I suppose we should be 'for' Varoufakis - after all, he seems to think that it would be a good thing if Europe was 'democratic'. So do we but as collaborating nation states not as the attempted democratisation of current treaty arrangements. The launch Manifesto of DIEM25 calls for a democratic community of sovereign nations which is pretty well what the new Democratic Left Network in the UK wants as well.
Yet it is the staggering naivete of the document that strikes us. These siren voices for reforming the European Project distract the rest of us from the real task, which is unravelling this malign Project and restoring democracy to its constituent parts. What Varoufakis' team of intellectuals never really considers is how a democracy which must represent over 500 million people can possibly function as anything other than bureaucratic corporatism.
It is tough enough to consider British democracy meaningful at a population level of over 64 million when, despite over 300 years of effort, the thing is still run by self-organising party elites and a semi-accountable post-feudal State bureaucracy that desperately needs our single-minded reforming attention. This is the central problem of the Varoufakis model - he (and the website's imagery suggests nothing less than a cult of personality around the man who failed to save Greece) is actually naive enough to believe that any proposed political system can viably give the people control of this monster that is not a repetition of the federal liberalism of the United States of America.
The final terms will be always be the same as the American Empire, less than half the population size of that of Europe taken as a Continent (318.2 million people) but with one language and a constitutional structure built up slowly over 250 years alongside genocidal territorial acquisition and persistent rule by lawyers. If you want a vast liberal empire, then support the European Project by all means – then you are an honest liberal. If you want democratic socialism then you are a mug! This confusion of left-liberalism with democratic socialism is the persistent degenerate failing of the modern European Left.
DIEM25's basic analysis of the European Project is accurate enough so let us quote it at length ...
• The Brussels bureaucracy (and its more than 10,000 lobbyists)
• Its hit-squad inspectorates and the Troika they formed together with unelected ‘technocrats’ from other international and European institutions
• The powerful Eurogroup that has no standing in law or treaty
• Bailed out bankers, fund managers and resurgent oligarchies perpetually contemptuous of the multitudes and their organised expression
• Political parties appealing to liberalism, democracy, freedom and solidarity to betray their most basic principles when in government
• Governments that fuel cruel inequality by implementing self-defeating austerity
• Media moguls who have turned fear-mongering into an art form, and a magnificent source of power and profit
• Corporations in cahoots with secretive public agencies investing in the same fear to promote secrecy and a culture of surveillance that bend public opinion to their will.”
Yep! All reasons for the British people to vote Leave on June 23rd. And yet the next line of the Manifesto talks of the achievement of the EU as exceptional as if it were the Sistine Chapel or the Soviet Union in 1980! The founding myth of the European Project is presented with consummate pusillanimity and historical ignorance, ignoring the salient fact that it never was simple act of noble idealism but always was a liberal manoeuvre by one side in a Cold War of equally culpable competing ideologies.
An older and more brutal form of socialism was set against a self-serving middle class liberalism whose prime interest was a safe transition from formal empire to global informal empire. There was nothing wrong with that original aim but things change, the Soviet Union has gone (despite repeated attempts to revive the threat from the East to scare us into compliance) and the initial intention has transmuted first into neo-liberalism and next into a super-sized security state in the making.
DIEM25 says that the European Union could be the 'beacon on the hill', But could it? How disturbing that it adopts the Washington 'mythos' as if its audience of TED-watching liberals was infinitely preferable to the working people of Europe itself. Does Varoufakis really mean to suggest that the European Union could be like that promised 'beacon on the hill' across the waters that has given us decades of unending war on the periphery of its empire and which guides subservient governments along the path towards its own national interest - or rather the interests of its own ruling elites. Do we really believe Bernie can bring democratic socialism to Washington? And what sort of democratic socialism would that be, pray? Universalist left-liberalism perhaps? The 'export of values' along the barrel of a gun?
The DIEM25 analysis continues down its naive path - apparently we were all beginning to 'unite'. Only a common currency and a common bureaucracy have been getting in the way! Wishful thinking! There are intrinsic reasons why the populations of Europe are becoming discontented with a project that denies them agency at home and where unification is only the unification of the interests of liberal middle class elites to enrich themselves and enjoy the opera. Much of Europe remains deluded. Half of the British are not and many Greeks have had their illusions shattered into anomic despair.
The answer, according to DIEM25, is a mass single European democracy - of 500 million human beings or more! What next - a global democracy of 7.125 billion? This is idiocy for wholly pragmatic reasons. Is this democracy to be guided then by wise Platonic Marxist intellectuals? The redistribution of wealth and power - which we all heartily seek as an end – is not going to happen under these conditions, merely tinkering. 'Europe' (a geographical expression) has grown, like NATO, far too fast and furiously to levels that are now politically unsustainable and that run entirely counter to its professed objectives.
So what does DIEM25 fall back on – on that last refuge of scoundrels on the Left, utopianism, of course. Apparently, the DIEM25 Plan is 'no more utopian than the initial construction of the European Union'. Ay, there's the rub! It was the daft utopianism of the late 1940s and 1950s that has led us into the current morass where politics has taken charge of economics instead of the other way around. That primacy of economics should at least be the one thing Marxist intellectuals understand and can teach their adoring liberal flock. The last thing we need now is an excess of neo-utopianism whose only function is to persuade the dimmer liberal-left idealists in the activist class to carry on their mental ditch-digging. When you are in an 'ole, you should stop digging!
DIEM25 hysteria peaks with a rallying cry that if the damn thing is not democratised quickly, then 'it may be impossible to chisel away at the institutionalised resistance in good time'. Precisely! There is no current prospect of Varoufakis' small army of Leftists democratising anything while the German middle classes have decided otherwise. Yet if they don't do it quickly, they don't do it at all, his army admits ... so we will be stuck with 300 years of a half-baked liberal constitutionalist cake with social reform added as a layer of marzipan and democratic rhetoric as the icing. The elected President will be the mere cherry on the top.
The first section closes with a threat that should cause no fear ... if the Varoufakis mob fail then, er, the Project will also 'splinter and fall' ... and then there is the unproven assumption that this will mean 'hardship'. What has happened to Varoufakis!? What did he learn from the Greek crisis? It would seem that all he learned was despair and apocalypse, Did he not consider that an alternative lesson might be to bind his people into a national democratic resistance that would allow them to rebuild their dignity and sovereign independence? Time might be rough to begin with but what finally emerged would be a worthy heir to the sacrifice of the third siege of Missolonghi - why replace Istanbul with Brussels?
Varoufakis offers us a dark and stark choice between a neo-liberal empire, chaos and his panicky and unfeasible project. And yet there is a real alternative to these apocalyptic visions, a choice beyond the binary thinking of intellectuals past their sell-by date: the independence of free sovereign nations who can democratically work towards national democratic socialism and collaborate as internationalists to solve global problems pragmatically and with respect for their diplomatic counterparts.
Varoufakis and DIEM 25 offer us a false set of options. The most profoundly right option, the departure of first the United Kingdom and then other nations from this travesty of an empire, seems not to be considered. Is it perhaps because so many European Leftists have sunk, deep in their souls, into a slough of despond and have neither the courage nor the imagination to consider alternatives? Is it because they believe, as communists-lite, that the clerics of the European religion will bring decency and redistribution rather than line their own pockets when they get appointed to their new bureaucratic bishoprics? Beware of Greeks bearing utopian gifts ...