Sunday, July 19, 2015

What if we had voted "YES"?

Pavlos Tsimas

Now that a cycle has run its course and it feels like a whole century has passed since the Sunday of the referendum, I dare ask the sacrilegious question: What would have possibly happened had we voted "YES"? The reality would have barely been any different. On Monday the banks would have been closed. The economy would be melting rapidly. Retirees would melt in queues under the sun. The country and its banks would still need a loan of colossal proportions to remain alive. And the terms for its disbursement would still be tough.

But while the reality wouldn't have changed, the political climate would definitely be different, even if it is impossible to guess how. Perhaps Antonis Samaras wouldn't have quit, poor Varoufakis may have not given his exit papers, the meeting of heads probably wouldn't have happened, the almost unanimous approval of the parliament to negotiate would not have been given. And it would definitely have been harder to politically adjust to this violent crash of reality that Alexis Tsipras so traumatically experienced in Brussels and so honestly described in his interview with Greek Radio-Television and his speech to the Parliament. Because while the shock of colliding with reality would have been just as violent, as he lived it (and as we lived it), there would be many that would say to us: "See what you get for voting 'yes', despondent, fearful fellow citizens? Had you voted 'no', none of this would have happened, the Europeans would have fearfully collapsed in front of our feet and offered us the most excellent agreement, with rivers of money, without terms, without memorandums."

And we would have believed them. Or we would have been consumed by doubt.

Thankfully "NO" won. Call it "the wisdom of the masses," call it "an irony of history" or call it application of the iron law of unintended consequences that usually pervades in the actions of political protagonists. But that "NO" helped write the end of an era of illusion.
  • The illusion that Grexit was a bluff, a terrifying device of memorandum propaganda. Until the prime minister found it on his desk, printed on an official Eurogroup document.
  •  The illusion that we have alternative solutions. Until the prime minister discovered that in action the only alternatives were disorderly, catastrophic bankruptcy or 'the Schäuble alternative': Orderly bankruptcy and an assisted exit from the euro, which would make Greece a nation doubly subordinate to the lenders of the country, since their loans (and hence their even tougher memorandums) would be needed to survive and, moreover, would have it be expelled from all their clubs. It would be a country with heavier obligations, but without any rights.
  • The illusion that the country's bankruptcy had not taken place, that there are hidden funds somewhere, riches, treasures, hydrocarbons, which the "traitors" hide from the people to facilitate allegiance to foreigners. The latest version of this beautiful myth: The idea of "drachma supporters" having invaded the reserves of the Bank of Greece is so self-evidently ludicrous that it finally ridiculed the whole mythological structure [..].
The economic price was heavy, the political price deeply traumatic, but the result can be liberating. A late onset adulthood. Into which, let even his sworn enemies admit it, Alexis Tsipras could lead us. Because, of those illusions of ours, no one could free us but someone who
genuinely shared in them, since, as Marx wrote, no one can create a massive illusion if he himself is not the first victim of it. There remains, of course, the question if it is he who could lead a country traumatically freed of its illusions fully to the catharsis of this drama: overcoming the crisis itself. But that remains to be seen.

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