Former Greek finance minister honoured by Sussex University

The former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis received an honorary degree from Sussex University in a ceremony at the Brighton Centre yesterday (Thursday 20 July).

Moments after the ceremony, Mr Varoufakis told Brighton and Hove News that he believed Brexit would be a barrier to progress in Britain and in Europe.

Yanis Varoufakis

He led talks with Greece’s creditors in the lead-up to the Greek bailout referendum two years ago but resigned after the Greek people voted to leave the EU but were unable to.

Mr Varoufakis said: “Brexit is detrimental to progressive change in the European Union but it is also detrimental to any prospect of progressive change in this country.

“This is why – even though you could not accuse me of being a lackey of Europe – I oppose Brexit.”

Asked what hope he saw for the young people graduating now to play a role in improving Britain and the European Union after Brexit, he said: “In Brexit, it is hard to keep eyes on the interests of the young and the many.”

However, during his acceptance speech Mr Varoufakis had implored graduating students to reverse the ills of the country.

He said: “The culture of incessant measurement damaged our universities and, by extension, our societies – from the NHS to the way financial products are priced and macroeconomic policy designed. It is up to you to reverse this”.

Mr Varoufakis praised Sussex University during his acceptance speech, calling it a “splendid university” and emphasising the institution’s commitment to the ideals of the more egalitarian era of its founding in the 1960s.

Mr Varoufakis lamented “a bygone era when a more confident British society convinced that no price system, no cost-benefit analysis, could ever capture the value of educating the many, and unwilling to indebt its poorer children as a price for their education, built new universities with a mission to rethink the purpose of higher education”.

He ended his speech with a flavour of his trademark confrontational manner: “The secret is never to fear being in a minority. Even in a minority of one. It is to be simultaneously constructive in your proposals and disobedient in the face of inanity – critical of everything but ready to co-operate with everyone.

“To succeed, a rational plan is key, as is a capacity never to forget Mike Tyson’s unforgettable line: ‘They all have a plan, until I punch them in the nose!’”

At the graduation ceremony Mr Varoufakis shared the stage with students from the School of Global Studies including development studies, the subject in which Sussex is ranked first in the world, having unseated Harvard in the league tables.

He campaigned against Brexit in the lead-up to the referendum last year and has started a group called DiEM25 which calls itself a “pan-European democratic movement” to try to reform the EU.

Mr Varoufakis, who has said that he believes the EU is disintegrating, yesterday offered a bleak view of a social and economic system across the continent which is broken and which led to the Brexit vote.

He blamed “the whole structure of neoliberalism” for the “pointless tussle” of Brexit, saying “neoliberalism is a project which has failed and now we are living with the outcomes and the product of this failure”.

He added that “the single market was built on Thatcherite principles”.

Mr Varoufakis said: “What you’ve got left is the whole structure of neoliberalism (which) has punitive tendencies towards the weak, towards the benefit-seekers, towards the refugees, towards the foreigners, towards …

“All these people who don’t trust neoliberalism – in Leeds, in Clacton – and feel discouraged and therefore vote for Brexit not because they care about the European Union but because they want to rub the noses of the establishment into the mud.”

Caroline Lucas

Later at a question and answer (Q&A) session with Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, Mr Varoufakis described the Prime Minister Theresa May’s political stance as “Nazi”.

He appeared with Caroline Lucas to answer questions about his latest book – Adults in the Room – a memoir of his negotiations with the Troika: the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.

He said it was unlikely the Conservative Party would “fall apart” during Brexit negotiations, saying: “The Tories are so united in pursuit of greed – even if they hate each other – they will not fall apart soon.”

He also said that Theresa May’s political stance blended “soft industrial policy which is pro-labour” – “even ideas in my books!” he said – with “hard nationalism”.

In a typically confrontational manner, he said of the Prime Minister’s political blend: “This is national socialism, also known as Nazism.”

At another point in the evening he cautioned against “a return to the 1930s”, with the rise in xenophobia and rejection of the EU.

  1. Esther Monchek Reply

    Does this pass as the highest level of academic political and economic analysis:
    “He said that Theresa May’s political stance blended “soft industrial policy which is pro-labour” – “even ideas in my books!” he said – with “hard nationalism. This is national socialism, also known as Nazism.”

    So, Theresa May, who herself voted Remain in the Referendum and who is actually an internationalist and a preeminent Conservative is branded a Nationalst and a Socialist by this fool, whilst being fawned over by Sussex academe.

  2. Oskar Reply

    Theresa May is just a tool in the hands of those wishing to “take back control”. She is here now because of the mistakes. Her first mistake is that she is so willing to cast aside her beliefs in order to cling to power. Her second mistake is that she is not even aware of how out of touch she became after surrounding herself with hard Brexit bullies. Her third and most fatal mistake, she did not grasp that the whole referendum catastrophe was never really about the EU and all about the state of true democracy (or lack thereof) in the UK.

  3. Fred Phowsh Reply

    Theresa May swings this way and that with seemingly no care for her own integrity.

    Varoufakis, as usual, speaks wisely about the situation. And just to be clear and to correct this journalistic excuse for a newspaper, varoufakis did not call Theresa May a Nazi, he said some of her policies were likened to the nationalist Nazi policies.

  4. Valerie Paynter Reply

    SURELY the EU and the Euro dragged Greece to its current desperate state where there is no escape from its economic demise. If Greece had its own currency back again it could be devalued as necessary to make it more competitive in attracting income to it? He was Finance Minister in that country where (I learned today from the Food Programme today) ordinary people have to work 230 of every 360 days just to pay the extortionate taxes that Greece’s wealthy themselves slid out of having to pay!

    The EU is not benefing its members evenly or equitably and we need to return to being a very Common Market, run more cooperatively for the benefit of ALL its members.

  5. Paul Reply

    This guy is crazy, firstly the article is wrong he did not resign after Greece voted to leave the EU and was prevented from doing so, he resigned after the Greek people voted in a referendum for its foreign creditors to write off its debts and its foreign creditors refused to do so. It was a meaningless referendum. If you want your foreign creditors to write off your debts it is them that need to agree to this not you and Varoufakis was one of the politicians involved in the farce so he should have resigned.

    How is Theresa May a hard nationalist?

    But obviously it is wonderful that the University has decided to take part in his book tour. Hopefully he will sell a zillion copies of the tosh, and I trust he will then pay taxes on it to the Greek government so they can start to address their debt crisis.

    It is strange that he criticises the UKs decisions to measure performance of public services. The crisis is in Greece still on going and at its core is Greeces inability to measure things, particularly people’s incomes. Essentially its inability to raise taxes combined with its belief that it could borrow to cover any shortfall in tax income (sound familiar) got Greece to where it is today, but when he got into office he ignored the existing problems to focus on a referendum to distract the Greek people.

    I would have liked to see the look on Carolone Lucas, the Arch , face when he described the single market that she is wedded to as Thatcherite. The Greens used to be about limiting consumption and reducing the damage to the planet but now are about increasing borrowing to maximise everyone’s consumption equally. But that’s progress for you.

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