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A Publication
on The Status of
Adivasi Populations
of India




Blackmailing By Bankers: People In Greece Are Going For Referendum

By Farooque Chowdhury

28 June, 2015

People in Greece are going to referendum on July 5 to deliver their verdict on the question: Shall bankers be allowed to blackmail or no?

Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, has proposed the referendum on the Eurogroup’s austerity proposals.

In an address to the nation, Tsipras referred to the Eurogroup’s proposals with an ultimatum as blackmail-ultimatum, and said: “To this blackmail-ultimatum, for the acceptance on our part of a strict and humiliating austerity (proposal), and with no end to it in sight nor with the prospect of allowing us to ever stand on our feet economically or socially, I call upon you to decide sovereignly and proudly, as the history of Greeks dictates.”

Tsipras’ address presented in brief the background of the creditors’ acts:

“For the past six months the Greek government has been giving battle in conditions of unprecedented economic asphyxiation, to implement your mandate, of Jan. 25. It was a mandate to negotiate with our partners to end austerity and to restore prosperity and social justice to our country.

“(It was) for a viable agreement which would respect both democracy, common European rules and would lead to a definitive exit from the crisis.

“Throughout this negotiation period, we were asked to adopt bailout agreements which were agreed with previous governments, even though these were categorically condemned by the Greek people in the recent elections.

“But we did not, even for a moment, contemplate yielding. That is, to effectively betray your own trust.

“After five months of tough negotiations our partners, unfortunately, concluded at the Eurogroup the day before last with a proposal, an ultimatum, to the Hellenic Republic and the Greek people.

“An ultimatum which contravenes the founding principles and values of Europe. The value of our common European structure.”

Rumors of surrender by and skepticism about Tsipras’ and the Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’ position were spread over the last few months. There was planned propaganda to ridicule them. A part of mainstream media showed its taste as it tried to mock and vilify Varoufakis.

But it appears, unprincipled compromise has still not been made. On the contrary, theirs is a position of upholding the interests of the people of Greece.

Tsipras’ address details the bankers’ blackmailing proposals:

“The Greek government was asked to accept a proposal which accumulates unbearable new burdens on the Greek people and undermines the recovery of Greek society and its economy, not only maintaining uncertainty, but by amplifying social imbalances even further.

“The proposals of the institutions include measures which lead to a further detribalization of the labor market, pension cutbacks, new reductions in public sector salaries and an increase in VAT on food, eateries and tourism, with an elimination of tax breaks on the islands.”

A statement by Varoufakis makes it clear. “Over the past days and weeks”, said Varoufakis in an interview, “the Greek government has been making concessions continuously. Unfortunately, every time we make a concession and we get three quarters of the way, the institutions do the exact opposite, they toughen their stance.” On another occasion, he said Greece has bent over backwards in order to accommodate strange demands of the creditors. He was talking to Irish radio station RTE.

The situation led the Church of Greece to appeal to all concerned: “[W]ith enlightenment by Our Lord Jesus that it is possible to find a mutually accepted solution.”

But the creditors’ hearts are enlightened only by money, not by the Lord Jesus. Creditors not only want flesh; blood, heart and the whole body and soul are their demand. Panos Skourletis, the Greek minister for labor, said: Every time we are about to reach a solution they come and say bring some more pensioners to execute.

The Greek prime minister, in his address, identified the creditors’ proposal:

“These proposals clearly violate European social rules and fundamental rights to work, equality and to dignity, proving that the aim of some partners and institutions was not a viable and beneficial agreement for all sides, but the humiliation of the entire Greek people.

“These proposals prove the fixation, primarily of the International Monetary Fund, to tough and punitive austerity.”

So, the all-powerful IMF is there with its cruelty, with its indifference to life and dignity of people.

But Tsipras’ position is the opposite of the IMF as he addressed the people:

“My fellow Greeks, we are now burdened with the historic responsibility, (in homage to) to the struggles of the Hellenic people, to enshrine democracy and our national sovereignty.

“It is a responsibility to the future of our country. And that responsibility compels us to answer to this ultimatum based on the will of the Greek people.”

After concluding the inconclusive negotiation with the Euro bosses the Greek prime minister returned home, convened meeting of the Greek cabinet, and suggested the “referendum for the Greek people to decide in sovereignty.” The suggestion was unanimously accepted by the cabinet. Within a short time, he addressed the nation. The cabinet decided to ratify the July 5 referendum proposal in the plenary of the Greek parliament.

The referendum will pose the question of the acceptance or rejection of the proposal by the institutions. Even, before addressing the people, Tsipras communicated the Greek cabinet’s decision to the French president, the German chancellor and the ECB president. The Greek prime minister informed: “[T]omorrow in correspondence to the EU leaders and institutions I will formally request a few days extension of the (bailout) program so the Greek people can decide, free of pressure or coercion, as is dictated by the Constitution of our country and the democratic tradition of Europe.”

