TalkReal in Athens: Democracy Rising – Syriza and Europe

after months of negotiations there is finally an agreement between Greece and the eurozone it is not a good agreement but we have no time for a politics of melancholia the question we have to ask today is not only what should grease do but also in particular what should the rest of Europe due to relaunch a radical process of change in our continent this is the question we discussed today in Athens in the context of democracy rising global conference and this is the question we discuss with Kostas to zena’s acclaimed Greek intellectual and professor of law at Birkbeck College margarita como great performer writer and public commentator based in Berlin Durham Bruce author and founder of rural magazine and let’s go horrid Croatian philosopher and member of the board of European alternatives welcome to talk real it’s impossible to call oneself a pro-european I’d be in favor of idiots of democracy of equality of solidarity of justice this is the question that Owen John’s post recently on the Guardian syriza has answered yes I want to start by asking this question to you cost us why is it that the level of the struggle that syriza has identified is the European level and you agree with that sure let me start by saying that when we talk about the European Union we should not use the word Europe the idea of Europe which is an old idea that comes out of the Enlightenment in the dialect of the night rule is much wider than the European Union indeed call in the European Union Europe is a huge and violent metonymy that I think you know sort of should be abandoned so we’re talking about the European Union is true that the syriza government in the syriza party has accepted that staying in Europe in the European Union at this point in time is an important political choice the European Union as he was created in the 50s and 60s the common market as we used to call it was the outcome of a major compromise in the post-world World War period between capitalism and democracy between the principle of market distribution of the economic product and democratic distribution of the economic prod product which follows a principal social justice so had the principle of market distribution a principle of social justice distribution and those two came together in an easy compromise a kind of cohabitation which I think moved the European Union forward for the first 20 to 25 years of its existence at this point that kind of compromise is at risk because the market principal market distribution of the social product is now becoming dominant and it is important I think for those of us who believe that the old idea of the environment of justice and democracy and solidarity should be revived and it is now on the left to try and fight to revive that principle and for that to reform the European Union megido yes I think it makes sense in the first step to take the fight in the European level since the crisis is not a great crisis by the European crisis so it made completely sense that you fight in this frame in this currency institutions the question now is was it successful to fight from within and here i have to say we have to be clear and syriza says it as well that it was not successful what we saw is that the fight for another Europe in this framework was clearly defeated and i want to quote only one and phrase from the new memorandum and that clearly says in terms of democracy because we’re talking about democracy every love that is proposed in greece has to first pass by the institution and if they are okay with it then they are okay with passing

it through Greek parliament this means Rick Parliament can just yes agree on what the troika says is a fact fact abolition yes of Russia serenity of democratic serenity as we knew it and it’s written down like this so for me we have to be clear in order to continue and reorient eight that it was a defeat trying to did to do this in this framework at least in the balance of forces that we have in Europe at the moment the only thing I think what happened now through all this fight of series I inside this framework is that the masks had fallen had fallen that we have a day legitimation of this European framework it is actually what oldish back has been saying in his last book dodgers or oppa the German Europe he says we have a situation where there is strong power but low legitimation four states at the moment in governance in Europe but there is high linkage major but no power on the side of the movements so let’s go step by step and answer those questions jerome back to you with the idea can one still be of the left and european i think absolutely i think one can be very European but I think like Costa says we have to make a very important distinction between Europe and the European Union as such and we might make even an extra distinction between the European Union and the European monetary union and I think if we actually look at the evolution of the construction of the monetary union it was constructed not just without the social justice principle in mind but actually with the deliberate purpose to shield decision-making from popular pressures from below and i think is very important to keep in mind that the very construction of the monetary union had anti-democratic its ng Democratic nature embedded within it by its very logic on purpose if you look at the ECB for instance it was meant to be an independent institution without any countervailing power that could potentially you know push it in one direction or another it was supposed to be an independent bank which is in reality just the you know avail for its own dependence on the markets and the financial markets and it’s close connections with the private