[Music] [Davide] Hi there. Welcome to another episode of Faces of DiEM, our DiEM TV segment that brings you our members, so you get to know a little bit more about their stories and what it is that got them involved in our movement.
00:41 - Essentially, it’s about the stories of those that came across DiEM25, that were inspired by the movement’s message and got engaged with the project as activists on the ground.
00:53 - And today it’s my pleasure to welcome somebody that I have known for many years.
00:59 - Somebody that has been involved with DiEM for a very long time, since the very beginning when we launched in 2016.
01:06 - Her name is Claire Delstanche. Claire, hi there! Welcome to Faces of DiEM! [Claire] David, we met for the first time nearly six years ago, in the first days of DiEM25.
01:26 - [Davide] Yeah it’s been it’s been really long time and from that very beginning when we met up until now, we’ve gone through so much in terms of the activities that we’ve done together in Belgium and even beyond that.
01:40 - I think it was a really good opportunity to also present you to the membership at large, because you’ve been active for a very long time.
01:48 - Your political activism did not begin with DiEM, obviously - and I just wanted to ask you maybe a couple of questions about that.
01:55 - First of all, if you can tell us a little bit about yourself, where you come from and and so on, and then we’ll go on to talk a little bit more about the political activism that you’ve started way before DiEM even started in 2016.
02:10 - So, yeah, maybe you can tell us a little bit about yourself first.
02:13 - [Clarie] Yes, thank you. Oh, I’m very old.
02:15 - I was born during the Second World War, and I have always been a street activist.
02:28 - When I was two, I was already in the street with my mother collecting money for the Red Cross for the victims of bombings on Brussels and my mother had to help me hold the books.
02:48 - At the age of three, I was in the street to welcome the British army.
02:53 - But, more seriously, in the 1950s, I participated in the anti-nuclear marches.
03:08 - Many young people were very interested in these.
03:12 - And I became really an activist later, with the decolonization of the Congo and with the Vietnam War.
03:25 - I have a very interinternational family, with people coming from all over Europe and from other continents too, and my family has been involved in a lot of historical events of the 20th century: the two world wars, the war in Spain, the Stalinist trials, the resistance, and the Carnation Revolution in Portugal, events in Haiti and even the Rwandan genocide, my family in-law.
04:20 - I was a teacher. I was a teacher for a long time, and, as a teacher, because I was teaching history and social sciences, I had opportunity to do field trips and to do exchanges with other schools, with German, with English, with Danish, with Soviet schools, and I had many opportunities to travel, not only in Europe but around the world.
04:58 - [Davide] You mentioned so many things already.
05:01 - It’s incredible how much you’ve lived, and how much you’ve seen, and not just politically but in terms of how the world has evolved from the 60s onwards.
05:14 - Nowaday, sometimes people think that hope is gone, there’s no hope for change, and yet you’ve seen so much and yet you’re still active in trying to change things politically, trying to make a difference to people’s lives because, let’s face it, that’s the reason why people like you and I have been involved with movements like DiEM25.
05:37 - But, after everything, after all these movements that you’ve seen come and go in the past, and including the hope of 1968, that era that now people look back and say “Well that was the moment that things could have really taken a turn for the best. ” And now we see with the onset of financialization, neoliberalism, we see more or less what happened to that hope that was eventually destroyed by this system that we we have in place now, which at DiEM25 and including Yanis Varoufakis we call techo-feudalism, in the sense that we no longer seem to live in a capitalist society.
06:17 - It’s actually gone beyond that. So my question to you is…
06:22 - I remember I sat with you when the Nuit debout protests were happening in Brussels and I don’t know if you were joking or not, but I remember a comment that you made which was that back in 1968 the youth at the time was far less motivated, far less active than today.
06:41 - And maybe you were joking about that but it really put some perspective into my own understanding of the world and my understanding of politics and activism.
06:51 - So, how come you’re still active after so long? I guess you still have some hope that things can change, right? Can you tell us a little bit more about that? [Claire] Yes, I witnessed a lot of events in the years of the 60s, the big strike in 60-61, and I began to work at school in a region with coal mines and all coal mines are closed, of course.
07:29 - I took part in ‘68. The workers, the social movement stepped onto the bridge, opened by the student movement, and there is a big difference because since 68, society is more open, less authoritarian, and we’ve gained some freedom, that’s true.
08:01 - But I witnessed a very strange phenomenon. I was already a teacher and my pupils…
08:10 - when I was a student we had no money, on average, of course.
08:17 - But we had no money, no money to go to a pub to discuss.
