On Trump and Europe -Business Insider

Submitted by Yanis Varoufakis  –  The Yanis Varoufakis Blog

Donald Trump, left, and Yanis Varoufakis.

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/Jean-Paul Pelissier/Business InsiderDonald Trump, left, and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

Outspoken former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis compared the popularity of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump to the rise of Fascism across Europe in the 1930s.

Varoufakis, who ran Greece’s economy during crucial bailout talks and resigned last year, on Monday spent 90 minutes answering questions on Q&A website Quora, covering topics ranging from Europe’s future to Trump and even how economics is taught in University.

Trump has provoked the left with his comments on Muslims and immigration but become a darling of many right-wing voters in the US.

Here’s what Varoufakis wrote when asked ‘What do you think about Donald Trump’s political success in the US?’:

Anger is prevalent. Common folks follow a good instinct when they want to punish an establishment that has lied to them for decades, that has treated them with contempt, that considers them ‘useful idiots’ to be bought by the highest bidder.

Unfortunately, this good instinct often leads fed up conservatives to the wrong leader, camp, campaign. We saw this in the 1930s, we are seeing it today in France (the rise of Le Pen). Our duty as democrats is to offer disaffected voters, including conservatives, a way to indulge their impulsive urge to punish the establishment without becoming hostage to misanthropic narratives, like Trump’s, Le Pen’s etc.

The 1930s saw the rise of right-wing, autocratic, Fascist dictatorships in Italy, Spain, and Germany, while in France Marine Le Pen leads the far-right National Front party, which has recently enjoyed a boost in popularity.

Varoufakis and his party, Syriza, swept to power in Greece on a wave of popular support, but from the left, not the right. Varoufakis says there are “stark similarities” with his success and the current popularity of US Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Here are the select highlights of Varoufakis’ other answers:

  • On the future of the EU: “I hope not but I fear we may very well be experiencing the EU’s disintegration. The Eurozone has been, for some time now, in an advanced state of deconstruction…. Beyond the Eurozone, Schengen has already been suspended and is under enormous strain as the forces of xenophobia, ultra-nationalism and plain paranoia are taking over. The EU’s inability is come to terms with what is, after all, a mild refugee crisis (as compared, for instance, with that facing Jordan or Lebanon) speaks volumes in this regard.”
  • On Greece’s economy: “Terribly, heartbreakingly badly… Greece was in a free fall before we [the Syriza party] were elected, and remains in one now because our attempts to renegotiate the world’s most failed ‘program’ were crushed by an ironclad troika determined not to ‘lose’ Spain, Portugal, Ireland etc.”
  • On Julian Assange: “Democracy is nothing without the right to free speech. And, as I said at the Volksbuhne Theatre while I wasintroducing Julian to the audience, the right to free speech counts for little without the right to know what our rulers are doing on our behalf.”
  • On his new movement, DiEM 25 (Democratise Europe): “The number one lesson many of us learned during 2015 at the level of European Union, the Eurogroup, etc., is that the old way of doing politics in Europe is obsolete – finished… Instead of starting at level of the nation-state and forging an alliance, which is flimsy and brittle, how about starting a movement throughout Europe on the basis of a very clear manifesto that binds us together? How about a movement with some very simple ideas of what we want to do as Europeans?”
  • On a potential Brexit: “I argued that British voters have every reason to be livid with a deeply anti-democratic, bureaucratic and unappetising EU. But it would be wrong to think that they can just leave the EU behind, sailing off into some other alliance with the US or China.”
  • On Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders: “The great difference between us is that Bernie is running for the Presidency of a social economy that is far more robust and autonomous than the Eurozone – and infinitely more sustainable than a bankrupt country (Greece) lacking any of the levers of policy making (e.g. monetary & fiscal policy, the right to legislate that was given away last summer with the 3rd Loan Agreement).”

You can read the full Q&A session here.



Bernie Sanders’ backers aren’t voting for socialism

Submitted by Yanis Varoufakis  –  The Yanis Varoufakis Blog

WRITTEN BY Tim Fernholz

The last socialist to freak out the establishment with a radical plan, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, said Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is earning votes for his common sense, not his political theory, in a recent Quora post

Last year, the Greeks elected people like me not because they suddenly became leftwing! Similarly with Bernie Sanders. The New Hampshire voters did not suddenly discover they were democratic… socialists! They just had enough of phoney politics and decided to back someone who has been saying the same common sense stuff for decades. They would not vote for a ‘transition to socialism’ (like my voters would not have voted me in last year if I was proposing such a ‘transition’ to them).

