Sunday, May 20, 2018

Yanis Varoufakis Takedown Of Corporatist Facism Derails Amy Goodman's Propaganda

democracynow |  Look, Amy, in slaves-owning societies or in the Middle Ages, we had production. People worked, toiled the land. Then we had distribution. The lord would send his henchmen in, his sheriff, to take his cut. So you had distribution—production, distribution. The lord’s cut would then be sold in markets. He would get money out of it, and then you would have finance. So we had production, distribution, finance.

With capitalism, we had the reversal of that. First you’d get the debt, to set up the—you know, to employ people. So you have finance, then distribution, and the last thing that happens is production. So, debt is central to capitalism. Now, that means one thing: The banker, the financier, has an exorbitant privilege. He’s like the sorcerer who has the capacity to push his hand through the time line, snatch value from the future, that has not been produced yet, and bring it in to the present to help orchestrate the production that will create the value that will be repaid in the future. But, effectively, you’re creating a class of people, the financiers, who then have complete control over society. And they can keep doing this a lot more, until the present can no longer repay the future, and there is a huge crash. And then what happens? Because they have this privileged position, they can make you and me, President Obama, whoever, Larry Summers, bail them out. So, they win if their bets succeed, and they win if their bets lose. What kind of political economy is this, when you have one class of people who win, whatever they do, and everybody else loses, whatever they do?

AMY GOODMAN: Is this what you refer to the black magic of banking?
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: That’s exactly right.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, what’s the cure for this?
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Well, the cure of this is, effectively, to do that which FDR did in the 1930s.
AMY GOODMAN: President Roosevelt.

YANIS VAROUFAKIS: President Roosevelt—to put the financial genie back in the bottle. Make banking boring again. Put huge constraints upon them. Nationalize the banks and turn them into institutions for public purpose. And if even—you don’t necessarily need to nationalize, as long as you really keep them under strict control. Remember Bretton Woods, which designed the golden era of capitalism. Bretton Woods was a conference in 1944, and there 120 different countries agreed on the system which saw, in the 1950s and 1960s, the longest period of steady growth, with shrinking inequality and low unemployment and low inflation. FDR had one condition slapped onto membership of that Bretton Woods Conference. Do you know what it was? No banker was allowed in the Washington—the Mount Washington Hotel. So you had a monetary and financial system that was designed in the absence of bankers. That’s what we should do again.

