Would another ‘oxi' be good for Greeks?

Published 29.06.2015 22:03
Updated 30.06.2015 00:31

What was dreaded by all parties concerned has happened after months of totally unproductive talks. The Greek government is refusing to abide by the rules of the troika, the group of European institutions, and the latter refuses to take into consideration the demands of the Greek government for a much alleviated payment schedule. I had the opportunity to write extensively on the situation in Greece. Just a month ago, my column was about the dangers of offering Greece a choice between Charybdis and Scylla, between continued austerity for years and years without real growth perspective and a "Grexit."

As a matter of fact, that was the only choice to be offered to Greece. Either staying in the eurozone by abiding by the rules set forth by German Chancellor Angela Merkel et al. or courageously opt for an exit and a total overhaul of the Greek clientele system. Both choices would have been very difficult and definitely not free of suffering for large parts of the Greek society.

The first choice, remaining in the eurozone and expecting the austerity measures would give good results in the medium term, has proven to be nonfunctional for two main reasons. First, the Greek government and bureaucracy does not want to totally overhaul their political and administrative system dominated by the public sector and second, even if they wanted to, the severe austerity measures would not give the Greek economy any breathing space in the foreseeable future.

The second choice is full of unexpected and unforeseen developments. An exit from a monetary union is never easy. Greece does not really have productive industry and it relies heavily on trading, sea transportation and tourism. Having only such salient factors may not give Greeks enough impetus to recover from a very sorry debt situation.

So the easy way to tell Greek voters was a third way between the two choices, which meant remaining in the eurozone without accepting most of the austerity measures. This was the electoral program of Syriza, a revolutionary development without risking the status of Greece within the EU and within the eurozone. This impossible choice has been thoroughly analyzed by Professor Cas Mudde in the Worldpost. I personally had the opportunity to analyze Syriza's position several times, especially in my article, "How revolutionary can Tsipras be?" to show that in the absence of real openings, this revolutionary rhetoric would not give any good results. What was predictable has happened. The troika refuses to considerably alleviate Greek austerity measures and Greece is back to square one, when back in 2011, then Prime Minister George Papandreou wanted to organize a referendum and had to resign afterward.

Referendums usually look sympathetic to Greeks because of the very heroic "no" vote – "oxi" in Greek – back in October, 28, 1940, against the demands of Mussolini. Fascist Italy attacked Greece and was shamefully defeated by the Greek army. So asking for a referendum usually titillates the Greek nationalistic fiber. They will ask for more democracy against their creditors, who, by the way, do not offer anything anymore. So Greek voters will be asked to vote yes or no for a proposal that no longer exists.

It was heroic, on the part of a brave country to oppose the fascist views of Mussolini back in 1940. The ensuing war against the Wehrmacht and the civil war that came later have caused, over a period of nine years, deep wounds in Greek society that still needs time to heal. Asking the Greeks to go to a referendum against the "evil neo-liberal" Europeans is at best a totally irresponsible attitude. History, when it repeats itself, can become farcical. The response of the "European Institutions" to the expectations of the Greeks is another show of irresponsibility, and we will see the very nasty consequences in coming months and years. In such cases, being a revolutionary is searching and finding the sixty-fifth case in a game of chess. New, courageous openings, new perspectives are needed by the Greeks, and not only by them. It is up to Turkey to offer peaceful and workable solutions to its neighbor, like the disarmament of the Aegean. Who will take the responsibility of such an overture in a very difficult transition period is altogether another question.

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