Will there ever be a mainstream center-right party that will govern the country without inhibitions stemming from guilt and without constantly battling the ghosts of the past? SYRIZA has actually made this possible. The leftists have no qualms about doing things that would have terrified any post-1974 center-right government.
Sure, the ruling party uses the bogeyman that is the international bailout agreements to justify many of its policies; on the other hand, just the idea of privatizing 10 ports would send the officials of a conservative administration into a panic.
Greece’s foreign partners like this state of affairs. They are not exactly sure how it works, but they are comfortable with it. They often point out that important decisions that would in the past have seen people taking to the streets are now met with indifference. Turnout at demonstrations these days is modest. The streets, as it were, are calm. International and local players buy on the cheap.
The Greek center-right was swept by the tsunami of post-1974 populism which eventually pervaded the conservative party itself. Entrepreneurship became taboo. Many party officials began to see the state as a city to be looted. Their main concern was staffing it with their own boys. Anyone who took a step further was stigmatized as cruel neoliberal. The Left and the early PASOK knew how to revive the ghosts of the past and make the center-right feel ashamed of itself.
It’s been 45 years since the collapse of the military dictatorship. That was a long time ago. The rest of the globe is moving on at dazzling speeds, and we are still haunted by the divisions and shadows of yesteryear. Young people are really not interested in all that and, bad as that may be, they have no clue what the rest of us are arguing about. What they need is jobs, insurance, and an education system that prepares them for the labor market.
We are at a turning point. In order to exit the stagnation and unleash the country’s immense potential, we need a government that isn’t afraid to break eggs. A government that will neither blame outsiders for its decisions nor backpedal in the face of crucial reforms. This won’t be an easy task.
Meanwhile, the left will switch back to its old self and make sure, at every opportunity that presents itself, to block the path which it itself has opened.