So, the move is clean, transparent and fair. There’s no ambiguity, no backdoor deal, no attempt to keep people in dark. Tsipras’ address to the nation emphasizes a number of issues relevant not only to Greece, but also to other countries facing the world masters, bank bosses. He said:

“My fellow Greeks,

“To this autocratic and harsh austerity, we should respond with democracy, with composure and decisiveness.

“Greece, the cradle of democracy, should send a strong democratic answer to Europe and the world community.

“I am absolutely certain your choice will honor the history of our country, and send a message of dignity to the whole world.”

It’s the message of democracy and dignity, which is sold out by leadership, lackey in character, in countries although democracy and dignity are the “tools” to fight command, dictation, and authoritarian rule of the world bosses.

Emphasis on people, sovereignty and dignity is clearly spelled out as Tsipras addressed the Greek people:

“I call upon you all to take the decisions worthy of us.

“For us, future generations, for the history of Greeks.

“For the sovereignty and dignity of our people.”

In the struggle for building up a prosperous life, for asserting rights over public properties and defending those, dignity and democracy are the cornerstones. For building up a prosperous life for the people, claiming public properties are essential as essential is asserting the rights with the sense of dignity. In today’s world, two trends are visible: undignified acts by a group of political leadership in a group of countries, and strivings for a dignified life by another group. Today’s Greece teaches dignity. It shames those political leaders without any sense of shame. Sense of dignity tells not to capitulate. It tells not to surrender people’s sovereign space. It’s one of the essential elements in the struggle against usurpers of public resources. Greece is showing this still.

In the case of Greece, Tsipras’, Varoufakis’ and their comrades’ stand is significant in two ways:

(1) In this Greece, bankers dictated and successfully made a regime change. In this Greece, bankers imposed whatever they liked. And, in this Greece, Tsipras, Varoufakis, the Spartan finance minister, and their comrades are standing on people’s mandate; they are bargaining on the strength of people’s mandate; they are going back to people to review their mandate through the proposed referendum. Bankers have not succeeded in toppling Tsipras and his comrades still.
(2) In the countries with austerity-bitten people, the struggle Greece is waging today will have implications. One of the implications will be political. Another will be in mass-psyche. The rest implications include lesson for a part of political leadership in those countries.

Bankers will also learn from a political leadership’s practice with democracy and dignity. Their first attempt will be to subvert similar leadership and politics in the austerity-battered countries.

Greece, it’s hoped, will be studied by political scientists as incidents in and related to the country are connected to a number of aspects of bourgeois democracy, state and people. A few limits, connections, roles are starkly visible. The incidents are not limited within its borders. This perspective generates serious questions.

The compromise question needs emphasis. Possibilities of compromises are always there. Compromises vary on the basis of principled stand, and its opposite. Limitations of circumstance compel, at times, to compromise. Sweeping comments regarding compromise, as adventurism resorts to, leads to a wrong place: isolation from friends, all sorts of inactivity but slogan-mongering, misleading people, and handing over opportunity to foe. In today’s Greece, both examples are present.

Moves by Tsipras, Varoufakis and their comrades are an example of political fight. The people are also participating in the fight. It’s an example of political fight against bankers. It’s meaningful. It’s meaningful as it’s Greece. Its past, history, present, its types of relation with bankers over times, its geopolitical position, size of the economy, Greece, and power of the parties on the other side of negotiation table make the ongoing Greek incidents meaningful.

The developments show it’s not possible by masters to intervene all the time or any time, and it’s not always possible to confuse people. Still the Greek people have not sent their trust to masters’ vault. It’s a lesson for people of other countries.

In an interview to the German radio station Deutschlandfunk the European commissioner for energy Gunther Oettinger warned: Greece may be forced out of the Eurozone, unless the Greek government and its creditors can reach an agreement by the end of the month.

But, from his end, the Greek prime minister clearly conveyed his message on the Euro position:

“In these crucial hours, we must all remember Europe is the common home of its people. There are no owners or guests in Europe.

“Greece is, and will remain an indispensable part of Europe and Europe an indispensable part of Greece. But Greece without democracy is a Europe without identity or a compass.”

Euro bosses will not lend their ears to this assertion: “Greece without democracy is a Europe without identity or a compass”. But the people of Europe should stand to defend democracy in Greece as it will be a part of defending democracy in home. And, brutal austerity-dictation by authoritarian bank bosses can be fought out with democracy only.

With the message, Tsipras is standing for Europe, a democratic Europe, the Europe bankers fear as democratic practice always stands as a bulwark against authoritarian rule. Bankers’ choice is a docile, fragmented Europe, a Europe to be ruled only by bankers. Tsipras has signaled: Leaving Europe is not the choice of Greece. The crisis that bankers have created is, as Tsipras said, “threatening the future of European unification.”

More interesting incidents are going to happen in Europe, and in Greece, the economy 2 percent of the eurozone and smaller than a number of cosmopolitan cities in the world metropolis. There’s a deadline now: June 30, payment of euro 1.6 billion to IMF.

Farooque Chowdhury is Dhaka-based freelancer.








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