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The Future of Greece Without Illusions

Athens. 

In this country where we live today, on the very soil we tread, the “ideologist” of the Athenian Republic, Protagoras, proclaimed “Man is the measure of all things”, for the first time in the history of humanity.

The Greek people, at one of the most critical and dramatic crossroads of a history going back several thousands of years, for which they feel proud and justifiably so, shall be called, this coming Sunday, to decide once again whether man is the measure of all things or money is the measure of all things, the latter being the central “motto” and “belief” of the global financial oligarchy, the European “elites” and their domestic offshoots, attacking Greece. And in the face of the Greeks, they are attacking the social and democratic conquests of all Europeans after their victory in 1945 against fascism, if not after the French Revolution.

A moment comes for man, societies and nations alike, when they have to decide «where they stand». This moment has now come for the Greek people. They will have to decide once for all that their Alexandria[1]  of a few decades of a relatively stable and democratic prosperity that followed the fall of the junta in 1974 and accession to the EC in 1981 is definitively lost. The real question facing this people, though, is whether they will abandon this Alexandria with dignity, as urges their great Poet, whether they will take the thorny and dangerous road towards a new future, a new perspective for their country, or whether they will fall apart in a state of enslavement.

1940, 2004, 2015

The answer the Greeks are going to give to the creditors’ ultimatum is of no less importance than the importance of the answer they gave to Benito Mussolini’s ultimatum on October 28, 1940. An answer that led to the first victory of the Allies in World War II and to a delaying of the German attack against the USSR which was probably decisive for the outcome of the war. Their answer made Winston Churchill, celebrated for his wit and not a friend of the Greeks, say: “Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks!.”

The Greeks didn’t give this answer to Mussolini’s ultimatum out of sympathy for their own regime, nor because they were in a better position than they are today. They didn’t put up the strongest resistance, proportionally to the country’s size, in the Nazi-occupied Europe, because the conditions were favorable to them or because they didn’t have anything to lose. They acted the way they did because, deep down, they felt that they could not survive without their dignity. As a people, we may be full of faults. But, I find it hard to believe that some decades of consumerism were sufficient to undermine our sense of self-pride (“filotimo”) that has always been with us during the critical times of our history.

The significance of a NO in 2015 is no lesser than that of the NO uttered by the citizens of the Republic of Cyprus in the 2004 referendum, who refused to give in to the strongest international pressures in order to accept a plan which would abolish their independent and democratic state. It is no lesser either than that of the NO uttered by the French and the Dutch (2005 referendum), the Irish (2008 referendum) and the Icelanders (2010) against Euroliberalism, despite the fact that these NOs, with the exception of the one in Iceland, were later belied by their leaderships.

What these NO had in common, despite the different circumstances, was people’s opposition to the dissolution of their national  and popular sovereignty, of their independence and democracy, in the only context where it still exists in today’s world, that of the nation-state. This is what the Annan plan attempted to do in Cyprus or the European constitutional treaty in Europe.

Dignity

The question History is now asking us, by means of the «take it or leave it» question of the creditors, is whether we continue or not to consider our national and individual dignity as the fundamental value which allowed our people and civilization to survive in the midst of defeats, incredible threats and disasters for several thousands of years. We have known many  defeats in the course of our history. But we never signed off our enslavement – this is the reason that the Greek state exists today, be it a miserable, poor one; but the only one we have got. We shall suffer of course if we resist the will of the mighty. But, where shall we be without our own state, in the ocean of a barbarous, “prehistoric” globalisation which causes whole nations to perish?

This coming Sunday we are not merely called to decide whether we accept the creditors’ ultimatum. We are called to determine whether we consider the existence of a state of even a rudimentary independence and democracy, as the most fundamental prerequisite for our national survival.

Peoples have been called times and again in their history to choose between destruction and enslavement. The creditors do not even place us before such a dilemma. They want both. Our destruction and our enslavement! The only thing they are offering us is the continuation of a program which has caused, beyond the shadow of a doubt, as the greatest economists of Europe, America and Russia admit, the biggest financial, social and political disaster in Western (capitalist) Europe after 1945. Instead of apologizing for the destruction they have caused, they are now impeding the Greek government from taking even elemental measures to enable hundreds of thousands of people to have some food, the medication they need, electricity, and heating, a roof over their heads; they are killing the hopes of a whole people. These are the hands we have permitted to take the control of Europe!

