By Yanis Varouvakis
Last night, immediately after our first DiEM25 TV event, my phone rang. It was Julian. From prison. It was not that first time that he honoured me deeply by using the few phone calls prison allows him to make to call me. Like every other such occasion, when I unexpectedly recognise his voice a torrent of emotions comes flooding in. Guilt, primarily, at the thought that, the moment the line is disconnected, he will remain there – in the exceedingly dark place to which he has been confined because of a decision he made long ago to help the rest of us grasp what the powers-that-be have been doing on our behalf without our knowledge or consent.
Julian wanted to talk about the effects of Covid-19 on the world we live in and, of course, on his case. He remarked that Jeremy Corbyn’s election manifesto, that the establishment had lambasted for being too radical, now seems unreasonable moderate. We laughed at the audacity of those who were telling the people of Britain that it was irresponsible to spend a few tens billions on providing proper funding to the NHS and social care for all, on turning broadband into a public utility, and on taking the railways into public ownership to make them work properly – the very same people who, now that big business and capitalism more generally, are in serious trouble seem to have discovered the money tree, announcing trillions to be pumped into the economy. Julian did not know (how could he, when the prison authorities deny him access to newspapers, the internet, even to BBC Radio 4?) that Boris Johnson had, earlier yesterday, announced the temporary nationalisation of the railways – seeing that privateers can never provide a decent service in the midst of a national emergency.
After a few minutes during which we allowed ourselves to bask in the neoliberals’ Waterloo, in the hands of some RNA that the system could simply not cope with without abandoning all its certainties, we discussed what this means for the future. Julian said, quite correctly, that this new phase of the crisis is, at the very least, making it clear to us that anything goes – that everything is now possible. To which I added that anything ranges from the best to the worst possible developments. Whether the epidemic helps deliver the good or the most evil society will depend, of course, on us – on whether progressives manage to band together. For if we do not, just like in 2008 we did not, the bankers, the spivs, the oligarchs and the neofascists will prove, again, that they are the ones who know how not to let a good crisis go to waste.
Will we succeed? Julian had a hopeful comment on this: At the very least, transnational organisations like Wikileaks and DiEM25 had honed the digital tools for online debates and campaigns well before Covid-19 came on the scene. In some measure, we are better prepared than others […]