08:22 - All these restaurants, not far from the university in Brussels, they didn’t exist.
08:29 - And if we wanted to discuss we did it in the street, in the corridors of the university, or when the weather was good on the lawn of the park, and my pupils, it was just like as if the consumer society took them…
09:05 - The generation of ‘68 was against a consumer society, they attacked it.
09:13 - And some years later, my students, they often had motorbikes, so they had to pay for petrol.
09:29 - And after the school day, they immediately ran to the supermarket to do a student job and to get money.
09:38 - So, it was as if society had recuperated them.
09:45 - A very strange thing. [Davide] Yeah! It’s interesting that you say that.
09:49 - Because it’s that same hope… you mentioned the Carnation Revolution of the country that I come from in Portugal.
09:55 - We also had the situation in Spain in the 70s with the fall of Franco and what in Madrid, they called “la movida madrileña,” where there was a kind of moment of emancipation.
10:07 - It was a moment of hedonistic experience. It was a moment of, you know, finally breaking free from this authoritarian grasp of the political system and being kind of swallowed up in many ways by the capitalist system at the time, you know? What you’re saying now reminds me of what happened also elsewhere.
10:29 - because it wasn’t just an isolated incidence in Belgium, as you very well know.
10:34 - So, you’re right. I think that that’s kind of created this hope for transformation that people would somehow transform and become politically engaged and active all of a sudden.
10:47 - In a way that the capitalist system swallowed that up and, as you said, recuperated them into consumers in many instances.
10:57 - Because people were precarious. They also needed jobs.
10:59 - They needed to make a living. They needed to survive, right? They they had to find a way through which to put bread on the table for their children.
11:07 - And so it’s kind of an ironic situation where you get your “freedom,” so to speak, from authoritarianism.
11:16 - And, at the same time, you get swallowed up by another system that actually takes away the freedom that you need, because you’re condemned to basically working all the time for slave wages, almost, in many instances.
11:32 - But sorry I interrupted you! Go on, I just wanted to add a side note…
11:37 - [Claire] So I was a teacher, of course, as a teacher in a union, and I’m so old, but I’m still a member of that union, because I think it’s significant, But I’ve never been a member of a party.
11:56 - Of course, I know people and I have friends in a lot of parties…
12:08 - Take the liberals: they are right-wingers, of course.
12:14 - So it didn’t interest me. Yes, in every party, you have good people and you have sometimes gangsters, sometimes in the same parties.
12:26 - If you take the liberals, I think we can do something with them.
12:32 - I’ll speak about it later. Because they are defending freedom and freedom of the citizen against the powerful trying to force surveillance.
12:55 - So I think we can do something with them, but the right-wingers in the the social politics didn’t interest me, of course.
13:05 - Social democrats, yes, but they were for NATO.
13:12 - They sustained colonial policies long ago, and now austerity policies.
13:24 - The same situation for the Greens. The Greens have the great merit for having put forward the climate problems, but they have no social politics.
13:40 - They are now in the governments in Belgium, the social democrats, liberals, Greens together, and they are okay with the austerity politics.
13:57 - So, when I was young, of course, I was close to the communists.
14:07 - And something I didn’t like was the sectarianism because I was member of a lot of movements, a movement against war, and so on, and I was excluded from movements, so-called mass movements because of disagreements inside the communist party, of which I wasn’t a member! [laughing] I had fun with that, of course! But in other countries and in other times it would have led to the firing squad.
14:49 - So, I’ve never been a member of any party. No. [laughter] [Davide] That’s interesting because you’re so political and you’ve been so engaged for such a long time as we’ve been discussing and yet there was never a political party that really spoke to you, spoke to your heart, spoke to your mind as to the kind of things that need happening.
15:11 - And I think you’re right in your assessment that the so-called social democrats…
15:19 - In Portugal, the social democrats when they started out in the 1970s, after the revolution, it was funny how their posters, their propaganda, said “For the people, for the land” something else, I don’t remember.
15:35 - I mean this is the same political party that implemented the brutal austerity measures less than 30 years later on Portugal which hurt and led to hundreds of thousands of Portuguese young people leaving the country in search of job security elsewhere, of which my family was a part.
15:56 - So, it’s strange how that even though we have parties that are called socialist parties, parties are called social democrats, it’s just in name.
16:05 - Because there’s nothing socialist, there’s nothing democratic, even, in many instances, about those political parties.
16:11 - And the same goes for the Greens. You know, the Greens, they happen to have the green label.
