From September 18 to 22 the Progressive International (PI) are hosting their inaugural summit. The summit seeks to tackle what the organisation has dubbed “the central dilemma of our time” – internationalism or extinction. Former Greek finance minister, member of the Hellenic parliament and member of PI’s council, Yanis Varoufakis gave the keynote address on Friday.
The PI was established in response to a call from the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25) and the Sanders Institute for all progressive forces to form a common front. Since their launch in May 2020, the organisation aimed to “unite, organise, and mobilise progressive forces behind a shared vision of a world transformed”.
The organisation initially planned to hold a council gathering in Iceland but these plans were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency summit was convened to “map our current crisis, to reclaim our shared future, and to strengthen our planetary front to do so”.
Varoufakis’ address was titled “What Comes After Capitalism?”. He gave a timeline of what has led to this present moment – mainly how the establishment organised to put down progressive causes. Varoufakis said contrary to how it’s portrayed the current political clash is actually a fake opposition between liberalism and authoritarianism.
He tackled corporate, the need for a global green deal which is common to all progressives and a vision of post-capitalism. He used his speech to call on the PI to organise global solidarity actions against multinational corporations. He said the time has come to deploy an effective, successful international speaking with one human voice.
One of the corporations Varoufakis highlighted in his speech is Amazon and what they did to Chris Smalls.
Chris Smalls was an Amazon employee who organised a walkout in protest at the working conditions during the pandemic. Smalls was later fired. It was revealed Amazon’s directors planned a character assassination to undermine his protest.
When the news around Smalls’ dismissal became public, there was mass support for him on the internet. However, he remained unemployed and vilified and instead had to start his own union to protect the rights of other workers.
Varoufakis emphasised the need for PI to make a difference. He said if the PI existed back then, things like organising local trade union days of actions could have been combined with global days on inaction where people didn’t visit Amazon’s website. He said these could be popular ways that people around the world could combine and come together to support these causes.
Finally, Varoufakis tackled what a post-capitalism economy will look like. He said there is a possibility of an advanced economy functioning without labour markets. “By granting employee-partners the right to vote in the corporation’s general assemblies, the distinction between wages and profits is terminated and democracy, at last, enters the workplace,” he said.
Varoufakis said some Central Banks are thinking of providing every adult with a free bank account. “If this goes ahead in a society without share markets, why would you want an account with a private bank? What if we were to take this idea further, proposing that the Central Bank also credits each such account with a fixed monthly stipend (a universal basic dividend). As everyone would use their central bank account to make domestic payments, most of the money minted by the central bank will be transferred within its ledger. Additionally, the central bank can grant all new-borns a trust fund, to be used when they grow up,” he said.
Other important thinkers and activists from around the world and South Africa tackled various topics linked to the main theme of internationalism or extinction.
The event is free to view and the full programme can be found here.