by Ramin Mazaheri
In many ways this fear is justified: communism is a dirty word in the English culture. I recall getting my copy of “International Socialist Review” mailed to me in the United States – it arrived with a brown paper wrapper, the same as pornography.
(Please note: American mailing practices for pornography have been gleaned solely from second-hand information, of course, so I may be mistaken on this point.)
But perhaps it was better that my mailman thought I was getting porn instead of knowing I was a communist, LOL? Because nobody gets thrown in jail, spied on, harassed, denied loans, demoted, fired, shunned, insulted or deported for porn in the United States, but they sure do for promoting communism in “the land of the free”.
France, Italy, the Latin countries of the West – they do not have this prejudice as strongly, which is a major reason I chose to live in Paris.
But because this Anglophone fear is (unfortunately) understandable, many well-meaning, intelligent and prominent Western leftists simply cannot or will not openly call for communism or socialism.
This leads them to major cognitive dissonance, dissembling, tortuous word play, and, inevitably, at least partial renunciation of the communist-inspired economic controls which are vital to create and preserve human progress.
One such person who suffers under this phenomenon is the former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. I have been writing a series of articles based around his 2016 book, “And the Poor Suffer What They Must?” because it’s necessary to disprove fake-leftist economics.
Of course, the mainstream English-language media – rabidly anti-communist – would only promote a “leftist economist” if he or she were a fake one to begin with. Joseph Stiglitz, who shared my former hometown of Gary, Indiana, – an appallingly poor and violent steel town, and festering sore of modern capitalism – has also been debunked as a fake-leftist by me in this article here.
While Varoufakis is extremely commendable for repeatedly blowing the whistle on the scandalously undemocratic nature of the Eurozone (that appreciative article of mine is here), I write this article to point out that Varoufakis’ proposed solution to the still-unremedied Eurozone crisis is, in fact: plain ole’ communism.
The indispensable phrase for Varoufakis: ‘political’ surplus recycling
This phrase underpins the entire economic theory of his book. The lack of this is why the Eurozone has failed, per Varoufakis – implementing it would make it all better.
I cannot stress enough that this three-word phrase is all over his book from start to finish, and he would surely agree that I have correctly emphasized his view of its importance.
However, the quotation marks around “political” in the above subhed are mine and are necessary, because it puts the emphasis where it needs to be to truly get at the heart of what he is advocating. To paraphrase:
Because deficits and surpluses are inevitable between two nations which trade, there must be a multi-national mechanism/parliament/boss which redistributes wealth from surplus nations to deficit nations in order to ensure economic balance and social/regional harmony. In the absence of such a mechanism, a multi-national project like the Eurozone cannot function to create growth or equality for outnumbered members like Greece – they would be doomed to permanent debtor/deficit nation status, with all the loss of real political influence that entails inside said multi-national project.
The communist underpinnings of this view should be totally obvious to the politically initiated….
However, just because Varoufakis wants to call it by a different name – “political” surplus recycling – the principle remains the same: Even on an international level, there must be some coordinated, planned (political) redistribution (recycling) of the profitable wealth produced by our labor (surplus).
But this is never phrased in that clear-if-unoriginal way by Varoufakis, who has clearly refused to champion the world-famous phrase: “redistribution of wealth”.
It’s probably because the Anglophone world he has lived in for nearly half his life mostly shuts off their brains upon hearing that revolutionary, humanitarian slogan. Or perhaps Varoufakis is merely trying to give his idea the veneer of originality? Regardless, I find it staggering the lengths Westerners – and not just Anglophones – will go to in order to deny that communists have found any sort of answers which are in any way still valid in 2017.
Yet this economic principle even remains true at the level of a local feudal landlord, or a local factory owner, or a local pizza restaurant, as well as for the international socioeconomic relations between the 19 Eurozone nations.
My quotation marks around “political” make his phrase clearer because Varoufakis implicitly realizes that only government intervention – a political agreement/decision – can create equality, growth, and equal growth across regions.
This means that we are – just as Marx proved – back to the question of necessary “political” control over the economy. We all know the “Invisible Hand” is a myth. While many may remain silent on this, due to social intimidation, most halfway-intelligent people will at least roll their eyes upon being forced to listen at length to an “Invisible Hand” evangelist.
So “political surplus recycling” implies not just “redistribution of wealth” but also “central planning”, which is also an indispensable part of any socialist nation. This planning has allowed the Cubas, Irans and Chinas of the world to maintain steady growth despite the Great Recession caused seemingly-entirely by Western capitalist nations.
