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Monday, February 23, 2015

Yanis Varoufakis and the Importance of Saving Europe

In the Article by the Greek leader and politician Yanis Varoufakis: How I became an erratic Marxist [http://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/feb/18/yanis-varoufakis-how-i-became-an-erratic-marxist?CMP=share_btn_tw] he explains why some Marxian concepts still have currency, some of why Marx's efforts failed and at the same time mounts a defense of Marxism! As a syncretist I've learned to learn from multiple POVs and not to attach to any particular one. As usual the Marxists are experts at diagnosing societies ills, as long as one isn't talking about their own. Yanis here is making a deep critique and we need to read him carefully -- and critically:

Yanis writes:

"In 2008, capitalism had its second global spasm. The financial crisis set off a chain reaction that pushed Europe into a downward spiral that continues to this day. Europe’s present situation is not merely a threat for workers, for the dispossessed, for the bankers, for social classes or, indeed, nations. No, Europe’s current posture poses a threat to civilisation as we know it." [Erratic Marxist]

The financial crisis set off a downward spiral because the delicate state of most users of money and borrowers, made them a target of the superior power and "ownership" of creditors. Even before 2008 countries, like Greece, Iceland and Spain had been induced to borrow huge amounts of money at interest, which was not spent on actual capital improvements and which was used to fatten the pockets of a few people but could not be repaid by them. Worse international banks were swindled into buying mortgage backed securities that had been sold fraudulently.

Opportunity or End Times?

But the Marxian POV has that Judeo-Christian-Muslim escatology without the God Belief. And so Yanis sees the opportunity in disaster, but doesn't believe in the resiliency of European Civilization. He also doesn't have much faith the ability of radicals to replace it. I believe he is right. Solutions are needed, but whether radical or not hinges on what one means by "radical." He continues:

"If my prognosis is correct, and we are not facing just another cyclical slump soon to be overcome, the question that arises for radicals is this: should we welcome this crisis of European capitalism as an opportunity to replace it with a better system? Or should we be so worried about it as to embark upon a campaign for stabilising European capitalism?" [Erratic Marxist]

The issue with disaster is that the activist often sees disaster as an opportunity to let something be destroyed in order to replace it with something better. Marxists even went so far as to wage war on Capitalism, thinking the "end justifies the means" and going to extraordinary, violent and sometimes counter-productive means to do so. It not only failed to transform anything, but it sabotaged the integrity of those who subsumed ethics and compassion for violence, sabotage and betrayal. Writers like Arthur Koestler documented this corruption in Books like "Darkness at Noon". Maybe Marxists have learned from their failures? But the bigger question is; did their enemies learn from theirs or will they use their propaganda, power and influence over ordinary people to hold onto power. Yanis seems to believe the later is the more likely possibility:

"To me, the answer is clear. Europe’s crisis is far less likely to give birth to a better alternative to capitalism than it is to unleash dangerously regressive forces that have the capacity to cause a humanitarian bloodbath, while extinguishing the hope for any progressive moves for generations to come." [Erratic Marxist]

Maybe they have learned. But not all of them:

""For this view I have been accused, by well-meaning radical voices, of being “defeatist” and of trying to save an indefensible European socioeconomic system. This criticism, I confess, hurts. And it hurts because it contains more than a kernel of truth." [Erratic Marxist]

The Bolsheviks believed that the crisis caused by WWI and the 1929 crashes was their opportunity to impose communism world-wide. Instead former Socialists like Mussolini bolted the cause and led a counter-reformation known as fascism.

When you are talking about "capitalism" -- it's not the ideology that is dangerous it is the machine; the laws, the structures, the institutions. Individual capitalists can be Bolsheviks in their hearts and will still oppress workers, buy rivals, make deals with nasties, and play the game of monopoly. So essentially "capitalism" whatever the propaganda and professed ideology is "the game of monopoly" played out on the board of international finance and trade. The institutions we've set up are faulty and they are designed to fail because the game is designed so that it can be partially optimized. Partially optimized means that all can fail and the system is designed for them to fail unless they become monopolists.

