Romantiker gegen Pragmatiker – Die Zeit

Yanis Varoufakis erklärt in einem neuen Buch seinem Kind, warum die Griechen nichts für ihre Situation können. VON  (Die Zeit site)

Der ehemalige griechische Finanzminister Yanis Varoufakis

Der ehemalige griechische Finanzminister Yanis Varoufakis  |  © dpa

Von Yanis Varoufakis, dem gerade zurückgetretenen griechischen Finanzminister, erscheint in wenigen Tagen ein kleines Buch, das an seine Tochter gerichtet ist. Es heißt Time for Change: Wie ich meiner Tochter die Wirtschaft erkläre (Hanser Verlag) und beansprucht, in einfachen Worten komplexe Sachverhalte zu erklären. Es kreist letztlich um eine kleine Erzählung: Varoufakis stellt sich vor, wie auf Ägina der Abend anbricht. Die Sonne versinkt im Meer, man trifft Freunde, isst mit ihnen am Strand. Neben der Taverne hat der alte Kapitän Kostas sein Boot liegen, und er hat ein Problem: Der Anker hat sich im Grund verhakt, und die Kette ist gerissen. Kostas bittet die Tochter von Varoufakis, ins Meer zu springen, um ein neues Seil durch die Ankerkette zu ziehen. Er würde es ja gern selbst tun, aber das Rheuma, das Alter und so weiter.

Natürlich springt Varoufakis’ Tochter mit größter Selbstverständlichkeit ins Wasser, weil sie stolz ist, eine “Heldin des Augenblicks” zu werden. Der Sprung habe für sie einen Lebenswert, keinen Tauschwert, erklärt der Vater. Seine (gut erzogene) Tochter erwartet für ihre kleine Hilfe keine Gegenleistung – denn der Mensch ist an sich gut, wenn nicht die Marktgesellschaft seine hässlichen Seiten befördert. Leider aber, so Varoufakis, lebten wir in einer Welt, in der die Tauschwerte über die Lebenswerte triumphierten, in einer zynischen Welt also, die alles nach Marktkriterien bemisst.

Das sei früher anders gewesen: In der Antike etwa wäre kein Dichter auf die Idee gekommen, die Rüstung des toten Achill zu versteigern – weder Ajax noch Odysseus seien am Tauschwert der Waffen interessiert gewesen, dafür aber am symbolischen Wert, am Lebenswert der Waffen. Die Dominanz der Tauschwerte entstand, so Varoufakis, erst mit der Entwicklung von Marktgesellschaften: Im Zuge der industriellen Revolution in Großbritannien wurden die Bauern ihrer Böden beraubt und zu modernen Knechten, zu Fabrikarbeitern modelliert. Sowohl die menschliche Arbeit und die Werkzeuge und Maschinen als auch das Land wurden kommerzialisiert. Vormals waren diese drei Bestandteile Güter. Indem diese Güter Waren wurden, rechnete man mit einem Mal mit der Zukunft, man wettete auf sie: Es entstand ein Bankensystem und mit ihm Zinsen und Schulden, die für Wirtschaftsaufschwünge sorgten und für regelmäßige Crashs, die wiederum der Staat zu verhindern suchte, indem er sich heillos verschuldete. Kurzum: Der unheilvolle Lauf des modernen Kapitalismus begann und mündete schließlich, man muss es so engführen, in die griechische Staatspleite. Denn im Inneren des modernen Kapitalismus steckt “der Keim des Bösen”, eine Art “schwarze Magie, nämlich das Bankensystem”. Heute sei der Stress schlimmer als früher, die Qualität der Arbeit schlechter: “Wir rennen wie Hamster in einem Rad, das sich immer schneller dreht, uns aber nirgendwohin bringt.” Und nebenher verrohen die Seelen, weil man nur noch mit dem Hintergedanken einer erhofften Gegenleistung für Kostas ins Wasser springt.

Von Varoufakis wird kolportiert, dass er seine Verhandlungspartner durch recht lange Vorträge über Grundsätzliches der Ökonomie aufs Blut reizte. Wo die sogenannte Troika ihn nach Zahlen und Bilanzen der griechischen Wirtschaft und nach Reformvorschlägen befragte, soll der griechische Finanzminister ins Prinzipielle abgedriftet sein. Grundsätzlich sei es nämlich so, erklärt Varoufakis seiner Tochter: Da die Banker die Neigung haben, ganze Gesellschaften zu überschulden, und die “Gegenwart die Zukunft nicht abbezahlen kann, gibt es nur einen Ausweg: dass man die Schulden vergibt, dass man sie abschreibt“, um, so ließe sich ergänzen, endlich wieder ein stolzes, selbstbestimmtes und motiviertes Griechenland zu ermöglichen.

