Jusos: Kevin Kühnert’s successor has to prove herself

Jessica Rosenthal will lead the Jusos in the future.

picture alliance / Jonas Güttler / dpa

It’s the end of an era. After three years at the helm of Jusos, the SPD’s youth organization, Kevin Kühnert is resigning from his position. He will not run again at the digital federal congress on Saturday.

It’s been three good years for the organization. Under Kühnert, the Jusos are more powerful than perhaps never before. The 31-year-old also admits this openly: “The voice of the Jusos has gained significantly in weight in recent years,” he told Kühnert knew how to use this weight. His greatest coup: With his association behind him, he played a major role in the fact that Finance Minister Olaf Scholz did not become SPD chairman in 2019 despite his role as a favorite. Kühnert mobilized the Jusos in the ballot for the outsider duo Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans. They prevailed. Kühnert himself is now deputy chairman of the parent party SPD. The footsteps that he leaves with the Jusos are great.

Jessica Rosenthal, previously Juso chairwoman in North Rhine-Westphalia, wants to fill it. The 28-year-old is the only candidate and after her election is faced with the question: How does she use the influence of the Jusos?

Jusos push into parliaments

Rosenthal is self-confident: “We have become a central power and shaping factor in the SPD,” she says in an interview with “As young people in particular, we should help shape it.” In fact, many Jusos are pushing into parliaments, Kühnert also observes: “It also makes me a little proud to see how many of us dare to take the step to run for candidacies, regardless of whether for him District council on site or for the Bundestag, ”he said. According to his wishes, the Jusos should leave the image of the party troublemakers behind. “We don’t just want to nag, we are now actively involved in shaping daily politics.”

Rosenthal also has the Bundestag in mind. In Bonn she is applying for the direct candidacy of the SPD, within the party she is so far the only applicant. “We belong in the parliaments of the republic. I also want to be a role model here, ”she says. However, it is questionable whether the direct mandate will work. In addition to the CDU, the Greens can also have hope.

Who is Jessica Rosenthal? “I came to politics because of the realization that nothing gets better, that you just sit on the sofa. Things don’t have to stay the way they are, ”she says. In her youth she was head girl, she always stood up for others, she got that from her parents. After graduating from high school in Hameln, Lower Saxony, she completed a voluntary political year with an NGO. This was followed by a teacher training course in Bonn and a traineeship at a “hot spot school”, as she says. She found her political family with the Jusos. She has been a member of the SPD since 2013, and in 2018 the Jusos elected her as state chairperson in NRW.

As the future head of Juso, she sees herself as an advocate for the interests of young people, even in the pandemic. “For the younger generation, there was a hail of political slaps in the face during the Corona crisis.” “In many areas, especially in training and studies, young people are left in the lurch,” says Rosenthal. As a teacher, she speaks from her own perspective. “My former school was dilapidated, the windows were screwed shut, you couldn’t even ventilate properly,” she says. The requirements for digital lessons are also completely different. “The best schools have to be in the most difficult parts of the city,” she demands. When it comes to the subject, she talks herself into a rage. Therefore, better equipment in schools is one of their core demands. In addition: more state influence in health care, a climate-friendly restructuring of the economy and a guarantee for training positions.

But she also serves the great wishes that belong to Juso folklore: “Yes, we want to overcome the capitalist economic system,” says Rosenthal. She does not think that a reform of the market economy is conceivable, since this system “is based on the exploitation of nature and people”, as she says.

Something like this cannot be done with the pragmatic Olaf Scholz, but he will lead the party into the election campaign as a candidate for chancellor. The Jusos and Scholz have had a conflict-laden relationship not just since the election of the chairperson. Still, Rosenthal has words of praise for him. “The fact that large parts of the population get through the crisis relatively well is also due to the aid given by Olaf Scholz.” The Social Democrats are currently focusing on unity.

In the super election year with six state elections and the federal election, the Jusos play an important role. It is they who hang up the posters, visit the doorstep and hand out flyers in pedestrian zones. The leadership of the party knows that, the Jusos know that – and will insist that their demands end up in the election manifestos. Negotiating this will be one of the most important tasks for Rosenthal in 2021. Her predecessor Kühnert sees her well-equipped. “She is not afraid of conflict,” he says of her.

Nevertheless, there is much to suggest that the image of the Jusos will change with Rosenthal at the helm. Kühnert developed into a self-confident chairman who still attacked the political opponent with sharp tongues at midnight. Rosenthal holds back on social media, tweeting at most once a week, her last Instagram post was from September.

Rosenthal wants to continue working as a teacher

Another difference to Kevin Kühnert: While the Berliner concentrated almost entirely on politics, Rosenthal wants to continue working as a teacher, at least until the federal election. In this way she can refute the accusation that Jusos do not know about working life. Nevertheless, there is less time for talk show appearances.

Some Jusos say that Rosenthal knows how to get on within the organization. However, she lacks the ability to mobilize across camp borders, as Kühnert was able to do.

Rosenthal will try to convince her critics, also in her application speech at the digital federal congress on Saturday. The delegates then vote by letter, the result will be announced on January 8th. Then the work really begins for Jessica Rosenthal – and she has to prove whether she too can shape an era.


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