DiEM25

Democracy in Europe Movement 2025

Berlin

Tag: DiEM25

That astonishingly there is an alternative for Europe!

On 25th and 26th of May DiEM25 members from all over Europe came together in Berlin to exchange their work and ideas on democratising the EU. People from countries like Finland, Serbia, Ireland, Spain, Romania, Poland, Norway, France, Italy, Austria and Germany discussed how to build a solidly united system in Europe that offers equal rights and opportunities for everybody living on the continent.

The Democracy in DiEM25 (DiD) group shared their ideas on Distributed Network Collectives and Grassroots Democracy. We think internal democracy is crucial and communication and transparency are the key elements. DiEM25’s European Gender group pointed out that gender equality and diversity are everyday practices and should be embraced to foster our democratic discourse in including and representing as much perspectives as possible.

The DiEM25 Spontaneous Collective (DSC) Berlin provided an input on the topic of Multiparty Politics. The debate will go on: Should we found the first exclusively pan European Party? This question is crucial when thinking about strategies to put our agenda to the ballot boxes at the European elections of 2019! Of course endorsing candidates or parties in the elections are the other possibilities, as we recently did in the French and English elections. It’s clear for us that we will put an end to the politics of “There Is No Alternative” (TINA) and challenge the national phlegmatism of Lexiteers. We therefore say “TATIANA” (That Astonishingly There Is AN Alternative!) to Angela Merkel, Wolfgang Schäuble, Jean-Claude Juncker and everybody else: The European New Deal!

The DSC Belgrade later asked: How to deal with the European New Deal? And presented answers like “With the European New Deal paper we are able to embrace the robot army appearing on the horizon and let them work for us.” We are going to put forth green investments and finally regulate the banking sector. We are going to provide a job guarantee, basic goods and social housing for everybody.

In other workshops we pointed out that art should question the morality of the public and shift the thinking of people. Art as a fundamental form of societal and political expression will be at the heart of DiEM25 (DiEM25 Voice). Furthermore we learned about the peculiarities of the French elections from DSC Lyon and the history of the disintegration of Yugoslavia through an economic crisis from DSCs Ljubljana and Belgrade.

We also exchanged our ideas for a European Constitution after an input from DSC Asturias and elaborated on: “Let’s democratise Innovation and Production!” With a political framework for the encouragement of free and open source products that will empower us to become smart citizens instead of being controlled by overbearing smart cities. During the last panel we concluded that it’s about time to form a truly democratic European demos and put our ideas into practice.

We closed these incredible two days and twelve hours of workshops with a dinner at a Croatian Restaurant in Berlin. We thank all participants for the sparkling atmosphere, splendid talks and valuable inputs. We will very eagerly work on our policies and ideas, together with our new friends from all over Europe.

Some more impressions about the whole event are provided in this Video:

Right to the city – DiEM-Lab #1

Since 2008 more people on earth are living in cities than in the country. Until 2030 there will be 5 billion people in cities. Therefor urbanisation is a planned development. In which direction this plan will develop and who is going to have the right to a say in the matter will be another question. For this reason the activist group of DiEM25 Berlin dedicated the first ‘DiEM-Lab’ to the topic ‘Building Rebel Cities’.

Building Rebel Cities

The theoretical concept of ‘Rebel Cities’ is going back on the book ‘Right to the city’ of french philosopher Henri Lefebvre from 1968. The name ‘Rebel Cities’ is due to the social theorist David Harvey. He traced urban development back to global monetary flow. Large scale projects like the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg or the airport Berlin-Brandenburg, for example, are built in big cities because international money is searching for profitable investment. In accordance with Harvey such  investments are indication of housing bubbles and economic crisis.

Furthermore the book ‘Rebel Cities’ points out the social aspects of urban communities. City researchers like Andrej Holm and Dirk Gebhardt show that it is about “concrete use of urban spaces … and access to political and strategic debates about future development paths”. At the beginning of the ‘DiEM-Lab’ Martin Pairet, activist of DiEM25 and member of the organisation ‘European Alternatives’, called attention to how promising the concept of ‘Rebel Cities’ could proof. There are several possibilities to make it a reality. For example Barcelona and Naples have the shape of a rebel city. Both municipalities form there own “Lab” with their own history, experience and above all their specific population. What about Berlin?

Whereas water privatisation was stopped in Naples and the municipality is organising water supply itself, also people in Berlin call for a different development. Lisa Vollmer researches housing protests in Berlin and New York and represented the alliance “City from Below” at the ‘DiEM-Lab’. The alliance is communally and self-governed. Lisa gave a very informative talk about recent political events and the everyday struggles around the topics of rising rents, public property and eviction.

