Yanis Varoufakis: DiEM and the movements – Reply to Open Letter by John Malamatinas

18-01-2016

End of last week, John Malamatinas- a Blockupy activist addresses an open letter to Yanis Varoufakis. Here the response of the Greek ex-finance Minister.

Yanis Varoufakis

 Dear John,

 Your letter is a remarkable source of inspiration and hope for me. It also constitutes a wonderful opportunity to clarify, even within my own thinking, what our new movement, DiEM, is about.

 The Opens external link in new windowAthens Spring, and the ruthlessness with which ‘official’ Europe crushed it, shook millions of Europeans out of their complacency. Suddenly, it was impossible for decent folks to carry on pretending that all is well in the best of all feasible Europes. Suddenly, good people who had been lulled into a false sense of TINA (“there is no alternative”) began to realise that the present power structures in Europe are not an option (as they are crumbling all around us) and that, if they continue to do nothing, they will be complicit in the emergence of a postmodern 1930s.

 DiEM is being conceived as a movement that will connect these good, recently enraged, Europeans, with the movements that you so eloquently described in your open letter. Of course it would have been absurd to think that I was the first one to come up with the idea of starting a pan-European movement. Civilised Europe has been shaped by cross-border movements for centuries. No, the idea behind DiEM is to provide an opportunity for this new, hopeful coalescence between (A) the movements and (B) the recently energised/enraged/awakened silent majority. The aim is to use the Athens Spring as a springboard for a new coalition of democrats demanding that the demos, the people, is put back into democracy.

 Undoubtedly, the questions that DiEM will pose, beginning on 9th February in Berlin, have been posed countless time before by people and movements all over Europe.

  •  A European party or self organisation across Europe?
  • Can the euro be fixed and made compatible with shared prosperity?
  • Is the current mélange of EU institutions reformable (even in theory) or should we look beyond it?
  • What forms of political action are best suited to the task of democratisation?

 As I used to tell my students, the big questions do not change – the interesting answers do. What DiEM offers is an opportunity of unifying:

 (A) all those who have been asking these questions for years, while fighting the good struggles in their cities, communities, workplaces; networking across regions and countries with

 (B) Europeans who had hitherto not left their… couch, or lifted a finger against the establishment, but who are now eager to be part of a movement that restores hope in a Europe that can become decent, sustainable and worth striving for.

 In this context, you are precisely right: DiEM must, from the word ‘go’ (i.e. on 9th February, at the Volksbuehne), prove itself as a movement keen to learn from the accumulated experience and dynamism of (g)local movements like Blockupy. Whenever in the past few years I sought to counter the ultra-nationalist, quasi-fascist elements here in Greece, who tried to use the crisis to turn Greeks against Germans, I would refer to the resistance movements within Germany and to the solidarity of German activists (including the internationalist-networked manifestation of that solidarity across borders). Indeed, it was my hope that such movements would be excited by our choice of the Berliner Volksbuehne (as the site of DiEM’s launch) and thus join us more readily.

 So, let’s get practical. –

  •  I propose that, prior to the launch (at 20.30 of the 9th of February), one of the pre-launch public meetings (earlier in the day) should be dedicated to the question: ‘DiEM and the movements?’ Many comrades who are at this early stage working towards the inauguration of DiEM25, defining its direction and helping me with the writing of our Manifesto, have been for years or even decades actively participating in various movements – from the World Social Forum to the European Social Forum, from various solidarity campaigns all around Europe to the Altersummit, from Uninomade to Euronomade, from occupations in the Balkans to the struggle of Blockupy, from the Subversive Festival to Transeuropa Festival, from the theatre-scene to many other honest and important initiatives all around Europe and beyond. Their contribution, your contribution, that of movements like Blockupy, together with contributions from other participants [e.g. from Barcelona (led by Ada Culao), Madrid (represented by Miguel Urban Crespo), the UK, Denmark, France etc.] should, in the context of a truly open agenda, help tackle the issues you mentioned in your open letter.
  •  In addition to the pre-launch event, allow me to extend an invitation for you, or for another of your comrades, to address the audience during the main event, in the Volksbuehne.

