Losing to the European Union: A Review of Yanis Varoufakis' Book "Adults in the Room"

Yanis Varoufakis, Adults in the Room: My Battle with the European and American Deep Establishment (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017) hardback i-ix, 1-550.

Yanis Varoufakis’ latest book is a detailed account of his time as Minister of Finance of Greece and his struggles with the Eurozone crisis, a period which he describes as ‘the ruthless suppression of Greece’s rebellion’ (p. 1). Varoufakis’ story is both absorbing and well told. His charisma is evident on every page as is his desire to set the record straight regarding his role in the collapse of the Greek economy. As is well known, Varoufakis was dismissed by Alexis Tsipras, the Greek Prime Minister, on the night of their Referendum triumph on July 5, 2015. The book casts light on the circumstances of this event, which seemed at the time entirely paradoxical. Over 60% of the electorate agreed with the Greek Government in rejecting a bailout deal. Varoufakis was the public face of this triumph. Why was he dismissed?

In this indiscreet and polemical account, Varoufakis offers a detailed and surprising answer. He reveals both the internal divisions but also the haphazard way in which Syriza, the party that Alexis Tsipras leads, operated at that time. Varoufakis claims that Tsipras called the Referendum in the hope that he would lose it. Unlike Varoufakis, who at that stage preferred Grexit, Tsipras believed that the government needed to compromise in order to avert a chaotic exit from the Eurozone. Tsipras could not bring himself to say so, however. For years he had told the electorate that austerity was not necessary, that it was the work of the corrupt and unpatriotic pro-European parties that created the crisis. His march to power was based on the theory that Greece was a victim of ‘neo-liberal’ forces and of scheming ‘capitalist’ foreigners. He could not admit that a compromise with them was a good thing after all. So he called the referendum ...

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