Die Verschuldung eines Staates oder einer Gesellschaft wird bei Varoufakis wirtschaftsgeschichtlich begründet, der globalisierte Kapitalismus steckt in einem systemischen Verschuldungszusammenhang, er leidet an einer Blasensucht – weshalb konkretere, wenig großraumtheoretische Aspekte des Wirtschaftslebens wie eine verlässliche Verwaltung, funktionierende staatliche Institutionen, belastbare Sozialsysteme in dem Buch gänzlich ausgeblendet werden. Derartiges Klein-Klein ist für Varoufakis vermutlich nur Blendwerk Brüsseler Bürokraten, die das weltumspannende Verschuldungsdrama, in dem wir uns befinden, nur vernebeln – wie auch die schönen, die zwischenmenschlichen Regungen, die noch nicht ökonomisiert sind, von den Bürokraten verachtet würden (die Würde der Armut, auch dies steckt in diesem kleinen, rhetorisch einnehmenden Buch, sei doch immer besser als der Reichtum der angeblich charakterlich Verrohten).

Dass die Krise des Kapitalismus sich in Griechenland manifestiert, ist in Varoufakis’ Logik übrigens plausibel – sie zeige sich stets an den schwachen Rändern des Kontinents, wo die Unterdrückung der Banken und internationaler Institutionen zuerst sichtbar werde. Das so seelenvolle Griechenland ist nur der zufällige Austragungsort für ein Geschick, das dem Finanzkapitalismus selbst irreparabel innewohnt, weshalb Griechenland an den Schulden, die es hat, nicht schuld ist.

Man bekommt bei der Lektüre des Buches eine Ahnung von den burlesk-bizarren Szenen, die sich während der Verhandlungen abgespielt haben dürften, als ein Romantiker der Seele gegen die Zahlenkolonnen der Pragmatiker antrat. Christine Lagarde vom Internationalen Währungsfonds wünschte sich dringend einen “Dialog mit Erwachsenen”, Varoufakis dürfte sie belehrt haben wie eine Tochter.

14 Comments

  • Solche Kritik nicht gut gemeint. Yanis Varoufakis wurde durch die gleichen Leute, die jetzt anrufen ihn romantisch und didaktisch nach der Tat unterlaufen. Revisionismus ist keine deutsche Tugend.

    • Here’s my take on the last three paragraphs, which I think are quite exemplary of how even liberal leftists can not resist repeating the same old accusations, however veiled they might be by colorful language – which makes it quite hard to translate:

      “There are rumours that Varoufakis irritated his counterparts in the negotiations severely through pretty lengthy lectures about the basics of economics. When the so-called Troika was asking him about numbers and balance sheets for the greek economy and about proposals for reforms, he is reported to have lost himself in the fundamentals.[…]”

      (followed by a quote from the book which I will not even try to translate back into english)

      “Varoufakis explains the indebtedness of a state or society through economic history, global capitalism is stuck in a systemic correlation of debt, it suffers from bubble-addiction – which is why concrete, hardly grand-theory aspects of economic practice like efficient administration, functioning governmental institutions, robust social security systems are completely faded out in the book. For Varoufakis, such minutiae are probably just shiny baubles of some brussels bureaucrats who are merely obscuring the world-encompassing drama of indebtedness we find ourselves in – just like the beautiful, the humane actions, that have not been commodified yet, are despised by the bureaucrats (the dignity of poverty, this is also included in that little, rhetorically captivating book, is still better than the wealth of those of an allegedly callous character).

      That the crisis of capitalism manifests itself in Greece, by the way, is plausible within Varoufakis’ logic – it usually shows itself [he says/writes] at the fringes of the continent, where the opression by banks and international institutions becomes visible at first. Soulful Greece is merely the random venue for a fate that is irreparably inherent in finacial capitalism, which is why Greece is not to blame for its debt. Reading the book one gets a feeling for the burlesque-bizzarre scences that must have taken place during the negotiations, when a romanticist of the soul stood against the pragmatists’ rows of numbers. Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund urgently called for a “dialogue with adults”, Varoufakis must have lectured her like a daughter.”

    • Hubert:

      Such accusations and perceptions about Yanis Varoufakis’ disposition during the so called negotiations, are indicative of common and predictable misconceptions.

      Yanis went into these negotiations hoping to reframe them (i.e. to focus on the need for changing the framework which we knew to be wrong).

