Creating a new international economic order “sounds like an impossible dream,” said the former Greek finance minister, but “not more impossible than the principle of one person, one vote, or of the end of the divine right of kings once sounded.”
KENNY STANCILDecember 12, 2022
Humanity faces a grim fate because the global ruling class refuses to depart from the capitalist status quo even as their quest to maximize profits intensifies the climate crisis and the prospects of a nuclear war. But with enough solidarity, progressives around the world can build an egalitarian, democratic, peaceful, and sustainable society.
That’s the message shared Monday by former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who outlined his vision for how the left can work together to end the “global empire of capital” and forge a humane future—part of a Progressive International-led effort to chart a path toward a “New International Economic Order for the 21st century.”
Varoufakis began by noting that “we have never been closer to a nuclear holocaust than today,” as the doomsday clock that scientists invented in the 1940s quickly approaches midnight. Meanwhile, there is another clock “counting down to the moment humanity will have passed the point of no return from climate catastrophe.”
“What is the global ruling class doing to avert these twin calamities?” asked Varoufakis. “Their best to push humanity over both cliffs at once.”
“They have started a new Cold War,” said Varoufakis. “They are pursuing white-hot endless wars around the world—wars that help them sell more weapons than ever.”
“They are drilling with renewed gusto for oil and gas, while delivering speeches on environmental protection,” he continued. “They are turning the screws on workers everywhere, while waxing lyrical about social responsibility.”
“Enough of their hypocrisy, their war-mongering, their financialization of lives, and the privatization of our commons,” Varoufakis declared. “Progressives of the world refuse to take sides on this new ‘cold’ hot war. We are instead building a new non-aligned movement to fight for humanity’s survival by working for peace, solidarity, and cooperation,” he added, referring to the assemblage of Third World nations that refused in the wake of decolonization and throughout the Cold War to side with either the United States or the Soviet Union.
According to Varoufakis, the “one thing” that undercuts cooperation, solidarity, and peace is “the reign of capital over labor and the debt bondage it inflicts upon the majority everywhere—in the Global South, but also in the Global North.”
As the 50th anniversary of the United Nations’ 1974 adoption of the original non-aligned movement’s proposals for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) nears, Varoufakis argued that to turn progressives’ yearning for a NIEO into reality, a revived non-aligned movement must “direct large quantities of money into the things humanity craves, from plentiful green energy to public health to public education and poverty alleviation.”
Just imagine, said Varoufakis, if existing international financial institutions were restructured and invested “10% of global income into the green transition, especially in the developing world.”
“Unless we bring down the global empire of increasingly concentrated capital, there is no chance we can end wars, eradicate poverty, or avert climate disaster.”
“Of course,” he acknowledged, “this will remain a dream unless our movement manages to dismantle the global empire of capital.”
To end “the tyranny of capital over people” and reclaim “plundered commons on land, in the oceans, in the air, and soon in outer space,” Varoufakis called for two key reforms.
The first is to ensure that “corporations belong to the people who work in them on the basis of one person, one share, one vote,” said Varoufakis. The second is to deny “banks a monopoly over peoples’ transactions.”
Once that happens, banks and profits will “wither as society’s main drivers,” the political economist argued, “because the banks will be defanged” and the distinction between profits and wages erased. “The simultaneous euthanasia of the labor markets and the share markets, along with the defanging of the banks, will automatically redistribute wealth and as a magnificent byproduct, remove the main incentives for waging war.”
Moreover, “the end of capital’s power over society will allow communities collectively to decide health provision, education, [and] investment in saving the environment from our virus-like growth,” he continued. “Genuine democracy will at last be possible, to be practiced in the citizens’ and the workers’ assemblies—not behind the closed doors where oligarchs and bureaucrats gather.”
Varoufakis admitted that “the twin democratization of capital and of money sounds like an impossible dream.” However, he countered, “not more impossible than the principle of one person, one vote, or of the end of the divine right of kings once sounded.”
“Unless we bring down the global empire of increasingly concentrated capital, there is no chance we can end wars, eradicate poverty, or avert climate disaster,” said Varoufakis. “This twin democratization is nothing short of a precondition for our species’ survival.”
The former Greek finance minister concluded by calling on progressives everywhere “to unite in a common struggle not just for humanity’s survival but for a chance at giving every child that is born tomorrow and in the future a chance at a successful life… on a livable planet, where war has become extinct, along with poverty and fear.”
Varoufakis’ address is part of a campaign that Progressive International launched last Thursday at the People’s Forum in New York City, where scholars and policymakers from around the world met “to present, deliberate, and develop proposals for a New International Economic Order fit for the 21st century.”
In a pair of videos shared Monday, Jayati Ghosh, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and one of the thinkers who participated in last week’s discussion, stressed the need to ditch neoliberal policies, to “claw back some of the rights that we have lost over the past 50 years, and to reinvent what we see as a just, equitable, sustainable, viable international economy.”
To start with, policymakers must “undo the major privatizations” of the past half-century, said Ghosh. Alluding to the ongoing refusal of wealthy countries and pharmaceutical corporations to share know-how and transfer technology that would enable the expanded production of Covid-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, she also called for action to address “the concentration of knowledge, which has become something that is actually obscene and actively killing people.”
As part of its campaign to win a fresh U.N. declaration on a NIEO by 2024, Progressive International has also launched The Internationalist, a subscription-based newsletter featuring exclusive interviews; accounts of struggle from trade union, social movement, and political leaders; academic research; translations; art; and more.
The latest edition includes an interview with Andrés Arauz, an economist and former minister of knowledge and human talent under ex-Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. The conversation with Arauz, who narrowly lost the 2021 presidential election in Ecuador and was part of last week’s panel convened by Progressive International, focuses on the “political economy of under-development in the Global South.”
During last week’s event, Yusnier Romero Puentes, deputy permanent representative of Cuba to the U.N., announced that the Cuban government had invited Progressive International to host a NIEO-focused summit in Havana on January 25, 2023.
Progressive International general coordinator David Adler told the audience that “we are again in a moment of rapid geopolitical transformation with the end of the unipolar domination of the United States—but we lack a common vision of the multipolar world that is now in formation.”
“Next month in Havana, we will bring together governments, political representatives, popular movements, scholars, and policymakers to start the process of constructing that common vision and building the power to bring it about,” he added.