Photo Credit: Ricardo Stuckert
New York: Former Finance minister of Greece Yanis Varoufakis called on progressive parties across the world to "stop thinking about income" and "start thinking about wealth and its redistribution" to win the fight against right-wing populism that he said "we are losing."
On late Saturday, during an event in New York held by the leftist magazine Jacobin, and hosted by the Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism Program at The New School, Yanis Varoufakis was in a conversation with former Brazilian presidential candidate Fernando Haddad and Jacobin Radio's Daniel Denvir.
"These rising populisms are the product of what happened in 2008," the leader of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM 25), a pan-European and cross-border movement for democracy, Mr. Varoufakis, said, making a comparison with the 1929 Wall Street crash.
"History never repeats itself," the former Greek Finance Minister continued, but the world is observing two similar identity crises in two similar moments.
"The right-wing populism is using the sense of humiliation and the lack of prospects that people felt at the time and are feeling today." After the 1929 crash, "they promised concentration camps." Today, instead, "they promise proudness to put their countries first."
The Varoufakis's pan-european movement, DiEM 25, looks to believe in an effective multilateralism.
And one of the goals it has is the reform of the European Union, that today "is anti-democratic and fragmenting."
Right-wing populisms, however, are gaining power all over the world, not only in the EU.
In the United States, Donald Trump surprised the US liberals and socialist twice, winning over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016, and keeping the majority on the Senate in the 2018 Midterms elections.
Recently, in Brazil, the "Trump of Tropics" Jair Bolsonaro won the election and appealed to Brazilians by promising to “break the system” and depart from the status quo after a campaign made of incendiary rhetoric, and insults to opponents and minorities.
Back to Europe, in Italy, a government led by the populistic 5-Stars Movement with the support of the right-wing party, The League, and its leader, the Interior minister Matteo Salvini, took power with an aggressive agenda toward migration and against migrants.
"We need a Green New Deal," stated Mr. Varoufakis, stressing the importance of new public investments on renewable energies and the promotion of greater resource efficiency.
The left, observed Varoufakis, has always worried about the income of the middle-working class, while the multinationals were grabbing the wealth of all.
"We have to change the paradigm. We need to redistribute the wealth."
The event at the New School on Saturday took place 24 hours after the joint press conference held by Mr. Varoufakis and Bernie Sanders, the leader of the Socialists in the US, in Vermont where the two launched an open call to progressive all over the world to join their new grassroots movement, Progressive International.
Both Varoufakis and Sanders have stressed the urgent need for an international alliance of progressive parties that "can bring together people across the globe around a vision of shared prosperity, security, and dignity for all."
Nationalisms and racisms, in the Progressive International's thoughts, can't be accepted.
"We need it to contrast the Nationalist International, that looks like a contradiction of terms, but it is not," Varoufakis emphasized on Saturday, empathizing the importance of concepts like multilateralism, cooperation, and respect of the minorities.
But the left is still divided and struggling.
In the US, the new Democrat majority in the House of Representatives is trying to find unity, but will likely face two years of compromises and fights between the House Democratic Caucus, the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of House Democrats and Republicans, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, established by Bernie Sanders in early 1990s to reunify all the progressives.
In Europe, the traditional socialist parties are facing their worst crisis in decades, especially in five countries: France, Germany, Italy, Austria, and Greece.
In Italy, for example, in the 2018 general election the Democratic Party, led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, obtained its worst result ever: 18.7% of the vote. And recent polls, six months after the elections, see it struggling with the 17.8% of the vote.
"People don't want 'Frankenstein coalitions' on the left anymore," Mr. Varoufakis said. "They are sick and tired of that." As an alternative, DiEM is running for the 2019 European elections.
For Varoufakis, the conflict in Europe will have to be between progressives and multilateral forces and reactionaries and conservative coalitions, and not between north and south or Germany and Greece.
"Brussels is a Democracy free-zone, and I hate it," Mr. Varoufakis admitted.
"But we need to reform the European Union” by discussing four simple issues: “Public debt and private debt, poverty, and green investments.”
"It is the only way to begin winning again."