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Greece, EU elections, Palestine & the International Order – JACOBIN interview with David Broder

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 01/04/2024 - 10:12pm in

Yanis Varoufakis’s new film series explains how elites used the financial crisis to terrorize Europe’s populations into submission. In this interview, he tells Jacobin why the anti-austerity movement failed and why the center is converging with the far right.

Debt is to capitalism what hell is to Christianity: unpleasant, and essential.” Speaking in his new documentary series In the Eye of the Storm, Yanis Varoufakis explains how elites have used capitalism’s own structural conditions to terrorize populations into submission and advance their counterrevolution. For the former Greek finance minister, austerity was not a necessary response to crisis but an instrument of “class war,” used to redesign economies in Europe and beyond.

Varoufakis’s new series recounts the resistance against this process — and the ways in which the European institutions’ dogmas set the EU on its current right-wing course. In an interview for the new print issue of Jacobin’s German-language magazine, David Broder spoke to Varoufakis about his time as finance minister, the reasons why recent crises have mostly benefited the far right, and the decline of Western hegemony globally.

DAVID BRODERAt the end of 2023, the Economist named Greece “economy of the year.” In June’s elections, New Democracy had won a majority, a result widely attributed to signs of economic growth. The main opposition party, Syriza, continues to decline. So, aren’t things going well in Greece?

YANIS VAROUFAKISThe Economist has every reason to celebrate an economic miracle. If you’re a money man, or a vulture fund purchasing distressed loans, Greece is an El Dorado.

Today there are 1.2 million homes being repossessed, in a land of ten million. Let’s say a house was bought for $250,000 before the crisis. Now it’s worth €200,000. It had a loan on it of €150,000, of which €50,000 was repaid. The mortgagee can’t repay the other €100,000 because of the crisis, loss of income, etc. Then a vulture fund registered in Delaware, with a bank account in the Cayman Islands, buys up the loan for €5,000. Even if they sell it for only €100,000, they’ve gained €95,000 on €5,000. I doubt there’s anywhere you can get higher rates of return. This is happening on an industrial scale.

The Greek state is more bankrupt now than in 2010, when it became bankrupt. Today the national debt is higher while national income is down. But now that a series of governments have been good girls and boys for the troika, the international creditors’ community has decided to proclaim Greece no longer insolvent. How come? Everybody knows that the Greek state is bankrupt. But there’s also the European Central Bank [ECB] winking at everyone who has bought Greek debt: don’t worry, we’ll stand behind it. So, why buy German debt when you can buy Greek debt that gives you higher yields?

The Economist has every reason to celebrate Greece as an economic miracle. If you’re a money man, or a vulture fund purchasing distressed loans, Greece is an El Dorado.

If you have capital to use in order to extract other people’s wealth, then Greece is the place to come to. But if you’re Greek and you don’t belong to the oligarchy, you’re in serious trouble. For thirteen years your real income has been falling. The social safety net is dismantled, as are any collective bargaining agreements. Then came the cost-of-living crisis, which has hit the Greek working class and underprivileged harder than anywhere else in Europe. Inflation is class-conscious: if you’re on lower incomes, your inflation rate is far higher. So, put all that together and you have this remarkable bifurcation: Greece, the best place in the world to be a vulture fund and the worst if you’re not.

DAVID BRODEROK, but even a decade ago you predicted the likely effects of austerity. And this insight, and these consequences, don’t seem to have had a positive reflection in reviving the anti-austerity movement or building forces to the left of Syriza. Your MeRA25 was in parliament for four years, but didn’t get reelected in last year’s elections. Is this just because of lasting demoralization after defeat in 2015? Or is there something you’re not doing to mobilize support?

YANIS VAROUFAKISFull disclosure: we were among the big losers of last year’s elections. Why was that? Why did we all lose, both those of us in the then Syriza government who did not surrender to the troika and those who did?

The best explanation was given to me by a taxi driver. He was taking me home from the airport and told me, “You know what? I agree with all that you’re saying. And I like you, but I didn’t vote for you, or for Syriza. I won’t forgive you for giving me hope. I didn’t use to vote. I only went to the polling stations twice. Once in January 2015 to vote for you. And then again in July 2015, in the referendum to say “no” to the creditors. And what happened? You all folded, and we’re back in the same quagmire as before. I don’t care whether you were one of the good guys. Then you came to me in the election last year with a whole program that you can never implement because you’re struggling at 5 percent. So, I’m not voting again.”

On the Left, if we’re lucky, we can get majority support once every fifty years, during the acute phase of a capitalist crisis. If we blow the opportunity, we have to wait another fifty years.

On the Left, if we’re lucky, we can get majority support once every fifty years, during the acute phase of a capitalist crisis. If we blow the opportunity, we have to wait another fifty years. That doesn’t mean we stop fighting. MeRA25 keeps doing all that we think needs doing, because in the end, we’re a bit like surfers: you can’t control when the wave comes, but you’d better be ready to catch it when it does.

DAVID BRODERBut was the taxi driver right to think that the initial hope was misplaced? Your series tells us that a small country saying “no” inspired many internationally. But the troika also wanted to demonstrate that you couldn’t say “no,” and then crushed you to prove the point. If this could have been a “David and Goliath” tale, what “catapult” did you have?

YANIS VAROUFAKISWe knew they’d try to crush us. In April 2013, while living in Texas, I warned Syriza’s leaders that the Cypriot government and the ECB was a dress rehearsal for what they were going to do to a future Syriza or Podemos government. They were flexing their muscles with little Cyprus to rehearse shutting down the banks to force a capitulation. [Alexis] Tsipras understood and asked me: “OK, so what do we do?”

I sat down for six months and devised an action plan. I presented it to the team and they approved it. Then, just before the January 2015 election, Tsipras offered me the finance ministry to implement it. Alas, that action plan can’t be judged, because they didn’t let me implement it. I’m convinced that had we followed it the troika wouldn’t have been able to crush us.

In the ministry which I inherited, I had €50 billion worth of bonds in Greek law, which I could restructure with one signature. I didn’t even need to go through Parliament. And it was in Greek law. They couldn’t take me to New York like they used to take Argentina and so on. That was our nuclear weapon — because had I proceeded to haircut those bonds, the ECB would not be allowed (by Germany’s constitutional court) to save the Italian state by buying its bonds. Mario Draghi was very worried about this weapon of ours, as he told me during our first meeting. But right after that, my own government signaled to him behind my back: “Don’t worry. We won’t let Varoufakis do it.” It was like sending David against Goliath without the catapult.

DAVID BRODERBut why did Tsipras refuse to let you use it?

YANIS VAROUFAKISIt’s clear that he had already reached an agreement with Angela Merkel to sign the memorandum to surrender. What’s not clear is when he decided to surrender: before we were elected or after? I don’t think I’ll ever know.

Greece was the linchpin, and when Alexis Tsipras sold us down the line, he was also selling the whole European left down the line.

What I do know is that those who, after the event, claimed that we were always going to be crushed are profoundly wrong. I am not saying that we would have definitely won. But we did have a good chance — assuming we used our weaponry. In my estimation, it would have cost them more than €1 trillion if they did crush us. That’s serious money for a monetary union that doesn’t have a fiscal union to back its expenditure. I don’t think Merkel would have dared. I think we’d have had a chance, and then Podemos would have had a chance, and then our Italian comrades . . . . So, Greece was the linchpin, and when Tsipras sold us down the line, he was also selling the whole European left down the line.

