In this interview we talk to the former finance minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, and philosopher, activist and author, Srecko Horvat. This interview was conducted on the 9th of February, 2016, in Berlin when the Democracy in Europe Movement 25 (DiEM25) was launched.
What differentiates DiEM25 from grassroots movements of the past such as Occupy?
What solutions and hopes does DiEM25 provide to ordinary people such as a single mothers or entire families living on a single pension?
Will DiEM25 implement the following rule: “If politicians vote for something (like war) they should also be part of it”?
These questions and many more are addressed in this video.
Zain Raza: We’re here now with Yanis Varoufakis and Srecko Horvat, the founders and participants of Democracy in Europe Movement. So I wantto ask you a question based more on the activism and grassroots movements part. DiEM25 — a lot of movements have occurred in the past like Occupy, which was a success in terms of consciousness but not in terms of its longevity or sustainability. What are the strategies that you guys are using to make sure that this movement lasts for a longer time at a grassroots level?
Yanis Varoufakis: Well look, let’s talk about the anthropogeography of this meeting that we just — think about it. We have representatives from Green parties, from feminist organizations, we have have from Blockupy as you mentioned — but at the same time we have the head of IG Metal, a trade union inGermany that everybody knows with 2.4 million workers — with people from the SPD, with people from the Linke, people from Barcelona, from themovements at level of municipality. People from Britain, who are not usually part of central European movements. We have people from the Czech Republic, people from Poland — that is unique — I don’t believe we have managed to do this before inthe movements inthe last few year. Something is brewing inEurope. These movements have now had a chance, and there is no guarantee, a chance of coalesces, of convergence into a surge — thedemocratic surge that we want.
Srecko Horvat: Yes as Yanis said both of us but also other people who are present here in Berlin have been participating in many social movements, networks and forums inthe last decade starting from the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre in 2001 to Genua protests and then of course these huge wave of protests all around the world in 2011 with occupation of squares Puerto del Sol, Syntagma Square, Zuccotti Park in New York and so on. But what it is new here I think, I hope at least, what is new is that we don’t only include movements, we don’t only include Trade Unions, classical political parties but for example during these meetings today we had people who are activists of Tor or Wikileaks, never before I have seen that so many people who come from the field of technology were interested in bringing more democracy — and we know there is no democracy without technology — actually technology could helps us today to bring more democracy. So what we can see only from this first meeting but also other meetings and people who supported themanifesto for example from Ken Loach, Eva Illouz, Toni Negri, Julian Assange — we can see that people got together who usually weren’t together — so we also have people from PaDeMos people from Degrowth, the Labour Party is very interested and supportive of DiEM. What we can see is that we are reallyin a political momentum currently inthe European Union where I think that we can go only in one direction — andthe one direction is democracy — or theother direction will be the dystopia which will be very similar tothe dystopia during the first World War and second World War.
Zain Raza: So we are faced with forces that have immense power, some people call them “Totalitarian Institutions” like the banking and hedge funds, be it the NSA surveillance state, be it the Monsantos. People feel hopelessness — let’s take an example of a single mother whose on unemployment benefits. She’s just lost her husband. Or a person studying in the university burdened with a lot of deadlines — people working on bar jobs — what would you advise them if they are facing fears or questions about engaging in such a movement?
Yanis Varoufakis: The only thing that you can use as a weapon to pose this panoply of evil, to use rather a moderative term, is hope. So how do you inspire a single mother? How do you instill hope in her? Through this convergence ofthe movements, of movements that are powerful but which tend toshrivel and die when left on their own — this convergence with existing established organizations from previous generations and centuries of struggle like thetrade unions, for instance, it is the only possible source of hope for a single mother, the disaffected unemployed 58 year old who is unemployable given technological change, tothe people in Greece who have to survive whole families on one puny little pension which is being cut tothe people in Ireland who have been battered for years by austerity now are coalescing around one issue “water”. So as so to not allow this kind ofmovementto die out — we need tobring them all together with established institutions to produce the possibility of hope.
Zain Raza: Srecko, you want to comment on that?
Srecko Horvat: I could only agree. Not because we agree on all the things and I think the perspective of DiEM25 comes from precisely from the fact that we don’t have to agree on all the things, so it is pluralism which should be the DNA of Democracy in Europe Movement. But I could only agree completely with Yanis Varoufakis because I had [the] opportunity to be in Greece, in Athens, during the Summer last year when the referendum was happening andwhen YanisVaroufakis was still the Minister of Finance in Greece. And what I could have seen on the squares, on the streets, preceding the referendumand also what I could have seen from the votes ofthe referendum, 62% ofthe people voted “NO” to austerity measures was precisely hope that there is a political force which can change the status-quo inEuropeand there is an alternative. But also what is very important to see is that you could have seen onthe European level at that time, that many other people who are inthe same situation as you say mothers, unemployed people, young people — I come from a country from Croatia where you have 54% of unemployment among young people — all of these people during the Greek referendum also came togetherand they were looking at Greece as a symbol of resistance. And I think what we have to do, and this is our responsibility if we want to save the European Union, and if we don’t want to go into the direction of new wars and few fascism which is around the corner already, we have to revitalize precisely this hope which existed during the referendum in Greece as one ofthe symbols, we can take also other symbols inEurope: refugees, people who are helping refugees today, we can take occupation of squares and all this energy and I think it is bad if we don’t come together and if we don’t work on all these energies and I think it’s very important what Yanis what you just said — it’s not just the energy ofthe last 2 or 3 years or Arab Spring or Occupy, it’s actually centuries of struggle and we cannot forget the centuries of struggle. We should learn from it and we should go a step further.
Zain Raza: So last question to make it short. This is from the public, this question, and there is a big complain about this so I want to pose thisto both of you starting with Yanis. The architects of policy, when they make a decision to go to war don’t go to the war themselves. When they vote for wage cuts they don’t have a wage cuts themselves. So from the public this question comes — whatever you decide and vote for, should policy-makers be also, be it a minimum wage whatever it is you know, should they also be part of what they voted for — face the consequences themselves? Is this something that DiEM25 could implement?
Yanis Varoufakis: Well let me tell you something from my personal experience ofthe last year. The first decision I took as the Minister of Finance was toreduce our salaries — the politician salaries. To get rid ofthe two luxury BMW cars that were inthe Ministry, just go to Ministry on my motorcycle and also toreduce by 40%, 40% that’s a big sum, the salaries ofthe former bankers that were staffing the Hellenic financial stability facility, that was part ofthe bail-out fund from Europe that was operating in Greece. So you’re question has already been answered.
Zain Raza: So vote for war, you go to war?
Yanis Varoufakis: There is no such thing as a good war. We will never vote for it.
Zain Raza: Srecko, any last comments on that?
Srecko Horvat: I comment on only on this situation where we are. All of us, including me andYanis, all of these people who are here and we have activists from all European countries but also beyond and not only Europe — they paid by themselves flights, trains, cars. They paid by themselves hotels, some people are staying at friend’s places and so on and we are happy to have the event at the Volksbühne who had sort of budget, but you know when you organize such a huge thing you need simultaneous translation, you need independent media as you are doing and so on. So we are very happy and that’s partly answer to your question that what we are preaching, what we are trying to achieve and this is democracy it has to be self-organized [Crosstalk Yanis: We practice, we practice] and we practice it and we are happy that many comrades practice it as well.
Zain Raza: Yanis Varoufakis Srecko Horvat thank you for joining us today.
Yanis Varoufakis: Thank you!
Srecko Horvat: Thanks!