  Finally, on a personal note, if I may:  You close your open letter by welcoming me to the “hell of the movements”. My answer to you is: “Glad to be here – even though, in truth, I was never anywhere else!” While earlier this year I spent a few, brief months in the corridors of ‘power’, and many years in universities as a professor, I have always been an activist: Beginning with the occupation movement of high school Greek students in 1975-8, the Black Students Alliance in my English university in 1978-80, the steel, printing and coal picket lines against Mrs Thatcher’s neoliberal policies in the early 1980s, CND and pro-ANC campaigns, working as a trades union advocate in Australia in the 1990s, involved in the student occupations of Athens University in the 2000s (when, as their professor, I gave ‘anti-lectures’ on political economics to the occupying students), all the way to the 2011 Syntagma Square occupation (where I participated daily and addressed the crowds, twice) – and finally to the… Eurogroup. Activism as a state of being… Lastly, your are right in saying that we cannot afford to start from scratch, from the beginning, ignoring all that has been accomplished by current and past movements. This is so. But, at the same time, I think we need a new beginning. One that appeals to those that the movements have, so far, left untouched. A new beginning to which we all contribute expecting nothing in return, save perhaps for the warm inner glow, when we are terribly old and decrepit, that we were not idle in the face of Europe’s descent into authoritarianism, misanthropy and sadness. That’s the purpose of DiEM.  Looking forward to the 7th of February, where (following your advice) I shall be attending the Blockupy meeting in Berlin, two days before our joint (I hope and trust) launch of DiEM.  In solidarity Yanis Varoufakis

 

 

 

The experience of Greece demonstrates the importance of building a pan European movement based on values of solidarity and deep democracy. Thank you for doing so much to organise this .
Hilary Wainwright| Red Pepper magazine |

"This is sheer unbridled sadism. The Greek people are being punished for the failure of the neo-liberal consensus to avert the hideous and increasing forms of inequality which were always inscribed within its mandate. Nothing can explain why the most powerful countries of Europe should want to continue to impose on Greece policies which have brought it to the brink of collapse, other than the desire to precipitate a true collapse which they will then take as the proof that only their vicious system could have saved it - a self-defeating argument and a blatant lie. We can only speculate what unconscious links there must be between the forgiving of Germany's post-war debt, of which it remains the beneficiary to this day and without which it would not be in a position to dictate its terms, and its refusal to countenance any such forgiveness, let alone the paying of war reparations, to Greece. No logic can explain it. We have entered the realm of the cruellest social fantasy. The irony is that the whole of Europe will now suffer. But our hearts go out to the Greek people who will suffer - who are already suffering - most."

Jacqueline Rose, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.

Étienne Balibar :"The struggle of the Greek people is the struggle of all European democrats, of all those who believe in human progress . In the case of a potential defeat all European peoples would pay the price. In the case of a potential victory, as limited as it may be, all European peoples would benefit. That's why it is necessary for those French and European forces who have hope in the renewal of democracy to positively answer the calls of Syriza to build European solidarity around Greece and the Greek people. The perspective of a referendum urgently requires the reinforcement of this solidarity"

Slavoj Zizek: "The struggle that goes on is the struggle for theEuropean economic and political Leitkultur.The EU powers stand for the technocratic status quo which is keeping Europe ininertia for decades. In his NotesTowards a Definition of Culture, the great conservative T.S.Eliot remarkedthat there are moments when the only choice is the one between heresy andnon-belief, i.e., when the only way to keep a religion alive is to perform asectarian split from its main corpse. This is our position today with regard toEurope: only a new "heresy" (represented at this moment by Syriza) can savewhat is worth saving in European legacy: democracy, trust in people,egalitarian solidarity. The Europe that will win if Syriza is outmaneuvered isa "Europe with Asian values" (which, of course, has nothing to do with Asia,but all with the clear and present tendency of contemporary capitalism to suspenddemocracy). We from Western Europe like to look upon Greece as if we aredetached observers who follow with compassion and sympathy the plight of theimpoverished nation. Such a comfortable standpoint relies on a fateful illusion- what goes on in Greece these last weeks concerns all of us, it is the futureof Europe which is at stake. So when we read about Greece these days, we shouldalways bear in mind that, as the old saying goes, de te fabula narrator."

 "The behavior of the Troika today is a disgrace. One can scarcely doubt that their goal is to make it clear that defiance to the northern banks and the Brussels bureaucracy will not be tolerated, and that thoughts of democracy and popular will must be abandoned. Other than power, there is no reason to continue with the shameful farce in which French and German banks profit from the suffering of the people of Greece."The debt should have been radically restructured long ago, or simply declared “odious” and cancelled. Today, Greeks are offered a miserable choice between two painful alternatives. One can only hope that their brave resistance to the brutal assault will encourage global solidarity that will save them and others from the harsh fate dictated by the masters."

Noam CHOMSKY | United States | MIT


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