What do you mean by social movements
"The Left Party is an amalgamation of the Mosaic Left"
What the Left Party is - a hopeful project or, at the bottom of its heart, a social democratic party that will stab us in the back when it matters most - is repeatedly the subject of debates among leftists. What would you say: what is the Left Party?
For me, the Left Party is currently the only larger party political union of the mosaic left beyond social democracy. That doesn't mean that there aren't any Social Democrats in the Left Party, but that there are other leftist movements that are also united there.
You have now used a first word that is often used, but still requires explanation: What do you mean when you say Mosaiklinke?
The term was first used by IG Metall board member Hans-Jürgen Urban. It aims at the recognition of the fact that there is no unified left in Germany, probably never has been. This leads to the following question: Do you go ahead in the political struggle with the goal of first unifying everyone behind you and then tackling the social changes? Or do you try to find common topics for the mosaic of different leftists - from communists to social democrats - and to fight for them? The latter seems more realistic to me.
It is no coincidence that I started with the question of what the Left Party is: you joined the Left Party in August. Was that a spontaneous decision?
That wasn't a spontaneous decision, I've been thinking about it for a long time. The question of organization is a very important one for me.I left the DKP in 2018, which I was a long member of, and since then I have been missing a political party. I was and am in the Marxist Left Association, but this is a network that connects Marxists across parties and organizes discussions, but not a party.
Why does it have to be a party?
I am mainly active locally in Munich, but I think that it is still important to have a strong association behind you that also develops politics at the federal level. Another aspect: I am a research assistant at the Ludwig Maximilians University, and a neoliberal understanding of individualism is widespread in the academic bubble, according to the motto: I am my own organization, and if I do not fully agree with something, then an organization is out of the question for me. I also wanted to set an example against this.
So the time of entry was coincidental?
Ultimately, the right-wing terrorist attacks in Hanau and before that in Halle were decisive. This strengthened the conviction that - even if there are things about the party that I don't like - we now have to stand together against the development of the law. Corona was also a factor in the decision: I believe that in the next few months we will see a massive shift in the costs of the crisis onto the shoulders of working and poor people, and here we need, in addition to social movements, a strengthening of trade union and party political alliances.
You left the DKP in 2018, now it's 2020. Why didn't you switch over directly?
First I needed a little distance from parties and the disputes that existed in the DKP, which were very nerve-wracking and also self-referential. Which, by the way, is also one of the reasons that I do not want to get involved in all the disputes in the Left Party, that is not my goal.
We still have to talk briefly about the dispute, because the Left Party is divided on many issues - migration policy, government participation, foreign policy. Dietmar Bartsch recently drew attention to himself with state-supportive statements to the police. There is always headwind from the party, but many things simply stand side by side and are not clarified because this would in fact tear the alliance of the Left Party apart. Does not it bother you?
Yes, of course that bothers me. But, as I said, for a long time I was organized in a party that also had a lot of arguments and members with very crude positions. So I'm used to it. What is important to me is what the comrades do on site - in my case, Munich. What do they stand for, who are they, what kind of politics do they do. And that looks good in Munich. But of course, there are also positions, you mentioned Bartsch's statements to the police, which from my point of view are a no-go. I myself have had many experiences with police repression and I will not remain silent on statements such as these, which I find wrong. And of course I can also imagine, without going fully into the internal party debates, supporting those alliances in the federal party that I find politically good.
Which would that be?
There is, for example, the Linkskanax group, whose appeal I signed. Last year, the movement left wing was founded, whose self-image I find attractive, the idea of a unifying party from below that relies on movements and struggles.
You said it was about bringing the mosaic links together for common topics. What topics are these from your point of view?
Initiatives such as “expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co” could set an example because they show a concrete way to improve people's situation and at the same time show where it should go, that monopoly-like concentration of capital should be socialized. What we generally lack, however, is a utopia, the main features of which are shared by various left currents, movements and also the Left Party, a left-wing narrative that motivates people to participate. I am now referring less to all the debates about left-wing narratives that recently took place, but more to the Kurdish freedom movement, which has managed to create such a utopia that tens of thousands of people in the Near and Middle East have joined, and very different people.
So democratic confederalism in German?
'What I mean is that we have to work on a utopia that is shared by many, and I'm happy to be a part of that too. But what that means in concrete terms, I don't know, I don't have a panacea, that would also be presumptuous and must also arise from the movement.
