Yanis Varoufakis and Noam Chomsky discuss radical lessons from 2021 

By Thomas Judge


IN A discussion on DiEM TV, the former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, and renowned philosopher Noam Chomsky get together to discuss the radical lessons from 2021.

They discuss a wide range of topics, from Covid to Climate change and America’s extreme shift right.

In 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic did not leave us behind but raged on worldwide. Asked what lessons progressives can take from this, Chomsky argues it enforced lessons we already knew about financial capital. 

He argued that vaccine apartheid, motivated by profit, is responsible for the current and future waves: “Rich countries have monopolised the vaccine for themselves, and have insisted on preserving the outlandish property rights agreements, patents.

Chomsky articulated how the pharmaceutical industry’s attitudes and manipulation to protect its profits can be generalised to the climate crisis.

He pointed out that although private investment is willing to commit trillions to help solve the crisis, they will only do so “if they are guaranteed to be risk-free by the IMF.”

However, Chomsky does point to the protests that went on at COP26 and around the world, which demand better actions, asking “which of these forces is going to prevail.”

Currently, the protesters are making a difference but not winning.

Varoufakis surmises that: “Concentrated capital power knows how to take advantage of a crisis, whether it’s Covid 19 or the climate crisis” and that “so far the forces within the corridors of power are wining” and not the protesters on the streets. 

However, Chomsky is somewhat more optimistic, saying the climate protests in various forms worldwide have had an effect, at least making the rich recognise the problem.

However, the current mantra of invested capital is: “No elimination, only innovation,” essentially meaning the only way they will allow progress on climate change to occur is within a capitalist system.  

Chomsky is also critical of President Biden’s efforts but recognises it is a small step forward: “The Biden administration put forth a climate program which is inadequate but better than anything that’s proceeded it.”

He argued: “If it hadn’t been for the demonstrations we would have essentially been in the Trump era racing as fast as possible towards the precipice.

“The activism has fended off the worst, but left plenty of room for the class war to continue.”

Talking more generally about the trajectory on the United States, Chomsky compares the Republican Party and its base, and more fringe right parties, like the AfD in Germany, citing comparative studies that have been done between different sets of voters. 

Chomsky also points out that while we would be concerned if the AfD took power in Germany: “It’s much more dangerous when it’s taking power in history’s most powerful state.”

He believes the Republican Party is “very likely to take power next year and in 2024.

“They won’t win the vote, but they probably will win the election” due to the electoral system that America uses.  

He argues that the dramatic shift within the Republican base has taken place due to “Four years of propaganda”, highlighting the longer legacy of the Trump presidency. Combating this will be difficult, and he believes “massive popular protest is necessary” to try and overcome these challenges. 

Chomsky also challenges Europe, particularly Germany, asking why they don’t step out from America’s shadow, particularly on matters in foreign policy.

He says that “Europe is unwilling or incapable of taking the role in the world that it could play,” pointing out that Germany was a crucial voice in defending the vaccine patents, for example. 

As well as this, he mentioned the Iran negotiations and that “Germany, and the rest of Europe refuses to play an independent role in world affairs.”

He reminded us that when the US pulled out of the agreement with Iran, most of Europe disagreed with it, but they obeyed anyway. He states that as long as Europe continues: “a policy of subordination to the USA, the outcome looks quite grim.”  

To conclude, Varoufakis asks what Chomsky’s message for 2022 is. Quoting Gramsci, he says it is the same as it is every year, that “you have to keep pessimism off the intellect, and optimism of the will, and there’s reason for optimism.

“Things look grim, but there are ways out.”

Varoufakis ended by saying that “Struggling and not ending up compromised is more fun, than submitting and ending up compromised.”


Featured Image: Marc Lozano @Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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