Monday morning the Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis announced he would be resigning, despite the OXI victory.
“I consider it my duty to help Alexis Tsipras exploit, as he sees fit, the capital that the Greek people granted us through yesterday’s referendum,” he writes on his blog in a post titled Minister No More!
Was this really spontaneous? Whether it was or not, it is an excellent move. If Germany’s mainstream media is at all representative, European media has done its best to demonise this one person, and through him the Syriza party, with a smear campaign that seems to take a leaf from the United States. Whether he is right or wrong is a moot point; the focus on just one individual, and away from the “lazy Greeks” exercising their democratic rights, has been far more damaging than anything specifically said about him. Add to that that his economics is not even discussed, that the rhetoric is of him “hijacking the vote of the Greek people” or being “an obstacle to productive talks about a new bailout deal“.
This is all well and good. My response is as follows: Just listen to him speak, and judge for yourself (the introduction is in German, but the discussion is in English).
To return to Varoufakis’s resignation, whether it is a surprise or not, I think the most curious aspect of the media coverage is not that he continues to be smeared, to be treated as a thug, but that the vast majority of citations from his blog are of three sentences. As quoted above, “I consider it my duty to help Alexis Tsipras exploit, as he sees fit, the capital that the Greek people granted us through yesterday’s referendum”; “Soon after the announcement of the referendum results, I was made aware of a certain preference by some Eurogroup participants, and assorted ‘partners’, for my… ‘absence’ from its meetings;” and of course, what appears to be the favourite: “And I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride.”
I see another quotation, however, the speaks the real tale, and it’s absence from the MSM discussion is telling:
“We of the Left know how to act collectively with no care for the privileges of office. I shall support fully Prime Minister Tsipras, the new Minister of Finance, and our government.”
We live in world in which such an idea is almost unthinkable. The “privileges of office” are exactly what we are told to strive for, whether political office, the office of a CEO, or the make-shift office of a self-employed, live-at-home dad. Even for managerial positions and research positions, there is an illusion of “I am here for a purpose, and because I have earned it”. Not to suggest that the self-employed or managers see themselves as holding an office. The point is that being in the position justifies, in their minds, having the position, as well as any advantages that come with it. To the extent that a person believes they cannot do good anywhere else.
What the referendum and Varoufakis’s resignation show is that this is not the case. The position and privilege of office are always subordinate to the people.