#OXI – Day of the Referendum

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Today is the day of days. The ballot boxes have been open since 7am, secret polls predict a deadlock with many wavering voters, and public surveys from private television stations have proven to be manipulated lies. Whatever the case may be, should “Oxi” win, it will not be celebrated at home. At 7pm (6pm CET) the polling stations will close, the exit polls will follow shortly thereafter, and around two hours later the first projections will be given. Many will only make their decision once they’ve filled out their ballots, as Oxi also means, “Do I really dare say ‘no’?” But also, “Do I really say ‘yes’ to allowing everything to go on like this?”

OXI is everywhere. “No” is associated with all kinds of possibilities and hopes. Of course it depends on the situation and interpretation, but now everyone – with their various campaigns and mobilizations – is meeting with the collective Oxi. Oxi unites everyone and has already become a social and cultural category that contains more than the vote for the Syriza government. There are many no’s, which is doubtlessly a strength. At the same time, the real meaning of no – if it is indeed a majority – will be wrestled with starting Monday.

Unidad Popular?

The whole spectrum of Oxi revealed itself on Syntagma Square: The January elections, despite their explosive force, had a turnout of just under 70%, with many of the opinion that it was time for the next political caste to have a turn. It was not just the left that came together, and it wasn’t just the lower classes. With their transgression of the political form, Syriza also broke through the political coordinate system. The populare of Syntagma 2011 found each other again, but this time behind a government that now seems as if it will, for a short time, become a people’s government. At the same time this new form of the Unidad Populare starkly contradicts the established state apparatus and its ideological agents, such as the large private television networks that have united in a collective war against Syriza and a potential Oxi.

Yet last week’s maximal social formation also raises a question about its own future: How can this dynamic keep itself from becoming too dependent on institutional politics and the practical constraints of governance? How can it sustain itself through Sunday and not be degraded to a bargaining chip come Monday? In any case we feel that the “movement” has been renewed as a political category and been all but re-socialized. Syriza is no longer just the legacy of the 2011 revolt, but is now for the first time being confronted with the presence of the crowd. The situation on Syntagma Square was harmonic to be sure, but it also renewed a commitment. Syriza has proven its potential and radicalness with the great NO and, along with it, the mobilization. Of course that be taken back, but now there is another political commitment for both government and party, since Oxi is the participative decision of all.

It’s not just about the euro

This leads to the actual point and to the discussion about Monday. The central line, which is distorted as a pro and contra discussion in Germany, runs between an antagonistic and a consensus-oriented analysis of the situation. That is the actual conflict that continues to reoccur in many discussions here, and within which movements and the radical left are making a much clever point than their reduction to euro-opponents would have one believe. For some it is clear that no discourse and no reason can lead the neoliberal block to any real compromise that is more than watered-down austerity. This means that political strategy must significantly orient itself beyond negotiations. This is not that same as withdrawal from the euro, but means much more that the social processes of the past year are to be placed in the center of political strategy. On the other side is the belief in the possibility of social-democratic reformism and institutional politics, which has already conquered another sociality – beyond classic social-democratic corporatism. Connected to these various estimations is the question about how they are going to “govern” on Monday: Are they going to negotiate a better, third memorandum, or will they take their NO with them to Brussels and, due to the impossibility of a left-wing government under extortionate conditions, resign?

Austerity Industry

The situation of a radical-but-peaceful polarization in Greece is generating maximal tension. Polls predict a deadlock and no one actually doubts a high turnout. Even if we witness a majority NO tonight, the social division will initially remain.

Private media plays a central role in the counter-campaign. For the YES camp – the neoliberal, conservative powers and their bourgeoisie – the referendum is the first opportunity to reshape. Of course even if they are, in a sense, still the rulers, they are no longer able to position themselves as a political opposition against Syriza, or to remove the old guise of yesterday. Can a new conservative block be found in Greece that contains more than the election losers and the traditional caste of the propertied? The process of a reactionary consolidation and the media campaign against Oxi has already begun – while private television stations have unanimously denied the broadcasting of NO commercials, people have been systematically terrorized with false information and with costly advertising campaigns from business associations, etc. Workers have been emphatically invited to central YES rallies, in some cases with payment of their wages relocated there in order to enforce their attendance. Mobilization for YES has at least one problem: who takes to the streets for the lesser evil? YES is sitting in front of the television and not gathering in the squares.

In January the conservative block – domestically as well as in the rest of Europe – relied again on the worn-out promise that things will improve with the austerity policy and that recovery was imminent. There is nothing more to say. Their fear campaign is an expression of a lack of perspective. It isn’t a promise of something better, but merely the threat – after 6 years of the crisis – of also losing the latter.

Imagine the banks are closed and no one notices

How normal everything is here is somehow impressive and also indicates that the ability of the current government has something to do with the mentality and subjectivity preventing panic here. Fear would reign in Germany if the ATMs were empty. Here we can sense, on the one hand, a certain composure in the face of closed doors at the banks and, on the other hand, joy, openness, honor, and particularly self-assertion and rebellion. If Oxi wins today, then the great patriotic coalition loses in Berlin. And it’s certainly not the worst thing for the world if Germany loses.