A shocking and invigorating meeting of DiEM25’s Coordinating Collective

About once a year, DiEM25’s Coordinating Collective meets in person to develop a strategy and goals for our movement for the next twelve months.

Since we are all spread around Europe and usually only see each other online, meeting in person is always a valuable and inspiring occasion. But last weekend’s meeting in Athens was more than that: It was also a reminder of why our political work is so incredibly important, and why we have to stand together – as a collective, but more so as humans opposing the powers that be.

On our first day, we attended the screening of the movie ITHAKA, which tells the story of Julian Assange’s family and their struggle to get him out of prison. Stella Assange, Julian’s wife, was present and answered questions from the audience after the screening. Later that night the DiEM25 team had the pleasure of dining with Stella. Since Assange is not only a hero for so many around the world but also a founding member of DiEM25, it’s only natural that we support his family in every way we can, to hopefully someday see him united with his loved ones.

Our meetings started the following day, lasting from early in the morning until late that evening. After these productive sessions, we were set to cap off the night with a group dinner. Little did we know about the disaster that awaited us.

As we sat at a restaurant in Athens, eating and chatting, a group of thugs invaded the place. They immediately went for Yanis Varoufakis, who was sitting at our table. Most of us took a while to realise what was really happening, while Yanis instantly decided to go outside and talk with them, avoiding an escalation within the restaurant.

On the way outside, they already started pulling and pushing him. Just seconds later, he was punched to the ground and kicked straight into his face while down, breaking his nose and cheekbone. Fortunately, nobody else was harmed. Obviously, he was the target. They stormed in, did what they came for, and walked away.

This cowardly brutal attack on Yanis exposed not only how dangerously fragile democracy in Greece has become, but also why MeRA25 Greece and DiEM25 are tirelessly fighting for truth and for a direct confrontation with those responsible for the erosion of democracy in all layers of society.

Let’s briefly recap how the dismantling of democracy in Greece started: the implementation of the EU/Troika’s massive austerity policies over the course of the last decade. In July 2015, the Greek people voted for an end to this devastating austerity in a referendum, only to have their voices ignored by the government that called it. In the wake of this betrayal, then-Finance Minister Varoufakis immediately resigned. A year later, DiEM25 was born in Berlin, with the slogan “The EU will be democratised, or it will disintegrate.”

Privatisation, corruption, spying scandals, and an increase in police brutality are just a few examples of what the Greek people have had to deal with in the past years. The attack on Yanis is still being investigated by the police, but you don’t need to actually know who did it and why, because the act in itself is unveiling the real problem.

Such a vicious attack on a democratically elected member of parliament doesn’t happen in a healthy political environment, and it doesn’t happen in a society that is prospering. It happens where lies are spread, narratives are twisted, enemies are painted, divisions are created and corruption is rampant.

The rest of our meetings were overshadowed by this event, but at the same time it strengthened our determination to continue our work and not let ourselves be intimidated. We are all humans. Political work doesn’t give us any superior superpower and it’s really easy to give up and be disillusioned, but that’s exactly what this whole “profit and power over life” system counts on. The only superpower we can summon is the power of a collective pulling in the same direction, and that’s exactly what we will continue to do, which brings us to the next crucial event from our time in Athens.

On March 12, massive protests took place around Greece, sparked by a terrible tragedy: the train collision near Tempi that killed 57 people, mostly students. Just three weeks before the crash, the rail workers union went on strike over the railway network’s desolate and dangerous condition. In fact, on the same day that the accident happened, an explosion took place in the electricity network at the Palaiofarsalos railway station, which delayed several trains on that line. The Greek government’s response to those previous strikes was to ban them from happening.

These events are a direct consequence of the privatisation of the railways as part of the austerity policies imposed by Greece’s creditors. With the network underinvested and under-equipped for years, a catastrophe was imminent. The government’s apology and fake self-reflection won’t bring back the deceased to their families, and they are rightly not enough for the thousands of protesters on the streets in Greece: They want the government of Prime Minister Mitsotakis to resign. Without a doubt, Greece is yet again entering a phase of social unrest, and upcoming elections will be crucial for the country’s future.

After these eventful, shocking, and invigorating days, the real work begins. The next twelve months in DiEM25 include elections in Greece and Germany, organisational building in Italy, important movement events, and much more.

We can’t know whether our efforts will succeed in bringing radical change for the better – but we will certainly never give up trying.

Carpe Diem!

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