But they understand that Bernie and us—his comrades on the Atlantic’s other side—are modest in our aims. We understand that socialism is far, far away—and that it will probably only become pertinent when technology develops further … For now, all we propose is the return to basic liberal democratic principles that the establishment has confined to the dustbin of history—at the cost of everyone (except some, very few, entrepreneurial spivs).

Varoufakis captivated the media with his long-shot efforts to push his country out of a punishing debt repayment plan, but they ended in his own resignation and national capitulation to the EU’s unrealistic demands. Last week, the IMF official in charge of monitoring Greecewrote that that the country’s inadequate pension reforms and the EU’s refusal to consider debt relief mean a Greek exit from the euro zone will soon be back on the table.

In contrast, Sanders’ plans for the US, including single-payer healthcare and publicly funded education, are well within the political mainstream of Europe—even in tight-fisted Germany, Varoufakis’ sworn enemy.

Varoufakis tells Irish people to ‘send Michael Noonan packing’

Submitted by Yanis Varoufakis  –  The Yanis Varoufakis Blog

Former Greek finance minister accuses government of pandering to oligarchs

At a Right2Change meeting in Dublin’s Mansion House, the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis accused the Irish government of pandering to oligarchs.
Video: Ronan McGreevy

Ireland faces a “stark choice” at the next election between those who have imposed austerity on the Irish people and those who have an alternative vision, the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has said.

Mr Varoufakis told the Right2Change meeting in the Mansion House thatMichael Noonanand Brendan Howlin were both part of a conspiracy to crush the Irish people.

“The Irish general election will either condone and legitimise the Irish people’s violation at the hands of an unscrupulous local regime and a brutalEuropean Central Bank, ” he said.

“Or the general election will repudiate and condemn those who violated the Irish people. Your government did what all oligarchs wanted them to do – they blamed the victims.

“(Enda) Kenny said Irish people went mad borrowing. Really? What happened is that a small band of Irish international bankers, developers and politicians built up a gargantuan debt that you have to take on.”

Mr Varoufakis, an academic economist, became Greece’s finance minister when Syriza took power in January 2015.

He resigned seven months later claiming that the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras had reneged on his promise to renegotiate Greece’s debt deal with the EU.

Speaking via video link to the Right2Change meeting, he accused Mr Noonan of failing to support debt relief for the Greek people at EU level because it would draw attention to his own failure to fulfil his commitments to get debt relief for Irish people too.

“Now you have a chance to send Mr Noonan packing. Our struggle was also a struggle for the Irish people. If our moderate proposals prevailed, a template would have been created for Irish debt restructuring for the end of debt in Dublin.”

He also made reference to Mr Howlin’s remarks during his budget speech, “who speaks of Syriza now?” in which the Minister for Public Expenditure contrasted growth rates in Ireland with the stagnation in the Greek economy.

Mr Varoufakis told the meeting in the Mansion House: “Brendan Howlin had the audacity to say, ‘who speaks of Syriza now?’. That is why why they (the European Union) crushed us. They crushed to us to crush your spirits, to lie to your faces and still get relected on the platform and the campaign of fear.

“I trust that the people of Ireland will crush the hopes of their political establishment. It is crucial for all of Europe that this happens.”

Mr Varoufakis has been involved with a number of other left-wing campaigners in the foundation of the DiEM25 (Democracy in Europe Movement 2025), which was launched in Berlin last week.

Its purpose is to democratise the institutions of the European Union or “it will disintegrate with terrible consequences for everyone”, he warned.

He said those involved in the Right2Change movement were seeking to put the “demos” back into Irish democracy “in a way the Irish people deserve.”


Without More Democracy Europe is Doomed

Submitted by Yanis Varoufakis  –  The Yanis Varoufakis Blog

Screen Shot 2016-02-11 at 07.44.44Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has inhabited many guises. The “rock star economist”, “the bad boy of capitalism”, and even “Dr. Doom”—the latter referring to his rather gloomy worldview and tendency to predict economic Armageddon.

An economics professor by trade, he was an unusual choice for the role of Finance Minister in the left-wing Syriza government, with his open-necked shirts, leather jacket and radical, anti-austerity views. The media might have been mesmerized by his stint in government at the height of the Greek debt crisis from January to July 2015, but his fellow Eurozone ministers, with whom he repeatedly clashed, were less enamoured. He was forced to resign before a new bailout could be agreed for his beleaguered nation.

