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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

Yanis Varoufakis: DiEM25 Launched In Berlin, “Europe will be democratised, or it will disintegrate.”

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Official site:  DiEM25

‘Erratic Marxist’ takes on ‘confederacy of myopic politicians’

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has launched a pan-European movement designed to “democratize” the EU within a decade. Naomi Conrad reports from Berlin. Deutsche Welle.

Tuesday’s event at Berlin’s imposing Volksbühne, famous for its long tradition of radical left-wing productions, had been long sold out. Yanis Varoufakis, a self-proclaimed “erratic Marxist” who promised to take on the European Union was the reason for the rush.

It was his “duty” to do so, he told a packed audience. Otherwise, the EU would “disintegrate”.

The economics professor rose to fame when he was appointed as finance minister by Greece’s left-wing Syriza party last year. He famously clashed with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schäuble, as he tried to defy German-backed European austerity policies.

Finally, with a third bailout on the table, which imposed further rather than less austerity measures, Varoufakis resigned his post and broke with Syriza.

But now the economist turned maverick politician is trying to reclaim the political arena with Berlin launch of his grassroots pan-European movement. Varoufakis calls the movement “a broad coalition of radical democrats,” which intends to “democratize” the European Union – and indeed revolutionize the 28-member bloc.

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has launched a new pan-European umbrella group that aims to pull together leftwing parties, grassroots protest movements and “rebel regions” from across the continent.

….

He was joined on stage by leader of the left-wing party “Die Linke,” Katja Kipping, British MP Caroline Lucas and Irish MEP Nessa Childers, among others.

The movement is not without its critics: In an open letter published on his website, Sven Giegold, a member of the European Parliament for the Green Party, called Varoufakis’ comments “disrespectful and populist.” He also slammed the manifesto for lacking transparency, pointing out that it was unclear who decided on the final version of the document.

But nevertheless, the number of those who signed up to the petition continued to grow on Tuesday evening. By late evening, more than 3,200 people had signed up.

The Guardian reports.

At the launch on Tuesday night, Varoufakis said that the new DiEM25 movement would “shake Europe – gently, compassionately, but firmly”. “Europe will be democratised, or it will disintegrate, and it will do so quite fast”, the self-described “erratic Marxist” said, warning of a return to a “postmodern version of the 1930s”.

The evening at Berlin’s Volksbühne theatre, also featured speeches from Barcelona’s mayor, Ada Colau, British Green MP Caroline Lucas, representatives of Germany’s Blockupy movement, as well as musician Brian Eno, philosopher Slavoj Žižek and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. “When parliaments become theatres, we have to turn theatres into parliaments”, said Miguel Urbán Crespo, an MEP for Spain’s Podemos party.

In an article published in the Guardian last week, Varoufakis said the DiEM25 group would lobby for more transparent processes in European decision-making, including live-streaming of council meetings and full disclosure of trade negotiation documents.

“Our medium-term goal is to convene a constitutional assembly where Europeans will deliberate on how to bring forth, by 2025, a full-fledged European democracy, featuring a sovereign parliament that respects national self-determination and shares power with national parliaments, regional assemblies and municipal councils”, said the economist academic, who resigned from government in July last year after a series of run-ins with other European finance ministers.

“One simple, radical idea is our motivating force: to democratise Europe in the knowledge that the EU will either be democratised or it will disintegrate at a terrible cost to all.”

In the run-up to its launch, DiEM25 drew some criticism from activists, some of them asking whether it represented an agenda already covered by other pro-transparency and anti-austerity party groups in the European parliament. Sven Giegold, a German Green MEP, called Varoufakis “populist and disrespectful” in an open letter. In another open letter, a Blockupy activist criticised DiEM25 for charging €12 (£9.30) for its launch event.

DiEM25: Der Zerfall Europas muss gestoppt werden

Neue Bewegung beginnt Debatte über Demokratisierung der EU von unten / Warnung vor neuem Nationalismus.

Neues deutschland

This is important:  A Critique Of Yanis Varoufakis’ Democracy In Europe Movement (DiEM25)  on 9 February 2016.

Before reading this it is well to bear in mind that Fazi avoids the potentially dangerous trap of talking about “sovereignty”.

How many gallons of pen, Biro and printers’ ink have been spilt over the idea of that a sovereign ‘general will’  is the basis  of democracy will never be counted. As a philosophical construct it has never been pinned down. It took a liberal Benjamin Constant to point out in the 19th century that Rousseau’s concept had never been seen in the flesh for all its rampages in the mouths of politicians  (Principes de politique applicables à tous les gouvernements représentatifs1815). The sovereignty of Nations should have gone the way of Sovereigns. That it s a Monster, something we glimpse out of the corner of the eye in books, is all too rapidly seen when rears its head as a blood spitting beast in Wars. Its use is doing intolerable damage to debate about the European Union.

Democracy, the free capacity to make, through majorities, through voting,  collective decisions, is about majorities, and mundane institutions, not abstractions, nations and Sovereignty.

As a democratic Marxist this Blog tends to agree with Hal Draper,

Marx and Engels always saw the two sides of the complex of democratic institutions and rights which arose under bourgeois democracy. The two sides corresponded to the two classes which fought it out within this framework. One side was the utilization of democratic forms as a cheap and versatile means of keeping the exploited masses from shaking the system, of providing the illusion of participation in the state while the economic sway of the ruling class ensured the real centres of power. This was the side of the “democratic swindle”. The other side was the struggle to give the democratic forms a new social (class) content, above all by pushing them to the democratic extreme of popular control from below, which in turn entailed extending the application of democratic forms out of the merely political sphere into the organization of the whole society.

