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Former Greek Finance Minister Varoufakis on Catalonia, Muslim Ban and a Sustainable World Order

Web ExclusiveNovember 03, 2017
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We continue our conversation with economist and former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. His new book is titled Adults in the Room: My Battle with Europe’s Deep Establishment.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Thousands protested in Catalonia Thursday, after eight regional ministers were jailed and accused of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, as the constitutional crisis in Spain continues. The ministers had already been fired by Spain’s central government over Catalonia’s independence referendum. They now face up to 50 years in prison. This is Maria Carrera at a protest in Barcelona.

MARIA CARRERA: [translated] This is shameful, because they have committed a coup d’état. They are Francists and Nazis. I want to go to the prison, where our comrades are being held.

JAUME SOLANA: [translated] It is unjust because there is no democracy like this. It is unjust because many politicians that have stolen are free, and today they are in prison, and that is unjust.

AMY GOODMAN: Spanish prosecutors are also seeking a European arrest warrant for Catalonia’s leader, Carles Puigdemont, who is in exile in Belgium right now, along with other members of the Catalan government. This is Carles Puigdemont.

CARLES PUIGDEMONT: [translated] The Spanish government decision to imprison the vice president and the Cabinet members of the legitimate government of Catalonia, elected in the polls of September 27, is a very grave mistake. It is a grave attack on democracy. Imprisoning political leaders with ample citizen support is an act that violates the basic principle of democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: In late October, in just the last few weeks, Spain’s government seized control of Catalonia using Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, which had never been used before in modern Spain’s democratic history. The move stripped the northeastern region of its autonomy in efforts to crush Catalonia’s growing independence movement.

To talk about this and a number of other issues, we are joined by Yanis Varoufakis. He is the former finance minister of Greece. He has written a book called Adults in the Room: My Battle with the European and American Deep Establishment. He served as finance minister in Greece in 2015, before resigning from the Syriza government, just as he was negotiating with the European Union and the IMF, a famous image as he was going off on his motorcycle, and launched the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, known as DiEM25.

This is Part 2 of our conversation. You can check democracynow.org for Part 1.

It’s great to continue to have you with us, Yanis Varoufakis. Talk about what’s happening in Catalonia.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: The history of the Catalan independence movement is too long to enter into now. But also it doesn’t really matter, because what we now have is new facts on the ground, caused by the violence by the Madrid government during the independence referendum that the Madrid government did not sanction. Now, there is a debate in Spain about the legality of that referendum, whether it was binding or not. But the moment you have these scenes of Guardia Civil, central government police, beating up peaceful voters in polling stations, injuring 900 of them, those facts on the ground changed the scenery completely. Now the impasse is getting worse. We have competing nationalism clashing.

I will never take a position on whether Catalonia should be or should not be independent. This is up to the people of Catalonia to decide. But where I think all democrats, since we’re at Democracy Now!, must have a view is that any constitution in whose name politicians are jailed for peacefully carrying out their political mandate cannot possibly be democratic, cannot possibly be worth the paper it’s written on.

And my great fear, Amy, is that this is unleashing demonic forces, not just in Spain, but across Europe. We have a Europe that is fragmenting because of austerity. This may sound a little bit far-fetched, but it is not. Think back to 2010. Support for Catalan independence was no more than 10, 15 percent. What really fueled support for Catalan independence was the way in which the central government of Madrid, of Spain in Madrid, used as an excuse the austerity program that was first applied, implemented in Greece and then transferred to Spain, Ireland, Portugal, throughout Europe, even within Germany, at least regarding the German working class. The Madrid government used the austerity, the pan-European austerity, as an excuse in order to destroy the autonomy within the republic of—or the kingdom of Spain, of Catalonia, and to return it to a Francoist kind of dependence on Madrid. It was then this combination of authoritarianism and austerity that gave rise to the strength of the Catalan independence movement.

