From a political ecology perspective, the DiEM25 initiative must call for our attention. Greens have always defended that Europe is the right political space to provide answers for the many challenges we face and that it needs a democratic renewal. DiEM25 takes a step, albeit timidly, towards a green Europe and a green and shared prosperity that respects the planet. If people in Europe speak our language we need to engage in the conversation, despite our differences.
“Europe will be democratised. Or it will disintegrate.” So reads the founding manifesto of DiEM25, the European democracy movement led by Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek minister of economy, presented on February 9th in Berlin. The proposal is clear and direct: against authoritarianism, austerity and recession imposed by the ruling elites; it is time for democratic renewal in Europe. This urge and demand is quite familiar to Greens across Europe, and knowing how difficult it is to mobilise people in the long term, they look at it with curiosity but also with a certain kind of scepticism. However, it has to be admitted that it feels like a breath of fresh air and the Greens, like other progressive groups that stand for these values, should not be ignoring it. Looking into their own history and memory, they should welcome it; in spite of the differences that might exist.
A good sign is that DiEM25 organizers are aware of such differences, at least at the theoretical level. The initiative, which aims to reach its goal in 2025, hopes to do this through a broad European coalition of Democrats, whether they are Leftist, Social Democrats, Greens or Liberals. At the same time, DiEM25, as a condition to ensure local and national sovereignty, wants to achieve full European sovereignty. In fact, it has a true federalist style that revives the dream of a European demos (compatible and complementary with national identities and demos).
The next actions to deal with will demand collaboration and a common stand, not divisions in the re-nationalised sphere of European politics. The transnational character of this urge for democratisation is, therefore, also important, because it directly attacks and transcends divisions that have increased across Europe due to policies of fear and the lack of trust triggered by the economic and migration crises.
Thus, by making European sovereignty necessary and desirable in the heart of the debate, DiEM25 delves into the restructuration of the forces of change in general and, in particular, the left at local and European level. It is not surprising that Mélenchon, leader of the French Parti de Gauche, in full retreat towards national sovereignty, and that Lafontaine, from Die Linke, a supporter of returning to the pre-euro currency system, were both absent from Berlin. DiEM25 also bets on reforming the European Union and the euro and does not focus on the left vs right axis. It situates in the democratic model the major political challenge and contradiction for the years to come in Europe.
Moreover, even if the rhetoric of the manifesto tends to sometimes simplify problems of the EU (aiming, for example, with a broad brush and few hints on “European bureaucracy”), its commitment to a more united and integrated Europe is clear. This commitment takes the form of an unambiguous claim for a European Constituent Assembly, which in turn would give birth to a genuine European Constitution. Even Varoufakis doesn’t hesitate to speak of a “European Federal State”; a real qualitative leap in this era of crisis of trust in the EU institutions and an atmosphere of confrontation and exacerbation of national against European. And it’s even more relevant coming from someone who, after a violent confrontation with the Troika, recognises that the solution for Greece (or similar cases) does not rely on stronger nation-states but a stronger Europe.
This move and statement, even if they require a test of honesty, cannot be ignored today. For Europe, it would be a luxury to turn head in another direction. Of course, the movement itself needs the people on ground to develop further, but the signal Yanis Varoufakis, Srećko Horvat and other friends are sending from Berlin and other European cities is, again, clear. The inception phase of this movement, however, lacks some of the structure and strategy that will be developed in the following months. In the early days of the movement, ambiguity of ambition can be part of the charm, but although innovative and different, the nature of political action itself will demand a more clarified stand on an organisational future and the relation towards different ideological positions. Europe was always proud of the pluralism it has developed on the political spectrum; however, the pressures to which it’s exposed might suggest that pluralism needs to be more collaborative in the future. And the DiEM25 voice on that is perhaps too silent, but the imaginary with which it invites for political action offers a chance to be transported in a clear and decisive collaborative offensive action across Europe. Again, even if not agreeing fully – this new social energy that appeals to many across Europe can become the constituent power of the democratic renewal across this Europe, threatened by a toxic mixture of authoritarianism, exclusion and imposed austerity to benefit the few.
This is the force of the manifesto: despite a narrative quite critic towards the European institutions (sometimes rightly, sometimes not; i.e. the European Parliament is not an enemy and could be an ally), the collective imaginary built by Varoufakis puts the European idea as a possible and positive horizon. In times of “Europe bashing” (either by eurosceptical movements but also by national governments that are, however, the main responsibility for blocking the EU), DiEM25 is brave by opening the way not only to democratise Europe, but also to Europeanise democracy. In other words, it suggests that democracy is not only the future of Europe, but that also Europe is the future of democracy.
But who is behind DiEM25? For now, geographical and ideological diversity dominates its make up. While the movement still has not managed to attract the wide range of people that it aims to (like social-democrats and liberals), it’s been a nexus for people coming from the left and the Greens, many nonpartisan citizens close to the new social movements (in favor of the common goods, digital rights, new forms of democracy, transparency, whistle–blowers rights, etc.) and with very different profiles (activists, academics, the world of culture, trade unionists, economists, politicians, etc.). They all came to Berlin with high expectations, as it is a historic momentum, and now the next wave will have to multiply in many streams across Europe, involving them in a direct struggle that takes innovation, creativity and courage. Saving Europe requires us all present – at home and in Europe – and DiEM25 voice on that has to be louder. The main challenge DiEM25 is facing relates to the imperative of unfolding the transformative character of their imaginary and translates it into achievable strategies.
DiEM25 takes also ownership of the imaginary of the citizens’ candidacies born in the light of the Indignados movement in Spain. Either through the message of support from Ada Colau from Barcelona en Comú, or the mayor of change of A Coruña, Xulio Ferreiro, it clearly marks the ambition of DiEM25 to replicate this dynamic in Europe. However, the structure is one of the least developed and lacks clear points in the proposal: does DiEM25 aspire to be a liquid network, a lobby, a think tank, a social organisation or a political party? And besides the 2025 horizon, will DiEM25 organise to influence in one way or the other the European Convention of 2018 and the European elections in 2019?
Finally, from a political ecology perspective, the initiative must call for our attention. First, because we have always defended a democratic renewal of Europe as a necessary but insufficient condition to solve the systemic crisis. Second, because we European Greens are convinced that Europe is the right political space to provide answers for many ecologic, economic, social and democratic cross-border challenges; we share the focus of struggling for Europe. Third, because DiEM25 takes a step, albeit timidly, towards a green Europe and a green and shared prosperity that respects the planet. Clearly, if another voice appears that speaks our language we need to hear it (and in that case, DiEM25 clearly proposes as basic axes the Green New Deal and the Green Transition). Divergences need to be discussed, defined and, if needed, negotiated, but this conversation must take place. The citizens of Europe are hungry for solutions, but we often forget that deepening of democracy will not happen without us.
In troubled times where the very idea of European Union is reeling under the blows of national egoism and the extreme right, DiEM25 is a breath of fresh air. Certainly incomplete, unstructured and uncertain, with many sides to polish, but it is a precious ally in the reform of Europe. And the fact is that in this emergency nobody has allies to spare. It is time to build bridges for another necessary and possible Europe.