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Whatever the Result, "OXI" Has Won

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Alex AndreouLondon, uk and Athens, Greece
Whatever the Result, "OXI" Has Won
Like the independence referendum in Scotland, Greece has entered a process which is unstoppable

OXI, the "no" to the unconditional surrender demanded of Greece, has already won. We just don't know how big the victory is yet. It may seem a bold prediction, but I'm not talking about the result of today's referendum, monumental though that is, but about something much more profound. 

All week the parallels between the Scottish referendum on Independence last year and what is happening in Greece, have been unavoidable. The fearmongering and predictions of doom have been hundred-fold, of course, and the situation much more extreme, but the way in which the representatives of the corrupt status quo have lined up, one by one, behind the "yes" camp, the way in which they have chosen to frighten, rather than convince, has been unmistakeable. 

In June 2011, in my very first piece about the Greek crisis, I wrote about the occupation of Syntagma Square. I wrote that what was happening there was beautiful; filled with hope; gloriously democratic. About how the crowd of thousands shared what little food and drink there was. About a microphone which stood in the middle, through which anyone could speak and make proposals, which were then voted on by a show of hands. I talked about the beginnings of Citizenship and predicted that hope for Greece existed within that movement. 

Four years later, Alexis Tsipras, the man who emerged as a leader from that movement, stood in the same square in front of a million people, this time as Prime Minister, and made a speech filled with both generosity and defiance. He stood alone, with no security, no fear, nothing between him and the crowd, other than a white shirt, unbuttoned at the collar. "Democracy is life", he said. "Democracy is strength and joy." The crowd went wild. You can trace a direct line from events in the summer of 2011 to today. 

The juxtaposition with the "yes" campaign could not be clearer. TV spot after TV spot of grey men in grey suits and grey ties behind grey desks, photo references of some glorious past scattered behind them, warning us that they're going to take our salaries, our savings, our houses; they're going to ruin us. The same people who forced the country to its knees, begging it to lay down with its face on the ground and stop resisting or things may get even worse. A smaller crowd holding newly purchased, crisply ironed, Greek and EU flags and banners - funded by whom, I wonder? - trying to work up some passion.

They couldn't. Because they know they're wrong.  They hide behind excuses about not understanding the question. Everyone understands the question: Is Greece going to be governed by elected representatives or appointed representatives? I have not spoken to a single person planning to vote "yes" who doesn't know they're about to do the wrong thing. They just think they're being practical. Maybe they are. Maybe, in the end, they will secure a numeric victory. It doesn't matter. Whatever the result, "OXI" has won. 

Just as in Scotland, the actual result is at once earth-shattering and completely irrelevant. Because something much more profound has occurred: People have begun to look at the world around them; really look. Everyone, whichever way they plan to vote, is thinking about the issues and talking about the issues. Compare that to the complete apathy and hubris of ten years ago. 

Just like Scotland, what Greece has experienced is a process of political awakening. Ears which prick up and listen critically. Eyes which open and see straight. It is a process that is irreversible, irrevocable and irresistible. The Emperor is naked. I suspect Merkel, Cameron, Renzi, Rajoy (especially, Rajoy) know this. They are on borrowed time. They have single-handedly created a popular but progressive branch of Euroscepticism, overnight. They must reform or perish. "OXI" has won. 

It doesn't matter what the numbers show when the polls close tonight. If "yes" wins, we go to elections. The Greek people will return Tsipras and a Syriza government with an even bigger majority. If a technocratic government is appointed, it will approve yet another loan on top of the unrepayable ones which already exist (will you be tweeting me in two years time, I wonder, saying "you accepted the money willingly, now pay it back"?) Then we go to elections and Syriza will win by a landslide. "OXI" has won. 

If only a hundred people vote for "OXI" in the face of such economic terrorism, in spite of narrow self-interest, those hundred people will be the yeast that will produce the bread to feed Greece. If a thousand vote for "OXI" they will be the saplings from which an olive grove will rise to provide shade and sustenance to democracy once again. If a million vote for "OXI", they will be the drops of rain that unite to fill the Mediterranean with hope and dignity again.

For the first time in many years, I feel proud to be Greek again. Not in a narrow, romantic, backward looking, nationalistic way. Not in the sense of thinking we are somehow better than others. But in a practical, present sense of thinking "we are on our way to being better than we are". Isn't that something? Isn't it everything? 

"OXI" has already won. Today, tomorrow, in ten years. Let us count the votes and see how soon. 

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Craig Conant

2 years ago

In the event, the Greeks said "no" by a resounding 60% majority. This is no longer simply a shot across the bow of European neo-liberalism. This is a broadside. Once again Europe and the West is being schooled by the School of Hellas.

Lily Zotou

2 years ago

We all owe the Greek people an enormous debt of gratitude for their bravery today. This is the first, massive crack in the neoliberal wall - and like the Berlin one, this too will come crashing down. Let's make sure that on every opportunity we get, we also fight the neoliberal consensus, strengthening the Greek victory today.

nick james

2 years ago

Alex, there's a hard road ahead for Greece whatever happens but I agree completely with you that a brave and pricipled government has done what no other "normal" goverment has done before. Great article.

nick james

2 years ago

At last, someone, somewhere, has had the balls to say enough. You can and have put us between a rock and a hard place so we'll choose to ask the Greek people which they prefer. In essence, Syriza values democracy over brute force and people over money and I for one applaud them for a principled stand against neo-liberal orthodoxy. Whether they succeed or fail at anything, they have certainly galvanised the Greek people in a way previous governments have not.

