Is DiEM25 really a democratic movement? An answer to Yanis Varoufakis proposal

This article is an answer, a rerelease and critique of “What makes DiEM25 a more effective movement? What is it doing differently?” Originally published by Yanis Varoufakis here on DiEM25. 

The German Version of this article is available und the title: “DiEM25 muss sich selbst demokratisieren oder es wird verschwinden

Introduction: On month has passed since the launch of DiEM25 (Democracy in Europe Movement 2025) at the Volksbühne Theater in Berlin on February the 9th 2016. After watching the event via live stream I had the fade smack of a coffeehouse revolution. Some well-paid left wing intellectuals (networked with: the blogger as the intellectual of the network society) were presenting their version of a democratic revolution of the European Union and even get paid for it by the audience. For me this form of presentation had nothing in common with a democratic movement. Which means, that DiEM25 has not tried there to represent the political will of the multitude (networked with: michael hardt: demokratie). It just followed the classic authoritarian logic of a small elite who tells the masses what is wrong, what is right and what’s´ to do (networked with: is karl marx concept of the class struggle still up to date). Anyway, since every revolution has to start with a small avant-garde, this fade smack might be only the perception of the necessary dictatorship of the beginning.

So in my opinion the first issue for DiEM25 to democratise the European Union is to democratise DiEM25 itself. But this is not a new notion for DiEM25 and its intellectual leader Yanis Varoufakis. So two weeks after the event Yanis Varoufakis published the following article on the DiEM25 website. There he talks about the differences of DiEM25 to other social movements, their five major battlegrounds and the process to publish five policy papers.

Article by Yanis Varouvakis: What makes DiEM25 a more effective movement? What is doing more differently?

(to the german version of this article)

Primarily, our capacity to inspire a broad coalition of democrats from all over Europe. Not just leftists (like myself) but also social democrats, Greens, activists from a variety of movement, even liberal, centre-right, democrats who – like the rest of us – can now see that the anti-democratic nature of EU institutions constitutes a clear and present threat to liberal democracies everywhere.

So, how are we going to bring about this broad, democratic coalition? People will not coalesce just because our manifesto reads well. They will only come if they can see there is a process for creating pan-European answers to pan-European problems. Answers that will reinvigorate our national democracies by democratising and, crucially, rationalising EU institutions.

To become that pan-European movement we need to turn DiEM into the infrastructure that European democrats will use to develop jointly policies/positions on the 5 major ‘Battlegrounds for Democratising Europe’:

(i) A comprehensive Green New Deal for Europe – a policy options Green Paper that fully outlines DiEM’s proposals on how to tackle the sub-crises of Debt, Banking, Low Investment, Green Energy/Technologies Development, Poverty

(ii) Europe’s Money – our policy [in line with (i) above] regarding the integration of economic and monetary policy across the Eurozone-nonEurozone divide, DiEM’s strategy against the establishment’s violent rejection of any agenda that opposes its own austerian/troika policy choices (including threats of shutting down the banking system of any member-state that adopts DiEM’s policy), a policy on parallel payment systems as well as parallel currencies, a broader perspective on how to organise the global monetary system (of which Europe is the largest economy)

(iii) TTiP, WTO, World Bank, IMF – DiEM’s position on Europe’s membership of international agreements and organisations whose rules and arrangements determine Europe’s (and, indeed, the world’s) social outcomes

(iv) Migration & Refugees – DiEM will piece together a comprehensive policy on refugees (based on basic human principles and Europe’s obligations to the UN) and on migration. For centuries Europe has been colonising the world, exporting people, disease, war and various institutions to the rest of the planet. Now, the altered demographics guarantee that the trend is reversed, with non-Europeans migrating to Europe and institutions devised elsewhere determining outcomes in Europe. DiEM will propose policies for managing and maximising the benefits from this inevitable reversal both for Europe and for the rest of the world

(v) Decentralised Europeanisation & Constitutional Assembly – DiEM is committed to restoring sovereignty at the municipal, regional and national level by Europeanising crises [see (i) and (iv) above] that presently neutralise Parliaments and cities. DiEM rejects the notion that Europeanising these crises and seeking solutions at the European level can only come at the cost of further loss of sovereignty at the municipal, regional and national level. For this purpose, DiEM will present a policy options Green Paper explaining how its policies regarding (i), (ii) and (iv) above return power to the local, regional and national level in preparation of the Constitutional Assembly whose purpose will be to draft a Democratic European Constitution. DiEM will attempt to draw a draft of such a constitution.

PROPOSED PROCESS FOR PRODUCING THE ABOVE FIVE POLICY PAPERS

Step 1 –  DiEM will compile a list of questions/issues for each of the five ‘battlegrounds’ and will call upon its members to convene locally, and in the spirit of self-organisation, in order to propose to the rest of DiEM particular solutions and policies. We envisage Town Hall meetings, meetings in theatres, cinemas, cultural centres etc.

