Few international events command the kind of attention that the Greek debt crisis commands right now. It is, in part, owing to the speed and surprise with which the story unfolds: Alexis Tsipras’s midnight announcement of a referendum, considered by some undemocratic, on an expired deal is just one example. Resignation of Yanis Varoufakis, the defiant, uber-stylish professor-turned-minister, is another. But most of it can be attributed to the crisis being the Eurozone’s gravest since its inception back in 1999. European leaders and taxpayers may want to thank their stars if they can rid themselves of non-conforming elements within the Eurozone, but the sight of a trillion euros following on the tail of a Grexit would surely be disturbing.
This has been the second time since Scotland in 2014 that a referendum has amassed popular concern in terms of broader consequences. But all the consequences of a Scottish “yes” combined could not have matched the intensity of a single consequence – say, the creditors’ humiliation – of the Greek “oxi” or “no”. Not only will the worst-case scenario – a Greek exit from the Eurozone – call for a structural overhaul, it will also trigger a geopolitical move for greater Russian influence in a weaker Europe. Of particular significance in the long run, however, will be the middle and lower income groups’ refusal to play by the diktats of corporate capitalism.
Of particular significance in the long run, however, will be the middle and lower income groups’ refusal to play by the diktats of corporate capitalism.
“I don’t see how anybody can believe that the timing of this [the capping of ECB* emergency funds to Greek banks ahead of the referendum] was coincidence,” Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, is quoted saying in a New York Times report. “This is a very deliberate move to scare people,” he says. And he is right. The ECB action went beyond being a mere pressure tactic. It was plain bullying. Still, the Greeks voted no with a landslide majority, catapulting the legitimacy of their own leader at the same time as plummeting that of their European leaders.
One perspective on the situation could be that the Greeks are in a domain of losses. the popular mandate, though, suggests otherwise. With little left to lose, the Greeks consider themselves in the domain of gains. The 61% no vote, especially against the backdrop of the aforementioned ECB action may well be worded as a “bring it on!” Whether or not they will, the Greeks believe that they can recover from any damage a bailout refusal may inflict on them. For now, all that matters is to stand firm in their rejection of the imposition of greater suffering and humiliation – in short, greater austerity.
If a fightback for democracy is budding in this crisis, the Greeks will be all too proud to claim responsibility when it blossoms.
The Greek stand-up is also being likened to a revival of true democracy – a political philosophy they consider antithetical to neoliberalism. And the Greeks are clearly conscious of the fact that the resurgence is springing from the very land of its emergence. If a fightback for democracy is budding in this crisis, the Greeks will be all too proud to claim responsibility when it blossoms. But can one nation alone bring down the culture of financial tyranny now legitimized as laws and procedures? No. But one nation can, and one nation has, set in a motion a chain of events that can be hoped to do so. Counting on the dedication and consistency of all bona fide abettors, let us hope that it does.
*European Central Bank
Note: This article was written on the 8th of July, 2015, and analyses developments only up till that date.