Donatella Della Ratta on Wed, 30 Mar 2016 17:43:39 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> notes from the DIEM25 launch

following Alexander's post concerning the DiEM25 launch in Berlin, pls find
my reflections on the Rome launch of last week


Last week I entered the Acquario Romano, a historic gorgeous building in
the surroundings of the main train station in Rome, eager to breath some
fresh air in the lately very depressing hallways of politics.

Yannis Varoufakis was there to launch his newborn movement, DiEM25: an
ambitious name that stands for “Democracy in Europe Movement” while the 25
sets in the year 2025  the deadline for the dream to come true. Young
activists in their thirties had gathered there from all across Italy to
meet the former Greek minister of Finance and volunteer to make the
movement come to life. I heard a group of Danish young professionals
telling their Italian peers how they would book a cheap airline flight and
AirB&B a few nights in Rome just to be there and help out. I saw the
familiar faces of long time activists and political theorists Toni Negri
and Franco Berardi BIFO standing  next to an energetic and casually dressed
Varoufakis, ready to speak to the crowds about this Europe of us, that
“will either be democratized or it will disintegrate”, as the movement
motto states.

The gorgeous hall of the building was full of energy and great expectations
when, to my greatest disappointment, Varoufakis – who professes to be a
marxist – clarifies that DiEM25 is not a left-wing movement, but a movement
that aims at reaching out to the entire political spectrum, including
liberals, right-wing: literally anyone. Being a long time leftist activist
I have to confess that I shivered once heard the sentence. Dear Varoufakis,
you such a brilliant, cultivated man, the former hope of European left-wing
movements who celebrated you when you walked out the bankers' meeting on
your motorbike: now that you can choose your own path, start your own
movement, you, despite professing to be a marxist, decide that anyone
should be included in it?

Feeling very uncomfortable I ask myself:  does democratizing ultimately
mean including everyone into something? Does the erasing of legitimate
political differences and identities naturally imply to be democratic? I am
horrified by this idea of one-size-fits-all democracy which, in my view,
turns into a populistic version of a *“DemoCrazy”* instead.

Yet, being a very curious – and, generally, optimistic – person and a
patient ethnographer, I decide to stay, regardless of my poor little
leftist self being very frustrated by the idea of the one-size-fits-all
*DemoCrazy* circulating around the gorgeous building. So, when the plenary
assembly with Varoufakis is over and it's time for splitting into smaller
groups to discuss crucial issues for the future of Europe with fellow
activists peers, I sit with the “democracy” group. The group has a 30
something people, sitting in a circle, and is moderated by a young blu-eyed
guy who speaks in English, being the crowd a truly European crowd. Somebody
sitting in the middle of the circle holds a huge piece of white paper and,
with a red marker, writes some key words on it.

“How will democracy look like in 2025”, that's the main question that the
group needs to answer to: a creative, imaginative effort whose results will
be translated into key words to be written on the poster, which will be
later hung on the walls for public contemplation.

“Imagine yourself in ten years from now” is a familiar question to anyone
who has sat, at least once in a lifetime, in a job interview with an
American employer. After working for five years for a Silicon-Valley based
organization the white piece of paper , with colored sticky notes
progressively mushrooming on it as everybody at the table engaged in the
imaginative effort, was also a familiar scenario. I might sound quite an
old-fashioned leftist activist, but I don't see anything particularly
European or particularly democratic in the sticky notes; and not even in
the one-minute imaginative effort of seeing yourself – together with
democracy--  projected in a ten years time. I understand that this might be
an ice-breaker for a crowd who has just met; I understand that there is a
time issue when five or more round table discussions have to wrap up and
present their “results” in a plenary.

Yet I question the form as it hints to a very specific substance: the mere
idea that democracy should be debated in a sort of “unconference” format
which would give it enough coolness, openness, and horizontality not to be
considered a topic heavy to digest. Is the precarious flexibility of the
sticky notes; the time-sensitive creativity of key words; the coolness of
geek formats *à la* Silicon-Valley a good answer to our thirst for

Cause there is, indeed, a craving for a more fair, democratic politics: and
that's why Varoufakis' meeting was crowded and filled with hopes. But also
with disappointment, as I heard a young man with a southern Italian accent
saying in the plenary: “this seems like a business meeting rather than a
gathering to start a new political movement”. Which completely resonates
with my own frustration, after having heard words such as:
self-empowerment, initiative, enterprise, sustainability, pitching. Can we
get rid of neoliberalism at least in the words we use to imagine politics?
Or is it so dramatically enmeshed into our daily jargon that we don't even
notice that discussing politics has become like talking about the stock
market, or trying to impress your future boss in the most awesome job

The answer to my unspoken question comes from a woman, a young volunteer
who reacts to the remark made by the southern Italian man. “What do you
mean? There is no such a thing as a political movement here. We gave you
input: now you have to build the movement by yourself. Nothing is
ready-made here”. She has been honest, at least: *input* was the right
word, a perfect word for a neoliberal vocabulary. Input gives the right
measure of time, when there is no time for discussion.

“We are here to launch the movement”, people say; which is totally coherent
with the Twitter mantra: write first, verify later. Launch first, discuss
later, as there is no time to discuss something that will be anyway
measured later by the *likes and shares *of the social media universe.

Varoufakis' performance will be also assessed not as a political
performance but rather as an aesthetic one. No need to bother Rancière to
grasp the political implications of those aesthetic experiences named
“selfies” that I see blossoming on my Facebook wall portraying Varoufakis
and Anna, Varoufakis and Emma, Varoufakis and Francesca.

The experience of arousal is aestheticized through those young female faces
smiling with their object of desire. Varoufakis has been fetishized by this
politics of the selfie, and he seems to have learned the lesson so well.

No collective identities are moved by the politics of the self(ie); just
individual bodies in desperate need of personal experiences of temporary

If we want to counteract neoliberal politics, rising racism, xenophobia,
extremism, austerity, sadness, financial and human depression, we badly
need a politics of the orgy, a collective arousal of bodies and souls. And
orgy has always been a much more satisfying way to reach pleasure than a
lonely masturbatory selfi(e)sh act.

Donatella Della Ratta
twitter @donatelladr

2016-03-28 2:37 GMT+02:00 Alexander Karschnia <>:

> It would be really interesting to get a report on the gathering in Rome.


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