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 “.
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Written by Andrew Coates

October 30, 2018 at 6:21 pm

Out of the Wreckage. A New Politics for an Age of Crisis. George Monbiot. A Socialist Review.

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Image result for Out of the Wreckage. A New Politics for an Age of Crisis. George Monbiot. Verso 2017.

 

Out of the Wreckage. A New Politics for an Age of Crisis. George Monbiot. Verso 2017.

A feature of some left wing groups, which persists well beyond adolescence, is the imaginary friend. For decades this companion has been The Working Class. Uncorrupted by bureaucrats (that is, elected trade union leaderships), the proletariat, is not so much a collection of people whose needs and demands are the springboard for socialist politics, as a byword for all the virtues.

More recently, the daughters and sons of toil have been joined by a new comrade, the Nation, or rather certain Nations. The last months have seen Catalonia occupy centre stage. According to a recent article in Red Pepper the Catalans are blessed with not just a run of the mill ‘civic nationalism’ but “The opposite of nationalism” participatory democracy with a “project for social transformation.” (Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte)

George Monbiot is the author of The Captive State (2000). That book was one of the first to offer systematic criticisms of the growing influence of corporate power on British public institutions. Long before it became the fashion he signalled the faults of the Private Finance Initiative, introduced under Tony Blair, which transferred “control and ownership of the nation’s critical infrastructure to private business” (1) Monbiot concluded that governments should reassert their control over corporations, leaving it rather vague as to how exactly “troublemaking” would achieve that goal.

Now in Out of the Wreckage the author, whose works include A Manifesto for a New World Order (2003), that proposed more concrete measures to regulate international trae, and to create a World Parliament,  has discovered a friend. This is The Community. We are faced with the ravages of neo-liberal globalisation, a system that “puts a price on everything and a value on nothing”, and promotes economic development above human welfare. Our connections with our “neighbours and neighbourhoods” are weakened to point where there is an epidemic of loneliness. There is “social breakdown”.

Togetherness and Belonging.

What could be the answer? Two “great healing forces – togetherness and belonging” should make way for a “thriving civic life” animated by “altruism and mutual aid”. (Page 25) Our new best mate is “community life”, aka, Good Fellowship.

In Out of the Wreckage there are flashes of Monbiot’s perceptive approach to the destructive influence of business culture on public life. He describes many workplaces where people are dominated by a “humiliating regime of impossible requirements, meaningless exhortation and panoptical monitoring”. Those on benefits are subject to similar rules (Page 59).

But does he seriously think that social media, that is Facebook, has the following effect: “It intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves”? (Page 63) That our friends’ FB photos (which personally I enjoy seeing) are some kind of competition between “idealised images”?

The merits of Monbiot’s advocacy of Community Ownership, Universal Basic Income, Participatory Budgets (for municipalities), Electoral reform – he advocates The Single Transferable Vote, can no doubt by discussed. As can some kind of post-Proudhon world federalism, though one suspects that the era of Cosmopolitan Democracy is not about to dawn.

Sanders’s Giant Live Experiment.

Far less clear is the idea that European social democracy, and the British Labour Party in particular, has much to learn from the Bernie Sander’s Campaign, a “gigantic live experiment”. Sanders did not grapple between principle and election. He did not stand for the Presidential election, and his programme would, in European terms, put him somewhere on the right wing of most of our left parties, not far to the left of Progress in the UK.

Sanders’ Big Organising – the US talent for marketing is undisputed – is surely a good technique. Readers who have helped put on or attended demonstrations over the years, or decades, will be impressed by suggestions about shorter speeches and adding musical entertainment  with an “energiser”. We learn too that marches ought to be “against the forces we oppose” and, apparently, to show “the better future we envisage”. (Page 174) The ordinary goal of drawing attention to a stand on an issue looks rather humble now.

Despite reference to early 20th century British socialism, the themes of Out of the Wreckage are close to another US approach, communitarianism. That is, the line of thought developed by, amongst others, the political philosopher Michael J Sandel, which envisages an alternative to  the distributive systems of markets by bringing people closer together though a ‘thick’ communal life (What Money Can’t Buy. Michael Sandel. 2012).  Monbiot scorns comparison with David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ of busybody Lords and Lady Bountifuls. It will be based on the Common Weal, “self-motivated networks of volunteers”, grounded upon our “innate urge to cooperate”. Yet to achieve that end, “enlarging the commons” there will probably be “conflict with both the state and corporations.” (Page 99)

So, Monbiot wants co-operation but the path to it can only be through fights. Does this stop after we Have Come Home to Ourselves? Chantal Mouffe has observed that politics are not just a transient clashes but are marked by “the permanence of conflicts which cannot have a rational solution”. It does not take much thought to see that this ‘agonistic’ aspect of politics applies to communities – let us begin with religious groups…- as much as to the elected institutions of pluralist democracy (2)

We do not need a new made up friend, Community. The democratic socialist position on the free market erosion of democracy and equality is simpler. It is to advance public provision for public goods, in conditions of equality, through the democratic institutions which we can influence. That is, not just communities outside the state, but through it. That is, secured if need be, against the opposition of the ruling forces, the political embodiments of one class interest, by those very far from imaginary forces that make the left, the labour movement and the Labour Party.

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(1) Page 91. Captive State. The Corporate Takeover of Britain, George Monbiot. Macmillan. 2000.
(2) Page 138. Agonistics. Thing the World Politically. Chantal Mouffe Verso. 2013.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 7, 2017 at 12:25 pm