So, it seems to me now that things have progressed to such an extent that we need a European solution. The European Union’s position, so far, is—is very paradoxical. On the one hand, what they are saying is that this is an internal matter for Spain, because the European Union is only a union between states. Well, that is the best argument for Catalan independence, because the Catalans think, “Well, if the only way the European Union state is going to take our civil liberties seriously is if we create a state.” That fuels Catalan independence, which is surely not what the European Union wants.

So, our view as DiEM25 is very simple. We need to establish conditions under which—and free, fair and binding—legally binding referendums take place in Catalonia, in conditions of peace and quiet, in conditions of civil liberty, so the Catalans can decide what they should do. And that independence, if it gets the go-ahead, should come with strings attached from the European Union. Like, for instance, there should be no new borders. The cities of Catalonia should be able to retain their Spanish citizenship. We should retain Catalonia’s contribution to the poorer parts of Spain through the—a common budget. There are easy ways of resolving this, as long as there is a democratic process and as long as there is an interest in resolving this, rather than putting it into the path towards an impasse that will be catastrophic for Spain and for the rest of Europe.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the pro-independence coalition between capitalist fiscal conservatives, like Puigdemont, and anti-capitalists, and what it would look like in a modern Catalonian state?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Periods of national liberation struggle always give rise to these kinds of alliances, alliances between the bourgeoisie, the capitalist class, and the peasants, or the working class. It happened in the 19th century in Italy. Italy became independent, remember, under Garibaldi, as a result of such an alliance—every time there’s a national liberation struggle.

Now, I do not want to take the side of the independence movement in Catalonia, because, personally, I’m anti-nationalist. I don’t like borders. I dislike borders. I think that the most important project the democrats now have in Europe is to democratize Europe and to create a democratic common home for all of us in Europe and just ignore those petty squabbles between our different ethnicities, nationalities and so on. This is the best way of retaining our national cultures, our national languages, by disdaining nationalism. But it’s not for me to tell my friends in Catalonia whether they should have their own country and whether they should continue to be ruled by Madrid. This must be something that all of us, outside Catalonia, empower the Catalans to decide, under circumstances of civil liberty.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s talk about this issue of borders, and I want to go to Greece for that, the whole refugee crisis in Europe, which has certainly greatly impacted Greece. A group of refugees stranded in Greek camps have launched a hunger strike to protest against delays in reuniting them with relatives in Germany. Greek media report Greece and Germany informally agreed in May to slow down refugee reunification, although Greece denies this. This is one of the protesting refugees.

DALAL RASHOU: [translated] I have not seen my husband and child for more than one year and nine months. I miss him. And every day I am here in Greece, and I cry. I don’t want to stay here. I want to go to my husband.

AMY GOODMAN: Just one voice, one refugee. But the issue is massive. Can you talk about the whole flow, where the refugees are coming from, where they’re trying to head, why Greece is such a central part of this, and what you feel needs to happen?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: I have to tell you that if any of our viewers were to visit the camps in Lesbos, the island that has received most of the refugees—the hotspots are there—I think we would all feel a sense of shame and disgrace, as Westerners, as civilized people, that this is done in our name, the conditions of mud, refuge, human excrement, in which these people live, incarcerated in concentration camps only because they are trying to escape absolutely woeful circumstances. The fact that we have decided that some countries, like Pakistan and Afghanistan, are considered safe countries, and therefore that the people who are fleeing from Pakistan and Afghanistan are illegitimate refugees or migrants, this is preposterous.

I can tell you stories that will make all of us, you know, exceptionally sad today of people running. And there was a story of a man called Shabbir, Amy. I’ll just say—just communicate this story very briefly to you. He destroyed his family, because one night he decided to go to the aid of his next-door neighbor, who happened to be a Christian, a Christian Pakistani, in a Pakistani town. The Christian family next door was targeted by Islamist extremists. They petrol bombed the family. They were waiting outside to beat them up or even kill them, because they wanted to turn their house into a madrassa, into a clerical Islamist foundation. And—

AMY GOODMAN: And this was where?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: In Pakistan, in a town in northeast Pakistan. Shabbir came out to help his neighbors. He did smuggle them into his home and to safety. The next morning, his brother was murdered. He was called an apostate. His family had to flee. And he took his elderly father and fled, ended up in Turkey. His father died. He was beaten up by rogue policemen and bandits. He ended up in one of those vessels taken to Lesbos. The vessel capsized. Most of the people on the vessel drowned. He ended up in Lesbos.

