Progressive economist Yanis Varoufakis recently gave a talk in Geneva on ways to improve the global economy in the face of growing crises. Dr Jerca Legan reports.
HIS EXCELLENCY Yanis Varoufakis is a world-renowned academic economist and politician, former Finance Minister of Greece, who was trying to renegotiate national depth within the EU. He was a co-founder of an international grassroots movement, Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25), campaigning for the revival of democracy in Europe.
He is an author of international bestsellers such as Adults in the Room, And The Weak Suffer What They Must?, The Global Minotaur and others. After teaching for many years in the United States, Great Britain and Australia, he is currently a professor of economics at the University of Athens and a Member of the Hellenic Parliament. He is also an ideologist with millions of fans worldwide, and a passionate free-time motorbiker.
He is one of the contemporary masterminds, writing a history of contemporary global financial and economic issues. Issues tackled are de-dollarisation, (non)sustainable deficit, cloud capitalism, modern colonialism, behavioural modification, techno-feudalism, financialisation, moral hazard and global austerity.
Ioannis “Yanis” Varoufakis was born in Athens, Greece. As the son of a revolutionary successful father, Georgios, and a beautiful activist for women’s rights and politician, Eleni, this boy was growing into a thoughtful young man. He was only six years old when the military coup d'état of April 1967 took place. Varoufakis later said that the military junta showed him a ‘sense of what it means to be both unfree and, at once, convinced that the possibilities for progress and improvement are endless’.
Later on, an ‘initial urge was to study physics’ but he decided that ‘the lingua franca of political discourse was economics’. He studied mathematics and economics at the University of Birmingham and the University of Essex, where he obtained a PhD. He then taught economics in the United Kingdom and at the University of Sydney, before returning to Greece in 2000 to teach at the University of Athens.
As a Greek economist, politician and academic, he led the Greek Ministry of Finance from January to July 2015 under Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and negotiations with Greece's creditors during the government-debt crisis. However, he failed to reach an agreement with the European troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) leading to the bailout referendum. The referendum rejected the troika bailout terms and the day afterwards, Varoufakis resigned as Minister of Finance.
In February 2016, he launched DiEM25 and subsequently backed a “Remain” vote in the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum. In March 2018, as a former member of Syriza, he founded MERA25, the “electoral wing” of DiEM25 in Greece, a Left-wing political party. In the next legislative elections, it was the sixth most voted-for party, amassing nine parliamentary seats, with Varoufakis himself returning to the Hellenic Parliament.
Since the beginning of his political career, Varoufakis appeared in numerous debates, lectures and interviews worldwide, describing himself as a “libertarian Marxist”.
His collection of excellent and world-popular books is something to be admired. Talking to My Daughter is a Sunday Times bestseller, in which Varoufakis writes to his daughter, Xenia, to teach her the hazards of capitalism. ‘Why is there so much inequality?’ asked Xenia to her father. Taking from memories of her childhood and a variety of well-known tales – from Oedipus and Faust to Frankenstein and The Matrix – Varoufakis turns Talking To My Daughter into an enjoyable and engaging read, without ever shying from the harder truths.
He explains everything you need to know to understand why economics is the most important drama of our times. In answering his daughter's simple questions, he disentangles our troubling world with remarkable clarity and child-like honesty, as well as inspires us to make it a better one. His expression is a beginning of a new language that everyone can understand, which punctures myth after myth.
So, as in our Chatham House debates under the auspices of the executive program so uniquely designed and conceived by Professor Anis H Bajrektarevic, the format is very simple: the Professor adds the flair to the cradle of diplomacy – the city of Geneva – and its historic chateau as our exclusive venue place — the top format of guests to discuss the topics of the day, for one whole day.
Among thoroughly elaborated and explained items on that special day were:
- financial crisis (global minotaur, origins and cyclicality);
- techno-feudalism and regression of human society;
- economic and political architecture of Europe and the world; and
- preventing the collapse of contemporary global society as the last historical civilisation.
Excellency Vroufakis remarked on what is an alternative history of our future and what can and should be done better.
Humanity is facing multiple crises. We are driving towards de-globalisation; poverty and debts are back to developing societies; a new cold war between the biggest powers is on the way; climate changes are irreversible; international institutions and relations shall be reinvented; and some societies are recently facing natural disasters, our speaker stated.
Is the EU construct still relevant and prevalent within its original role? What about the crises such as the Ukraine war, life in post-pandemic local societies, depending on eurozone economic centres, digitalisation and cyber terrorism? And America’s hegemony and a new cold war with China on the other side? How to prevent corporations from cannibalising the political sphere and turn your dreams – in which capital and labour no longer struggle against each other – into reality?
Why the West is taking democracy for granted while capitalism is obviously eating it? Are we intellectually and spiritually developed enough to accept the so-called authentic democracy in an extremely unauthentic modern world? And start investing in much-needed green transition?
And at last but not least, what is your view on the importance of gender balance in the 21st Century?
It was immensely beneficial to learn first-hand about the 2023 world vision and further in the next decades to prevent the collapse of contemporary global society as the last historical civilisation. What is an alternative history of our future, that we can do better? The floor was his. And the rest could be our vision.
Attacked, but sharper
Recently, Varoufakis was campaigning against poverty, inequality and armament. Thus, he has obviously again provoked more fanatism and intolerance from his opponents, reported as five masked assailants, after becoming the victim of a cowardly attack. He was at an Athens restaurant with DiEM25 members from all over Europe when a small group of thugs stormed the place and attacked.
Being a worldwide exposed fighter for human rights and recovering from the recent riot, he sent his gratitude with a clear message:
‘We are not afraid, we will not retreat, and we will not flinch in the face of intimidation. MERA25 Greece and DiEM25 will continue to face up to lies and speak up for common people in Greece. Let us please stay focused: We are mourning the 57 victims of rail privatisation. We support the spontaneous youth rallies, the greatest hope that Greece can change. See you at the demonstrations.’
Dr Jerca Legan is a scholar and researcher, performer and author from Slovenia.
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