The Capitalist Anti-Capitalism of Yanis Varoufakis

Varoufakis on Downing Street
Varoufakis on Downing Street

A month or so ago, anti-austerity party SYRIZA won the Greek general election. In the intervening time, the British media has seemed far more interested in the character of the country’s new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, than that of his boss, Prime Minister Alex Tsipras.

Partly, this is because Greece’s biggest problems are financial, and Varoufakis is the man leading attempts to deal with the country’s colossal, unrepayable amount of public debt.

But it’s also because while Tsipras is fairly boring, Varoufakis has style. Admittedly, there was something pettily thrilling about the way he casually strolled up Downing Street to meet automaton plutocrat George Osborne like he’d just got off a bus during a recent visit to London.

Unflashy irreverence is all very nice, but as far as the old reliable unbending ideologue bit of the Left is concerned, he’s a filthy sell-out.

Because there are really two political spectrums – the objective, ‘classical’ one with communism at one end and balls-to-the-wall capitalism on the other, and the corporate media-peddled, politically motivated, ‘relative’ one where ‘left’ means Ed Miliband and ‘sensible’ means Nigel Farage and Pinochet – papers and TV pundits can repeatedly call SYRIZA radically left-wing.  

Subscribe to the latter view of the world, and they’re unconscionably extreme. Subscribe to the former, nicely capturing the staggering breadth and scale of the solutions the species can apply to the problems it faces, and you’ll see they’re far from it. Continue reading “The Capitalist Anti-Capitalism of Yanis Varoufakis”

Vote Defensively (But Voting Isn’t Enough)

Generic voting image
Generic voting image

The biggest political event of the year, if not the decade, is obviously going to be the General Election in May. You’d struggle to describe the mangled, dystopian thing we’d be left with after another five years of the present government as ‘a society’.

The Bemolution’s political views aren’t especially well represented within the Westminster mainstream, what with pledges to essentially dismantle modern civilisation and start again tending to go down like a lead zeppelin in the key marginals. This makes elections morally challenging.

A lot of fuss was made in the media last year when Russell Brand supposedly endorsed not voting. Brand – someone we unashamedly like – clarified his position after a fusillade of criticism from across the political spectrum: he doesn’t vote, he said, because there’s nothing worth voting for.

Broadly, in our irrelevant opinion, he was right. But we’ll still vote, and would encourage other similar-minded types to do the same. It’s what we call ‘defensive voting’.re Continue reading “Vote Defensively (But Voting Isn’t Enough)”

Observations on The People’s Strictly (featuring Michael Sheen)

people strictly

To briefly segue into the kind of crushing triviality we spend most of the time having a go at other people about indulging in, the telly was on when The People’s Strictly screened last night.

The show takes the BBC’s phenomenally popular Strictly Come Dancing format and radically does away with the celebrity contestants, replacing them with real people who’ve done nice, altruistic things. It’s part of this year’s Red Nose Day campaign, which seeks to raise money for anti-poverty charity Comic Relief.

To get the bunker-busting cynicism out of the way – charity shouldn’t have to exist. To some extent, celeb-festooned fundraising drives like these just act a sort of moral fig-leaf for tax-dodging multimillionaires, helping sticking-plaster problems that, in an egalitarian, millionaire-less society, wouldn’t exist at all. The old Clement Attlee quote springs to mind – “charity is a cold grey loveless thing. If a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly, not dole out money at a whim”.

You can parachute Darcey Bussell into sub-Saharan Africa to make her empathy face at impoverished mothers whose children have died as much as you like. Things like that happen thousands of times every day – and without a social turnaround more radical than anything any celebrity Bake Off entrant could stomach, they’ll keep happening again and again and again, even if they’re still doing Red Nose Days in the year 3000.

BUT. It’s still supremely nice to see a programme celebrating selfless, compassionate, ordinary people rather than sociopath businessmen, vain, borderline-rapist footballers, vacant living clotheshorses and overpaid Top 40 warblers – people who dedicate their lives to quietly helping others rather than making millions doing nothing useful. Basically, it’s very pleasing – and so rare these days – to see good things happening to good people, on TV, for everyone to see.

AND. As crotchety far-leftists go, at least, we’re pro-charity. In a very bad world where that celeb-spooking social overhaul is a very long way off, a lot of charities work tirelessly and heroically to help the most vulnerable people on the planet, keeping literally millions alive. We’ve got very little time for the idea that Red Cross aid workers supplying emergency food supplies to famine victims are propping up the status quo – as if leaving them be would somehow provoke a revolution. Starving people don’t do politics – they’re too busy dying.

Incidentally, having just attacked celebrity Bake Off contestants, this one was all over social media this week after giving a righteously angry speech. Welsh actor Michael Sheen was taking part in a St David’s Day event in Tredegar, held to celebrate the legacy of NHS founder Aneurin Bevan, and highlight Coalition attempts to sell off increasingly large chunks of the health service.

Yes, he’s an LA-based probably-millionaire actor who’ll now jet off back to Hollywood and live a cushy elite lifestyle, but how often do you see that level of passion nowadays?