16:17 - They are called the Green party, so they are benefiting from the green wave that is running throughout Europe and has been happening across Europe and the world for a long time, especially now with the Fridays for Future protests.
16:32 - So they’ve benefited politically from that.
16:34 - But when you look deeper into it, as you were saying, you realize that they actually don’t have any real, deep, transnational program for change, which is actually system changing.
16:44 - You know, they disagree with each other on a key number of policies, even within Europe, and not to mention beyond our continent that we happen to live in.
16:56 - So, I agree with you. I share your your concern about the fact…
17:01 - and also because I was never a member of any political party, either.
17:04 - You know, and it’s for the same reasons that you’ve described although I’m obviously younger than you are, and I’ve experienced far less of the world than you have.
17:15 - So, I get what your position is on this very much so because as I said, it’s part of my experience as well.
17:23 - But what happened then? Because then DiEM was created in 2016 after all this.
17:31 - How is it that you joined DiEM? Why did you join DiEM? What was it about DiEM that interested you? Where you said: “Okay. Actually, I think it’s time for me to join something. ” [Claire] Maybe it’s a long story because long before I have always been interested in international movements, not especially European, but international.
17:57 - And in the 1990s, it was maybe the saddest period of my life because there was the war in Yugoslavia.
18:13 - I woke up in the morning thinking the Belgian air force is bombing Belgrade.
18:20 - It was terrible. And what was I able to do? It was nothing.
18:29 - A signature here, a demonstration there. And it was impossible to demonstrate with the French-speaking Greens because they had no position.
18:42 - But the only opportunity for me was to work with the Flemish Greens because they were the only ones to have some decency about Yugoslavia.
18:54 - And then it was the war in Iraq. The first war in Iraq: I’ve never felt so powerless in my whole life.
19:08 - Because when it was the war in Vietnam, we were very active.
19:13 - There were movements everywhere in the world, chiefly in the United States, of course, because the young men who didn’t want to go to the war burned their military papers and we were all together and we had the feeling of being able to have an influence on the events.
19:33 - But when it was the first Iraq war, nothing.
19:42 - I remember the ultimatum. I had just left a Syrian friend, a doctor, he was back in Syria and he didn’t know if the war would spread to the whole Middle East and if he would be mobilized.
20:02 - And I was at home. It was the eve before the ultimatum, and I walked from my school listening to a Mozart Requiem.
20:13 - It was horrible. And then there was the second Iraq war.
20:30 - It was in 2004, yes. [Davide] Or 2003, yes.
20:38 - [Claire] Three or four, yes. And young people started waking up.
20:46 - We were calling each other on the cellular phones.
20:55 - And on Sunday we were 70,000 people in the streets in Brussels, against the war.
21:03 - That was on Sunday. But Monday there was nothing more.
21:06 - Nothing. Because we had no organization.
21:09 - So it’s a good thing to have people demonstrating in the street.
21:14 - But if we have no organization, we can do nothing.
21:18 - We can have no influence. And for me it was something very, very significant.
21:25 - And then I was not so much interested in Europe.
21:30 - As a teacher, yes, because I had to speak about the European Union, of course, and I went to the European parliament with my pupils every year, sometimes with foreign students in Brussels for an exchange.
21:56 - But I was not so interested. And then came the year 2015 and the Euro crisis, the Greek crisis.
22:08 - It was something terrible. A tsunami in my life.
22:14 - Maybe I can explain with a picture: I was demonstrating with friends and the board is about the “European Union jungle where might makes right.
22:37 - Let us change it!” It’s exactly why I went, why I joined the DiEM25.
22:46 - I needed exactly DiEM25. And I remember it was the day of the Greek referendum, a Sunday, and my neighbor called me and she told me: “Oh, the result is very good!” and it was happiness.
23:05 - And on Monday I knew Yanis Varoufakis had resigned and I understood everything immediately, what was going on, what would happen, and I was in deep sadness and anger.
23:26 - And I remember I went to a bookshop and I bought The Global Minotaur and I began to read it sitting on the steps of the stock exchange, because I had an appointment with an African friend and it was an enlightenment! The answer to a question I had been asking myself for 30 years.
23:58 - I began to understand a lot of things because such complex economic concepts he explains with an incredible pedagogy.
24:15 - And I was able to understand. And then of course I followed Yanis Varoufakis on Twitter and I was one of the first to join DiEM25 on 9 February 2016.
24:35 - [Davide] Wow, what a journey, Claire! It’s amazing how I feel like there’s so much in common in a way between everything that you’re telling me, and my own experience.
24:47 - Because for me it was very similar as well.
