Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou’s decision to take the latest agreement on the Greek debt, achieved in Brussels last week, to a referendum and the consequent negative reactions by the markets along with many European politicians reveals the gap not only between the living reality in Athens and Berlin or Paris, but also between democracy and the markets. The Greek government is striving to balance between unpopular decision-making caused from the lack of confidence to the euro by the markets on the one hand and the lack of confidence by the very deprived and disenchanted people these policies are producing, on the other. The unprecedented events of the 28th of October when practically the whole of the country stood up against austerity policies turning the celebrations of the National day of resistance to second world war fascism, into anti-governmental protests, seem to have worked as a catalyst. The Troika policies that are being exercised in the country for the past two years and which have brought misery to millions of Greeks can no longer be sustained in an environment of a deep legitimacy crisis of the political system that is called to implement them. Democratic methods are considered to be a risk to financial stability and the prospect of growth, but can the markets really function without them? Greece has come to the point where it can no longer do otherwise but address the problem with politics. As philosopher Slavoj Zizek recently argued, the political field is opening through the actions of social movements all over the world; and Greece is becoming today Europe’s threshold to the political phase of the crisis.
Financial analysts predicted as early as last Thursday that once again Europe would not escape its woes as it came about another agreement to strengthen the EFSF and cut the Greek debt by half due to the political diffidence of its political class. Europe is buying time in order to avoid what seems to be unavoidable. But contradictions between the ruling elites and the reality in the country seem to accelerate the events. In one of the most Europhilic countries of the continent (if not the most), the EU is seen now as an authoritative force dictating undemocratic decisions. Even two years after the first memorandum and while 60% of the public rejects the current agreement on the Greek debt, 70% of the population believes that the country’s future is within the euro, according to a recent opinion poll. Papandreou’s dilemma expressed in the referendum is going to be blackmail with the purpose to force the consent of the people to the unpopular, neoliberal policies. He is acting as an agent of these policies and not as an opponent. When the Greeks say that they do want the euro but not the agreement, it is like if they’re saying: “we want another Europe”. Papandreou’s dilemma then is trying to narrow down perceptions in something like: “This cynical, offensive, undemocratic and unjust Europe is all there is. Take it or leave it”. The choice the Greeks will eventually come up with in this blackmail will be important for both parties. And in order to give a positive answer to the real question, that of a United and prosperus Europe the Greeks have to say -with one way or another- once again, “No”.