Lesson Learned from Varoufakis: Cooperation, Not Conflict

Former Greek Finance Minister Yannis Varoufakis. Photo: Eurokinissi/Giannis Panagopoulos, File)

The fact that Greece has not yet been able to present its own plan for ending the crisis but is only confined to responding to plans presented by its lenders, is both ineffective and nationally offensive. That it has not worked out a plan that is its own, in which it believes, and which it may implement accordingly.

What continues to happen is that the government responds to the measures the lenders suggest, which it ultimately accepts – after long and incredibly damaging delays, for political reasons – to avoid bankruptcy.

However, the drafting of such a plan is not an easy task. And the people who would be entrusted with drawing up the plan must have extensive and relevant knowledge as well as experience. In addition, the individual who will make the final decisions, namely the prime minister, must know what is happening.

It is obvious that the objective requirements for the development of such a plan are absent from today’s Greece.

In principle, it is propitious that Alexis Tsipras considered methods of addressing the problem before becoming prime minister. But the two years during which he has governed the country reveal that both he and his key advisers were recklessly clueless about the subject.

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, for example, possessed the theoretical basis and was knowledgeable about the subject, but was living in a fantasy world; with a sense of narcissism, he saw himself slugging it out with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble while both defeating and humiliating him, to avenge the Greek people for what they had been through up to then.

He saw victory arising from conflict and from the annulment of what had been agreed upon, rather than from cooperation, without considering the ratio of forces between Greece and its creditors.

Thus, in words he committed to paper, he was eyeing the creation of a parallel payment system, among other things, as has been extensively disclosed. And although that can be implemented theoretically, it does not take into consideration the consequences it would have on the market, nor the reactions of its lenders.

That is why it was reckless.

In the situation in which the country finds itself, where the creditors hold most of the cards, the best strategy is sincere cooperation rather than an imaginary Marxist conflict, provided that our side is genuinely prepared to implement the plan, if it is accepted by the lenders. And also provided that the plan would presented to the people in its genuine version.

The incongruous situation in which the government “fights” the bad lenders to prevent them from offering it another loan, without which the country will be driven into bankruptcy, must stop at some point. In other words, the government both requests a loan and fights against it. The result is that such behavior neutralizes the positive aspects while retaining the negative.

It is a miracle that thus far, Greece has been spared from the amateur manipulations of its rulers. But the risk of disaster remains high because, although some rulers have learned some things at the expense of others without considering the consequences, for them the system remains alien.

So, how can they possibly improve it?