Sadly the European Union was sold as a Union modeled after the Successful United States Model with improvements. But due to the difficulty of combining historically separate States and the power and influence of Centralized Bankers and Conglomerates on the process and design of the EU, it was created with a massive bureaucracy, concentration of powers in the wrong people, and yes, Yanis is right to say:

"I share the view that this European Union is typified by a large democratic deficit" [Erratic Marxist]

-- meaning that the Union itself, whatever the state of government of it's parts was designed to be dominated by bureaucrats who essentially are working for the central banks, who in turn are working for the Security State, the Giant Conglomerates and the Giant Banks. The Union itself fails to have genuine representation for all it's people and thus is a conservative institution. Worse it has the privateering banking model which created the plantation system that defined Colonialism, and the corporate Factory and predatory banking system that has defined neo-colonialism:

Faulty Monetary Architecture!

"that, in combination with the denial of the faulty architecture of its monetary union, has put Europe’s peoples on a path to permanent recession." [Erratic Marxist]

-- Faulty Architecture!!! For a single currency to work it must have built in central controls and subsidiarity in it's issuance. The European Union reverses that order. The Euro is essentially an alliance of central banks at cross purposes. At the local level. Yanis seems to believe that stepping out of the Euro might be the answer. But He also knows that the elements of the European Union still need each other.

He continues:

"I also bow to the criticism that I have campaigned on an agenda founded on the assumption that the left was, and remains, squarely defeated. I confess I would much rather be promoting a radical agenda, the raison d’être of which is to replace European capitalism with a different system."[Erratic Marxist]

The problem with Marxists is that they don't have the resilience to accept that a defeat for faulty marxist ideas is a victory for human progress. If the concept of "dialectic" has any merit it's in the realization that history never ends, that life is a constant dialogue of change and challenges. And that

"Yet my aim here is to offer a window into my view of a repugnant European capitalism whose implosion, despite its many ills, should be avoided at all costs. It is a confession intended to convince radicals that we have a contradictory mission: to arrest the freefall of European capitalism in order to buy the time we need to formulate its alternative."[Erratic Marxist]

What are the Alternatives

Our current Capitalist system is repugnant, but people are used to it and loyal to it. So when someone criticizes it they see that as treachery. When it fails they try to save it. When folks want to replace it they hire armies to kill them.

"A radical social theorist can challenge the economic mainstream in two different ways, I always thought. One way is by means of immanent criticism. To accept the mainstream’s axioms and then expose its internal contradictions. To say: “I shall not contest your assumptions but here is why your own conclusions do not logically flow on from them.” This was, indeed, Marx’s method of undermining British political economics. He accepted every axiom by Adam Smith and David Ricardo in order to demonstrate that, in the context of their assumptions, capitalism was a contradictory system. "[Erratic Marxist]

The system we currently operate under has it's own internal contradictions; faulty assumptions leading to dysfunctional policy suggestions. But the ones identified by Marx and his followers were only part of the equation.

But to criticize a system one has to have alternatives:

"The second avenue that a radical theorist can pursue is, of course, the construction of alternative theories to those of the establishment, hoping that they will be taken seriously."[Erratic Marxist]

Because of the fact that people will try to protect their own power, wealth and survive even the most destructive system:

"the powers that be are never perturbed by theories that embark from assumptions different to their own."[Erratic Marxist]

-- nobody is going to make changes until they have to...

"The only thing that can destabilise and genuinely challenge mainstream, neoclassical economists is the demonstration of the internal inconsistency of their own models."[Erratic Marxist]

But the trouble is that when internal inconsistencies come up, cognitive dissonance pops up. E. Kubler Ross's "stages of mourning" never get past the denial and anger stage as long as there is any hope that the patient (the economy) can survive. Folks whose place in hierarchy depend on being subservient to their masters would rather folks further down the hierarchy die or starve than challenge that hierarchy. Revolution is more difficult than it seems, especially if folks bolt from that hierarchy and form one of their own. Two hierarchies is a recipe for war not peaceful change.

Actually, destabilizing and challenging a mainstream is usually counterproductive. When a system is badly constituted that bad constitutions manifests as dysfunction, oppression, and collapse. That is what happened to the Bolsheviks, to Fascists and is happening now. When that happens to a system, the cons are usually waiting with an offered solution. If the rest of us have a better solution waiting on the bench we can offer that instead. Yanis goes on in the article to explain what he consider's Marxisms failures. But I'm more interested in what we can do to save our world, save capitalists from themselves, and make this world better.

Further readings

To read the rest of the article open up the Guardian. I may critique the rest of his article at a later time.

Yanis varoufakis: How I became an erratic Marxist [http://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/feb/18/yanis-varoufakis-how-i-became-an-erratic-marxist?CMP=share_btn_tw]
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