The six-part series “The Eye of the Storm: The Political Odyssey of Yanis Varoufakis” pays close attention to the “Great Greek Default” in three of the episodes while in the subsequent three episodes digs deep into theories of political economy and is involved with political movements to change the world order particularly climate change. Varoufakis was a former Finance Minister in 2015 Greece under the Tsipras government.
Episode 1 “A Small Speck of Hope”
We are given some background about Varoufakis including the fact his father was a Communist who refused to denounce communism and was sent to a concentration camp to suffer torture and abuse.
A focus is placed on the process of Greek repayment of its debt to the French and German banks who Varoufakis believes wanted a strict repayment of debt by Greece. In some respects, Varoufakis blames the inability of Greece to pay its debts was the attitude by its creditors Greece could use its loans like using a credit card. Greece was not solely at fault for failure to repay its loans. Bankers incited it and made it easy for the Greeks to do. As Varoufakis notes for each irresponsible debtor there is an irresponsible creditor. He also notes that Greece received no cash in the bailout. It was the German and French banks that did.
Episode 2 “Compromise but do not be Compromised”
The focus on this episode is on the February 2015-June 2015 negotiations Varoufakis had with the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund). Varoufakis was an economics professor in Athens when he received the call from newly elected Prime Minister Tsipras to serve as Finance Minister. He agreed provided he would be backed by Tsipras and the Cabinet all the way. His views on these negotiations is fascinating particularly the private as opposed to public positions of the then German Minster of Finance. Varoufakis makes an important point that creditors wanted a complete repayment as opposed to debt restructuring an approach routinely taken in the private sector.
Episode 3 “Yes or No”
The July 5, 2015 referendum in Greece was to either say yes or no to the latest bailout plan presented to Greece. The no side won but Tsipras took an about face and agreed to accept the deal despite what the Greek people voted. To facilitate repayment a fire sale of Greek assets was made to French, German, Chinese and other assorted foreign investors. As his back was not covered as promised Varoufakis resigned as Finance Minister.
Episode 4 “An Evil Dance Between Partners”
This episode peels off from Varoufakis and his role with debt repayments and he is given his opportunity to shine in political economics. It becomes a matter of intellectual discourse with intense focus on the manipulative “austerity programmes”. Banks and financiers are portrayed in a most unflattering light. He explains how the economy can turn a country toward fascism. Varoufakis explains Trump’s surge to power and how the refugee crisis has its own economic motives. The Evil Dance is the rise of the right which then causes the left to move closer to the right.
Episode 5 “One Evolutionary Step Beyond”
Varoufakis warns the viewer about the effects of sanitized economics taught in the universities and that economics can be a tool for justifying and legitimizing the status quo. He explains the risk of depoliticization and the illusive nature of consent. Is capitalism a tyranny that violates free will? Varoufakis also raises if he thinks we are living in the age of oligarchies and what are the consequences.
Episode 6; “Sow the Seeds of the Next Renaissance”
Varoufakis co-founds the Pan European Democratic Movement (DiEM) and Greek Party Mera25 in an attempt to globally solve problems including climate change. Mera25 wins 3.6% of the vote in 2019 Greek national election. You might want to call this episode “My Vision of the Future”. Varoufakis is also co-founder with U.S. Senator Bernie Saunders of the Progressive International.
There is no doubt a great intellectual powerhouse is featured in this documentary. If you are not a leftist you might raise your hackles at Varoufakis but you have to admit to his intelligence, charm and wit. His ruminations on bankers, central monetary policy, global warming, fascism, the pandemic and volunteerism are particularly interesting.
The director of this 250-minute documentary is Raoul Martinez. It will be playing as part of the Toronto Hot Docs Festival on April 30th and will be available for streaming starting on May 1 for 5 days.