What Was the Point of the Greek Referendum?

What Was the Point of the Greek Referendum?I remember during the 1988 DNC, there was conflict. Jesse Jackson got almost 30% of the popular vote. Michael Dukakis did not intend to have Jackson be a major part of his campaign. And so there was a meeting between Jackson and Dukakis. And Jackson came out of the meeting talking about how they had had a substantial discussion about important issues. And it was pretty clear that what he got was nothing. He was putting on the best face in a bad and extremely embarrassing situation. I felt bad for him and I was a Dukakis supporter. Wasn’t there any way that all those smart people in the Democratic Party could come up with a better way to support the man that came in a very good second place? (Dukakis only got 42% of the vote.)

But I suspect that the idea among the Democratic elite was to hang Jackson out to dry. This was the proto-Sister Souljah moment. Liberals, it seems, can’t be taken seriously unless they they make a firm commitment to stand up against the black man. Or at least, that seems to be what elite opinion is in the Democratic Party. And now, I’m feeling the same thing about the situation in Greece. The whole thing strikes me as pathetic.

The Greek parliament just voted (narrowly) for Alexis Tsipras’ proposal to give the Troika… exactly what it wants. Oh, yes: there are some very small changes. This is pretty much the deal that Tsipras had wanted to get before the referendum: total capitulation with something — Anything! — he could use to save face. Who knows if the Troika will even give him what he’s asking for now. They seem instead to want him to do a Jesse Jackson: have him come out of a meeting and claim that everything is good because they had a substantial discussion about important issues.

But the whole thing seems bizarre. What Tsipras is pushing seems to be what he would have pushed if he had lost the referendum. Is that what he was expecting? Did he think that he would lose so that he could capitulate and it would be no big deal? Was the huge win last weekend actually a disappointment? Why did Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis resign? It really is looking as though Tsipras and the majority of Syriza are just a bunch of wimps who do not have the strength of their convictions.

And here’s the thing: I understand that doing what Greece is now doing is the least painful thing to do for the immediate future. But that’s the point! Yes, Greece can make another deal and limp along for another couple of years. If they are very lucky, they might get the unemployment rate down to the high teens. But more likely, they get the unemployment rate down one point or two — still in the mid-twenties. And yet they will still be just as indebted as they have been — maybe more so. There isn’t a time when the Troika says, “You’ve suffered enough! Now we’ll let your economy heal!” That’s not going to happen. It’s just going to be years and year and years of pain.

I think the whole world should be afraid of this. Right now I’m wondering that if a true leftist party like Syriza is so easily co-opted by the Troika, maybe it will take a far right party to get Greece out of this mess. And if I’m wondering that, you’ve got to be certain that a lot of Greeks are wondering the same thing. The current situation has got to have been the best thing that ever happened to Golden Dawn.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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