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4/6/16

EU- Why we must save the EU says Yanis Varoufakis of Greece

The first German word I ever learned was Siemens. It was emblazoned on our sturdy 1950s fridge, our washing machine, the vacuum cleaner – on almost every appliance in my family’s home in Athens. The reason for my parents’ peculiar loyalty to the German brand was my uncle Panayiotis, who was Siemens’ general manager in Greece from the mid-1950s to the late 1970s.

A Germanophile electrical engineer and a fluent speaker of Goethe’s language, Panayiotis had convinced his younger sister – my mother – to take up the study of German; she even planned to spend a year in Hamburg to take up a Goethe Institute scholarship in the summer of 1967.

Alas, on 21 April 1967, my mother’s plans were laid in ruins, along with our imperfect Greek democracy. For in the early hours of that morning, at the command of four army colonels, tanks rolled on to the streets of Athens and other major cities, and our country was soon enveloped in a thick cloud of neo-fascist gloom. It was also the day when Uncle Panayiotis’s world fell apart.

Unlike my dad, who in the late 1940s had paid for his leftist politics with several years in concentration camps, Panayiotis was what today would be referred to as a neoliberal. Fiercely anti-communist, and suspicious of social democracy, he supported the American intervention in the Greek civil war in 1946 (on the side of my father’s jailers). He backed the German Free Democratic party and the Greek Progressive party, which purveyed a blend of free-market economics with unconditional support for Greece’s oppressive US-led state security machine.




The heavy footprint of US agencies in Greek politics, even going so far as to engineer the dismissal of a popular centrist prime minister, Georgios Papandreou, in 1965, seemed to Panayiotis an acceptable trade-off: Greece had given up some sovereignty to western powers in exchange for freedom from a menacing eastern bloc lurking a short driving distance north of Athens. However, on that bleak April day in 1967, Panayiotis’s life was turned upside down.

He simply could not tolerate that “his” people (as he referred to the rightist army officers who had staged the coup and, more importantly, their American handlers) should dissolve parliament, suspend the constitution, and intern potential dissidents (including rightwing democrats) in football stadia, police stations and concentration camps. He had no great sympathy with the deposed centrist prime minister that the putschists and their US puppeteers were trying to keep out of government – but his worldview was torn asunder, leading him to a sudden spurt of almost comical radicalisation.

A few months after the military regime took power, Panayiotis joined an underground group called Democratic Defence, which consisted largely of other establishment liberals like himself – university professors, lawyers, and even a future prime minister. They planted a series of bombs around Athens, taking care to ensure there were no injuries, in order to demonstrate that the military regime was not in full control, despite its clampdown.

For a few years after the coup, Panayiotis appeared – even to his own mother – as yet another professional keeping his head down, minding his own business. No one had an inkling of his double life: corporate man during the day, subversive bomber by night. We were mostly relieved, meanwhile, that Dad had not disappeared again into some concentration camp.

My enduring memory of those years, in fact, is the crackling sound of a radio hidden under a red blanket in the middle of the living room in our Athens home. Every night at around nine, mum and dad would huddle together under the blanket – and upon hearing the muffled jingle announcing the beginning of the programme, followed by the voice of a German announcer, my own six-year-old imagination would travel from Athens to central Europe, a mythical place I had not visited yet except for the tantalising glimpses offered by an illustrated Brothers Grimm book I had in my bedroom.

Deutsche Welle, the German international radio station that my parents were listening to, became their most precious ally against the crushing power of state propaganda at home: a window looking out to faraway democratic Europe. At the end of each of its hour-long special broadcasts on Greece, my parents and I would sit around the dining table while they mulled over the latest news.

I didn’t fully understand what they were discussing, but this neither bored nor upset me. For I was gripped by a sense of excitement at the strangeness of our predicament: that, to find out what was happening in our very own Athens, we had to travel, through the airwaves, and veiled by a red blanket, to a place called Germany.

ur European Union is disintegrating. Should we accelerate the disintegration of a failed confederacy? If one insists that even small countries can retain their sovereignty, as I have done, does this mean Brexit is the obvious course? My answer is an emphatic “No!”

Here is why: if Britain and Greece were not already in the EU, they should most certainly stay out. But, once inside, it is crucial to consider the consequences of a decision to leave. Whether we like it or not, the European Union is our environment – and it has become a terribly unstable environment, which will disintegrate even if a small, depressed country like Greece leaves, let alone a major economy like Britain. Should the Greeks or the Brits care about the disintegration of an infuriating EU? Yes, of course we should care. And we should care very much because the disintegration of this frustrating alliance will create a vortex that will consume us all – a postmodern replay of the 1930s.

It is a major error to assume, whether you are a remain or a leave supporter, that the EU is something constant “out there” that you may or may not want to be part of. The EU’s very existence depends on Britain staying in. Greece and Britain are facing the same three options. The first two are represented aptly by the two warring factions within the Tory party: deference to Brussels and exit.

They are equally calamitous options. Both lead to the same dystopian future: a Europe fit only for those who flourish in times of a great Depression – the xenophobes, the ultra-nationalists, the enemies of democratic sovereignty. The third option is the only one worth going for: staying in the EU to form a cross-border alliance of democrats, which Europeans failed to manage in the 1930s, but which our
 
Read more: Why we must save the EU | Yanis Varoufakis | World news | The Guardian

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