Published at the Guardian
Former Greek finance minister says those who are most critical of Europe have a moral duty to stay in Europe, fight for it, and democratise it
Yanis Varoufakis told a Guardian Live event that he believed the Syriza party had called the referendum in Greece hoping it would be lost. Photograph: Heather Blockey/Demotix/Corbis
by John Keenan
Saturday 24 October 2015
Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, has called on Britons to vote to remain in the European Union in the upcoming referendum.
The bête noire of the European political elite was speaking at a Guardian Live event at Central Hall in Westminster, central London, on Friday night.
He said: “You have a referendum coming up. My message is simple yet rich: those of us who disdain the democratic deficit in Brussels, those of us who detest the authoritarianism of a technocracy which is incompetent and contemptuous of democracy, those of us who are most critical of Europe have a moral duty to stay in Europe, fight for it, and democratise it.”
But Varoufakis also likened the eurozone to a sausage: “If you knew what was in it, you wouldn’t touch it.”
He revealed to the sold-out audience that he believed the Syriza party had called the referendum in Greece hoping it would be lost.
The referendum to decide whether Greece should accept the most recent bailout conditions proposed by the European commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank took place on 5 July.
“Why did Syriza fail? There was a war of attrition against us. They were essentially asphyxiating us – it was a kind of fiscal waterboarding,” Varoufakis said.
“Exiting the euro was never part of our repertoire. Our objective was to resist within the eurozone until the costs of applying the fiscal waterboarding became greater than the benefits.
“Part of the debt which was written in Greek law so we could be tried in Greek court – one occasion when inefficiency could be a godsend.
“When they shut down the banks, I reminded my colleagues, my comrades, that we would unleash this weapon that we had. But they vetoed it and they said no. At that point we surrendered.
“By the end of June my colleagues had already decided to give in, and in a sense the referendum was called to be lost. It was an escape route. The hope was that the Greek people would vote yes. And the Greek people voted no.
“The Greek people were not subdued. I was surprised. I had expected a whole week of closed banks would bend the Greek people to the troika’s will. I was elated that night. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. Unfortunately my side, the Greek government, collapsed and surrendered.”
Varoufakis said the European leaders wanted to send a message to its citizens: “If you elect a government that doesn’t toe the line, this is what you get.”
He urged the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to follow the example of former Labour prime minister Harold Wilson and weld socialist values to technological change, describing it as: “Not the white heat of technology but the cool breeze of Green technologies.”
Varoufakis drew the loudest applause of the evening when he told the audience that the Greek people ignored their media despite warnings of Armegaddon if they voted for Syriza.
“This is the greatest revenge you can enact upon the media,” he said.