The pan-European movement DiEM25, co-founded by Srećko Horvat and Yanis Varoufakis, former finance minister of Greece, wants to build bridges between political parties and progressive movements in Europe. Left parties like the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn and Podemos in Spain should not be losing touch with its progressive base to avoid what has happened with Syriza in Greece, says Horvat. Additionally, many problems could not be solved on an isolated national level. Therefore a left exit from the European project is the false answer according to Horvat. Most problems have transnational implications like the economic or financialcrisis, climate change or the refugee crisis. But the Left has so far failed to provide alternatives to the neoliberal assault on European societies. Right movements and parties have instead ceased the opportunity and are doing well. It is high time to build a “progressive, internationally oriented” Europe.
Srećko Horvat: co-founder of DiEM25, philosopher, activist und author from Croatia
David Goessmann: You founded DiEM25 together with Yanis Varoufakis. We interviewed Yanis Varoufakis in February last year. What has become of the movement since then? I mean, this project was very ambitious in scope. However, up to now, there is hardly a large European movement visible.
Srećko Horvat: Well, the project is even more ambitious now than it was one year before and the situation changed a lot in the course of this year since DiEM was founded and launched at Berlin’s Volksbühne in February 2016. The situation changed so much that you had Brexit in the meantime, that you had the so-called refugee crisis in the meantime, that now you have Trump and now this year you will have French, Dutch, and German elections and the rise of the extreme right. Of course DiEM or a pan-European movement has to adapt to all these new developments, which almost no one could predict, actually, at that time. So our plans became even more ambitious, which is the reason why DiEM is at the moment working on a refugee policy, on a pan-European refugee policy, because we think the European refugee policy completely failed. I just came to Munich from Belgrade. At Belgrade’s main railway station you have more than 2000 people living in really, really bad conditions with minus 10, minus 15 degrees, without the possibility of shower or something like that, and really Belgrade at the moment is becoming the new Calais. Why is Belgrade becoming the new Calais? Because Europe outsourced the problem of refugees to the periphery. The same is the Turkish-European deal and I could go on and on. So the European refugee policy failed and again it’s connected to the European foreign policy, which actually doesn’t exist. European foreign policy could be summed up as export-import-export: first we export wars, then we import refugees, and then we export the refugees again back to the peripheral countries of Europe. So this is one big, important field where DiEM is active, developing at the moment a refugee policy paper and at the same time a paper on transparency, which will be promoted and published very soon in the course of a couple of months in the European Union. We’re precisely DiEM, a team which was gathered by Yanis Varoufakis, where you have renowned economists like James Galbraith, Joseph Stiglitz and others are creating a policy paper, a suggestion for managing the banking crisis, for managing the common currency, the fiscal pact, and all the structural problems of the Eurozone. So DiEM will be active in the French elections, in the German elections, in the Dutch elections. We are very active in the UK. And the best thing is that since the launch of DiEM in 2016, thousands of people joined DiEM, we have hundreds of groups all over Germany, all over France, all over Spain, precisely under the same conviction, that all these problems which I named – the refugee crisis, wars, we could also add the ecological crisis – cannot be solved at the national level anymore. They can only be solved on an international level, and to reach the international level, we first have to create the European level. And precisely the European level, what you can see with the European crisis, is something where the European elites failed tremendously. They didn’t create a European identity, they didn’t create European citizenship, and they didn’t create the possibility of Europeans deciding together where this continent wants to go.
David Goessmann: How have other groups reacted to DiEM25? I mean unions or anti-globalization groups and so on and so forth. Are you in contact with them?
Srećko Horvat: Yes. We are in daily contact with different groups. We are in contact with political parties. We have very good contacts to Die Linke in Germany, to the Greens in Hungary, to the Labor Party in Britain, Podemos in Spain, but as you can see DiEM doesn’t want to stay only on the level of party politics, which is a reason that we also established good contacts with the Blockupy movement for instance in Germany, with trade unions, so what DiEM is trying to do is different than a horizontal movement, and is also different than a vertical political party. We’re trying to combine the local level, which is a reason that people from Barcelona, Gerardo Pisarello, Ada Colau, are very close to DiEM and we are following what’s happening there with the cooperatives, with evictions and we think that the municipal, local level is important and the state/international level as well and we don’t fetishize neither the local level, the national or the international. We are trying to combine it and at the same time we are trying to combine what we in theory could call horizontality and verticality. So it’s a very ambitious experiment, but I think only if we all work together – progressive political parties, progressive movements, trade unions, but also people in technology, also ordinary people – there is a chance. And in this sense I think that it’s very important to say that DiEM is from the very beginning opposed to what is now called in the jargon after Brexit “Lexit,” the leftist idea that by exiting the Eurozone you can recreate, return to the ideal notion of sovereignty. We think this is a joke. We think this is a dangerous illusion, because as I said, all these problems which we face today in Europe are problems on a much higher supranational level and we have seen from the defeat of Syriza what happens even when a radical left party takes government. They cannot change the situation on a national level, because their problems are problems which have to do with the Eurozone.