I find it staggering that these models are routinely ignored, especially Iran’s, and also that Anglophone idols like Varoufakis are unable or unwilling to call a spade a spade and simply say, “Communism still provides the key to economic stability in any modern, moral economy.”
Because even if Varoufakis rejects other key Communist tenets – one-party system, bans on capitalism, bans on far-right hate speech & groups, bans on divisive media – his entire book is based around this three-word phrase which is a thinly-veiled euphemism for the more common terms of “redistribution from rich to poor” and “central planning”.
Just say it openly, man!
As a reader, in many ways I resent Varoufakis for wasting my damned time, and everyone else’s.
‘Fair weather surplus recycling’ sows the problems…this is also known as ‘capitalism’
Varoufakis states that the catalyst for Europe’s problems – the poor socioeconomic policy – is relying on “fair-weather” surplus recycling (again, my quotation marks for clarity). To paraphrase:
Surpluses which have been generated (by government, profit, slave labor – whatever) are sent by bankers – or perhaps political actors – into deficit countries…obviously in order to find the greatest return on investment and not just to benevolently help. This obviously makes already-deficit nations even more indebted. But, at an inopportune time for deficit nations – lenders turn off the surplus tap: the loans end. The debts are called in. Repayment is obviously even harder than before.
This is a very important concept because it reveals the immorality of the richer Northern European nations.
Varoufakis calls this “fair-weather” surplus recycling because when the weather turns foul (due to crisis, shock, panic, war, etc.) the lending stops at the worst possible time. Those who have been encouraged to take on debt (with full knowledge that they could not repay in a crisis, and with full knowledge that crises are guaranteed in capitalism) are suddenly denied funds and are totally beholden to their debtors.
Therefore, economic foul weather only serves to strengthen the creditors even more. Bad economic weather is therefore good…for the 1%. This hidden reality is the foundation of the final part of this series, “Forced recession as a tool of social war against the 99%”.
This two-faced system of International banking is how control has been clinched over modern-day Greece, but also 19th century Egypt, Tunisia, the cultural continent of India and a cast of hundreds of other societies who could be explicitly named by post-industrial history.
But especially within the Eurozone:
“Fair-weather recycling, writ large, had taken over globally from the planned political recycling that was the essence of the Bretton Woods system. Though this was never going to end well, it had the capacity to put the global economy on a spending spree that lasted three decades before crashing in 2008”.
Only a fake Leftist, pro-Western (or perhaps just pro-Anglophone) economist like Varoufakis would espouse an allegedly benevolent aim for the “exorbitant privilege” of the US-imposed Bretton Woods system…but I find it morally irresponsible that Varoufakis uses a benign phrase like “fair weather” to describe a process which boils down to: entrapment, juice them for years, cut them off unexpectedly, deny any culpability, bust them out but not totally because they must be juiced for years/decades/lifetimes/generations/as long as possible…while also denying the People democracy, and also hypocritically going on and on about how communism is the greatest killer…which I heard just today on RMC Radio in Paris.
(The Black taxi driver and I listening to the radio agreed: the French (the White French) are willfully blind, hypocritical, extremely clannish, their arrogance causes them to waste the talent of so many millions and billions, etc. and etc. White people are not privy to such conversations, I imagine, and that is a shame – but I can guarantee you they are routinely held among the Colored. White Communists probably have such conversations with the Colored, I would certainly expect….)
But this system dominating Western European system – the same Western Europe where communism was born (but never implemented, sadly) – is the same process of the mafia loan shark or the predatory payday loan companies, and you don’t need to be a Muslim – or Colored – to be scandalized by that.
Obfuscation towards economic concepts is inherent in the Anglophone world
If Varoufakis had used Marxist language – if this self-declared “erratic Marxist” had even dared to reference Marx himself more than just two times in this book – we would not have been forced to spent so much time retreading the same old economic ground.
It is vital to acknowledge that – while the machines may change – in economics there is nothing new under the sun and Varoufakis should not peddle the illusion that there is: We have all been trying to come up with something new, and yet we have only been able to make improved critiques of the fundamental 18th and 19th century economists.
Unfortunately these essential points are totally lost on the West, where technocratism rules (and rules very poorly), where a desire for innovation reigns supreme, and the idea that having a PhD somehow implies that you cannot possibly be an immoral, soulless, greedy, bastard (Who more than Germany is in love with showing off academic titles? Who more than the French political class are in love with having published a book?)
