Tuesday, August 29, 2017

‘Adults In The Room' - Book Review

‘Adults In The Room – my battle with Europe’s deep establishment’ - Yanis Varoufakis

This is a book that everyone should read! To misquote Richard Feynman ‘If you think you understand the politics of the European Union, you don’t understand the politics of the European Union!’

Across the broadest political spectrum imaginable, Varoufakis is as well-respected an authority on his discipline to be found anywhere – his politics are another matter!

Greece’s economy was in melt-down and the country was being plundered yet again to bail out the German and French banks that were, and still are, mired in toxic debt. When Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras invited Varoufakis to become Greek Finance Minister should the party win the upcoming general election he agreed, on one condition, he would stand for parliament and only if elected accept the post. Varoufakis, a non-politician, polled 142,000 votes – more than any other candidate for any party.

In the process of relinquishing his post as Professor of Economics at the University of Texas-Austin Varoufakis met with Larry Summers whom he had dubbed the ‘Prince of Darkness’. ‘Yanis,’ Larry said, ‘you made a big mistake. You won the election!’ He went on to ask a question. ‘There are two kinds of politicians, insiders, and outsiders. The outsiders prioritise their freedom to speak their version of the truth. The price of their freedom is that they are ignored by the insiders, who take the important decisions. The insiders follow a sacrosanct rule: never turn against other insiders and never talk to outsiders about what insiders say or do. Their reward? Access to inside information and a chance, though no guarantee, of influencing powerful people and outcomes. So, Yanis, which of the two are you?’

As the drama unfolds on the pages of this engrossing and highly readable book we begin to discover what Varoufakis, his colleagues and their opposite numbers in the institutions are made of. How do you negotiate with those who don’t want their money back? Who wants to punish your country as a warning to others who are thinking of rebellion? Who says one thing and then do the polar opposite? How can you negotiate when the real power within the Troika and the Euro-Group lie with Wolfgang Schäuble the German Finance Minister who doesn’t care what happens to the Greek people as long as he protects and strengthens Germany’s hold upon its renamed Deutschmark, the Euro? The truth is ugly and Varoufakis calls it as he finds it.

‘To resolve this crisis we need Adults In The Room’ is a quote from Christine Lagarde of the IMF. That Varoufakis resigned and the reformist Syriza government then caved in despite holding a national referendum in which the battered and bruised people of Greece gave a resounding mandate to give the ‘one finger salute’ to the troika is a clear indication that the only adults, along with Elvis, had left not just the room but the building!

Dystopia exists – it is here and now! If there were ever any doubts that the system is utterly corrupt and broken this brilliant book should bury them. At £15 or less it is cheap at twice the price.

Alan Fenn

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