by Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 10
November 2020

Yanis Varoufakis is right to be wary of Biden

by Peter Franklin

Begrudging. Sulky. Alienated. Angry. No, not Donald Trump’s demeanour over the last few days — but the attitude of the radical Left to Joe Biden’s victory.

Owen Jones set the tone in The Guardian with a big bucket of cold water. Then there was Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, interviewed by the New York Times, and sounding less than overjoyed: “I’m serious when I tell people the odds of me running for higher office and the odds of me just going off trying to start a homestead somewhere — they’re probably the same.”

I guess you can’t blame them. If you were expecting to get Bernie Sanders into the White House and Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street and you end up with Sleepy Joe and Bumbling Boris… well, it’s the hope that kills you.

  Our interview back in April with Yanis Varoufakis

However, there’s one comrade offering more than existential angst — and that’s Yanis Varoufakis. Writing for The Guardian he makes the excellent point that the Biden Presidency better not be a return to normality, because that’s what got Trump elected in the first place.

What Varoufakis means by normality is encapsulated in his perfect summary of contemporary capitalism:

“After the crash of 2008, big business deployed the central bank money that re-floated Wall Street to buy back their own shares, sending share prices (and, naturally, their directors’ bonuses) through the stratosphere while starving Main Street of serious investment in good-quality jobs. A majority of Americans were thus treated, in quick succession, to negative equity, home repossessions, collapsing pension kitties and casualised work…”
- Yanis Varoufakis, The Guardian

He then points out that Donald Trump not only exploited the unhappiness of American workers, he did something about it — in his own deeply flawed fashion:

“Trump combines gross incompetence with rare competence. On the one hand, he cannot string two decent sentences together to make a point, and has failed spectacularly to protect millions of Americans from Covid-19. But, on the other hand, he tore up Nafta, the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement that took decades to put together. Remarkably, he replaced it swiftly with one that is certainly not worse – at least from the perspective of American blue-collar workers…”
- Yanis Varoufakis, The Guardian

His aversion to war was another bonus.

Varoufakis is still glad that Trump was beaten. Indeed, in his interview with UnHerd, he made it crystal clear that the Left must not go down a national populist path. Nevertheless, he admits an uncomfortable truth: “The tragedy of progressives is that Trump’s supporters are not entirely wrong.” What they realise is that “the rich Democrats behind the Biden-Harris ticket won’t ever truly change conditions for the poor.”

We’ll soon see if that’s right. But one thing we can say about Trump is that he did challenge the system. He did so inconsistently and incompletely — and there was a whole load of other rubbish we could have done without. Yet, in respect to both domestic and foreign policy, he showed us all that a different world is possible.

As another problematic man once said when likening a “woman’s preaching” to a dog walking on its hind legs, “it is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

Join the discussion

  • It seems to me that he’s an old-school Socialist that believes in redistribution of wealth but has a healthy cynicism about the ‘progressive/liberal’ political class that holds so much power in the West.

  • I should like to hear him say the following: practical measures are always in opposition to the Marxist Utopia; therefore the latter always involves levels of suffering which make it a nonsense and a non-starter. With this point in mind, arising from the logical understanding of experience, I propose the immediate dismantling of another Utopian project: the EU as it currently stands. It should be reduced to a number of trade preferences and all its pretensions to statehood should be annulled. Moneys lavished on its bloated, duplicate bureaucracy should be used to lower tax, pay debt and assist the poor, whilst helping to fund the necessary defence of Europe against invasive levels of migration. Migration control is among the most important protections of the poor in the real world. It prevents the cheapening of labour; it devotes public service to the people who have paid for it and it allows for the creation of a skilled, settled, contented workforce. In addition, we should recognise that purist free trade touted since the nineties has outsourced jobs and left western economies dangerously lob-sided and denuded of necessary resources in times of danger. Any nation must be prepared to defend its people given the dangers inherent in this world; and this means a degree of protection, allowing for local heavy industry and local production of food – falling well short – of course – of any attempt at total self-sufficiency. However, we should stop those economic policies which enrich our enemies and impoverish our own. We should above all bear in mind Corelli Barnett’s advice that a nation needs to recall its status as a collective enterprise, pivoting between doctrines but giving way to none of them in their unrealistic entirety. The world will always be more complex than a theory. That’s what he should say, at least, for that is where the tendency of his observations appears to be leading.

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