City from below

Currently the alliance is mainly dealing with the so called ‘Dragoner-Areal’ a former army compound in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. It demands, that the area as “inner-city open area is developed along the interests of local users”. But the 4.7 hectare big area was already sold in 2012 with highest-bidding of about 21 million Euro from the Institute for Federal Real Estate to the investor ABR German Real Estate. The investor was planning upscale owner-occupied flats, cooperative buildings and new constructions. According to the building law the development plan has to take regard to the thorough collection of all interests and their fair consideration. Above all a comprehensive participation of the public and all parties involved. But the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg didn’t want to have that, which let to a withdrawal of German Real Estate to buy the area.

Therefor residents expressed “massive doubts about the promise of ‘affordable’ flats by a private investor” through a participation procedure. As a result the Institute for Federal Real Estate has again invited tenders through a highest-bidding contest. Within the rent city of Berlin (60 % of residents have right for social housing) is another group whose housing conditions are precarious: migrants.

Urban plurality

Max Hoßfeldt of the initiative ‘Give Something Back To Berlin’ (GSBTB) presented the work of his organisation at the ‘DiEM-Lab’. Just five years after its creation GSBTB is the biggest platform for neighbour initiatives and social employment in Berlin. It is dedicated to bring the big migrant community in Berlin to work together. GSBTB has hundreds of volunteers from over 60 countries. They differ from jetsetters to refugees and demand to “get involved”. This is an appeal to all people living in Berlin to build up communities and develop social projects. Already there are over 60 projects regarding different topics like centers for homeless people, mentor programs or creative children work. Today GSBTB can reach over 14.000 participants a year for their own refugee projects.

Christoph Wiedemann gave a different perspective on the topic escape and migration. He was in charge of an emergency accommodation for about 180 male refugees in Berlin. He reported about self organisation and self administration in that shelter. Some inhabitants argued to give rules to themselves and also to imply them whereas others had the opinion, with regard to the autocratic systems in their countries of origin, that the management of the shelter should give and imply the rules. Christoph pointed out that refugees are not a homogenous group and bring very different political opinions. Therefore alliances between democratic and progressive people with and without migration background are important.

Building Rebel Cities?

 The organisators of ‘DiEM-Lab’ were excited about the event. Johannes Fehr, coordinator of the DiEM25 Spontaneous Collective (DSC) 1 in Berlin, said that it was a very convenient event. He learned how ‘City from Below’ is working and how it is challenging the municipal institutions. Johannes underlined the aspect of working together and above all, that “refugees should have the right to vote” and the “institutions involved in municipal politics should become more democratic”. Also another activist for DiEM25 in Berlin praised the “mix” of the inputs as well as the atmosphere of the get-together. All participants could conclude that more participatory rights for refugees are needed and many urban initiatives need political representation. For the future DiEM25 can learn that the specific European character of the movement is a main advantage. Urban problems are present in all European, yet all cities worldwide. To gather these problems and coordinate solutions will be a massive task for our future.

Change from below – City for everybody

In Berlin a broad alliance of local initiatives takes to the streets for social housing and self-determined organisation of the city by its inhabitants. Students of the Humboldt University of Berlin initiated this demonstration. What is exemplified by this demonstration is the consequence of extensive social change. A report.

The students present at the demonstration on Saturday did not exhibit signs of fatigue. Although they would have had every reason to be tired. For ten days already they have occupied the Institute of Social Sciences of Humboldt University. The catalyst for the lasting occupation has been the dismissal of their lecturer for City Sociology, Andrej Holm. Holm, who additionally saw himself forced to step back from his office as State Housing Secretary for the Berlin government, a coalition of the social democratic party (SPD), the Green and Left Parties (Die Grünen, Die Linke), a few days earlier, is known for his critical investigation into the development of city politics such as gentrification and the sell-out of the city.

„Andrej was our voice“, says a man of the Mieterprotest in Pankow during the students‘ plenary. The room in the Humboldt University’s Institute of Social Sciences is packed. According to the speaker, Holm had been the one listening to the Tenant’s Protest and had carried on their concerns and wishes.

The indignation about his dismissal is more than clear. Many statements like this are made. The students had invited local initiatives concerned with city politics and developments in their respective districts on that Friday. One could observe how numerous they were. “Kotti & Co”, “Tenants of the Otto-Suhr-Siedlung”, “Stadt von Unten”, “100% Tempelhofer Feld”. They are all united in their anger at Berlin city politics.

It becomes clear how this is about more than the Holm case. The political atmosphere is tense. It seems, as if many had waited for the opportunity, to voice their anger. “Presence and political Resistance” would not take place enough, commented Max, a student of Humboldt University, who for days has spent his nights at the institute. He feels “general dissatisfaction”, that now finally has found space to express itself through the occupation. But where does this dissatisfaction stem from?

Everywhere in German cities the rent level has risen over the last years. Even rooms in student dorms start at 400 Euros. Discrepancies of the economic development can be felt directly. While tax income flourishes as the state is reduced in size and companies and international financial capital reap unimaginable profits, academics but also craftsmen slip into financially precarious situations.