sector so I think that’s a very important thing that we should definitely throw in there that one can be European that when my even way to struggle at the level of the European Union but that does not necessarily mean that one should stick with the single currency as such okay since I’m the last one in this round since we are in Greece what about the Acropolis and so on let me start by by a scene from costa-gavras movie capital I don’t know if you watched it but there is a brilliant scene also around the table people are sitting and there comes the director of a huge French bank and his uncle in his ankle is our old 68 guy and he accuses his nephew of the Greek crisis and so on you big banks are ruining countries within that month and so on and you know what the director says his nephew he says but we are making your dreams true I meant this guy on the other side of the tables at 68 guy and he’s completely perplexed and asked how do you mean we are making your how do you make our dreams joy he says you know you wanted a lead national and our banks are international and I think this is the first problem problem you have to face and especially in the framework of the last agreement between cities and the so-called institutions who are now again renamed into into the troika in the sense i have completely agree with all of you that yes a european life still makes sense but the real question is doesn’t make sense to fight inside of the eurozone and i think what has been shown clearly with syriza that it was an illusion that we can change the institutions from inside of course I don’t think now the fight is over yet but it brings us back actually to the late sixties when Rudy Gucci said we need something like they’re like a mascot Institute you own and the long march through the institutions and we also know how the choker ended up and how the German greens ended up and I think this could be a scenario for syriza as well in the sense now everyone accuses series of of a defeatist alone and I think they should say first these were our failures and named the failures but we should learn from the planners and not you know be in this life melancholia to say a light party doesn’t make any sense the European letter doesn’t make any sense so i should think we should learn from from from the experience of series starting from that and linking to what margarita said in her intervention you made me think of the very famous quote

by by mao zedong revolution is not a dinner party and did anybody here expect that in six months a radical government from the weakest member of the eurozone would have the power to radically transform to revolutionize the governance structures of the European Union was anybody so deluded that thought this could happen when we came from a past where Francois Hollande was elected president to one of the most powerful countries of the european union with a specific mandate of changing the economic governance of the union nowhere near as revolutionary as tsipras promised and even he failed in modifying by a zero point few points percentage points the economic governance of of the eurozone so if we introduce a temporality and we see the situation that were now inhabiting in Greece as a battle in a much longer change a much longer time frame of change a revolutionary time frame does that help us to change the rhetoric and the discussion and to contrast this politics of melancholia which seems to be very much focusing on the moment on the instant we haven’t achieved all that we set out to now and hence it is all impossible yes good I however somehow put this question in a slightly different perspective I don’t think that this is a government ever claimed there was so megalomaniac oh that they hoped or expected that within the first five months or indeed within the first four years that we’re going to change the EU architecture I mean that was not in the cards and they never claimed that you know what they argued like Croatia were part of the periphery of Europe now and I think it’ll be set in Spain and Portugal part of the periphery of Europe and what I think they argued was that a certain understanding of the importance of democratic elections or referenda of the participation of people in in the political struggle in social organization might start changing not again the architecture not the way in which the European Parliament is a talking shop I mean we know that I mean people talk about the democratic deficit it is a huge finish there is no bloody democracy at all at that adapt institutional them so in a sense what series a promise and perhaps of a values its ability to do but we’re still in the early days was not so much that somehow you know they were going to start a new constitutional process in which bureau would change what I think it promised explicitly implicitly was that it would be and a catalyst that social movements in public opinion in European countries which are subjected to that kind of regime that you rightly described would start moving within their own space without their own political environment trying to put pressure on their governments so it was not so much about the European Union change in that kind of structure it was about using the tools that brought sales that are in this country the huge resistance is over five years this is what I think your syriza promised and its presence paralyzed or started data lies with you I agree image of the packing line catalyst it depends on where do we think the tools are there for us to use so if we think on an institutional governance level a catalyst would be that there is move shiftings in existing parties and this means for example for germany since I base their shiftings in the Social Democratic Party which is not really it’s not yet at all you have Sigma dabria who actually competes with Meredith to be the bigger and stronger a hegemon linebacker and actually the in Germany the the polls give him right so people like this heart hegemon german hegemon and so as a social democracy we have not seen shifts from this catalyst what about the grease the greens had a big campaign for the yes in Greece so they had a great campaign for the Greek people to vote yes from German you know the intervened