      The EU “partners” (or more like it the club of misbehaving spouses called “partners”) were consumed by the idea of continuity to previously failed programs. The Brussels and Berlin bureaucrats were more interested in casting any Greek Finance minister as Troika III (i.e. an automaton of facts and figures pointing to an ever deteriorating financial condition), whereas Yanis was much more interested in pointing out the conceptual basis of such discussions had failed and any continuation based on falsehoods was bound to fail too.

      The eurogame was to punctuate the point that Greece never graduated from narrowly defined supervision classes whereas the Yanis’s approach was to underscore that getting an education for a useless degree was not a worthy endeavor.

      Therefore the didactic vs. unresponsive label which the revisionists are trying to attach to Yanis after the fact could only mean that Yanis executed his part well and never converted to what the disciplinarian trap was determined and prearranged to push him into.

    • @ Dean,

      The problem I have with the article – aside from some of the frightening comments below it – is that its author, Mr Soboczynski, an intellectual working for the arts & literature section at DIE ZEIT (which is also quite obvious from his writing style) obviously couldn’t help himself but include a repetition of the rumours that were spread around during the negotiations in his review of the book, despite the fact that they have nothing to do with it.
      He then goes on and combines those rumours with a few insights from the book and draws his own conclusions about what was going on.
      I don’t think he had any malicious intentions, but to many of the german readers already biased by hundreds of articles in german newspapers – including DIE ZEIT – describing the former Minister as a rude and arrogant know-it-all who can not be taken seriously, this article is just another reason to see their prejudices and misconceptions confirmed.
      So – intentionally or not – Mr Soboczynski has made himself another good soldier for the Troika’s propaganda campaign.

  • Pragmatiker! Genau! Die Deutschen. Beispiel: die Juden sind Staatsfeinde und vermehren sich. Lösung: vernichten sie. Das Problem pragmatisch gelöscht! Nächstes Problem, bitte.

  • “For the last eighteen months or so, Berlin appeared to be the calm and resolute eye of a perfect storm brewing over Europe: persistent economic distress and mass youth unemployment in the southern EU states, an undeclared war between Ukraine and Russia, and conflict in North Africa and the Middle East driving record waves of refugees onto the shores of the continent. After the rancorous third Greek bailout last week—and torrents of recrimination heaped on Germany from around the world—the weather front hit the capital. It turned into what Germans call ein shitstorm.”

    http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/order-from-chaos/posts/2015/07/24-storm-in-germany-stelzenmueller?cid=00900015020149101US0001-0725

  • queria no recibir maslos imails De: Yanis Varoufakis Para: engobeceramica@yahoo.com.br Enviadas: Sábado, 25 de Julho de 2015 11:20 Assunto: [New post] Romantiker gegen Pragmatiker – Die Zeit #yiv1792082719 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv1792082719 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv1792082719 a.yiv1792082719primaryactionlink:link, #yiv1792082719 a.yiv1792082719primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv1792082719 a.yiv1792082719primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv1792082719 a.yiv1792082719primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv1792082719 WordPress.com | yanisv posted: “Yanis Varoufakis erklärt in einem neuen Buch seinem Kind, warum die Griechen nichts für ihre Situation können. VON ADAM SOBOCZYNSKI (Die Zeit site)DIE ZEIT Nº 28/201524. Juli 2015  15:11 Uhr 139 KommentareDer ehemalige griech” | |

  • The “ZEIT”, if you read for example the articles of Jochen Bittner, http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2015-01/griechenland-russland-europa-gefahr, is not longer to be taken very serious. Bittner in this article writes rather absurd remarks after the january election, about why Syriza was “dangerous”. He linked the then new Syriza government to his most beloved theme as journalist, his russophobia. Words fail, so I won’t translate these absurd Bittner-remarks. Carrierists like this one are not a rare thing in today’s media.
    But Jochen Bittner is seen, by neoliberal media, as “a new shooting star” and writes also, as a hawk, for the NYT. And so ZEIT-readers read that Greece’s new Syriza government was “Putin’s trojan horse”… Really, this is preposterous.) An online translator is good enough, use it for this ZEIT-article about Syriza, if you don’t believe me. This is beyond ridiculous.

    I don’t think a general hatred against “Germany” like Dean Plassaras here writes under every article by Yanis really helps. Even if I understand the utter disgust we all share against the german government (which should include nearly all parties, only one, the kind of sister party of Syriza, did not vote for these desastrous austerity measures). Also that a huge majority of european, and many many german voters did not care much for Greece or even hooorayed Merkel’s government with Schäuble is horrible. Still, racism is wrong, any racism.

