Tendance Coatesy

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Sanders and Varoufakis to launch ‘Progressive International’ “Green, Radical Left and……..Liberal”?

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Nobody could accuse them of lacking ambition!

Sanders and Varoufakis to Launch Progressive International

Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek finance minister, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are teaming up to launch a new initiative for common international action by progressives.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is teaming up with former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis to formally launch a new “Progressives International” in Vermont on Nov. 30, Varoufakis said in Rome on Friday.

Varoufakis, who made the announcement during a Friday press conference in Rome, told BuzzFeed News they were also inviting incoming Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador to join the new movement. (López Obrador spokesperson Jesús Ramírez told BuzzFeed News he had received no “formal invitation” to “join a “progressive international” front.)

Varoufakis described the initiative in part as an attempt to counter the work that Steve Bannon, who also made an appearance in Rome last month, has been doing to help nationalists forge a united front in elections for the European Union’s parliament next spring. Varoufakis also accused immigration critics like Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer of being part of an extremist alliance.

“The financiers are internationalists. The fascists, the nationalists, the racists — like Trump, Bannon, Seehofer, Salvini — they are internationalists,” Varoufakis said. “They bind together. The only people who are failing are progressives.

Sanders and Varoufakis Announce Alliance to Craft ‘Common Blueprint for an International New Deal’

The pair hopes to promote a “progressive, ecological, feminist, humanist, rational program” for not only Europe, but the entire world

After arguing in a pair of Guardian op-eds last month that a worldwide progressive movement is needed to counter the unifying rightwing “that sprang out of the cesspool of financialized capitalism,” former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis announced in Rome on Friday that he and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) plan to officially launch “Progressives International” in the senator’s state on Nov. 30.

Varoufakis told BuzzFeed News that the movement aims to challenge an emerging extremist alliance of nationalist political figures—from immigration critics such as Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini and German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to President Donald Trump’s ex-White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who is working to garner voter support for rightwing parties ahead of the May 2019 European Parliament elections.

“The financiers are internationalists. The fascists, the nationalists, the racists—like Trump, Bannon, Seehofer, Salvini—they are internationalists,” Varoufakis said. “They bind together. The only people who are failing are progressives.”

As Sanders wrote in the Guardian, “At a time of massive global wealth and income inequality, oligarchy, rising authoritarianism, and militarism, we need a Progressive International movement to counter these threats.” Warning that “the fate of the world is at stake,” the senator called for “an international progressive agenda that brings working people together around a vision of shared prosperity, security, and dignity for all people.”

Varoufakis, denouncing the global “brotherhood” of financiers and “xenophobic rightwing zealots” who foment divisiveness to control wealth and politics, said in the Guardian that those who join the movement “need to do more than campaign together,” and proposed the formation of “a common council that draws out a common blueprint for an International New Deal, a progressive New Bretton Woods.”

In addition to the forthcoming progressive alliance—which incoming Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, will reportedly be invited to join—Varoufakis is leading the campaign efforts of European Spring, a new progressive political party, for the upcoming European Parliament elections.

As a European Democratic Socialist – and leftist – it is hard to know what the  term “progressive” means.

In our Continent, the word still has associations with the old Communist Parties and their fellow travellers, often called ‘progressives’. Or, to put it simply, progressive was used to embrace a broad swathe of potential allies. For very obvious reasons this usage is not just out of fashion today, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

More recently. the right-wing of Labour (Progress) , and Emmanuel Macron, are fond  of calling themselves ‘progressives’ .

Both of these usages would put off many left-wingers for a start!

The word reeks.

Yet, apparently in the US ‘progressive’ is  linked to the most liberal wing of the Democrat Party.

I believe that in its origins in US political thought  progressive refers to a broad stream of thinkers, from Transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, to advanced liberals like John Dewey and, more recently Barack Obama.

If it has any meaning the word appears to signify,  “support for or advocacy of improvement of society by reform””, which does not get us very fa.Not when just about privatising fiddle in the UK is called a “reform” for the better.

Still, ‘reform’ could, at a pinch, be extended with more hopeful connotations, to the left, including Sander’s wing of the Democrats.

The Democratic Socialists of America use the word, “the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States. DSA’s members are building progressive movements for social change while establishing an openly democratic socialist presence in American communities and politics.”

The European Spring alliance promoted by the Greek former Finance Minister certainly is “progressive” in this sense.That is, if one talks up ‘movement’enough to include self-important commissions and top-heavy public events.

This ‘alliance’ was built originally by DiEM25:

DiEM25 is a pan-European, cross-border movement of democrats.

We believe that the European Union is disintegrating. Europeans are losing their faith in the possibility of European solutions to European problems. At the same time as faith in the EU is waning, we see a rise of misanthropy, xenophobia and toxic nationalism.

If this development is not stopped, we fear a return to the 1930s. That is why we have come together despite our diverse political traditions – Green, radical left, liberal – in order to repair the EU. The EU needs to become a realm of shared prosperity, peace and solidarity for all Europeans. We must act quickly, before the EU disintegrates.