in the referendum for a yes now they’re also intimated because they know their basis is indicated but I mean I’m not sure I’m not sure what will happen there the only thing that I see happening is that we have the movements that were already there that are strengthened and that I also transnational eyes so for example I was surprised to see that the most of my eyes ations for solidarity for Greece at the moment in Spain they use hashtag 50m from the occupation of the community luv Nanda glados it’s hashtag 50m hashtag okie Greek no hash techno troika and hashtag this is a cool so it is all I think it’s a good image of understanding that is all thought together yes is one transnational fight but this is movements that are not even social movements I would say it’s society in movement which is a good thing and I think with this term of society movement that also in place and this is I think the only chance but the quiz questions there is how we organize and how do we institutionalize this societies in movement but I radicalized and that are transmitted lized so this would be a see the next step to us or do we organize and how we institutionalize this indignation can ask your job to take forward this line of reasoning yeah I can try but I would also want to get back to your question for just a second because that two things to say on that I mean you asked basically who was expecting cities at the completely transform Europe in a matter of five six months I think the answer is no one no one no not different cities nothing missing is of course not but I think also few people I mean there were some but a few people were expecting the extreme reaction from Europe and the scale of the defeat let’s say and I don’t like to talk in terms of you know some words are going around like the tray or total capitulation I don’t know what to call this but I think that one thing is clear is that the strategy of the government that the use since the beginning is filled and it is filled quite miserably it’s been a really hard crash and I think this speaks to some extent to our contemporary powerlessness more than anything else and this connects to the second part that I wanted to say which kind of is about the longer term perspective that you indicated that we would need I feel that you know there’s been in the last 10-15 years on the Left have been to paradise almost you know change the world without taking power or change the world by taking power you know and these two have been battling it out since the global justice movement the genoise days and it’s kind of been like you know as if they’re somehow opposed to one another in which we to be exclusive and I think actually we should try to do is not even bring them together but rather transcend so this dichotomy and perhaps start speaking in terms of building power and because what we find is that neither without taking power nor with taking power are we capable of asserting our force as the left in transforming that into material outcomes that actually benefit the majority of the people and that restore a sense of democracy so I think the real challenge that we face moving forward at the European level at the national level at the local level is sexually build popular power to build those institutions those organs those organizations a popular power and the real question that we’re going to have to answer in time moving forward is what form could that take that’s just one of the things that I wanted to say in that of course also connects with the question of the movements right the movers will have to play very important role in that you the real question for the left today is again internationalism and from my experience that this is the creation Yugoslavia experience there are some things some once upon a time called the non-aligned movement and this is the year where we have the 60th anniversary of bamboo and what is missing is precise with this you know you have seen that Greece was completely alone so it decides it’s not only a failure of the Greek government is a favor of the creation people the failure of the German people the terror of the Spanish people Italian people and so on so we shouldn’t say what series that didn’t do but what did what did we do actually during this whole period series I cannot do it alone you know and the Spanish elections are in november or war I don’t know even even further away I mean what we do in the meantime but let me come in in english and i totally agree with your point that the negotiation strategy is a fail but he approve of the discussion we just head in this round the biggest favor shooter from my point of view was I did

