[Marxism] Varoufakis interview on CNN

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Jul 22 06:41:52 MDT 2015


(MUSIC PLAYING)

[14:00:00]

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: in his first 
international television interview, the former Greek finance minister, 
Yanis Varoufakis, joins the program live. He's sure the latest bailout 
will fail and I'll ask him if he takes any responsibility.

Also ahead: helping Syrian Christians escape the horror of ISIS. The 
Jewish peer, Lord George Weidenfeld, on repaying a debt and why he was 
compelled to do something.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LORD GEORGE WEIDENFELD, FOUNDER, OPERATION SAFE HAVENS: There never has 
been in history -- perhaps in the history of the Stone Age, I don't know 
-- a cruelty that demonstrated so obviously as ISIS has.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC PLAYING)

AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm 
Christiane Amanpour.

For the first time in three weeks, today Greeks are able to walk into a 
bank. The doors may be open but they can still only withdraw 422 euros 
per week and they still can't send money abroad.

And for the first time in a long time, Greece was declared not in 
default to the IMF. But implementing its creditors' demands, VAT soared 
today on foods like milk and meat and commuters are paying more for 
public transport.

Plenty of Greeks are unhappy with the changes and Prime Minister Alexis 
Tsipras is now facing a revolt within his own party.

Now to mollify his European creditors, Tsipras earlier this month had 
dismissed his flamboyant finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, whose 
leather jackets, casual style and motorcycle arrivals won him plaudits 
and fans and newspaper covers; his financial style rubbed his 
counterparts the wrong way, however.

Now out of government but still an MP, Yanis Varoufakis joins me live 
for his first international television interview since stepping down.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR: Mr. Varoufakis, welcome back to the program.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS, GREEK FINANCE MINISTER: Thank you very much, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: So after all that I just recounted there and after all that's 
happened, are you glad you're no longer in the firing line?

VAROUFAKIS: Well, right from the outset, I stated for the record that I 
didn't want to be a politician. I sort of -- I was always a reluctant 
member of this cabal, which is the field of politics. I felt that I had 
a duty to be of assistance to the prime minister in a very difficult 
juncture and to contribute towards ending what has been an atrocious 
case of extending and pretending a state insolvency of over five years.

AMANPOUR: Right now, as we've just said, there is a whole new bailout; 
there's -- you know, all of this is underway with its attendant reforms 
and demands on the Greek government.

Is it solved? Is it sorted? We did just talk about a revolt within the 
party.

What exactly is happening in the party headquarters?

VAROUFAKIS: Well, let us separate what's happening in the party from 
what's happening to the country and to the economy and to the Eurozone 
economy as a whole.

You asked whether things have been sorted out. Exactly the opposite. The 
problem, Christiane, over the last five years is, beginning with 2010, 
is that Greece became insolvent. And the powers that be in Europe -- and 
with the IMF, I have to add -- in their great, infinite wisdom decided 
to do what really bankers do when they face somebody with a bad debt, to 
give him another loan in order to extend the bankruptcy to the future 
while pretending that it's gone away.

So what we've had now is yet another such case of extending and 
pretending and turning out the internal political scene here to our -- 
to a party, I think that the vast majority of my colleagues in Syriza, 
the governing party, are despondent and they're despondent because we 
were not elected in order to give that wheel of extending and pretending 
another twirl.

AMANPOUR: And that's -- therein lies the whole conundrum. You're elected 
to do X; you had a referendum, where the people said they wanted you to 
do X. And now you're doing Y.

Do you take any responsibility for how this whole thing has just turned 
almost full circle and you're back to practically worse off than you 
were in the beginning?

VAROUFAKIS: Christiane, I would love to be able to say to you that I 
messed up and it's all my fault.

[14:05:00]

VAROUFAKIS: But let me actually correct something you said at the 
beginning. You said that I was dismissed by the prime minister; I 
wasn't. On the night of the referendum, I resigned. And I resigned 
precisely because of what you said, that the people voted "no" to this 
extending and pretending. But it became abundantly clear to me on the 
night of the referendum that the government's position was going to be 
to say yes to it. And therefore, it's very hard for me -- well, however 
much I would like to -- to take responsibility for a policy over which I 
resigned.

AMANPOUR: Do you think you messed up at all?

VAROUFAKIS: There were mistakes, of course. It takes incredible 
obstinacy to argue that one has not made mistakes, especially during a 
five-month period of extremely intense negotiations against creditors, 
who were not particularly interested in having a rational bargaining 
session, a rational negotiation.

We made mistakes. There's no doubt about that and I hold myself 
responsible for a number of them. But the truth of the matter, 
Christiane, is that a very powerful troika of creditors were not 
interested in coming to a sensible, honorable, mutually beneficial 
agreement.

That if you look at the way that they have behaved, from the very first 
day, we assumed power on the 25th of January, to the last week or so, I 
think that close inspection is going to reveal the truth of what I'm saying.

They were far more interested in humiliating this government and 
overthrowing it or at least making sure that it overthrows itself in 
terms of its policy, than they were interested in an agreement that 
would, for instance, ensure that they would get most of their money back.

The way that they have conducted themselves was a major assault on the 
very basis of rationality and European integration.

AMANPOUR: Let me just ask you this about overthrowing the government. 
We've heard from the other side that Prime Minister Tsipras said to try 
to convince people to keep this government in power, look, you've got to 
vote for this, no matter how much it stinks. You've got to vote for it 
because this is the only way to keep a leftist government in power in 
Greece after so many years.

