Millennium Post

A vote for dignity

Truly, wonderful, result in Greece. The emphatic no vote has proved that Democracy will not bow before big Capital. The people of Greece face a tough situation either way. But saying OXI(greek for No) to the bullying tactics of the troika has made it clear that fear mongering is not going to work. The people of Greece are not gullible and have faced austerity for long enough to know that it is not what they want. It’s amply clear that the Greece’s creditors are being bullies. The International Monetary Fund itself has admitted that restructuring of the debt is needed. Wrecking the economy of Greece is not going to make the government of Greece pay back its debt. The government of Greece is prepared to raise taxes, but because it was meant to be on corporations, that was not acceptable to the troika. 

So, No was definitely the way to go.And let’s also be clear: this is about more than just the profligacy of the Greek government. Private creditors lent massive amounts of money to the Greek government at rates of interest similar to those of the German government. Even if the Greek government had not falsified its deficit and debt numbers, lending that much money to a government that has at best a shaky credit history was a stupid business decision, in line with euphoria in the financial sector in the second half of the 2000s. This is the other side of the story behind this crisis which has been conveniently ignored by the media.The imposition of austerity, therefore, makes no economic sense and has become more of a moral argument: that Greece must pay for its mistakes. 

It is part of the neoliberal political project, and a left-wing government which privileges the wishes of its people above clearly ideological and harmful policies has to go.Greece is a remarkable country full of wonderful people, but along with visibly absent dimensions of development and governance, the place is a royal mess right now. It has been that way for decades now. This has always been an open secret. Anyone who has visited Athens knows it has far more in common with the messy capitals of Bucharest or Istanbul than with the orderly and ultra sanitized Western European capitals. In the run-up to Greece joining the Euro in 2001, mainstream establishment banks “helped” Greece and other Southern European countries with accounting fudges that, while perhaps obscure, were not a secret even at the time. This accounting wizardry helped Greece ‘qualify’ for the Eurozone. The Eurozone and Euro was and ought to be primarily a political enterprise and not a financial one. In order to sell the common currency to Northern European elites, its architects required Eurozone members to meet strict “convergence criteria” and especially the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact. 

However in practice, those criteria have always been interpreted rather leniently. It must also be noted that most Eurozone members have broken their promises at one point or another, including both Germany and France. The Euro was a unification <g data-gr-id="48">project,</g>and erred massively while building a big tent in which the Eurozone members could conduct their political theater.Germany and France may have missed their stability and growth commitments now and again, but they are not up against the wall like Greece is. Syriza’s predecessor governments treated the state like an Automated Teller Machine from which clients and friends of electoral victors might withdraw endless pots of cash. 

The erstwhile Greek government had been  shady, opportunistic borrowers, no doubt, the kind of character no one would lend money to with any great expectations of seeing it back.And yet, that’s precisely what bankers in the relatively not-up Eurozone countries did!  The European financial system was created to make lending to Greece — and Spain and Portugal and Italy — a money machine for bankers with little career risk over a medium term. Sketchy credits tend to punch above their weight in terms of volume of issuance, so there was a lot of nice paper to buy. The bankers who lent to these states understood perfectly well that there was, in fact, a long-term risk, an uncertainty, a constructive ambiguity. In saying No or <g data-gr-id="43">OXI</g> the greek people have waved a banner of revolt at Big Capital. Greece’s Democracy will not be bullied or cowed.
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