not try to verify to help provide both from the party position but also preset works then from the state position although there are always been a major difficulties there that social movement that popular mobilization the broad citizen part that is the case this problem okay it happened with a referendum right and again in this 11 do as I have argued repeatedly directly links to see that map run to syndicate 2011 and remember we were together both in the Friday went super spoke end of the sunday in the celebration and you would see there that was the beat themselves in the sense even against the government that came together and brought this result there was entrusted to direct democracy not just in the institutional sense of the referendum is the most dialect and aquatic institution within a fundamental democracy in the Prophet direct democracy sense now that is what happened at the referendum the people in a proper directive of kratom way mobilize to the struggle in their own hands outside of government even enjoy the party and in that sense we moved from syntecno 2011 season 1 2015 and this is a great hope for the future general you know I absolutely agree with this i think it was extremely important the social mobilization that came after the calling of the referendum at least certain social forces that were even unaffected by the government itself you know but i think this is even hinted something even more interesting which is that you know this was already there the people wanted to assert themselves into the main social and political scene there was a strong desire to participate and it was basically the disempowering element of the negotiate that were keeping people waiting that make people sort of unsure how to react constantly waiting for the next deadline and seeing how the government will respond to the next thing so I think it’s very very crucial that tip has took the decision to the people John sadly it was done with a set up certain ambiguity of what it would mean people were to vote no and this allowed also later on for the demobilization of this popular enthusiasm because people were no longer sure exactly what do he meant did it mean a wholesale rejection of austerity a wholesale rejection of ultimatums and financial blackmail or was it just an object to the very particular technical document that was presented on the twenty sixth of June that was rejected as an ultimatum by Prime Minister Jaro come in a little theoretically here hmm we know from the tradition of the left that every time the coastal path becomes constituted the genres are falling away and falling down you know the power the people that bring the government into into into government into bar all the power of the people that we produce you society from social labor when it starts becoming institutionalized loose is that kind of edge and this is what happened I’m afraid after January 2015 and this is the big in a sense the big pack the big wager with the scenes like a little mini how you can help not be fine because the constituent part is there it showed itself it was amazing why on the fifth of July how you can help you know help that come on out again come out and to what extent you can actually devote large part of even state are to those constituent social movements immobilization that can take us to rat me it actually brings us back towards your main level derivative respect to what you said you know as far as I see it today we witness wrigley a special historical situation and to be more theoretical we have a combination between horizontality and verticality and I think series AZ a brilliant example where even theories such as negri and heart are now speaking about the the necessity of leadership and so on but I think that the people in this country in Greece are now even more ready for some things that the government is and you know you have to use it and it brings us back to this sort of dialectics with that be checking today is the most important thing that they’re like this between verticality and horizontality how to keep the energy of social movement okay I completely agree with all that we had discussed it a long as also a lot of time I would also like to point out the point that the know also was for people are potential grexit they knew that voting the norm might be a horizon of a grexit and they still did it because they risked more actually that the government is once there’s most waiting to have to risk they I think the people are ready to take their lives in their heads as they were also formulating it’s a phrase that they did not us actually started to

say and as you are saying in as you are saying to dissolve state to combine you know governance with this self-organization in society this is crucial because I think the only we have increased now this big pole of the law and new political poll as I say this is the backbone of the series of government and this is the backdrop for every politics that syriza government it will do and if syriza does not satisfy the desire of this new political poll then we have a danger okay the danger is that all this damage information and all these non satisfactions goes to the right and the right is in Europe they are ready they’re waiting in front of the store to come in I want to ask a couple of you before rounding it off a question on popular power and the catalyst that you migrate that were mentioning before Greece is fighting no Tony on behalf of the Greeks but it is fighting on behalf of Europeans and it is fighting for a vision of a different alternative you the question where our European movements where are the peoples of Europe in this fight is a question that I still would want to pose why is it still so difficult in Europe today to make an equivalence between the necessity of helping Greece and the necessity of helping oneself why is it so difficult to make the equivalence that the memorandum the logic behind the memorandum on Greece is the same logic that privatizes healthcare in Romania privatizes the highways in Croatia attacks labor rights in Italy or evicts people in Spain perhaps jerome i would start from you yeah my answer would be that basically you know we’ve been told that this Europe is about solidarity and cooperation but in reality it’s actually a very divisive instrument of the ruling class to basically play different european