Can Europe Make It?

“We have already voted NO”

Personally it took me a while to feel more hopeful about this referendum and to overcome my own anxieties and fear.

Andreas Chatzidakis
4 July 2015
Doctors and hospital staff protest against closing hospitals and lay-offs, 2013.

Doctors and hospital staff protest against closing hospitals and lay-offs, 2013. Demotix/Thanashs Kambyshs. All rights reserved.Various articles have been written in the last few days over why Greeks should vote No. The restoration of hope and dignity are of course topping the agenda, as my friends Antonis Vradis and Hara Kouki explain in this platform and elsewhere. But I would argue there is another, less obvious reason why we should vote No.

We have already voted No. Since 2009, we have been facing brutal neoliberal reforms and yet we resisted becoming neoliberal subjects. We refused to judge people by their falling spending power and commodity value. We came together in local assemblies and public squares, formed solidarity trading networks and alternative economies as well as self-managed health centres, education centres and time banks that catered for all - independent of class, race, age and gender. It was all about solidarity across difference and distance, the struggle to retain human dignity, and our collective capacity to overcome fear.

This is why in a sense, we have already voted No. We are simply called to deliver at a more structural, macro-economic level what we have already delivered at the micro-level of everyday life and social struggles. We have to say NO before our solidarity structures fail, before we become subaltern in an increasingly dystopian Europe.

Personally it took me a while to feel more hopeful about this referendum and to overcome my own anxieties and fear. Contrary to Antonis Vradis’ article I thought this was a lose-lose scenario for Syriza and by and large, for the Greek antagonist movement too. I could not see how a No could take on the ‘market’ or the ‘criminal gang-in-suits’ in the streets of Brussels. I was afraid that a No would only serve to remove responsibility away from the elites of Europe and onto our shoulders, the corrupt, lazy and irrational subjects that lacked “adult-like” qualities as Christine Lagarde recently put it. 

Put differently, a No could be the final jigsaw piece in a prevailing quasi-Orientalist narrative that portrays Greeks as morally inferior subjects worthy of their own fate. This is after all what many of our Northern Europeans neighbours still believe. As far as this narrative goes, a narrative that foregrounds individual “choice” and blameworthiness, we are now asked to decide ourselves whether we want to leave Europe. It is not about the socio-historic conditions of our existence, conditions that have largely been imposed in Brussels.

I am now less pessimistic, not least because the terms of the debate have started shifting. The IMF, for instance, is now accepting (at least) some responsibility, its own “childishness” and “irrationality” in this ongoing political drama. No matter the outcome, this seems to be a critical juncture capable of bringing about radical upheavals. It is time to say NO via this voting platform too.   

Is Britain breaking up?

With Scotland voting on Thursday in an election that could lead to a second independence referendum and increased talk of a 'border poll' in Northern Ireland, could the United Kingdom be on the verge of breaking up? And why? Where does England fit in this story?

Join us for this free live discussion at 5pm UK time, 6 May

Hear from a panel of experts from across Britain's political divides about the union's past, present and future:

  • Sarah Creighton Writer and lawyer from Belfast
  • Matthew O'Toole Social Democratic and Labour Party MLA for South Belfast
  • Adam Ramsay openDemocracy main site editor
  • Richard Wyn Jones:Professor of Welsh Politics, Cardiff University
  • Chair: Peter Geoghegan openDemocracy UK investigations editor and author of 'The People's Referendum: Why Scotland Will Never be the Same Again'
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