De-imagining our shared fantasy-future: A critique of two recent posts by Yanis Varoufakis [part 1]

On the 20th of March 2015, Yanis Varoufakis posted a new article in his personal blog (yanisvaroufakis.eu), titled «Of Greeks and Germans: Re-imagining our shared future». Five days later, Varoufakis published «an updated and extended version» of that post, re-titled «Deescalating Europe’s Politics of Resentment», in project-syndicate.org. Later on, I was amazed to discover that the original post (of March the 20th) was erased from Varoufakis’ personal blog. I managed to re-access the erased blog-post using archive.org and to re-save it (as a ‘safe copy’) using archive.today:

UPDATE (29-3-2015):  Some interesting differences between those two posts are now described in Footnote 1 and Footnote 2, at the end of this post. Anyway…

In his «updated post», Yanis expounds (even better) his main argument about what should have happened, back in 2010:

When, in early 2010, Greece’s government could no longer service its debts to French, German, and Greek banks, I campaigned against its quest for an enormous new loan from Europe’s taxpayers to pay off those debts. I gave three reasons.

  1. First, the new loans did not represent a bailout for Greece so much as a cynical transfer of private losses from the banks’ books onto the shoulders of Greece’s most vulnerable citizens. How many of Europe’s taxpayers, who have footed the bill for these loans, know that more than 90% of the €240 billion ($260 billion) that Greece borrowed went to financial institutions, not to the Greek state or its people?
  2. Second, it was obvious that if Greece already could not repay its existing loans, the austerity conditions on which the “bailouts” were premised would crush Greek nominal incomes, making the national debt even less sustainable. When Greeks could no longer make payments on their mountainous debts, German and other European taxpayers would have to step in again. (Wealthy Greeks, of course, had already shifted their deposits to financial centers like Frankfurt and London.)
  3. Finally, misleading peoples and parliaments by presenting a bank bailout as an act of “solidarity,” while failing to help ordinary Greeks – indeed, setting them up to place an even heavier burden on Germans – was destined to undermine cohesion within the eurozone. Germans turned against Greeks; Greeks turned against Germans; and, as more countries have faced fiscal hardship, Europe has turned against itself.

Oh yes! However, the obvious answer here, about who should now blame who (and what to demand from whom) seems to elude Yanis:

  • Since Greeks and other Europeans were conned to save private banks, paying for their losses, it’s the private banks (and their major shareholders) who should be blamed and forced to compensate Europeans (including Greeks).
  • Today, the Greek people still have a right not to pay for their governments’ corruption and disastrous decisions (in 2010, as well as later on). Perfectly entitled to refuse paying their government’s debt, the Greeks should also say to other Europeans:

    «-Blame the banks who were bailed out by your own corrupt governments (and ours)! Don’t blame us. Demand financial compensation from them; not from us

Nevertheless, this ‘obvious answer is difficult to implement. But we also have a right to refuse the burden of this very difficulty. Dutch people (with a minimum wage three times bigger than Greeks) also have this right (or obligation), as well as all other Europeans who were tricked into bailing out banks.

However, without a simple sense of solidarity (of the people united against big banks, or the people united against those big capitalists who are also major shareholders of big banks) the «tendency of Europeans to blame other Europeans» is inevitable. Trying to suppress it, is like trying to catch a… serial rapist by blaming his victims (for… blaming each other). Well, OK, they should also stop blaming each other (which is so silly of them), but this is only a symptom, not the real malaise.

Moreover, the «blame game» (detested so much by Yanis) does not involve equally afflicted partners, blaming each other equally, equally at fault, equally justified: It is unbalanced, one-sided and inevitable (like black people blaming white racists), as long as there exist very serious injustices afflicting ordinary people in one country, much more so than afflicting ordinary people in another country. In particular, those people who suffer the most (in this case, «most Greeks») can not be blamed for indulging in the «sin» of «blaming others» (in this case, e.g. «most Germans»), as long as (e.g.) «most Germans» are in denial, quite often also in denial of their denial. refusing to see the truth which (even) Yanis has already explained.

