Gordon G Hall
Writer and Neo-Philhellene

Articles about Greece
The Illusion of a Rebellion

In 2015 the people of Greece voted decisively in a referendum. What that referendum was about is, and was, a little unclear. Ostensibly it related to an EU proposal for further bailout funds in return for greater austerity, however there were those ‘Scaremongers’ who hyped it up as a vote for staying in or leaving the Euro. In fact the EU had already withdrawn the paper that was voted on so the referendum was about that in name only. What it came down to was a feeling rather than anything else, a matter of personal and national pride amongst a people who had had enough of being ordered around by the despised Troika. The vote was really about ‘are the Greek people prepared to continue to be pushed around by the EU’. The result was of course a decisive ‘Oxi’ (No).

The word Oxi has a huge significance in the Greek psyche. In 1940 the Greek Prime Minister, Ioannis Metaxas, refused an ultimatum from Mussolini to allow Italian forces to occupy parts of Greece. This resulted in a bitter winter war in the mountains of North West Greece and Albania, which, against all odds, was decisively won by the much smaller, and less well equipped Greek military. To bravely say ‘No’ against such overwhelming superior force is a matter of much pride as Greece celebrates ‘Oxi Day’ on the 28th October each year.

Would it were that the events of 5th July 2015 could be reported in the same vein. The sad result was that within two weeks of the referendum the Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, had totally ignored the expressed wish of the people of Greece and had signed a paper agreeing to a programme of the greatest austerity. Prior to the referendum stringent capital controls had been imposed along with a strict cash withdrawal limit (which is still in force). In the face of threats from the EU to impose further measures that would close down the banking system Tsipras capitulated. He said ‘Nai’ (Yes).

We will never know what would have happened if Tsipras had carried out the wishes of 62% of Greeks. I doubt if the EU would have forced 12 million people into starvation (mind you, historically, Germany has ‘form’ in so doing) and it is unlikely that Greece would have been expelled from the Euro, not least because there is no legal mechanism for so doing! However I will not deny that the risk was great and the future looked very uncertain. But then so it did in 1940.

When Syriza made its bid for power in the election of January 2015 many Greeks whose natural constituency was well to the right of that party voted for this new left wing consortium because it seemed to offer some hope. Hope of a change in the order of things. Hope that the corruption and nepotism of the old parties would be eliminated. Hope that austerity could be eased. And above all hope that the stagnation of the past five years could be alleviated. From the moment Tsipras signed that paper all such hope evaporated. And what was worse the national moment of renewed self-worth that had touched every Greek heart by voting Oxi had been betrayed. Politics was just ‘business as usual’ and it did not matter a damn which party was in power, the attitude and the result would be the same.

Thus it is that I would suggest a new date for the Greek calandar, celebrated in an appropriate fashion it will serve to remind us all of what might have been. Henceforth every 5th July should be known as “Nai Himera” – ‘Yes Day’.


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