To blame is the often mentioned widening gap between the rich and the poor. It is macro structures like institutions, states and organisations with gigantic revenue on the one hand, and the many individuals on the other; “those above and us down here”. It is abstract.

Recently, Die Zeit dedicated an entire dossier to this trend. Democracy is in danger, was their message. “Earlier the German Parliament had many members that only [sic!] went through primary or secondary education. They were fabricants of tools, craftsmen, simple people.” Today this is not the case anymore, which is why increasingly these groups do no longer feel themselves represented. It is only logical that a political vacuum forms. Those most accountable for this development are the political parties. Who asks around about the upcoming federal parliamentary elections often encounters a general disorientation.

Party expenses for professional communications consultancy have multiplied over the last years. Any rigid distinction by content becomes increasingly difficult. Parties themselves have become parties of professional voters. True to the teachings of the market economy parties look for voters, like companies search for their clients. The alignment of political parties with topics that promise the biggest share of voters leads to the disregard of parts of society. Or, in the words of sociologist Didier Eribon, the neglect of entire social classes

What our world is living at the moment is that this vacuum of representation is filled by parties and individuals, who preach a bizarre and one-dimensional world view. AfD, Front National, Geert Wilders, Donald Trump. It seems almost ironic that it is this year that Germany, France and the Netherlands hold federal elections. In those countries, in which unidimensional populists from the right have found their way into the middle of society. Their victory is a victory of “Irrationality” as an editor recently called it. The true meanings of “postfactual” or “Fake News” are visualized brightly and vividly this way.

The grave changes in the structure of society, the transition from industrial to service societies, urbanization and migration, they all pose a new social question, one that should be read focusing on city politics, as city councillor for housing in Berlin, Ephraim Gothe, contends. And the market will surely not solve it. For this reason alone, Gothe wants to convert city politics in a “real leftist project”, as the Tagesspiegel wrote. The Holm case spreads major distrust in this context. Actually, there is no reason to think about city politics without thinking of financial politics. And finance and speculation are running wild, as can be seen. Selling is fast, to take something into communal ownership is a long, embattled, legal process.

The political and social questions, big or small, are local. Globalized politics deciding over the heads of people is abundant, just not in the here and now of the population. In their housing and lives. If the Berlin government wants to reverse this trend it will have to listen to numerous initiatives in city politics and let them participate in decision making, also to pull the rug out under right wing populism. The government will have to foster direct participation and the integration of citizens and social movements into the political decision making process.

Mitte letzten Jahres hatte der an der Humboldt Universität lehrende Politologe Wolfgang Merkel bereits gewarnt, junge Linke und Studierende hätten den Bezug zur „Unterschicht“ verloren, sie hätten sich Richtung globale Elite orientiert. Die studentischen Besetzer des sozialwissenschaftlichen Instituts der Humboldt Universität haben nun das Gegenteil bewiesen. Mit ihrem zur Verfügung gestellten Forum für stadtpolitische Initiativen für eine Stadt von Unten haben sie einen ersten Schritt getan hin zu einer kritischen, lokalen Öffentlichkeit, die ihr Recht auf Mitbestimmung einfordert.

Already in mid-2016, the political scientist Wolfgang Merkel of Humboldt University warned that young leftists and students had lost their connection to the “lower class”, that they had oriented themselves in the direction of global elites. The student occupants of the institute of social science of Humboldt University have proven the contrary. Through the forum they provide to local initiatives and movements in city politics, for a “Stadt von Unten”, a city from below. They have made the first step towards a critical and local public that demands its right for participation.

They are all present on this sunny Saturday in the heart of Berlin. United and loudly they demonstrate in front of the Rotes Rathaus, (the city hall), the Humboldt Forum, the city palace, the old city hall, the Volksbühne. “These people want their city back”, is what a participant comments. She participates for the movement “Democracy in Europe Movement”, short for DiEM. She relates that DiEM wants to connect the “rebel cities” of Europe. Her role model in this respect is Naples, the only major European city that brought its water supply back into public ownership. “This shows the need for change from below”.

Wandel von Unten, change from below, that is what the calls of the demonstrants demand among the historic buildings of Berlin.

Demonstration weekend

Lively start into 2017

Our DiEM25 group started lively into the New Year. Good, as the general elections in Germany are just around the corner and we plan great things for 2017.

We had an intensive Newcomer meeting on the 9th of January. After a short introduction to DiEM25 and our work in Berlin, we spread into small groups with the 60 participants to work on different topics. We had discussions about DiEM25 policy papers and our internal organisation. Also the new taskforce “diversity” was founded, which will deal with the important task to include different human beings into DiEM25 to make our movement as colourful and diverse as our society.

