what a fair distribution of the burden would mean in this crisis. If she conveys that clearly, too, it would be an important step in preventing a Winter of Anger.