Less than 24 hours ago the Greek Parliament signed a death warrant – not of any person, but of an entire country. In doing so it relegated the status of Greece to that of a client-state – a colony, no less – of the Eurozone – in particular of the dreaded Troika. But is it all too late? Not quite. Although Parliament has passed legislation to implement changes to working conditions, taxes, pensions, etc, so triggering a release of much-needed funds to ensure creditors are paid and banks can re-open on Sunday, there is still time – a tiny window of opportunity – to halt everything and opt, instead, for #Grexit. Otherwise the alternative is perpetual servitude and an austerity-strapped nation for decades to come.
Less than a week ago the Greek people voted resoundingly OXI (No) to the austerity measures being forced upon their country by the EuroGroup. The Greek President, Alexis Tsipras, had his mandate and he clearly believed he could use that as a basis for a better package – a less austere one. But he was tragically wrong. He underestimated the EuroGroup, which was clearly out to destroy the Syriza-led government and which was equally determined to demonstrate to other European countries that austerity was here to stay.
And, so, when Tsipras arrived at Brussels he soon began to realise that he was not only out-manoeuvred but that the entire European Community was baying for his (Greece’s) blood. Greece, it seemed, was to be sucked dry. Thus, for the next 24 hours Tsipras suffered a visibly slow and agonising death as it began to sink in that the original austerity package would be replaced by another version with far more austerity measures. He also knew that if he refused to accept it Greece would be bankrupt within hours. In short, he had been mugged.
And, so, Tsipras agreed to the package, knowing that his next step would be to try and persuade the Greek Parliament to accept it too, even though it was clear they, like he, would be voting for it under extreme duress.
As the tweets said that evening and into the night, #ThisIsACoup. It still is a coup – by the banks, not the tanks; by the Germans in particular. It was subjugation time.
Within hours several leading figures in Syriza were either resigning their ministerial posts or refusing to vote for the deal. Tsipras’ humiliation was now complete and he was left relying on the neo-cons and centrists to back the odious deal, while in the wings stood Golden Dawn, baying and laughing in his face.
Who is to blame for all this? Apart from the Troika, of course, Syriza has to shoulder much of the responsibility for this débâcle. Bluntly, they were extraordinarily naïve from the very moment they took office, mesmerised by their own electoral success. But from the beginning they misread all the signs. They entered the negotiations, genuinely believing that fairness would prevail. Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek Finance Minister, may have rubbed the eurocrats up the wrong way with his casual and provocative style, but he at least is sticking to his principles and providing a critique that many within Syriza will approve of, albeit not necessarily openly. All in all, the party as a whole should have realised much earlier that #Grexit was a viable option worth going for.
So, how do matters lie now? Basically, if the deal proceeds as voted, because of the 50bn euro fund set aside of Greek assets it will be impossible for Greece to default on any of the arrangements, let alone on its payments schedule. If it did, everything would collapse and the 50bn euros worth of assets would be gone. In other words, the Troika has Greece well and truly screwed. Not only that, but the deal as a whole is, according to the IMF, completely unworkable and Greece will never be able to fully meet the conditions or pay back the loans. The zeal for harshness by the Troika in the final iteration of the deal evoked condemnation by economists and economic commentators across the political spectrum.
So, is there a way out? The short answer is no. Greece is trapped. However…
However, there is still an escape route from this cul-de-sac. It would require great courage and swift action. Basically, it would see Parliament reverse its decision to approve the Troika deal (and yesterday’s changes in legislation). Parliament could then announce that Greece would be exiting from the Euro as soon as the necessary arrangements have been made.
If the Greek Parliament were to take these steps, it would be acting in accordance with the mandate of the Greek people, as per last Sunday’s referendum result. And, in doing so, Greece would be making it clear that democracy really has won, that the Troika has failed, that austerity should be dispatched to the dustbin of history and, moreover, that Greece is still a sovereign nation that will set its own agenda.
And just in case the Greek Parliament is a little unsure as to whether to take this bold move, the Greek people, known widely for being imaginative and resourceful, will presumably know exactly how to remind the MPs of their obligations regarding the referendum result.
As for the Greek banks, regardless of what economists say, they will re-open for business within hours of these moves. Why? Because banks need people (not the other way around); because capital needs people too.And the greatest resource Greece has to offer is the determination and zest for life that the Greek people, despite everything that has been thrown against them, still loudly profess.
So, Greek exit from the Euro: soon, or perhaps later?
Otherwise, there’s always servitude…