AMY GOODMAN: What is apolitical money?
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: In this country, you have a lot of people, good people, who are fed up with politicians, who are fed up with the Fed, and who believe that—they believe in true money, in honest money, that money should be somehow independent of the political process. Remember the gold standard? They still hanker after the gold standard. They would like the quantity of dollars printed to be linked to the quantity of gold that the Fed owns, so that there would be no political influence of the quantity of money, because they fear that—they fear the government will print too much money, and there will be inflation, and the value of money will be effectively eaten away—the gold bugs, as you call them in this country. Bitcoin—Bitcoin is a digital form of the gold standard. And so, the backlash against political control—
AMY GOODMAN: The Bitcoin folks are moving into Puerto Rico right now, has been devastated by Maria.
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Of course it’s been devastated. But the solution is not Bitcoin.
AMY GOODMAN: But they’re moving in fast.
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Yes, but it’s—you know, it’s just a bubble. It will burst. And the reason is, however much we loathe the political process because it is controlled by oligarchs and by the same old financiers who are behind the politicians who are bailing them out whenever the finance is needed—however much we dislike that, there is no alternative to political money. Why? Because the quantity of money must be in sync with the quantity of output of goods and services. If those two go out of sync, you have deflationary bouts. You have to—that will lead to depression. So, to put it very bluntly and simply, the quantity of money must be decided democratically. At the moment, it’s not being decided democratically. It’s decided politically, but oligarchically. The solution is not to take it and tie it to some algorithm.
AMY GOODMAN: In the United States, you—in the United States, you only refer to oligarchy when you’re talking about Russia, the oligarchs. But billionaire businessmen in the United States, you do not refer to as oligarchs.
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: But the United States of America is the prime oligarchy. The difference between the United States of America and Russia is that the United States is a more successful oligarchy. But it is an oligarchy nevertheless.
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Well, think of 2008. President Obama is sworn in on a wave of expectation by the victims of the financiers. And what does he do? First thing he does is he appoints Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, the very same people who had actually unshackled the financiers in the late 1990s, allowing them to do everything that brought so much discontent to the very same people who then entrusted President Obama. President Obama, very soon after that, lost his credibility with those people, and the result is Donald Trump. That’s an oligarchy.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, why is Donald Trump so fiercely opposed to President Obama—is it just racial?—given that he laid the groundwork for the oligarchs, for people like Donald Trump, if, in fact, he does have money?
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Well, the ruling class has a fantastic capacity, like the working class, to be divided. Donald Trump was never in the pocket of Wall Street. He used Wall Street. He used Deutsche Bank. He used all the people he dislikes, in order to keep, effectively, bankrupting his companies and profiting from it. So he’s really very good at that. But he was never very successful as a businessman, certainly not as successful as Goldman Sachs or JPMorgan. And he was always on the margins of the capitalist order of things in the United States. He understood that in order for him to gain more power, more—both discursively and politically and economically, he had to ride the wave of discontent against Obama. And he did this magnificently. And the Democrats let him. The Democrats brought their own distress and failure upon themselves.
AMY GOODMAN: So I want to talk about the rise of the right, but go back to World War II—actually, between World War I and World War II in Germany. How do you see the growth of the support for Hitler and how he took power in Germany, going back to World War I and the devastation of Germany?
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: The combination—the combination of a humiliated populace. The humiliation is very important, Amy. When you humiliate a whole people in the middle of a great depression, great economic crisis, you have a political crisis. So the political center implodes, which is what happened with the Weimar Republic, and then all sorts of political monsters ride up—rise up from that. We saw this in the 1920s, the 1930s, in the midwar period in Germany. But we saw it in—we see it in Greece today, after—do you know we have a Nazi party in Greek Parliament—in the country that, along with Yugoslavia, fought tooth and nail against Nazism in the 1940s. We had a magnificent resistance movement against Nazism. In that country now, the third-largest party is a—not a neo-Nazi party, fully old-fashioned Nazi party.
AMY GOODMAN: And this came into the Parliament when?
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: They came into Parliament in 2012, at the time of a humiliated public in the clasp of a great depression, just like in Germany in the 1930s.
But allow me to make a point, because there is a great misunderstanding about Germany of the midwar period. Usually people say, “Oh, it was hyperinflation. It was the fact that prices were rising exponentially that brought Hitler to power.” Not true. It is true that hyperinflation depleted the middle class, effectively destroyed the middle class’s savings and shook the system and made the Weimar Republic extremely fragile and ready for the taking. But if you look at the electoral performance of the Nazi Party in Germany, there is a direct correlation, not with inflation, but with deflation. You had Chancellor Brüning, who in 1930 decided to slam the brakes on the economy and to use large doses of austerity in order to make inflation go away—a bit like Paul Volcker when he pushed interest rates up in the early '80s, remember, to 20-something percent—and a lot more fiscal austerity, not just monetary austerity. It was at that point when prices started falling in Germany. Prices started falling, and unemployment ballooned. And that is when you have a major jump in the support for Nazis. Deflation breeds fascism. And that is something that we've got to remember. And I’m making this point because, unfortunately, the European Union’s economic policies today are producing deflationary forces that are being exported to the United States and to China. And that does not augur well for progressive international politics.
AMY GOODMAN: So talk now about the far right in Europe and also in the United States. But in Europe, you’re talking about Poland, you’re talking about Hungary. You’ve got Golden Dawn, not to mention the Nazi party, in Greece.
YANIS VAROUFAKIS: Oh, that’s the Golden—the Golden Dawn is a Nazi party. That’s the Nazi party I was referring to.