An Interview with Yanis Varoufakis

Source: Dissent Magazine

The last few years have been a bit of a rollercoaster for the European left. Riding up front has been Yanis Varoufakis, the charismatic economist and former Greek finance minister who went to war with the troika—the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund—in 2015 as it sought to inflict brutal austerity as a penalty for his country’s debts and its decision to elect an openly left-wing government headed by Syriza. They lost that fight, but Varoufakis escaped mostly unscathed. Amid Brexit and a wave of Euroskepticism, he went on to found the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25), pushing for a more democratic and inclusive continent, free of austerity. The group mounted several candidates under the mantle of a European Spring this May, including Varoufakis himself. They failed to gain a single seat, though his vote total came in a hundredth of a percentage point below the 3 percent threshold needed to gain representation. While the center-right faltered in May, so, too, did the left.

Particularly among young voters, progressive and social democratic parties—including those in the DiEM25 orbit—seem to have lost many of their votes to the European Greens, which successfully tapped into the momentum of the youth-led Fridays for Future protests around Europe and Extinction Rebellion in the UK. Voters across the continent now rank the climate crisis among their top concerns. The great irony in left parties’ generally meager showing is that, from La France Insoumise to Labour in the UK, they are greener than they’ve ever been, in many places rejecting the old-school productivism that fueled them through the postwar era.

In Europe, all politics is now climate politics. The question is whether the left can ground the conversation about rising temperatures in a broader egalitarian vision that can counter tepid centrist technocracy and far-right xenophobia alike, and the response of each to the existential threat hurdling toward us. In its push for a Green New Deal, DiEM25 wagers that it can, but it has hit no shortage of road bumps along the way. Engaging in the largely symbolic European Parliament elections was one piece of an effort they’ll continue as the left attempts to craft the kind of systemic and internationalist climate response that science is demanding.

The interview below was recorded a few days before voting began.

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