DAVID BRODERIn the past, you made intelligent arguments about why Grexit was not just unnecessary but a bad idea. You said that you’d end up with an autarkic economy, and that — unlike, say, Argentina unpegging the peso from the dollar — it’d take months to prepare the return to the drachma, effectively offering advance warning of a huge devaluation. Ahead of last year’s elections you proposed a state-backed electronic payments system. But wouldn’t the creditors also have been sure to ensure Grexit failed?

YANIS VAROUFAKISHypotheticals and counterfactuals are always hard to work out. My point was simple: capitulating would render Greece unviable — as it now is. Fighting back gave us a chance to break out of our doom loop. The digital payments system would help in any case. By how much, no one knows. But it would help whether we are in the eurozone or after going back to the drachma. Even if there was even a 5 percent possibility that we could have averted extra austerity and privatization within the euro, why not try it? I’m still convinced we could have done it — and that, thus, resistance was the optimal strategy.

Today, we have fewer options. One reason is the nonperforming loans (NPLs), mortgages, repossessions, and so on that I mentioned before. In 2015, we had nonperforming loans, but since then, with the Syriza government creating the foundation for it, they created a secondary market for NPLs. This is a gigantic source of rents for the vulture funds. The restructuring of the Greek banks is based on new derivatives that contain these NPLs as a form of capital.

If we ever came anywhere near government again, I’ve no doubt they’d try to crush us with double the energy of 2015. We would need a new nuclear option: an alternative to the euro.

So, now we don’t have the nuclear option we did in 2015, and the troika has a greater incentive not to allow us to stop home repossessions. If we ever came anywhere near government again, I’ve no doubt they’d try to crush us with double the energy of 2015. We would need a new nuclear option: an alternative to the euro. The electronic payment mechanism you mention has a dual use: to help create liquidity within the euro and to be the first move — if need be — toward the drachma.

This is, of course, a major reason for proposing it — if they shut down our banks, payments can be transferred to this system — which can, fairly easily, evolve into the new national currency. In 2019 and then in 2023, MeRA25 communicated this plan A, B, C to the public in a transparent way, so that they’d know what they were voting for. Alas, unlike in 2019 when voters gave us nine seats, in 2023, they kept us out of Parliament and voted new fascist parties in.

DAVID BRODERAhead of the EU elections, it seems far-right parties are mobilizing people against the establishment — but also, increasingly, joining the establishment. In the film you say that liberals need these far-right bogeymen just to be able to rally people against something. But if their opposition is so fake, then why such success?

YANIS VAROUFAKISAll we need to do is look at the 1920s and 1930s. After their 2008, which of course took place in 1929, the fascists and Nazis managed to harness discontent — even borrowing or stealing from the Left’s criticism of the bankers and so on while directing the people’s anger to the “other,” toward the Jew. And when they got into power, the fascists became the agents of industrial and financial power, of capital.

That’s always the case. Think of [Donald] Trump: he told blue-collar workers in the Midwest that he was going to get rid of Goldman Sachs and Wall Street from Washington. Then what’s the first thing he did? He took the CEO of Goldman Sachs and made him head of the US Treasury.

It is a mistake to think that the nationalist, or fascist, international are clashing with a radical center. We should think of them as different sides of the same coin. They are symbiotic. [Emmanuel] Macron would never have become president if [Marine] Le Pen did not threaten the system. And Le Pen would never rise to challenge for the presidency if you didn’t have people like Macron introducing the austerity that causes the discontent that feeds her rise.

The top 0.1 percent, the upper echelons of the ruling class, demand of governments that they pass tax cuts for them and transfer huge quantities of rents to them. But they know that such legislation is extremely unpopular. So, the EU’s right-wing populists incite hatred toward “the system,” the Jew, the Muslim, the other, the foreigner, the migrant, the refugee to gain power. Once in power, they enact this legislation on behalf of the top 0.1 percent.

DAVID BRODERBernie Sanders often says that the Biden administration needs to do more for working-class America to answer the despair that Trump feeds off. What do you think it can do to stop Trump winning?

YANIS VAROUFAKISThere’s nothing the Biden administration can do. Firstly, it doesn’t have the numbers. Secondly, it doesn’t have the time before the next election in November. Thirdly, it doesn’t have the will. The Biden administration was sold to Wall Street and to Big Tech and the powers-that-be even before it was formed.

Bernie Sanders and I started the Progressive International together in Vermont. However, I’ve been in disagreement with him — a comrade and friend — since 2016. After the then primaries, when the nomination was stolen from him and handed over to Hillary Clinton, Bernie had nine hundred thousand wonderful volunteers all over the country, ready to become the third force in US politics. I thought he should have started a new party. Instead, he let those young activists go to ground — and then disappointed them entirely, four years later, when he sided with [Joe] Biden.

I’m not one to turn on comrades. We can have legitimate disagreements. I understand that, especially given his age, Bernie wanted to make a difference. Not just demonstrating in the streets but from within the corridors of power. He had something of a positive impact on some of the Biden administration’s initial policies during the pandemic. Some people got to eat because Bernie Sanders fought for their corner within the Biden administration. But that doesn’t last.

Now, the whole progressive movement and the DSA [Democratic Socialists of America] have been sidelined, especially with what’s happening in Israel/Palestine and Ukraine. The dynamism of the political revolution that Bernie had started in 2016 dissipated. I’m afraid that the new wave that Bernie energized is not going to survive in a Democratic Party, which like Labour in Britain, is extremely good at destroying all progressive energy within itself.

DAVID BRODEROn the international front: South Africa’s case to the International Court of Justice offered a damning indictment of Israel’s actions but may end up exposing the hollowness of international law. I’m interested in your thoughts on how European countries have reacted to the war, and what effect this has on how people outside Europe see the EU and the “international community.”

YANIS VAROUFAKISThey’ve reacted disgracefully. The EU and almost every government will go down in history as aiding and abetting the genocide of the Palestinians. It’s not just complicity but a mode of behavior that is turning our prime ministers and presidents into prospective defendants in the International Criminal Court [ICC]. When Ursula von der Leyen — as it happens, without any authority — went to Israel to cheerlead the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], she deserves not only to be condemned by future historians, but also to be prosecuted by the ICC.

This last couple of decades, instead of becoming less reactionary, Europe has become criminal. Once, French president Jacques Chirac, during a visit to the occupied Palestinian territory, confronted the Israeli gendarmes and the IDF. I can’t imagine Macron doing that. Willy Brandt waxed lyrical about Palestinians’ right to their own state. Today, Olaf Scholz is presiding over a regime that is arresting Jewish comrades of ours in Berlin for the crime of carrying a placard saying “As an Israeli and a Jew, stop the genocide in Gaza.” You couldn’t make it up!

DAVID BRODERThe current wars, and the expansion of BRICS, seem to point to a breakdown of the Western-led order. Do you think this is a changing power balance in a re-formed international order or something more like a hardening of regional trade blocs?

YANIS VAROUFAKISWe never had an “international order” and there was never an “international rule of law.” Where do we start: Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam before that?

My concern is that we’re putting too much — but also too little — emphasis on BRICS. It’d be a huge mistake for progressives to do what they used to do with the USSR, to imagine that, whatever its authoritarian aspects, at least it’s the counterweight to the United States. Let’s not think of the BRICS that way.

India’s Narendra Modi is a fascist. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are edging closer to BRICS, have a currency that is pegged to the US dollar. With BRICS, they are creating a plan B for themselves, not for the world’s dispossessed. The most interesting part of the BRICS is China. It contains the most progressive and the most authoritarian forces on this planet. A huge class struggle is going on there as we speak.

