Open Letter to Yanis Varoufakis & Dominique Strauss-Khan from Giulio Tremonti & Paolo Savona

Rome, July 24, 2015

To Yanis Varoufakis and Dominique Strauss-Khan

Dear Yanis, dear Dominique,

There is a place on earth that represents Europe’s very roots: Greece. Let us begin there.

Athens, April 28, 1955. Albert Camus’ conference on “The future of Europe”.[1]

On this occasion, participants agreed that the structural characteristics of European civilization are essentially two: the dignity of the individual; a spirit of critique.

At that time (1955), human dignity was a focus of much debate in Europe.

Nobody doubted, however, the European “spirit of critique”. There were no doubts about the rationalist, Cartesian, Enlightened vision, which was agent and engine of continuous progress on the continent, as much in terms of technical-scientific domination as for political, social and economic domination.

Today, more than half a century later, we might well invert these two: human dignity is widely appreciated throughout Europe, albeit challenged by dramatic problems generated by immigration; it is the force of reason in Europe that no longer underlies continuous progress.

Why is this so? What happened?

It was not some shadowy curse that descended upon the continent. It was not some evil hand that sowed our fields with salt. So what did happen?

Just as the dinosaurs died off because an asteroid slammed into the planet, so was dinosaur Europe struck by 4 different phenomena. Each was revolutionary even when taken alone, but all together, one after another, they proved enough to cause an explosion, an implosion, paralysis: enlargement, globalization, the euro, the crisis.

And that is not all. During the process of political union, we took a wrong turn at one point. We failed to unite that which could be and needed to be united (such as defense). Instead, we united that which did not need to be united (for example, the size of vegetables).

This is why, in Europe today, it is not “more union” that we need. What we need is to propose, discuss and design new “articles of confederation”.

Dear Yanis, dear Dominique, we agree on the fact that life and civilization cannot be reduced to mere calculations of interest rates; we agree that today, in Europe, it is not the technicalities that need changing but the political vision. History teaches us that in order to reach our goal we must change what is inside people’s heads or – at the very least – admit that mistakes have been made. We agree that the piazzas of protest are to be avoided, but that we must find a new road, down which we can all walk, regardless of our country or political party of origin.

Paolo Savona, Emeritus professor of Political economy

Giulio Tremonti, Senator of the Italian Republic

[1] L’avenir de la civilisation européenne – entretien avec Albert Camus”, Union Culturelle Gréco-Français, Athènes 1956.

12 Comments

    • iGlinavos,

      I don’t think Yanis ignored it and, given the time of writing (April 2015), your letter was quite topical and poignant – prophetic even.

      But your argument made the “dilemma”, arising from the creditors’ refusal to budge, even more untenable than that which Yani thought he faced at the end of June:

      “Sign on the dotted line” or brace for catastrophic “Rupture”, which he “didn’t have a mandate for”.

      Indeed, you posed the dilemma facing “the people” at that “early” stage, in no less fatalistic terms:
      “The people must choose whether to become a German protectorate to maintain a semblance of normality, or to revert to emerging economy norms with living standards akin to 1970s. There are no good choices here, but the choice is not yours to make.”

      No wonder the choice you recommended to Yanis in your April “letter”, was almost identical to the cowardly cop-out stance taken by George Papandreou in late November 2011, which, BTW, so enraged the “Merkozy axis” that they swiftly brought up the illegal “Grexit option” for the first time – after publicly vilifying and humiliating GAP at Cannes:

      “Sign, live to fight another day and call an election so those who face this horrible choice get to make it”.

      In other words, bow to the creditors’ diktat to win their favour and save your hide “to fight another day”. But afterwards, feel free to give Merkozy the “finger” and leave the “horrible choice” to the people whose mandate you had just betrayed with your signature.

      BTW, this shows why Tsipras’ decision to go for a referendum on July 5 without signing anything, was the honourable and prudent thing to do, declaring beforehand his intention to resign only in case of a YES vote.

      But was that really the dilemma which Yanis confronted back in April, i.e. at “midterm” of the loan agreement’s 4-month extension?

      No way. Nevertheless, you’re right, neither he nor Tsipras had a direct mandate for “Rupture” – meaning default and Grexit.

      But the question is, did the “other side” in the “negotiation” set-up (the German-led Eurogroup/ECB/IMF Axis) have a mandate – let alone a right – to breach their February 20 Eurogroup Decision and launch an Act of War against Greece, which they actually declared (or “confessed” in no uncertain terms, to test Greek reactions) in mid-March?

      They even gave this Hostile Act a name reminiscent of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo: “Credit Asphyxiation” (by means of multiple ECB/BoG/ELA liquidity caps), threatening Athens with domestic default, slow-motion bank run and ultimately bank closure, i.e. the gradual implosion of the Greek economy that lasted four full months before the ECB resorted to a total ELA liquidity support ban on June 28.

      Was there no other moderate, legitimate and timely reaction to such a reckless “crime against humanity”, as Yanis called it, than Sampson’s “Rupture” or a continuation of the negotiation charade?

      To make the culprits think twice before bringing an economically ravaged country to its knees, all that was needed was the mere threat of a unanimous Appeal signed by all Greek Parliament MPs as well as Euro-MPs, parliament parties, the Prime Minister, the House Speaker and the Greek President, to their counterparts in the Euro-Parliament, European national parliaments, the European Court of Justice, the International Court at The Hague, the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council or – why not? – the Self-Righteous Holy German Constitutional Court.