But how many on the left, who  identify with the various strands of democratic socialism, would wish to be in an alliance with liberals? Or indeed, for all the fact that there is  larger constituency who identify with the US Sanders left, or are at least encourage by the fact that it exists, at all, how many  would wish to drop their allegiances to parties like the British Labour Party, and the very long list of European left parties, to join up with a movement headed by these  two individuals on the strength of a few articles in the Guardian?

Assuming that they have read them…..a brief trawl in the French language reveals no trace of this ‘international’ to begin with.

The European Spring Alliance, of “democrats of all political persuasions” does not seem to have much of a basis either.

Their support, such as they are, include (indeed is limited to) for France  Nouvelle Donne.

We are informed the party was named after the US ‘new Deal’ (which is not how I would translate a term normally referring to a ‘new fact*), an experience far from the forefront of the French Left’s collective memory.

Nouvelle Donne is  a classic French political ‘club’, around Pierre Larrouturou. He and his friends have  spent a couple of decades on the fringes of the Parti Socialiste (unsuccessfully bidding for influence  as a ‘current’) and the French Greens, to mention only a few. It has had two elected figures, David Derouet,  who was the Mayor of Fleury-Mérogis until 2017 and Fabienne Grébert, a regional councillor in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

A more serious force, Génération.s, (which claims, optimistically, 60,000 members), one MP, three MEPs and one Senator, was founded by former French Socialist Presidential candidate  Benoît Hamon (6.36% of the vote in the first round), also forms part of the  DiEM25 sponsored European Spring.
That is, after trying for an alliance with the French Greens (EREV) and,  and various leftist  strands described as “« altereuropéennnes »..At one point Mélenchon offered him negotiations .

Two days ago we learnt that Hamon has called his own list of “citizen candidates” outside of the old party machines. He is now  negotiating with the centre-left intellectual Raphaël Glucksmann in the tradition of Michel Rocard (he is also the son of the New Philosopher André Glucksman).

Le mouvement Générations fondé par Benoît Hamon a lancé lundi un appel à candidatures citoyennes pour une liste aux élections européennes située “en dehors des vieux appareils partisans”, une initiative compatible avec la création de “Place publique” par Raphaël Glucksmann

Européennes : Générations de Benoît Hamon lance un appel à candidatures citoyennes

Génération-s may maintain links with The European Spring (though it is unlikely the presence of Nouvelle Donne is welcome).

Facing at least 5 (f not more)  other left-wing or green lists in next year’s European elections, very few people give Hamon’s group and allies much of chance of winning seats.

Experienced commentators (that is, my good self) predict Hamon is going nowhere.

The forces that could be brought together by this new international could include the European Spring. This, at least according to Wikipedia involves  such strange bedfellows as the substantial  Czech Pirate Party the Danish Green splinter party, Alternativet and a Spanish initiative Actúa which seems largely a discussion and networking group (“un espacio de reflexión, debate cívico e intervención política”) outside  the main force of the left, Podemos. Not to mention others…. I’d lay a hefty wager they are not part of the central core of the European left….

Any residual sympathy one might have for this lot evaporates at the sight of this list of supporters behind DiEM25:

Nor is this just a matter of a few signatures:

The more I find out about this, the less I like it:

Tue 10, 2018, 
Update: * Nouvelle Donne according to my trusty Petit Robert, means the, snappy, ” new hand of cards “.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 30, 2018 at 6:21 pm

5 Responses

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  1. I’m all for a leftist international, even one that includes both the center and far left (I consider myself a far leftist, for the record) but I admit, as an American who’s never lived in Europe, I actually am totally ignorant on European political parlance and how feasible this would be in Europe. I also don’t even know most of the people on that list, and don’t understand why they’re a problem. Like why is Julian Assange a problem, or Ada Colau (from what I read on Wikipedia, she seems like a very good person for the left to associate with?)? Or any of those other people? This is an honest question, this is not a challenge, I actually don’t know what the issue is with the people on the list. Sorry if its something painfully obvious and I’m just ignorant.

    I think getting the new leftist Mexican president on board is an excellent idea, he’s pretty much the last hope for a revived left in Latin America at the moment, since everywhere else is moving to the right and even fascist right (Brazil of course, Argentina, Venezuela, even El Salvador and Nicaragua are, I don’t think I need to detail how ironic that is), but of course, it remains to be seen if he will be any good.

    And one last question, you say this: “A more serious force, Génération.s, (which claims, optimistically, 60,000 members), one MP, three MEPs and one Senator, was founded by former French Socialist Presidential candidate Benoît Hamon (6.36% of the vote in the first round), also forms part of the DiEM25 sponsored European Spring. That is, after trying for an alliance with the French Greens (EREV) and, and various leftist strands described as “« altereuropéennnes »..At one point Mélenchon offered him negotiations .”

