After five years, it is starting to look as though we are gradually seeing the end of all sorts of delusions. Chief among these is the debunking of the myth, after SYRIZA’s six months in power, that a left-wing government could act outside the bounds of a memorandum. Essentially, the left as a force of change powered by the masses has always been a myth.
All of the major institutional changes in Greece – from the September 3, 1843 rebellion against King Otto to the Metapolitefsi period after the fall of the 1967-74 military junta – have been carried out by powers representing the middle classes while the greatest social changes – such as the eight-hour workday and social security – were enshrined by the far-right Ioannis Metaxas.
The need to spearhead change is transforming SYRIZA into a systemic party – a painful process because a rift is inevitable. The biggest paradox of all – beyond the agreement that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is so eager to sign with international creditors before the end of August – is how the left-wing party has made such a leap in grasping how Europe really works.
The introduction of capital controls, for example, resulted in a huge increase in the use of plastic money, with more than a million new cards being issued within a month and a doubling of the number of such transactions. At the same time, the cap on withdrawals will see money that has been “matressed” gradually being spent until the cash in circulation comes down to a fraction of what it is today.
Thousands of businesses have indeed been harmed but the type of business that has mainly evolved over the decades has been based on borrowing, low productivity and rampant tax evasion – something which needed to end.
As a result of these steps, Greece is being modernized and SYRIZA is behaving like a systemic party. However, the lack of a dynamic system due to domestic forces means that Greece is simply moving according to the plan of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble – albeit with much rhetorical opposition.
Another prevalent delusion of the past five years is that every social group is in favor of change on the condition that it is not the one doing the changing. Nevertheless, for Greece to continue being a part of the eurozone it will need a radical shake-up and this is a process that is gradually being completed by the current coalition government. There is nothing strange, therefore, that Euroskepticism, which didn’t exist in Greece until recently, is on the rise here just as it is in other parts of the Union. So, even in this respect, Greece appears to be getting in sync with Europe.