nick james

2 years ago

Many Europeans, whether they instinctivley support or hate the idea of the EU, have grown weary of the insistence democratically elected politicians that we bow before the instructions of unelected bodies and individuals, and take whatever they dish out unquestioningly, when the politicians' primary concern should be their entire electorate, not a particular part of it. It's plain to me that Syriza has engaged in negotiations, made it clear that it will not give in to threats.passing over authority and support of unelected power brokers whose only concern seems to be that neither they nor banks pay anything for the catastrophies inflcited by the banks and, when presented with an unrealistic proposal than runs contrary to the promises they have made to the electorate, simply said OXI.

nick james

2 years ago

To continue, the first is that the Institutions, have imposed austerity five years ago, when they told by many that austerity would not work, have failed to take any account of the undeniable failure and the catastrophic impact it has had. Secondly, that original "deal" was agreed not by Syriza, nor by any democratic means. Neither Syriza nor the majority of the Greek people can be held responsible for the current dire situation. Is a 25% drop in GDP or 50-60% youth unemployment? Of course it's not; it's a first when the IMF admits that austerity hasn't worked and that Greece will probably never be able to repay all its debts but that doesn't make it any less true.

nick james

2 years ago

Martin, I disagree with your characterisation of Syriza's actions as anti-establishement (and your repeating the media myth of them being "far left"). It seems to me that they are standing up to externally imposed austerity for two reasons:

lisa diver

2 years ago

Oxi really has won. Well done, Greece! I've enjoyed reading your articles, by the way.

Martin Baird

2 years ago

Nick, I understand these arguments - believe me, as a Scot, I've heard more than enough about our "political awakening" for a lifetime. But there are a number of problems I have with this kind of narrative. The first is the underlying assumption that anyone who isn't on board with the Syriza/SNP narrative (though really, putting the SNP in the same bracket as Syriza would be an insult to left-wing politics) is therefore an advocate for the status quo. I'm on the left, I've spent a fair chunk of my life campaigning against inequality and I have no more love of the Tories or the economics of Wolfgang Schauble than anyone else. That doesn't mean I buy into the populist anti-establishment narrative. What Greece really needs at this point isn't an ideological war between the far-left and the centre-right, it needs a compromise. We need a deal where the country gets some debt relief in exchange for structural reforms, and where it's presented in a way that both the Greek and German electorates (not to mention the rest of Europe) can accept. This is an economic problem where Greece can only win if it reaches an agreement with Germany and the rest of the creditors. It will be a No vote in the end, but are we any closer to a deal? This referendum has actually made it even more difficult for the German government to sell debt relief to its electorate than it was previously. Any concession now will be presented as the creditors caving in to Tsipras. And that's precisely the problem I have with it - for all that it's exciting to buy into the narrative it isn't solving the problems that the Greek people are facing. Far too many people are treating this as if it’s a game – a chance to show the capitalist world the error of their ways – when it’s a limited but serious issue that could affect a lot of people’s lives if both sides can’t come to a compromise.

Nick Auld

2 years ago

Martin, the author of this article is not comparing Scotland and Greece's financial positions, but rather the political awakening of a people who are no longer happy with the status quo and watching ordinary working men and women being punished for the decisions made by bankers and their likes. Austerity is not the answer, the only people who are winning from this are those at the top while us at the bottom suffer ever more. The biggest fallacy in all of this is that money is a man made construct. How can something which is man made ever run out? It isn't a natural resource, it's a system of control, a way of keeping people in their place. The World Bank routinely creates money to give out in loans, but then demands money and/or land/establishments as repayment. There is a revolution happening, it is slow in starting but it is building up pace. Here in Scotland, now in Greece. The establishment doesn't have the answers, it only has fear. It only ever tries divide and conquer, it has not mastered this day and age of instant information. OXI will win, just as the Yes campaign in Scotland will eventually win. We may not win the battle, but we will win the war.

dansecrest

2 years ago

Very well said and inspirational!! I've been reposting this all over the place. Thank you

Martin Baird

2 years ago

There are similarities between Scotland and Greece, but I fear they're not the ones being pointed to here. Both referendums were essentially a mechanism for a populist political movement to attempt to sell a rose-tinted vision of change to the electorate that can never be implemented in practice. The SNP's campaign was built on the largely baseless idea that independence was the key answer to the problems brought on by the financial crisis (which are barely problems at all in comparison to Greece - e.g. Scotland had one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe at the time, Greece has a crippling unemployment rate). That's always the core feature of populist politics - it mobilises the electorate around a quick fix/easy solution to problems where, in reality, there are no easy answers. In Greece Syriza have pulled exactly the same trick - instead of dealing with the reality that Greece has an economy on life support and that it's therefore utterly reliant on the decisions made by the other governments providing that life support, Tsipras has attempted to sell a vision in which we can ignore all of the difficult choices in front of Greece and simply vote ourselves out of a debt crisis at the ballot box. That's not actually an exercise in democracy, it's an exercise in self-delusion. Democracy is about the people having all possible courses of action put before them and voting for the option/platform that they agree with. What Syriza are doing is obscuring the democratic process by attempting to convince the electorate they can achieve a solution that it's impossible for any Greek government to acquire in the current climate. As a result we aren't having the debate we actually need to have - i.e. whether we accept that a bailout programme is always going to have difficult conditions attached or whether we leave the bailout programme, get forced out of the Eurozone by the subsequent banking crisis, and hope long-term the country comes out of it in a healthier position. That's the debate we're not having thanks to Syriza, much as in Scotland the supposed surge in democratic engagement has resulted in a situation where every real issue has been pushed off the agenda in favour of the constitutional question.