Monday, July 06, 2015

Simple Choices

Is it any wonder that the Greeks voted the 'wrong' way (at least, as far as the right-wing press and European establishment are concerned) in their referendum - apparently it wasn't clear to them what they were voting for or against.  At least, that's what various commentators would have had us believe in the run up to the vote.  Quite what they thought was 'difficult' or 'confusing' about what Greek voters were being asked to deliberate on is beyond me: 'No we don't accept the terms of the latest bail out' or Yes, we do accept them'.  Pretty straightforward, I'd say.  But then, these same commentators would have you believe, Greek voters didn't understand the possible consequences of what they were voting for or against or, indeed, why the referendum was being held.  Which is just about as patronising as you'd expect from the knee-jerk reactionaries of the right.  The Greeks were well aware of what they were voting for - just as they were well aware of what they were voting for when they elected the Syriza-led coalition government on an anti-austerity platform. 

As for the 'why', well, I think that was pretty clear to everyone involved, too.  On the most basic level, as the bail out terms are of momentous importance for Greece, it was essential the government knew clearly what position it should take with its creditors - it was only right that the Greek people should have a say in this.  Moreover, if a 'No' vote was secured (as it has been) it would reinforce the Greek government's position that it had a clear anti-austerity mandate from its own people.  Most crucially, the referendum wasn't just about the bail out terms, or the legitimacy of the whole austerity nonsense - it was about national sovereignty and the principle that democratically elected governments have the right to pursue the platform on which they have been elected, rather than having their policies dictated to them by external, unaccountable and undemocratic financial institutions.  Thanks to the Greek electorate, democracy in Europe isn't quite dead yet.  Because, without being melodramatic, that was what was at stake in the Greek referendum.  Although, bizarrely, we had EU technocrats trying to tell us that allowing people to decide on a crucial issue via the ballot box was somehow 'undemocratic'.  That's the kind of crazy world we live in, where 'democracy' can be redefined as not having a say in political decisions.  Increasingly, the EU is resembling the declining days of the Roman Empire, desperately trying to pull conquered provinces into line and suppress their bids to reassert their independence.  Which is sad, as it was once - and should again be - a force for institutionalising and expanding concepts like democracy, the rule of law and human rights throughout the continent.  Now it seems to be just another tool of the corrupt financial institutions and capitalism which are apparently hell-bent upon subjugating us all. 

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