Molon Lave means “come and take (them)”. It is a classical expression attributed to king Leonidas of Sparta as a response to the king of Persians, Xerxes I, and his demand that the Spartans surrender their weapons.
What have we witnessed since Alexis Tsipras elected as Greece’s Prime Minister in January 2015! The first meeting between Varoufakis and Dijsselbloem, in Athens, which went viral, sparked our interest, from the very beginning, about what it was going to happen next: a tough ‘‘bras de fer’’ between the Greek government and the creditors for six months, consecutive ultimatums from the Troika, stifling deadlines for bond payments, cliffhanging Eurogroups, ”rock performances” by Yanis Varoufakis, a non-payment IMF installment, closed banks, capital controls and, of course, the monumental ”NO” vote of the Greek people.
Who would have imagined that a multi-month negotiation and a referendum would lead to the creation of a Pan-European Movement for Democracy in Europe?
If we take into consideration what Alexis Tsipras stated at his Thessaloniki International Fair Speech in 2016, “You have no complaint, in the first half we had a very fancy team”, then I bet that Varoufakis’ team and his friend and co-founder of DiEM25, Srecko Horvat, will continue to dance in fancy’ rhythm across Europe.
Yorgos Boskos: How did you come up with the idea of DiEM? What is the background and goal of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025?
Srećko Horvat: DiEM25 was born in the background of the Greek OXI referendum, the so called “Greek Spring”, which inspired many Europeans, including myself, who for the first time – because of the Greek defiance – were proud of calling themselves “European”. It is at that time, when “Europe” finally gained a different and radical meaning, it was Greece which was the courageous heart of Europe again. What we all learned from the fate of the OXI referendum is that it is certainly not enough to fight only in your own national state, since the financial powers know no borders. The only solution to the internationalism of banks can be a new progressive internationalism across borders.
Are you confident that DiEM Manifesto could be implemented in Brussels bureaucracy?
Let me put it like this: If the DiEM25 Manifesto would be implemented, there would be no Brussels bureaucracy. At least not in the sense we know it today. So you might ask, why then starting a transnational list in order to get into the European Parliament if we don’t believe in the current European Parliament and its powers? Our logic is simple: IN and AGAINST – in the EU, against this EU.
Noam Chomsky described Yanis Varoufakis as one of the greatest economists in the world. However, the Troika of the Interior & Exterior has assassinated his character. Do you think that this fact will impact on people’s vote?
I will always believe Noam Chomsky than the Troika, and somehow I am sure most of the Greek people also don’t believe the Troika. Incidentally, it was precisely Chomsky who in his seminal book “Manufacturing Consent” convincingly showed how the media usually functions as the effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function. What we have to do instead of it is something I would call “manufacturing discontent”. You surely remember the OXI referendum. I was there in Athens during those days of hope and courage. And what I noticed is how the media in Europe but also in Greece were “manufacturing consent” to the degree that the OXI vote was being portrayed as the vote for Apocalypse. However, it was precisely the discontent of the Greek people which turned this logic around… Of course, until the very next day after the referendum, when the OXI was turned into the NAI. I am sure the voters in Greece remember who was the one to resign the very next day when it was obvious that the Syriza government would not only not listen to the vote of the people, but would turn it into its pure opposition and start implementing policies the people voted against.
For a democratic European Parliament
If you get elected in the upcoming European election, what are your first actions going to be in the European Parliament?
Demand transparency in all European Council meetings (i.e. that they are livestreamed) and demand that the Eurogroup is disbanded, as an informal body that has usurpbed enormous power without any authorisation from any of the Treaties. But, beyond our action within the European Parliament, DiEM25 will use the authority we shall have from being represented in the European Parliament in order to begin a campaign for a constitutional assembly process to begin across Europe, from town halls all the way up to regional and national levels, that will culminate in a Paneuropean Assembly of elected representatives whose remit will be to draft a democratic European Constitution – by which to replace all the existing Treaties.
Eurogroup, which is an informal body, despite the criticism received for no legal basis and democratic shortcomings, it keeps working. How do you explain that?
The creation of the euro caused a gigantic crisis that gave the Deep Establishment both a heart attack but also a fantastic opportunity to do away with all democratic checks and balances. The creation of the Eurogroup was the effective end of any pretense to democratic governance. They continue to use it to push austerity for the many and socialism for bankers without caring about what you and I say – or about the legality or illegality of what they are up to.
The EU Parliament does not legislate and the European Central Bank does not follow common currency policy within the EU. Could you outline your first actions in Brussels in order to reform the EU institutions?
Our Manifesto and European New Deal spell out exactly how that could be accomplished. For example, activating the European Investment Bank to… invest. Let’s jump-start a pan-European Green Transition that will address many of our socio-economic problems and begin to change the current paradigm. From austerity to shared prosperity and the type of green growth we need. This, with the ECB covering its operations. This can be done tomorrow. No need for treaty changes. And the European Parliament is just one of the platforms we would use to demand our progressive agenda to be adopted, yes. But for this to happen, to bring about real change and help millions, we need a transnational force of progressives willing to take on the EU’s establishment in every institution – from the smallest municipality to the Eurogroup.
