Friday, November 6, 2015

Varoufakis: Talking the Talk.



Yanis Varoufakis certainly talks the talk. Above (h/t Charlie Tan) is him "in conversation with Aaron Bastani".

Around 6:00 minutes into the interview, Varoufakis says:
"One of my convictions is that the Left lost the battle in the early part of the 20th century by abandoning Marx's commitment to the concept of emancipation and liberty."
Not bad. Not bad at all. [*]



Varoufakis does his best to distance himself from social democracy. That's understandable: the stench of social democracy has become deadly, particularly in Greece. He mentions some highly toxic names (Blair, Brown and PASOK), emblematic of social democracy. Although he could have mentioned others, those three names are enough. Few would like to be seen in such company.

Varoufakis reiterates his views a few minutes later. In reply to one of Bastani's comments ("So the fact is that you are a radical social-democrat, then?"), Varoufakis again emphatically rejects that association:
"Well, look, I would never call myself a social democrat, because social democracy has been such a poisonous political force."
I'll leave others to judge how convincing Varoufakis' forsaking of social democracy was and how well he walks the walk.

Me, I find little to disagree in his appraisal of social democracy and social democrats (although, upon describing them, perhaps I would have used a more vigorous language, including some colourful expletives).

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Varoufakis' assessment of social democracy, however, is incomplete. The Left did not just abandon Marx. There were reasons for that: The Left was betrayed … among others, by social democracy.

Around 16:57 into the conversation, answering one of Bastani's questions, Varoufakis says:
"The problem with the depoliticisation of power is not that it [i.e. power] becomes apolitical, but it becomes authoritarian".
He doesn't make the connection, but that was social democracy's greatest achievement: to fool the working class into believing that class conflict was a thing of the past. Social democracy supposedly meant an end to class war. Solutions were easy, a patch here, another there; leave that to the experts, the technocrats. Leave that to the Keynesian economists, in other words. Everybody wins.

That has a name: liberal democracy with welfare state. You vote, alright, either for an overtly pro-capitalist party, or for a covertly pro-capitalist party. New Democracy or PASOK, Labour or Tory, Coalition or Labor, Republican or Democrat, PSD or CDU, PP or PSOE. You have a choice: bad or worse?

Either you sell your labour power or you starve. Everything according to law and freedom.

Just beware your free choices interfere with the market, or they change the law.

Capitalists, however, were not so easily fooled: "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."

And they are doing that with a little help from their social democratic friends.


[*] Towards the end of the interview, the conversation touches on Paul Mason's post-capitalism, about which I know nothing; thus, I'll leave this out of this comment.

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