Outspoken former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis compared the popularity of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump to the rise of Fascism across Europe in the 1930s.
Varoufakis, who ran Greece’s economy during crucial bailout talks and resigned last year, on Monday spent 90 minutes answering questions on Q&A website Quora, covering topics ranging from Europe’s future to Trump and even how economics is taught in University.
Trump has provoked the left with his comments on Muslims and immigration but become a darling of many right-wing voters in the US.
Here’s what Varoufakis wrote when asked ‘What do you think about Donald Trump’s political success in the US?’:
Anger is prevalent. Common folks follow a good instinct when they want to punish an establishment that has lied to them for decades, that has treated them with contempt, that considers them ‘useful idiots’ to be bought by the highest bidder.
Unfortunately, this good instinct often leads fed up conservatives to the wrong leader, camp, campaign. We saw this in the 1930s, we are seeing it today in France (the rise of Le Pen). Our duty as democrats is to offer disaffected voters, including conservatives, a way to indulge their impulsive urge to punish the establishment without becoming hostage to misanthropic narratives, like Trump’s, Le Pen’s etc.
The 1930s saw the rise of right-wing, autocratic, Fascist dictatorships in Italy, Spain, and Germany, while in France Marine Le Pen leads the far-right National Front party, which has recently enjoyed a boost in popularity.
Varoufakis and his party, Syriza, swept to power in Greece on a wave of popular support, but from the left, not the right. Varoufakis says there are “stark similarities” with his success and the current popularity of US Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Here are the select highlights of Varoufakis’ other answers:
- On the future of the EU: “I hope not but I fear we may very well be experiencing the EU’s disintegration. The Eurozone has been, for some time now, in an advanced state of deconstruction…. Beyond the Eurozone, Schengen has already been suspended and is under enormous strain as the forces of xenophobia, ultra-nationalism and plain paranoia are taking over. The EU’s inability is come to terms with what is, after all, a mild refugee crisis (as compared, for instance, with that facing Jordan or Lebanon) speaks volumes in this regard.”
- On Greece’s economy: “Terribly, heartbreakingly badly… Greece was in a free fall before we [the Syriza party] were elected, and remains in one now because our attempts to renegotiate the world’s most failed ‘program’ were crushed by an ironclad troika determined not to ‘lose’ Spain, Portugal, Ireland etc.”
- On Julian Assange: “Democracy is nothing without the right to free speech. And, as I said at the Volksbuhne Theatre while I was introducing Julian to the audience, the right to free speech counts for little without the right to know what our rulers are doing on our behalf.”
- On his new movement, DiEM 25 (Democratise Europe): “The number one lesson many of us learned during 2015 at the level of European Union, the Eurogroup, etc., is that the old way of doing politics in Europe is obsolete – finished… Instead of starting at level of the nation-state and forging an alliance, which is flimsy and brittle, how about starting a movement throughout Europe on the basis of a very clear manifesto that binds us together? How about a movement with some very simple ideas of what we want to do as Europeans?”
- On a potential Brexit: “I argued that British voters have every reason to be livid with a deeply anti-democratic, bureaucratic and unappetising EU. But it would be wrong to think that they can just leave the EU behind, sailing off into some other alliance with the US or China.”
- On Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders: “The great difference between us is that Bernie is running for the Presidency of a social economy that is far more robust and autonomous than the Eurozone – and infinitely more sustainable than a bankrupt country (Greece) lacking any of the levers of policy making (e.g. monetary & fiscal policy, the right to legislate that was given away last summer with the 3rd Loan Agreement).”
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