Greece's Former Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, Relates Himself To Bernie Sanders

Greece's Former Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, Relates Himself To Bernie Sanders
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Answers by Yanis Varoufakis, Professor, Greece's former finance minister, and initiator of DiEM25, on Quora.

A: The number one lesson many of us learned during 2015 at the level of European Union, the Eurogroup, etc., is that the old way of doing politics in Europe is obsolete - finished.

The old way was: we set up a party, an organization, or a movement in one country and we work very hard to create a manifesto, an electoral program, or promises of what we are going to do if our compatriots, in Germany, France or Greece, vote us into government. Once elected, it becomes clear that the nation-state we are running lacks the instruments to deliver on our promises. So, at that stage we seek allies with some like-minded parties in Europe.

This tends to be a flimsy alliance. Very soon, and specially at the level of Brussels and the European parliament, it degenerates into a farce.

If this is right and it is true that the nation-state-based political organizations have failed to connect to Europe, to create a conversation that leads to a consensus, and to bind various movements and parties together into a force to be reckoned with as a force capable of addressing Europe's multiple crises, then what is the alternative?

The alternative, I think, is to invert the pyramid. Instead of starting at level of the nation-state and forging an alliance, which is flimsy and brittle, how about starting a movement throughout Europe on the basis of a very clear manifesto that binds us together? How about a movement with some very simple ideas of what we want to do as Europeans?

To begin this conversation, we started in Berlin determined to begin a the conversation Europe has been denied everywhere in Europe. Anyone who respects and feels for our Manifesto, independent of political affiliation or ideology, can join and participate. If this conversation proceeds well, it will be dialectically creative and, as a result of this conversation, it will produce a consensus that will then find expression (including electoral)in the different member-states. The expression can take different forms in different countries depending on the circumstances.


A:DiEM25 has one objective: To democratise the EU in order to preserve and promote Europe as a realm of shared prosperity, peace and solidarity for all Europeans.

As for our vision of this United Democratic Europe, I hope you will allow me to copy here the last segment of DiEM's Manifesto in which we conclude thus:

We are inspired by a Europe of Reason, Liberty, Tolerance and Imagination made possible by comprehensive Transparency, real Solidarity and authentic Democracy. We aspire to:

A Democratic Europe in which all political authority stems from Europe's sovereign peoples

A Transparent Europe where all decision-making takes place under the citizens' scrutiny.

A United Europe whose citizens have as much in common across nations as within them

A Realistic Europe that sets itself the task of radical, yet achievable, democratic reforms

A Decentralised Europe that uses central power to maximise democracy in workplaces, towns, cities, regions and states

A Pluralist Europe of regions, ethnicities, faiths, nations, languages and cultures

An Egalitarian Europe that celebrates difference and ends discrimination based on gender, skin colour, social class or sexual orientation

A Cultured Europe that harnesses its people's cultural diversity and promotes not only its invaluable heritage but also the work of Europe's dissident artists, musicians, writers and poets

A Social Europe that recognises that liberty necessitates not only freedom from interference but also the basic goods that render one free from need and exploitation

A Productive Europe that directs investment into a shared, green prosperity

A Sustainable Europe that lives within the planet's means, minimising its environmental impact, and leaving as much fossil fuel in the earth

An Ecological Europe engaged in genuine world-wide green transition

A Creative Europe that releases the innovative powers of its citizens' imagination

A Technological Europe pressing new technologies in the service of solidarity

A Historically-minded Europe that seeks a bright future without hiding from its past

An Internationalist Europe that treats non-Europeans as ends-in-themselves

A Peaceful Europe de-escalating tensions in its East and in the Mediterranean, acting as a bulwark against the sirens of militarism and expansionism

An Open Europe that is alive to ideas, people and inspiration from all over the world, recognising fences and borders as signs of weakness spreading insecurity in the name of security

A Liberated Europe where privilege, prejudice, deprivation and the threat of violence wither, allowing Europeans to be born into fewer stereotypical roles, to enjoy even chances to develop their potential, and to be free to choose more of their partners in life, work and society.


A: The great difference between us is that Bernie is running for the Presidency of a social economy that is far more robust and autonomous than the Eurozone - and infinitely more sustainable than a bankrupt country (Greece) lacking any of the levers of policy making (e.g. monetary & fiscal policy, the right to legislate that was given away last summer with the 3rd Loan Agreement).

Having marked out the differences, let me now come to the stark similarities: Bernie Sanders and DiEM are calling for a democratic surge that will diminish the hold of corporate power over the demos. Sanders and DiEM are campaigning to put the demos back into our democracies. We are campaigning for common sense policies - e.g. universal health care (that is always cheaper than failing private health sectors), for a world in which graduating students are not immersed in debt even before they embark upon life, rules and regulations that prevent Wall Street and its minions from thinking of themselves as the masters of the universe (and demand from the weaker members of society to bail them out when they are crushed by their own hubris).

Last year, the Greeks elected people like me not because they suddenly became leftwing! Similarly with Bernie Sanders. The New Hampshire voters did not suddenly discover they were democratic... socialists! They just had enough of phoney politics and decided to back someone who has been saying the same common sense stuff for decades. They would not vote for a 'transition to socialism' (like my voters would not have voted me in last year if I was proposing such a 'transition' to them). But they understand that Bernie and us - his comrades on the Atlantic's other side - are modest in our aims. We understand that socialism is far, far away - and that it will probably only become pertinent when technology develops further (See my TED talk on this - Capitalism will eat democracy -- unless we speak up ) For now, all we propose is the return to basic liberal democratic principles that the establishment has confined to the dustbin of history - at the cost of everyone (except some, very few, entrepreneurial spivs).

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