The disillusionment

Many, including the SYRIZA leadership, had been under huge illusions and, unfortunately, they are still suffering under them. They believed that the Greek disaster was nothing but a misunderstanding, a mistake of the prevailing European elites. After Monday, June 22, however, all these illusions ought to have been dispelled. The Greek government presented to the institutions a proposal which was in line, unfortunately, with the program’s spirit, and a far cry from SΥRΙΖΑ’S pre-electoral announcements on the basis of which it won the elections. Had the proposal been accepted, it would not have solved any problems. For many, this was an unacceptable proposal of capitulation.

What was the creditors’ reaction to this proposal? Initially, they expressed their satisfaction because the spoiled leader of a «spoiled» country was finally beginning to «see reason». After that they began asking him for more concessions! They as good as told him “we are not interested in taking prisoners of war, we are demanding your full surrender and suicide.”

Faced with the political suicide option he was given for himself and the option of a national-social suicide for his country, Alexis Tsipras and his closest associates, who never wanted or prepared for a rupture (on the contrary, they turned against all those of us who kept telling them to prepare for the worse option), proclaimed – and rightly so – a referendum, an idea which had been «brewing» since 2012 in the highest echelons of SYRIZA.

It is now the time for the Greek people to answer whether they accept or not the ultimatum. We hope that they will reject it with a sweeping majority, although the indecisive stance of the SYRIZA leadership, its weakness in defending its own choice, risks to bring about disastrous results, aggravating the population’s doubts and fears.

The leaders of SYRIZA need to understand that they have already crossed the Rubicon. They did so when they asked for the vote of the Greek people in order to stop the disastrous course of the memorandum. They crossed it yet again when they decided to hold a referendum. By so doing they cut off bridges. They will drown and will drown us if they attempt to reverse their course.

If they now turn around and look where they were, even a week ago, they will turn into pillars of salt like Lot’s wife did. If they capitulate, if they do not assume the consequences of their choices, they will be adding ridicule to defeat.

Let not Alexis Tsipras entertain any illusions. If he cops out now, he will not even be allowed to have George Papandreou’s relatively quiet retirement. George is a man who always belonged to the “family”, to the club of the “international establishment”, he is their man. Alexis Tsipras shall be humiliated and thrown to the dogs, as an example for all European peoples and politicians to see what is the fate of those who dare challenge the masters.

There is only one way for the SYRIZA leaders. Rid themselves of their remaining illusions and finish off what they started, taking all necessary measures to organize the Greek people’s struggle for the rescue of their country, and explaining to them what to do and why. We shall never tire of repeating that it is not possible to organise the Missolonghi exodus [2] by inviting people to a drink of ouzo on the beach of Aitolikon. Α la guerre, comme à la guerre, Napoleon used to say. And Greece has been at war since 2010, only, till now, it has chosen not to retaliate!

We hope that the Greek citizens, when asked by their children if they personally accepted the TROIKA ultimatum in 2015, will be in a position to answer them without lowering their heads. We also hope that the leaders of the country will find the will and the mind to meet the historical challenge it is facing.

Dimitris Konstantakopoulos can be reached through his blog: Konstantakopoulos.blogspot.com.

(Translated from Greek)

Notes. 

[1] A poem by C. Cavafy,  a Greek poet from Alexandria (1863-1933)

[2] A town which had been besieged by the Ottomans during the Greek Revolution of 1821 and the inhabitants decided on a heroic exodus after they had been exhausted by the long siege of their town. Aitolikon is a small city near it.

Dimitris Konstantakopoulos is a journalist and writer, former Secretary of the Independent Citizens Movement, former member SYRIZA’s Central Committee, current editorial board member of the international magazine Utopia Review, ex-chief of the Greek Press Agency office in Moscow, formerly served as Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou’s adviser in East-West relations and arms control.

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