      The Appeal would call for an immediate injunction and/or protection from historically unprecedented forms of blackmail against a helpless European nation deprived of all monetary “defense policy” instruments.

      The Appeal could also have requested the EZ bailout “negotiations” to be placed under the aegis of any or all of the aforementioned institutions, especially the Conference of European Parliament Presidents that thrice attempted to assume that role but was vetoed each time by EP president Martin Schulz.

      Now, thanks to the much maligned audacity of House Speaker Zoe Konstantopoulou, who formally denounced them before a Greek Parliament plenum, neither the Act of War, nor the subsequent Acts of blackmail, ultimatum, coup d’etat or the fresh troika MoU carnage etc. have been irrevocably legitimised by the Greek Assembly – leaving enough room for their summary annulment at a future date.

      But their implicit legitimization for no less than four months was a real and major – if not the only – cause of the Greek negotiation failure.

    • Dimitri, thank you for your response. You argue forcefully, but ignore a key point (Yanis seems to do the same recently). It is Greece that failed, that went bankrupt that brought the ‘misfortune’ of the bailouts upon itself. It is nice to preach from the rooftops as Kostantopoulou does about the injustice of it all, but the core of the problem is us. Until we learn to accept that, there will be no way out if this crisis.

    • Greece has not yet gone bankrupt. If it had, things would be very different. In some aspects for bad, I presume, but largely for good because going bankrupt means that debts are forfeit and you can begin anew. Bankruptcy is (or should be) a basic right that allows people to retain a modicum of dignity after they have failed in the (usually rigged) economic casino.

      Same for nations.

      Sadly this fundamental right is being destroyed by the same old kind that has parasitized Humankind since before History: plutocrats, oligarchs, speculators, mafiosi… or now they call them lenders, investors, businesspeople, bankers… Their goal is the same as always: take everything from you and then even your own life if it’s still worth anything. Slavery through eternal debt.

      Let’s face it: deb is often a scam, usury. Sometimes more dramatic than others but seldom useful for the debtor.

      A common case is of people, women often, smuggled across borders who are exploited for ever-growing debts by mafias. Another scandalous case just broke up in Spain with a “miracle lender” mafia that has managed to deprive many thousands of their homes by lending them peanuts in usury conditions.

      Pretty much this is the case of Greece: it did not get much from the loans but it’s paying dearly for them. There is a Parliament commission that has studied the debt and has declared it all either illegal, illegitimate and/or odious. Greece must rebel and stop paying this tribute that only serves to save the Western European banks.

      Similarly, Western Europeans should reclaim the publicly acquired debt not to Greeks but to those banks they have bailed out with this rotten scheme. They could well make them pay in full because banks are not human beings and have no dignity to be protected.

  • Are we eventually sleepwalking towards a Procrustean Europe where the “one size fits all” monetary measure is about to tear its “southern legs” off??.. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procrustes]

  • While I do agree that critical thought has been in the decline in the last decades (since Punk, more or less) in Europe, I find some of the conclusions of the letter a bit perplexing. Why do the authors suggest that federating defense is a priority, when the first thing of all would be to create efficient representative bodies, guarantees for human and social rights and build a sense of transnational community maybe by the forging of horizontal media (i.e. nothing like Euronews)?

    I’m a convinced Europeanist, Europeanist of the Peoples to be precise and Euro-Socialist. My conclusion with the current and now so-obviously failed ultra-capitalist union attempt is that European unity will only stem from the roots of true democracy, i.e. from local, regional and national (ethnic, not state) empowering of the people at all levels, very particularly the media and economic ones.

    A few hours ago I’ve read a speaker of the Catalan Popular Unity List (CUP) saying clearly that they do not want an independent Catalonia in the European Union but outside it, so they can proceed with democratic empowering at the socio-economic level (i.e. collectivizing banks and utilities, for example), something that is just impossible under EU legislation.

    This “European Union” does not work, certainly not for the European citizens (or should I say “subjects”, “slaves” maybe?) Another Europe is necessary and surely possible in due time. Let’s work for it but outside the EU.

  • It is therefore the duty of people like you and others to get out and try to educate the masses in vivo and not in vitro if you are serious about effecting change!

  • Nice try but Europe after the war wanted to become like the United States, with cars, suburbs, giant tower cities and ‘conveniences’ that American businesses (first) then German businesses were eager to sell.

    The driver of the post WWII European experience has been television and automobiles, the only thing that ever mattered was sales. What propelled sales besides marketing was Franco-German credit (vendor financing). The intent of the euro was to provide a fuel price hedge, the inadvertent outcome was a Continent-wide captive market for mercantile Germany (and China).

    Despite years of crisis, absolutely none of the foregoing has been uprooted. This leaves changes in policy to the force of events.

    Underway in Europe now is slow strangulation by way of diminishing fuel supplies. Europe has been utterly bankrupted by its immense fleet of automobiles … which cannot earn anything by way of their use. What pays is trillion€ worth of debt that can never be retired. Greece is merely the first casualty of thoughtless lending to finance ‘convenience run amok’, there are other countries to come including Germany.

    The only way to ‘save’ Europe is for it to jettison its useless cars at the same time wresting financial control from the Continent’s useless — and universally insolvent — banks.