Yanis Varoufakis, Welcome To The Democracy Movement
Above Photo: From PopularResistance.org.
Varoufakis has called for a movement to democratize Europe. What he apparently overlooked is that across the continent such movements already exist.
A couple of weeks ago, you issued an invitation for the founding of a Pan-European movement against austerity. This is to start in Berlin on February 9 with #DiEM25. You’ve already talked about this idea on several occasions, like at a panel discussion with other wise leftists at the Berliner Volksbuehne in October.
Since then, I’ve been thinking to respond to you about this in an open letter. I believe and hope that I’m not the only one in this. Your appearance in Berlin and your call have generated a great deal of discussion among us. Some have been asking themselves whether the revolution could really be that easy: 12 Euros – and you are in.
Where did you get the idea that Germans before the coming revolt, will meekly buy a train ticket before storming the railway station? Anyway, these are frivolous Twitter comments.
Seriously, people in our circles – the leftist movements, that is – are wondering whether you have seriously discussed this plan with someone from the movements against austerity in Greece, Germany or anywhere else in Europe, before issuing this call to action? Do you not think that the brilliant idea to launch a movement for another kind of Europe hasn’t yet occurred to others?
Before I go any further, some obligatory words of praise are in place. There are many people – including my friends and I – who have deep respect for what you have accomplished already. Your confrontations with Dr. Schauble will not be forgotten. Nobody else but you could bring him to the edge of madness, no one else would make a better alternative for Minister of Finance. You’ve become a symbol of the anti-austerity movement. More important than Alexis, Pablo and all the other stars.
The ideas expressed in your books do not sound unrealistic at all. You propose another kind of Europe with your small but “modest proposal for a solution of the Eurocrisis” without going against the European Treaties (for which you have been classified as “reformist” by some). Nevertheless, this is an alternative proposal which dares to question the idea of a German Europe.
You are not satisfied with a so-called social administration of the crisis as proposed by your ex-comrades and ex-colleagues. Above all, you are pushing for a fundamental critique of the ruling political economy ideas, as taught at universities across Europe. Especially for this you deserve a thumbs-up. Still, some people have implied that you always wanted to be in the foreground, but perhaps it’s simply that you have shown that someone just had to dare.
I would like, however, to give you some tips for your upcoming trip to Berlin. Apparently, you are entering unknown territory, very far from parliaments and economic institutes, and you want to address and activate a “Europe from below”.
In doing this, it’s important that you pay attention to the fact that social struggles and the confrontation of power have been around since we started discussing the crisis. For this you do not have to look too far. Take but a look at Greece: the student protests of 2006-2007 against neoliberal policies in universities; the uncompromising revolt of December 2008; the general strikes that brought of hundreds of thousands of people to the streets; the movement of the Indignados (“Aganaktismenoi”) and the occupation of Syntagma square.
The exhaustion of the mass protest correctly observed by leftist academics led to new discussions among the Left: party or self-organization? Or both? Solidarity has been around in Greece not only as means of self-support or charity, but with the aim of transforming social relations toward a different administration of the Commons.
Similar debates have been and are taking place in Spain and elsewhere. The decisions of Tsipras and Syriza have led to further fundamental questions which you yourself are also asking: how to change the EU without leaving it? Why are we so damn helpless and is the apparent “defeat” all we are talking about since last summer?
But let’s go back to Berlin and Germany. Imagine, here too, we have seen attempts to counter the propaganda of the media and politicians about the “lazy Greeks”. Here, at the “Heart of the Beast”. Maybe our protests were too small to influence the existing discussion, but some still remember the solidarity “smoke signals” from Frankfurt to Athens during the Blockupy protests against the opening of the ECB in March 2015 or the #thisisacoup demonstrations after the referendum.
In addition, for years German and Greek activists have been travelling back and forth. We are people who want to prevent that German becomes the only language spoken in Europe: Blockupy, Greek Solidarity Committees, crisis migrants, progressive sections of leftist parties, culture and theater people and many others. Perhaps none of your German-speaking partners explained that there are people who have already had the idea that we need a transnational network, even a movement from the bottom. And then I’m not talking about Oskar Lafontaine’s “Plan B for Europe”.
All these initiatives from Germany have been networked beyond its national borders. There are many European-wide forums, in which it is worth participating: Blockupy International, Alternative summits, Beyond Europe, transnational Agora-meetings, antiracist networks, struggles for transnational social strikes, networked eco-social struggles from Nantes via Val de Susa to Chalkidiki. Talk with your comrades in Greece, they know about this because they also belong to these transnational networks. In Frankfurt we were all together on the streets.
We do not always have to start from the beginning. But, we all have to unite for a real movement.
This is why I have four direct requests for you:
Come to the Blockupy meeting which will take place on February 6 and 7, shortly before your visit to Berlin. Or at least contact them in one way or another.
Do not waste your time with irrelevant Plan B conferences. Movements are not made from the top.
Create a small map of social resistance and transnational networks in Europe. Blockupy can certainly help you in this. Believe me, it is worth it!
Talk directly with the people. A lot of them are complaining they could not talk in the Volksbuehne. You especially can influence and open to the public the conferences you are going to support and participate in.
The initiative to create a Pan-European movement to change existing conditions is correct, but existing structures should also be associated with this. Welcome to the Hell of social movements.