Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is either very stupid, very smart, or perhaps very frightened. My bet is some combination of the first two, and definitely frightened.
His decision today to submit the European bailout package – a euphemism for suicide to ordinary Greeks who would be crushed by its immense weight – to a referendum of the Greek people is likely a gambit designed to give the embattled PM a viable exit strategy from the death grip of Berlin, while diffusing power of the Greek street. No doubt Papandreou is thinking seriously about the fate of previous rulers of Greece, who were unseated by smaller demonstrations than the ones which marched through Athens last week. Such mass action brought his father to power, and could as well usher him into a prison cell. He must also be thinking about the fate of his eponymous grandfather, deposed by Greece’s last king, and imprisoned by a military dictatorship. The European right wing is musing about a new military Junta for Greece that could “push through reforms.” The choice is clear: democracy, or the bankers.
The question is already being framed, or rather befogged, by the Greek government, with the help of the Guardian, which writes,
“The Greek finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, said the popular vote – the second to be held since democracy was restored to the country after the collapse of military rule in 1974 – would ultimately boil down to two choices. “Do Greeks want to remain in Europe, with the euro, in a country that belongs to the developed world, or do they want to return to the 60s? Do they think it is good to owe €100bn to the banks or do they not think it is good to live with such debt?””
Perhaps because the Greek people didn’t rack up the debt, they think they should not have to pay for it! Their charlatan government offers them a false choice.
Iceland told the bondholders where to put their busy hands. Are Icelanders starving? Not at all. Even Bloomberg’s wire service admits that Iceland did the right thing!
With that affirmation, with that democratic act of disobedience akin to the one which began human history in the Greek myth of Prometheus, a new democracy is now being born. Iceland is re-writing a brand new constitution, crafted by the people themselves, a marvel of democracy. Iceland had a choice, become the “Cuba of the north” by defaulting, or the “Haiti of the north” by agreeing to pay odious debts. Anyone who doubts the rightness of the choice should look up the Charles X Ransom.
The horror with which the European governments and the EU bureaucracy regard the democratic rights of the Greeks – who gave democracy to the world – is revealing. Their palpable fear and loathing is transmitted through the framing of the story.
From the Guardian:
“Sony Kapoor, managing director of Re-Define, an economic thinktank, said: “With the scale of adjustment being asked of Greek citizens, a referendum would be good for democracy and legitimacy, but it’s very hard to see how it can possibly be won.””
That’s right. “Democracy and legitimacy” are hesitantly endorsed, but only insofar as they confer “legitimacy” to decisions already taken, and which are actually opposed by at least 60% of Greeks. The tone suggests that democracy is in the way.
Greece is called once again to show the world that democracy is the way.