At first, the new Greek government put up a respectable fight, rejecting the intrusions of the Troika into its administration, and highlighting that now Greece had recovered its sovereignty. Asked to go for more austerity, the Tsipras Government refused and insisted that the only way out of this crisis would include debt restructuring and a loosening of the chains of submission with which the Troika and Berlin had bridled Greece.
The Tsipras Government counted among its members the revolutionary economist Yanis Varoufakis. His was a brilliant voice for the Greek people and their plight. His clear unambiguous rhetoric resonated across Europe. The likes of Spain’s Podemos, France’s Parti de Gauche, and Ireland’s Sinn Féin could now see a glimmer of hope for their ideas. Europe was about to change, believed the European radical left. The chains that the EU had wrapped around the respective European nations were about to be broken, believed the sovereignist right.
How cruel it is to find oneself betrayed! A betrayed soul is thrown into a tornado of emotions where chaos and disbelief reign interminably. Its wound causes it to lose perspective.
After a showdown with the Troika, and a particularly harsh combat with Berlin and its staunch ally Brussels, the Tsipras Government selected the option of a referendum by which the Greek people would choose whether or not they would accept yet another austerity program in exchange for yet another bailout; in other words a continuation of the near usury system that Greece had been subjected to. The moment was historic. Democracy stood up to economic tyranny. The Greek people made their choice, a resounding “No!”
Yanis Varoufakis later recounted the moment when he first met with Tsipras after the referendum. According to his account, far from euphoric was the latter’s mood. Varoufakis resigned. Tsipras refused to continue on the same path. Exhaustion? Change of beliefs? Lust for power? Nobody really knows what happened in Tsipras’ mind. After a long night of negotiations with the other Eurozone leaders, Tsipras capitulated. He has since then given to the Troika and to Berlin more than any other Greek prime minister gave them since the beginning of the country’s crisis.
At first, his communication strategy worked. His soaring rhetoric and his charms had some think that, perhaps, he didn’t have a choice. But the magnitude of the sacrifice has gone beyond what anyone could have ever expected. Today, fourteen Greek airports are being privatized for just a little above one billion euros. The buyer is none other than a German-Greek group. There is no doubt about it, Tsipras started out as an opponent to Germany’s strategy of coercion; and he ended up the governor of a German colony, having himself managed that colony’s final retreat from a short but intense final battle.
Some in his party have finally, and understandably, rebelled against him in what has led to the current elections. It’s better late than never. Now Tsipras hopes to hold power. For that, he would have to make an agreement with the center-right, the center-left, or both. Such an agreement would work against those who now defend his ideas of yesterday. His partners of the past are now his most dangerous political adversaries.
During the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, which opposed France to a strong European alliance, Napoleon counted on the arrival at Waterloo of Marshal Grouchy and his troops who were far away. Instead Grouchy was delayed, and the Prussian Blücher and his troops arrived at the battlefield. France consequently lost the battle. In his poem “The Expiation” French poet Victor Hugo imagines a moment when Napoleon, believing victory to be near, mistakenly took Grouchy for Blücher. In “The Expiation”, Hugo imagines that Napoleon suddenly said, with Joy, “Grouchy!” But, in reality, he had seen “Blücher”. Here Napoleon’s imagination played a trick on him. He needed Grouchy to arrive and, longing for relief, he took his tormentor of the last battle for a savior. Like Napoleon, the Greeks needed Tsipras to be a savior, when in reality, he was yet another tormentor.
In politics, the truth always hides under a multitude of layers. Pharaohs often dress in Moses’ clothes; and Grouchy often turns into Blücher. We are an emotional animal. We allow our dreams, our feelings, and our desires to express themselves with enthusiasm. This makes us an easy prey for those, among us, who thrive on the futile illusion that is power. But sometimes Moses is Moses and Grouchy is Grouchy. Perhaps hope lost yet another battle in Greece, but it will never cease to exist. The exercise of democracy is the strongest remedy against the sickness of political illusions. And after all, democracy is a Greek invention.
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