Step 2 –  All policy recommendations, concerns and suggestions will be compiled by a dedicated DiEM committee (one per ‘battleground’) with a view to putting together a Policy Paper Proposal that will be submitted to a DiEM Assembly – see Step 3

Step 3 –  Between now and the end of 2016 DiEM will fix five dates and cities, one per ‘battleground’, where the relevant Policy Paper Proposal will be debated and the DiEM Paper on the ‘battleground’ will be finalised

Step 4 –  Once each DiEM Paper has been finalised, it will be put to a vote of all members using DiEM’s digital platform.

Originally only in the german version: Excuse the long answer. But your question is crucial for DiEMs right to exist.

Deutsches Original: “Entschuldigung für die lange Antwort. Aber deine Frage ist zentral für DiEMs Daseinsberechtigung!”

License: CC-BY-NC 4.0

Critique: Is DiEM25 really a democratic movement?

First of all, since its beginning DiEM25 had made some advantages in democratising itself.

Every article on the page is licensed under a creative commons license (CC-BY-NC 4.0). This license enables everybody to rerelease and alter Varoufakis´ or other DiEM25 articles everywhere he or she likes. As long as the original website has restricted the normal interaction possibilities of the internet like a comment section, the republishing of DiEM25 articles opens the movement to a more public and by this to democratic decision making.

Secondly the movement knows that is not really democratic yet and so the donation button of the website is inactive “until DiEM is up and running and its members can collectively decide how to use the “alienated essence” of human work – your money (as Marx once described it)”. These two points are a good start, but Yanis Varoufakis article goes much further and makes a proposal for a process to publish five policy papers. But is this proposal really a democratic proposal?

Conclusion: Is Yanis Varoufakis proposal a democratic proposal?

The simple answer of the question is no. It has lots of democratic deficits in all aspects. First of all, this article is not an outcome of a democratic process, it is an authoritarian outcome of the leader(s) of the movement. Although these five major battlegrounds represent the political will of some protest movements like “Stop TTIP” they were not discussed in public. They were just given. In my opinion a real democratic movement has to start with the question how to do everything in a democratic way and not, as DiEM25 did it, with a set goal (to democratise the European Union) and five issues called “major battlegrounds”. Even if the goal to democratise the European union is accepted, to legitimise the movement as a democratic movement the five issues should be part of a public decision making process. This initial lack of democracy becomes obverse in the proposed process for the production of the five policy papers.

The process starts even on a higher grade of authoritarian regulation by the avant-garde of the movement. The members of the movement should locally discus a given list of questions and issues. The second step does it even worst. The local decisions are not a concrete policy at all; they are just an input for five (maybe elected or not) committees, which compile all suggestions to a proposal of one of the five policy papers. The third step brings the proposal process in the dangerous near of representative democracy. Like in nation states federal parliaments these papers are discussed and fixed locally (step 3) on five given dates in five given cities. Only the last step (step 4) opens the process to the influence of a democratic multitude when the papers are published on DiEMs digital platform and all members can vote for or against the papers.

So in my opinion the process is at least more democratic than the existing historically democratised dictatorships like representative democracies, the European Union or political parties but will finally run into a slightly more democratic version of a socialist party. But why is it so?

The main deficit of the movement is its grounding of democracy in the material space of the nation state and not in the virtual space of the global Internet. By nature, every material localised decision making process separates the multitude in a small group of people who can attempt and a much larger group of people who cannot. The reasons for the second group not to attempt are various but are generally influenced by their spatial, like the distance between their home and the meeting place, and social structural reality, like their income (networked with: die soziale situation in deutschland). By grounding the democratic process in this material space DiEM25 reproduces this existing spatial and social inequalities in its decision making process on nearly every step of the process. Only the last step opens it to the partly captured virtual multitude of DiEM25s digital platform. Only there the influence of the given inequalities is not reproduced and at least a little bit lowered. But this seems to be much too late for a real democratic movement, which main issue is dictated by the biggest technological revolution ever, the invention of the internet infrastructure. As the “Occupy Wall Street” movement showed in 2011, a political participation of the global multitude is not even possible, it has never been easier to produce (networked with: kommunikative figurationen der netzwerkgesellschaft). Like in the nation state based constitutional process of Island in 2011 (Castells 2012, p. 38 – 42) every real democratic social movement of the internet age must develop instruments to include the voice of a potentially global multitude nearly ad once and on every step of the process. This doesn´t mean that material meetings and the notion of the nation state are useless, but that every meeting must be open to influences of the virtual multitude of the global cyber space.

Supplemet:

Meanwhile this article has invoked a vital discussion on Facebook which leds to a facebook-poll about the question if DiEM25 should democratise itself first or should work on the democratisation of EU.

 

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