24:52 - Because I was in England at the time, I was living there.
24:55 - And had been in England for 11 years, or 10 years by this point, and then I left to come to Brussels.
25:05 - But during this time, the early 2010s up until 2015, as you mentioned, with the u-turn, the huge capitulation of Syriza, which really destroyed the hopes of so many people, not only in Greece but everywhere across Europe.
25:21 - People were looking at Greece as an example of how to confront power, how to confront an inane establishment which is not interested in what’s good for people, but more interested in what’s good for private interests and the banks because that’s essentially what happened.
25:38 - And I saw my own government pushing through some of the harshest austerity measures that the country had ever seen since the 1974 revolution, since that moment of hope that was created.
25:52 - And when I saw this example like you’re referencing, in Greece, and then I saw that referendum result, by that point I was about to move to Brussels, if I’m not mistaken, and it was really like a stab in the heart.
26:11 - You know, it really felt, like all that hope, that possibility for change, suddenly had evaporated.
26:20 - And so when DiEM was created like six months later on February 9th, I too was very excited about it and I couldn’t believe all the people that were involved, you know, in the movement at the time.
26:33 - And I thought “Wow. This is exactly what Europe needs.
26:36 - This is what we need to be doing. “ And it seemed just like the obvious way out.
26:41 - It seemed like the obvious solution. And for somebody like you who’s lived for so long and have experienced so much and for you to have that same experience and same thought that I was having even though I was, let’s say, beginning my proper political activism, it says something, right? It says something about the fact that this is something…
27:06 - that what we’re experiencing today it doesn’t matter what age you are, it doesn’t matter what background you come from, it’s all about this shared experience that we’re all actually being screwed, if you like, by the powers that be, the powerful.
27:22 - And that we have to come together. Like you said earlier: we need organization.
27:28 - Without organization, protest is just not gonna get us anywhere.
27:31 - It’s just good symbolically, but we really need to get together, we need to organize, we need to come up with a plan because, if anything, what we’ve learned from the last 20 years with the Occupy movement, the Nuit debout, the Arab Spring revolutions in the Middle East, it’s not enough to just be against something.
27:51 - We need to be for something and we need to bring people together around that common objective.
27:57 - If we don’t do that I think we will always fail.
28:01 - That’s the sad truth of it. So, thank you for telling us about how you joined DiEM.
28:07 - Maybe let’s talk a little bit about what you’ve done in DiEM.
28:12 - What is it about DiEM that appeals to you? What do you find that are the most exciting things about the movement? What have you learned out of it? What have you gotten out of the movement? And where do you see us going? What do you think is needed now to really change Europe? Do you think that our original mission is still a worthwhile pursuit? Tell us a bit maybe about that and some of the policies or ideas that you think we should be talking about more in DiEM.
28:45 - [Claire] Yes, we met for the first time on April 16th in the year 2016.
28:54 - It was in a co-working gallery in the center of Brussels and there was maybe 60 of us.
29:04 - Around 60. And a lot of people are still working together, like you and me, and Erik, and others.
29:15 - Others came because they were interested in the manifesto and by the transnational and international character of DiEM25.
29:28 - Some of them came just here to see but we have contact with them because they are activists in other organizations.
29:42 - And the first thing we did, I remember, we had a meeting in the center of Brussels in an open space and we participated in a demonstration against the purchase of new warplanes by the Belgian government.
30:05 - And we had some activities against TTIP and against austerity politics.
30:13 - I think it was a good way to begin. And later we worked to have a program, the Green New Deal.
30:27 - It was long process but I think it was a very good thing to have this program and to go for the first time to the European elections with a common agenda for all of Europe.
30:46 - It was the first time. Yes, we had a million and a half people voting for us.
30:56 - It was only a beginning, of course. But, it was the first time we had a program for everybody in Europe, for all countries.
31:06 - And maybe we’ll have a look at the new People’s Gatherings, because it’s to put the local struggles to a European level.
31:26 - That’s what we’ve done from the beginning. Of course, for me, it was very interesting to be in touch with a lot of people across our Europe.
31:43 - I’m every day in touch with people from a lot of countries, because we have the DSC’s not only the local DSCs, but the thematic DSCs and I’m in a thematic DSC about migration with Travis, who is very tireless and I’m in the Health DSC, public health.
32:15 - There is a very, very active group in Italy, not only in Italy, but they have a very active group.
32:26 - I’m working with Trello. Trello is a product for a translation team and for translation.
32:35 - Of course, I work chiefly with French-speaking people, but we have Zoom calls sometimes.
