Today's recommended article:
9 myths about the Greek crisis
Saturday, 4 July, 2015
Dear friends of Greece,
Thanks for your many positive comments in response to my recent emails. The picture of worldwide solidarity you create together is a heartening one. It is amazing to know that so many people are dancing, praying and lighting candles for peace, democracy, and social justice in Greece and in Europe.
Thursday's Global Meditation & Prayer for Greece, for example: we happened to be playing a concert at the time, so we invited the audience to participate with us in a musical meditation. All the Greeks were deeply moved by the idea that people all over the world were meditating for a positive outcome for them and for their country, while the non-Greeks were glad to have a meaningful way to feel connected and to show their support. It was a truly beautiful moment.
I believe in the power of prayer and positive thought. Sometimes it's all that helps, when human efforts appear to be at a standstill.
So may I ask you to please continue to dance, to light candles, and to keep Greece in your prayers over the next few days? Your support in spirit will be valuable to people facing a difficult choice.
As you know, Greece will vote tomorrow in a referendum on whether to accept their creditors' most recent proposal, an indefinite extension of the same austerity policies which have already caused untold harm. Hardest hit have been society's poorest and weakest elements - those who are not responsible for the country's economic problems – while the IMF itself admits that even if Greece obeys every single dictate of the programme, the actual debt can never be repaid.
Years of austerity have led the country to the brink of economic, social, political and cultural collapse, yet has done nothing to improve the country’s finances. Indeed, the Greek financial situation is worse off than before. Clearly, austerity is not working, yet it remains the only option Greece's creditors – the IMF, EU and ECB – are willing to offer.
Most Greeks see the obvious: that is is impossible to accept the additional austerity demanded by the troika of creditors. Therefore most people here are planning to vote 'No' in tomorrow's referendum.
Discussion of the referendum has been made more volatile by media suggestions that 'the language is unclear' and 'people don't even know what they are voting for'. I am right here in Athens and I can tell you that people understand perfectly well the difference between Yes and No. The referendum is a vote for or against the creditors' latest austerity programme. It has nothing to do with staying in Europe or the euro, which are completely separate questions.
Or so they should be.
If Europe is still a democracy, then it should support Greeks' right to vote on an austerity package which will have such an immense effect on every aspect on their lives and society for generations to come.
However, as James Galbraith reports, 'As soon as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced the referendum, François Hollande, David Cameron, Matteo Renzi, and the German Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told the Greeks that a No vote would amount to Greece leaving the euro. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, went further: he said “No” means leaving the European Union. In fact the Greek government has stated many times that — Yes or No — it is irrevocably committed to the Union and the euro. And legally, according to the treaties, Greece cannot be expelled from either.'
Where is the democracy in that?
The creditors' efforts to sabotage or prevent the referendum, to interfere with the basic right to self-determination, and to threaten Greece's expulsion from the common currency and/or the European Union if its people dare to vote 'No', are shameful and scandalous. Juncker has further threatened that 'even a 'Yes' vote will not necessarily lead to a better deal', leaving Greece with no hope of escape from hardship for generations.
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Daily Telegraph writes:
'The spectacle is astonishing. The European Central Bank, the EMU bail-out fund, and the International Monetary Fund, among others, are lashing out in fury against an elected government that refuses to do what it is told. They entirely duck their own responsibility for five years of policy blunders that have led to this impasse…. The creditor power structure has lost its way. The IMF is in confusion. It is enforcing a contractionary austerity policy in Greece – with no debt relief, exchange cushion, or offsetting investment - that has been discredited by its own elite research department as scientifically unsound.'
My dear friend Nina in Bulgaria wrote me this message yesterday:
"I'm sure Greek people will survive, because they have politicians, who think of the ordinary people and have a dignity! Our politicians think only of themselves, they do and did everything that the European Union said to do, and the result is that we are now the poorest people in Europe. Here, in Bulgaria, the minimum salary is 180 euro, and some pensioners, who worked through the whole of their life, receive even less than that. And some prices are higher than in Germany and in Greece, but leaders from the E.U. don`t say to our politicians to give to the people bigger salaries. I really can`t understand this crazy situation. Many people run away, there were many protests against the politicians, but nothing changed!"
If Greece does vote 'Yes' tomorrow and agrees to continue following the prescriptions of austerity, we have only to look across the northern border to see what lies in store.
The creditors are doing their best to ensure that Greece has only two choices: to accept eternal austerity and its regime of ever-increasing of debt and punishment with no hope of salvation, or be thrown out of Europe and the euro, a scenario likely to bring about even worse suffering and chaos. As I heard one older person say in central Athens yesterday, 'Europe gives us the choice, to eat sh*t or starve.'
Could there not be a third way?
Whatever the outcome of tomorrow's referendum, I think we need to find a new path forward. It's in everyone's interest to help find an alternative: one that upholds basic principles of democracy, self-determination, and human rights for all concerned. I invite you to please offer your thoughts and prayers in the manifestation of a new solution.
With love and blessings from the cradle of democracy,
Larry Elliot in the Guardian tells why the creditors' plan for Greece will only make the severe economic problems worse:
while Michael Rozworski explains that 'It’s not just any austerity Europe wants, but a vicious right-wing austerity that hits at the vulnerable.'
See also: The Greek crisis has led Brussels into the business of regime change,
Today's recommended article: 9 myths about the Greek crisis