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<nettime> The hope of the democratic monster, between Syriza and Podemos
nettime's avid reader on Mon, 23 Feb 2015 17:59:22 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> The hope of the democratic monster, between Syriza and Podemos

The hope of the democratic monster, between Syriza and Podemos
Antonio Negri / RaÃl SÃnchez Cedillo
Translated from Spanish by Kelly Mulvaney


âA spectre is haunting Europeâ. The Italian newspaper Il Manifesto
used this headline a few days ago for its homepage, commenting on the
visits of Tsipras and Varoufakis to European governments. A real
nightmare for the ordoliberal Germans, a Geisterfahrer, to be precise,
a suicidal conductor looking to collide with the European bus, as Der
Spiegel described on its front page. Imagine what could happen with
the victory of Podemos in Spain: what a magnificent spectre would then
be seen lurking about, a real monster created by the exploited and the
productive forces of the fourth European economy! In just a few weeks,
election rounds will begin in Spain, and the mantra of the European
governments will be repeated, with double the force, in an attempt to
frighten Spanish citizens. Let us prepare ourselves. With the
certainty that the arrogance of the bad omens of this propaganda will
be defeated. But in the meantime, let us prepare ourselves: What could
Podemos say about Europe?

Conscious of the temporal and political acceleration that the victory
of Syriza has imposed, the discourse of Podemos on Europe is, on the
one hand, informed by a sincere solidarity and high regard for the
victory of the democrats in Greece, while it consists, on the other
hand, in prudent judgment â Tsiprasâ line could fail in the brief
interval that separates it from the Spanish elections. But prudency is
not the same as ambiguity. Indeed, it is obvious that nothing would be
more dangerous than an ambiguous position, not only with respect to
the negotiation that has been started between Greece and Europe, but
above all with respect to the policies promoted until now by the
Europe of the Troika.  Any ambiguity on this point must be eliminated
â and so it has been in practice, if we are to judge based on what we
have seen in recent months: two Europes exist and it is necessary to
position oneself in one or the other. The knowing population is aware
that to win in Europe is possible only in light of a front already
opened by Syriza that now has to expand in Europe. The politics of
debt, issues related to sovereignty and the Atlantic question can only
be considered in the European space.

It was expected that there would be great attentiveness â and so we
begin to test it â to the tactical proposals and the politics of the
economic-financial team of Syriza. Irrespective of value judgments
about the proposals, they signaled a plan for transnational
cooperation and an abandonment of the anti-European demagoguery of the
âoldâ leftists, a demagoguery that, in any case, has never been strong
in Podemos. Of course, Syrizaâs bet is formulated in terms of
defending national sovereignty (âagainst the Troikaâ, âagainst
Merkelâ, etc.), but in practice it implies a fairly evident acceptance
of a political intervention within and against the Union as it is
currently directed. In this sense, the primary option now is that of a
coalition of the PIIGS and the forces of a new left to overturn the
status quo of the Union. At the same time, this appears to be the only
option available to Podemos for winning the elections.

Let us try to consider things in more depth. Until now the
confrontation in Europe has taken shape between a neo-Bismarckian
Europe, neoliberal and fundamentally conservative, and a democratic
Europe, constituent and fundamentally attentive to the needs of
workers, impoverished middle classes and precarious or unemployed
youth, women, immigrants and refugees â the excluded, old and new. An
alternative so to speak, because departing from the crisis of 2008,
the Bismarckian Europe imposed itself forcefully, leaving for the
other Europe a marginal space, of protest and at times even cries of
despair. Nevertheless, when the situation appeared to remain strictly
closed for the claims of justice and the revolts against misery, the
alternative presented itself â starting in Greece. Now the task is to
affirm it and organize it precisely in the areas where a reactionary
initiative has imposed itself â where the attempt has been made to
drown Hercules from popular rescue.

