The Real News Goes to Greece: Democracy Rising World Conference 2015

Paul Jay and Creston Davis of the Advanced Studies for Global Studies discuss the conference taking place on July 16th that will see leading activists and intellectuals from around the world converge on Athens, Greece

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Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.

In Athens starting on Thursday many of the leading intellectuals of Europe and some from North America and other parts of the world will be gathering in Athens to discuss some of the burning questions facing the Greek people and revolution other places, progressive movements. The conference is called Democracy Rising.

Now joining us from Athens is one of the lead organizers. Creston Davis is the founding director of the Global Center for Advanced Studies, and co-author with Slavoj Zizek of Paul’s New Moment. As I said in our other interview, it ain’t me.

Go ahead. Creston, tell us about what inspired the conference and what’s going to be going on there. It’s a rather momentous day that you’re having the conference.

CRESTON DAVIS, GLOBAL CENTER FOR ADVANCED STUDIES: Boy, we couldn’t have planned the conference to be at a better time given the volatility of what’s happening here in Greece. But basically yes, after Syriza came to power here in January, my friend Maria Nikolakaki, a professor, and myself started to think, let’s put on a conference that deals with specific questions about democracy rising that is a kind of inspirational moment where you connect up the Occupy movements to things that happened in the Arab Spring to all over. And you start to bring together leading intellectuals, public intellectuals like Tarik Ali, to journalists, novelists, and even politicians from Podemos and [Shinsen] and Syriza.

So it’s going to be an amazing time where we’re all going to be together and thinking through what it means now that we’ve exposed the sinister logic of neoliberal capitalism and how it’s undermined the Greek people, what it would mean for us to strategize and start to bring together some demands on our end.

JAY: Now, the opening session, you’re going to have some of the Syriza cabinet ministers there. Who are they and what force within Syriza do they represent?

DAVIS: Yes, so we’re going to have the president of the Greek parliament, Zoi, we’re going to have the minister of education, the main spokesperson of the Greek Syriza party, the Greek government. So all those folks are welcoming us because really, this conference is about solidarity with the Greek people. And many of the MPs of Syriza will be involved as well, as in Podemos.

So we really are focusing on solidarity with the Greek people, but also making connections about what’s at stake today for democracy and how we can start to plan and strategize together as the left.

JAY: In our previous interview we talked about the possibility of the left front that’s in Syriza actually resigning from Syriza. A lot of that left front is involved in the conference. I guess that debate’s going to break out in the conference.

DAVIS: Absolutely. In fact, it will be a debate. The left platform in Syriza I suspect will resign from parliament. And many of those left, people that make up and comprise the left platform, will be giving lectures and speeches at the Democracy Rising conference. So it really, it’s exciting to be part of this, really, for me. And for many who are already involved. We’re expecting thousands of folks to show up and start organizing, so it’s really extraordinary.

There’s film projects going on, I know the Real News Network will be working with us and has sponsored the conference as well as other sponsorships.

JAY: We hope to be livestreaming it, if we can get the technology working we’ll be livestreaming.

DAVIS: Let’s work it out. That would be great, yes.

JAY: Now, there’s one issue in terms of the left front resigning. And the critique of the deal, and all the rest. It seems to me the real problem here goes right back to the election campaign. If you’re going to run an election campaign and say, we are going to negotiate one way or the other to stay within the Eurozone, and you don’t say to the Greek people we will do everything to stay in the Eurozone, but we will prepare a plan B. And if the deal is awful then we will have to leave, and that’s what you’re voting for.

And if the reason you don’t do that is because you don’t think you’d win the election if you say that, then maybe you shouldn’t win the election.

DAVIS: No kidding, right.

JAY: And once you buy into that–and I’m including the left front in that, because they went along with that in the final analysis, especially those who ran.

DAVIS: Yeah. It’s–okay, so it’s a debated point. I think you’re right. Was there shenanigans going on there, was there mis-leadership or the–attempt to trick folks.

Here’s the thing that’s amazing about what Syriza has done. It’s put on the map in consciousness around the world about how–what austerity is, and the logic behind austerity. And if they’ve done nothing else, to expose the colonialized logic of austerity and start to mobilize a democratic zeitgeist or a democratic ethos, then I see it as a potential success not maybe in parliamentary terms, but a success in terms of being able to energize and mobilize a larger consciousness about what is neoliberalism, and what are those demands, and how that contradicts basic democratic principles.

But you’re right, I mean, it’s a little bit of a problem if you think they’re running on a platform that says we’re going to stay in the EU, and not take seriously rejecting further measures of austerity. I mean, it’s an impossible contradiction, in a way.

JAY: I mean it’s kind of a–I mean, we were doing interviews about this before Syriza won, when they were leading in the polls. And we were discussing exactly this. There’s just no way to achieve getting rid of the conditionality of the loans and stay in the Eurozone. It was clear that the Germans are never going to allow that. Maybe if you had real leverage, in other words, you were so organized to leave that maybe they wouldn’t have put the same kind of pressure on you and you would have gotten a better deal.

But I guess kind of what I’m saying is that Tsipras actually was consistent. Like he said, we’re going to stay, we’re going to do the best we can to stay. But we’re going to stay. And you may not like the deal, but he did what he said he was going to do.

DAVIS: But Paul, doesn’t this leave open the option potentially of Tsipras organizing a plan B, and that that would be the only way to keep the left platform in Syriza, is you take these funds that you’re getting and you’re organizing a plan B.

Now, once the Troika or the EU gets wind of this they will immediately cut off funds. Because that’s one of the measures of the deal that was just struck in the wee morning hours this morning. If there’s any kind of duplicity on the part–or if the EU senses that Tsipras is trying to rally the troops to get out, the plan B of the Grexit, then the funds will be immediately cut off.

So here you have–ultimately I think Tsipras is kind of trying to stay in power, but doing it in a very kind of centrist position. And that’s not what the platform of Syriza was about after all. It’s been neoliberalized, if you like.

JAY: Well I guess this is sort of some sample of the kind of discussion and debate that’s going to take place at the Democracy Rising conference over the weekend. So tune in, I hope we’re going to livestream it if we get the technology working. If we don’t we’ll certainly be mounting some reports. But I think we’re going to make it work. So look for it–.

DAVIS: Absolutely. And you, Paul, you need to get over here too. So it’ll be great to have you.

JAY: All right. Thanks very much for joining us, Creston.

DAVIS: Thank you. Okay, bye now.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

End

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