The Greek Tragedy: Is Democracy Disposable?
The referendum that was. Or wasn't?
It is now eminently clear that the post referendum statement by the former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, terming NO as the “victory of Democracy”, was too nai?ve and too soon. The dreamers like him and many others including this writer, expected that the financial oligarchs and Banking Czars would bow down to the democratic verdict and propose to Greeks more respectable terms.
On the contrary, they made their contempt for democracy and sovereignty quite clear when on the next day Yanis was back to being Prof. Yanis Varoufakis. Very clearly, TROKA wanted to return the favour by showing Greeks their place. Possibly the punishment meted out to Yanis was for spilling the bean. It seems when Yanis broached possibility of a referendum in close door TROIKA meeting, wise men in the meeting felt it imprudent to seek referendum on such complex issues of statecraft from the common electorate with average intellect , who by no mean were Ivy league graduates or financial wizards or globe trotting bankers.
Once the Greek government blinked the rest followed like a rampaging tornado which virtually destroyed any moral ascendancy and a semblance of self respect the Greek citizenry had won through the referendum. Also gone was the militant posture and high moral high ground SYRIZA had been touting for the last five years in Greek domestic politics.
SYRIZA needs to own the blame. Why go the referendum way at all, if they did not have any plan B? True to their pre election anti Austerity platform, they should have simply stepped down once they realised that, Austerity measures were inevitable. It is difficult not to believe that, in reality, they were expecting the referendum to go YES way as the all the centrist parties were pitching for. Easy, as their capitulation to TROIKA would have acquired a veneer of democratic compulsions, keeping the radical public posture intact.
Today, the left premonition acquires credence that SYRIZA is neither adequately left to muster that kind of moral and ideological courage nor had grass root organisation and mass support to pull through with tough economic times with alternate road map.
The passage of the TROIKA package by 229 votes in favour, in the 300-seat chamber with (38 SYRIZA MPs abstaining, not even voting against) shows that SYRIZA has abdicated their Anti Austerity platform to remain in power. This only bears testimony to the new trend in 21st century politics. A new political outfit led by charismatic leadership devoid of any political baggage, arrives on the scene with a promise of alternative politics and acquires adequate legitimacy with skilful brand management. Electorate tired of existing centrist formations puts them in power. But when push comes to shove, they retreat into already narrowed centrist space. An important lesson for all democracy loving folks world over.
Winston Churchill will pardon me for this small plagiarism. Let us realise that, this is not the end but the beginning of the end. In June last year, US Supreme Court ruled against Argentina, a sovereign nation state, in favour of few private few deep- pocketed Wall Street hedge funds whom the Argentinean president termed as vultures. Prior to approaching courts, the thuggish hedge funds tried all sorts of tricks like, seizing the presidential plane (2007), impounding naval training vessel (2012) and blocking Argentina from launching a pair of satellites (2014).
Such is the audacity of private finance that has the might to occasionally drag a sovereign government into the courts and win the case. This time the same finance lobby has used the Greek tragedy as an example for those dissenting voices among the bigger EU partners and sovereign states like Spain, Portugal and even France.
And the aggression will continue in other forums as well. Since the Doha round,the United States is uncomfortable with the Democratic nature of the WTO. With one country one vote, it is unable to bulldoze its hegemonistic agenda in the global trade system. Hence increasingly it is resorting to forging trade blocks like Trans Pacific Trade Agreement (TPP) a US-led initiative of 12 member countries who account for approximately 40% of the global GDP. What is anti democratic in such a trade block arrangement is the incorporation of the ominous Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause which is an instrument of public international law, that grants an investor (read MNCs) the right to use dispute settlement proceedings against a foreign government.
Foreign investors can use these power to challenge anything that affects their bottom line—from requirements that cigarettes be sold in plain packaging ( Australia vs. Global Tobacco lobby ) to increases in the minimum wage. This seriously constrains governments’ ability to remain “sovereign”, and be accountable to its populace and take measures for their welfare.
The international trade and finance lobby has become so blatant that now even those sceptics, who always thought, all this is like crying wolf seem realise that, the project of Globalisation in the post WTO period is not about free trade and prosperity for all, but is about establishing an oppressive hegemony of Global trade and finance
Historical travesty that all this happens right in the 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta, which in 1215 AD ushered in, ideas of freedom and liberty by limiting the powers of British Monarch.