From the Trenches: Greece Says OXI to Austerity

“From the Trenches” is battle cry. In a globalized world that criminalizes the rebellious in spirit, it’s easy to forget that change-minded activists and organizers are tallying up tiny victories against sociocultural and economic oppression on the regular. The column will serve as a weekly reminder that we not only can win, but we do, often. So, hasta la victoria siempre, and all that.

The theme of this column is meant to be “small victories”—the smorgasbord of actions people against economic, political and sociocultural tyranny and oppression, the tiny steps we take as a species each day that bring us closer, if only by incrementally, to building a new world in the shell of this haggard jalopy we’ve inherited from the inevitably whiter, wealthier masters of the past (and present).

And not to be a total downer, but we both know that often, the shuffle toward big victories is so slow, so incremental, that progress is impossible to perceive from close up. I hope this column will serve as a reminder that by simply acting, us lumpens rupture the status quo, a win in itself—even if we’re not feasting on the charred entrails of capitalism just yet.

But sometimes the universe does us mortals a solid and lets us win an unexpected victory that actually seems, well, significant. Almost like a big victory.

As you’ve likely heard by now, Greece has been partying its perky Mediterranean ass off since voting oxi, no, to a bailout deal proposed by the country’s European creditors. The deal, which tied the prospect of a bailout to further austerity measures, went down in Athens-circa-2008-style flames by a surprise 61 to 39 percent margin.

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, one of the leftwing Syriza government’s more radical voices who stepped down after the results were in, said in his resignation statement: “I shall wear the creditors’ loathing with pride.”

That most of the voting public has decided to give the Troika a big fat “fuck youshouldn’t shock anyone who’s been following the slash-and-burn aftermath of austerity in Greece, or the Global South before her. Using cuts to public spending (which stimulates an economy, for the record) to “make an economy scream” and turn crisis into a tool of political manipulation is the oldest trick in the neoliberal playbook. What is shocking is that Greece had the moxie to say no in the face of what ROAR’s Jerome Roos calls a “terror campaign waged by EU officials and the Greek opposition.”

Embarrassingly, it has taken an act of defiance on the part of a peacetime, so-called developed nation (i.e. one that on paper should not be experiencing a crisis) to frighten the West into at least partial capitulation to a debtor nation’s demands for sovereignty.

Greece—not just the left but the majority of the country—speaks for us all when it says we’ve had enough.

The repercussions of the vote are still unclear. No one is sure what comes next. Greece’s leftwing Syriza government has agreed to try to hash out a deal with the Eurozone by Sunday, with Germany beating a war drum and other European nations taking a decidedly more reasonable approach. Will Greece exit the EU, willingly or otherwise? Is a deal that satisfies the needs of the Greek people possible?

An English translation of a statement from the purportedly Greek Libertarian Communists’ Initiative appeared online. To these radicals, the vote is part of a much larger struggle “against the economies of growth” and toward “the [prospect] of a stable economy, of an everyday-life economy, and not an economy which is the pillar of banks, companies or the state itself.”

“For us,” they continue, “a clear NO to the proposals of usurer bankers … is just one step in the struggle for the emancipation of society from the state plans, government operations, legal chicanery and financial mazes.”

We’ll soon know what lies ahead for Greece. But even as the fate of the Greek nation hangs in the balance, the oxi vote itself is the big victory. Because the “no” vote wasn’t simply a rejection of a proposal. It is a mandate for self-determination.

Nyki Salinas-Duda is a Chicagland-based writer and editor who has been a Public Media Institute contributor since 2012. Her work has appeared on ROAR, Chicago Reader, and In These Times, where she was an assistant editor. Salinas-Duda holds a degree in Latin American history from the University of San Francisco. 

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