The political upheaval in 2015 suffered by Greece was painful to watch. More austerity was demanded of the Greek citizens despite the soaring rates of suicide, people going through rubbish bins for food and hospitals running out of basic medical supplies. Many Lefties like me followed the Greek elections in January 2015, cheered when Syriza won, clapped when Yanis Varoufakis was appointed as finance minister, hollered when the Troika would not grant debt relief and, finally, sighed endlessly with utter disappointment when (seemingly forced) Yanis resigned from the cabinet in July.
In part, it is due to his actions that a large number of Left leaning folk started questioning their allegiance to the European Union which, largely, was always a manifestation of the Left’s idealism i.e closer cooperation among sovereign states results in consensus and not conflict.
Consequently, it was a paradoxical experience on Saturday morning (28 May), almost a year later, watching and listening to Yanis who was advocating for an ‘in Europe’ vote after fighting the Troika tooth and nail in 2015. Yanis was the main headliner at a rally held to present a ‘radical’ case for Britain to remain in the EU. He was also launching the movement that he has founded called DiEM25 to take forward the ‘radical’ case that he advocates for.
This ‘radical’ case is one to democratise the European Union. It cannot be described as being either a straight out confidence vote in the EU or a straight out denunciation of the EU’s processes and governance.
Rather than having a straight ‘in’ or ‘out’ debate, his solution more represents a ‘third way’: democratising the EU is a priority but is a struggle that can only be won if Britain voted ‘in’ and fought for change as a continuing member state.
In a sense this ‘third way’ solution addresses the arguments about the EU being an undemocratic state and, simultaneously, being an institution that brings enormous benefits to member states but which does need urgent reforming. This position can also be seen as adding a layer of mid-level or multi-level consensus which transcends the straight ‘in’ or ‘out’ debate.
Interestingly, Yanis extends the burden of democratising the EU beyond Britain by referring to the struggle as being a ‘pan-European’ one. Brexit, on the other hand, would be an individualistic act that “would only benefit the ruling class who want to rule over Britain in an undemocratic a way as possible”. Collective action versus an isolationist stance.
Being a firm opponent of austerity measures he says that the Brexit’s camp talk about having more money for UK services will be a “rolling austerity that cloaks a vicious class war against Britain’s poor; a war that would have happened even if the UK border were hermetically sealed.” Yanis firmly believes that those who stand to benefit from a ‘Vote Out’ will be Britain’s “political and financial elites”. H says, “Be under no illusion that a vote to leave will somehow strengthen British democracy, bring shared prosperity, or strengthen the influence of the majority of Britons over decisions that affect our common future.”
On a personal note, it was a tremendous privilege to meet Yanis Varoufakis in person and to have my photo taken as proof. This is so that I don’t have to pinch myself every time I recall meeting him. A photo as an alternative to inflicting self-pain. I have also joined DiEM25 and it only took a few minutes to sign up.