And civilized Europe determined that he was not eligible for asylum because he came from a safe country, Pakistan. And he was returned to Turkey on the basis of the European Union-Turkey deal, which is perhaps the most abominable deal since the 1940s, because what it does is it—Europe is bribing the increasingly dictatorial president of Turkey, so that the president of Turkey allows the European Union to violate the rights of refugees afforded by them by the United Nations. You only have to state those stories to realize that Europe is losing its soul in there.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that further, the relationship with Turkey and what Europe is getting.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Well, it’s very, very, very simple. What Angela Merkel did after—Angela Merkel initially opened her arms and the borders of Germany, very valiantly and beautifully, to the Syrian refugees, remember, in the summer of 2015. Immediately there was a backlash from within her own party, and she was about to lose her position. So she clamped down. She allowed for the borders to be closed and for the corridor leading from Greece to Germany to be barricaded, and came to an agreement with Turkey. We heard the—and saying, “I’ll give you a few billion euros, and you make sure that those flotillas do not cross to Greece. And also you will have to agree to take back people from Greece that we consider to be illegitimate refugees,” like Shabbir, back to camps containing more than a million people in Turkey living in atrocious conditions.

So, if we think that this is the way to deal with the problem—by the way, Europe does not have a migration crisis. We don’t have a refugee crisis. We are a continent, very rich continent, of 500 million people. Greece has a refugee crisis, only because we don’t have a European Union, because, as you saw, the people who end up in those horrific Lesbos camps are barricaded there. They are not allowed to move freely within the European Union. Imagine if the United States were to say, “OK, refugees crossing over to Arizona will have to stay in concentration camps in Arizona, and they cannot travel to the rest of the United States, but they will not be dealt with humanely either.” I believe that you would have a serious moral crisis in this country, if that happened.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we do have a very serious crisis on the border, where families are detained and jailed for sometimes years, where people are taken, where they’re also sent back. But this issue of refugees, not only refugees coming from other countries as they flee persecution, but also the issue in the United States, and as you travel here in the United States, President Trump’s focus on Muslims, trying once and—one time and then again and again to impose a Muslim ban. What is your response to this?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Well, racists will always use any crisis in order to propagate their misanthropy. And this is what Donald Trump is doing. But he’s doing it to the detriment of the fight against Muslim fundamentalism, because, let’s face it, the worst enemies of ISIS are Muslims. The people who die daily to fight against ISIS are Muslims. Our best defense against Muslim extremists are Muslims. They are the people who are the front line. We Westerners, we suffer minuscule losses compared to the losses that Muslims, progressive Muslims, the Kurds and others fighting against the fundamentalists in the Middle East, are suffering. When President Trump turns against Muslims, he is effectively undermining our best defenses against Islamic fundamentalism. Donald Trump is ISIS’ greatest friend.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that further.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Well, if I were ISIS, I would dread the impeachment of Donald Trump, because he is creating the kind of hatred between Christians or Westerners and Muslims, which helps ISIS recruit fundamentalists and undermines progressive Muslims, who are making the point that the only way of establishing a decent set of circumstances for people in the Middle East is by eradicating fundamentalism.