In my recent book Technofeudalism, I offer an analysis of the new Cold War between the US and China. The essence of the new developments lies in what I call “cloud capital.” This is a kind of capital which is algorithmic, based on the internet, on Big Tech. It’s not like a robot that makes cars or a steam engine: for the capital that lives in your laptop or your phone is a produced means of behavioral modification, that grants its owners tremendous power to extract rents from workers, capitalists, and users alike.

That same cloud capital is the foundation for a new kind of payment system. And there are only two bundles of cloud capital. One is to be found in the US, the other is China. Nobody else has cloud capital worth talking about. If my hypothesis holds water, we are seeing a huge rivalry between these two mega cloud fiefdoms. And what really concerns the United States is this: the only reason why the United States has been hegemonic since the late 1960s and early ’70s, after they lost their trade surplus to the rest of the world, is because of the exorbitant privilege of the dollar. The payment system is in dollars, which means that the US faces no trade or budget constraint. Even though it has a huge current account deficit, it continues to buy stuff from the rest of the world because it pays in dollars that it prints — dollars that are recycled back to Wall Street and to American government debt as capitalists from all over the world send their dollars back to the US to buy US government debt, shares, and property.

The dollar payment system hasn’t been challenged so far. But the combination of Chinese cloud capital and Chinese finance, which is separate from US finance, can become an international digital payment system, alternative to the dollar. That’s why Saudi Arabia is interested in China and the BRICS: they want access to that alternative payment system because they saw what happens if you fall foul of Washington. You can have $300 billion confiscated, which is what happened to Russia after they invaded Ukraine. This is the reason why we have a new Cold War: because they are trying to quash the capacity of Chinese cloud capital to antagonize the dollar payment system.

CONTRIBUTORS

Yanis Varoufakis was Greek finance minister during the first months of the Syriza-led government in 2015. His books include The Global Minotaur and Adults in the Room.

David Broder is Jacobin’s Europe editor and a historian of French and Italian communism.

The post Greece, EU elections, Palestine & the International Order – JACOBIN interview with David Broder appeared first on Yanis Varoufakis.

Subversive Archaism: Troubling Traditionalists and the Politics of National Heritage – review

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/01/2024 - 10:28pm in

In Subversive Archaism: Troubling Traditionalists and the Politics of National HeritageMichael Herzfeld considers how marginalised groups use nationalist discourses of tradition to challenge state authority. Drawing on ethnography in Greece and Thailand, Olivia Porter finds that Herzfeld’s concept of subversive archaism provides a useful framework for understanding state-resistant thought and activity in other contexts. A longer version of this post was originally published on the LSE Southeast Asia Blog.

Subversive Archaism: Troubling Traditionalists and the Politics of National Heritage. Michael Herzfeld. Duke University Press. 2022.

Subversive Archaism book cover“The nation-state depends on obviousness because, in reality, its own primacy is not an obvious or logical necessity at all. It is presented as a given, and most people accept it as such. Implicitly or explicitly, subversive archaists question it” (123).

The excerpt above encapsulates the central thesis of the social anthropologist and heritage studies scholar Michael Herzfeld’s Subversive Archaism: Troubling Traditionalists and the Politics of National Heritage. That being said, that the modern nation-state is widely accepted as the primary unit of territorial and cultural organisation, but that there are a group of people, subversive archaists, who question this rhetoric. Subversive archaism challenges the notion that the nation-state, constrained by bureaucratic organisation and with an emphasis on an ethnonational state, is the only acceptable form of polity. Subversive archaists offer an alternative polity, one legitimised by understandings of heritage that date back further than the homogenous ‘collective heritage’ proposed in state-generated discourses for the purpose of creating a ubiquitous representation of national unity (2). As Herzfeld suggests, subversive archaists instead reach into the past to reclaim older and often more inclusive polities and understandings of belonging, and in doing so, they utilise ancient heritage to challenge the authority, and very notion, of the modern nation-state.

Subversive archaists instead reach into the past to reclaim older and often more inclusive polities and understandings of belonging

Herzfeld examines the concept of subversive archaism through comparative ethnography, drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork with two communities: the Zoniani of Zoniana in Crete, Greece, and the Chao Pom of Pom Mahakan, Bangkok, Thailand. At first, the two communities appear geographically and culturally distinctively dissimilar. However, they share one important feature neither country has ever been officially colonised by a Western state. Herzfeld ascribes the term “crypto-colonialism”, a ‘disguised’ form of colonialism, to both Greece and Thailand, as states that despite never being officially colonised, were both under constant pressure to conform to Western cultural, political, and economic demands. Herzfeld explains that such countries place a great emphasis on their political independence and cultural integrity having never been colonised, yet many forms of their independence were dictated by Western powers.

In identifying themselves with the heroic past of the nation state, [subversive archaists] legitimise their own status as rightful members of the nations in which they now find themselves marginalised.

In Chapter Two, Herzfeld explores the historical origins of the images and symbols mimicked by subversive archaists to challenge the dominant, often ethnonationalist, narrative of the nation-state. Subversive archaists ransack official historiography and claim nationalist heroes as their own, and in identifying themselves with the heroic past of the nation state, they legitimise their own status as rightful members of the nations in which they now find themselves marginalised. Rather than reject official narratives, subversive archaists appropriate them, in ways that undermine state bureaucracy. For example, the Zoniani (and many Cretans) do not reject the official historiography of the state, which emphasises continuity with Hellenic culture. In fact, they fiercely defend it, and go one further, by citing etymological similarities between Cretan dialects that bear traces of an early regional version of Classical Greek. In doing so, they make claims that they have a better understanding of history than the state bureaucrats.

Chapter Three explores belonging and remoteness through kinship structures and geographical location. Herzfeld highlights how the nation-state uses the symbolic distancing of communities as remote or inaccessible as a tool to marginalize communities. Pom Mahakan is located on the outskirts of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, and nowadays Zoniana is accessible by road. Herzfeld argues that the characterisation of these communities as remote and inaccessible is applied by hostile bureaucracies rather than by the communities themselves as an extreme form of intentional political marginalisation.

Zoniani society is still structured by a patrilineal clan system, and Chao Pom society by a mandala-based moeang system. These structures represent an older, and alternative, system of polity to the modern bureaucratic nation-state.

In Chapter Four, Herzfeld proposes that we reframe the assumption that religion shapes cities and instead think about how cosmology shapes polities. In particular, how Zoniani society is still structured by a patrilineal clan system, and Chao Pom society by a mandala-based moeang system. These structures represent an older, and alternative, system of polity to the modern bureaucratic nation-state. For example, the Chao Pom embrace religious and ethnic minorities, arguing that diversity is representative of true Thai society, and that tolerance and generosity are true Thai ideals. The notion of polity itself is the focus of Chapter Five which explores how Pom Mahakan and Zoniana have cosmologically distinct identities that, when conceptualised as part of the same system as the nation-state, both mimic and challenge the state’s legitimacy, thus inviting official violence.

Herzfeld argues that what sets subversive archaists apart from the “state-shunning groups” described by Scott [] is their ‘demand for reciprocal respect and their capacity to play subversive games with the state’s own rhetoric and symbolism’

Herzfeld explains how neither the Zoniani nor Chao Pom fit into the James C. Scott’s concept of “the art of not being governed,” applied to Zomian anarchists who flee from state centres into remote mountainous regions in northeastern India; the central highlands of Vietnam; the Shan Hills in northern Myanmar; and the mountains of Southwest China. Herzfeld argues that what sets subversive archaists apart from the “state-shunning groups” described by Scott, but also makes them representative of a widespread form of resistance to state hegemony, is their “demand for reciprocal respect and their capacity to play subversive games with the state’s own rhetoric and symbolism”. Arguably, the reason that the Zoniani and Chao Pom can demand ‘reciprocal respect’ is related to their ethnic, historical, and cultural affiliation with the majority that marginalises them. The ethnic minorities of Zomia do not benefit from the same types of affiliation.