Here is Fazi:

…much as I share the movement’s spirit, I also consider its strategy and general goals – as presented in the manifesto and in various interviews by Varoufakis – to be rather problematic, for reasons that I will try to explain. The idea that the European Left should aim for a radical, progressive overhaul of Europe’s institutions – rather than their rejection – is not new, of course, and has actually been the consensus among European progressive/leftist movements all throughout the crisis – and still i.s, I would imagine, despite the recent rise of left-wing euro-scepticism.

Discussing the problems of ‘oligarchic capture’, which Fazia argues affects the European Parliament even more than the already compromised national ones, he observes that cultural and linguistic differences exacerbate the problems in Europe. He then states, ” any debate about the ‘parliamentarisation’ of the EU needs to take into account the crucial difference between the formal electoral-representative process and true popular control”. He notes the ” lobbying and to the revolving doors issue – not just between big businesses and regulatory agencies but also between big businesses and elected offices.”

“In general terms, they point to a wider crisis of electoral-representative democracy. It is widely agreed that in recent decades we have witnessed a ‘hollowing out’ of democracy and sovereignty at the national level. In the long-established democracies of Western Europe, electoral turnouts are in decline and membership is shrinking in all major parties. This is particularly evident in Europe, for obvious reasons. Colin Crouch coined the term ‘post-democracy’ to describe this new normal, defined as a society that continues to have and to use all the institutions of democracy, but in which they increasingly become a formal shell, and the energy and innovative drive pass away from the democratic arena and into small circles of a politico-economic elite. There are generally two ways of framing this phenomenon. One is that this is a somewhat inevitable – one may even say ‘natural’ – result of economic and political internationalisation, which has seriously eroded the ability of individual countries to decide their own destinies, and thus of national electoral-representative systems to formulate a general will that can bend the institutions of public power to sovereign ends. According to this narrative, the shift – in the European context – from a multiplicity of (increasingly powerless and non-sovereign) national democracies to a single (and truly sovereign) European supranational democracy is inevitable, whether we like it or not.

This really is a big issue. But internationalists have no way of avoiding the issue: is super, or supra-national democrcay possible?

But there is another way of framing of the shift towards post-democracy. And that is that this isn’t the inevitable consequence of ‘global dynamics’ but – as acknowledged even in the DiEM25 manifesto – the result of an explicit process of ‘depoliticisation’ aimed at removing macroeconomic policy from democratic control and putting crucial areas of administration – such as monetary and fiscal policy – outside of political contestation. In this sense, the EMU can be considered the most extreme form of depoliticisation ever attempted. According to this narrative, the depoliticisation of individual nation states – including through a self-imposed reduction of their ‘sovereignty’, understood as the expression of popular will  – can be understood as a way to roll back the democratic and social/economic gains that had previously been achieved by subordinate classes. If that is the case, are we sure that further ‘democratising’ the institutions of the EU/EMU is truly the best way forward?

I am not sure about “post democracy”, undemocratic would be a better term.

Moreover, even if we accept that the failure of national electoral-representative systems is a historically determined fact and that there is no alternative to democratising the EU – that is, if we accept DiEM25’s basic premise – I would question the effectiveness of the movement’s ‘pan-European’ strategy. DiEM purports to change Europe’s system of governance ‘from the outside’ – i.e., at an institutionally non-existent pan-European level – but effectively all the major decisions are still taken at the inter-governmental level. This means that, realistically speaking, any serious structural change – such as a true ‘democratisation’ of the system – requires national governments agreeing to such a change. If not, how else? And if so, isn’t a strategy that deems the national level to be politically irrelevant – as implied by Varoufakis – inevitably doomed to fail? Isn’t there a risk of creating a pan-European movement that is culturally relevant but politically marginal?

Or, to put it bluntly: what political forces can DiEM25 muster behind itself?

Before pointing to the need to read the full well-thought out article these are some crucial issues Fazia points to,

DiEM25’s manifesto offers little insight as to the position that European progressive movements should take with regard to the authoritarian, top-down ‘federal’ integration being proposed and pursued by the EU establishment (exemplified by Schäuble’s proposed ‘fiscal union’, for example). Would Varoufakis agree with the notion that any further integration should be considered desirable only if, when, and to the extent that it is accompanied by the enhancement of popular control at a local, national, and supranational level, and that the current processes of top-down integration should be opposed?

Finally, DiEM’s approach takes the survival of the EU/EMU for granted. But that remains to be seen. By concentrating on the reform of existing European institutions, isn’t there a risk for the Left of finding itself dangerously unprepared in the face of an unforeseen implosion of the monetary union? Especially if we take into account that there is little reason to believe that Germany and the other countries of the ‘ordoliberal bloc’ would yield to a reform of the EMU in a more Keynesian, progressive direction, even in the unlikely event that we could get a sufficient number of countries to back such a proposal. If such a situation should emerge, the most likely outcome would be a German exit from the monetary union (leading to a possible collapse of the entire currency system).

 Which leads back to the issue already signaled: the need for a left majority in Europe remains in the shadow of an embedded policy of monetary orthodoxy.

How to shatter that is, to say the least, a major problem.

One thing is certain: in the UK leaving the European Union with an even more entrenched orthodox economic framework intact with the hard-right even more in the ascendant,  will make challenging it much much harder.

Meanwhile this French commentator, CÉDRIC ENJALBERT, (Philosophie Magazine) sees the DiEM25 movement as an extension of Kant’s Enlightenment Cosmopolitanism and Project for Perpetual Peace:

L’ex-ministre des finances grec Yánis Varoufákis lance un nouveau mouvement européen. DIEM25 entend revitaliser l’espoir démocratique en Europe en fédérant les consciences politiques de la société civile sur le continent, dans l’esprit cosmopolitique du projet de paix perpétuelle hérité des Lumières.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 10, 2016 at 2:05 pm