Another Now - Dispatches from an Alternative Present
By Yanis Varoufakis
London. Penguin Random House, 2020
“I can more easily imagine the extinction of life on our planet than the demise of capitalism.”
Have you ever heard that spoken? I have and over the last decade or more it has occurred to me that we need a good supply of utopian ideas to stimulate our imaginations to anticipate the necessary end of capitalism. The above scepticism has to be challenged and overcome.
The words of Arundhati Roy are apposite in this time of COVID-19:
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world.”
Greek-Australian Yanis Varoufakis’ latest book, Another Now — Dispatches from an Alternative Present, fills the bill admirably. It deserves a wide readership and I hope to motivate you to take a walk through Yanis’ portal into our new world without capitalism.
The story begins in July, 2025, and reflects on the life experiences of three characters: Costa, a humanist computer engineer; Iris, a feminist anarchist; and Eva, a libertarian economist. They had been brought together over the previous 50 years but had only rare and fitful contact until 2025.
Adopting the science fiction genre, the plot depends on the “magic” of computer science and the existence of an Einstein-Rosen wormhole into another dimension. This allows our three characters to contact their clones, who exist in an alternative reality, which diverged in 2008 at the moment of the Great Financial Crash (GFC).
The GFC was a pivotal moment in history, when the World could have acted to discipline finance capital, but failed to. This book provides a description of what was lost.
From the alternative reality — Another Now — the clones Kosti, Siris, and Eve engage with Costa, Iris and Eva through the wormhole. This dialogue leads Costa, Iris and Eva to question their ideas and values and to come to a realisation that the world they inhabit in the “Now” of 21st-century capitalism has been dramatically reconfigured in the Another Now. Market relations exist, but in a fairer, more stable society.
Varoufakis has provided a useful fictional device to describe the possible transition mechanisms and outcomes that were achieved in Another Now.
For example, in Another Now there are no bosses, no private banks and no stock exchanges. All this was achieved in the 17 years between 2008 and 2025. There is scepticism and argument from the disbelieving Costa, Iris and Eva.
Kosti, Siris and Eve explain to them that in Another Now, every employee holds one share only in the company they work for and therefore holds one vote, regardless of the job they do. If they leave, they lose their share/vote.
Company income is allocated with 5% of all revenues going to the government. The other 95% is divided into four parts: fixed costs — for example, rent; research and development; equal basic pay; and bonuses.
All are voted on by the staff, by single share voting in all-member ballots.
Decisions on all key matters promote income equality and favour collective, long-term interests, rather than individual short-term gain.
Payments for work performed are paid into an employee’s “Accumulation” component in their Central Bank account.
At birth, the Central Bank provides every child $100,000 into a “Legacy” trust fund to be accessed when they reach adulthood.
The third component of a person’s Central Bank account is the “Dividend” component, a monthly sum paid from corporate revenues to the government — the 5% paid by all companies.
As Varoufakis points out, philosopher Lidwig Wittgenstein observed that no private language is possible. It can only be produced collectively. He points out the same is true of wealth, which, like language, can only be produced collectively.
The Accumulation, Legacy, and Dividend payments maximise the equitability of the distribution of wealth, while recognising its “collective” nature.
Progressively, Costa, Iris and Eva shed their prejudices and doubts.
Of course, there is much more explanation and detail available in Varoufakis’ book — enough to enable the libertarian banker, Eva, to imagine a market society without private banks or share markets. And sufficient to allay any doubts the reader may have that better alternatives are available and possible in a country like Australia today.
Commercial banks and stock exchanges are a curse on society, akin to casinos and poker machines.
If we had any doubts about the wisdom of the creation of money out of thin air, otherwise colloquially known as “quantitative easing” (printing more money) then the response of government via JobSeeker and JobKeeper in response to COVID-19 should dispel those doubts.
Also, there is much talk of the need to adopt a Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a social right. That genie is now out of the bottle in a number of countries.
Social policy is a matter of political will and strategy. If it needs to be done, do it and do it equitably.
Varoufakis has revealed Another Now that we could adopt.
Varoufakis was Finance minister in 2014/15 when Greece was being bullied by the European Union into adopting austerity policies to meet the rapacious demands of the German private banks. He resigned when the Syriza government capitulated, contrary to the wishes of the Greek people.
I found his book informative, entertaining and liberating. It has given me the confidence to engage in discussion and promotion of an urgent strategy to rid our society of the brutality and corruption of capitalism. It is the enemy of nature and humanity and must be replaced as a matter of urgency.
Lastly, watch Varoufakis on DIEM25 (Democracy In Europe Movement 2025) and join fine comrades organising to develop an international anti-capitalist movement.