When oxi means no
from David Ruccio
By now, everyone knows that the Greek people overwhelmingly voted “oxi” in yesterday’s referendum. They rejected by a very large margin the austerity measures that have been imposed on and in that country since the first bailout plan of 2010 (a bailout, as I explained the other day, of European private banks).*
Difficult days lie ahead—and, at this stage, no one knows what the outcome will be.
But the results of the referendum do merit at least a few remarks. First, the margin of victory of the no vote is extraordinary considering the relentless campaign of fear and intimidation, from public pronouncements of non-Greek politicians and finance ministers to the strangling of Greek banks, that took place during the week leading up to yesterday’s vote. The Greek people stood up that campaign and both rejected the continued imposition of austerity measures and registered a vote of confidence in their still-young leftwing government.
Second, the polls and pundits that filled the media last week, indicating a close vote and how much of a gamble Tsipras was taking, now appear to be less of an objective analysis of events on the ground and more a part of the larger campaign, inside and outside Greece, against a no vote. In the end, it represented a desperate attempt to topple a democratically elected government and to send a clear message to other anti-austerity movements across Europe—and it didn’t work.
Finally, the fact that Yanis Varoufakis was forced to step down as finance minister is the moment of farce that has become part of this Greek tragedy. Apparently, the delicate sensibilities of the negotiators for the European creditors were offended by Varoufakis’s unwillingness to act and speak as a desperate supplicant—and instead to speak to them as a democratically elected European equal.
The Greek people have spoken with a clear voice. Now, it’s up to the rest of Europe to respond by immediately injecting liquidity into the Greek banking system, by renegotiating the outstanding debt, and by creating a space for another economic model to be allowed to grow in one of its member states.
*I write “on and in” because, as our analysis often forgets, the austerity measures, while imposed on Greece by its official creditors, were also imposed in Greece by the country’s oligarchy and governments prior to Syriza’s election.