So his was also political, right?

VAROUFAKIS: Well, look, Prime Minister Tsipras was faced with an 
incredibly hard choice when he went to the Euro Summit a week ago or so. 
He was faced with a choice: commit suicide or be executed, effectively. 
And that is a major stigma on economic history and European history.

No government should ever be treated that way in the context of a 
collaborative democratic nations. At that point, just because it was 
such a hard choice, the arguments were equally powerful on both sides. 
Alexis Tsipras decided that it would be best for the Greek people, for 
this government to stay put and to implement a program which the very 
same government disagrees with.

People like me thought that it would be more honorable and in the long 
term more appropriate for us to resign.

That's why I resigned.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you --

VAROUFAKIS: But I recognize his arguments as being equally powerful as mine.

AMANPOUR: -- let me ask you, you mentioned IMF and other euro leaders, 
et cetera.

Obviously there was a lot of name flinging around. You've just done a 
little bit of it tonight, but there was a lot of name slinging and 
mudslinging all along. Christine Lagarde said that there should be more 
adults in the room.

You used extremely strong language to describe Europe, from July 4th 
with the Spanish magazine, you said, "What they're doing with Greece has 
a name: terrorism."

And 10 days later, in a post, you said, "The recent Euro Summit is 
indeed nothing short of the culmination of a coup."

It did get awfully -- I mean, you still think that?

I mean, in other words, is this any way to negotiate over such a serious 
thing, with everybody slinging mud at each other?

VAROUFAKIS: Well, you may have noticed if you looked closely that 
between the January 25th and the coup that I have described, you never 
heard one cross word from me regarding the other side, the negotiating 
team of the other side. Indeed, we were baiting them. We were bombarding 
them with reasonableness, with courtesy and politeness. That wasn't the 
case from their side.

But, Christiane, let me put it very succinctly for you. They shut down 
our banks because we had the audacity to put an ultimatum that they gave 
us to the Greek people, to deliver their verdict. Now that is a coup 
d'etat. It is a wholesome, a wholesale undemocratic move within the 
context of the European Union.

AMANPOUR: But even though --

VAROUFAKIS: At the same time, you know, when you close --

AMANPOUR: -- yes --

VAROUFAKIS: -- how do you sing?

[14:10:00]

AMANPOUR: I'm sorry to interrupt, but even your closest allies and 
friends, I mean, people like Paul Krugman, who all along said you can't 
just shove something down the Greeks' throats, said that perhaps there 
was a better way of doing.

Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL KRUGMAN, ECONOMIST: They thought they could simply demand better 
terms without having any backup plan. So certainly this is a shock. But 
you know, in some sense, it's hopeless in any case. I mean, the new 
terms are even worse but the terms that -- what they were being offered 
before were still not going to work. So I may have overestimated the 
competence of the Greek government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: See, so that's a pretty important thing he said at the end.

"I may have overestimated the competence of the Greek government."

You were sitting there in the main chair.

VAROUFAKIS: Well, let me say that I agree entirely with Paul, entirely, 
however shocking that may sound to you.

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: -- confidence?

VAROUFAKIS: -- plan B.

Well, let me answer. It's not true we did not have a plan B. We had a 
plan B. We, in the ministry of finance, developed it under the aegis of 
the prime minister, who ordered us to do this, even before we came into 
the ministry of finance.

Of course you realize that these plans, plans B, are always by 
definition highly imperfect because they have to be kept within a very 
small circle of people; otherwise, if they leak, then a self-fulfilling 
prophecy emerges.

The problem was that once our banks were shut, the government decided 
not to effect, not to put into effect this plan B. And the plan B 
wouldn't -- make no mistake, this was not a plan for getting Greece out 
of the euro. But it was a plan for creating euro-denominated liquidity 
in order to give us more increase of freedom and more bargaining power 
once our banks were shut down.

The fact of the matter is that that plan B was not energized. I didn't 
get the green light to effect it; to push a button, if you want. And if 
you want, one of the main reasons why I resigned was precisely that.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you a final question because just as we think a 
bailout is coming to rescue Greece, people are still talking about a 
Grexit, including -- perhaps especially -- the Germans. Now both Merkel 
and her finance minister are -- that word is still in the atmosphere.

Do you think that will happen? And will that be best for Greece?

VAROUFAKIS: Well, no fragmentation of the Eurozone, no Grexit can ever 
be good for Europe. And if it can't be good for Europe, it can't be for 
Greece. There is no doubt that Dr. Schauble has his sights set on a 
Grexit. It's part of his strategy; I've written articles about this. 
He's told me so; I've discussed it with him.

I'm not so sure about Chancellor Merkel. But the main point to remember 
is that Europe has brought itself to a great deal of disrepute. Think 
about it, Christiane. We have a Greek government which is coming to 
Greek parliament and is saying to the parliamentarians, its own 
parliamentarians, here's a plan. Here is an agreement. We don't believe 
in it but we'll try to implement it to sustain power.

And at the same time, Dr. Schauble and Ms. Merkel go to the Bundestag, 
the federal parliament in Berlin, and they say, here is a deal for 
Greece. We don't believe in it. We don't think it's going to work.

What has Europe done to itself?

AMANPOUR: A good question indeed. And we will continue to follow it.

Yanis Varoufakis, thank you very much indeed for joining us tonight.

VAROUFAKIS: Thank you, Christiane.




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