Now Varoufakis has a new role, as spokesman for a pro-democracy movement that launched on Tuesday in Berlin. Billed as a pan-European collective, DiEM25 (Democracy in Europe Movement 2025) aims to shift the balance of power away from the unelected Brussels bureaucrats and restore it to the people and their elected representatives.

Without this Varoufakis says, in typical fashion, the European project is doomed. Newsweek sat down with him to discuss his political future, the forthcoming U.K referendum on its EU membership, and his longstanding friendship with Margaret Thatcher’s former chancellor, Norman Lamont.

What is behind the launch of this new movement? Do you really see the European Union as a threat to democracy?

The EU as a decision-making body is a democracy-free zone. It’s a bit like being on the moon and speaking of an oxygen deficit when there is no oxygen, similarly in Brussels there is no democracy. There is democracy at the level of the nation state because there are parliaments, but the bodies that make the important decisions, such as the troika [the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank] and the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin), are not answerable to anyone. The finance ministers all go home and denounce the decisions made by the Eurogroup but claim there is nothing they can do about it. Most of those decisions are made by shadowy bodies and bureaucrats that nobody knows about, let alone elects. That is why the European economy is the planet’s greatest financial black hole. Continue reading

Do they really want your money back? op-ed in Bild Zeitung

Submitted by Yanis Varoufakis  –  The Yanis Varoufakis Blog

Last February, while visiting the federal finance ministry in my capacity as Greece’s finance minister, an aide to Dr Schäuble asked me playfully, but not without a strong hint of underlying aggression: „When am I getting my money back?

I am sure that many readers of Bild Zeitung would be proud of this official and of his impertinent question.This is not the time, nor the newspaper, for me to enter into an argument regarding the nature and causes of Greece’s public and private debt to German banks and to the German state. Let’s, for now, keep it simple:Greece owes a great deal of money to Germany, and other states, and finds it very hard to meet these repayments given the collapse of Greek national income over the past six years. The interesting question is this:

Does the federal government of Germany genuinely place above other priorities getting its taxpayers’ money back from Greece? Was the finance ministry aide, who asked me that question, genuine in his concern? In other words, can German citizens trust their government to prioritise recouping the money that Germany has lent the Greek state? Or does the German government have other, unstated, priorities?

Let’s approach this question dispassionately. Greece’s economy is badly damaged. Whatever the reasons, Greeks have lost exactly one third of our national income (since 2010), Greek banks are unable to lend even to profitable firms, and investment from abroad has dried up. These are facts independently of your theory, dear reader, or mine, as to their causes.

Given these facts, suppose that we were to sit down, together, to decide what must be done to ensure that Greece’s broken economy can generate the taxes from which the German taxpayers’ money will be returned. Would we agree on the measures that are currently being passed through the Greek Parliament as a result of inordinate pressure from the troika and with the blessings of the federal finance ministry? Continue reading

Why a pan-European democracy movement?

Submitted by Yanis Varoufakis  –  The Yanis Varoufakis Blog

Yanis Varoufakis speaks to Nick Buxton, and Red Pepper, about why a pan-European movement for democracy is necessary

What do you see as the main threats to democracy today?

The threat to democracy has always been the disdain the establishment has for it. Democracy by its nature is very fragile and the antipathy towards it by the establishment is always extremely pronounced, and the establishment has always sought to undo it.

This story goes to back ancient Athens when the challenge to establish democracy was immense. The idea that the free poor, who were the majority, could be put in control of government was always contested. Plato wrote The Republic as a treatise against democracy, arguing for a government by the experts.

Similarly in the case of American democracy, if you look at the Federalist Papers and Alexander Hamilton you will see it was an attempt to contain democracy, not to bolster it. The idea behind a representative democracy was to have the merchants represent the rest because the plebs weren’t considered up to the task of deciding important matters of state.

The examples are countless. Just look at what happened to the Mossadeq government in Iran in the 1950s or the Allende government in Chile. Whenever the ballot box produces a result the establishment doesn’t like, the democratic process is either overturned or threatened with being overturned.

So if you are asking who are and have always been the enemies of democracy, the answer is the economically powerful.

This year it seems democracy is under attack from entrenched power more than ever. Is that your perception?