AMY GOODMAN: Here in the United States, you have the issue of the white supremacist rally at the University of Virginia. You have white Christian, neo-Nazi white supremacists. These guys call themselves proud fascists, I mean, self-avowed fascists. A white nationalist rams his car into a crowd, and he kills a young woman, injures many, many others. And then you have the man from—an Uzbek native, green card in the United States, who attacks the cyclists and the pedestrians in New York. President Trump immediately comes out, calls him an “animal,” calls for the death penalty, says he should be sent to Guantánamo. In the case of the white supremacists, he said there are very fine people among them. He says the violence comes from both sides, certainly doesn’t use the term “animal” either to describe him or the man in Las Vegas who gunned down more than 50 people and injured hundreds more, did not talk about him as an “animal.” You’ve been traveling around the United States, and you watch President Trump from afar. What about what you’re seeing? When I asked you about Golden Dawn in Greece, you said, “Don’t call them neo-Nazi. They are outright Nazis.” What about what you’re seeing surge here in the United States?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Well, anybody who has followed Donald Trump’s career and past can recognize a very clear case of a racist. He’s always dabbled in racism in one way or another. And not just racist. His sexism is quite renowned, as well.

But the interesting question is: Why is he president in this country? And I think that the answers must be sought in the failures of progressives, in the failures of the Democratic Party. In my view, it was President Barack Obama’s spectacular failure to use the short—the small window of opportunity he had after his election the first time ’round, of seven, eight months, in order to live up to the hopes deposited upon his shoulders by the people who felt discarded for many years as a result of neoliberalism, and then by the 2008 collapse and the fact that they had then to shoulder, you know, the burdens created by Wall Street and the 0.1 percent upon them. President Obama failed to do this. He was coopted by the same people who created the crisis in the first place.

And then you have this very sad phenomenon where the same people who had invested their hopes upon President Obama then voted for Donald Trump, because—this is the lesson that we haven’t learned from the 1930s, that when you have a financial sector collapse and the burdens of the finances are shifted onto the shoulders of the weakest members of society, the grapes of wrath grow heavy for the harvest. And the only political forces that benefit from that, in the end, are not the progressives. They are the racists. They are the bigots. They are the misanthropists. We keep making the same mistake, and we end up with the same grapes of wrath.

AMY GOODMAN: So the question is: Do you work from the inside or the outside? And you’re a very interesting case, because you’re a fierce critic on the outside, Syriza very much a fiercely critical party in Greece. You become the finance minister in 2015, so you were at the center of the Greek financial crisis. You were the main negotiator with the IMF, with the European Union. And you document all this in your book, Adults in the Room: My Battle with the European and American Deep Establishment_. In Part 2 two of the discussion, you started in Part 1deserve, but really lay out what it was like and who you thought were the—were that permanent governments behind what you were doing. What actually was happening, before we go into what you think a new financial order, an equitable financial order, should look like? But what was it like to make that decision to become finance minister, to be together with Tsipras? You have now split. He’s still prime minister. You rode off on your motorcycle. You are not finance minister. Describe these meetings and what these leaders, from the United States to Germany to France, were saying to you behind the scenes. And what was happening, actually, ultimately, happened?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: The era of neoliberalism was just a cover-up for, effectively, a Faustian bargain between politicians, usually of the center-left—you know, the Clinton administration here, social democracy in Europe—and financiers. And the terms of the Faustian bargain was: We will turn a blind eye, let you do whatever you want, unshackle you from the New Deal constraints on banking practices, and you pay for Social Security through your small portion of tax that is imposed upon you. Of course, the financiers went completely gangbuster, and they created these huge pyramids of debt. And those pyramids combusted under their own weight and hubris.

And then the same politicians who had allowed that to happen were called upon to do what? To bail them out. They lack the moral capacity and the analytical ability—and I count President Obama in that group—to actually tackle them, to say to the bankers, “Look, we we may have to bail out the banks, but we’re not bailing you out. You are out. And we are not going to shift the burdens you created upon the weakest taxpayers and workers through austerity.”

Greece was, if you want, the worst case of this phenomenon, the same phenomenon that we had here in the United States, in Germany, in France. Greece, being the most indebted and the most feeble part of this global financialized capitalist world, was the one that was the most hit. And the people of Greece tried out every other alternative before they voted for people like me. They voted for the right, they voted for the social democrats, in the hope that this downward spiral of austerity, recession, giving rise to an incapacity to repay the creditors, which then led to the creditors to lend themselves, by lending supposedly to the Greek government under conditions of more austerity, which created more recession—that downward—that death embrace, headwind. And in the end, they voted for people like us. We were the last resort.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, this was—you were in the midst of massive protest in Greece.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Indeed, indeed. So, our party went from 4 percent to 40 percent in two years, not because the Greeks suddenly became left-wing, like the good people of Wisconsin did not become socialists to vote for Bernie Sanders. It was because after the complete failure of the so-called liberal establishment to deal with the bubbles and the pain that the bubbles of the financial sector had created for them, they tried out a left-wing alternative.

