Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 / http://www.transform-network.net/calendar/calendar-2016/news/detail/Calendar/-bc82e69929.html

Insights into DiEM25: An Interview with Yanis Varoufakis and Karin De Rigo

During Yanis Varoufakis’s visit to Germany, we seized the opportunity to engage in conversation with him and Karin De Rigo, the leading candidate of MERA25 in Germany. Our discussion encompassed various topics including the conflicts in Ukraine and Palestine, the comprehensive program of DiEM25, strategies for achieving a social-ecological transformation, methods for enhancing democracy within Europe, the impacts of figures like Delors and Schäuble on present-day deindustrialization, and the transition from capitalism to a system which can be perceived as even more problematic: Technofeudalism. The entire interview is presented below:

Ulrike Eifler: Allow me to introduce ourselves. I’m Ulrike Eifler, and my colleague beside me is Nils Feldhaus. Together, we serve as editors of Die Freiheitsliebe, an online platform dedicated to progressive ideals and activism.

Upon reviewing DiEM25’s program, it’s evident that a cornerstone is the concept of social-ecological transformation. Could you describe what you mean by that? Specifically, what are the key priorities and strategies regarding the green transformation within your agenda?

Karin De Rigo: First of all, I would like to underline that for us social security and the environment goes hand in hand. Environmental and social justice cannot be separated. They go strictly together. That’s why we are thinking that we definitely and urgently need to save our planet, but at the same time, this cannot be done at the expense of the people, of us. We want to use the green transition to transform a country and also give back to the people. This requires many investments, we know that.

But we want the rich to pay for it. Because it doesn’t have to go at the expense of all of us that we have such a small impact, if you want to be honest, on the pollution, on the environment, it’s the big corporations that are destroying it day by day, but they never pay for it. It’s at an international level, the laws are so fragmented that it’s not even possible to try to tackle the problem right now. To change this is our main focus and this is what we want to do.

At a German level, we also want to solve the apartment crisis and the social living situation, because it’s a disaster. Differently from other countries in Europe, most people in Germany live on rent, so they cannot afford to buy a home. And this bubble is becoming so immense, that hardly anyone can even afford to rent. We have a problem with homelessness as well, which is becoming embarrassing for a country that is supposed to be progressive and democratic, unlike the USA.

Did you have something in particular? Or did you have other points that you wanted me to talk about? Because the topic is very bright.

Ulrike Eifler: Of course, I have a second question regarding this. Democracy is a very important thing for DiEM25. I would like to ask you, how important the democratization of the economy is in the context of a real green transformation?

Karin De Rigo: Yes, definitely. Democracy is the basis. That’s why we would like to introduce a system within every company that grants one vote to every worker to co-decide in the company’s decisions, which is not only going to impact the workers directly but also the society around it. There is an environmental impact on that and we have an impact on the social structure of the whole region, depending on how big the company is.

So that’s why we cannot let the rich people decide about the whole structure of our life, but we need to reclaim our protagonism. Because we are the people who are working for them, and, unfortunately, we are also the people who are letting them be rich at the moment. So we have to gain back our voice and our independence.

Ulrike Eifler: My second question is regarding the climate movement. In Germany, there is a debate within the climate movement about the necessity of class orientation and the need to strengthen the relationships with trade unions. How important is working together with unions to enforce a real social and ecological transformation for DiEM25?

Karin De Rigo: I honestly think this debate isn’t constructive. Because honestly, as I said, we cannot ask for environmental protection at the expense of the poor people, the workers. The unions are the first means to gain back responsibility and reclaim our needs from the employer. Therefore, working with the unions would be the first step. We, as DiEM25, definitely need to reinforce and strengthen our bond with the unions. We are still working on it and we need to go much further than that.

Ulrike Eifler: Okay. Let’s talk about the rise of fascism, and the rise of far-right political parties these days. We can see the far-right parties almost everywhere in Europe. I think it’s a big problem and I would say it probably has to do with the weakness of the left. How should the left react to that? What would you say?