Ultimately, Herzfeld’s model of subversive archaism offers us an example of understanding how marginalised groups challenge and subvert authority

Ultimately, Herzfeld’s model of subversive archaism offers us an example of understanding how marginalised groups challenge and subvert authority. Herzfeld is not proposing that any given group needs to fit neatly into the category of subversive archaists, but rather how some groups reach back into the past to offer an alternative future. In Chapter Eight, Herzfeld explores the future of subversive archaist communities, and also how subversive archaism might mutate into nationalist, and potentially dangerous, movements. The Chao Pom embrace ethnic and religious minorities on the grounds that acceptance and inclusion are true Thai ideals. However, there are dangers to invoking ideologies attached to ‘true’ ideologies of national cultures and traditions, and other types of communities can utilise the rhetoric of subversive archaism. For example, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, “antimaskers” use the language of “liberty” and “democracy” against the modern bureaucratic state, seeking to transform the present into an idealised national past.

I was initially sceptical about who qualified as a subversive archaist. At first, the term seemed too rigid, a community had to be marginalised by the state authority, but associate themselves with the majority and use the language of the state to legitimise themselves their alternative polity. Then, the term seemed too broad, it is not specific to a certain geography, ethnic identity, or religion, and can apply to religious and non- religious groups. Subversive archaism might help us make sense of the Chao Pom and the Zoniani, but who are the subversive archaists of the contemporary world? Then, one morning, when listening to a podcast from the BBC World Service covering the inauguration of India’s controversial new parliament building, I heard a line of argument, from the Indian historian Pushpesh Pant, that struck me as being rooted in subversive archaism.

When asked about the aesthetics of the new parliament building, Pant remarked “I think it is a monstrosity… If the whole idea was to demolish whatever the British, the colonial masters, had built, and have a symbolic resurrection of Indian architecture, I would even go, stick my leg out and say Hindu architecture, it should have been an impressive tribute to generations of Indian architectural tradition Vastu Shastra. Vastu Shastra is the Indian science of building, architecture.” He goes on to say: “How does this symbolise India?”

I suspect that given the rise of nationalist movements across the globe, the tools of subversive archaism, rather than subversive archaists groups per se, will become all the more visible.

In invoking the Vastu Shastra, the ancient Sanskrit manuals of Indian architecture, and the Sri Yantra, the mystical diagram used in the Shri Vidya school of Hinduism, Pant demonstrates his deep understanding of ancient Indian architecture and imagery. And in doing so, he highlights the missed opportunities of the bureaucratic state in designing their new parliament building to create a building that was truly representative of archaic Indian architecture. He does what Herzfeld describes as “playing the official arbiters of cultural excellence [here, the BJP] at their own game”. I suspect that given the rise of nationalist movements across the globe, the tools of subversive archaism, rather than subversive archaists groups per se, will become all the more visible.

This book review is published by the LSE Southeast Asia blog and LSE Review of Books blog as part of a collaborative series focusing on timely and important social science books from and about Southeast Asia. This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, the LSE Southeast Asia Blog, or the London School of Economics and Political Science. 

Main Image Credit: daphnusia images on Shutterstock.

 

NATO from the perspective of having grown up under US-sponsored neofascism – UNHERD

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 12/01/2024 - 9:34pm in

Tags 

English, greece, Op-ed

It was early September in 1971. My mother had taken me in a taxi to a boutique hotel in a leafy northern Athenian suburb to visit my favourite uncle, her beloved brother. Before we got out the car, she put her arm around me and whispered words of courage in my ear. You see, Hotel Pefkakia had been commandeered by the ESA, the Greek military regime’s version of the Gestapo, which had turned it into a holding cell for VIP dissidents. What I saw inside, including my uncle’s tortured face, ensured that, from the age of 10, I understood what it meant to live in a brutish dictatorship.

Everyone remembers that a swathe of Eastern European countries were once communist dictatorships. From the Baltic Sea to Poland to the Black Sea, they lingered under one-party rule, their peoples at the mercy of secret policemen. Less often discussed is the fact that, half a century ago, three of the European Union’s current member-states were fascist dictatorships: Portugal, Spain and Greece. But this history of Western European peoples toiling under Rightist, ultra-nationalist, fascist regimes is relevant, now that we are experiencing a surge of nationalism, a moral panic over migrants and refugees, and a craving for strongmen or women to make our countries “great again”. With this year’s European Parliament elections on the horizon, there are important lessons in this half-forgotten history.

I grew up in the supposed cradle of democracy, in a Greece ruled by tyrants swearing allegiance to an ideology not too different to the one making a comeback today across Europe. Establishment figures such as my uncle — who at the time was managing director of Siemens in Greece — rose up against it, and failed. But two years after I visited him that day, in November 1973, students spontaneously occupied Greece’s most prestigious university, the Athens Polytechnic. After five glorious days, during which the city centre was temporarily liberated from the regime, the army entered the city and, with a column of US-built tanks leading the way, liquidated the Polytechnic uprising. Following the tank that crushed the Polytechnic’s front gate, commandos and gendarmes — handpicked for their fascist allegiances — mopped up any remaining resistance. For weeks afterwards, police cells would echo with the screams of the students tortured therein.

The uprising was crushed, but the regime never recovered its poise. A couple of days later, a Brigadier General overthrew the Colonels in office and took the Rightist regime even further toward unfettered viciousness. This paroxysm of authoritarianism appeared in its most comical form on our television screens: news bulletins were read by stern, uniformed, be-medalled army officers barking orders at their viewers.

Six months later, perhaps in a desperate bid to stabilise their regime, our dictators overreached, with a shambolic attempt to extend their rule over the independent Republic of Cyprus. All they managed to do was trigger a brutal Turkish invasion of the island, which brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war and resulted in countless dead, wounded and displaced Cypriots — a tragedy whose repercussions are still with us, in the form of the ugly Green Line dividing the island to this day. One might have thought a military regime would lovingly maintain its armed forces, but that episode exposed the weakness of Greece’s. It also crushed our economy just as the demise of Bretton Woods and the oil crisis were putting global capitalism into a tailspin. Within days, the junta crumpled. This year, in July, the nation will mark the 50th anniversary of a version of liberal democracy returning to Greece.

Just as well, given that the history of how the Greek junta came to be has largely been forgotten. It was imposed by rogue military officers in April 1967, but it was planned and enabled by various branches of the US government, as far back as the Fifties. Greece’s was part of a long series of coups d’état that the CIA staged around the world — from the 1953 coup that overthrew Mohammad Mosaddegh, Iran’s last democratically elected Prime Minister, to General Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 murder of President Salvador Allende in Chile.

What is relevant here is not why Washington felt the need to overthrow the centrist, pro-Western government of George Papandreou in 1965, before giving the green light to the Colonels, two years later, to dissolve Parliament and put Greek society “in plaster, exactly as the surgeon must do with a broken limb” — to quote the inimitable Colonel Geórgios Papadopoulos, the junta’s chief. Given the questions currently swirling round Europe, what I think matters is that, in 1967, the governments of France, Germany, Austria and to some extent Britain were vocally and tangibly opposed to the coup. The arrival of fascism in Greece caused a rift between Europe’s main powers and the United States, even though they were all on the same side of the Iron Curtain. Europe was an ally of Greece’s democrats, who were struggling against the Nato-aligned junta that the US supported.

