Known as the cradle of western democracy, Greece, today more than ever, gave the world a glimpse of what real democracy looks like, delivering a blow to the global neoliberal agenda with a whooping 61 percent of voters saying ‘No’ to harsh austerity measures demanded by EU and IMF lenders in exchange for more bailout loans.
The EU and IMF creditors, who did not receive a payment of some €1.6 billion due on June 30, had demanded that Greece further tighten the grip on several social lifelines by cutting pensions, healthcare services, education, and by increasing taxes on the poor. Much to his credit, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras left the decision up to Greek voters, instead of capitulating to the draconian demands. His bold move was highly discouraged by top banking officials and European leaders, who warned that the referendum would herald the exit of Greece from the Eurozone, and prevent the Mediterranean nation from gaining more credits needed to save its collapsed economy.
While today’s referendum on austerity bailout measures was hugely significant to the Greek people, its significance to the world was even bigger, as it provided a model to follow by countless nations whose struggling economies have fallen pray to similar “bailout” packages and harsh economic conditions.
The dramatic events unfolding in Greece represent an indictment not on the Greek government’s ability to pay its creditors, as the banks would have us believe, but on the global neoliberal agenda, which will always seek to impose irrational economic demands to further advance its savage brand of capitalism. Such agenda would have people the world over believe that in order to survive, nations must sacrifice their peoples’ safety nets – pensions, education, healthcare, salaries, labor protections, and other life-sustaining programs and services – to create friendly business environments that welcome investment and create prosperity. But today, 61 percent of Greek voters told EU and IMF creditors, and the entire world, that there is another way.
While it is hard to predict precisely what the immediate future holds for Greece, it is safe to assume the audacity of practicing real democracy will be harshly punished. Fear not! The neoliberal agenda, with its banks, wealthy governments, and its vast militaries, is very strong. But the world, today more than ever, stands with the Greek nation, which has given birth to the almighty creature of real democracy, in a way it never had before.