Karin De Rigo: Yes, I can offer the perspective of two countries, because I’m Italian. So Italy and also Germany. And honestly, there is a very curious parallel. Well, not so curious, but in the end, it is the same process that has been going on for decades, a bit later in Germany, but also in Italy as well. The problem is that the left has renounced to fight for the core causes. They just try to run after some right-wing politics that were perceived as center-right strategies to try to regain the votes that they lost. This led to the election of Meloni. And this is happening here in Germany as well.

Because DIE LINKE in Germany, apart from the internal division, which is also typical for the left in the last couple of years, and also all the other parties like SPD, which I’m not even considering to be leftist anymore are failing massively to answer to the workers. Even to the people who are worried about the environment. As we saw in the government now, Die Grünen, the SPD, and the FDP have failed 100 percent on all the goals and promises that they had made before being elected.

So unfortunately, when the left is missing, the right is very, very able and talented to grasp all these topics and to give super easy solutions, which are not realistic, because they are neither supported by facts nor are they real solutions, scientific solutions. And unfortunately, they reach the people on an emotional level, while the people need to feel secure again. Because especially in these years of total uncertainty, they need someone who can reassure them. The left is not able to do it, unfortunately. So this is why we are here as DiEM25 and MERA25. Because we need to be honest with the people, concentrate on the heart of the problems, and reassure people that there is an alternative.

We are not going to do it like Sarah Wagenknecht trying to simulate the right by going against the immigrants, for example, just because we are thinking that we could maybe gain a couple of votes more. It would be very hypocritical. Fortunately, we have the luck and the luxury to be free, to be 100 percent independent. Because we only have to care about our members. And that’s it.

Ulrike Eifler: And when we talk about the weakness of the left in the general sense, what would you say, what are the most strategic challenges for the left to get back on offense in the political development?

Karin De Rigo: Yes. First of all, I think what bothers people is… Okay, there are many things. I would say that the main problem in Germany is inflation, I mean, the economic problems, in general, are very serious paired with immigration and the ongoing wars. So, first of all, we need to clarify that peace is not going to make them poorer. Exactly the contrary. War is connected to weapon deals and a lot of money in reconstruction and military aid. The only one that benefits from war is the companies that are involved in these crimes.

So, if we want to have prosperity again, we need peace. This is something that has to be clear to everybody. That is the part that leftists are missing at the moment because they are scared to speak about the war in Israel and Palestine, which we as DiEM25 were very vocal about from the beginning. Well, not from the beginning of October, but way before that, honestly, because we were taking positions back in 2017. That it is going on for way longer than the 7th of October 2023, is something that is missing from the actual discussion.

We also need to start to listen to the people and do what they ask for. The referendum Deutsche Wohnen & Co. enteignen in Berlin, for example, was a very popular request that needs to be implemented. Otherwise, democracy doesn’t exist. But right now, there is too much fear in the left to be able to do that.

Ulrike Eifler: My last two questions are regarding peace. In the European left-wing parties, there are huge differences in opinions concerning peace policy especially in the Northern European parties, for example, on the questions of arms deliveries to Ukraine. My question to you is more strategic. Is there currently a need for the left to renew itself regarding the peace issue?

Karin De Rigo: As you said, peace has become a very relative concept nowadays. The problem is that, again, if we want to have real peace and real prosperity in Europe, we need to be able to confront everybody else at the same level. So, we need to clarify that we cannot keep fighting the wars for anybody else. We need to draw a line and decide what Europe wants to do when they grow up. At the moment, we’re just doing what other countries want us to do and this is not turning out well for us. It’s not only a matter of interest. It’s a matter of being able to rebuild a landscape of trust and diplomatic relationships, which don’t necessarily have to be friendly with Russia, for example. We don’t have to be best friends. But we have to draw a line and bring peace to our citizens. So, yeah, we need to be more courageous at the European level. But that’s not the most popular thing to say right now.

Ulrike Eifler: And last question from my side. What’s your opinion on the German left regarding its reluctance to criticize the bombardment of Gaza?

Karin De Rigo: The situation in Germany has surprised me, I must say, because the rise of these so-called anti-Deutsche and all these other self-proclaimed leftist groups that are 100 percent loyal to Israel and the Israeli government, is discouraging. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter if you are right or left or whatever. It’s about human rights and every day that goes by, people are being killed.

