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What seemed from outside Greece to be a gamble by Prime Minister Tsipras has paid off. Perhaps he was in a better position to read the greek coffee grounds than us. Perhaps he was looking forward, following a dream. To dream a conscious, waking dream is a powerful thing for it can connect us to our genius which few dare to realise by breaking that scary ceiling of self-limitation.
The papers are full of Asian markets tumbling, previous victims of eurozone bullying experiencing a rise in their markets, how far will other markets fall this morning? Finance Minister Varoufakis resigning… talk of what now? Will the ECB honour its responsibility to maintain liquidity in member states and Greek banks be able to open tomorrow? What will Merkel and Hollande cook up for dinner this evening? Will the Troika come back to the table in the face of such humiliation at the hands of the Greek people? Will there be Grexit?
All of these are the ripples generated by the first explosion of people power ever to happen in Europe hitting the sides of protagonists’ and observers’ mental birdcages and bouncing back with dizzying interference patterns in their conventional heads. In this, the most sane and well-informed commentator, Paul Mason is right. This is people power at last in Europe.
The Greeks are not dizzy, nor are Tsipras or Yaroufakis, whose resignation was probably planned well in advance. Everyone probably has an almighty hangover from last night, celebrating or in late-night meetings. I believe, when heads stop swimming and they finally wake up to it, the leaders of the Troika and of those member governments who have conspired to frighten Greeks into further submission, will realise they have been outmanoeuvred by a mind freer than their own.
They will don their suits this morning, seeking to reassert their reality and may well be troublesome in the coming days. There will be posturing galore, but before too long they will realise they have been exposed, caught with their pants down enacting the tired manipulative drama that they perpetrated upon Cyprus, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. Perhaps they forgot that we Greeks did not just invent democracy, we invented drama in Europe, tragedy and comedy, and we know how to play it, leading actors, masks, giant gestures, chorus and all.
The first priority is to restore liquidity to the Greek banking system, and I pray that the ECB are driven by their duty to support that system this week rather than by the shady backroom politicising that has characterised most of the EU institutions in the last couple of weeks. Then Greeks can get on with business. On with the business of rebuilding a state stripped of its dignity and assets, its safety nets and vital services by a cold calculating cadre of spread-sheet worshipping suits.
Syriza was partly born out of the streets of Greek cities. The solidarity movement emerged as a natural response to the suffering of individuals who lost their jobs, their homes and family members. Citizen-run health clinics, food centres, kitchens and legal aid hubs demonstrated the will and resilience of ordinary Greeks, and were fundamental to much of Syriza’s electoral support. This is what the Troika was up against, and perhaps recalling the tactics of the fascist Golden Dawn in the penultimate elections to both charm and intimidate the elderly voters, the Troika underestimated the depth of feeling and capacity to suffer for a cause of pensioners, especially those old women in grey and black shouting their defiance at startled media cameras, those beautiful irrepressible Greek chorus women.
Syriza has made the first brilliant move in the resignation of Yaroufakis. Sacrificing a bishop so early in the game. He takes with him the harsh ‘bad cop’ style that the intransigence of the ‘other side’ has forced upon these negotiations and his accusation of terrorism by the Troika. But he wears his words and actions as a badge of pride. Tsipras, his negotiators and his next finance minister will now present charming compliant faces across the negotiating tables. While carrying the strength and legitimacy of a 61% NO vote in their breast pockets they will be reasonable, they will remind the IMF of the report their own boffins have made on the economic realities that must be faced. If Greece is to grow out of recession into a viable economic condition there has to be a period of grace for debt repayment. The IMF itself has suggested no further payments for 20 years. The debt must be restructured, and the default paid from the profits held by the creditors. There may in time even be an agreement for a Europe-wide debt conference to wipe out some of their debts from which the economies of Cyprus, Ireland, Portugal and Spain will benefit as well as Greece.
I don’t want to creep my British readers out, but we Greeks have a certain set of social skills, a trade secret I am going to let you in on if you hadn’t noticed it. As a strange waiter my father employed used to say having charmed a table into a satisfied state “I wear them one hat” which was a reference to our ability to be genuinely warm, hospitable, engaging to our customers, which is all of you, for we have ever been merchants, shopkeepers, restaurateurs, while at the same time we might be getting away with something, nothing bad or harmful, just a small deception.