This year is special in this regard as we had the experience in Greece where in the elections the majority of Greeks decided to back an anti-establishment party, Syriza, which came to power ‘speaking truth to power’ and challenging the established order in Europe.

When democracy produces what the establishment likes to hear then democracy is not a threat, but when it produces anti-establishment forces and demands, that’s when democracy becomes a threat. We were elected to challenge the Troika of creditors and it was at that point the Troika asserted quite clearly that democracy cannot be allowed to change anything. Continue reading

On Podemos, Greece and DiEM – Interview in El Mundo

Submitted by Yanis Varoufakis  –  The Yanis Varoufakis Blog

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 21.14.09

For the El Mundo site (in Spanish), click here. To read my original English language responses…

Why did you resign the very next day after the ‘no’ victory in the Greek referendum?

Because the Prime Minister told me, on the night of that magnificent result, that it was time to surrender to the troika. Not what I had entered politics for and certainly not what the mandate that the 62% NO vote we had just received stipulated.

Did the European leaders press Tsipras to get rid from you? Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the president of the Eurogroup of finances ministers, has admitted that he did so…

They knew that I would never sign up to a new non-viable, toxic loan agreement. That was clear from the beginning. I was elected to negotiate a viable agreement. And since it is the finance minister who signs these agreements on behalf of the state, it was essential to the troika that I should be removed.

Why do you think you are so uncomfortable (and considered even dangerous) for the EU leaders?

Because I was an obstacle to the maintenance of their permanent denial regarding their failed fiscal reform programs.

What has been your major mistake during the time you were Greece Finance Minister?

To believe that the troika would honour the spirit and the letter of the 20th February Eurogroup agreement. It was on the basis of that false belief  that I signed, a few days later, the application for an extension to the previous loan agreement.

Some people blame you for the painful turn of the Greek situation during the first Syriza Government. Are you guilty?

If there was a painful turn due to our policies, I would of course be responsible (as the finance minister in charge). However, even Eurostat confirms that, during my 5 months in office, real national income in fact rose. The damage came right at the end of my ministry. And it did not come from some policy that I implemented. It came because the troika ruthlessly closed down Greece’s banks in order to force upon the Prime Minister further reductions in pensions, greater taxes for consumers and companies etc. And afterwards they blamed the damage they caused on… me. (Typical of bullies who blame the victim for her/his victimization.) Continue reading

Greece’s two currencies – Project Syndicate Op-Ed

Submitted by Yanis Varoufakis  –  The Yanis Varoufakis Blog

Screen Shot 2016-01-09 at 00.42.41.png

ATHENS – Imagine a depositor in the US state of Arizona being permitted to withdraw only small amounts of cash weekly and facing restrictions on how much money he or she could wire to a bank account in California. Such capital controls, if they ever came about, would spell the end of the dollar as a single currency, because such constraints are utterly incompatible with a monetary union. Greece today (and Cyprus before it) offers a case study of how capital controls bifurcate a currency and distort business incentives. The process is straightforward. Once euro deposits are imprisoned within a national banking system, the currency essentially splits in two: bank euros (BE) and paper, or free, euros (FE). Suddenly, an informal exchange rate between the two currencies emerges. Read more here

Stories of 2015: Yanis Varoufakis – in The Guardian, 24th DEC 2015

Submitted by Yanis Varoufakis  –  The Yanis Varoufakis Blog

Screen Shot 2015-12-25 at 08.58.34

Screen Shot 2015-12-25 at 08.58.43Screen Shot 2015-12-25 at 08.58.53The year 2015 did not begin – or end – as Yanis Varoufakis might have predicted. This time last year, having finished a busy academic term at the University of Texas in Austinwhere he was a visiting professor in economics, he had flown to Australia for a holiday. Varoufakis has a teenage daughter with his first wife – the pair now live in Sydney – and he was hoping, as he puts it, “to have a quiet time”.

For the Guardian’s site, click here. Or…

The Fates, or the European Central Bank, or the Greek electorate, had other plans. Five years after a collapse in confidence over Greece’s ability to repay its debts plunged the country into a calamitous economic crisis, the weakened government of prime minister Antonis Samaras called a surprise January general election.

The telegenic Varoufakis had a certain profile in his home country as an academic economist and TV pundit, though he had no party-political background. But he had privately agreed with members of the radical leftwing party Syriza that if it was elected, he would serve in their government. Varoufakis had been convinced, however, that nothing could happen before March – and even then believed Samaras might do enough to hang on. Continue reading

Yanis Varoufakis



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