And when is it going to stop? I mean, are we going to let them do this forever until there will be no Palestinians left? This seems to be the situation right now and honestly, it’s very disappointing.

Although, I must say that during the pro-Palestine demonstrations, we go there every week in support of all the Palestinian groups and also other parts of the left, honestly, there is a small group of DIE LINKE members that is supporting us as well. It’s fantastic to see this because they dare to admit that there is something wrong with their political party but still join in support of the protest. This gives me a bit of comfort because at least I understand that there are people who know what is going on and are not scared to say it. Not at the highest level, but I hope we will get there.

Ulrike Eifler: Exactly. Yes, it’s a very difficult situation. So thank you very much to you, Karin, for answering my questions. Nils is going to take over now. Thank you.

Nils Feldhaus: We are switching to a few questions to Yanis now. During South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, you expressed your support for the Palestinian people and you just recently requested that Ursula von der Leyen resign from the EU committee, as you said that you could deal with her incompetence but draw a line in complicity in genocide. Could you just remind us what happened?

Yanis Varoufakis: Ms. von der Leyen, flew to Israel just before the Israeli army invaded Gaza to cheerlead that invasion on behalf of Europeans even though she has no authority over foreign policy and had no mandate from either the European Parliament or the European Council. For that alone, she should be forced to resign.

Nils Feldhaus: During South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, you expressed your support for the Palestinian people. What were your reasons?

Yanis Varoufakis: Do I need to have a reason to oppose genocide and apartheid? The question should be addressed to those who have condoned for many years the Israeli state’s apartheid regime and who, today, refuse to condemn the self-evident genocide Israel is committing in Gaza but also East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Nils Feldhaus: You’re right. We are switching to economics now. You recently claimed that capitalism is dead. That capital acted like a stupid virus, that killed off its host, and capitalism got replaced by something even worse. What do you mean by the term ‚Technofeudalism‘ and what can the political left do to create a better future?

Yanis Varoufakis: Capitalism is a mode of production that relies on two pylons: Markets and profit. In recent years, a new form of capital – which I call cloud capital – has become so dominant that it has replaced markets with digital platforms (which I call cloud fiefdoms, e.g., amazon.com – which are NOT markets) and profit with the cloud rents (e.g., 40% of the price you pay on a digital platform that is retained by its owner). It is in this sense that, I argue, capital’s triumph and mutation into cloud capital has transformed capitalism into a form of technofeudalism. In this new, awful reality, it is not just waged labourers whose work helps capital accumulate but also the rest of the population through unwaged labour (e.g., when you post a video a photo or a comment, you help someone’s cloud capital grow). In this sense, it is no longer enough for the Left to organize waged labourers (e.g., auto-workers and nurses). Today, it is crucial that we organize the vast majority of society – who labour for free as cloud serfs – to take control not only of the means of production but also of the means of communication which cloud capital today dominates and uses as a produced means of behaviour modification.

Nils Feldhaus: In one of your latest articles you describe the battle between Wolfgang Schäuble and Jacques Delors during the establishment of the euro. Could you summarize what was going on back then and how it still affects the European Union?

Yanis Varoufakis: Public opinion, in Germany and the rest of Europe, presented two men as great Europeanists. In reality, while it is true that both of them had a vision of a strong and united Europe, each in his own way, damaged Europe irreparably. Moreover, it is often thought that Delors was the stauncher Europeanist in juxtaposition to Schäuble who was harsher to other Europeans (e.g., the Greeks) and, thus, less of a unifying presence than Delors. In my article, I argue that Delors represented the French elite’s long-standing attempt to turn Europe into a Greater France by co-opting the Deutsche Mark into a French-led Europe. Facing this ‘threat’, Schäuble (representing Germany’s central bank and Big Business) dedicated his life to undermining this project of the French elites. Greece and the rest of Europe were collateral damage to this almighty clash. Moreover, because Schäuble’s main weapon against the French ruling class was universal austerity, the end result was a universal collapse of investment across Europe but also in Germany – leading to today’s de-industrialization. In short, the two great ‘Europeanists’ (who died in December within 24 hours of each other) did a great deal of damage to Europe – damage from which it is hard to see how Europe can escape.

