“I am an activist in parliament”

The anti-fascist Ferat Kocak was the victim of a right wing arson attack. Now he is sitting for die LINKE in the Berlin parliament.


taz: Mr. Kocak, you have spoken out against a coalition with the SPD and the Greens, but the coalition talks are continuing. Are you already regretting standing for parliament?

Ferat Kocak: No, quite the opposite. I can now defend my position in parliament. I want to be the voice of social movements, to give them space and to make my resources available to them. That means that I will now meet again with DW Enteignen treffe, with the hospital and climate movements and anti-racist initiatives to talk with them about their minimum demands for coalition talks. If we understand ourselves as a party which makes politics for and with the movements, we must know them.

What is the argument against joining a government?

We are only the third force, we’ve lost percentage points and we have not received a mandate. In the discussion paper [between the SPD, Greens and LINKE] I recognize above all the handwriting of [Berlin SPD leader] Franziska Giffey, and little from die LINKE, little radical politics. A traffic light coalition [SPD, Green, FDP] would not have produced a radically different paper. If this is the basis for coalition talks, we should not have any fear of going into opposition.

What would be better then?

Then we wouldn’t have to hold back on our criticism of the SPD and Greens and could win much better social movements for us. I want to say to voters: “Vote us and we will fight together”. Not “Vote us and we will govern for you”. Also, we can’t hand over criticism of the government to right-wingers and conservatives.

Were the previous five years of the LINKE in government then a weakening of the social movements and their demands?

Not in all cases. But look at the demands for a commission of inquiry for the Neukölln-Komplex [legal case against two alleged neo-Nazi fire bombers], which many victims of right wing terror and very many anti-fascist groups make. Die LINKE has passed two unanimous conference resolutions for this, but we still couldn’t push it through. This is symbolic. We say that we are against deportations – the SPD deports. We are against the eviction of left-wing spaces– the SPD enforce this. And because we are in the government, our criticism is not too loud. With this we shut the doors to the left.

Would anything have been different if die LINKE were in opposition?

As an opposition party we would at the very least been able to propose a commission of inquiry and exert much more pressure on the SPD and Greens to vote for it. It would have been difficult for them to hide. The evictions might have still happened, but it wouldn’t be put on us. We would also have been able to give a much louder voice to the people who were fighting against it.

How do you want to prevent Red-Green-Red still?

I’m not saying that I reject joining a government in all cases. But me must enforce more of our minimum demands: carry out the [fair rents] referendum, no building on Tempelhofer Feld, stop the privatisation of the S-Bahn, no deportations, a €365 ticker for public transport. I know that compromises must be made for a colaition, but with Franziska Giffey that will be difficult.

You already know her from Neukölln.

Giffey comes from the Buschkowsky tradition [Heinz Buschkowsky, right wing former SPD mayor of Neukölln who faced several charges of racism], that already says everything. At the time she staged media appearances, saying that she was working with Michael Kuhr from the security services against litter in Neukölln – instead of against right wing terror. If she had dealt with this in time, there may not have been the attack against me. Giffey makes populist politics.

Do you understand yourself now as a politician or still as an activist?

I can’t identify myself with the word “politician”. I am an activist in parliament. It is important to keep on telling myself this, to sustain a relationship with the street and to prevent a Mind Change up to adapting to this system. I’ve been an activist on the street since I was 16, In principle since my birth, because my parents were active in left-wing Turkish and Kurdish groups and always took me with them. I don’t know anything else, apart from us fighting on the streets and making the politics that they felt was correct. I don’t wanr to do the same as what I have experienced all the time.

Will that be easy or will compromises be necessary?

I don’t know. I’m very stubborn. My mother always says this.

The discipline of the parliamentary fraction?

I am very undisciplined.

But your party knows who they have brought into parliament?

I want to build the party. I have already said that I be paid according to the rate of die LINKE – that is only to earn as much as the people who work for me. I’m trying to ensure that there is no hierarchy between party workers and mandate. The rest will go to the work at the basis in Neukölln, to build structures. Otherwise, I think that there are different opinions about what a Left looks like. It is not my way to always show consensus. It will certainly be hard to me, when it depends on my vote, but I believe that because of the majority relationships [between SPD, Greens and LINKE], it is unlikely that this will happen.

How are you preparing yourself for your new role?

I must understand how the whole system functions, which bureaucracy I must do. Actually, I hate bureaucracy.

And with which content?

I’m learning how protection of the climate is functioning on the parliamentary level, as I am currently part of the negotiations in this group. Here I am reading and also meeting with Michael Efler, our former spokesperson on the climate. To strengthen the fight for the climate from out of the parliament, it makes sense that I am currently getting on board here.

I thought that you would deal with domestic politics, with strategies against the Right?

In domestic politics, my opinion is quite different to the party. From an Antira perspective, I believe that we should have been speaking about “Defund the police” for a long time, so less money for the police and a different understanding of security than the expansion of the police – asindeed our manifesto demands. But I fear that any coalition would collapse on this issue. Of course I will bring my experiences in the areas “strategies against the right wing” into the parliamentary work of the LINKE fraction.

What should your party get out of this area?

A very important subject for me is Racial Profiling, as this is like a strike from a whole State against individual people. Young people who are confronted with this can’t show any more trust. There must be laws which criminalise this behaviour – and we need a reversal of the burden of proof. The police must have to prove that they haven’t monitored people because of racism.

Neukölln still needs a Commission of Inquiry?

Yes! All three parties demand this. Even Giffey has said this at a panel discussion during the electon campaign, so it must come now. For me it is important that we bring in experts from the Mobilien Beratung gegen Rechtsextremismus (mobile advice against right wing extremism) up to the victim advisors ReachOut, and discuss with them how we can implement this so that we can have an Output at the end. We must go into the depth of the errors of the security authorities which were made during the eleven years of right wing terror. I want to gain an understanding why during all these years there was a detection rate of zero per cent. Is the Verfassungsschutz (state agency to protect the constitution) involved here? Are there V-men [police informants]? In parallel, there must be a round table with anti-right-wing initiatives, which observe the commission from outside and perhaps carry out something like a tribunal.

In 2018 your car was set on fire by Nazis, and the fire spread to your house. As a parliamentarian, you will now be more in the public eye. Does this increase the level of danger for you?

I an certain that in recent years, my anti-fascist engagement has caused Nazis to have their sights on me. If they find a moment, certainly something will happen. But I am trying to minimize these moments.

Do you already know how AfD councillors will encounter you in parliament?

I have already encounter two.


I didn’t enter their lift. I just watched them. Maximum distance. But if it comes to it, of course there can also be confrontation.

This article first appeared in the taz. Translation: Phil Butland. Reproduced with permission