    I followed the French elections somewhat, and I know it had two leftist candidates, one from the left wing of the Socialist Party, and Melenchon whos always run to the left of the Socialists. Why were they running against each other, from what I understand, they basically were on the same wavelength? Melenchon of course ate Hamon’s lunch and it just served to split the vote. And Hamon left to form his own party anyway, why didn’t he leave to Melenchon’s party? To an American who knows jackshit on French politics, this seems confusing. What’s the deal?

    Mutally Assurred Destruction

    November 2, 2018 at 9:27 am

  2. Also to explain the “progressive” label, in the US it almost always indicates leftist politics, or really more accurately, center-left politics. However even the “far left” (including Marxists) will call themselves progressives because it’s simply easier and less controversial. The right wing would never in a million years call themselves “progressive” It comes from the “Progressive Movement” that emerged in the late 19th century. It even used to have its own national party, fittingly enough called the “Progressive Party”. Ironically it often was at odds with the Socialist Party, especially Eugene Debs wing, though nowadays many progressives would look up to the early Socialists as examples.

    If this is not the case in Europe, its kind of odd for a European to pick an American-centric term, maybe Bernie Sanders pushed him to do that to make it appeal to Americans?

    Mutally Assurred Destruction

    November 2, 2018 at 9:32 am

  3. To say that it does not appeal to European left-wingers is the least you could say!

    On the BBC today there was this: Tony Blair

    Peter Hennessy invites senior politicians to reflect on their life and times. This week, his guest is Tony Blair, the former prime minister.

    Blair continually used the expression “Progressive” to describe his politics.


    There is also this moribund ‘international’:

    The Progressive Alliance (PA) is a political international of social-democratic and progressive political parties and organisations founded on 22 May 2013 in Leipzig, Germany.[1] The alliance was formed as an alternative to the existing Socialist International, of which many of its member parties are former or current members.[2] The Progressive Alliance claims 140 participants from around the world.


    And, in the UK, promoted by well-meaning people going nowhere, as mish-mash of nationalists (SNP, Plaid Cymru), Greens, and, inevitably, some (guess who…) in Red Pepper).

    It is also moribund.

    The idea of a progressive alliance was mooted[6] in the run-up to the 2015 General Election. For example, the phrase was used by Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish National Party leader, Natalie Bennett, Green Party of England & Wales leader, and Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru leader.[7]

    The idea was also proposed[8][9][10] in the run-up to the 2017 General Election and after the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016, in which the vote to leave the EU (“Brexit”) was won by a small majority. The concept of building cross-party alliances, with the asserted aim of working together to ensure the best possible future for the people and country,[11] was debated at a public meeting entitled “Post-Brexit Alliance Building”[12][13][14] held on 5 July 2016, hosted by Compass. The idea has become linked to opposition to a “hard” Brexit.[15]

    The idea has been taken up by a number of independent organisations.[16][17] The concept has not been adopted as official policy by any political party, but the Green Party of England and Wales have pushed[18] for a coordinated top-down and bottom-up approach to the idea. Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, argued for multiple local alliances for the best party to oppose the Conservatives and with a focus on bringing in electoral reform.[19] Several grassroots organisations,[20] Facebook groups[21][22] and twitter accounts[23] have sprung up with similar names and aims, with tactical voting being encouraged.[24] Compass has been reported as coordinating a campaign group called Progressive Alliance.[25]

    There are no mutually agreed policy aims between the various organisations, but these would likely include electoral reform to change the voting system (e.g. proportional representation). The name itself is somewhat unclear as there is no agreed definition of progressivism in British politics. There are dissenting views[26][27] on the benefits of such an alliance, and debate[28] as to whether it could make a difference to the electoral outcome.[29][30]

    Local campaigns towards standing a single progressive candidate exist in a number of regions,[31] with the Green and Liberal Democrat parties agreeing to stand down candidates in neighbouring constituencies in quid pro quo deals.[32][33] For example, in South West Surrey the National Health Action Party’s Louise Irvine has been selected by public meeting run by the local Compass group to run as a progressive alliance candidate.


    Andrew Coates

    November 2, 2018 at 6:38 pm

  4. Thanks for the Wikipedia blurbs, but you didn’t answer my questions (not that you’re obliged to answer obviously), but was curious as to your objections to the list of people backing this alliance. And I guess this alliance seems more aimed at the US, given its label (Progressive just means left wing social democrat here, it doesn’t mean anything you highlighted over here), which is strange because we don’t need any international alliance here, because we’re just one country. Unless they want to ally progressives across North America, which I’d be in favor of.

    Mutally Assurred Destruction

    November 4, 2018 at 7:34 am

  5. I began with Blair, not a blurb.

    He uses the term all the time.

    It is dead in the water.

    My objections to the list of names would take all day!

    Assange is a petulant and arrogant child who is not on the left at all, and, to go to end of the list, Slavoj Žižek, I wrote this a few years ago:
    Slavoj Žižek: A Radical Critique. Weekly Worker 855 Thursday March 03 2011. https://tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/slavoj-zizek-a-radical-critique/

    Andrew Coates

    November 4, 2018 at 1:56 pm

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