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“Technofeudalism: What Killed Capitalism”: Yanis Varoufakis on New Book & Why Assange Should Be Freed

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Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, one of the most vocal supporters of Julian Assange, says the United States must drop its espionage case against the jailed WikiLeaks founder. He faults the Australian government for pushing for a plea deal that would allow Assange to walk free from Belmarsh Prison in London in exchange for an admission of guilt. “Julian is never going to plead guilty as if journalism is a crime,” says Varoufakis. He also discusses his new book Technofeudalism, which argues that platforms like Amazon have destroyed the idea of buyers and sellers operating in an open market. “Capitalism was killed by capital,” he says.

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

AMY GOODMAN: I also want to ask you, Yanis Varoufakis, about Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. The Wall Street Journal is reporting now that the government of Australia asked the U.S. last week if it could reach a felony plea deal with Assange that could result in his return home. I think also today is the deadline for the U.S. government to answer questions that the British judges had, guaranteeing that he would not be given the death penalty if found guilty and questioning what kind of free speech rights he would have.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Amy, before I answer your question, full disclosure: I am a very close friend of Julian Assange, and I have been part of the campaign to release him. His only crime is journalism. And because of that reality, I mean, think about it. What he has done is just straightforward journalistic work, which The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Der Spiegel used in order to reveal to the people of the United States, to the people of Germany, to the people of Britain, and so on, about the crimes that our governments have perpetrated behind our backs, in our name. His crime was journalism.

The Australian government, this government by Prime Minister Albanese, initially, after his election, claimed that he was demanding from the United States that the United States, and, in particular, Joe Biden, drop the charges and drop the request to the British authorities for Julian Assange’s extradition. Clearly, they were not heard. And now they are talking about a plea bargain? I can tell you, Julian is never going, even if his life depends on it — and his life does depend on it — he’s never going to plead guilty as if journalism is a crime. It is despicable that the government of Australia, given that Julian Assange is an Australian citizen, should be diminishing its own reputation by begging for a plea deal that essentially gives the United States authorities and the national security apparatus what they want, and that is a conviction for Julian. They cannot stand that Julian Assange has never been convicted of a crime. They want him to be convicted of a crime which they can then portray as a violation of American law, of America’s statutes, and so on. He has never violated any law, except that he has been a pain in the neck for those who were committing crimes in the name of the American people behind their backs.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Yanis Varoufakis, we only have a few minutes left, but I did want to take the opportunity to ask you about your most recent book, Technofeudalism: What Killed Capitalism. I’m wondering if you could lay out some of the amazing arguments that you make, especially about the new feudal lords and the rest of us becoming serfs of technofeudalism?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Thank you for the question. Look, the moment you enter Amazon.com, you’ve exited capitalism. It looks like capitalism, but it isn’t. There are thousands of buyers and sellers, but we are all — whether we are buying or selling on Amazon.com, we are all the serfs of Jeff Bezos. He doesn’t produce anything. He simply has encased us in that digital fiefdom — I call it a cloud fiefdom — using very powerful algorithmic capital, which I also call cloud capital. And every time you buy anything, from a book to an electric bicycle, on Amazon.com, which he has not been produced, he charges up to 40% to the vassal capitalist that has produced it. So, markets have been replaced by these digital fiefs, and profit has increasingly been siphoned off into what is essentially a kind of rent, like the feudal lords of yesteryear used to charge rent or extract rent from the serfs.

My view is that this is what already has — in other words, capitalism was killed by capital, not by us on the left, not by trade unions. Capital became so triumphant that, like a stupid virus, it mutated into a very toxic version, which killed its host, capitalism — that’s the basic premise of my book — with repercussions going as far as explaining the New Cold War between the United States and China, because, let’s face it, the United States and China are the two places, countries, economic blocs, that contain a lot of this cloud capital. Europe doesn’t have it. The rest of the world doesn’t have it.

AMY GOODMAN: You write that technofeudalism enslaves our minds. It rewrites the rules of global power. But you also talk about, ultimately, what it will take to overthrow it. What are your thoughts on this, as the former Greek finance minister, Yanis?

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Well, imagine a world in which you have the right to your own data, which cannot be harvested by anyone, and if anybody harvests it, you can actually sue them for billions. Then everything would change very, very quickly. Imagine if you, Amy, or I — you know, I want to leave Twitter, especially after Elon Musk took it, but if I go to Bluesky or somewhere else, I lose a million followers. Imagine that you could carry your followers along with you, through a piece of legislation that allows for — imposes interoperability. And if you want us to go a bit more radically to the left, imagine a world in which every corporation is owned by the people who work in them, that, you know, shares become like library cards in universities and colleges, where you simply get it while you are there and you lose it when you’re not there. Suddenly, you have a very different world. And if you add to that a digital wallet provided by the Fed to every American resident, suddenly, why would you want to have an account with Bank of America or with Citigroup, who now own your money? They own the payment system. So, these are some ideas that progressives can fight around the world, if we want to free ourselves from the clutches of the technofeudal lords, which today not only force us to do things on their behalf, but actually very much train us to train them to train us to train them to input desires into our heads.

AMY GOODMAN: Yanis Varoufakis, we want to thank you for being with us, former finance minister of Greece. His most recent book is Technofeudalism: What Killed Capitalism. German police just broke up a conference that was co-sponsored by his organization, DiEM25, dealing with Palestinian rights.

Next up, we speak with Palestinian journalist Dalia Hatuqa, who says Western media coverage of Israel’s war on Gaza has helped Israel avoid growing calls for ceasefire. We’ll also speak with journalist Peter Maass about his new piece for The Washington Post, “I’m Jewish, and I’ve covered wars. I know war crimes when I see them.” Back in 30 seconds.

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