Since my last post the Greek tragedy has entered its next act.
The referendum produced a surprisingly clear result on the bailout terms :
NO – 61%
Yes – 39%
As the play will have a few more acts to go and the tragic (or happy) ending is not decided yet I did not expect to write about the subject again so soon.
However two aspects of the referendum and its aftermath already deserve comment.
One is the fact that – as far as I can see – the Greek referendum was the first opportunity for any electorate anywhere in the world to give its democratic verdict on austerity as one of the cornerstones on the leading economic ideology of Neoliberalism.
The main points of neo-liberalism include:
THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionising workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say “an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone.” It’s like Reagan’s “supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics — but somehow the wealth didn’t trickle down very much.
CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, (Austerity) and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of reducing government’s role. Of course, they don’t oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.
DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment environment and safety on the job.
PRIVATISATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatisation has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.
ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.” (What is Neoliberalism?)
Never before had the people a chance to say no this neoliberal gospel. And the people grabbed it with both hands delivering an almost 2:1 result against the ideology the world is enslaved to since Reagan, Thatcher and our own Rogernomics.
And it was not just extremists on the lefty or right of Greek politics but a vast majority of the Greek heartland, which voted no. Just watch Paul Mason on Channel 4 News.
The importance of the referendum is twofold. One that it happened at all. This is threatening to the ruling elites, which fear democracy as much as the heresy against their religion. They already are threatening savage retaliation in a new “Class War” (Chomsky).
The other is the resounding result. If the Greeks also manage to resist the other part of the poisoned chalice on offer: Privatisation it will cost a lot of banksters and hedge funds on Wall Street a lot of money. They have been betting heavily on Greece having to flog off their assets and will be losing big time missing out on a bargain.
The Greeks have given the world hope. We all collectively can say NO. Yes we can.
The greeks over the last five years were pushed too far. They were not only by these economically totally senseless policies driven to despair (GDP down 25%, more than 50% of the educated young forced to leave the country looking for a better future, suicide rate skyrocketing and more) but humiliated, called children and treated as such by their tormentors i.e. creditors. They were left with no other honourable choice than to vote NO.
The positive outcome so far is that the nastiness, ugliness, viciousness and general inhumanity of our neoliberal economic system is exposed for all willing to see.
The corporate media response was predictable. I couldn’t put it better than Chris Trotter:
“The global news media lost no time in launching vicious attacks against the Syriza leadership – especially Varoufakis – and redoubled their blatantly racist denigration of the Greek people as a whole. Cast as indolent Mediterranean grasshoppers (so unlike the hard-working Teutonic ants, whose borrowed Euros they had fecklessly frittered away) the Greek victims of neoliberal extremism were told that they had no one to blame but themselves.
Even New Zealand’s neoliberal journalists and commentators have been working hard to maintain the two central arguments for neoliberalism’s assault on Greece. That the Syriza Government’s position is economically untenable; and that, in any case, the Greek people had it coming and richly deserve everything they have got. To pull this off they have had to studiously ignore the highly critical contributions of leading economists, while attempting to preserve the fiction that Greece has no alternative except to swallow still more of the commitment to speak truth to power.
The most disturbing aspect of the mainstream news media’s adherence to the neoliberal line has been its willingness to go along with ethnic defamation. Just substitute the word “Maori” for “Greeks” in these neoliberal tirades and the full racist character of the attacks becomes clear. Newspapers and networks that would never allow contributors to get away with calling Maori lazy, good-for-nothing, ne’er-do-wells with no one to blame for their poverty but themselves, were quite happy to have it said of the Greeks.”
The other aspect is that after the for him triumphant referendum result Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has resigned.
According to the report in the UK Independent he had said before that his greatest fear was that he “may turn into a politician“. “As an antidote to that virus I intend to write my resignation letter and keep it in my inside pocket, ready to submit it the moment I sense signs of losing the commitment to speak truth to power.”
He said Sunday’s referendum, where the Greek public voted overwhelming to reject a bailout deal proposed by the country’s creditors, would “stay in history as a unique moment when a small European nation rose up against debt-bondage.”
He added that he would wear the creditors’ “loathing with pride”.
What a man !