32:46 - We see people from everywhere and speaking all languages.
32:52 - It’s very very interesting because my son is living in Sweden.
32:58 - He became a Swede with his family and I attended already meetings in Stockholm of the Swedish DSC.
33:12 - So this pan-European character is very, very interesting for me.
33:20 - We used to… Now with the pandemic, we have a chiefly Zoom calls, of course, but we used to go to different cities, capitals in Europe.
33:37 - We met in Amsterdam, in Paris, in Berlin, in Rome, in Prague, and Athens, and it strengthened the friendship among the DiEMers.
33:54 - For me, it’s something very important. I remember when we went to Rome. It was in 2017.
34:07 - There was a demonstration in Rome and we came on I don’t remember which day, but in the evening we had only a drink.
34:24 - We had a drink on a terrace in a big pub in Rome, and it was the first time I met the people of Belgrade and Zagreb, and I will never, never in my life forget this evening.
34:43 - The Serbians were… it was a big group, and there was a man a little older than the others, and he told me: “I joined DiEM25 because I’ve seen the disintegration of Yugoslavia and I fear the same thing for Europe.
35:05 - I saw he was right and these Serbian friends they were very, very, sympathetic and when we demonstrated in Rome, the Serbians and the Croats, they were together with their flags, of the DSC Zagreb, DSC Belgrade, always together friendly, and I was deeply moved because their parents were in war against each other.
35:36 - It was a horrible war and these young people believed in a better world and are struggling for a better world.
35:50 - I was very, very moved by these people. It was funny, you remember in Rome, it was very funny because we had two demonstrations: one was blue, they were the people of Guy Verhofstadt, people who liked the European Union without any question and we had another demonstration where we saw only red and green for another Europe, a social Europe, a democratic Europe.
36:33 - And the Roman authorities had managed to separate carefully the two demonstrations but when this location came people from the two processions, the blues, the the greens, the reds we were together and the Carabinieri were so afraid they began to run to separate us, but we had no intention to fight and even less any intention of demolishing Rome because there are ruins enough, in Rome! [laughing] It was a very interesting experience and in the afternoon we had a big meeting with DiEMers from everywhere in Europe and then we launched the New Deal in the evening.
37:35 - This a European transnational character. It’s very, very, significant.
37:41 - [Davide] Yeah, you’re absolutely right, Claire and thanks for reminding me of some of those moments, because you tend to kind of forget these things unless you take your mind back a bit and remember all the things that we’ve actually been doing and you’re totally right about this existence of these people, like the Guy Verhofstadts of this world and that simply wave the EU flag as if to say, the European Union is great and we should keep it and our point, and I think this is what demarcates DiEM from basically everybody else, is to say that, yes, we like the idea, the concept of a European Union, but the problem is that right now it resembles more European disunion than anything else.
38:31 - And waving the European Union flag is just not enough.
38:34 - You have to go beyond that. You have to say okay, what kind of European Union do we want? You know, do we want a European Union that is essentially signing deals with Turkey in order to make sure that Turkey does not allow refugees to enter the European Union space, if you like.
38:52 - Is that the kind of European Union we want? Do we want the European Union, that is, you, know, shooting at migrants and refugees who are drowning in the Mediterranean? Is that the kind of European Union that we want? It’s not the kind of European Union that I want and certainly not the kind of European Union that you want, Claire.
39:10 - Do we want the European Union that is benefiting bankers and bailing them out whilst at the same time imposing criminal austerity measures on the poorest of the poor, and increasing the numbers of homeless people living in our continent? That’s not the kind of European Union that I want.
39:29 - So, when I see these centrists, the extreme centrists waving the European Union flag as if this European Union that we have now is the epitome of the best possible of European Unions that we could ever have, It’s really a slap in the face to everybody that’s just struggling to make ends meet, to make sure that their children have food on the table and so on.
39:54 - So I think that what you’ve said about the transnational character of DiEM by itself is already important, but on top of that, the kinds of things that we’re fighting for, the kind of European Union with the Universal Basic Dividend, with a transformative Green New Deal for Europe, with all the other policies that we have in terms of housing, in terms of ensuring the well-being of new arrivals from outside of the European Union space and everything else.
40:28 - I think that’s the kind of project that is worth fighting for, and it’s really a pleasure that you’re in it, that I’m in it, that we’re all in it together to try and make that difference.
40:39 - Maybe you can say, before we wrap it up, I just wanted to ask you maybe to say a few words about…
40:45 - because we often talk about the Universal Basic Dividend, and sometimes it’s difficult.