On the 15th of January our second DiEM25 documentation night followed at B-Lage in Neukölln. We presented the crowdfunded documentary “This is not a coup”. It describes the European Central Bank’s (ECB) financial interventions in states like Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Cyprus and Greece. Featuring well-known academics, politicians and journalists, “This is not a coup” analyses the interdependences of EU institutions with big corporations and banks and the undemocratic and hidden influence they exert on national politics. After the film we had an interesting exchange with the audience and are looking forward to the documentation night on the 19th of February.

Do you want to join? Contact berlin1dsc@de.diem25.org

DSC Berlin at the congress of the European Left

380 delegates from 27 member parties and from nine observation parties arrived in Berlin for the 5th Congress of the European Left. The concerns about Europe were connected: austerity politics, growing precariousness, rise of the populous right, higher military budget for geopolitical power games, just to name a few of these concerns. Europe is standing knee deep in crises and that’s not just from the Left‘s viewpoint. The question, however, “what to do?”, brings an end to the unification.

Gregor Gysi, still chairman in the German Bundestag, was elected as the new chairman of the European Left. Without opponents, Gysi can only have a short majority of the delegates behind him, with only 68% of the votes, and the EL made a rather split impression.

Naturally, DiEM25 wasn‘t officially invited to the Congress. Through “Die Linke”, however, the possibility was offered to set up a stand and present the proposal of our Pan-European democratic movement to the interested delegates and representatives.

Despite the not very original red color in this environment, the DiEM stand stood out clearly. During the three-day congress, 8 DSC members alternated regularly at the stand and radiated a relaxed and cheerful atmosphere.

Constitutional reform in Italy? No!

On Wednesday, November 23rd DiEM25 Berlin, Die Linke International and Berlin’s Comitato per il No held a public meeting to discuss the upcoming referendum on the constitutional reform in Italy. Around 25 participants attended the meeting, which included interventions by Andrej Hunko (member of Parliament for Die Linke), Anna Ballarin-Denti (Comitato per il No), and Paola Giaculli (Die Linke).

Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his government promise that the reform of the second part of the Italian Constitution will cut the costs of politics and simplify the legislative process. The reform, however, has been widely criticised by the country’s political opposition, by civil society movements as well as by the left fringe of Renzi’s party. Eminent constitutionalists also warn against a reform that, without noticeably cutting bureaucratic costs, would concentrate decision-making power in the hands of the country’s executive, strengthen the power of the central state vis à vis the regions, and hinder the direct democratic processes allowed by the current Constitution.

DiEM25 joins Italy’s progressive forces in supporting the NO vote to a constitutional reform that would weaken democratic decision-making within parliament and society. These constitutional amendments, if passed, would favour the interests of international financial capital and of the political elites that have promoted EU’s disastrous austerity policies.

Vote in Italy: 4th December 2016

Members of AIRE can vote by post. The ballot should reach the embassy by December 1st, 2016.

Movie night in Berlin: Debt is the money of the rich

In the heart of Neukölln-Berlin, in B-Lage, DiEM25 Berlin presented the film “Who is Saving Whom? – Crisis as a business model at the expense of democracy and social security”.

Although the screening room was crowded and crammed with 80 visitors, the mostly young audience attentively watched the documentary until the end. The documentary from 2015 clearly shows who was responsible for the financial crisis in 2008 and how multi-billion euro and dollar rescue packages almost magically turned bank debts into public debts. The consequences for civil society are enormous and presented in the film through impressive pictures and testimonies.

The film also shows alternatives. Iceland chose a completely different way out of the crisis: the citizens took their fate into their own hands, demanded new elections and a thorough revision of the banking crisis – with success. There was no rescue of international capital, but a democratic redistribution from the top to the bottom. Even the bank executives did not get away unscathed.

Following the film, Ragnar Hjalmarsson provided more nuanced information on the Icelandic case, drawing on his experience as an employee of the IMF Resident Representative Office in Reykjavik from 2008 to 2013. Spanish/Icelandic artist couple Libia Castro and Ólafur Ólafsson also contributed to the intriguing discussion.

During the discussion, it became clear that very special circumstances contributed to Iceland’s unique path. Nevertheless, Iceland remains an encouraging example of how a broad social movement can free a country from the dictatorship of the financial sector and move towards a real democracy.

In the film, the German politician Oskar Lafontaine was quoted as follows: “If one knows that debt is the money of the rich, then one would have to get the idea that if I want to lower the debt, I will reduce rich people’s money. I’ve never heard that this may have been discussed in that way in parliaments. Instead of taking money from the rich, they dive into the wallet of the pensioners and the workers who earn very little. This is an incredible fact.

DiEM25 is currently working on a policy paper for Europe’s new economy, which will be presented end of February in Paris.

Carpe DiEM25

© 2017 DiEM25 Berlin