The first question, the first difficulty, is that of debt. The Europe
of the Troika wants to make the European multitudes pay the debt, and
the ability to pay this debt becomes the yardstick of democracy and
the degree of Europeanism. But all those who are moving in a
democratic front think, on the contrary, that this yardstick is
insulting because the debts charged to the people today were in fact
incurred by those who governed over the years. These debts have
fattened the ruling classes, not only through corruption, tax evasion
or fiscal favors, insane arms expenditures and industrial policies
that do not benefit labor, but moreover by subjecting it to the logic
of financial rent and imposing precarity and suffocating uncertainty
on forms of life. Each man, each woman, each worker has had to plead
guilty of a debt, of a financial gravamen for which they were not
responsible. The moment has arrived to say aloud that it was not the
citizens, but the masters of power, the men of the neoliberal project,
the politics of the âcenterâ, of the âgrand coalitionsâ â more extreme
and exclusive each time â it has been they who have created a debt
from which they have appropriated for themselves and for which they
are demanding an undue refund. Against this servile condition for the
people (not only for the people of the South of Europe, but also those
of Central Europe and all of Eastern Europe) the new left, through
Syriza, is asking for rescue â a European conference on debt, that is,
a constituent venue for a new system of solidarity, for the
establishment of new criteria of measurement and fiscal cooperation
and for labor policies. Podemos can bring huge support to this
project. We all know that behind these topics lies a project of deep
transformation of social relations. One more time, of Europe and in
Europe a project of liberty, of equality, of solidarity â a project
that we can call antifascist, because it repeats the passion and the
force of the struggles of the Resistance. The alliance between Podemos
and Syriza, and the impulse to merge into this alliance addressed to
all of the new European lefts, can construct a model â a model for a
democratic Union, based on solidarity beyond and against the market.
Departing from this foundation, the only fiscal policy that can be
made is one of reducing or abolishing the debt that has been
consolidated until now and establishing and standardizing, for the
future, progressive fiscal criteria in the whole Eurozone. The central
themes of the welfare state â education, medical assistance, pension
systems and housing policies, but also domestic labor and care work â
can be developed uniformly at the European level, accompanying the
great innovation of a decent basic income, generalized and uniform.
All of this opens a constituent battle in those places where new
rights of solidarity can be recognized, where the common becomes a
central element of social-economic organization.

But to win on these issues requires indicating the field of struggle:
this only can be the European space in its totality. Which brings us
to the central topic, around which many misunderstandings have
accumulated: the cession of sovereignty. There have already been
transfers of sovereignty, and these have always been made in favor of
the neo-Bismarckian powers of financial capitalism. Demagogically
attacking these cessions of sovereignty, nationalist rights are being
born and developing dangerously in Europe. And yet it is strange how
these positions can sometimes be made out (or that they are regarded
with favor) amongst members of Syriza, Podemos and other forces of the
ânew Europeâ that is forming. We must be clear on this point: each of
the countries that has entered the Union, and even more so those that
have entered the Euro, no longer have full sovereignty. And this is
good, for it was behind national sovereignty that each and every one
of the tragedies of modernity unfurled. If we want to continue
speaking of sovereignty in a modern (and classical) sense, that is to
say, of a power âin the last instanceâ, we must be clear that this is
increasingly identified with Frankfurt, with the tower of the ECB. Our
situation is characterized by the reign of a dangerous duplicity. We
must recognize this: we need Frankfurt, a European currency, if we do
not want to fall prey to the powers of global finance, to the politics
of the United States or other continental giants that are asserting
themselves against Europe; but we must also recover Frankfurt for
democracy, to impose on it the reasoning of the people â and Frankfurt
should be stormed by Europe: first by the movements and then,
gradually, by the majority of the European democracies and by a
European Parliament transformed into a constituent assembly. With
globalization the centrality of a monetary governance of continental
zones was imposed everywhere â and Europe is one of these continental
zones. It is impossible to imagine a political battle more essential
than that leading towards democratic control of the European currency.
This is the storming of the Bastille today.

Moreover, it is clear that merely raising the issue of control over
the monetary and political vertex of Europe, and insisting on the
dissolution of the old monocratic sovereignties could open up, in a
productive manner, the topic of federalism, which is another essential
step in the construction of a new Europe. Federalism: not only one
that wants the European nations to recompose themselves in a
constituent dialogue, but also, and above all, an articulation of all
the nations, of all the populations and languages that want to feel
culturally and politically autonomous, within a unitary framework,
that is to say, a federal one. It is not only the PIIGS who want this;
there are Scotland, Catalonia, the Basque Country and all the other
regions that demand autonomy and an effective ability to decide on
their social and political constitution. Federalism will be a key to
the construction of Europe. The issue of sovereignty can only be
raised and used in terms of plurality, subscribing to the dynamics
that articulate a forthright federalism for the years to come.