40:50 - We don’t necessarily always explain it as we should.
40:52 - So maybe I was wondering if you could, what do you think about it? What do you think about the Universal Basic Dividend and also I want to then talk to you a little bit about what’s going on in Belgium right now and we’ll end a little afterwards on what’s going on in terms of Europe the kind of activism we’ve been doing in supporting Julian Assange and also because you’ve been very Involved with that.
41:14 - So, I would like to to hear from you a little bit about that.
41:17 - But yeah, if you can just tell us a bit about the Universal Basic Dividend to begin with and then we’ll move on to the rest.
41:24 - [Claire] I think Universal Basic Dividend is very interesting because I know with artificial intelligence and the new technologies many jobs will disappear.
41:40 - Of course, I am not a… Yes, there is a problem with technology, but it’s another problem we’ll discuss later.
41:48 - Many people will lose their jobs and Universal Basic Dividend is very interesting for them.
42:02 - Now, we see with the pandemic crisis a lot of people are richer than ever of course, but you have all these people with a little restaurant, cafe, they are bankrupt or they will be bankrupt.
42:19 - The cultural sector is devastated and you have a lot of people living on the margins.
42:30 - They have other jobs, or sometimes partly moonlighting, and all these people, a lot of people, don’t get benefits for unemployment.
42:50 - You have, of course, these benefits when you are a worker and if you are self-employed…
43:04 - there are allowances for these people but you have other people without anything.
43:13 - So, there is a big threat to see more homeless people in the streets, and you are right about migrants because how is it possible to think we can live with homeless people sleeping in the street? A lot of migrants are not accepted in Europe, and Europe is paying Turkey to keep them.
44:05 - We have no memory. My parents in 1940, they were refugees and they were taken in by a French family, and we are still friends with this family today.
44:22 - If we have a big accident in a nuclear power plant in Belgium, in little Belgium, all Belgians can be refugees.
44:33 - People don’t think about… So, yes, we need something else.
44:40 - Another Europe. Public social welfare centers are now full because…
44:52 - Yes, and they are students, they were relying on a little job to live.
44:58 - So we have many, many people, it’s necessary to find a solution for them, and I think a Universal Basic Dividend is a very good idea.
45:15 - Of course, a dividend and not funding by taxes.
45:22 - [Davide] Yeah, that’s right! Because there’s something which is important to clarify: The idea of a Universal Basic Income it’s not something new.
45:30 - It’s been around for quite a long time, and yet now we even see the liberals and the right-wingers advocating for one, but, and people are like “Wow, this is so great!” but then you look deeper into it and you realize that when they’re advocating for Universal Basic Income, what they’re really saying in small print is that we will cut the welfare state and you will have this.
45:58 - So, basically it’s just a replacement. It’s not an actual income at all.
46:04 - And on top of that as you’ve said and as people can check out on our website as well, the dividend part of our…
46:12 - The reason why we call it Universal Basic Dividend is because it’s not meant to be funded through taxation.
46:19 - That’s not the the purpose of it and you can find more about it in the description of this video if you want to know more about how we actually would implement the Universal Basic Dividend and how we would fund it tomorrow morning without raising any taxes whatsoever.
46:36 - But, maybe Claire, we can talk a little bit about Belgium, a little bit about future perspectives.
46:42 - What’s going on in Belgium right now? What do you see in the future of this country? Is there any hope of things transforming, things changing? And, also, as I said earlier, in terms of your engagement with supporting Julian Assange, like we’ve been doing at DiEM25 since the very beginning.
47:02 - He’s a member of our advisory panel, as well.
47:06 - He’s still now, for two years he’s been in prison at Belmarsh.
47:10 - Tell us a little bit about your activism here in Belgium and your future perspectives about the future of politics and the future of this country.
47:20 - [Claire] Yes, Belgium is a very complicated country.
47:24 - We have a… it’s not a Belgian problem. We can find it everywhere, not only in Europe.
47:32 - but with the Islamic terrorism threat and with the pandemic the governments used these things to concentrate more and more, not exactly power, but a power of control and surveillance on people.
47:58 - I feel it very much because… Yes, I was in a freer society and now the surveillance is very, very close.
48:20 - I feel it every day on the computer, on the phone, on the streets, in the metro, everywhere.
48:30 - Belgium has had a lot of reforms, state reforms for a long time now, because in Belgium we have two regions, not only different linguistically but also economically and socially.
48:56 - There are different parts in Belgium and we try to make a better state, to reform and to federalize it.
