A Message to a Pro-Austerity Bully from a Pro-Democracy "Apostate"

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A Message to a Pro-Austerity Bully from a Pro-Democracy "Apostate"

A message to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi from the former finance minister of Greece

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras at a meeting in Rome on February 3, 2015. (Photo: AP/Andrew Medichini)

Italian PM M. Renzi (click here for his speech) recently rejoiced at having “got rid of me” – citing my ‘removal’ from the ‘scene’ as a sign that ‘apostates’ (i.e. those who divide their parties) are jettisoned. His is a motivated illusion. Last July ‘they’ ‘got rid’ of something much more important than me. Here is my message to the Italian PM…

 

Mr Renzi presents me as an apostate who left SYRIZA and is now in the political wilderness. The truth is more sobering. Unlike many of my comrades, I remained loyal to the SYRIZA platform that saw us elected on 25th January as a united party that brought hope to the Greek and European peoples. Hope for what? Hope for a permanent end to the extend-and-pretend bailout loans, which cost Europe dearly, condemned Greece to permanent depression and foreshadowed failed policies for the rest of Europe.

What happened? Under extreme duress by European leaders, including Mr Renzi (who refused to discuss sensibly Greece’s own proposals) my prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, was subjected on 12th and 13th July to unbearable bullying, to naked blackmail, to inhuman pressures. Mr Renzi played a central role in helping break Alexis, with his ‘good cop’ tactic, based on the “If you do not yield, they will destroy you – please say yes to them” narrative.

Alexis and I parted ways because we disagreed on whether ‘they’ were bluffing or nor and on whether we, in any case, had the moral and political right to sign another non-viable agreement, handing over the keys to what is left of the Greek state to the ruthless troika. That was, and remains, a disagreement between Alexis and I.

Following that disagreement, Alexis forced a U-turn in SYRIZA’s policy on extend-and-pretend loans (accepting them for the first time in SYRIZA’s history as necessary evils) and, as a result, a large section of the party’s members decided they could not follow him down that path. And it was not just the Popular Unity segment that left. It was people like Tasos Koronakis, the party’s Secretary, myself and many, many others who never shared Popular Unity’s agenda. We were not apostates – just comrades who disagreed that SYRIZA should become the new PASOK, who refused to join the ranks of splinter parties, like Popular Unity, and who chose to sit out this sad parliamentary election – which could not, and did not, produce a Parliament capable of implementing a viable reform program for Greece.

Back to Mr Renzi now.

Mr Renzi, I have a message for you: You can rejoice as much as you like about the fact that I am no longer finance minister, not even in Parliament. But you did not ‘get rid’ of me. I am alive and kicking politically, as people in Italy remind me when I walk the streets of your beautiful country. No, what you got rid of, by participating in that dastardly coup against Alexis Tsipras and Greek democracy last July, was your own integrity as a European democrat. Possibly your soul too. Thankfully this is not irreversible. But you need to make serious amends. I cannot wait to see you return to the ranks of Europe’s democrats.

Yanis Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis, who resigned as Finance Minister for Greece's Syriza-led government on Monday, July 6, 2015, is the author of The Global Minotaur and a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Follow him on Twitter: @yanisvaroufakis

 

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