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, as a 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 often 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.