49:07 - But the problem is we have terrible inefficiency.
49:15 - So how to be more efficient but not too authoritarian? That’s a big problem now.
49:24 - Because, we are inefficient because who is responsible for what? That’s a problem.
49:30 - Is it the region? Is it the community? Is it the state? And in public health, for example sometimes people working for public health in hospitals they are crazy because they don’t know who is responsible and that’s a big problem.
49:50 - But, if we concentrate it’s not exactly the same to be efficient.
49:57 - We can be efficient and not too authoritarian, but in Belgium, some weeks ago we read in the newspaper that all data of the Belgians were put together about health, about fiscal things, about social benefits and everything, and the minister who is the brother of Charles Michel, President of the European Council, he was yes, he thought, “Oh, I am very surprised.
50:42 - I read it in the newspaper. I don’t know. Oh okay, we’ll stop it immediately, but there are only some civil servants who did it without any mandate of the government and without any legal frame. “ Yes, okay, that’s a big problem for Belgium for everybody.
51:06 - I’m not against the new technologies, of course, but, it’s always the same problem with technology.
51:12 - Technology in itself is very interesting and very…
51:17 - It’s progress. But we can use it against the many or for the many.
51:25 - It has always been so, and we are in a problem like this now.
51:32 - We can use it only as it is to let Google and Microsoft and so on become richer and we can use it as a dividend for everybody.
51:55 - [Davide] Absolutely. [Claire] I think it’s a very big problem of our time.
51:59 - Now in Belgium we can… What can we do exactly? We can work with a lot of people, with movements, of course, with the trade unions, with social movements, movements for peace, international movements, with Oxfam, with housing committees, with health committees, and so on.
52:24 - Yes, of course. We can even work with political parties.
52:30 - Why not? But in my view, only on specific issues and keeping our independence, that’s very significant, always keep our independence.
52:43 - Are we a movement? Yes. DiEM25 is a movement, but we have a lot of problems now in Belgium, because we serve coalitions of what they call civil society.
52:59 - In civil society, you have movements, you have trade unions and so on, but no political parties, and sometimes we are not accepted because we’ve been told…
53:12 - or in Greece, you have a party, MeRA. So you are a party and you are not part of the civil society and we had a lot of problems recently, about that term.
53:28 - [Davide] Yeah. If I just may interrupt you for a second Claire: It’s very interesting what you’re saying, because we’re different in that sense that we… Primarily, we are a movement and we have what we call electoral wings and we have an electoral wing which is a political party in Greece called MeRA25 as you’ve just mentioned, Claire.
53:48 - And the thing is, it’s a new… It’s like we’re a new thing.
53:54 - We’re a new being, right? On the one hand, it’s the movement that controls the party to a very large extent, although of course the party is based on legal and national law in terms of Greece.
54:08 - But having said that, they’re intertwined, they’re interlinked.
54:11 - There can be no MeRA without DiEM and vice versa.
54:15 - But DiEM is there and is the backbone of everything and we’re a political movement, and a cultural movement as well that is trying to do politics differently, but really do it differently, not just say that we’re doing it differently.
54:28 - And it has caused some confusion because, as you said, people are looking at us sometimes and they think well DiEM is a political party and we’re like “No. ” I mean the very basis of everything that we do is as a movement.
54:40 - To be out on the streets, to put pressure, to be subversive and yes, when that change does not come from existing political parties, then yes, we will obviously do our very best to challenge those parties politically, because there’s different avenues of change, right? You have to keep putting pressure at all levels, not just out on the streets, but also to do it in parliaments like we’re doing right now with MeRA25 and our nine members of parliament there in the Hellenic parliament.
55:11 - So it’s a constant struggle I find to keep explaining this to other organizations, right? You’ve experienced that quite a lot, but you see that it’s actually…
55:25 - Has that impacted our development, do you think? Or how do you think we can convince these civil socity organizations, that we’re more than just a party and we’re more than just a normal movement? [Claire] It’s very, very difficult. I forgot to answer about Assange.
55:48 - Yes, I am as a DiEMer a member of the Free Assange committee in Belgium.
55:57 - We are very active doing campaigns for Assange.
56:04 - We gather thousands of signatures for a petition for the British authorities.
56:11 - Every Monday we are in the street in the center of Brussels in front of the British or sometimes the American embassy to defend Assange.
56:27 - In the committee… it’s a very friendly group, but we are coming from different… not parties.
56:39 - - yes, sometimes parties - There are people of parties.
56:43 - And we disagree on a lot of things, but for Assange, we are all on the same same point and it’s working very well.
