Memo to Varoufakis

Off the keyboard of John Ward

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Published on The Slog on February 26, 2015

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Memo to Varoufakis: Game theory is fine, but this isn’t a game.

Yanis Varoufakis was caught in the headlights last Friday: he should stop denying it

https://hat4uk.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/varoufheadlinghts.pngThe anti-‘deal’ leaks from the ECB, Berlin, the IMF and Brussels have been in full flow since Tuesday evening. It’s all terribly predictable: a clever process of suggesting that – purely out the goodness of their hearts – Troika2 is going to cut Greece some slack….even though T2 has – to tot up the list to date – ‘grave doubts’, ‘major reservations’, ‘worries about the lack of detail’, and ‘concerns about achievability’. There is slack rope, and there is enough rope to hang oneself.

The stench of hypocrisy in all this is vomit-inducing: Greece is being set up to fail, and in the meantime the ECB will continue its covert policy of creating bank cash-flow problems…ensuring that Syriza comes across as a Skid Row lush dependent upon never-ending welfare.

From Yanis Varoufakis, the Master of Game Theory, there has been little since the sign-off beyond rationalisation. In an interview with the Irish Times’s Damian Mac Con Uladh today, Mr Varoufakis gives us:

“Good compromises don’t always satisfy everyone, and leave in a sense everyone somewhat dissatisfied. But the mandate from our party, our government and my prime minister was very straightforward. To get a deal done. So, compromise. The question is if we have compromised our basic principle. And the answer is a big, fat no….Our mandate was to struggle against this black and white, this either/or, and to create a third way….It’s a triumph for democracy and marks the end of automated austerity….Anything is better than confining us to an austerity hole where we shrink every day.”

Compare and contrast that entirely reasonable attitude with this BBC interview on February 3rd:

“”Europe in its infinite wisdom decided to deal with this bankruptcy by loading the largest loan in human history on the weakest of shoulders… What we’ve been having ever since is a kind of fiscal waterboarding that has turned this nation into a debt colony….[the Troika is] a committee built on rotten foundations…Greek democracy has chosen to stop going gently into the night. Greek democracy resolved to rage against the dying of the light….We are going to destroy the basis upon which they have built for decade after decade a system, a network that viciously sucks the energy and the economic power from everybody else in society.”

I’m being ironic: I vastly prefer the second (earlier) Varoufakis to the new relaunch. Today’s Irish Times interview shows Damian Mac Con Uladh giving Yanis an unbelievable easy ride on the subject of a fat, hairy mammoth in the room: the now well-documented way in which the Greek Finance Minister was ambushed by the Euromafia at 4.30 pm last Friday.

I recognise perfectly well that I’m breaking from the optimist pack, but then I do understand the sociopathy of that Mafia better than most Greeks. To be blunt, I think Varoufakis underestimated it; and last Friday, the breathtaking, bullying illegality of their input caught him napping.

I do not believe Syriza has bought time, I think it has sold principles. I’m sure Yanis knows all the tricks of Game Theory, but this is not a game. He is dealing with (as are we all sooner or later) a nasty and yet hopelessly splintered EU oligarchy of far greater venom than any existing in Greece. The division on the opposing side is what he missed.

It’s easy to define, and even easier to evidence: the Germans are fed up of the French, and losing faith in the Americans. That’s a very serious split, because the man with the most unaccountable power in the eurozone is Mario Draghi….who works for Wall Street. The French, meanwhile, bitterly resent the idea that a nasty piece of work like Wolfgang Schäuble will be eyeballing them during March…and if and when FiskalUnion ever comes to pass, telling them what they can and can’t spend 24/7. The idea that Paris has the remotest desire to acquiesce in that arrangement is ridiculous. Apart from anything else, it would hand millions of votes to both Marine Le Pen and Nigel Farage.

On top of that we have a general trend in Southern Europe towards euroscepticism: the continuing growth of Podemos in Spain, and europhobic Berlusconi attitudes in Italy. These can only be encouraged by a flat refusal by Greece to deal with the idiots who caused the problem in the first place.

This is the perspective from Syriza that I find flawed: the much bigger picture. Last week, Varoufakis focused on it, and then lost the plot on Friday. He was a refusenik, but now he’s a pragmatist.

The post I wrote earlier this week laying out the story behind this was taken down by the Blue Meanies. I am therefore eternally grateful to the half-dozen Sloggers who still had it open and used page capture to return the piece to its rightful owner. It is reproduced below for anyone who missed it first time around.