Democracy is in deep crisis in Europe, while extreme right parties are gaining ground – the latest example is Italy. Are you optimistic that DiEM25 will prevent Europe from disintegration?
DiEM25 alone can’t do it alone. This is precisely why we are in the process of the formation of a truly internationalist movement. In Europe DiEM25 already has members in every European state, and a strong base and cooperation with radical parties and movements in Germany, France, Poland, Denmark, just to name a few, but also in countries which are not anymore part of the EU – like UK and Corbyn’s Labour party. Moreover, also in countries which are not yet part of the EU – like the municipalist movement “Don’t drown Belgrade” (Ne davimo Beograd) in Serbia. At the same time, we are in contact with the Bernie Sanders movement and many other movements across the globe. Why? Because if Europe disintegrates, it will have tragic consequences for the rest of the world as well.
If Europe disintegrates, it will have tragic consequences for the rest of the world as well.
Are you planning to found the “Italian DiEM25”?
Yes, we have already agreed, in principle, with the Mayor of Napoli, Luigi de Magistris, to found a new movement in Italy that contests the May 2019 European Parliament Elections as part of our transnational list. At the moment DiEM25 already is present in hundreds of Italian cities and villages were local or regional assemblies are happening almost on a weekly basis. It is a movement which will certainly also have an electoral expression. In the coming months we will decide the precise form of our new Italian party.
What’s your comment on Italian election’s result?
Another proof that the “Extreme Center”, a toxic mixture of populism and market fundamentalism, is rapidly taking over the world. And another clear and urgent sign that we need radical internationalism more than ever.
“Julian Assange needs our support”
Some DiEM members have suggested that DiEM should stop backing Julian Assange. What’s your opinion on that?
Julian is my good friend and he should have DiEM25’s full support, that is my opinion. The only reason why he is not walking free is the fact that the UK government is not ready to guarantee that they would not extradite him to the US. When the former director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, who explicitly said that WikiLeaks should be treated as a “non-state hostile intelligence service”, becomes the new secretary of state, and Gina Haspel, someone known for torture, becomes the new head of the CIA, what do you think the fate of Assange could be? This is the reason why I think anyone who cares about basic human rights should support him until he is free. As said, Julian is my friend and I will never hide this fact, but since DiEM25 is a democratic movement, not everyone needs to have the same opinion, so we started a democratic and internal vote in order to ask our membership about their opinion and what DiEM25 should do collectively as a movement in regard to Julian Assange.
However, Julian Assange “has been arbitrarily detained” in violation of international pacts, according to UN, in Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the past six years. How it will be come to an end?
No one knows. His legal situation is so complicated that maybe only Kafka could have imagined it. In a world in which even a ruling by the UN doesn’t count much (or to be more precise: the UK government is ignoring it!), how can we still talk about the rule of law or protection of human rights? When human rights activists are being killed in Brazil and journalists in Malta, how does the future look like for anyone who is revealing dirty secrets or defying corruption and power? Luckily, Julian is one of the strongest persons I have ever met and, even though his situation is difficult, I am sure he will fight until he is free, and continue fighting when he finally is free. But no one is an island, this is why he needs our support.
Thomas Wieser, president of the Eurogroup Working Group, has recently stated that Yanis Varoufakis cost 200 billion Euro to the Greek economy in six months. Is that terrible arithmetic?
It is more than bad arithmetic. It is a cynical attempt by the – for many years – chief of the Troika’s machinery to blame Varoufakis for the Troika’s crimes. It is all about re-branding the Troika Cost into a… Varoufakis Cost.
In two Greek words: MOLON LAVE!
Please, describe Yanis Varoufakis in a few words.
In two Greek words: MOLON LAVE!
What do you have to say to the Greeks as you are heading to Athens for the upcoming DiEM event on March 26?
Let’s all together say to those asphyxiating Greece and destroying Europe: MOLON LAVE!
Who is about to address the Athenian public, Naomi Klein or Slavoj Žižek?
Naomi Klein, Slavoj Žižek, Noam Chomsky, Brian Eno are all behind MeRA25, and of course our broader movement DiEM25. But on Monday 26th March, at the inauguration of MeRA25, it is the people of Greece who will be at the forefront.
What’s your view of Alexis Tsipras?
I do not know him that well; after the OXI referendum we haven’t been in contact. But, instead of falling into the trap of measuring someone according to his personal characteristics, what matters instead is to judge his political decisions and achievements.
Do you think that Syriza is really in power in Greece right now? Just remind you the case of Allende in Chile.
Yes, you know what President Nixon said to the CIA regarding Chile? “Make the economy scream”.
And this is precisely what happened in Greece in summer 2015, where a coup was organized not by tanks, but by banks. So you could go so far and say that who really is in power in Greece is the Troika, but at the same time, it is Syriza who carries full responsibility for implementing the Third Memorandum, banning worker strikes, cherishing good relations with Israel or Donald Trump, and so on. This are the political decisions and achievements which must be judged.
Why do you think Syriza failed to renegotiate the memorandum in Greece and Podemos to win the election in Spain?
Syriza failed because Tsipras chose not to honour the OXI vote at the same night it was delivered. Podemos, having allied itself fully with Syriza and Tsipras, suffered a major blow when Tsipras capitulated.