Here we see once again that only the left â the new left that departs
from the democratic radicality of the emerging movements of struggle
and organizes itself along emancipatory lines (Syriza and Podemos) â
can impose the European Union not as an instrument of dominion but as
a democratic goal. Left-Europe-democratic radicality: this dispositive
is becoming increasingly important for defining the defense of
working-class interests and for emancipation of the population from
poverty. There is a long and dirty tradition of left-sovereigntists
that must be ended, just as we must defeat the populist experiences
that use national sentiments and transform them into fascist
(nationalist, identitarian, isolationist) impulses. Only a europeanist
left, deeply transformed by the democratic radicality of the emergent
movements against austerity, can construct a democratic Europe.

Here, another problem emerges, which we can call the âAtlantic
questionâ â it is a problem often evaded or excluded from debate, as
if it were obvious that the process of European unification must
necessarily develop under the watchful protection of the United States
of America. Europe was promoted within the antifascist Resistance in
order to overcome the wars that until the middle of the century had
destroyed it and impoverished and humiliated its populations. Against
this condition, the first elements of a European discourse were
construed during the post-war era in Europe and during the transiciÃn
in Spain, with the knowledge that peace signified the possibility of
democracy, whereas war has always signified fascism and militarism.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, European unity also lost its
characteristic as a last front against the Soviet world and Russian
expansionism. In this way, the goal of a European Union has
re-centered and re-organized itself around a framework of
civilization, own juridical structures and autonomy in a global

But now Europe is surrounded by wars. The entire Mediterranean, deeply
integrated not only to the south, but also to all of Europe by
movements of migration and critical relationships of energy policy and
commercial exchange, is crossed by a single line of war, by fascisms
and dictatorships. It is a line that extends all the way to the Middle
East and makes Europe an actor dangerously exposed to armed movements
that are of global importance and have global leadership. Furthermore,
on the Eastern border of Europe a senseless war is developing between
Russian-speaking populations, with responsibilities that should be
referred to questions of global control that contradict the interests
of European populations. From this perspective, the sovereignty of
Europe â no longer the imagined sovereignty of each country, but the
real sovereignty of a Union that is constructing itself â is projected
onto NATO and usurped by it. This is the true cession of sovereignty
borne by the European populations! When Tsipras poses, in a symbolic
manner, the necessity of dealing with this problem, he touches on a
fundamental seam of the European structures. In so doing he introduces
a problem to which we should respond, without putting ourselves under
the illusion that it could be resolved immediately, but also without
negating its existence and its central impact. What we refer to is the
relationship of the Union with peace or war, with a peace not only
inside Europe, but also at its borders. Moreover, it is immediately
clear that the Atlantic question is not a problem concerning only
peace and war: it is an issue of peace and war tracing back to the
system of control and/or of command over the productive and financial
structures of Europe itself.

In order to not be hypocritical, to speak clearly and to give further
impetus to the processes of constructing a political force of the
European left, we will again put some questions on the table that
cannot be left unasked. What does Podemos say or do about immigration,
about refugees? But also â repeating ourselves and making our question
more precise â about NATO, about the regional conflicts underway in
the limes of the Union? If these topics are considered âmisfiresâ in
the electoral realm, is it necessary to avoid them and/or to respond
with rhetorical exercises to get by? No, not at all: it is very
difficult to adopt the slogan âfirst we take power, then we discuss
the programâ in this domain. The topics of peace and war cannot be
considered secondary. To take positions on them means to unambiguously
clarify the fundamental orientation of the group leading Podemos not
only with respect to questions of peace and war, but also on issues
that refer to reform and a constituent project that affects all of
Europe. The courage and seriousness with which Tsipras has laid out
the whole context of topics that are now important for the
construction of a Europe outside of the Troika are the same that can
allow us to also outline a dispositive âoutside of NATOâ. The
movements and governments of a new left know that they have to take on
these issues as central. Without ambiguities and conscious that the
same global conjuncture can now contribute to their solution. In fact,
what the citizens of the world are asking for at this point is a
democratic Europe in an ensemble of the new global reality, because
Europe is seen as a reality that can renew a democratic tradition with
a long trajectory, taking advantage of the light that Syriza and
Podemos have lit, as hope for reform and moving beyond capitalism.

The European movements want to be included in the continental
political initiative that the Podemos-Syriza axis can create/is
creating in the European space. This initiative constitutes in
particular a point of attraction for the new lefts and the new
democratic radicality in formation in the south of the Union. The
rhythm as much as the degree of articulation of this process will
depend on the current course of the government of Syriza and on the
electoral success of Podemos. We all can (podemos) organize a
constituent rupture in the European space

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