In my last column I wrote about the literary visions presented in the science fiction novel Another Now by Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s former Minister of Finance. The novel describes a utopia existing in an alternative universe where the international financial crisis of 2008 led to the reshaping of the world economic order from transnational capitalism to a combination of anarcho-syndicalism and private enterprise with emphasis on individual liberty and equality of opportunity.
The transformation in Another Now was largely due to the efforts of skilled technicians. There was no armed insurrection or violence. Talented radicals simply turned the present system against itself by exploiting its loopholes, inefficiencies, and corruption. Their solutions are fascinating and well worth thinking about, but Varoufakis writes little of the powerful forces supporting the status quo. This failure reveals much about the failure of SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left) and the weakness of radical forces in the EU.
Varoufakis would have us believe that the world’s super-rich would be outmaneuvered by a de facto vanguard party of the intellectual elite that lacks an active mass base even though it may accurately reflect public opinion. Surely, the super-rich are far too clever not to be able to assert their enormous financial, political, and legislative power to protect their interests. Most critically, they control mass culture and can dominate society with minimal coercion.
In the case of SYRIZA, radical intellectuals came to power by addressing the issues raised in the unprecedent mass meetings held in the public squares of Greek cities in response to the national economic crisis. It naively assumed once foreign investors realized austerity was harmful to Greece, they would amend their strict austerity policies. In fact, the lenders fully understood the situation and were resolved to intensify their profits. They knew SYRIZA had no alternative financing in place and had not prepared Greeks for the woes exiting the EU entailed.
When SYRIZA realized it had to capitulate to the demands being made, it sought to save its political face as a radical force by calling a national referendum for the people to decide their fate. Unlike the principled radicals of Another Now, although it wanted a Yes vote, the hypocritical SYRIZA leadership vigorously argued for a No. It was astounded when the public voted Yes. To maintain economic stability, SYRIZA ignored the vote tally and betrayed its base by immediately signing what it had labeled “a catalog of cruelty.” In short, the vaunted intellectual vanguard had vastly underestimated the power and skills of entrenched power.
In Another Now Varoufakis also does not consider the role of organized religion in resisting change. Organized religions believe they already possess the best agenda for the world and have a work force actively advancing that agenda. Tactics vary from converting by persuasion to the most ruthless brutalities of the Inquisition and terrorism. In any case, organized religion can only support change that does not challenge its assumptions. In our times, the major conflicts between secular progressives and organized religions involve the equality of women. That conflict plays out in various forms in nations as different as the United States and Saudi Arabia. In placed like Afghanistan, it can be a matter of life and death.
Another force against a different Other Now that Varoufakis does not deal with in detail is nationalism. The culture into which one happens to be born seems to be natural and universal, leading to their sense of a ‘natural order’ and their suspicion of ‘Others’. Although some cultures are more open to social evolution that others, the human chronicle has consistently involved chronic wars regarding borders, language rights, and ethnic peculiarities.
Other major unexamined factors in Another Now is how families are defined and the nature of education. Also unaddressed is who determines where roads are to be built, how are mass communications regulated, and who deals with natural disasters?
These are vital politic issues, but they are not a valid measure of the cultural worth of Another Now. Major social movements of all ideologies are often greatly sparked or impacted by literary works. Consider Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Frank Harris’ the Octopus, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man, or Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,
Another Now is of that genre, anxious to arouse a vision of possible change among the complacent and unimaginative. It should not be confused with proposed political road maps like the Federalist Papers of the American revolutionaries, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, Roosevelt’s New Deal, or Lenin’s What Is to Be Done?