countries and working classes from different european countries apart by pitching them in a fierce competition amongst each other and by basically allowing especially german capital to use the single currency is a surplus recycling mechanism you know what we’re seeing I think is that the European Union is producing greater or the European monetary union particulars producing greater rivalry and opposition and nationalisms than we had before the European monetary union so what we have to question in the first place is you know is this type of European integration really European to begin with and I think the answer is no so what we have to start doing is to start rethinking from the very basis what it would mean to you know really integrate Europe along the lines of you know popular culture and popular power and I think that would really have to come from the bottom up and the particular concrete forms that it will take is something that we’ll have to discuss over the over the months and years ahead cost us asked many people comment is why the European enrich have become fully Europeanized and they go to Brussels to get the values and soon to be part of the so-called comiXology in the various committees European Union a European devil has not recreate the idea of a combo niobium culture community ecology that in a sense can play the role of a cultural common ground has no comment in that extent going back to the point that sketchbook make an earlier watch the mink perhaps it is important for each one of us to find in their own countries to find within the movement and so on internationalist is one of the greatest traditions of the left it is precisely about solidarity it is what about philanthropy it’s not about humanitarian get it is about standing up with people other countries because we have common interest and let’s close with the last question along along these lines one minute for each of you to give a proposition in a direction for words Greece has done regardless of the opinion the one may have about syriza has done an enormous amount of work in reinstating the attempt to create a rupture in European to transform the structures of the European Union but what has everybody else done and what should everybody else do I would like to close not commenting on Greece not commenting on syriza by commenting on what is the responsibility of Europeans however you want to define it to act now where should we restart from maybe static we start with you and we close because I have such a historical responsibility then you know this process start with me okay I would say I mean although the defeat or someone college capitulation is flying above our pets we should be honest to ourselves and say that let’s say after I would say there are three piloting sheets which we as the life witness the international left so the first one was of course porto alegre and general by in this world social forum tradition eating each each year in another country to asian Senegal 50,000 hundred thousand people and so on very thing we also came

to some walls where we have seen that it’s not really a new international they don’t they didn’t the real social forum didn’t have the strength to question the status quo and so on and it was mainly networking organizing making friends and so on then in 2011 we have a new shift and this is what what Costas in his book calls the time of I’m in history reload that this is the time of revolution and so on and we have seen all these occupations which are mainly grassroots movements ordinary people from Tahrir Square to gasifier Occupy Wall Street but also countries such as passe Nia for example where plenums happened where generals assemblies happened without any political parties and so on and then we are now in the third party you shift and maybe it’s even going now into some new directions which is that new political parties have been created not only syriza but for demos but also is familia and so on and what is to be done is I think that all these three shifts our paradigmatic imbibe on the one hand we need internationalism and I think cities and for the most haven’t worked in upon it although they created a very cuddly state they created a huge space but the thing is you know when you come in government in Greece you don’t really have the capability to still work on all these other fields because the country is collapsing and for the last days for example the banks on board so it’s very difficult than just to conclude you know the other thing is again which brings us back to to the movements we need to be in contact with social movements all the time and not to fall into the trap of the old political parties from the 70s in the thirties of course yes we have to think about covers because i think this changed finally in the life in their international life we are not afraid anymore of power in the sense that we know if we want to make things if you want to change things yes sometimes we have to sit on the table with medical and shortly and so on but the real question courses that we’ve seen in its Ariza what do we do at the table I think now is the time for Plan C why because we’ve seen a left that’s been not necessarily divided but at least it has theoretically and also in terms of strategy and practice as sort of divided itself between this you know not taking power versus taking power root and we’ve also seen google strategy within syriza itself do we stay in the euro do we go out the euro I think it’s time to shatter those dichotomies and really take the struggle to a whole new level and start working on the base of a new paradigm right so there’s a lot of people talking these days about the comments as a you know as an alternative form of organizing self