In the summers of this era, my parents would drive us to Vienna or Munich, to “breathe the air of freedom”. The rest of the year, especially during the bleak nights, we would crouch next to the wireless to listen to Deutsche Welle and the BBC — covering ourselves with a red blanket to minimise the chances of being overheard by neighbours eager to inform on us. The Greek-language programmes on these channels, unlike the pro-junta Voice of America, were brimming with support for the democratic resistance.

In short, Europe supported a free Greece, while America betrayed it. It was thus not surprising that, once the junta had collapsed, a large cross-section of Greek society — including the conservative Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis — were inimical to Nato but sympathetic, some enthusiastically so, toward the European Common Market, the forerunner of the EU. Contrary to what many Northern Europeans believe, most Greeks did not see the EU as the cash cow it became later on, but as a guarantee that the tanks would stay idle and the secret police at bay — something Eastern Europeans would also long for after the collapse of their dictatorships in 1991.

This explains why Greeks who remember our resistance to the junta proudly tend to have a very different view of Nato than Eastern Europeans with memories of their communist dictatorships. When Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine, I condemned the Kremlin’s invasion as criminal, referred to Putin as a “ruthless killer”, called for all democrats to stand with Ukraine, and advocated for the West to negotiate an immediate end of the Ukraine war by trading the retreat of Russian troops for a pledge to keep Ukraine out of Nato. To me, what mattered most was that the West did whatever it took to push Russia’s troops back to where they were on 22 February 2022, while enabling Ukraine to flourish within liberal democratic Western Europe.

Alas, my comrades in Eastern Europe were not impressed. Razem, a Left-leaning Polish party, denounced me for failure to “support Ukrainian sovereignty”. On social media I was labelled a “westsplainer” and Putin’s useful idiot.

This split in our pan-European movement saddened me, but I tried to focus on its historical causes. In the eyes of my Eastern European comrades, Nato appears as a club of states that throws a protective shield around liberal democracies. From their perspective, Nato membership is crucial to Ukraine’s independence, and my suggestion that the country should stay out of Nato seemed like a betrayal of its democrats. To me, by contrast, having grown up under fascist regimes that not only had the blessing of Nato but which were largely engineered by CIA and Nato functionaries, seeing Ukraine’s membership as the key to its democratic future seemed absurd.

Of all the slogans that they could have written on the Polytechnic’s gate, the heroic Athens Polytechnic students who risked their lives to help restore Greek democracy chose two two-word phrases: OUT USA and OUT NATO. With their blue jeans and their predilection for jazz, they were not anti-American, but they were supremely resistant to the facts of living in a quasi-US colony where our national budget had to have the US Ambassador’s informal approval and in which Nato and the CIA controlled our military, our skies and seas, our secret police.

And while it is true that, in many advanced nations — such as the Netherlands and Denmark — Nato membership was fully consistent with liberal democracy, Greece was not the odd country out. The Portuguese, too, lived both under fascism and within Nato. Successive generations of Turkish democrats will tell you that it is utterly feasible to live in a Nato country that is oppressed by mind-numbing levels of authoritarianism. Indeed, no less a Western statesman than General Charles De Gaulle believed that Nato was detrimental to his nation’s sovereignty.

And yet, ever since Putin’s regime invaded Ukraine, we have lost our capacity, as Europeans, to have a rational and historically-grounded debate about whether Nato membership is detrimental to, or essential for, European liberal democracies.

Of course, some would argue that Nato membership is about defending a country from external threats, rather than guaranteeing democracy. But, arguably, Nato membership is neither necessary nor sufficient for a country’s defence. Greece’s greatest territorial threat is from Turkey, but Nato policy is that it only intervenes when a non-Nato country threatens one of its members. If Turkey, a Nato member,  were to invade a Greek island, Nato would stay out of it. At the other extreme, Jordan, Egypt and, of course, Israel are fully under the US and Nato defence umbrella, even though they are not Nato members.

So, what is the point of Nato? A decade or so ago, I enjoyed an informal conversation with a former Chief of Staff of Nato’s forces in Europe. The American, a staunch Republican, was candid when I asked him whether Nato remained fit for purpose. “It depends on how you define its purpose,” he replied with a smile. I asked how he defined it. “It’s three-fold,” he said. “First, to keep us in Europe. Second to keep the Russians out. Third, to keep Germany down.” No analysis of Nato’s role in Europe that I have encountered since has been more accurate or prescient.

The question for Europeans today, as the war in Ukraine rolls on and the European Parliament elections loom, is simple: is it wise to assume that our democracies are strengthened when we hand over our foreign policy and defence to Nato — in other words, to the US government? Or did the Athens Polytechnic students, along with General De Gaulle, have a point when they feared that unthinking allegiance to Nato would accelerate Europe’s steady slide into vassal continent status? Personally, I will always side with the students.

For the UNHERD site, click here.

The post NATO from the perspective of having grown up under US-sponsored neofascism – UNHERD appeared first on Yanis Varoufakis.

Furious Jumping

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/12/2023 - 12:59am in

“Poor Things” samples the radical potential of rebirth.

The British Public Have Made Their Minds Up About Rishi Sunak and it Doesn’t Look Good

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/12/2023 - 12:23am in

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The British public appear to have made their minds up about the Prime Minister, and their view is unlikely to go down well inside Downing Street.

In recent months Rishi Sunak’s Government have launched a series of ‘relaunches’ or ‘resets’ designed to deal with polls showing they remain in excess of twenty points behind the opposition Labour Party.

Last week the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a series of tax cuts designed to transform public opinion about Sunak’s Government. This was followed this week by the Prime Minister engaging in an extended public spat with the Greek Prime Minister over the fate of the Elgin Marbles.

However, new polling commissioned by Byline Times this week suggests that these various attempts to change the narrative about Sunak and his Government are not working.

Asked by pollsters We Think whether they viewed Sunak as more of a weak or more of a strong leader, almost three quarters (73%) said they saw him as more weak, compared to just 27% who saw him as more strong.

Even among current Conservative voters, four out of ten (39%) say they view him as a more weak than strong leader.

By contrast Keir Starmer is seen in a significantly less negative light than the Prime Minister. Asked whether they saw him as more weak, or strong, 55% of all voters said they saw him as being more weak, compared to 45% who saw him as more strong.

Labour voters were also less likely to see their leader as weak than Conservative voters, with just 26% labelling Starmer as more weak than strong.

Voters were also asked to pick from a list of critical and complimentary adjectives to describe the Prime Minister and his main opponent.

Among all voters the most popular words used to describe Sunak were ‘Untrustworthy’, ‘Weak’ and ‘Entitled’.

By contrast the most popular words used to describe his Labour opponent Keir Starmer were ‘Boring’, ‘Responsible’ and ‘Thoughtful’.

Recent figures showing record immigration numbers also appear to have damaged perceptions of Sunak's Government.

84% said the Government's immigration policy had been a failure, compared to just 16% who said it had been successful. Overall voters are now more likely to trust Labour on the issue than the Conservatives by 41% to 27%.

Eat Out to Help The Virus: How Rishi Sunak Avoided the Science on Covid

New revelations suggest the Prime Minister had a reckless disregard for the science of protecting the public during a global pandemic

Adam Bienkov

Sunak's row with the Greek Prime Minister also does not appear to have gone down well with British voters.

Asked whether Sunak did the right or wrong thing by cancelling his meeting with the Greek PM, following his intervention over the Elgin Marbles, 43% said it was the wrong thing to do, compared to just 15% who agreed with Downing Street.

