Stability will have to wait

By Nikos Konstandaras

The strike by metro employees prompted the two conflicting forces in our politics to take up arms and begin to exchange threats and accusations. From the protagonists’ declarations, it is clear that what could have been a tactical skirmish has taken on major symbolic importance and will be decisive in the country’s future.

On the one side stands the government, which, in placing the mass transit workers under civil mobilization, states loudly that it will impose the law at any cost; on the other is SYRIZA, the radical left main opposition party, which has taken the strikers under its wing, accuses the government of a coup d’etat and declares that this is a battle to the bitter end. As one of its leading deputies, Dimitris Stratoulis, hastened to declare on Thursday, “The common, coordinated struggle and the formation of a joint front by employees in the public and private sector can become a Great Wall of China which will destroy measures such as the civil mobilization of workers, policies stemming from the memorandum as well as the government that implements them.”

Three years after Greece signed the memorandum with its creditors (making austerity and reforms prerequisites for loans), after two elections and after the last round of tough negotiations resulted in the latest tranche of our loan being paid out in December, citizens may have thought they had the right to hope for relative calm; because only political stability can lead the way out of long-term recession and allow each of us to find ways to survive. Thursday’s war cries, however, made clear that stability will have to wait.

Not everyone is convinced that austerity and reforms are unavoidable, that whether we like it or not, they are what we must implement in order to borrow the funds keeping our economy alive. Now, after the last reforms were voted into law and the latest loan installment was paid out, our creditors are not involved in what we must do: It is our business to see how we will implement the measures, how we will achieve greater tax justice and greater justice in general, how we will achieve growth. Left to ourselves, our first instinct is to fight.

Today’s conflict may last a long time and pass through many phases. It will end only when one side defeats the other totally, or when both suffer so much as to seek compromise. If the government manages to remain determined while also displaying patience and prudence, sooner or later the strikers will bow to the needs of the majority of citizens. Seeing as one side has been unable to persuade the other as to the justice of its cause, this clash is unavoidable. When it is over, we will have only one choice: to reach agreement on how to get out of the dead end of continual conflict.