David Goessmann: Large parts of the EU are turning to right nationalism, in Poland, Hungary, also in Croatia, as well as Austria, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavian countries and Germany. Why is that so, after devastating decades of neoliberalism why is there not a turn towards progressive movements and progressive alternatives?
Srećko Horvat: Well, I think this is, we have to say explicitly, this is a failure of the left. This is a failure of the left because it was precisely the Nigel Farages, the Le Pens of Europe who succeeded to mobilize the angry workers who are unemployed or who are afraid of the refugees and the left didn’t succeed to do that. To give you a parallel, what happened in Egypt in 2011 was tremendous. Millions of people gathered at Tahrir Square, protesting against Mubarak, protesting for more democracy, more freedom of expression and economic development, if you want. What happened later, if you remember, was that the Muslim Brotherhood came to power after Mubarak. And why was that? It was because the Muslim Brotherhood during the rule of Mubarak when they were completely marginalized and even prohibited by law, it was the Muslim Brotherhood who for decades provided aid, medicine, loans, clothes, to the poor people of villages all around Egypt. It wasn’t the left. Traditionally, it was the role of the left with the workers’ movement, with the trade union movement, with the women’s liberation movement, it was precisely the left which would go from village to village, from town to town, from city hall to city hall working with ordinary people and getting them on their side. I think we, and when I say we it doesn’t only mean the left, but the democrats failed precisely in that. And it has to do as well with the collapse of the welfare state, I would say. That’s the reason why even in Western countries, which had a functioning model of the welfare state, you have today the rise of the extreme right. Because precisely this role, which I described, was provided by the welfare state and when you have the welfare state, which of course was a historical compromise between capital and labor and was a way to, you know, to move the attention of the workers from the October revolution and it was a kind of compromise, but again, it was still much better than what we have today, but when you had the welfare state, you at least had social services, you had a functioning healthcare system, you had free education, and you had pensions, something which is completely unimaginable today. So today in countries, which had all of this, even in Croatia, which was formerly a socialist regime, today we have to pay for education, we have to pay for healthcare. My generation, in the mid-30s, we don’t even believe that we will ever have a pension anymore. So in this situation, of course a huge amount of people in all countries all over Europe, even in the US as we have seen with the rise of Trump, are getting unsatisfied and they’re getting angry. And it is not the left who is providing an answer, but it is the right. So I think the left and the liberals and the democrats have to wake up finally, because I think the moment where we are today is a very dangerous moment, where you could imagine a Europe, which was completely unimaginable years ago, where you will have Britain, which is not part of the Eurozone anymore, you will have Le Pen in power and maybe a France which is not part of Europe anymore, which means the complete disintegration of Europe if France exits. You have Trump, you have new wars in Syria, in Libya, which are taking place all the time, you have new refugee crises, so I think the situation is very dire and instead of retreating to our small national cocoons, we have to fight for a new international, we have to fight for new connections between movements, between, if you want, media as well, between trade unions, between political parties, instead of what Freud would call narcissism of small differences, which means that you and me don’t have so many differences, but instead of focusing on our commonalities, on the things on which we all agree, you and me will focus on the things which differ between us. And if you start from that assumption of course, all of us in any room could immediately exit the room because there are so many things on which we will not agree. So what I think we have to do is focus on the things on which we agree and build a progressive international all-round Europe and also in the world.
David Goessmann: Now which potentials do you see for progressive movements and parties for example Podemos in Spain or the Labor Party under Jeremy Corbyn in Great Britain or progressive parts of Italy’s Five Star movement?
Srećko Horvat: Well, I wouldn’t put them all together. For instance, I wouldn’t put the Five Star movement together in the same basket as Labor or Podemos, especially because of their stance over the Eurozone, but also the recent development in the European Parliament, where they wanted to join the one group, but they were rejected. So I think Five Star movement we have to see what will happen with them. Podemos and Labor Party, I think what is crucial is that these parties stay in contact with the movements. If there is one lesson with Syriza – one of the lessons; there are many lessons of course – it’s that new political parties, if they really want to be new political parties, they have to stay in contact with the movement. On the other hand, I will go on only that way, if Occupy Wall Street has one lesson, it’s that occupations, horizontal movements also need political parties. So, to use a philosophical jargon, I think we need a sort of dialectics between horizontality and verticality, in the sense that it is movements which can strengthen political parties more and it is political parties which can then implement some of the requests of the movement. And it has to be here all the time, in order to avoid corruption or something which happened with the Lange Marsch durch die Institutionen in Germany, for instance, so that’s one of the lessons. The rise of the Labor Party in the UK is very interesting because the Labor Party with more than one, with more than half-million of members is currently the biggest central-left party all over Europe. I think there is potential there. There is potential with Podemos as well, but what I think is necessary now, and that’s one of the functions, one of the aims of the Democracy in Europe Movement 25, DiEM, is to provide links and infrastructure for all these political parties, but also the movements. Because the problem of Brexit is not a British problem, it’s a European problem as well. The problem of Spain, the problem of the Italian referendum or the refugee crisis, is something where we all have to come together and work together in order to solve. I think that’s another step these political parties have to achieve, not only to build political alliances in the European Parliament or whatever, but to really work together perceiving that they’re a part of the same movement and not only political parties on a national level.