In order for anyone to understand the meaning and the importance of the Greek Referendum that produced a negative response to the question "Do we want our country to remain under the colonial conditions imposed by the lenders and do we want to continue on the program of austerity demanded by them?" we need to present the very basic parameters that led to, or allowed, this Event to take place.
1) What the Greek government has managed to do since it came into power Jan. 20, 2015, is change the terms of the debate not only in Europe but globally, shifting the focus onto the point that the savage austerity measures demanded by the lenders are not victimless but have real, brutal effects on the lives of people who had nothing to do with the corrupt politicians and ruthless financiers who are fundamentally responsible for the global financial crisis.
2) We are dealing with a primarily political crisis that has been presented by career politicians as an economic one. What the economist Yanis Varoufakis (Minister of Finance) managed to do was to reinsert the economic into the political and show that the economic is political, exposing thus the cloud of obfuscation that has been presented as objectivity by the Great Financial Powers.
3) The Greek crisis has exposed the deep hypocrisy of the Great Financial Powers, especially of Germany. As Thomas Piketty mentioned recently "Europe was founded on debt forgiveness and investment in the future." This is especially true in the case of Germany, a country that has kept debt forgiveness and investment in the future as a privilege for herself. As Piketty reminds us all, Germany has never paid off any of her debts, and this is true of her debt to Greece for the forced loans that the Nazi occupation forces extracted from Greece in order to finance both the occupation of the country and Rommel's Afrika Korps. This is different from any monies owed to Greece from Germany as war reparations. Corrupt and weak Greek politicians co-signed the London Agreement in 1953, agreeing on a 50 percent haircut on the German reparations debt, but Germany has refused steadfastly to pay back the debt from the forced loans (currently calculated at 11 billion EUR). And these are not debts stemming from the temporary illusion of affluence (that the EU and the developed world have experienced over the past 30 years of Reaganomics and Thatcherism). No, these are debts that derive from the murderous desires of Germany that brought the world to a standstill twice in the 20th century and had casualties of over 60 million people.
4) The crisis has also exposed the very superficial understanding of democracy that "Europe" and the European Powers have, an understanding that they keep touting as the fundamental value of the Union, while violating it daily. The interventions by European leaders (and semi-leaders) in the referendum procedure, announcing sanctions against the country in the event that the referendum would yield a "NO" vote, is only one of the examples of this tentative and fragile commitment to democracy. Another example was the persistent demand by the lenders that Yanis Varoufakis resign before any talks could resume, or the blatant position taken by a conservative senior German official that the talks would not resume while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras remained in power.
It is repeatedly claimed that the reason why the deliberations between the lenders and the Greek government have failed is because Greece has refused to implement a number of reforms that the lenders deem indispensable, even though they have brutal effects on the population. Counter-reforms that have been proposed by the Greek government, such as taxing incomes over 500,000 EUR at 12 percent, have been refused by the lenders.
Two days before the referendum took place, the IMF published an internal report from 2010 that argues that the Greek debt is unsustainable, admitting thus that the Fund and its European partners had known all along that the austerity measures demanded of Greece would never produce the surplus needed to pay off the debt. Then the obvious question is: If they knew all along, why did they impose the austerity measures? Why did they allow thousands of suicides to take place, why did they let thousands of children faint at school from hunger, why did they allow thousands of small businesses to go bankrupt, and why did they allow thousands of people to become homeless? Is it because they did not want to admit their resounding failure? Or is it because this way they were shielding and protecting their in situ Greek collaborators? And would a combination of the two be able to account for the democratic deficit that Greek citizens have experienced in their encounter with the enlightened West?A little Hegel is a good thing for the Germans to read. In 1821 (an auspicious year both for Hegel in his conservative turn, and for the Greeks, as it marks the beginning of the revolution against the Ottomans) Hegel wrote:
"When the standard of living of a large mass of people falls below a certain subsistence level -- a level regulated automatically as the one necessary for a member of society -- and when there is a consequent loss of the sense of right and wrong, of honesty and the self-respect which makes a man insist on maintaining himself by his own work and effort, the result is the creation of a rabble of paupers. At the same time this brings with it, at the other end of the social scale, conditions which greatly facilitate the concentration of disproportionate wealth in a few hands." (Outlines of the Philosophy of Right, par. 244)
The Greek referendum has come, but is in no way gone, and it has yielded what almost everyone in the world knows by now: a landslide victory for the proponents of "NO," for all those citizens who for five years have felt disenfranchised, cajoled, manipulated, coerced, beaten, sprayed with chemicals. For all those citizens whose children have been forced to migrate, for all those pensioners who have seen their pensions (formed by monetary contributions that they had been making every single one of their working years) diminished to the point where they cannot sustain even their most basic needs: rent, utilities, food, medicines.
No one knows what the next few days will yield. No one knows if the European lenders will err on the side of humanity or will stay on the side of insanity. What is happening in Greece is a crime perpetrated by corrupt local politicians of the previous governments and a greedy and ruthless international financial elite that have no qualms to engage in collective punishment of a population that has done nothing more and nothing less than most other populations around the globe have done: it believed in the promise of a capitalist paradise that turned out to be an unimaginable nightmare.
This post originally appeared on HuffPost Greece.