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GREECE CRISIS OPINION: TROIKA RISES FROM THE DEAD AS DRAGHI LEADS THE CHARGE, AND VAROUFAKIS EMPLOYS BRAVE FACE

Conflicting rumours surround the Syriza reform programme approval process tonight, but whatever emerges from this farcical trading of angels on a pinhead, I’m increasingly concerned as details of the humiliation process programme ‘deal’ accepted by Yanis Varoufakis last Friday come to light. I don’t actually think the five-point italic hand-tying target codicils matter a damn to be honest, because they’re all unachievable anyway.

Far more relevant is what EC behaviour has been found acceptable to the Greek Government.

Did you know, for instance, that both the Gang of Four revisions, the Friday ambush, and the ELA threats/leaks to Greek banks were driven by Draghi?

Did you know that – in a direct sideswipe at rehiring Ministerial cleaners – there is a blanket ban under the agreement on any more public sector hiring?

Did you know that, just to rub in really hard that how they think the Greeks shit on their shoes, eurogroup told Varoufakis Friday that they were “handing over the judgement process to the organisation formally known as the Troika” – Draghi’s exact words. This was a direct hit on Syriza’s refusal to deal with the Troika. “Eurogroup will leave the details to this institution, who will present their view to eurogroup” he added.

Varafoukakis told CNN this evening that it was eurogroup who wanted more time to think, not the Troika. That is very, very economical with the truth – and not how other Syriza officials see it. The Troika has made it clear to eurogroup there are things they don’t like. As Naked Capitalism reported yesterday, ‘The Greek government is required to submit a list of reforms to the Troika by the end of day Monday. If it is not approved, the Eurogroup will meet on Tuesday.’

Guess what? Earlier this evening, Greek Channel NERIT announced that the eurogroup has asked Greece to submit a revised reforms list for its meeting Tuesday morning. The Guardian carries the same story.

I’m sorry, but at the minute Yanis Varoufakis isn’t coming out of this very well. For now, I support him to the hilt: but he is either going to resist the EC/ECB/creditors Troika or he isn’t. I know perfectly well that there are many among Athenian opinion-leaders who disagree with me about this. So perhaps – to illustrate the point – I might be allowed to relate an infamous Churchillian anecdote.

In the mid 1920s, WSC found himself seated next to a lady of liberal leanings at supper. Glad to have this arch anti-Communist to herself, the socialite took him to task about strike breaking, dissembling newspaper articles about the working class, and several other genuinely unpleasant dimensions of Churchill’s curate’s egg of a personality.

As ever when in the presence of what he regarded as uppity suffragettes, Winston was cutting and dismissive, telling the woman she should stick to worrying about her children and suitable marriages for her daughters – while remaining grateful for the fact that Britain had unwisely given her the vote.

“Mr Churchill,” said the shocked supper companion, “If I were married to you, I would put poison in your wine”.

“Madam,” Churchill lisped, “if I were married to you, I would drink it”.

Think of this as the “Drop dead” period of Syriza/EU insult exchanging immediately following the election.

Back in 1927, this not entirely auspicious exchange rapidly deteriorated, such that by the time pudding arrived, the lady concerned had reached the end of whatever short tether she possessed.

“Mr Churchill,” she said loudly, “You are the last person in the world I would ever marry”.

“Madam,” WSC responded, “A small part of marriage involves procreation in the bedroom. In order to show you what my real intentions are, under what circumstance would you consent to sleep with me?” The mortified woman hesitated, and then replied.

“There is no amount of money on Earth that would so persuade me”.

“Not even,” asked Winston, “£10 million?”. She laughed out loud.

“Don’t be ridiculous, that’s more than the Poor Relief budget. No woman is worth that”.

“Very well then,” said the future war leader, “Shall we say £500?”

“That is an insult,” she responded, “what do you take me for – a common prostitute?”

“Madam,” said Winston Churchill, “We have already established your profession. At this stage, we are merely haggling about the price”.

Fast forward to 2015: that’s what has been going on since Friday afternoon between Syriza and the Troika.

I don’t buy the “lose the battle, win the war” argument. While the Troika, Wall Street, US economic colonisation, EU fascism and banking sociopathy are indeed the enemy, this is a peace time exchange, not all-out war – yet. A strategic retreat is one thing: preparedness to cling to the driftwood of credibility is merely appeasement.

I’m now informed – in the last twenty minutes by a well-placed Syriza source – that fully eight Greek Cabinet members are opposed to acceptance of the deal. For myself, I feel cheated and made to look stupid by the hidden facts and cynical spin that followed Friday’s little re-enactment of the 1938 Munich crisis. But my feelings don’t matter a jot: let  The Slog’s Saturday post stand as a testament to rushed judgement. More to the point is the reality that an opportunity to call the Troika bluff has been blown.

If Yanis Varoufakis wants to regain his dignity – and keep Syriza together – he needs to think very carefully about what Prime Minister Tsipras should be asked to accept tomorrow…and then sell to his Party. For what will it benefit a man if he buys time, yet sells his soul?

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