  • Hence, or otherwise… equating the two sides (as Yanis does) is like equating racists to victims of racism.

Well, things can get even worse, when Varoufakis goes on to exclaim:

The fact is that Greece had no right to borrow from German – or any other European – taxpayers at a time when its public debt was unsustainable. Before Greece took any loans, it should have initiated debt restructuring and undergone a partial default on debt owed to its private-sector creditors. But this “radical” argument was largely ignored at the time.
In this paragraph, Yanis indulges in the ultimate blame game, unjustly blaming one country (Greece, as a whole) although he knows that those evil loans were not decided by «Greece» (or the people of Greece); they were decided by a tiny ruling minority, the governments of Greece, in collaboration with oligarchs inside and outside Grece; it was specific Greek politicians (e.g. Papandreou and Samaras), who took those bad decisions without the people’s consent; without the slightest democratic legitimisation‘, since (as a rule) they deceived and betrayed the people, outrageously defying ALL their pre-electoral promises and commitments. Well, at this point Yanis forged some artificial balance, in his ultimate blame game:
Similarly, European citizens should have demanded that their governments refuse even to consider transferring private losses to them. But they failed to do so, and the transfer was effected soon after.
Now, this is futile lip-service to an impossible demand: -Most other European citizens had no idea that they were being conned, at the time: -Their own politicians told them lies. They, too (just like the Greeks) cannot be held responsible for the bad decisions of their own governments. Otherwise, if we suppose (for the sake of argument) that they knew what was happening and that they could do something about it, then…. why can’t they also act now, demanding their money back from the profiteers and major shareholders of big fat European banks, instead of expecting the «poorest people of the Eurozone» to pay back «their» debt, as Yanis repeatedly reassures his European (and Eurogroup) audience?…
____

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1] I was intrigued by all this, so I started a thorough investigation of differences between the original post and the «extended version» of it. I ended up using diffchecker (an on-line automated text-comparison tool) which made me feel even more intrigued by the result:

Evidently, the two texts differ widely in several places! So, I re-saved a ‘safe copy’ (just in case…) of the automated text-comparison through archive.org:

Now, it’s worth taking a close look at this result: -It reveals that Varoufakis changed many words, quite often also adding or removing entire sentences. E.g. he changed the phrase «proud nations» to the phrase «proud countries» in his «updated post», most probably after realising that talking naively about (hm…. ) «nations»  (almost metaphysically) doesn’t sound so good, when addressing a wider international(ist) audience, more inclined to reject the naive essentialism of nation-based conceptualisations and «proud nations» that dominate Yanis’ obsessively federalist, Artificial European Nationalism.

In addition, changing his original post’s title (where «of Germans and Greeks» became «Europe’s politics of resentment»)… the Artificial European Nationalism of Yanis Varoufakis boils down to a defense (as well as denial) of mainly German Nationalism and German resentment, which Yanis strives to tame, flatter, reconcile and equate with Greek resentment, while acknowledging that «other Europeans» means mostly Germans.

__

[Footnote 2] In his original post (which is now erased, even though widely re-posted by other blogs) Yanis made an implicitly open admission that his finger-gesture was indeed quite real, although taken out of context. In both posts, Yanis uses the word «kerfuffle» (which means «a commotion or fuss, especially one caused by conflicting views»). However, in the second post he implicitly denies (once more) that the notorious finger-scene was real, calling it an «alleged gesture»:

«The fallout has shown the potential impact of an alleged gesture, especially in troubled times».

Of course, the «finger gesture» was not «doctored», but simply taken out of context, as shown in my previous (bilingual) post «Η σκηνή με το δάχτυλο Βαρουφάκη ήταν αληθινή (Croatian SkriptaTV confirms #Varufake was a fake)».

[Footnote 3] Yanis also changed the phrase «Greek state» to «Greek government», while discussing debt. Of course, the Greek state is more general than the (specific) Greek government he had criticised (for not defaulting on its debt) back in 2010. This is quite correct, although the very existence of the correction indicates an ambivalence in his mind about debt-obligations of a (specific) government, or the state, regardless of governments.

Anyway…


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