Angelos Stangos ANGELOS STANGOS

SYRIZA’s perception of universities

COMMENT

During a recent raid at Athens University of Economic and Business, police seized motorbike helmets, masks, fire extinguishers and other materials typically used in attacks and protests.

TAGS: Education, Crime, Politics

Due to events that have transpired at the Athens University of Economics and Business, questions have been raised as to why SYRIZA insists on advocating in favor of troublemakers at universities.

This applies to all of the leftist party and not just a few of its officials, which means that instructions have been given from above, namely its leadership. But that doesn’t answer the question of what is gained by this attitude.

SYRIZA’s backing for troublemakers today is of a rhetorical nature but it could be transformed into practical support. Support of the “street” in the past served as one of the main tools that brought the leftists to power.

The party’s complicated thinking process is hard to assess. Immediately after this year’s parliamentary election, a public debate began which focused on whether, under the current leadership, SYRIZA can change its profile and behavior and become more mainstream and operate more responsibly with due consideration to the institutions after having acquired experience of being in power and the workings of the state.

At the time, this column expressed doubt as to whether SYRIZA could change; firstly because its DNA wouldn’t allow it and secondly because the political culture and outlook of its leadership was specific and limited. Thirdly, getting roughly 31.5 percent of the national vote in a way legitimized it.

It is therefore clear that SYRIZA, its leadership and officials, link the notion of adherence to law and order to the suppression and restriction of freedoms. Many of them have been nurtured as anarchist leftists in cafes and squats, so they almost instinctively have sympathy for anti-establishment figures.

In the minds of many, the use of the police to “liberate” universities from these anarchist leftists and squatters is combined with memories of – or more often what they have heard about – the post-civil war right-wing state.

Others still see the university as a privileged space to foment revolutionary zeal and youthful arbitrariness that does not have to obey rules and laws, perhaps because they ignore what applies in the rest of the world.

There is, nonetheless, another way to interpret SYRIZA’s attitude. During its time in office, it made a conscious effort to lower the standards in the field of education – to attract votes and to breed populism. For the same reasons, it uses the term “asylum” misleadingly and seeks to exploit the negative impression created – especially among young people – by the (inevitably) intimidating image of police uniforms on television.

But it mainly believes – not unjustly perhaps – that much of Greek public opinion shares its own views on the functioning of universities, and on law and order.

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