an evening with Yanis Varoufakis at Union Chapel
We should be clear on this, the EU sucks but there should be no alternative than to try and civilise it. — Yanis Varoufakis
An evening with Yanis Varoufakis in conversation with Owen Jones at Union Chapel in Islington.
Yanis Varoufakis was arrested several times whilst in England in the 1980s on various student protests. His father was in a concentration camp.
His father grew up in a Greek community in Egypt. On returning to Greece, he was of no political persuasion, and was seen by fellow students as a neutral figure. When the university doubled student fees, he went to see the Vice-Chancellor to argue the case against. On leaving, he was roughed up by secret police, then asked to sign a document renouncing the Communists. He refused. For this refusal, he was tortured and placed in a concentration camp for three years.
When Syriza were elected, the people were jubilant, not only in Greece, but across Europe. Here was a party of activists, who from 4% of the vote had taken 40% of the vote. They were prepared to take a stance against the EU. They had the support of people across Europe. For that reason Greece had to be destroyed, the political contagion could not be allowed to spread across Europe, people could not be allowed hope.
Irish and Cypriot governments had betrayed their people, were mere puppets of the EU. What could they say, what excuses offer, if the Greeks fought and they did not? Greece had to be destroyed. There is nothing like the threat of a good example.
Within days of taking office, Yanis Varoufakis was visited by the EU and told, he could not challenge the EU, that if he did, the Greek banks would be destroyed.
At a meeting of the euro group, told that a democratic decision by the Greek people was irrelevant, counted for nothing.
Greece was told it was not acceptable for the government to consult its own people in a referendum.
Greek people are in debt bondage. First time in history creditors do not want their money back, as the polices imposed on Greece make the debt unpayable. But they do not want their money back, it is about servitude.
Greek people last year showed courage. They voted No to the EU. They were then betrayed by their own government, that signed a surrender government. What took place was a coup. Syriza are not running Greece, the EU is running Greece. Instead of tanks, banks were used to occupy and crush a country.
They did not have to sign. They had the backing of the Greek people not to sign.
Greece could have refused to repay part of the debt they owed. This would have caused the euro to collapse.
What Greece was expected to sign, was presented in unintelligible Greek. It was a Google translation.
An English version was obtained.
Two key phrases in the first page:
- Greece had to agree to everything the EU demanded
- Any legislation put before Greek Parliament had to have prior EU approval
Yanis Varoufakis could not agree to this as it would be a betrayal of Greece. He resigned.
David Cameron has falsely claimed he has achieved reform of the EU. He has not. He is now squandering in excess of £9 million on EU propaganda to be delivered to every household. This is money that would be better spent on keeping libraries open.
DiEM25 argue for UK to remain part of the EU to fight for reform. They fear a breakup of the EU will return Europe to the 1930s.
Everyone is urged to sign and share the DiEM25 petition calling for transparency within the EU.
We should be under no illusion about the EU, it is a cesspit.
DiEM25 are demanding democratic reform, transparency. EU meetings should be live streamed over the internet, minutes and transcripts should be published.
The European Investment Bank should be accountable to the people of Europe. It should be investing in green technology.
Europe is stagnating. There is no investment. Even in Germany, which is sitting on a huge surplus, is not investing.
Even when we look at a very local level we see this lack of investment, town centres collapsing, people have no money. Where they are in employment, it is low paid, soul destroying McJobs.
Aldershot as an example. A decaying town, boarded-up shops. TechStart, the one success story, a social enterprise that recycles computers, provides help and training, a net café for the local community. It is located in a dead shopping shopping centre. It could form a hub of local social enterprises, for example a social enterprise café turning waste food from supermarkets and farms into delicious meals. Instead, TechStart is closing at the end of the month because the local Town hall is cutting its funding.
There has to be a European Convention, where the people, not politicians, decide the future of Europe.
