I recently caught a televised speech by Greek Communist Party (KKE) general secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas in Patra, southern Greece, during an “anti-imperialist” event organized by the party’s youth wing (KNE). It was not a big crowd, but still I was impressed by the fact that a few thousand had gathered midsummer, waving red flags and chanting the same slogans I first heard as a schoolboy some 30 years ago.
It is often said that history is written by the victors, but we all know that this does not really apply in this corner of the world. And this is a reason why Greece is one of the very few countries in Europe where the sight of a public square filled with hammer-and-sickle flags fails to surprise. The six-year military dictatorship accentuated the phenomenon and, as a result, the generations who grew up after 1974 have been imbued with the romantic, idealized mythology of the Greek left. There are no shadows, no questions; it’s like a novel.
In this context, labeling someone “right-wing” in the decades following the dictatorship took on a derogatory meaning. All that (and much more) is now being called into question. Particularly after recent developments regarding the name dispute with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), there is intensified debate over the emergence of a new right-wing identity and the theoretical or fabricated need for a party that will occupy the political space between New Democracy and Golden Dawn.
The phenomenon is not exclusive to Greece: Mostly new as well as older right-wing parties are now on the rise across Europe, seeking to lay claim to power. In Greece, they are quickly disparaged as “far-right” because, for example, they question the more consensual agenda on migration.
So we are faced with a new situation. Greece’s new right, as it were, is not necessarily anti-communist. In fact, on many issues, its worldview seems to converge with that of SYRIZA voters. In any case, this new right does not have the guilt complex of the past, it is less apologetic and certainly possesses a greater fighting spirit than the center-right leaderships of New Democracy post-1984. For the time being, Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s handling of the Macedonia name talks appears to have galvanized the fighting forces of the conservative opposition. But the full impact has yet to be felt.