Speaking of the Kurdish freedom movement: There you enjoy a good reputation as an activist. I think you are known to most of those who know you from this context. How will that fit in with your new party membership?
I already see it as my task to bring issues that concern the Kurdish freedom movement to the Left Party, but I don't think the other way around that what you call a “good reputation” depends on a party book, but on my concrete practice. Nothing will change in this practice and in my positions, such as the criticism of the German-Turkish brotherhood in arms. There are also many Kurdish left activists in Germany who are also in the party, the Left Party is the first point of contact at party level for left Kurds and Turks in Germany.
HM Yes. There are often solidarity commitments from the Left Party, which is certainly also valuable, but there are also contradicting signals, right? Let's take Russia's action in Rojava, Northern Syria, as an example. In addition to the Trump administration, the Russian government has also practically cleared the area of Turkey for shooting. Nevertheless, there is an uncritical attitude towards Russia in parts of the Left Party, including those who like to show themselves with a Kurdish cloth. Another example is the cooperation with Islamists or Turkish nationalists, where there are contradicting signals from the party. How do I handle this?
So for me it is clear: Just as you don't work with German racists and nationalists, you don't work with Turkish ones either, I will say that again and again. Regarding Russia: The DKP also worshiped Russia, and I made the experience that you can have discussions with many, because there are sometimes misconceptions about what role Russia plays in the Near and Middle East. It is no longer the old Soviet Union, the foreign policy of which one could also argue about, but a regional-imperial player who asserts its own interests. In northern Syria, for example, the question is not whether I am on the side of Russia or the USA, but rather: Am I on the side of the revolution in Rojava? But as I said, my experience is that you can discuss this with many and also shake convictions.
You are also involved in the ISM, the Institute for Solidarity Modernism, which has the reputation of being a think tank for red-red-green. Is it important to you to strengthen those forces in the Left Party that are striving to participate in government in the federal government?
It always depends on the conditions under which government participation takes place. And I think there has been a certain shift in emphasis in the ISM in recent years, away from the focus on the pure party-political alliance red-red-green, or now more green-red-red, towards the movements that support such Alliance. I see it this way: without strong movements, without a country in turmoil, there can be no successful, progressive center-left government. It arises from the social movements and is also supported, criticized and driven forward by them. You saw that in Greece too ...
Syriza had won the election there because the movements were strong; The problem then was that these movements were co-opted or that many of the movements got involved in government policy and lost contact with the grassroots. What was also missing in the case of Greece was above all solidarity within Europe. We were too weak and did not manage to relieve the Greek left-wing government and take pressure off of it by waging successful struggles here in Germany.
Okay, but to be honest, it goes beyond my imagination that with the Greens and the SPD as we know them, a kind of progressive government should be possible - no matter how strong a movement on the street might be.
Yes, in the current state of affairs of the Greens and the SPD, that won't work, I have no hopes and I don't believe anyone in the ISM either. Scholz's candidacy for chancellor shows that. But I think it is still important to be in an exchange relationship with left forces within these parties - which still exist - and to support them, as we do through the ISM.
Are you actually a communist?
I see myself as a communist - although I have to say that I find such self-designations a bit difficult, ultimately others have to judge them.
What does communism mean for you?
The self-emancipation of people, that people take their fate into their own hands and try out new forms of democracy, economy and coexistence - beyond the need for growth, competition and the logic of profit. And that is international, not limited by national states.
Do you think the Left Party is an instrument to change society so fundamentally?
I am aware that the Left Party is not a revolutionary party striving for a socialist revolution - whatever that means today. Given the current state of left forces, however, it is necessary for leftists to join forces and bundle forces. One such grouping is the Left Party.
I was particularly interested in the conversation with you because we both share many positions - but made opposing decisions this year with regard to the Left Party: I was a member for a long time, but left this spring. A lot has bothered me before, but the reason was ultimately the vote of Bodo Ramelow for an AfD man in the Thuringian state parliament and, in my perception, with a few exceptions, the lack of outrage in the party about it. Can you understand this step?
I can understand that absolutely. That also made me very angry, and I believe that the state focus of parts of the left leads to such actions, according to the motto: The system works like this, so now I have to give this vote to the AfD man. If I were you, I would not have resigned, because the right wing band together and are happy if we continue to split.
At the beginning I asked you what the Left Party is, now I want to know what it should be. In one sentence, please.
A party that connects different social and political struggles with one another, shows what is in common, supports the social movements organisationally and financially and collaborates there itself, and which helps to develop an attractive utopia.
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