But, Amy, what I was saying to the people in the—like, you know, Christine Lagarde in the International Monetary Fund and Mario Draghi in the European Central Bank and to Barack Obama and Jack Lew, the U.S. treasury secretary, was, “Look, I may be a left-winger, but what I’m bringing to you is an extremely moderate set of policies that will stabilize our country and stop this downward spiral,” something that is out of the book of Wall Street bankers themselves, because what I was proposing was debt swaps that would ameliorate the debt of Greece without writing it off, but at least make the debt repayments smoother and more viable, so that we could have a fiscal policy, end of austerity, and we could look after, you know, the broken-down households in our economy, because this is also good for demand and for business. And so, the package I was bringing to them was as moderate as it could be.

And they recognized that behind closed doors. Do you know what they said to me? At some point—and it’s in the book—Christine Lagarde says to me, when—after, you know, two or three hours of being with aides and doing the usual song and dance that happens in these institutions, the two of us were left together in a tête-à-tête. And she said something that absolutely startled me. She said, “Yanis, look, of course you’re right. And the policies that are being imposed upon you”—she used the passive tense, she didn’t say “that I’m trying to impose upon you”—”cannot work.” You know, Amy, that is a very big statement. Here is the establishment telling you that its policies cannot work, not that it’s hard for them to work, cannot work. That is a huge statement. And then she added, remarkably, “But, look, you’ve got to understand, we have invested so much political capital in this problem. We cannot go back.” And she concluded by saying to me, “Your credibility”—my credibility, my political career, I suppose she meant—”depends on accepting this problem and going along with it”—in other words, you know, being co-opted into a program that she herself had just admitted was terrible for my people, and terrible even for the creditors.

We ended up with—you know, neoliberalism doesn’t exist anymore. It died in 2008. It exists as an ideology, but like Marxism in the Soviet Union in 1980. There was no Marxism in the Soviet Union. It was just a cover for an establishment, the apparatchiks doing that which propagated their own power. Similarly, neoliberalism doesn’t exist. I was trying to cut corporate taxes in Greece, because, you know, there were no corporate profits. I was—not that I was doing a Donald Trump, but—and you had the International Monetary Fund saying, “No, we can’t do that, because we have too much political capital invested in policies that can’t work.”

Now, this sounds like a very negative story in the sense that there’s no—there’s no alternative in the end. No, there was an alternative. If Alexis Tsipras, my prime minister, and I had stood together and disobeyed them and continued to say, “You know what? We’re not going to sign any piece of paper you give us, until we have a sensible, moderate restructuring of Greece’s debt,” what would they do? If they had thrown us out of the eurozone, it would have cost them a trillion dollars. One trillion. They would not have done that. But they did manage to divide us. And as we always used to say on the left and in the trade unions movement, divided we fall. And we fell.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain how you both differed, how you differed with each other, you and Tsipras.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: We didn’t differ. We had a completely—a complete agreement on what needed to be done and the means by which we would do it. But at some point, he just signed on the dotted line. And he remains prime minister, without power.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does it mean in Greece? What does Greece look like now?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: It means a continuation of the Great Depression. We have the Great Depression going on and on and on. It’s, you know, like what would have happened here in this country in the 1930s if FDR had not been elected.

