Varoufakis gets rock star reception in London as he gives Corbyn advice

“I have news for you – austerity sucks.”

YANIS VAROUFAKIS STEPPED down as Greece’s finance minister in July but his rockstar status clearly superseded the political spectrum when he touched down in London for an anti-austerity rally.

In front of an anti-austerity and left-wing “public meeting”, hosted by the People’s Assembly, called “Fighting for our Future: The Alternative to Austerity, Humanitarian Disaster and Market Meltdown,” he entered the un-assuming Emmanuel Centre in Westminster, London to standing ovations and cheers.

The new leader of Britain’s Labour party, radical left-wing politician Jeremy Corbyn, was also meant to be at the event but ducked out at the last minute.

But it didn’t really matter – Varoufakis dominated the stage and was mobbed by fans after the event ended.

yanis PA PA

When he took to the podium, he told the audience that he was “pretty chuffed” to be back in London.

“I have news for you – austerity sucks,” he said to members of the audience of the centre which was so packed out, people were standing at the back of the auditorium for two hours. “That’s what US President Barack Obama told me when I went to meet him at the Whitehouse. It’s not very presidential but it’s true.”

If austerity was a student, it would fail. I would say, use Greece. Don’t shun us, use us [to show how austerity doesn’t work]. Greece is a laboratory of austerity. We reduced our spending by 14% in one-and-a-half years. We cut public sector down and we cut pensions by 38%.

“Cutting down spending and supply happens when you are shifting tomatoes and potatoes. If you have too many potatoes, you cut the price down to shift them. I works like that – but it doesn’t happen with labour.

“We reduced wages by 40% – can you imagine that? What happened? Unemployment went from 8% to 28%. Austerity doesn’t work.”

varoufakis3 Lianna Brinded / Business Inside Lianna Brinded / Business Inside / Business Inside

Greece secured another €86 billion (£63 billion, $97 billion) for the next three years from international creditors in August.

However, each bailout amount is coupled with conditions from creditors, including cuts in spending, pensions, public sector jobs, and a rise in tax.

Effectively, while an overwhelming amount of Greeks voted against the further austerity conditions in July to get more bailout cash, it hasn’t made a difference to Greece’s position with its lenders or its future.

Greece is still expecting debt relief talks with Europe soon.

Varoufakis resigned in July this year after six months in the position.

He immediately stepped down after Greeks voted “no” in the referendum despite rallying support for the country to vote against further austerity conditions the creditors set out for nation in order for it to get more bailout cash.

When Varoufakis left the government he posted on his blog:

“I was made aware of a certain preference by some Eurogroup participants, and assorted ‘partners’, for my… ‘absence’ from its meetings; an idea that the Prime Minister judged to be potentially helpful to him in reaching an agreement. For this reason I am leaving the Ministry of Finance today.

“I consider it my duty to help Alexis Tsipras exploit, as he sees fit, the capital that the Greek people granted us through yesterday’s referendum.

“And I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride.”

varoufakis1 Lianna Brinded / Business Insider Lianna Brinded / Business Insider / Business Insider

He didn’t mince his words either at the rally over what he thinks austerity is doing to Greece.

The ruling class knows it that austerity doesn’t work and that by shrinking the state through cuts in spending and labour is a massive transfer of wealth and it makes sure that the costs of the financial crisis are transferred onto the shoulders of those who didn’t cause it.

“All they are doing is taking the time to transplant the mentality of the bankers into the mentality of the state – never lend money to people who need it.”

Advice for Corbyn 

corbyn Jeremy Corbyn PA PA

He also, due to the number of Labour supporters in the audience including the party’s shadow secretary of state for international development Diane Abbott, Varoufakis took the time to give new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn advice.

Be prepared for the toxic media coverage against this magnificent effort. You are embarking on a journey and it will not be an easy path to tread.

“Your opponents are going to use fear as their main instrument. They will say to you that a Corbyn government will push up the pound. This is what the systemic media will tell people in their living rooms. Don’t fear them. People are perfectly capable of sifting through this. The people can overcome fear if the leadership overcomes fear.”

Lianna Brinded

Read: That Labour leadership race you’ve been hearing about for weeks is over

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