Sunday’s referendum results in greece, a “no” to the austerity measures proposed by the Eurogroup responsible for negotiating the country’s debt payments, testify to a sentiment among most of indignation and refusal of a politics that has reduced over the last seven years the greater part of the population to socio-economic precariousness and/or misery. Yet sadly, little changes with the referendum, because for the Syriza government it was but an instrument for bringing further pressure to bear on eurozone governments and thus strengthen the country’s negotiating position. It had nothing to do with expressing “popular” power or direct democracy. And thus our inability to share for example Michael Löwy’s contention that the referendum was a moment of historical significance in which democracy itself was at stake. Or that in the referendum, to cite another example, that democracy triumphed over fear. (Periodico Diagonal 07/07/2015) What kind of democracy is this that uses the vote of a people as a mere means, a bargaining chip, in a negotiation in which those same people have no say? What is democratic about a people being so instrumentalised for a goal which remains fundamentally unchanged since the election of the Syriza government, namely, establishing “fairer” conditions for the repayment of a debt that is itself unfair? Syriza, through all of this effort, can in no way be described as pursuing an anti-capitalist politics and continues to give no indication that that is what it ultimately aspires to. Tsipras, before the european parliament and three days after the referendum, could find nothing better to say than, “We want to find an honourable compromise to avoid a rupture with the european tradition. … I am convinced that in two or three days, we will be able to honour our obligations.” (Le Monde 08/07/2015)
This makes comprehensible perhaps the campaign of some anarchist groups in greece for a referendum boycott. More importantly though, at this moment, is the unpredictability of the consequences of this vote. And however much Tsipras’ government hopes to use the referendum for its own purposes, it may eventually come to naught and open up other, unintended, possibilities: possibilities that point towards a more generalised autonomous self-management of social life, the very promise of the occupation of Syntagma and other squares of greece’s cities in 2011.
We share below a statement from the Thessaloniki Anti-Authoritarian Movement (01/07/2015), issued before the referendum, but still pertinent …
Referendum on an outdated question but in front of a clear responsibility
Our society is called today to handle an exceptionally critical situation. Governing institutions can no longer present solutions to a crisis that like a cancer is destroying the social net, while it is becoming clear that the survival of the system can be achieved only through sacrificing society itself. The situation created by the international financial capital and the state institutions that reinforce it is leading us with accelerated rhythm to the imposition of a continuous fascism while the state of exception has now become the normal state of the new governance.
Greece is of course included in this experiment. Following the contemptuous offer of the institutions, the government of Syriza decided to conduct a referendum «as a way to continuing the negotiation through different means». This proves of course without any doubt the failure of reaching «an honorable compromise» which was noisily touted as the best solution until recently. Following into the steps of the Thatcherite dogma “there is no alternative”, this imposition of the terms of “realism” leads to social passivity and an attempt to enslave life itself. This “realism” of continuous impoverishment, of unemployment, of no hope, of the definite abandonment of any possibility to achieve happiness, of war and of repression is very far from our own sense of logic. Society needs not only to see what is behind the closed doors of the decision-making chamber but also to move to break them.
The dissolution of capitalist promises, the inability to create a narrative that gives some prospects to the system, the civil wars that start with amazing ease and redraw borders and the agreements built on international conventions after the war lead to the same conclusion: the state can no longer determine the rules governing our lives. It is this state that Syriza wants to manage today. Syriza, however, wants to do this using all those ideas dominating until recently which led to the collapse of the system that nurtured them. Syriza has not attempted to destroy the ideology of progress, it preserved entirely the idea of growth, it continues to talk about the productive reconstruction of the country, leading to a situation that can have very doubtful results.
The referendum proposed by Syriza has no relation to the principles of direct democracy because they intend to use it as an instrument of applying pressure on the European directorate. The proposed referendum does not foresee opinion exchange, discussion and argumentation with the participation of society; instead, as it is promulgated by the governing power, it sets the question according to its own ideas seeking in the end a new agreement for the content of which society plays no role.
We need today a renewal of our devotion to the values of a different policy for social construction using direct democracy, self organization and continuous own institution building that will destroy the concept «there is no alternative» and obeying blindly to an endless and mindless idea of economy. New productive reconstruction can not be based on the idea of growth but on the full and absolute negation of the model of capitalist reconstruction and be based on self management, cooperative structures and the possibility for people to determine their own lives. We do not care about the currency that will be part of a national reawakening and we can not support of course a currency that is part of the financial intrusion into every aspect of our lives. We prefer to think of the currency in its normal dimension as an instrument for exchange with its main function being social needs and facilities.
Since we are part of the movement for a real social break with the internationalized financial dictatorship (which negates any idea of politics in order to put in its place the management of monetary quantities as the main social relationship), we owe it to ourselves to participate in the search for ways that lead to such a break.
Today, under current conditions and in real time, we can not remain indifferent in front of the polarization that is taking place in view of the referendum.
On the one side the YES vote is the definite entrapment to the rules and regulations of the directorate fixing a long term enslavement to a scared and defeated society, which will be soon asked to carry the weight of its own humiliation setting it as a a new regularity. On the other hand, the NO vote is limited in every possible way by the government to the terms of a new agreement, examples of which are included already in the 47 pages document, while referring at the same time to the easily digested and used in every occasion sense of patriotic duty.
Such a polarization, however, has already surpassed the calculations and the intentions of the government, and consequently the question itself of the referendum. This total attack coming from the directorate abroad and also from the system of the willing using the media as a battering ram, changed the terms of the question to the more radical YES or NO to the EU and the Euro. All actions leading to economic asphyxiation were taken using threats and ultimatums of public economic adjustment.
The effort by the SYRIZA government to combine social needs with the strong forces of money has now reached its limits, showing clearly that «two watermelons can not fit under the same armpit» as we say in Greek. One can not step on two different boats, as SYRIZA used to do all those years when it was in the opposition.
On Sunday, no matter what the result will be and assuming they will stay with the question, the vote of NO is not easily managed by those who undertook to support it and it may easily overcome the calculations and the intentions of the government. The fact that it uses the NO vote and includes it in the terms of its negotiation with the directorate shows the great difficulty of managing the NO vote.
The ensuing polarization opens roads of liberation and establishment of a social dynamic which has not been foreseen but which can bring forward in multiple ways the possibilities afforded by the social movements of recent years. These movements were suffocating until now or were taking a back step in front of the dynamic of representation, of assignment and of hope. This is the opportunity that is now presented to movements to take part in the battle not only symbolically but also substantially, carrying autonomously and without bosses the weight and the responsibility of the war against the totalitarianism of money, which for bosses does not just represent commercial value, but is considered the equivalent to human relations and to life itself.
We can not remain aloof or be neutral in front of this possibility afforded to movements which comes from polarization since we have been, we are and will be in real time there where what is free, public and social goes against the market and the state.