Over this weekend hundreds of thousands of Greeks will be taking part in demonstrations in cities and towns across the country in the lead-up to Monday’s crucial debt negotiation round between the Syriza-led government and the German-led eurocrats. Solidarity protests are also planned tomorrow (Sunday) in cities worldwide – click link below to interactive map. Last Thursday also saw thousands demonstrate in Syntagma Square, Athens (see picture below). But whatever the outcome of the negotiations – and this round may prove the deciding one – the message of the Greek people is unequivocal: there will be no turning back and the politicians and bankers have no choice but to accept that.
Interactive map showing demonstrations in solidarity with Greeks.
While much of Europe is arguing about who did what or otherwise about prosecuting or seeking redress from the wealthy tax avoiders in the wake of the latest HSBC scandal revelations, the bankers and politicians are demanding the poor of Greece continue to practise austerity. The Greeks had their portion of the HSBC ‘Lagarde List’ published two years ago (thanks to the brave actions of a journalist) while in other European countries the management of what and who is revealed by the datalist in its entirety is left to the discretion of newspapers.
In response to the latest round of debt negotiations, Angela Merkel, sounding more like an old-fashioned school m’am berating naughty schoolkids, told the Greeks that ‘rules are rules… you have to follow the rules’ and that the austerity measures are to remain in place. But it is not just the northern European countries that are standing firm with her, for the fate of Greece will affect all the Euro-zone countries. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Spanish Government is taking a hard line approach on this issue too, given that if the anti-austerity measures are fully implemented in Greece this will encourage the anti-austerity movement in Spain too (and in other countries). Consequently, there is more – much more – at stake here than the success or otherwise of a debt package.
But in many ways the debt negotiation crisis can be regarded as an unnecessary sideshow, for the bottom line is that the Greek people have, by a huge majority, mandated their government to end austerity and bring in a package of anti-austerity measures, come what may. Moreover, the Greek parliament has agreed to these measures.
And the Greek government knows that if it is forced to submit to a u-turn as a result of the debt negotiations, even if that u-turn is dressed up as a necessary ‘compromise’ that would be completely unacceptable to the Greek people. So far, however, Syriza has demonstrated a genuine determination to keep to its pact with the Greek people. But at some point – possibly only days away – that determination will be sorely tried and tested. And when that moment comes Syriza will have some very big choices to make.
However, not all the cards in Syriza’s deck have been revealed. There is still the ‘War reparations’ card that could see the Germans paying off much of the debt Greece owes. Or there’s the ‘joker’, which would see Russia finance the debt, with Greece remaining in the Euro-zone (which, interestingly, would give Russia a stake in the Euro). And then there is the ‘Ace’ – the final solution: a referendum on a Greek exit, defaulting on the debt and the reintroduction of the drachma.
Though, in essence, there are only two real choices on offer for Greece: a) to appease the eurocrats and accept its straitjacketed, capitalist, debt-based, austerity-based and anti-poor-based economy; or b) tell the eurocrats to get stuffed and, instead, opt for growth, self-management and social justice – within or without the EU.
And if the latter option is chosen, we will – most certainly – be entering uncharted waters…