Because our own unoriginality should humble us; because our championing of others’ worth is vital to social unity; it is the duty of the Varoufakis’ of the world to speak as honestly as possible on serious issues, just as it is my duty and yours as well.
Furthermore, in a very real Foucauldian sense, the problem with economics and the English language appears to be embedded in the depths of their cultural subconscious:
Bourgeois, proletariat, rentier – these are all foreign loanwords. I find this especially surprising, given that English has by far the greatest quantity of words in its language.
A case can be made that using these foreign terms internationalizes them, but I dispute that: the average Anglophone has no idea what a “rentier” is, even though he or she is sending them a check for monthly compound interest multiple times every month. “Proletariat” is outdated in a time when office cubicle drones are most definitely a part of the proletariat, even if most don’t believe it simply because they don’t work on a factory floor.
This failure of Anglophones to culturally contextualize key modern economic terms in their own language – even the verbose Irish – indicates how little interest there is in communism in their countries, but also how much cultural suppression of communism they have been subjected to.
Of course, many countries use the same loanwords for these economic concepts, so…subtract one point for Foucault and another for psychology.
Regardless, all this lack of clarity has generated a tremendous misunderstanding regarding economics across the entire, expansive, imperialist Anglophone world, especially.
Anglophones must accept: They are already communist, they just don’t believe it
“Central planning” does exist in Western capitalist/Anglophone countries: in the United States their economy is guided by the Pentagon, the world’s largest employer; which hands out the fruits of their taxpayer-funded research to private companies; which enriches their native bourgeoisie with hugely corrupt contracts; which provides jobs terribly ineffectively – as opposed to government investment in virtually in other sector – but very effectively enriches the 1%.
The arrival of the globalist Emmanuel Macron is likely the death of France’s “mixed economy” concept, which was based around the idea of the government setting and taking steps to encourage (centrally plan), clear industrial/economic/agricultural goals for the nation’s economy. This concept had allowed France to succeed to the point where their poverty rate and their productivity rate are still both better than Germany’s, but now things will certainly change for the worse.
And but a moment’s reflection will cause you to agree that Japan’s postwar economy produced the most staggering global results, hands down – who would have predicted that they would emerge from losing World War II to having the number two global economy? It is because their economy was based even more than France’s on governmental guidance.
When Japan gave that up in the mid-1980s – when neoliberal capitalism became the American ideology to export and enforce – that’s when the groundwork was laid for Japan’s “Lost Decade” of the 1990s, which has since turned into the “Lost Score”. I discuss this obvious “Japanese precedent” for the Eurozone in the final part of this series.
As for the communism already present in the Anglophone world: Do I need to get into social security for the elderly, the 40-hour work week, the living wage, universal health care, rent caps, seniority pay, capital gains taxes, progressive taxes, universal childcare, mass education, free higher education and on and on and on? It could not be more intellectually black and white: Every single one of these is a triumph of communist ideology, and every single one runs contrary to capitalist ideology, and they are all targeted for repeal by the modern neoliberal version of capitalism.
We hold these truths to be so very self-evident that I am not even going to elaborate any further.
The West’s obstinacy in refusing to call “communism” what it is – “communism” – is either ignorance or cowardice, but it certainly causes confusion, and confusion has its price.
Furthermore, at some point, and it wasn’t going to be 1992, people are going to realize that the fall of the Soviet Union did not at all force the abandonment of these specific, already-existing communist-inspired programs in the West and Anglophone world. It’s an obvious socio-cultural problem that communism cannot even be admired for its “legacy” despite be allegedly “dead”! (They are purely allegations, we all assure you….)
Another irony is that even though it is unthinkable for many in the West to renounce many of these programs – they even fight for pale facsimiles like Obamacare – Westerners and especially Anglophones also appear unable to realize their true communist paternity. And it is a single-parent household….
It will take the sacrifice of a generation – specifically, my generation – but the younger generation will pick up the communist banner again. That is certain, because all roads lead to (imperial) Rome.
Perhaps it is because I am Iranian and 500 BC is a common cultural/psychological presence, but the West’s constant obsession with rejecting/denying “ancient” history simply does not apply to fundamental economic philosophy…this innovation obsession is but a chimera when it comes to economics. Again I say, “habeas corpus, intellectually” – you cannot seriously posit than neoliberal capitalism is moral/cultural progress over economic socialism (you cannot even prove it is economic progress, LOL), and you cannot name a morally-superior economic philosophy which has been devised.
Regardless, the Great Recession will eventually remind the West that humans can fly with socialism, or be burdened by capitalism, and that there are no other choices.
