If someone wanted to gauge the situation at PASOK, all they would have to do is ask anyone they know, “When is PASOK’s congress?” Most would probably respond, “What congress?” – if not something obscene. The abject indifference toward a congress that Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos has described as “pivotal” illustrates the demise of the once-mighty party.
A 10-page draft of PASOK’s positions published last week verified this demise. Not just because it looked like a Venizelos speech of generalized prattle, but also because the only people to show any interest were political gossips, and even they were focused on parts of the document that were less than flattering. The publication of the document failed to stir more interest than speculation about who is hobnobbing with whom despite the fact that it is supposed to be the cornerstone of the party’s future and of the Greek center-left overall.
Such widespread disinterest is not just due to the fact that public dialogue regarding the country’s political parties is conducted at the gossip level only – who ate with whom, who said something scathing about another, whether the party chief is feeling under the weather and so on. It can also be attributed to the fact that PASOK’s officials have completely given up on any kind of ideological exercises. The proof lies with their leader himself. In contrast to his predecessors who – one way or another, rightly or wrongly – expressed a trend of ideas within the party, all we know about Venizelos is that he is shrewd. He can make things work in a difficult political landscape and can navigate the minefield of smaller and bigger vested interests admirably, but that’s about it, and he has never been able to compose a political proposal for the country.
Venizelos has never embraced an ideological trend. He is not a liberal, he is not a statist, he is not a social democrat; he is all of the above, depending on the circumstances. This is not to mention his record as a minister, the waste and the favors he granted in his electoral district. Can anyone tell what Venizelos’s theory is on the economy, on culture, on education, on the country as a whole? Sure, his positions are always popular – from a conservative point of view. He was against erasing religious identity from state ID cards and against abolishing the asylum of state university campuses from police intervention. These positions, however, were not held as part of a particular political theory, but were rather tactical manuevers.
PASOK’s biggest problem in the past was that it had too many conflicting political theories that often resulted in the paralysis of the party. The biggest problem today is that it has none.