The Punk Rock Philosopher
SREĆKO HORVAT DOESN’T CARRY THE TRADITIONAL TRAPPINGS of a political philosopher. You won’t see him at opera houses or rubbing elbows in a smokey Parisian cafe. As a teenager, he played in a hardcore punk band, Resume. He credits his political awakening to those days.
“The underground scene was my first politicization,” Horvat says. “It was the first time that I was involved in collective action.”
As a child, Horvat saw his country, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, tear itself apart in an explosion of nationalism and ethnic infighting. With Brexit and the rise of far-right nationalism, he sees a similar threat looming—this time, to the European Union—and hopes to stop history from repeating itself.
“It is not nationalism that could change the European Union,” says Horvat, who is running for a seat in the European Parliament from Germany. “It is the incompetence of the European establishment that might play into the hands of nationalists.”
When it comes to Germany—a country where immigration is a primary concern for voters —the 36-year-old Croat thinks his message could resonate, in part because he is no stranger to Germany. His own family was forced to leave Yugoslavia and take up exile in Munich after his father was sent to prison for political reasons.
“I know very well what it means to be a foreigner, an auslander, in Germany,” Horvat said in a video on the YouTube page of the movement he co-founded with former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, DiEM25.
Part of the reason which led Horvat to launch DiEM25 was to correct what he sees as the failure of the left to speak the language of the working class. He points a finger at liberal and social democratic parties across the continent that have abandoned their traditional voter base in an age of deindustrialization. DiEM25 wants to win that base back and unite the left wing of European politics, which has suffered electorally in Europe over the past few years.
Despite not pursuing academia, Horvat still writes voraciously. When not contributing to The New York Times or The Guardian, he is busy writing books, which have been translated into English, French, German and Spanish.
His latest work, Poetry From The Future, examines the current state of democracy around the world and argues that the only way forward is through more direct democracy and internationalism.
These days, the future is on Horvat’s mind. While he says there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic—from the recent youth protests against climate change, to the wave of female politicians being elected to the US House of Representatives in 2018—much of his recent attention has centered around a more gloomy prospect, the apocalypse.
He ends with a thought that would be horrifying to anyone from a coastal nation, like his native Croatia. “I think more and more that we might be the last generation to eat fish from the ocean.”
This article appears in Are We Europe #4: This Is Not An Elections Issue