The British left’s confidence has been restored by Jeremy Corbyn’s astounding pasting of New Labour candidates in the September leadership elections.
At the Labour Party Conference in Brighton Corbyn urged us ‘not to [walk] by on the other side of the street when people were in trouble’ and, quoting Ben Okri, reminded us of our capacity to love. At several fringe meetings during the Conference I almost expected the audience to start interjecting ‘Amen’ or for the speaker to relate the parable of the Good Samaritan. Undoubtedly the modern labour movement owes much to the humanist values associated with Methodism, but the left also has roots in the international socialism of Marx and Engels. The Germans based much of their writings on their research and experiences in London and Manchester and consorted with Chartists like George Julian Harney.
So Central Methodist Hall, Westminster seems an apt venue to host this secular messiah of the left, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. The Great Hall is packed, tickets sold out weeks before. As he walks onto the stage to rapturous applause, the Carly Simon song, ‘You’re so vain’ flits through my mind, but that is unkind. It is confidence rather than vanity that the tall Greek exudes. But charisma he has in spades. Besides he was only thirteen when the song was written.
Yanis has a permanent glint in his eye. One can only imagine the atmosphere in the room when he was negotiating with Hollande, Merkel and the Troika, and their relief when he resigned. He seems rankled and surprised that his opponents seem to have no sense of honour and that the acrimony of the negotiating room has spilled into personal enmity outside it.
So what does he make of Europe? Should the UK stay in? It’s the largest economic zone in the world. If we leave The EU what will be achieved? There would be a move to fragmentation in Europe. The greatest economy in the world would be disbanded. There would be a new Berlin Wall east of the Rhine and north of the Alps. The German working poor would become unemployed and the rest of Europe would fall into depression. If that is allowed only the ultra-right will win. ‘We have a moral duty to stay in Europe and democratise it.’ Minutes of meetings would be a start. At the moment there are no records so you can never find out what has been said. Printing out every page of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement should also be demanded. A suggestion which met with enthusiastic applause.
Advice for Corbyn? Use people’s quantitive easing and the power of the Bank of England for state funded investment into new and green technologies. At the moment quantitive easing is used to fund mortgages which inflate London prices and make the rich richer.
Surveying the audience, which had little representation of young voters, he commented that the young ‘seemed only interested in creating the killer app which must make them a fortune. We must inspire the young.’
I would certainly agree. An apathetic electorate, engaged only with social media and videos and games is a threat not just to democracy but to their own freedom.
Yanis Varoufakis “The Global Minotaur” Guardian Books
Paul Mason “Post Capitalism” Guardian Books
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