5 Questions with... Marc Botenga

Marc Botenga (BE, GUE/NGL) is a member of Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee.
Marc Botenga | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

1. Who have you worked with that has most inspired you in your career, and how?

I worked with community-based health workers in several developing countries, from the DR Congo to the Philippines. Their unyielding commitment, and struggles for health as a basic human right, in unimaginably difficult conditions are a constant inspiration.

2. What one item would you save from your house or apartment if it was on fire? (Apart from your photo album)

A vinyl record player I was entrusted with.

3. How would you describe your political/leadership style in three words?

Not me, us. I do not believe you can bring about real social change by yourself, without a strong squad, or without popular mobilisation, particularly when fighting for a fundamentally different Europe, grassroots, extra parliamentary and collective action is fundamental. We are not here just to push a button or talk. That’s not leadership. As an MEP, you have to get out of this parliamentary enclosure, go out and have conversations with workers and people throughout Europe. European port workers succeeded in stopping the liberalisation of their status. How? National mobilisations, European mobilisations, national strikes, European strikes.

4. Is there anything you have personally achieved or done that would surprise people?

Depends who you ask. I think most achievements are the result of collective efforts. So much of what you are able to achieve depends on social and economic background. Equal opportunities are more a slogan than a reality. However, throughout my election campaign, we created a big surprise by becoming the first ever Marxist party from Belgium elected to the European parliament. It was a marvellous collective achievement, but still a surprise.

5. What was the most inspirational and influential book you have ever read and why?

Choosing one book is tough. I think the collection of cables from Wiki-leaks in “The Wikileaks Files” has been one of the most eye-opening accounts of what Western foreign policy actually looks like, when you go beyond the rhetoric of human rights. Considering the continuing imprisonment of Julian Assange, that book keeps all of its relevance as a statement in favour of press freedom. But then again, we recently celebrated 200 years of Karl Marx, and in the light of the current economic crisis, and indeed the disastrous impact on our health systems of neoliberal policies, his work certainly deserves to be looked at again.

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