    But what we should think about in the future is: to what good can it lead to write articles for, or to be interviewed by media that since 6 years defended or even asked for these horrible decisions which destroy not only Greece, but any idea of a “democratic” Europe. For the fights of today and of the future one had to ask, what good does it bring to somehow trust media like “ZEIT”? Bittner is not the only carrierist in the media, but he is a type of a journalist – not only a carrierist, but a thinktank-man who sits in german-US-thinktanks which are for more neoliberalism, geopolitical fights and so on, of course wrapped in nice words.

    There is no easy answer. But as things were, these mainstream papers, who often rely on very old merits now, (Peter Handke: “Es war eine Zeitung” sums it up well, for Spiegel, for ZEIT) did harm to Greece. Yet they published, after dozens of one-sided pro-Merkel-Schäuble-Juncker-Schulz articles, a very few different ones, like from Robert Misik. That was good, but my guess is that this is some kind of strategy, it has not even be planned. “Well, we covered all sides”. That is what biased media say later. Well, no. They didn’t.
    Sometimes it is better to avoid the mainstream, to say it loud and explain, why. And to give interviews to the few european media which are definitely not neoliberal and for austerity measures (ZEIT certainly is for all of these horrible things.) The power of media is like going to war nowadays. Like not declaring war but killing people in foreign countries with drones, and nobody takes you to court for this. Media don’t belong to one 1984 ministry. It is more difficult. Yet they are, led by carrierists,, only sometimes by black-white ideologists, desastrous for whole Europe.

    There are hundreds of open questions like how to fight against biased media. Just hating “all Germans” is no answer. It is not even true that “all Germans” “hate” Greece. It is far more difficult, Dean. But that makes it even worse for Greece.

    Galbraith wrote to a good journalist of “Nachdenkseiten” that the greek government set some trust in – Angela Merkel. Because Schäuble spoke uglier, so to say. This is another question. How can one, after Merkel rules Germany and certainly parts of Europe since 10 years now, really be so naive as to believe in Merkel’s pretended, simulated “we all must sit here and find a solution which is good for all” talk? Please?
    I admit I was frightened as I read this. It can only mean that there is no talking together, no connections of politicians throughout Europe. Merkel ALWAYS acts like this, it didn’t start with Greece, it is a cliché… She always lets others do the hard and ugly work, but she stands behind these people…She decides! She was for “yes” at the referendum, she dared to say the measurements were “as far as solidarity can go”…. She truly said something in the lines of this, it is no exact translation, Kenneth Galbraith wrote to the “Nachdenkseiten” man that he, who had warned him of Merkel’s Germany, was of course totally right. To set trust in neoliberal Merkel was a mistake from day one if the greek government really had thought like this. It is painful to read such statements, as it shows how weak our side is against such bulls and such united market-radical forces like the EU has.

    I am tired to read the mainstream press. And to admit it,also tired of reading the ZEIT. The ZEIT is, truth must out, a very bad paper since years. Mainstream, living from old reputation and renommee. If you trust in ZEIT, you are abused as fig leaf. Really.

    • I mostly agree with you. DIE ZEIT is certainly not innocent of anti-greek propaganda and most of the senior staff, including the editors-in-chief and even the publishers themselves has a strong tendency to act as a mouthpiece for the neoliberal establishment, to put it mildly. But one has to concede that at least during the last two months they were one major media outlet that at least allowed some critical voices to be heard – including our host.
      What concerns me the most are those articles – like this review of Mr Varoufakis’ latest book – that are probably not intentionally defamatory but still have the same effect as all the really slanderous ones because the author couldn’t be bothered to do some research of his own before copy-pasting the rubbish his colleagues had previously published.
      It’s not just biased opinion pieces disguised as genuine reporting but most of all really bad journalism.

      As for hating ‘the germans’. I was never a fan of german self-loathing but the last five years or so have taught me otherwise. You’re right though, it doesn’t really help. But, as I wrote before, I think Germany is a lost cause for a more socially just and democratic Europe.
      Our esteemed countrymen and -women do not care enough about those things. They just take them for granted because they think they literally ‘earned’ the right do so through hard work and obedience to their neoliberal elites.
      This tragic misconception could only be changed if things were to start going really bad for the german economy with a massive impact on the living standards of the middle-class. However – after all the self-aggrandizing, the arrogance and outright national-chauvinism that has been building up within this middle-class since the beginning of the crisis – I seriously doubt that a total break-down would bring about a change towards a more socially responsible ‘leftist’ kind of politics with more internationalist solidarity. I rather fear that it would go in the opposite direction.