Sunak used Prime Minister’s Questions this week to accuse Starmer of “siding with an EU country” over the issue, despite Starmer ruling out changing the law to allow the marbles’ return.

However, our poll found that voters are more likely than not to say that the Marbles should be returned to Greece, by 44% to 20%.

The UK Should Reverse Brexit, say voters

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen caused controversy this week after suggesting that the UK would likely end up reversing Brexit and returning to the EU.

Her comments were rejected by both Downing Street and the Labour Party. However, our poll suggests that most voters agree with her.

Asked whether the UK should one day rejoin the EU, 61% of voters said that we should, compared to just 39% who said that we shouldn’t.

However, voters aree split down the middle on whether such a reunification will ever actually happen, with 50% saying it will, compared to 50% saying it won't.

Younger voters are more confident of Brexit being one day reversed, with 59% of those under the age of 40 saying it will be, compared to just 44% of those over 40.

The findings come as Byline Times publishes its three year investigation revealing the scale of Brexit regret among ordinary Brits.

The investigation can be read in the current edition of our monthly newspaper available to subscribers and in shops and supermarkets across the country.

The best bookshops in the Dodecanese Islands, Greece

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/11/2023 - 9:56pm in

In this bookshop guide, Angeliki Tzampazi takes us to three of the Dodecanese Islands in Greece, Rhodes, Pátmos and Astypalea, and highlights some of their best independent bookshops. If you have bookshops you’d like to recommend in a particular city, further information about contributing follows this article.

Makris Bookshop, Rhodes

In classical history, Rhodes was a maritime power and the site of the Colossus of Rhodes, which was dedicated to the sun god Helios. The island was famous as a centre of painting and sculpture and had a noted school of eclectic oratory at which Julius Caesar was a student. The Crusader Knights of Rhodes (Knights of Malta) acquired Rhodes in the 13th century and built the ‘Old City’, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988. Ottoman Turks came to power in the early 16th century, influencing the island with Islamic religious architecture. In 1912 Rhodes was taken from Turkey by Italy, who were eager to build the ‘New City’. The Germans occupied the island from 1943 to 1945. Under the Allied peace treaty with Italy in 1947, the island was awarded to Greece.

If you’re visiting Rhodes, Makris (located at Geor. Mavrou 5, Rodos, no social media) is a unique bookshop, though it is well-known among Rhodians. The shop has no social media or website, but word of mouth is enough to make it a popular and beloved destination. Since 1957, the source of its success and committed customers has been the importance the owners place on interpersonal relations and the its intergenerational continuity; it is now it is run by the godson of the founder, Georgios Makris. Visitors can find little gems in the bookshelves and rare editions of books, and a few of the books are old enough that you can still see the pricing in Greek drachma (the currency Greece had before swapping to the euro in 2001); but don’t worry, you’ll pay in euros. During the final two years of high school (which are preparatory for national exams to enter university), my dad used to shop every Saturday at the local farmers’ market, and I would visit Makris, exploring and discovering new fiction and poetry. We still repeat this ritual when I’m at home: a comforting reminder that some things remain unchanged.

Windmill Library, Astypalea

According to Greek mythology, Astypalea and Europe were the daughters of Finikos and Perimidis. A mosaic from the 1st to 2nd centuries CE at the Archaeological Museum of Gaziantep, symbolises the union of Poseidon, god of the sea, with Astypalea. During the Hellenistic period (323 to 31 BCE), Astypalea was an important naval base of Ptolemy of Egypt and remained as such until the Roman period. The castle of Saint John, one of the most famous attractions, was built during the Byzantine years. The Venetians occupied the island from 1207 to 1269 and later on the sovereignty of Astypalea passed on to the noble Querini family of Venice, who had a great influence on the island.

Astypalea’s Windmill lending library (located at Epar.Od. Livadia-Vathis, no social media) is a must-see for any book-loving visitor to the island. The collection is made up of foreign-language books donated by public institutions, tourists and other visitors, residents and students. The library is run by by volunteers including Stella, a wonderful lady who teaches in both Astypalea’s college and high school. She is the main custodian of the lending library and volunteers much of her time assisting visitors with books. If you happen to visit Astypalea, don’t miss this the opportunity to visit Windmill!

Koukoumavla, Pátmos

Compared to neighbouring islands, Pátmos received scant mention by ancient writers. Under the Romans it was a place for exiles, the most noted of whom was Saint John the Apostle, author of the Fourth Gospel and the Book of Revelation, who, according to tradition was sent there about 95 CE. Most of the island’s inhabitants live in the elevated town of Khóra (Pátmos) in the south and in the harbour village of Skála in the island’s centre. The monastery, cave, and town of Khóra were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999.

Koukoumavla Artshop+Books, located in Khóra, is an alternative bookstore and art shop in the island of Pátmos. Its colourful bookshelves, green walls, black-and-white flooring and handmade decorations make you feel that you have stepped into Alice in Wonderland. Instead, you are entering the world of owner Despina, who has evidently put so much love and creativity into the space and makes everyone feel welcomed. Visitors can find little treasures such as second-hand and new books. It’s a bookstore that kids as well as adults can enjoy – we all deserve to let the imagination of our inner child free, and Koukoumavla can certainly assist in that!

Note: This bookshop guide gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Banner Image Credit:George Papapostolou on Shutterstock

Text Image Credit: Angeliki Tzampazi

Do you know a place with great bookshops? If there’s a city or town with bookshops that you think other students and academics should visit, then this is your chance to tell us all about it.

As part of a regular feature on LSE Review of Books, we’re asking academics and students to recommend their favourite three or four bookshops in a particular city, with the aim of building an exciting online series for our book-loving community of readers the world over.

Bookshops could be academic, alternative, multilingual, hobby-based, secret or underground institutions, second-hand outlets or connected to a university. We’d like to cover all world regions too and are particularly keen to feature cities outside of Europe and North America.

If something comes to mind, we’re looking for a brief introduction about the city and around 150 words per bookshop, detailing why each one is a must-see. Our editorial team can then find suitable photos and links to accompany the piece, though you’re welcome to supply these too. We only ask that you focus on just one city or region, and three or four bookshops within it.

Email us if you’d like to contribute: lsereviewofbooks@lse.ac.uk

Ionian Sailing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/05/2023 - 10:27am in

Tags 

greece, Travel

Trani was lovely, a pretty town but not overrun with tourists. We are now on Lefkas which is the island next to Kefalonia. Last night we slept in Kerenza, our chartered sail boat moored besides a taverna in Sivota.

We are all completing practical Royal Yacht Association sailing qualifications. Fiona our skipper has not given us a moment’s break, we have been very busy. So, now it’s almost 11pm and we have sailed from Lefkas to Kefalonia. Tonight we are in Fiskardho, a very fancy little Greek town. It’s full of yachts and gin palaces with well dressed tourists spending lavishly … not really my style but I loved sailing today.

Oddly enough on the voyage over here we passed one of our old neighbours from Lowertown. Justin Danby, he was on another boat going in the opposite direction. We messaged each other after passing. What a coincidence!

Direct Job Creation in Greece

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 29/04/2021 - 1:54am in

Senior Scholar Rania Antonopoulos recently participated in a webinar for the European Trade Union Institute, during which she discussed the rationale behind and experience with the implementation of the “Kinofelis” direct job creation program—a limited job guarantee for Greece. Watch her presentation below (accompanying slides are here).

