The Zed Collective, who run the radical publisher Zed Books, explain why resistance to austerity is drawing readers to what was once a ‘marginal’ sector
By The Zed Collective
Aug 25, 2015
In their contempt for the resounding NO! of the Greek referendum, the Euro-elite currently inflicting economic devastation on the people of Greece resemble the Stalinists lampooned by Brecht in his poem The Solution:
After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
When we planned to publish a new edition of Yanis Varoufakis’s book The Global Minotaur, following his appointment as Greek finance minister in January, we had no idea that it would be released the day after the Greek people would deliver a historic rejection of what Varoufakis has termed “fiscal waterboarding” by EU leaders in the referendum of 5 July. Nor did we expect that to be followed shortly by his dramatic resignation, and declaration that he would wear “the creditors’ loathing with pride”.
Since Syriza’s election victory in January, we have witnessed our author go from being a star of academic conferences to, in the words of the Daily Telegraph, the“rock star of Europe’s anti-austerity uprising”. The man we knew and admired as a sharp analyst was now in discussion with George Osborne in Downing Street and causing consternation in Brussels. As Paul Mason writes in the foreword to the new edition of The Global Minotaur: “Varoufakis’s straight-talking changed the modus operandi of Euro summits, probably forever.”
Aside from this week’s dramatic and disturbing twists, the growth of interest in The Global Minotaur is only one example of how radical publishers are finding new audiences for their books as the marginal goes mainstream, due to the crises caused by austerity policies. InGreece, a popular movement against austerity elected an “outsider” radical government whose leading figures have been catapulted from the world of academia and activism to “official” politics – bringing with them strikingly different ideas and values.
Fellow English-language radical publishers Pluto and Verso are also publishing leading figures of these new movements. Varoufakis’s replacement as Greek finance minister, the urbane Euclid Tsakalotos, published Crucible of Resistance, co-authored with Christos Laskos, with Pluto in 2013.
The Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras praised the book as “a clear account of how Greece and the eurozone got into such a mess. It makes clear that the crisis is not only economic, but also one of growing regional and social inequalities and the retreat of democracy. More important still, the authors bring to the fore what the emerging radical left in Greece and elsewhere can do to get us out of the crisis.”
Pablo Iglesias, or the “pony-tailed one” as he is known in Spain, is the leader of Podemos, which is aiming for victory in Spain’s general election in November, when the English-language version of the book will be published by Verso. Iglesias has become a celebrity in Spain for his attacks on the status quo during TV debates. In Politics in a Time of Crisishe sets out, says Verso, “his agenda for social justice, a fair economy and a new democratic Europe”, lambasting the “Troika, large corporations and the ‘Wall Street Party’ that make decisions and control economies without engaging with the people whose lives are affected”.
This is the new politics which is being thrust into the mainstream by the crisis – and defenders of austerity in the media and politics are both shocked and puzzled by it. The dramatic and swift rise of new populist and progressive political actors across Europe – the SNP in Scotland, Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, the Five Star Movement in Italy (alongside, of course, a frightening growth of political forces on the right) – finds a parallel in the sudden rise of interest in books and new writing from the radical left.
As a workers’ collective – in which all members of the company are owners of the business and on equal pay – Zed has a commitment to equality and participatory democracy built into our constitution. We are part of a broader movement that has seen around 500 new worker collectives and co-operatives set up in Europe since the crisis of 2008.
If a brighter future for Europe is to be forged, it will be thanks to the courage of ordinary people like those who placed their votes in the Greek referendum. As radical publishers, we aim to play our part by disseminating the ideas, analysis and information that will help to sustain and grow these movements.