AMY GOODMAN: So why don’t you see the same amount of protest in the streets that you saw that got you elected?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: You know, a period of a Great Depression, even going back to the American experience in the 1930s, is not a period—a revolutionary period. When people are hurt, when they can’t put food on the table, when they lose their jobs and their children migrate, they privatize their pain. They stay at home and lick their wounds, and they try to—they completely autonomize themselves from social movements, and they try to survive. It is only during periods of an upturn, when the Great Recession or Great Depression is over, that you have political movements rebuilding. This is why, even though I’m a leftist and a Marxist—erratic Marxist, I call myself—but nevertheless, I never believed that the collapse of capitalism would automatically lead to socialism, for a very simple reason. The working class gets so depressed and so privatized in its endeavors that the only ones who really benefit from a Great Depression are the Nazis, the xenophobes, the racists and the sexists.

AMY GOODMAN: A new global financial system is what you’re calling for. What would that look like?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: It would look, at least in spirit, similar to the Bretton Woods and New Deal arrangement of the late—the mid to late 1940s. What we need to do primarily is we need to put the financial genie back in the bottle, in a way that the Obama administration failed to do. And we need to have coordination between the three main economic blocs—the United States, the European Union and China—to do one thing that would stabilize matters, no end. And that is to boost investment in things that humanity needs.

Amy, do you realize that we live in a world that has the largest saving ratio—proportion of savings over income—in the history of humanity, and one of the lowest investment ratios? So, it’s not lack of money. We have a pile of savings of idle money doing nothing except slashing around in the financial sector, beating up house prices in New York and in London, and share prices, but nothing tangible, nothing of what humanity needs, like green energy. Right? And we have the lowest amount of investment in the things that humanity needs.

So, everything else is a repercussion of this. The fragmentation of politics, the rise of uncertainty that feeds into xenophobia is a result of this, just like in the 1930s. And what we need is a New Deal, but a New Deal that will have to be the result of coordination between China, the European Union and the United States. The tragedy is that the European Union is ungovernable. And the United States, what can I say? You have Donald Trump in the White House.

AMY GOODMAN: And Donald Trump is traveling through Asia.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Unfortunately, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And he’s going to Japan, and he’s going to China.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Unfortunately. It is very scary.

AMY GOODMAN: Why are you scared?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Because the man is a time bomb waiting to explode—his narrative of turning against China, of antagonizing China with threats of a trade war, with a neoliberal agenda for China, of liberalizing its financial sector. If the Chinese financial sector is liberalized, then we are all going to be in very, very serious trouble, because China is going to export huge quantities of capital to the rest of the world, creating more deflation in Europe. And that is going to make the tepid recovery in the United States even more precarious. It is as if Donald Trump is moving precisely in the direction that is going to bring about the next Great Recession, at a time when our economies have not recovered from the previous one.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, you—of course, with President Trump going to China, though he has been critical of China, but also says it is key to solving the problem with North Korea, his family is enormously profiting from his relationship with China. You have the Associated Press reporting Ivanka Trump secured three new exclusive trademarks in China the very same day she and her father, President Trump, had dinner with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, at Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, the trademarks giving her company the exclusive rights to sell Ivanka-branded jewelry, bags and spa services in China. This is while the family—he is president, Donald Trump, and she is the senior adviser to her father in the White House.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: But there’s nothing new in this. Let’s not be hypocritical. Dick Cheney was very closely connected to an oil company that benefited enormously from the invasion of Iraq. You know, Greece has a very long tradition of corruption, so you will allow me to consider myself an expert on this. But we have nothing on you folks. The way the American establishment has always managed to combine politics with private interest never ceases to amaze us, us on the other side of the pond, and makes us think that our own oligarchies’ corrupt methods are rather antiquated.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re a finance—you were a finance minister of Greece. You’re an economist. But what about the issue of war with North Korea?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Well, it’s—war must be avoided. I think you had the pope saying this. We must all join him, even atheists like me, to condemn any warmongering. The last thing the good people of South Korea need is further escalation in the hostilities between North and South Korea. The Korean Peninsula should be moving towards reunification. The shenanigans of Donald Trump, the threat that he’s going to annihilate North Korea, is absolutely unprecedented. Again, just like in the case of Muslim fundamentalism, he is the North Korean despicable authority’s best friend, because what he’s doing is he’s making it impossible for North Korean dissidents to argue that Donald Trump is not a threat to North Korea.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to end by asking about your daughter. How old is she?