There are some good things that come out of the EU: minimum working conditions, environmental standards. But would it not be better if these came from our own democratic countries not via the back door of a dictatorship?
The same EU is pushing TTIP in secret. An international treaty that is less about trade than removing even the fig leaf of democracy and handing control to global corporations.
If UK leaves the EU, brexit which is likely, the EU will collapse. It is already close to collapse.
If it collapses, this could release dark forces across Europe, as we saw in the 1930s following the Wall Street Crash and Great Depression.
But would it? There certainly is that risk. If people are working across Europe to reform the EU, can they also not work across Europe to cooperate as sovereign democratic countries?
The release of The Panama Papers, has shown the extent of tax dodging and money laundering. The Mafia surrounding Vladimir Putin has laundered $2 billion, the Chinese elite has transferred a trillion dollars out of China in the last year. This dirty money inflates property prices in London. One of the first casualties, the Prime Minister of Iceland.
We need openness and transparency. Abolition of tax havens, not reform.
It should be a criminal offence to transfer funds to a tax haven, set up off-shore shell companies, nominee directors, bearer bonds. Fine of $1 million or ten times the funds transferred. Ten years in prison for the board of directors.
John McDonnell some time ago offered to place his tax affairs in the public domain. This should be obligatory for all politicians.
In Norway, tax affairs are in the public domain. In England it is a criminal offence to publish the tax affairs of another.
When Yanis Varoufakis was criticised for profiting from the Greek crisis by going on a speaking tour, he answered his critics by publishing details of fees received.
We are entering a post-capitalist phase.
We can have a future of coops, open coops where the community has a say, which contribute to the collaborative commons, where information flows freely, where we do not require large companies, where with high information content, we can assemble locally or even print with 3D printers.
An alternative future is that of atomised individuals, serfs to apps, Uber drivers, task rabbits, transfer of wealth from the poor and exploited, where people work to the command of robots.
Who decides: the people or corrupt politicians?
Would Yanis Varoufakis wish to be Greek Prime Minister? No. But, if asked, would say yes as public service, a dirty job that needs to be done. We should not have leaders. Nor should the people expect to be led.
John McDonnell is showing an alternative is possible. Instead of top-down, dictating to the masses he is drawing on ideas from the grass roots
We have to move to participatory democracy, away from representative democracy, look to Frome where the people mounted a Flatpack Democracy revolution, seized control of the local Town hall, as has happened across Spain. Ordinary people need to seize control of their local Town Halls, open the meetings to public participation, then network across Europe.
We are not Europeans, we are English, French, German, Russian, Catalan, people with a proud history, our own culture, but that does not mean we cannot cooperate with each other.
Looking to the future, we need to have a panel discussion between Paul Mason, Yanis Varoufakis and Michel Bauwens, sketching out what this post-capitalist future of open coops, collaborative commons, would look like. By no means prescriptive but a road map.
In Greece, the people are not crushed, they still have the spirit to fight the cesspit that is the EU. Their government may have surrendered, the Greek people have not surrendered.
Yanis Varoufakis can walk the streets, people stop and wish to chat, these are people from all walks of life.
And the weak suffer what they must?
Yanis Varoufakis book signing at Union Chapel
The conversation was followed by book signing of And the weak suffer what they must?
What was nice before I set off, an e-mail from Union Chapel welcoming me, and telling me what was available to eat. A nice touch.
After book signing I retreated to the bar and had chicken. It did not look good, but was surprisingly tasty. I added a little salad. It could have done with rice.
The meeting was video recorded. This will be added when available.
Yanis Varoufakis was on Start the Week with Andrew Marr.
Union Chapel is in Islington, more or less opposite Highbury and Islington Station. It is a stunning building, both a church and a music venue. It was here where Jeremy Corbyn held his last rally before being elected Labour Party leader. An ideal venue for singer-songwriter Jewelia to play a concert. Work is done with the homeless. One of the projects is to help with the meals.