Yanis Varoufakis: the economist who wouldn’t play politics

Paul Mason is a journalist and Economics Editor for Channel 4 News. He has spent the past 15 years or so specializing in business affairs & economics. I am normally allergic to main-stream journalism. However in my opinion, Paul has written some very good posts on his blog concerning Greek politics and the Greek economic crisis. As usual, read and make your own mind up.

There is one post in particular that says, almost word for word, what I would have written in this context. Since Paul got the words down first, he must get the credit. Here it is:

Yanis Varoufakis: the economist who wouldn’t play politics

by Paul Mason (6 Jul 2015)

Why did Varoufakis go? The official reason, on his blog, was pressure from creditors. But there are a whole host of other reasons that made it easier for him to decide to yield to it.

First, though he came from the centre-left towards Syriza, Varoufakis ended up consistently taking a harder line than many others in the Greek cabinet over the shape of the deal to be done, and the kind of resistance they might have to unleash if the Germans refused a deal.

Second, because Varoufakis is an economist, not a politician. His entire career, and his academic qualifications are built on the conviction that a) austerity does not work; b) the Eurozone will collapse unless it becomes a union for recycling tax from rich countries to poor countries; c) Greece is insolvent and its debts need to be cancelled.

By those measures, any deal Greece can do this week will falls short of what he thinks will work.

On top of that, politicians are built for compromise. Tsipras has to work the party machine, the government machine, the machine of parliament. Varoufakis’ machine is his own brain.

If he wound up the creditors it was for a reason: they’d convinced themselves that Tsipras was a Greek Tony Blair and would simply betray his promises and compromise on taking office.

The lenders detested Varoufakis because he looked and sounded like one of them. He spoke the language of the IMF and ECB, and turned their own logic against them. But he achieved his objective: he convinced the lenders Greece was serious.

Varoufakis critics in Greek politics accused him of flamboyant gestures and adopting a stance he could not deliver on. His critics in Syriza believed from the outset he was “a neo-liberal”.

Among the lenders it was always the north European politicians who could not live with Varoufakis. Though he was at odds with the IMF’s Christine Lagarde and at odds with the IMF over all matters of substance they at least spoke the same language.

His policy was total honesty, and when it could not be honesty in public it was honesty in private. He exploded the world of Brussels journalism, which had become back-channel stenography, by publishing the key documents, usually sometime after midnight.

In the process he has templated a style of politics that may be equally adaptable for the right as on the left, for those with the will to try it: operating from principles, being as open as possible with information, engaging the public in language they can understand, and putting his entire persona on the line.”

Superb! There were 54 comments to this post. The following three really caught my eye:

dolores payas

“Dear Mr Mason
So many thanks for your news. Or, better said, the way you approach the news.
I live part time in Greece, I am following the “tragicomedia” with passion.
Don’t you think possible that Mr Tsipras is preserving Mr. Varoufakis for another further job?
If thing goes wrong. No deal at all or too tough deal. And this can happen very easily as I am sure creditors want to punish Greece, and now there can’t be a “coup d’état” because with the referendum everything has been exposed to the planet (very clever move, although risky). So, then the country would be forced to go back to drachma. In this painful transition Varoufakis could be crucial. He’s adored here, and has the moral authority to lead the process.
Just an idea…
Regards, and thanks again for your work.”

And this one:

Chris Piché

“Varoufakis’ machine is his own brain. And what a marvelous one it is! It’s full of creative, evocative, feisty, poignant, philosophic, idealistic and contradictory meaning. He thinks and doesn’t think before he speaks. That’s also good news. He’s not just a calculating machine. Varoufakis is like a channel full of light taking in and reflecting the the world he experiences. He broke through the snotty club-talk of econo-speak. He brings the notion of value and humanity back into the dehumanized, totalizing world neo-liberals constructed. He’s a catalyst for change. He broke into the jaded cage in Brussels and spoke out for dignity and justice, come what may. In that sense his mission is complete. He will be missed front-stage, but his heart will keep beating, his big-mind will keep speaking and bringing life to Greece, Europe and the world.

Yanis, thanks for being you. Paul, thanks for being right there and letting it rip. The story is not over. An old world is dying while a new one is trying to burst through. Some may even call that a process of revolutionary change.”

Of course, there were also many negative comments as well, as you would expect. It is unnecessary to detail them here as I am sure, you the reader, can very easily guess what was said, and if not, you can read them yourself on his blog.

The final comment on Paul’s post summed everything up perfectly:


“I am truly amazed at the political and economic ignorance displayed by some of the [negative] comments. It is clear to anyone with eyes to see that Greece, [a] weak and small country, has been squeezed by the international banks and their local collaborators. Now the poorest are once again asked to pay the price of the outright robbery of the country. The pattern of voting to the referendum clearly shows that those squeezed by the austerity – the poorest in the country – understand this and voted no. Mr Varoufakis alongside others helped the people of Greece to stand up to this. The fact that they may have to bend to overwhelming imbalance of power in no way diminishes the beauty of their stance. It is a lesson to the rest of us.”

Here is the link to the entire post:



About Peter Smith

A "foot-soldier" in the wider Post Capitalism Movement. First task - keep spreading the words of change, hope & inspiration.
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