Something huge has happened in Greece, though you wouldn’t know it if you rely on the US corporate media for your information.
That reporting has, with rare exceptions, followed the party line that a bunch of naive “leftists” led by Greece’s relatively young and new prime minister Alexis Tsipras and his motorcycle-riding radical economist finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, have pushed Greece “to the brink of chaos” through their ineptitude. This same biased reporting has been pushing the argument that Greece has “no choice” but to swallow even more austerity, selling off all its public assets to circling capitalist vultures, in the vain hope that someday the country’s economy will bottom out and begin “growing” again.
The reality of what has just happened is quite different. Actually, Greece has suffered seven years of austerity the likes of which countries like the US and northern Europe haven’t seen since the Great Depression. Unemployment is over 20% (50% for young people!), and there is no end in sight if the so-called Troika -- the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank -- continues to hold the country by the throat, demanding regular payments on a debt that even the IMF admits can never be repaid.
Far from being naive or inept, Tsipras, Varoufakis and the ruling Syriza Party have done two remarkable things brilliantly -- one of which should not really be remarkable at all, except that the so-called “free world” has moved so far away from real democracy at this point that it’s forgotten what democracy is, and the other of which would not have been necessary were the global media not so fawning towards ruling elites in their respective countries.
The first of these two things was the bold decision by Tsipras to hand the question of what to do next in Greece to the Greek people, by allowing them to vote on whether they wanted to surrender to global and European bankers and the governments of the world’s wealthiest nations, or wanted to say “No!” to further demands for austerity. When Tsipras walked away from further bailout negotiations and made his surprise call for that referendum, and when the Greek parliament backed him by passing a bill setting the poll up, a cacophony of doomsaying pundits in Europe, the US and the Greek conservative media all warned the Greek people to “see reason” and to “vote for Europe,” as though voting against more austerity would inevitably mean pariah status for Greece.
There was a kind of smug gloating over early polls showing that a majority of Greeks planned to vote “Yes” to accepting whatever the banks and the European Union demanded, or later, when it appeared that the vote would be close.
In the end, of course, the Greek people voted by a landslide (61% to 38%)against European austerity demands that Tsipras labeled “blackmail” and “national humiliation,” and that Varoufakis called “fiscal waterboarding.” Tsipras was fully vindicated in his trust in democracy and in the people of his country, which he pointedly reminded had “invented democracy.”
Is Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, in letting Greeks vote on national policy, and in putting their interests first, at risk of becoming another Mossedegh or Allende?