AMY GOODMAN: What is her name?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Going on to 50.

AMY GOODMAN: Going to 50.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Yes, you know how teenagers are. Her name is Xenia. And she’s my worst critic.

AMY GOODMAN: And now you’ve written a book for her, Talking to My Daughter About the Economy?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: That’s right. That is right. She never asked for this. I imposed it upon her. It was my way of clarifying my own thoughts about economics, because, you know, economists, we are fantastic at taking something that everyone could understand and couching it in terms that no one can understand, and mathematizing it at the same time, because, you see, the one thing we economists understand is the power of monopoly. So if we monopolize economic matters, economic policy, and we consider ourselves—you know, we convince you folks that we are the experts and you must defer all the important decisions to us, suddenly we have an enormous social power over you. But in the same—at the same time, our social power, unlike the physicists, is intertwined and proportional to our incapacity to understand capitalism. So, by trying to explain capitalism to a 13-year-old, I try to clarify my own thoughts about capitalism.

AMY GOODMAN: And what most surprised you in writing this book and trying to speak in very concrete, real terms about what’s determining so much of our lives?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: How joyous it is to simplify, without being oversimplified or oversimplifying, and how difficult it is at the very same time. It’s a worthy endeavor. I recommend this to all economists. Try to explain your theories to a 13-year-old, to realize how profoundly poor they are.

AMY GOODMAN: So you head off to London and then to Barcelona.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: And then to Dublin and then to the periphery of Greece, where DiEM25 is staging a number of rallies around Greece.

AMY GOODMAN: Rallies for?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: For our Democracy in Europe Movement, which is in the process of becoming a political party across Europe. We are trying to do something that is absolutely utopian and crazy. But we believe very strongly in it. It keeps us energized, to create the first transnational democratic party list that will contest the May 2019 European Parliament elections across Europe. It’s a megalomaniac project, but we believe that it is the only alternative to the dystopia that we now witness throughout Europe.

AMY GOODMAN: Could you see yourself being an elected leader again? I mean, you were appointed the finance minister of Greece. You were part of the Syriza party, part of the Tsipras government.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Only if I have to. I never enjoyed being minister. I didn’t enjoy being a member of Parliament. I consider these positions to be positions that you take on, if you must. And you look at them—they should look at them as chores, that are time-limited, until you pass on the button to somebody else. You know, it’s not a very pleasant job, Amy, but somebody has to do it during a period of a great crisis, and a moral crisis, for that matter.

AMY GOODMAN: Last question, and that is the issue of Russia. If you watch the media in the United States—


AMY GOODMAN: —you know that so much of it is about Russia: Did they interfere, collude with President Trump or his campaign to get him to be president of the United States? What is your take on all of this?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: I’m very unimpressed by all this. I have no doubt that Putin tried to interfere, like, you know, lots of powers interfere. I mean, the United States have interfered for decades in Greek politics, for instance. But I do not believe that the American people were influenced by anything Trump or the Trump-Putin relationship did. I think that the Democrats must face a reality check. They have to look inwards. They have to be critical. They lost this election. Putin did not win it for Trump. It was Hillary Clinton and the establishment of the Democratic Party that undermined internal Democratic Party politics, as we now know very well. Bernie Sanders was robbed of an opportunity to effectively defeat Trump, in a way that only Bernie Sanders could.


YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Because he was actually a genuine person, and he was not completely, totally hamstrung by links to an establishment that had turned most people off in middle America, like Hillary was.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you, Yanis Varoufakis, for joining us, economist, author of the new book, Adults in the Room: My Battle with the European and American Deep Establishment. Yanis Varoufakis served as finance minister of Greece in 2015, before resigning from the Syriza government, chief negotiator of Greece’s bailout with the European Union and International Monetary Fund, has launched the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, known as DiEM25.

This is Democracy Now! To see Part 1 of our discussion, go to democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

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