(To be published in Arabic for Arabi21)
Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister for the Syriza government, is quickly becoming the most dangerous man in Europe. Why? Because he wants to democratize the EU, and because he is exposing how desperately it needs to be democratized.
Varoufakis resigned from the Syriza cabinet (under pressure), when he refused to accept the Austerity plan of the Troika and another massive tranche of new IMF loans that would have enslaved the Greek economy under an un-payable burden of unprecedented debt.
But for five months, the radical Left-wing economist got an inside look at the power structure in Europe, the way decisions are made; and now he is energetically, and eloquently, sharing with the people of Europe what he saw. And it is shocking.
When Varoufakis first entered office, he attended a meeting of the Euro Group, which includes the finance ministers of all the EU countries that use the Euro. The Euro Group is presided over by the Troika, which is comprised of representatives from the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the IMF. Varoufakis addressed the ministers regarding the Austerity plan they had demanded for Greece, and which the Greek people had elected Syriza specifically to oppose. He told them that the new government was willing to compromise with the Troika, but that they also had a responsibility to the electorate; to fulfill their promises to the Greek people, and to take steps to grow the domestic economy. In short, he was saying that the Troika’s plan would have to be changed to reflect the will of the Greek population, and to serve the interests of revitalizing the economy. Varoufakis was promptly interrupted by Wolfgang Schoible, the finance minister of Germany, who said, “Elections cannot be allowed to change the economic policy of Greece.”
The Troika presented Varoufakis with the IMF loan offer along with a comprehensive Austerity plan that would determine Greece’s economic policy for the next 20 years. Christine Lagarde, the director of the IMF conceded to Varufakis that the structural adjustment program would not work, but that it was nevertheless necessary to accept it for his own political credibility, and to protect the Troika’s ‘investment of political capital’ in the effectiveness of Austerity. Basically, the political power of the IMF to dictate economic policies that bankrupt nations must be upheld, no matter what.
That is an important question. Schoible answered this in a private conversation with Varoufakis when he told him that none of the periphery countries, like Greece, can be allowed to challenge Austerity because the aim is to “take the Troika to Paris.” In other words, they want to centralize and monopolize control over economic policy in even Europe’s most important economies; to dominate the entire continent, and in so doing, subvert any still existing democratic mechanisms.
It is telling that Varoufakis believes it would constitute enough of a revolutionary and democratizing action to simply demand that the closed meetings of the Euro Group be live streamed on the internet. That is just how un-democratic the EU decision making process is: it could not safely take place in front of the public
All of this will come as a tremendous surprise to most of us in the Muslim world, since we imagine that Europe is a great center of democracy. Varoufakis is tearing down that illusion for us, and for the people of Europe; he is exposing the reality of private power and the anti-democratic nature of global capitalism today. We would all be well advised to listen carefully to his message, and adapt our strategies for liberation according to the invaluable information he is giving us.