The Levy Institute’s previous Strategic Analysis for Greece found that supplementing EU Recovery Funds with a more expansive job guarantee program (employing up to 300,000 people by 2022Q1) would help lift the Greek economy closer to its pre-pandemic growth trend.

Direct Job Creation in Greece

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 29/04/2021 - 1:54am in

Senior Scholar Rania Antonopoulos recently participated in a webinar for the European Trade Union Institute, during which she discussed the rationale behind and experience with the implementation of the “Kinofelis” direct job creation program—a limited job guarantee for Greece. Watch her presentation below (accompanying slides are here).

The Levy Institute’s previous Strategic Analysis for Greece found that supplementing EU Recovery Funds with a more expansive job guarantee program (employing up to 300,000 people by 2022Q1) would help lift the Greek economy closer to its pre-pandemic growth trend.

Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/02/2016 - 8:53am in

Motto: The EU will be democratised. Or it will disintegrate

Mission: TO DEMOCRATISE EUROPE!

A manifesto for democratising Europe

For all their concerns with global competitiveness, migration and terrorism, only one prospect truly terrifies the Powers of Europe: Democracy! They speak in democracy’s name but only to deny, exorcise and suppress it in practice. They seek to co-opt, evade, corrupt, mystify, usurp and manipulate democracy in order to break its energy and arrest its possibilities.

For rule by Europe’s peoples, government by the demos, is the shared nightmare of:

  • The Brussels bureaucracy (and its more than 10,000 lobbyists)
  • Its hit-squad inspectorates and the Troika they formed together with unelected ‘technocrats’ from other international and European institutions
  • The powerful Eurogroup that has no standing in law or treaty
  • Bailed out bankers, fund managers and resurgent oligarchies perpetually contemptuous of the multitudes and their organised expression
  • Political parties appealing to liberalism, democracy, freedom and solidarity to betray their most basic principles when in government
  • Governments that fuel cruel inequality by implementing self-defeating austerity
  • Media moguls who have turned fear-mongering into an art form, and a magnificent source of power and profit
  • Corporations in cahoots with secretive public agencies investing in the same fear to promote secrecy and a culture of surveillance that bend public opinion to their will.

The European Union was an exceptional achievement, bringing together in peace European peoples speaking different languages, submersed in different cultures, proving that it was possible to create a shared framework of human rights across a continent that was, not long ago, home to murderous chauvinism, racism and barbarity. The European Union could have been the proverbial Beacon on the Hill, showing the world how peace and solidarity may be snatched from the jaws of centuries-long conflict  and bigotry.

Alas, today, a common bureaucracy and a common currency divide European peoples that were beginning to unite despite our different languages and cultures. A confederacy of myopic politicians, economically naïve officials and financially incompetent ‘experts’ submit slavishly to the edicts of financial and industrial conglomerates, alienating Europeans and stirring up a dangerous anti-European backlash. Proud peoples are being turned against each other. Nationalism, extremism and racism are being re-awakened.

At the heart of our disintegrating EU there lies a guilty deceit: A highly political, top-down, opaque decision-making process is presented as ‘apolitical’, ‘technical’, ‘procedural’ and ‘neutral’. Its purpose is to prevent Europeans from exercising democratic control over their money, finance, working conditions and environment. The price of this deceit is not merely the end of democracy but also poor economic policies:

  • The Eurozone economies are being marched off the cliff of competitive austerity, resulting in permanent recession in the weaker countries and low investment in the core countries
  • EU member-states outside the Eurozone are alienated, seeking inspiration and partners in suspect quarters where they are most likely to be greeted with opaque, coercive free trade deals that undermine their sovereignty.
  • Unprecedented inequality, declining hope and misanthropy flourish throughout Europe

Two dreadful options dominate:

  • Retreat into the cocoon of our nation-states
  • Or surrender to the Brussels democracy-free zone

There must be another course. And there is!

It is the one official ‘Europe’ resists with every sinew of its authoritarian mind-set: A surge of democracy!

Our movement, DiEM25, seeks to call forth just such a surge. One simple, radical idea is the motivating force behind DiEM25:

Democratise Europe! For the EU will either be democratised or it will disintegrate!

Our goal to democratise Europe is realistic. It is no more utopian than the initial construction of the European Union was. Indeed, it is less utopian than the attempt to keep alive the current, anti-democratic, fragmenting European Union.

Our goal to democratise Europe is terribly urgent, for without a swift start it may be impossible to chisel away at the institutionalised resistance in good time, before Europe goes past the point of no return. We give it a decade, by 2025.

If we fail to democratise Europe within, at most, a decade; if Europe’s autocratic powers succeed in stifling democratisation, then the EU will crumble under its hubris, it will splinter, and its fall will cause untold hardship everywhere – not just in Europe.

WHY IS EUROPE LOSING ITS INTEGRITY AND ITS SOUL?

In the post-war decades during which the EU was initially constructed, national cultures were revitalised in a spirit of internationalism, disappearing borders, shared prosperity and raised standards that brought Europeans together. But, the serpent’s egg was at the heart of the integration process.

From an economic viewpoint, the EU began life as a cartel of heavy industry (later co-opting farm owners) determined to fix prices and to re-distribute oligopoly profits through its Brussels bureaucracy. The emergent cartel, and its Brussels-based administrators, feared the demos and despised the idea of government-by-the-people.

Patiently and methodically, a process of de-politicising decision-making was put in place, the result being a draining but relentless drive toward taking-the-demos-out-of-democracy and cloaking all policy-making in a pervasive pseudo-technocratic fatalism. National politicians were rewarded handsomely for their acquiescence to turning the Commission, the Council, the Ecofin, the Eurogroup and the ECB, into politics-free zones. Anyone opposing this process of de-politicisation was labelled ‘un-European’ and treated as a jarring dissonance.

Thus the deceit at the EU’s heart was born, yielding an institutional commitment to policies that generate depressing economic data and avoidable hardship. Meanwhile, simple principles that a more confident Europe once understood, have now been abandoned:

  • Rules should exist to serve Europeans, not the other way round
  • Currencies should be instruments, not ends-in-themselves
  • A single market is consistent with democracy only if it features common defences of the weaker Europeans, and of the environment, that are democratically chosen and built
  • Democracy cannot be a luxury afforded to creditors while refused to debtors
  • Democracy is essential for limiting capitalism’s worst, self-destructive drives and opening up a window onto new vistas of social harmony and sustainable development

In response to the inevitable failure of Europe’s cartelised social economy to rebound from the post-2008 Great Recession, the EU’s institutions that caused this failure have been resorting to escalating authoritarianism. The more they asphyxiate democracy, the less legitimate their political authority becomes, the stronger the forces of economic recession, and the greater their need for further authoritarianism. Thus the enemies of democracy gather renewed power while losing legitimacy and confining hope and prosperity to the very few (who may only enjoy it behind the gates and the fences needed to shield them from the rest of society).

This is the unseen process by which Europe’s crisis is turning our peoples inwards, against each other, amplifying pre-existing jingoism, xenophobia. The privatisation of anxiety, the fear of the ‘other’, the nationalisation of ambition, and the re-nationalisation of policy threaten a toxic disintegration of common interests from which Europe can only suffer. Europe’s pitiful reaction to its banking and debt crises, to the refugee crisis, to the need for a coherent foreign, migration and anti-terrorism policy, are all examples of what happens when solidarity loses its meaning:

  • The injury to Europe’s integrity caused by the crushing of the Athens Spring, and by the subsequent imposition of an economic ‘reform’ program that was designed to fail
  • The customary assumption that, whenever a state budget must be bolstered or a bank bailed out, society’s weakest must pay for the sins of the wealthiest rentiers
  • The constant drive to commodify labour and drive democracy out of the workplace
  • The scandalous ‘not in our backyard’ attitude of most EU member-states to the refugees landing on Europe’s shores, illustrating how a broken European governance model yields ethical decline and political paralysis, as well as evidence that xenophobia towards non-Europeans follows the demise of intra-European solidarity
  • The comical phrase we end up with when we put together the three words ‘European’, ‘foreign’ and ‘policy’
  • The ease with which European governments decided after the awful Paris attacks that the solution lies in re-erecting borders, when most of the attackers were EU citizens – yet another sign of the moral panic engulfing a European Union unable to unite Europeans to forge common responses to common problems.

