One Year After: Revolt Betrayed, Greece defeated
“I call you to vote as someone sovereign and proud. I call you to vote as the history of Greeks commands. I am engaging myself to respect the democratic will of the people, whatever it will be”
Alexis Tsipras on TV, announcing the referendum, 26.6.2015
A year ago, more than 62% of the Greek people voted in a referendum held on the 5th of July of 2015, to reject the policies imposed to Greece since 2010 by an alliance of world finance and Germany, followed by other European elites through European governments, the EU, and the IMF.
By voting the way they did, Greeks gave to their government an unambiguous mandate to resist, surprising friends and foes alike, especially with the large percentage of their ‘No’ vote, as they have done many times in their long history.
Nobody could predict and nobody predicted this result, in Greece or outside its borders. Greeks voted the way they did while the European Central Bank had already begun to apply its threats by closing down the banking system of the country. All voters understood the severity of their decision, which would most probably lead to a direct collision with some of the most powerful forces on Earth. Still they voted ‘No’.
They voted ‘No’ despite (in some cases even because) of the fact that nearly all media and the political and financial establishment of the country did everything possible to frighten them. All previous Prime Ministers, the leadership of the Church, respected retired Generals, and all the big names in the economy warned Greeks of the consequences they would suffer if they voted ‘No’, and urged them to vote ‘Yes’. Greeks voted ‘No’. (We are right to assume that if all those pressures did not exist, the result of the referendum would be 80% or 90% for ‘No’).
Even SYRIZA did not do any serious campaigning for the ‘No’ vote! On Monday 29th of June, supporters of the ‘Yes’ vote staged a rally of about 20,000 people on Constitution Square with the slogan “We stay in Europe!” The Vice-President of the government Yannis Dragasakis went on Greek state TV on the evening of the same day, just three days after the announcement of the referendum, to say that after all differences with the creditors were not so tragic, and that maybe there was room for reconciliation and even a possibility to cancel the referendum. He added that whatever happens, Tsipras had already accomplished his mission and took his position in Greek history, thus opening the way for an “honorary retirement” of the Prime Minister! (The same person, Dragasakis, one day after the final agreement with the creditors, on the 13th of July, went on record as thanking the US administration for its great contribution to the … capitulation!).
Maybe Tsipras' advisors did not like this interview. Maybe looking at the public opinion statistics, they became afraid that ‘Yes’ was going for a huge victory, which would be understood as their defeat and would result in their eviction of power. Anyway, Tsipras intervened a second time on Tuesday 30th of June urging Greeks to vote ‘No’.
Then something happened. From Tuesday till Thursday Greeks voiced their opinion in a way that no pollster, politician or analyst could predict. It was a question of logic and hope. They knew they did not have much to wait for from the “creditors”, except more catastrophes. The experience of five years had proven this amply. But this argument was not sufficient, as there were also many important risks to take.
At this point the fundamental mechanism that led to revolts in history, be they violent or peaceful, was put in motion. Determining the result, the deeper strata of individual and collective subconscious came into action. Dignity won over fear.
After all, Greece was always intrinsically linked, as a notion and as a project, with resistance to foreign invaders, and also with notions of human freedom, citizenship, and democracy. Those notions were born in Greece, for the first time in human history. They permitted the victory of the ancient Greek cities over the overwhelming force of the despotic Empire of the ancient times, and it was this battle that gave birth to the notion of Europe. In modern times, to give only one example, Greeks, along with British, were a part of the very few nations that resisted, in 1940-41, to the rising totalitarianism of that era, providing Soviets with precious time and room to maneuver to finally beat the monster.
Unfortunately, this is not the only near-permanent pattern in Greek history. Another one is the betrayal, time and again, by the leaders, the difficulty of this nation to acquire a leadership in proportion to its heroism. Dionysios Solomos, Greek national poet and author of the Dithyrambics to Liberty, which became the national anthem of Greece, epitomized it with a historic phrase addressing the inhabitants of the Ionian Islands (Letter to the Eptanisians): “My beloved people, easy believers are always betrayed”. Or it can be a usual fate for utopians, idealists, and freedom lovers?
On Friday, July 3rd, hundreds of thousands of Athenians, maybe more, converged on Constitution Square in one of the biggest meetings in the history of the country to cry once more ‘No’. But there was no one in the government to receive it.
The sudden U-turn of the government, as soon as the vote ended, provoked a devastating blow to the moral and the psychology of the Greek population, much worse that a military defeat, because it is normal to be defeated by a superior enemy. It is not normal for your chief to call you to battle, only to begin explaining the advantages of the capitulation some days later. The whole world is disappearing under your feet. Greek society was suddenly found in a situation of emotional and intellectual cataplexy, unable to speak or do anything. Many people even got ill.
One year after, Greeks are still suffering from this moral blow and defeat and also from the terrible consequences it begins now to have on their lives and on their country, gradually transforming into a kind of financial Dachau.
According to the most recent polls, the dominant feelings among Greeks are now:
feeling proud, 3.5%
Was this an intended result or a result of strange combination of different factors? We cannot answer this question in a certain way. But for sure, neither Greek nor European history did not end on July 13th, (the British referendum being the latest demonstration of that). It will go on and it will probably take more violent and dangerous expressions, with the geopolitical factor also intervening in the equation, as the terror attacks and the refugee crisis of 2015 have already indicated.