Politics is moral, cultural & economic: Failure in one forces failure in the other
Not everyone likes to be a “proud leftist” – discussing politics or religion is verboten in Irish and Scots-Irish culture, for example. That’s a huge deal in the entire Anglophone world, with the sole exception of England. Modern analysts of America have agreed that Scots-Irish culture is essentially the dominant culture in United States, where it is so embedded that being “American” is actually being “Scots-Irish” time and time again.
The major problem here is that the Scots-Irish were imperialists and colonists, after all, in (still-divided) Ireland!
Everyone knows that the “real” Irish are Catholics; a Protestant Irishman was most likely an invading colonizer 13 generations ago, and only rarely a convert. But how many Scots-Irish in America even understand their own history…?
People in Anglophone culture think this “ancient history” has no cultural affect in 2017 – they are not just blind and mistaken, but easily disproven: the UK’s Theresa May was able to form a coalition only because she allied with the Ulster far-rightists to retain control of the UK government and thus keep imposing neoliberal economics. This is undeniable proof that the imperialist division of Ireland is still a tool used by the 1% to oppress the 99% in 2017 within the Anglophone world itself. It is not at all “ancient history” but… whatever, keep being in denial, and keep stealing St. Patrick’s Day too….
All of these mistakes – the false claim to be Irish, the denial that a divided Ireland is no longer relevant, the denial of what are clearly communist programs – show that there is some sort of tremendous dysfunction in the Anglosphere which prohibits them from discussing socially-important subjects like economics and imperialism, subjects whose ultimate base is morality. As we all know – the Scots-Irish famously “do not discuss religion or politics”.
I imagine it is the same in all of the Anglophone countries: even though none of them have been victimized by imperialism (the Irish speak Gaelic, or used to), and even though none of them currently have had puppets imposed who prevent democratic politics. Yet they staggeringly cannot discuss economic/political issues (which are moral issues always and religious issues for many) without becoming overheated, and thus their 99% actually impose an informal social ban on such topics of implementing economic morality.
Iranians are the opposite way, and it is encapsulated in a joke: “One Iranian plays alone. Two Iranians play with each other. Three Iranians talk politics!”
I’m not trying to claim cultural superiority: I am simply noting that this real, current, tangible generation or two of adult Iranians have been able to democratically wrest what precisely because they all got together, talked it over, and decided communally.
The same goes for China: How did they get to the point where their citizens report that their democracy became so vastly superior to the West’s version? Simple, it was driven by innumerable surveys, data and discussion which produced consensus; all of this feedback/will of the 99% is the heart of socialism; the true totalitarianism is for capitalism.
Taken from the link below:
“Financially, ninety-five percent of poor Chinese own their homes and land and the Chinese own, in common, the commanding heights of their economy– banks, insurers and utilities.”
You don’t get poor Chinese Trash to own their own trailer, nor poor Iranian trash to nationalize nearly all heavy industry as well as a huge amount of banks, insurance companies and farmland, without a LOT of prior discussion and a LOT of discussion afterwards on what constitutes equitable division.
I don’t think that Iranian joke goes all the way back to the era of Cyrus the Great, which proves that cultures change, a concept I find encouraging (but many White French absolutely do not, today’s taxi driver would agree). But undoubtedly, Iran had many decades of backwards monarchy while some nations were more modern and threw them off a century earlier or less (but not much earlier than a century).
The Anglophone/Scots-Irish model is a fine model in some ways but terribly unmodern in others (making it similar to all cultures): Talking honestly and openly about socioeconomic issues – about religion, politics and economics -is the only way lasting social change can possibly happen.
I hope this article put this simple but vital truth a bit more in the forefront of the minds of our readers, because that is why socialism keeps growing today.
Or, you can agree with Varoufakis and believe that he’s re-invented the wheel with “political surplus recycling”, that Marxist ideas are dead and buried, and that human history not only doesn’t matter but that it never repeats itself.
If so, please bookmark this page for when your next crisis occurs.
This small but necessary detour precedes the final part of this 7-part series, “Forced recession as a tool of social war against the 99%”. That article also tries to show the immutability and the international applicability of modern economic concepts, as well as the immutability of the antisocial tactics used by the 1% to deny democracy, economic equality and your personal empowerment.
This is the sixth article I have written in a 7-part series on today’s Eurozone which will combine some of Varoufakis’ ideas with my 8 years of covering the crisis first-hand from Paris.
Here is the list of articles slated to be published, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!
The English-speaking world’s fear of calling communism, ‘communism’
Forced recession as a tool of social war against the 99%
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.