Nils Feldhaus: This question is actually to both of you. You started DiEM25 eight years ago. What did you already achieve and what’s your vision for Europe? As you campaigned during the election in Bremen in 2023, are you continuing to compete in German politics?

Yanis Varoufakis: The fact that we exist, as Europe’s first transnational movement (i.e., we are not a federation of national organizations but a movement that you join as a European citizen, individually) with 140 thousand members across Europe is, in itself, an important achievement – we are living proof that another Europe is not merely possible but that it is here already. Our vision of Europe (see our Manifesto for more) is that of a democratized entity where power shifts from Big Business, Big Finance, and the Fossil Fuel Industry to a European, multinational, multicultural, demos.

Karin De Rigo: Yes, the movement has grown since 2016. We now have groups all over Europe and parties in Greece, Italy, Germany, and more recent ones in Sweden and Cyprus. The problem is that the parties are not allowed to exist on an international level. Therefore we decided that the groups that are active in their countries can simply form a national party to participate in the national elections and have a greater influence. The movement still has a lot of potential, outside the parliaments as well.

I think we need both, parliamentary and non-parliamentary action on a national level, and a foothold in the European Parliament as well, that’s why we want to participate in the elections this year. It’s not enough to be in the national parliaments only, we need to be represented on an even higher level, to fight the big corporations we need to be as internationalistic as they are. At the moment, all these international organizations are much more internationalistic than politics.

The state election in Bremen, yes, that was our first real experience here in Germany, because the party is only two years old. It was a good experience, but it is only an experience that we have gathered in the end, as we did miss out on a seat in the parliament.

Nils Feldhaus: Regardless of that, you wrote an article for us about the farmer protests in Germany. Can you briefly go into that again?

Karin De Rigo: Yes, exactly, it is super important because the topic is very complicated for people who have nothing to do with it. It is also very different in every country in Europe and the reasons are normally completely different, but here it is something else. That the right-wing parties somehow benefit from it was expected. On the other hand, we have to explain very clearly that, we have huge problems in agriculture, but they have different reasons than the ones that were mentioned during the protests.

On the one hand, we have these large corporations, these food retail groups which are monopolies. That’s a big problem. On the other hand, there are regular farmers, which, of course, have to fight against them. To go against environmental protection because it simply costs too much is not a reasonable solution and that’s why we need more investments.

We have to accompany them, we have to help them get this transition done, so that we, of course, can change the agricultural system, but also protect our health. In the end, the problems are always associated with other problems and there is not a single real solution that the right-wing parties have to offer. That doesn’t work at all. The people unfortunately don’t even have the time to inform themselves and understand how complicated the situation is. Therefore, we have to open up this communication and break the situation down by showing them how we can solve it step by step. That’s the only possibility we have.

In these demonstrations, there are already a few farmers who want to commit to an ecological transition of agriculture, but they are missing the support of the European Union. We have to help them but we also have to solve this on a European level.

Nils Feldhaus: Wouldn’t it help the farmers if you start to dismantle EU bureaucracies?

Karin De Rigo: Of course, all these international agreements, make foreign products much cheaper than ours. There is a lot to be done in this situation, not just food, but also in the laws. But in any case, the European Union is not doing the right thing now, so we have to fight a lot there. Agriculture accounts for 30 percent of the entire budget in Europe. The various interests in the field are very strong.

Nils Feldhaus: Yes, exactly. Thank you, Karin. As I heard, you also need more signatures to be able to run in this year’s elections for the European Parliament in Germany. Is there anything else you would like to say to the potential voters of MERA25 at the end?

Karin De Rigo: Gladly. As I said, we have values. First of all, solidarity. I want to emphasize that because there is no democracy without solidarity. We are international and we fight for social justice. Of course, hand in hand with climate justice. That’s my message. There are a lot of topics that are not easy to solve but we have to start now. It’s a long road but someone has to do it. That’s why I decided to be a candidate, even though I have no political experience. But if we don’t start now, it will be too late. We probably won’t be able to change everything in the EU right away but if we manage to elect one person from each country where MERA exists, then we will make a small group that can have a little influence and could cooperate with other parliamentary groups to make something possible.

We still have a few days to collect signatures, if you want to show us support you can visit our website and there you’ll get all the information needed. Every signature counts.

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