On Sunday, as we reported here, the Greek people voted NO to more loans and increased austerity measures by the ECB and IMF. It was a historic referendum result that revived that old-fashioned idea of democracy in a Europe now controlled by shady financial institutions and faceless international creditors. Winning a NO vote was an enormous victory for Greece’s ruling party Syriza, and yet shortly after the result, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis resigned (full story here). He had hinted that anonymous, powerful people had forced him out of his job, and in this video Varoufakis makes some more comments that should make all of us feel quite nervous about the future of our political and economic systems.
In this June interview with UK Channel 4’s economy correspondent Paul Mason, Varoufakis explains exactly why he fought for a NO vote and how unfair and irrational the creditors have been in refusing to discuss debt re-structuring. As Varoufakis points out, it is perfectly normal in the world of finance for us to be offered long term loans that suit our budget. It happens every day, yet Greece has not been offered a sustainable debt repayment plan that will enable it to pay back its creditors with interest, without forcing people at home to suffer as they do right now. If Greece has no money left, then how can it possibly pay what the IMF and the ECB expect it to? Varoufakis had suggested that his country pay an increased sum of money back over a longer time period, enabling the economy to grow over time. The creditors refused. When Prime Minister Tspiras announced a referendum would take place, the creditors were absolutely furious. Democracy is not something they understand, it seems.
Upon announcing the vote, Greek banks were closed for one week, something which Varoufakis claims “can only be explained as a ploy by the Eurogroup in order to blackmail this government into signing an un-viable agreement.” As journalist Paul Mason gets increasingly hot under the collar at all this radical talk, Varoufakis is calm as a cucumber. “The banks closed because the Eurogroup wanted to deny the Greek people the opportunity to deliver their verdict on the institutions’ offer,” he repeats.
Varoufakis points out that despite the blackmail and people being unable to withdraw their own funds, the country has not seen a single incident of violence. “We were very worried about awful episodes outside banks; we had none,” says the economist-turned-politician.
He also blasts mainstream media when Mason tells him how scared people are of an economic collapse. “I can understand the terror,” Varoufakis begins. “If you look at what the media is blasting out it is natural that people get scared. Its a kind of media-based terrorism that is casting a shadow over people’s daily lives, especially those in business.” For once, Mason has no response.
But the most interesting comment in this interview has to be what Varoufakis says about his government’s decision to hold last Sunday’s referendum (at 10:32). Speaking about his belief in democracy, Varoufakis drops information about the real face of the European Union, and the changing landscape of public participation in our own domestic affairs. He says that by calling a referendum, “I have entrusted the Greek people in a way that has incensed my colleagues in the Eurogroup who don’t believe that such complex matters- I have been told- should be put to common folk.”
And herein lies the problem. We live in a neo-liberal, globalized plutocracy. An elite group of bankers control the global money supply (and the politicians we vote for), and here’s the thing: they do not believe in democracy. They do not believe that ordinary people have the right to an opinion, let alone a vote, on issues as enormous as the one facing Greece. This is all the more infuriating when you consider the fact that it’s regular members of the public who are being forced to bail out private banking debts. Worst of all, rather than listen with interest to Varoufakis’s logical and intelligent argument, corporate journos like Paul Mason prefer to doggedly defend the position of Greece’s creditors, while peddling fear and lies about the consequences of a Greek exit from the Eurozone.
We’re not sure what Varoufakis’s next career move will be, but one thing is certain: we would definitely