A big ‘thank you’ to the SYRIZA-led ad­min­is­tra­tion

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

I think we all owe a big “thank you” to SYRIZA and its ad­min­is­tra­tion. In the years fol­low­ing the restora­tion of democ­racy, what Greeks re­fer to as “metapo­litefsi,” the pen­du­lum swung too far to the left, the tsunami of pop­ulism and rad­i­cal­iza­tion that swept through Greek so­ci­ety could not be con­tained in the wake of the 1967-74 mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship. It took a left-wing gov­ern­ment to push the pen­du­lum to the cen­ter – which is where it ought to be in the first place – some­thing that no one man­aged to achieve in a good 40 years. Those who tried were only frus­trated by fight­ing the mill­stones of his­tory. Although the Greek left of­fi­cially came to power in 2015, it ex­erted heavy in­flu­ence over the coun­try’s di­rec­tion af­ter 1974 thanks to its “power on the street” and its un­matched ide­o­log­i­cal hege­mony. The rise of SYRIZA swept away decades-old taboos and cliches. Just take a mo­ment to think about how the av­er­age cit­i­zen used to look upon the coun­try’s armed forces. The po­lit­i­cal class kept the mil­i­tary at a dis­tance and po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness re­quired that the mil­i­tary was kept low in the hi­er­ar­chy of Greek so­ci­ety. No right-wing or cen­trist gov­ern­ment would have dared cel­e­brate Easter with troops in Syn­tagma Square. The same goes for pri­va­ti­za­tions and the need to at­tract in­vest­ment. Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras of- ten stresses that it is the obli­ga­tion of a pro­gres­sive ad­min­is­tra­tion to fo­cus on job cre­ation. Fi­nally, ev­ery­one ap­pears to have re­al­ized that there can be no way for­ward without profit, healthy en­trepreneur­ship and for­eign in­vest­ment. We should thank the left for mak­ing this a main­stream prin­ci­ple. Mean­while, union­ism is on the wane. The num­ber of protest ral­lies be­ing staged in Athens has dropped sig­nif­i­cantly and the demon­stra­tions that used to shut down traf­fic in ports and ho­tels are be­com­ing a thing of the past. Anti-Amer­i­can­ism is also out of vogue. The coun­try’s left-led gov­ern­ment is openly pur­su­ing close re­la­tions with the United States, both for­merly with Barack Obama and now with Don­ald Trump. The left, which once in­vested heav­ily in anti-US rhetoric, is now con­tra­dict­ing this in prac­tice. Many more stereo­types and taboos are giv­ing way un­der the SYRIZA-led gov­ern­ment, but the dam­age be­ing done to the coun­try, its in­sti­tu­tions and the real econ­omy is con­sid­er­able. Per­haps this is a phase the coun­try needs to go through be­fore we can act ma­ture as a so­ci­ety. The big fear, in a so­ci­ety that has lost all its fun­da­men­tals, is that the pen­du­lum will swing again, only this time in the di­rec­tion of the far right. We will have to fight to make sure that com­mon sense pre­vails and the pen­du­lum sits still in the mid­dle.

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