What must be done? Our horizon

Realism demands that we work toward reaching milestones within a realistic timeframe. This is why DiEM25 will aim for four breakthroughs at regular intervals in order to bring about a fully democratic, functional Europe by 2025.

Now, today, Europeans are feeling let down by EU institutions everywhere. From Helsinki to Lisbon, from Dublin to Crete, from Leipzig to Aberdeen. Europeans sense that a stark choice is approaching fast. The choice between authentic democracy and insidious disintegration. We must resolve to unite to ensure that Europe makes the obvious choice: Authentic democracy!

When asked what we want, and when we want it, we reply: IMMEDIATELY: Full transparency in decision-making.

  • EU Council, Ecofin, FTT and Eurogroup Meetings to be live-streamed
  • Minutes of European Central Bank governing council meetings to be published a few weeks after the meetings have taken place
  • All documents pertinent to crucial negotiations (e.g. trade-TTIP, ‘bailout’ loans, Britain’s status) affecting every facet of European citizens’ future to be uploaded on the web
  • A compulsory register for lobbyists that includes their clients’ names, their remuneration, and a record of meetings with officials (both elected and unelected)

WITHIN TWELVE MONTHS: Address the on-going economic crisis utilising existing institutions and within existing EU Treaties

Europe’s immediate crisis is unfolding simultaneously in five realms:

  • Public debt
  • Banking
  • Inadequate Investment, and
  • Migration
  • Rising Poverty

All five realms are currently left in the hands of national governments powerless to act upon them. DiEM25 will present detailed policy proposals to Europeanise all five while limiting Brussels’ discretionary powers and returning power to national Parliaments, to regional councils, to city halls and to communities. The proposed policies will be aimed at re-deploying existing institutions (through a creative re-interpretation of existing treaties and charters) in order to stabilise the crises of public debt, banking, inadequate investment, and rising poverty.

WITHIN TWO YEARS: Constitutional Assembly

The people of Europe have a right to consider the union’s future and a duty to transform Europe (by 2025) into a full-fledged democracy with a sovereign Parliament respecting national self-determination and sharing power with national Parliaments, regional assemblies and municipal councils.

To do this, an Assembly of their representatives must be convened. DiEM25 will promote a Constitutional Assembly consisting of representatives elected on trans-national tickets. Today, when universities apply  to Brussels for research funding, they must form alliances across nations. Similarly, election to the Constitutional Assembly should require tickets featuring candidates from a majority of European countries. The resulting Constitutional Assembly will be empowered to decide on a future democratic constitution  that will replace all existing European Treaties within a decade.

BY 2025: Enactment of the decisions of the Constitutional Assembly

Who will bring change?

We, the peoples of Europe, have a duty to regain control over our Europe from unaccountable ‘technocrats’, complicit politicians and shadowy institutions.

We come from every part of the continent and are united by different cultures, languages, accents, political party affiliations, ideologies, skin colours, gender identities, faiths and conceptions of the good society.

We are forming DiEM25 intent on moving from a Europe of ‘We the Governments’, and ‘We the Technocrats’, to a Europe of ‘We, the peoples of Europe’.

Our four principles:

  • No European people can be free as long as another’s democracy is violated
  • No European people can live in dignity as long as another is denied it
  • No European people can hope for prosperity if another is pushed into permanent insolvency and depression
  • No European people can grow without basic goods for its weakest citizens, human development, ecological balance and a determination to become fossil-fuel free in a world that changes its ways – not the planet’s climate

We join in a magnificent tradition of fellow Europeans who have struggled for centuries against the ‘wisdom’ that democracy is a luxury and that the weak must suffer what they must.

With our hearts, minds and wills dedicated to these commitments, and determined to make a difference, we declare that.

Our pledge

We call on our fellow Europeans to join us forthwith to create the European movement which we call DiEM25.

  • To fight together, against a European establishment deeply contemptuous of democracy, to democratise the European Union
  • To end the reduction of all political relations into relations of power masquerading as merely technical decisions
  • To subject the EU’s bureaucracy to the will of sovereign European peoples
  • To dismantle the habitual domination of corporate power over the will of citizens
  • To re-politicise the rules that govern our single market and common currency

We consider the model of national parties which form flimsy alliances at the level of the European Parliament to be obsolete. While the fight for democracy-from below (at the local, regional or national levels) is necessary, it is nevertheless insufficient if it is conducted without an internationalist strategy toward a pan-European coalition for democratising Europe. European democrats must come together first, forge a common agenda, and then find ways of connecting it with local communities and at the regional and national level.

Our overarching aim to democratise the European Union is intertwined with an ambition to promote self-government (economic, political and social) at the local, municipal, regional and national levels; to throw open the corridors of power to the public; to embrace social and civic movements; and to emancipate all levels of government from bureaucratic and corporate power.

We are inspired by a Europe of Reason, Liberty, Tolerance and Imagination made possible by comprehensive Transparency, real Solidarity and authentic Democracy.

We aspire to:

  • A Democratic Europe in which all political authority stems from Europe’s sovereign peoples
  • A Transparent Europe where all decision-making takes place under the citizens’ scrutiny
  • A United Europe whose citizens have as much in common across nations as within them
  • A Realistic Europe that sets itself the task of radical, yet achievable, democratic reforms
  • A Decentralised Europe that uses central power to maximise democracy in workplaces, towns, cities, regions and states
  • A Pluralist Europe of regions, ethnicities, faiths, nations, languages and cultures
  • An Egalitarian Europe that celebrates difference and ends discrimination based on gender, skin colour, social class or sexual orientation
  • A Cultured Europe that harnesses its people’s cultural diversity and promotes not only its invaluable heritage but also the work of Europe’s dissident artists, musicians, writers and poets
  • A Social Europe that recognises that liberty necessitates not only freedom from interference but also the basic goods that render one free from need and exploitation
  • A Productive Europe that directs investment into a shared, green prosperity
  • A Sustainable Europe that lives within the planet’s means, minimising its environmental impact, and leaving as much fossil fuel in the earth
  • An Ecological Europe engaged in genuine world-wide green transition
  • A Creative Europe that releases the innovative powers of its citizens’ imagination
  • A Technological Europe pressing new technologies in the service of solidarity
  • A Historically-minded Europe that seeks a bright future without hiding from its past
  • An Internationalist Europe that treats non-Europeans as ends-in-themselves
  • A Peaceful Europe de-escalating tensions in its East and in the Mediterranean, acting as a bulwark against the sirens of militarism and expansionism
  • An Open Europe that is alive to ideas, people and inspiration from all over the world, recognising fences and borders as signs of weakness spreading insecurity in the name of security
  • A Liberated Europe where privilege, prejudice, deprivation and the threat of violence wither, allowing Europeans to be born into fewer stereotypical roles, to enjoy even chances to develop their potential, and to be free to choose more of their partners in life, work and society.

Carpe DiEM25

www.diem25.org

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