57:01 - Next Monday we have two actions in Brussels and we have no problem because some are Trotskyists, and the others are Stalinists…
57:16 - No, everybody is working for Assange. I think it’s a very good example of how to work together.
57:26 - If we don’t agree on other things. [Davide] Yeah, yeah, you’re right. There has to be things that are above any difference that they can be, because sometimes the differences are so…
57:45 - they’re not that significant. The analysis is the same.
57:50 - Sometimes we differ about the solution amongst the left but there are instances, as you said, where actually collaboration can indeed happen, and I think the question of Assange is an important one that we’ve been…
58:05 - DiEM, we’ve been criticized for so long for supporting Assange, but we’ve always stuck by Assange because we always put our principles above everything else.
58:15 - We’re not in this for opportunistic political gain like some political organizations are and we will stick by what we believe to be right.
58:26 - We’re not gonna budge and we’re not gonna commit a u-turn.
58:29 - It’s good if other organizations can also sometimes do that on key topics and, of course, the question of Assange is not just about the freedom of Assange himself, but it’s about the future of the free press as well.
58:44 - [Claire] Of course. [Davide] I’ve been with you in some of these protests as well back before the pandemic and it was really nice to meet some of the people there.
58:54 - It’s coming up to an hour. We initially planned to have a 30 minute conversation for those of you who are watching and it turned into an hour conversation.
59:03 - So I hope you’re still with us, but just to put a final note to it, and thank you very much Claire for being part of this.
59:12 - I just wanted to ask you one last question which is for the young people of today, for the people out there that are maybe sitting on their sofas, they’re maybe not even reading a book.
59:23 - Maybe they’re just tired, maybe from work. They don’t see any point in getting active.
59:32 - What would you say to them? What would you say to them in this moment? [Claire] Yes, you were talking about Greece.
59:44 - I think a Greek comrades are very inspiring because they are motivated.
59:51 - I’ve been in Athens for the creation of MeRA in 2018 and then in 2019 for the First of May party.
60:05 - We had a demonstration in Athens and we had an opportunity to meet the people who became the first members of parliament, of MeRA in July, two years ago.
60:21 - They are very inspiring because there are many young people between them and they were in a such a difficult situation after the government, the Syriza government left all the power to the Troika.
60:44 - It was something terrible and they had the courage to go and to create a new party.
60:56 - Of course, the situation is very different in Belgium, but I think the examples are very inspiring for us.
61:07 - We need to democratize Belgium and Europe and beyond, because we have this surveillance problem.
61:22 - For me, it’s very important. We have to lead a social and humanist policy.
61:36 - I think it’s not so necessary to give advice to the young people, because the young people have a vitality in them.
61:53 - They have this courage, they’re young, and they have their lives ahead them.
62:04 - I think they have the strength to struggle and every young person, maybe not individually, but youth wants always to have a better world.
62:20 - I have big confidence in the young people. I think they always want to do something better than the old one.
62:32 - I want to say something else: Working in DiEM25.
62:40 - Yes, I’m very old now, but as long as it’s possible I will work enthusiastically for DiEM25 and there is something very happy in DiEM25 in the quality of people who are working…
63:05 - to work with people so idealistic, so intelligent, and so motivated.
63:17 - It’s a privilege. First, of course, with Yanis Varoufakis.
63:22 - I think it’s a privilege to work with people like that.
63:27 - And thank you to every DiEMer. It’s a wonderful adventure! [Davide] Thank you so much, Claire.
63:38 - I think I could say the same about you. The pleasure is all ours.
63:43 - It’s the pleasure of the movement to have somebody in the movement like you and for being so motivated and so enthusiastic and so engaged in everything that you do.
63:51 - So thank you for that, really from the bottom of my heart and also for our friendship and for everything that we’ve done together.
63:59 - It’s really a pleasure to have you on. Thank you for coming on Faces of DiEM and for those of you watching, I hope you enjoyed this hour.
64:08 - Like I said, it was meant to be 30 minutes, but obviously the conversation got the better of us.
64:14 - Do come back! If you are not yet a member of DiEM25, you can join.
64:19 - There’s a link in the description of the video and also remember that we’re 100% funded by membership donations.
64:25 - So we don’t get any money from private interests.
64:28 - So if you manage to have a few euros that are lying around that you could spare for our movement, we would be very grateful for that as well.
64:37 - The link is also in the description of the video.
64:40 - On that note, Claire thanks again and carpe DiEM! [Claire] Thank you. Carpe DiEM! [Davide] Ciao. .