organizing and alternative form even of property relations and I think that we should really start exploring these type of alternatives and I think that even under a memorandum government there will be opportunities for this because this is something that a comes from the grassroots up and be that a left government as long as it remains in power can in one way or another support right so it’s really important that we start thinking of what would it mean to actually involve people in the actual processes of social change and to create that space and to provide that hope for people to stand forward and you know that what is there the Constituent power is ghost as mentioned is there and the desire to participate is there and the greatest threat at this particular moment is the demobilization as a result of the complete resignation of the people so if a government of the left manages to stay into power and should inspire the people and it should give that space and it should create those opportunities for Plan C to to start taking shape but a plan C ultimately risk the responsibility for this rests with the people i mean can only come from the bottom up um i would like to talk about the reinvention of the left I don’t think that we have a perspective if we continue thinking in social movements that we had them in a practice of demonstrations only in the practice of protest as addressing the power in order for that to give us something I think people are more advanced than that you can see that the political parties that are evolving are trying to our to be new types of parties of demos priced to the scud also have a greater even if it’s a not compact that you see that people and want don’t want to be identified with only political identities as we knew them as compelling as we knew them and I think it has to do with the planet of practice so people want to do something in their everyday life and not only propagating rhetoric and slogans you can see that also in the cultural field you have a huge cultural field people are very active and they are very rarely part really as they were in the archives of the twenties where they are filled and the popular movements they went together they’re still not really a link

and successful in there what has happened since the beginning of 2015 is the start of what we can call an arc of verge we on the Left have learned really hard in the hard way over 50 years a series of instances of the redken failure and political defeat you have failed and we have defeated a game in the game and the game in touch everyone said it was the people increased in spain in egypt and tunisia turkey in brazil who were well had both of the grave theories are confused the tight little ahead of political leaders political plans of the knife and it has started changed the art vertically look attack the huge victory for the kurdistan leftist party in Turkey which now is challenging the other one room then we move to Greece then we move to Spain and of course we expect and hope that polemic will win but the victories in the local elections were amazing particularly magic with was the center of the franchise machine and then we moved while and then of course was cotton that needs to be emphasized again in the game in the game and we have to a certain extent to celebrate that and see how the lessons we’ve learned over the last five years not just the last five months increase but their social success and emergency fail defeat capitulation how these lessons can be put into practice in everyone’s whole leverage country in England city this is how internationalist and translation start again in we start cleaning sewer vectors of the beginning and hopefully bigger victory lane we have a resurrection will revive our history we were told that history ended the mindNet mind history has started moving the game and this is the place which in which as well that revival history is at its highest point so let us go away having a little hole letters keep to our melancholia you have to be Moratti in order to be a standard person keep to a melancholy but don’t you see that possibilities dropping again and the way we put it from sent about 2011 to signal 2015 and the democracy to come this is the position that I’d like us to deal with perfect history has started again we started from there is an alternative now I think there is broad agreement in Europe that there is no staying put with the status quo the instability that’s been inserted into the structural dynamic of the european union represents an opportunity we may win we may lose but at least we can fight we are in Athens at a historical moment but we’re also in Athens at a very important conference that’s bringing activists and theorists from across the globe to discuss over four days we close as usual with an interview with the organizer of the conference crest on Davis what is democracy what does it mean for democracy to rise is it rising or is it declining this is the question these are the many sets of questions that we here in Athens are convening to ask my name is christine davis and I’m the founding director of the global Center for Advanced Studies it’s a school that we founded with many theorists and activists around the world a school committed to the idea of democracy a school committed you not to a party not to neither to an uprising but rather a mediation between uprisings in the world from occupied to the Arab Spring to Athens to Frankfurt to all over the world these uprisings the school is connecting the uprisings with the question of organization a pedagogical organization that unites various people from all over the world we have 45 different countries already participating in what we’re doing we want you to participate as well