Ever since WWII and the Greek Civil War (1946-49), there has been a division in Greek society; the pro-Russians versus the pro-West, the communists versus the right-wingers, the “neo-liberals” versus the socialists. During the years of prosperity, from the ’80s until the crisis of 2008, this division was limited to bar brawls and the waving of different flags during election campaigns.
Fast forward to today. Every attempt at closing a deal between the Greek government and its European partners has failed. To make things worse, in the first hours of Saturday, the Greek prime minister declared a referendum over a proposal that the partners had already revoked. Withing one week, the Greek people will be called to vote for what really is a question of the country’s membership in the European Union. As the prime minister made his speech, thousands of Greeks ran to their nearest cash machine to withraw any money they had left in their banks.
It is uncertain what the Greek people will decide. What is certain is the struggle that lies ahead. Even if they do decide to stay in the eurozone and the EU, and even if there is an 11th-hour agreement, the economic plunge will be so deep that it will be almost impossible to emerge from it.
Banks’ coffers are nearly empty and what lies ahead are bank holidays and strict capital controls. The existing bailout program ends on the 30th of June. Not only will the country have to pay 1.5 billion euros to the IMF by that date, it’s also the day that most salaries are due. Thousands of people will be left unpaid, or will only be permitted to withdraw 60 euros per day, as it is rumored.
With limited capital transportability, soon the supermarkets aisles will grow empty and the gas stations will run dry. Greece is an importing economy. It doesn’t need to fall out of the currency block to run out of goods. All it takes is for the uncertainty to keep on long enough. Eventually, people will begin to starve, even more than they are now (according to how the leftist rhetoric presents them).
Already, the tension is building. And with an empty stomach, the blood boils hotter. Panic has already taken control of the Greek people. For now, it turns them to the ATMs. When those run dry, it will eventually turn them againist each other.
During the years of the economic crisis, the aforementioned division has resurfaced and amplified. Mutual accusations have had a central role in the public discourse. The name-calling has gone to the extreme; each side calls the other a traitor, fascist, enslaved, or downright stupid. The tension has built up, and talk of another civil war is on the air. It might be an exaggerated prognosis, but at this point, it will not take much to drive either side to violence.
I would not expect an all-out civil war. But civil unrest leading to demonstrations and protests in the spirit of the Euromaidan is very possible. The Greeks today might not be as hardened as the Ukrainians, but they do keep their ideologies close to heart, and their comfortable lifestyles even closer. If the latter is taken away from them, they will not hesitate to rally in order to punish those responsible. Some will probably go for the government. Others for their fellow Greeks. The country’s constitutional (Syntagma) square has seen a lot of destruction, tear gas, and broken bones in the past few years. Hopefully it isn’t time for it to see blood, too.
(Featured image courtesy of nbcnews.com)