In my father’s case it was often his response to a ridiculous request for some obscure little brandy like Bernard Begaud Cognac which the customer in his flush of self-important folly would probably not be able to afford, and my father, quite deaf in one ear, would immediately smile engagingly, wink and indicate the back room behind the bar to which he would retire and measure one sixth of a gill of some ordinary Martell or Hennessy, presenting it personally with ceremony in a brandy bubble, nicely warmed, to the delight of the deluded idiot but valued customer. He “wore the hat” his customer wanted and there was satisfaction all round, and a considerable addition to the bill.
In my own various careers I personally treated customers much better than this because I have always carried more innate guilt than my father, and I am not recommending this behaviour, but let me ask you, do you really think that Greeks go around smashing plates or being charming 24/7? A Greek restaurant is as much a theatre as the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus in Athens. My extended point is, so is a negotiating table. Indulge me. I’m Greek. I’m charming and I make the best dolmades in the south of England.
Behind all this is an agenda quite un-machiavellian in its purpose if somewhat astute in its unfolding. I am not saying that Tsipras’ government has been consciously plotting regime change in Europe, but the thought, the dream, the challenge to the attempted Greek regime-change by the Troika’s dirty tricks, must have been an undercurrent to the creditors’ machinations. I refer of course to such ploys as refusing to take the profit on the payments Greece had already made from the credit column and wipe out last week’s overdue payment as Varoufakis suggested; to the ECB cutting off the banks unnecessarily just before the referendum, alongside condemnations and verbal propaganda from various leaders in an attempt to dishearten the people.
I do not believe the EU leaders’ fear was the fear that they might have to pay for Greece’s debt. That debt today stands at about €318 Billion, €318,503,013,000, whereas the total debt owed by all 28 states is €12,304,920,000,000, or €12 Trillion. Greece’s debt is a tiny fraction of that. I believe it’s something like 3% but my calculator doesn’t go that high. The fear was the political fear, as many commentators have pointed out, that public triumph by a ‘far-left’ government, backed solidly by its people would bring into question the distances between peoples of other EU nations and their governments, in wealth, in aspirations and in values based upon people and planet not profit.
Now it has happened. I am quite sure that there are firstly few Cypriots, Irish, Portuguese and Spanish who are not thinking “We were robbed. Our deal stank, but we thought it was the best we could get”. True the negotiations between Greece and her creditors are not yet reengaged but I suspect that with Varoufakis having a quiet celebratory drink behind the sofa the new team will manage to get a good deal, much better than the rubbish that 61% of Greeks have just said ‘no’ to.
So this is a first step, to be followed by a possible debt conference and substantial debt write-offs. What is the next step? Greece will only come out of recession by ditching austerity as quickly as possible. The tourist industry can still flourish as can agriculture and pharmaceuticals. The economy will quickly bounce back and prove the sane economists, including the IMF back-room girls and boys, right. Austerity does not work. I feel as I write this I am writing a truism because plenty of British subjects are today thinking how do we stop Osborne and Cameron from this largely un-mandated austerity drive?
So don’t believe the negativity that is emerging from the suits at the ECB, the EU Council and the IMF. The trousers are off, the Troika’s wrinkled and smelly bum is exposed, as is the government of the UK, and Podemos will rise as will movements in Portugal, Ireland and others.
It won’t stop there. Think of all the petitions you have signed: against fracking, the TTIP, TPP and similar ‘trade deals’, the exploitation of oil-tar sands destroying the Arctic, the deforestation for Palm Oil, the lack of housing development and a growth economy, but not just of capital which no-one can eat while the rich gorge off it, the green economy, the proliferation of sustainable forms of energy and the development of small, local initiatives to take possession of infrastructure, build intentional communities with control over their ecologies, water, land, energy and food production. Above all I hope that Greece will release a flood of sanity in human endeavour. I see no reason why not.
Last night was a gift to the world, one that you do not have to beware of.