In a comment on my Facebook wall, geographer Emmanuel Nuesiri brings in an important African perspective on the struggles against austerity in Greece and the choices in the Greek referendum: “It’s amazing to see how the structural adjustment programmes which did much damage in Africa has come full circle to Europe. The Greeks are in for a lot of pain any way they vote. Voting no may be best in the long-term. Best wishes to fellow citizens of planet Earth.”
Emmanuel makes a crucial reference to the story of rapid structural adjustment of the 1980s and 1990s (and in many ways, ongoing still today) in Africa – something people familiar with recent African history know well. Yet, what is so striking looking at this from Europe is that this basic fact has actually not been considered in the discussions – in fact, one struggles to hear it even in circles that are supporting radical change against austerity. The lesson should be clear: there is nothing to gain for people by continuing on the path of austerity.
Greece is key in the global struggle against austerity – and certainly will set the pace of events in the rest of Europe in the short-term. The country has been broken by structural adjustment, and quickly – the situation it now finds in is not so different in terms of methods and effects from the rapid privatisation and social collapse experienced for instance in Zambia in the 1990s.
Despite this, there is a palpable fear that the alternatives will be worst than sticking to the planned ‘death’ proposed by the creditors. It is this fear that the neoliberal regime of technocrats and capitalists are feeding, evoking catastrophic scenarios – as if the current state of affairs is somewhat not ‘catastrophic’ enough.
After the bold move of calling a referendum, let’s hope Tsipras and the Greek government don’t give in to the destructive proposals of the creditors. Let’s also hope that there will be a critical mass in Greece holding them accountable if they betray their mandate, even if out of fear and driven by good intentions.